Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Sci-Fi Novel Envisions Corporatocracy in a Climate-Changed Future

Popular
Sci-Fi Novel Envisions Corporatocracy in a Climate-Changed Future

By Nexus Media, with Tal M. Klein

In Tal Klein's new novel, The Punch Escrow, humans have successfully tackled disease and climate change, but powerful corporations control everything. The book has created a stir among sci-fi fans, and there are already plans to adapt it to the big screen. In this conversation with Nexus Media, Klein shares his perspective on science, technology and the future of our species. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


What's the premise for The Punch Escrow?

Geek & Sundry

It's the year 2147. The world is neither a utopia nor a dystopia—things have pretty much progressed at their current pace. Nanotechnology and genetic engineering have become mainstream medicine. 3D printers now more closely resemble Star Trek replicators, and while climate change and air pollution haven't necessarily been solved, they're being addressed with carbon-fume eating mosquitoes who excrete water. Yes, it's almost always raining in the future—people try not to think about where it comes from.

Most important to the plot: teleportation has become the en vogue method of transportation, via a mechanism called the Punch Escrow. Patented by International Transport—one of the most powerful companies on Earth in a world governed by corporations—the Punch Escrow makes teleportation the safest form of transportation by ensuring that a passenger who cannot arrive at their destination simply emerges unharmed from the chamber they initially entered.

It's deemed the safest method of transportation until Joel Byram, an average 22nd-century guy in New York, is haphazardly duplicated en route to a second honeymoon in Costa Rica, leading International Transport to try to fix the bug by eliminating a duplicate.

How does the future look different from today?

The Punch Escrow is a hard sci-fi book, meaning the technologies that exist in my version of 2147 are all rooted in modern science. I like to call it a near-future novel because the technological innovations that permeate everyday life in the story shouldn't feel alien. They're pragmatic evolutions of the science surrounding us today.

I think the main difference between The Punch Escrow's 2147 and today is the structure of government. I worked with an anthropologist to try to develop a thesis on what signals from today's society might give us clues about tomorrow's governments. We ultimately landed on the thesis that, since elected officials' jobs have shifted from serving the proletariat toward serving corporate interests—because the latter is a more reliable path to re-election—then it would stand to reason that future society would cut out the middlemen. The future is a corporatocracy.

Tal M. Klein. Lai Long

Why is a warmer planet such a potent element in that future?

If current events aren't enough to convince you that our climate is dramatically changing, then there's probably not much use reading further. Still here? Great. In the present, we're no longer talking about climate change in the abstract. We're talking about our changing climate. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are losing mass at an alarming rate. Coral reefs are dying from heat stress, leading to entire marine ecosystem collapse. The anthropological impacts of climate change from dangerous weather patterns such as Harvey and Irma, heat waves, droughts and sea-level rise are beginning to manifest themselves. Greenhouse gas reduction alone will soon not be a sufficient remediation. We'll need to find a way to actively remove these fumes from the air in order to survive. This need will create demand, and demand will catalyze supply.

How does the planet of the future deal with climate change, and what inspired those ideas?

Future society will commercialize and industrialize clean air, thus solving for some of dirty air's climate side effects. The end result in the book follows what we're currently doing to clean water—that is, just enough.

If everyone's air was dangerously polluted, that might galvanize the world to action, but even in that case there would likely be tiers of air quality, just as there are tiers of water quality today. The commoditized solution I put in the book was developed with the assistance of a CRISPR engineer: genetically modified mosquitoes that eat greenhouse gases and excrete water seemed just like the sort of messy solution we might realize (although I hope we'll find a more elegant solution).

Humans tend to opt for quick fixes and shortcuts. I think it's because we are a breed largely driven by the pursuit of instant gratification. There are more promising options out there, such as methanotrophs (unicellular organisms) that eat methane and exhale oxygen, so I remain hopeful that whatever solution we find to combat air pollution is more elegant than what I present in the book.

As your book transitions to film, what key messages from your novel do you hope are retained?

James Myers at Lionsgate convinced me he knew how this book would translate to film. He tapped James Bobin to adapt and direct my book, and I trust both of them completely. They get the things that are important to me, mainly Joel's voice, Sylvia's strength and 22nd-century Earth's scientific realism. Now that Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman have been attached to produce, I'm more confident than ever. I think it'll be a great movie.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A plastic bag caught in a tree in New Jersey's Palisades Park. James Leynse / Stone / Getty Images

New Jersey is one step closer to passing what environmental advocates say is the strongest anti-plastic legislation in the nation.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Did you know that nearly 30% of adults do, or will, suffer from a sleep condition at some point in their life? Anyone who has experienced disruptions in their sleep is familiar with the havoc that it can wreak on your body and mind. Lack of sleep, for one, can lead to anxiety and lethargy in the short-term. In the long-term, sleep deprivation can lead to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, there are proven natural supplements that can reduce insomnia and improve quality sleep for the better. CBD oil, in particular, has been scientifically proven to promote relaxing and fulfilling sleep. Best of all, CBD is non-addictive, widely available, and affordable for just about everyone to enjoy. For these very reasons, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the best CBD oil for sleep. Our goal is to provide objective, transparent information about CBD products so you are an informed buyer.

Read More Show Less
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to reporters during her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on Sept. 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The House of Representatives passed a sweeping bill to boost clean energy while phasing out the use of coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators that are known pollutants and contribute to the climate crisis, as the AP reported.

Read More Show Less
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington comforts Marsha Maus, 75, whose home was destroyed during California's deadly 2018 wildfires, on March 11, 2019 in Agoura Hills, California. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Governor Jay Inslee

Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.

In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.

Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch