I want to do my best to post a little more throughout December, a 12 days of blogmas if you will. I can't promise I'll get through a full 12 but, to kick things off, here's a guest post from the author of the crime thriller novel Proximity, Jen Tugwell.
Proximity: A crime thriller set in a world that suffocates us in safety by Jem Tugwell
When I wrote my debut novel, Proximity, I was worrying about where the current technology advances would take us, and how a government might misuse it to suffocate us in safety.
Sound farfetched? In the last few days, I’ve been warned that my hot drink is hot. Warned to hold onto the handrail on the stairs. Warned at an indoor ski-centre with real snow, that snow is slippery.
These days, technology is at the heart of everything, but rather than focussing solely on the technology, Proximity is a thriller that uses it to add another dimension to the crime story.
The technology imagined in Proximity provides the convenience of no keys, no identity theft and no passwords to remember. The characters are healthier because their calorie and fat levels are monitored, and their hearts are constantly scanned for issues. Because the government knows where they are all of the time, the police solve nearly every crime very easily. Murders, mugging, stabbings and theft drop to nearly zero when the perpetrator is guaranteed to get caught.
So far so good.
But, like in real life, political expediency overwhelms the naivety of scientists and technologists. A system designed to enhance people’s lives, becomes a control system.
Fiction mirrors fact as the physical person and their data twin are more and more inseparable. I hope that Proximity challenges the reader to recognise the importance of their data and the potential implications of sharing it.
The main plot of Proximity is a crime thriller. It is designed to be a fast-paced, entertaining read, but during the police investigation into a ‘impossible’ killing, Proximity asks the reader to think about how technology might be used and abused.
How would you feel if the government collected data of your activity levels, your intake of calories, alcohol, fat, etc.? It would allow health professionals to make you healthier. Insurance companies would reward you with lower premiums. Great, but things can easily turn, so that medical professionals and insurers use our data against us. What if they think you are taking too many risks? Will they claim that your illness is ’self-inflicted’ and use it as a justification for denial of service? Will the reward for healthy behaviour become an obligation? Will it be ‘no insurance unless you conform’? Is a longer, dull life better than a shorter, more exciting one?
Proximity allows an examination of how our lives might look inside a fast-paced crime thriller. The positives and negatives. The moral dilemmas. It is a near-future could be just a few steps away. Almost an alternate now - a world where, 'You can't get away with anything. Least of all murder.' Hopefully, it doesn’t act as a design template for our politicians.