Dave Eggers launches a scathing rebuke at a company obsessed with algorithms. For him, it’s personal
For author Dave Eggers, the hardest part of writing a novel set in a near-future dystopian society where algorithms make all our choices for us is having to watch how it gets. slowly reality.
A literary juggernaut of the Bay Area, Eggers is appreciated not only for his myriad of works of fiction and Pulitzer-nominated memoir, but also as the founder of local independent publisher McSweeney’s as well as the tutoring center. nonprofit 826 Valencia in San Francisco.
In “The Every,” a sequel to his 2013 novel “The Circle,” a marriage of companies akin to a merger of Amazon, Google, and Facebook created a new, well-known Bay Area technology and control powerhouse. under the name Every. Delaney Wells, a park warden turned saboteur, has pledged to bring down the Every from the inside. its global user base.
Speaking to The Chronicle from a decidedly non-smartphone phone several months before its publication, Eggers explained how the world inhabit his new novel – a world in which people have easily traded their freedoms and privacy for apps and technologies that promise to do the hard work of making all of our choices for us – is not just a general theme of his latest book, but also an existential reality he struggles with every day.
For example, when Oracle Park reopened to fans this year, Eggers decided to buy tickets to a baseball game. The only problem? His only option was to have those tickets sent to a device he didn’t (and never will) own.
“I looked online,” Eggers recalls, “and there was no way for me to buy a ticket without a smartphone because they want to send it to your phone and ask you to show your QR code and everything. I had no way of getting tickets. I thought, can’t you go to a baseball game unless you have a device? There will be only those very, very narrow social strata where you can go without being watched, and they will be driven to extinction.
Partly a horror story and a ludicrous satire, the decision to write a sequel to “The Circle” has finally given Eggers a real opportunity to fight back against what he sees as a culture increasingly dominated by the choices of women. machines.
While the author has no illusions that this little act of defiance will have a lasting change in Amazon’s grip on the book industry, he and his small, dedicated staff at McSweeney are nonetheless pursuing a plan that will see the hardcover of “The Every” available in perpetuity only to independent bookstores starting October 5. Six weeks later, the paperback version is arriving through all regular channels.
“It just didn’t make sense for McSweeney to distribute a book about the power of monopolies through monopoly,” he said. “It was actually funny how hard it was to sort out and work with our distributor in a way that avoided all of Amazon’s tentacles. They are everywhere.
Despite the difficulty of this endeavor, Eggers explained that he felt it was his duty – as a freelance writer and publisher and as a fan of the famous Bay Area bookstore scene – to push back forces. like Amazon whenever it got the chance. Nonetheless, he is impatient that this effort (which will also see McSweeney’s initially release the hardcover with over 40 different covers that will vary continuously) is not seen as an attempt to deprive Amazon of sales, but rather as a way to support bookstores. independent and bring back some joy in the profession of book publishing.
To that end, his efforts to implement this unusual exit strategy have definitely won him appreciation from people like Stephen Sparks, the former Green Apple employee who now owns Point Reyes Books.
“Dave has always been a great advocate and ally of independent bookstores,” Sparks said, “from McSweeney’s early days until today. The exclusive release of “The Every” is further proof that Dave understands the plight of independent bookstores, but also of all the companies that take a stand against the creepy monolith. I hope this inspires other writers and editors to do the same.
While Eggers doesn’t expect “The Every” to change anything in the long run, he views both the novel’s content and its unique unfolding as his own necessary protest against what he fears is. an inevitable slide of society into a world in which property algorithms have taken the place of free will.
“Writing a dystopian novel about the current and future technological environment is this mixture of outrageous silliness and everyday horror,” Eggers said. “They coexist very closely, so I wanted to have fun thinking about everything that is currently silly, and soon will be, and how quickly we are embracing these most ridiculous ideas and how much we rebel against them.
“Then at the same time my goal was to tighten the screws a bit in each chapter to show how all of these things that are individually stupid and seemingly harmless can come together and fall into place until all of a sudden we don’t. let’s be more the same. same species. Instead, we live as part of a machine and under surveillance. We have given all our power.
By Dave Eggers
(McSweeney’s; 577 pages; $ 28)
LitQuake introduces Dave Eggers in conversation with graphic novelist Thi Bui: Online event. 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on October 19. Free, donation of $ 5 to $ 10 suggested. Pre-registration compulsory. https://www.litquake.org/