posted on (deprecated) site on July 17, 2017
***Described as "Black Mirror meets the Circle meets 1984" by fans, Numbercaste is an award-winning debut that looks out into an all-too-possible future - a future that's being built even as you read this.*When Patrick Udo is offered a job at NumberCorp, he packs his bags and goes to the Valley. After all, the 2030s are a difficult time, and jobs are rare. Little does he know that he's joining one of the most ambitious undertakings of his time or any other.NumberCorp, crunching through vast amounts of social network data, is building a new society - one where everyone's social circles are examined, their activities quantified, and their importance distilled into the all-powerful Number. A society where the artist is as important as the billionaire. Where those with influence are rewarded, and those without, punished.As NumberCorp rises in power and in influence, the questions start coming in. What would you do to build the perfect state? And how far is too far?
Today I uploaded Numbercaste to Amazon – both print and Kindle versions. I did the muckwork – formatting, cover, bleed, trim, selected paper, studied bestsellers in my genre, selected keywords – and I very carefully saved it and logged off so that I can send everything live at the end of this month.
Numbercaste represents two years of work – two very interesting years that have changed me a great deal. I remember when I had the idea behind it. I usually scribble my ideas down and forget them later, but this one stuck. At some point I remember is sitting in a car, telling Enosh Praveen (then my boss at Readme.lk) “I’m writing a book.”
Two years, five drafts, and many new experiences later, here we are. Numbercaste and I have made it to Huffpost. Everything’s ready.
It’s interesting to look back and see how far I’ve come. 2015. I was 23. I had read David Egger’s the Circle and figured I had a lot to add to the conversation. All I had to do, I reasoned, was sit there and crank out a thousand words a week. It could be done.
I could write, I knew that. I had a long history as Icaruswept, the political blogge; I had a shorter, but far more prolific journey as a tech journalist.
But I hadn’t published any fiction worth speaking of. I’d scribbled, of course: a few poems, written a few short stories, and many years prior written the script to an indie RPG I was building with my best friends. Going further back, I wrote a novel when I was fifteen: a 132,000 word monster called the Waste that I can’t make head or tail of now. None of these saw the light of day.
I started in the only way I knew how: I wrote about a journalist who drives up and interviews Julius Common, the reclusive, all-powerful CEO of NumberCorp. Except it wasn’t called NumberCorp back then; it was called Society. The reporter was doing a Life-and-Lies kind of piece, kind of like Walter Isaacson (I had also recently read the Steve Jobs biography, which may have played a part in this choice).
Twenty pages in I had run out of things to say. I was stumped. I was used to writing blogposts and feature pieces. A 2000-3000 word piece is a sprint; a book is a marathon.
I tried again, this time from a different angle. Four characters, I thought. One, a disabled (yes, when you lose your legs, you’ve got less stock functionality than the average human being) software engineer. The other the journalist. The other someone close to the CEO, perhaps a top exec, or a PR person, who could shed light on the lies that were told. The other a bum, a hobo who lived off the grid and remembered things the way it used to be.
There was this place I used to walk at, in Ragama – a highway construction project left abandoned. Paddy fields, open sky, and a ridiculously wide dirt road that led nowhere. I’d walk back and forth and write bits and pieces in my head, then return to my computer and put it together.
That failed miserably. I could barely handle one main character, let alone four.
And then I had a perspective shift. I left Readme, and started working for what many call the Google of Sri Lanka – WSO2. It’s probably the country’s sexiest place to work at if you’re a techie. As journalists we used to attend events they hosted and go ‘whoa’.
When I started working there, I saw it from the other side of the coin. The work that went into making people go ‘whoa’. The people who did that work. The personalities and the possibilities and the clashes in a company like that. I looked at that journalist character and thought, what if that’s the journey? Watching Society grow from the inside?