Editor’s note: Unbound Worlds welcomes Mallon Khan. Mallon is a producer and co-creator of Go Strengths, an online educational program that uses animations to teach children and their parents about well-being. For Go Strengths Mallon acts as animator, writer, sound engineer, music composer, and narrator/voice actor in over a hundred short animations and as a dozen different characters. He is also author of the novel Emplant.
Imagine a device that is a phone, computer, GPS, health monitor and personal assistant all wrapped up into a machine no bigger than a ball bearing. How would it affect your life, to immediately know your blood toxicity levels or to turn your thoughts directly into text? What if this device was proven to help you lose weight or get over addiction, make you smarter and more efficient? What if in order to experience all this you had to put the device inside your head. Would you get it?
Fifteen years ago, I was walking down the street in Manhattan when I noticed something was different. Everywhere I looked there were lone travelers trudging along the street, muttering to themselves like madmen. At first it was a strange sight to behold. I wondered if the busy New York City pace had finally gotten to some of these suits. The unifying trait of all these travelers came in the form of a small handheld electronic device held against the ear or sometimes represented by a single headphone. Of course I mean cell phones.
I am old enough to remember a time when it was normal to be out of contact with friends and family for long periods of time without creating panic. This was also before the Internet and social networks became a common staple in our lives. GPS had not yet reached the consumer market and folks were getting lost in strange neighborhoods all over the world. Information was not available at the drop of a hat, which meant long arguments about facts and statistics. Though it was only a couple of decades ago, this world almost seems like a page from antiquity; a time of chaos and confusion.
Not long after, I bit the bullet and got my own cell phone. Soon, I was one of these madmen. I’d always been interested in electronic gadgets. It was sometime around 2005 when I noticed another change that prompted me to purchase yet another device. It was on the train that I first noticed several passengers sporting the familiar white ear-buds of Apple’s iPod.
As a musician and audiophile, I was immediately attracted to the idea of consolidating all my music into one portable device. No longer did I need to carry with me my CD Walkman and case filled with a dozen scratched discs. All the music contained in the several towers of CDs in my home was now compressed into this tiny box that fit in my pocket. It was at this time that I started to wonder where this was all going.
I published Emplant in May of 2012. Around the same time Google unveiled “Glass,” a revolutionary device that lets people record their perspective of the world and stream it anywhere. The invention both thrilled and terrified me. The tech geek in me was itching to get a hold of one. On the other hand I could see Glass as being yet another step toward this hypothetical information device that would change the world once again, perhaps even change humanity itself.
Emplant is classic dystopian science fiction in that despite being set in the not-too-distant future, it is really about the present. When I began writing it five years ago, I assumed the world I was describing was decades away. Earlier this year I was compelled to finish the novel for fear my fictional world would become reality. It appears the hypothetical product I imagined is now right around the corner. I find myself, just as the main character in my story, wondering whether I will get one.
Tomas is a typical middle-aged man. He lives alone, struggles with a cigarette addiction and a job he hates. He works for a company called Redwire. They are kind of like a car dealer; an exclusive retailer of products by “Lunica,” manufacturer of Emplant. You come in, choose your favorite model and customization, and are soon “fit” with the revolutionary device that will transform your world. Tomas knows everything about Emplant but his fear keeps him from getting fit. His noncompliance has put his job in jeopardy and he must make the choice to join the rest of the world or get left behind.
Emplant functions both as a prophetic exposé and a metaphor for the consumer culture. The story gets progressively more psychedelic as it unfolds climaxing in the second act with a major paradigm shift that sets up a thrilling third act. Are nefarious elements using Emplant to control humans or are we approaching a technological singularity that will unite mankind? Will our increasing reliance upon technology make us post-human gods or extroverted slaves? Emplant asks all these questions and more. Oh, did I mention the zombie apocalypse?