By Michael Dow
In early 2016, I released my debut novel, Dark Matters, a science fiction/thriller set in the not-so-distant future of 2075. The story line for the book had simmered in the recesses of my mind for more than a decade, as I toiled from the bowels to the board rooms of corporate America. When I finally broke free, and began writing in earnest, I soon realized that those frayed tendrils of a story–unraveling the mystery of dark matter, and the implications for humanity–were going to require serious scientific research.
So I dug in, trying (often with limited success) to better understand the science of dark matter, dark energy, multi-verses, and quantum theory. And that’s when things got interesting. As it turns out, I liked the research. An article on dark matter is just a click away from stories about cosmic rays, which then leads to cosmological inflation, the big bang theory, and a host of other fascinating sitcoms.
But I digress…
In the end, what I discovered was not just the science of dark matter, but the foundation for future world where this discovery could take place. I wanted the story to take place in a future near enough to be easily recognizable, but far enough that I could take some creative license with the current state of affairs on Earth. This led me to a timeframe that was fifty to sixty years in the future, where futurist “experts” predict several interesting events will converge:
- A world population of ten billion;
- Computers more powerful than the human brain, at a fraction of today’s cost;
- Full-scale space exploration, to include a moon base, space hotels, and asteroid mining;
- The availability of fusion power; and,
- The world’s first trillionaire.
Just to name a few.
It was this last one that caught my eye – a trillion dollars. Like they say in Congress, now we’re talking real money. What could a trillion dollars buy you? And not today–but fifty years from now, when technology is several orders of magnitude less expensive? That kind of money, with that level of technology… it sent chills down my spine. And it was hard to read about that kind of wealth, without plunging into the current debate surrounding income inequality, and the widening wealth gap. It was an intriguing hook for a book. Before I knew it, my story about dark matter had become a story about Dark Matters–a handful of trillionaires, playing benevolent dictator in a world where income inequality had truly run amok.
This was an area where my background and experience could be put to good use. During my time as a management consultant and CEO, I’ve seen some of the best–and unfortunately, some of the worst–that corporate America has to offer. And through my research, I discovered that the world’s 1,500+ billionaires are growing their wealth much faster than the richest one percent; they are doing to the one percent, what the one percent is doing to the ninety-nine percent. On top of that, over the past several years, 95% of all new wealth has gone to the richest one percent. If we stay on this path for fifty more years, a handful of the über-elite, in the right positions, and with the latest technology, really could have an iron grip on world events. I had stumbled onto an ideal combination–the story of a world-changing scientific discovery, set in a world where a few of the elite could very well prevent that kind of change.
Before I knew it, I had a finished manuscript. Or at least, I thought I did. My editor gave me one final task. He saw the dystopian world of 2075 as a leading character in the story, and critical to conveying the magnitude of the dark matter discovery. He asked me to do more research–and to identify fifty additional “fascinating facts” about the world of 2075. Then, he challenged me to insert them into the story–in as few words as possible. It was a remarkable exercise, to see how much world-building, character development, and storytelling could be done in just a few words. And it led to some of my favorite moments in the book–for instance, when the female lead comments, “It’s an oxymoron, like Glacier National Park.” Or when a couple of teenage girls prank their mother with a dead rat, created from dad’s nano-technology printer. I didn’t quite manage to insert all fifty (there are only forty-five chapters, after all), but the attentive reader should find dozens, addressing topics from climate change to robotics, space exploration, and the future of the Internet.
Did it all come together, in the end? That’s for the reader to decide, I suppose. But it worked for me–not just in writing the story, but in the process that got me there. Now I let myself wander (a little…) when I’m doing research, and I don’t carry (as much…) guilt when I do. And though I’m still a neophyte at this whole writing thing, I know I’ve found a great tool for my own arsenal.
Back to my research; I hear they’re now blaming dark matter for wiping out the dinosaurs. Thanks for listening!
ABOUT MICHAEL DOW
Michael Dow spent 25+ years in corporate America, in roles running the gamut from management consultant to CEO. He has worked at companies ranging in size from start-up to over one billion dollars in revenue, and in locations across the globe, from Washington DC to Saudi Arabia. Dark Matters is his first work of fiction (though his competitors have accused him of writing fiction for decades). Mike lives in Traverse City, Michigan, with his wife and two teenage daughters.
ABOUT DARK MATTERS
Rudolph "Rudy" Dersch is the newly minted CEO of the world's largest, multi-trillion-dollar corporate conglomerate. But the job comes with an unexpected twist–an invitation to join the Consortium, a small, secretive group of global elites who effectively decide what's best for the rest of humanity. How does Rudy's struggle to reconcile business and family impact the world's future? And who, if anyone, can break the Consortium's iron grip on the status quo?
The answer may lie with a renegade physicist, close to unraveling one of the universe's greatest mysteries. And a headstrong art curator, driven to find the meaning behind her increasingly compelling visions. From a life-changing moment in a crowded Singapore marketplace, to the business end of an assassin's gun, they face a power beyond any the world has ever seen. To survive, they'll have to decipher the truth about dark matter–before the Consortium can achieve its ruinous end game.