Economic inequality and persistent surveillance push Oakland to the brink of civil war
The Bay Area goes cyberpunk in this new science fiction novel
I’ve got a new book out today. Cumulus takes place in a near-future Bay Area ravaged by economic inequality and persistent surveillance. It’s a dark, gritty, fast-paced story packed with political intrigue, world-changing technology, and questionable salvation.
I’m humbled that some esteemed folks like Brad Feld, Tim O'Reilly, Andrew Keen, Lucas Carlson, Josh Anon, Cyrus Farivar, and Vikram Babu have said nice things about it. Kate Lee ran a short excerpt in Galleys. Ars Technica published a review here (beware spoilers) and I recorded a podcast interview about it here. The full novel is a little long for Medium (4–5 hour read, anyone?) but you can check it out here.
I’m really proud of how Cumulus came together. I moved back to Oakland in 2013. It was the city of my birth and where I grew up. Seeing how Oakland has evolved since the ’80s is at once inspiring and harrowing. Cumulus is a kind of twisted love letter to my favorite city in the Bay Area.
Over the course of the past few years, we’ve bonded with many of our incredible neighbors, sated our appetites at countless ethnic food joints, had a triple homicide on our block, installed a free little library for our community, hiked in beautiful Redwood Park, and watched a protest with thousands of people and hundreds trailing police vehicles terminate at the end of our street. We love the birdsong but hate the gunshots. Oakland feels like a special point of confluence for so many critical social issues: the implications of the growing wealth gap in American society, the extraordinary promise of new technologies and diverse world views, our failure to solve persistent social problems like poverty, racism, and homelessness, and the power of fierce, pragmatic optimism.
Writing Cumulus allowed me to explore my enthusiasm for my hometown and my fascination with how new tools like the internet are reshaping our lives in so many ways, big and small. Through years of working with startups and venture capital investors, I’ve had the privilege of seeing how some new technologies come to be and getting to know a few of the people who build and popularize them. I’ve never been more excited about the promise of human ingenuity and there’s no other time in history when I’d rather live. That said, these new developments are changing our social fabric, the texture of our personal lives, and even our geopolitics. Such change is always painful. Times like these require open-mindedness, compassion, critical thinking, resourcefulness, and creativity. I don’t have the answers but I hope that this story might contribute a few questions.
I will be donating the first six months of proceeds from Cumulus to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Chapter 510. The Electronic Frontier Foundation fights tirelessly for a free and open internet, championing user rights in the face of entrenched special interests. Chapter 510 is a local literacy non-profit serving underprivileged youth in Oakland. These organizations are the real heroes. Day in and day out, they roll up their sleeves and work to avert the darkest aspects of the future that Cumulus portrays.
Check out the book. I’d love to hear what you think.
Eliot Peper writes fast-paced, deeply-researched stories with diverse casts that explore the intersection of technology and society. His first three books constitute the Uncommon Series, which has attracted a cult following in Silicon Valley and is the #1 top-rated financial thriller on Amazon (think Panama Papers). He is currently working on his fifth novel.