Building the greater world surrounding THE FRACTURED STATE SERIES was a serious blast, but inventing the details of a near-future world was the proverbial “icing on the cake.” This is the kind of stuff I live for as a writer, and Fractured State was a fertile playground for these details. That said, it wasn’t easy.
Set 20 years in the future, I found myself walking a thin line between advancing technology far enough to create a “wow factor” and keeping it familiar enough to the reader. The last thing I wanted to do was create a new vocabulary for readers.
Here’s a fantastic example of that struggle, with a slightly disappointing ending. What do you call a cell phone/smart phone 20 years from now? The answer isn’t simple, or is it? I got a crazy idea during the developmental edit, based on a suggestion from my developmental editor (I blame David!), to replace every instance of smartphone with the term LINK. We’d discussed the technology upgrades evident in the manuscript and agreed that the device served as more of a communications link, but we couldn’t call it a COMLINK. That term had been coined by the Star Wars franchise years ago, and it didn’t sound right, anyway.
But what about LINK? That’s simple, catchy…hey, 20 years from now, people might be looking back at Fractured State and saying, Steven Konkoly used the term first, now everyone calls their phone a LINK. Communications companies will be paying me billions to license the term…it sounded fantastic, until it didn’t. Actually, it was my editor at Thomas and Mercer that essentially said something to the effect of, “I don’t know. It’s cool and all, but forcing readers to use the word LINK instead of phone throughout the story might get a little annoying.” Too kitschy, so I dropped LINK and went back to phone or satphone. Lesson learned. The device had more bells and whistles, but it essentially did the same thing it does today…let’s you talk to people. Why complicate matters?
But one creative disappointment can’t ruin the creative process for me. NOT EVEN CLOSE. That was ONE device out of hundreds used in the novel, and I had a ton of fun with the rest. Too much fun, probably.
If you’ve read any of my books, you probably can guess that I like weapons. From knives to attack helicopters, I don’t shy away from the details, and I like my characters to make the best use of the weaponry available to them. Fractured State gave me the unique opportunity to take systems currently in development, and imagine them in widespread use 20 years from now. Every firearm is more compact and versatile, ammunition is far more lethal, heavy duty weapons systems normally employed by armies are now available to mercenary groups, and the effectiveness of personal protective equipment has increased to counter this new lethality. Take a look at the following links, along with a brief explanation of how I chose to employ that technology in Fractured State.
Guided sniper munitions – Used by assassins in a coordinated attack against a politician at his reinforced mansion. The effect is rather gruesome, as you can imagine.
Color night vision technology – I call it synthetic daylight…heard it here first! This actually presented a bit of a challenge, since describing what the characters see through these goggles is no different than what they’d see in the daylight. At times, my developmental editor couldn’t remember if it was night or day. To remedy this, I added some additional features to the goggle’s display, which measured light intensity and could tell the wearer how dark it was outside.
Liquid gel body armor – This has so much promise for the future in my opinion. Form fitting and reactive, liquid gel body armor can potentially stop any type of munition, evenly spreading the brunt force of the impact to reduce internal injuries commonly seen with solid plate armor.
Dragonskin armor – Recently rejected by the U.S. Army, I see a future for this type of armor. Lighter, shape conforming and effective against armor piercing ammunition…I could see this as standard issue.
Rifle launched missiles – I don’t actually use these in the books, but damn if this isn’t cool.
Smart grenade launchers – I take this one step further, and apply the same range finding automation to an automatic grenade launcher system. The effects are spectacularly devastating…and messy of course.
Hand launched surveillance drones – Nothing new about the Raven, except the newer versions can fly longer and transmit more data. Putting two of these in the air, one of the teams in the book finds a “needle in a haystack.”
See through wall radar and imaging devices – Can you imagine looking at a 3-Dimensional schematic of a building and seeing a live image of everyone inside? It’s not really possible today, but in 2035…
Bullet resistant glass (nothing new, but this video is COOL) – I find some creative uses for glass like this in the series…in ways you might not expect.
Missile firing drones – Over U.S. airspace? You bet, especially when operated by Cerberus International…and to make matters worse, the drones are mostly undetectable.
Active or adaptive camouflage – Can you turn a vehicle invisible? With enough money and 20 years of research and development. Why not?
Converting seawater to energy – This method is energy intensive, but when co-located with a nuclear power plant?
Desalination plants – Reality today, and critical to survival in a drought parched future.
This is a very short list of some of the types of technology upgrades found in Fractured State, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything is slightly reimagined in this series, from sinks that recycle water for rinsing to mandatory GPS tracking systems installed on every vehicle to measure fuel efficiency and restrict movement. Life has changed…it’s up to the reader to decide if the change is for better or worse.