But this is not a book set in a typically bleak cyberpunk dystopia. The setting may be financially ruthless but also affords its paying inhabitants sparkling entertainment, vast networks, and instantaneity. It could easily be imagined as an exaggerated view of today’s modern society, particularly in regard to an unhealthy obsession with money. CASH CRASH JUBILEE will certainly make you think about where we might be headed.
However, amidst all this cash and cyber-technology we still find vital sparks of humanity. This comes to light in the form of a moral dilemma faced by protagonist Amon, whose job it is to delete the online presence of those with no more credit. He is suddenly faced with the unpalatable task of doing the very same to someone he greatly admires, which results in him questioning the status quo, asking things that should never be asked, and taking him to places shrouded in digital darkness.
It is interesting how the novel occasionally employs phonetic spellings for some of its dialogue, such as in the apologetic “Aim sohry”. This reflects the setting where people resort to alternative versions of words to avoid the costs associated with official spellings. Initially, this took a little getting used to, but it successfully adds flavor to the world being described.
I had a chance to probe the mind of the author, Eli K.P. William. The following data was returned…
You set the story in Japan. Were there any particular reasons for this?
When I first came up with the concept behind CASH CRASH JUBILEE, I had just graduated from high school (circa 2004) and my mind was brimming with visions of a futuristic Tokyo from such 1980s works as Akira, Bladerunner, and Neuromancer, which I had absorbed as a teenager. So when I reached into the cellar of my imagination for a place to set my nascent SF tale, this Asian metropolis was the first thing I found.
For various reasons, I didn’t get far in writing the story back then and the idea languished half-forgotten on my hard drive for about seven years. It wasn’t until I moved to Tokyo to become a Japanese-English translator that I revived the novel and decided to finish it. Living then in Tokyo, amidst its unbelievably vast cityscape, immersed in the culture and language of Japan, there were so many fresh experiences from which to draw inspiration and it was only natural that I would go with my initial instinct for the setting. However, even now as the novel is on the verge of publication, I’m not sure whether my decision to set the story in Tokyo all those years ago is what unconsciously brought me here, or whether coming here is what made me decide after all to set it in Tokyo.
It is interesting that you started the work but didn’t complete it until a number of years later. Many would-be writers have books in perpetual progress. Was it your immersion in a new culture that gave you the boost of creativity enabling you to finish the book, or did you have other incentives? Have you any advice for budding writers needing final encouragement to complete their work?
I don’t think being in a new cultural environment as such helped me finish CASH CRASH JUBILEE, though it did help me add depth and flavor to it. As for other incentives, I could make a long list, but here are just a few. One was having the fortune to meet people who were supportive of my fiction-writing endeavors and who believed I could get published. I’ve heard that some writers and other sorts of artists are able to forge ahead with their work in spite of what other people think, but I’m just not that self-contained. That is, I need an audience. The second was the earthquake that hit off the coast of Miyagi in 2011. I was in the far west of Tokyo, so my little ground tremor was nothing compared to what the real victims experienced. Nevertheless, watching images of whole cities washed away by the tsunami and then seeing Japan brought to its knees by the nuclear meltdown made me feel grateful to be alive in a way I’d never known, which helped me focus on what was important to me at the time, namely the novel. A flexible job and a sense that the concept of my book was relevant to what was going on in the world also helped.
Ultimately though, it was daily toil that allowed me to finish the book, and if I have anything to impart to budding novelists, as a newbie novelist struggling through the first draft of his second book, it’s that you need to make writing a bad habit or addiction, akin to smoking and drinking coffee. In other words, you have to do what everyone tells you and write every single day, so as to cultivate a deep, unconscious yearning that hounds you until you’ve had a solid writing session.
Would you say the setting of CASH CRASH JUBILEE is a positive or negative view of the future, and to what extent do you think it is a realistic possibility?
I don’t want to divide up my world into the simple distinction between negative and positive. Worlds are too complex for dichotomies. For example, is our present world negative or positive? Bad or good? Beautiful or ugly? It probably contains a certain degree of all of these, and yet the world as a whole is none of the above. I believe the future will be the same and have constructed my imagined future accordingly.
Although the thought of having to pay in coin for all your actions and of being surrounded by a flux of infotainment that literally smothers everything in sight is a horrifying prospect for many, a number of readers have been struck by how clean and functional everything is in my world. And in some ways, I think it depicts a very optimistic future. To provide just one example, the Global Action Transaction Authority (basically the government) is fitted with near-impenetrable systems to protect individual privacy from both governments and corporations, whereas developments nowadays are going in the opposite direction.
As to whether the setting is a realistic possibility, I don’t make any pretense to being a prophet, though I do think it’s plausible enough that readers can suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in the story. I created the story’s setting by exaggerating certain trends in the present—the proliferation of digital banking and portable/ubiquitous computing, the increasing commodification of our daily lives and personal identities, the solidification of transnational corporate power, and so on. In my reading of world events, these trends continued to intensify as I wrote the novel and continue to intensify even today. This has convinced me that my concept is still relevant, but my intent was never to prognosticate. Rather, my intent was to tell a compelling story that makes people reflect on their lives in the present, as all great literature does, and will be more than happy if I’ve succeeded at that.
Do have any plans to build upon the CASH CRASH JUBILEE setting?
Yes! Absolutely. In fact, as part of my contract, I am currently writing the sequel, The Naked World, which takes place in the same future Tokyo (albeit in a radically different district), and which should be out some time within the next year or so. There may also be a third book in the Jubilee Cycle series, but I’m in the process of figuring that out and am still unsure. I also have an idea for a very near future prequel and a post-apocalyptic tale that takes place hundreds of years later. However, it will probably be at least a decade before I get around to writing either of these (if ever), as I have outlines for two different novels set in present day Tokyo that I plan to write first.
Eli K.P. William, a native of Toronto, currently works in Tokyo as a Japanese-English translator. Cash Crash Jubilee is his first novel.