SF authors (and brothers) Dani and Eytan Kollin told Tor.com that their debut novel, The Unincorporated Man, is about a brilliant industrialist named Justin Cord awakes from a 300-year cryonic suspension into a world that has accepted an extreme form of market capitalism.
“It’s a world in which humans themselves have become incorporated and most people no longer own a majority of themselves,” Dani said in an interview. “Justin Cord is now the last free man in the human race—owned by no one and owning no one.”
Justin Cord chose to voyage, via cryonic suspension, into the future for the most selfish of reasons—to find a world that would both cure him of his fatal illness and allow him to continue his selfish pursuit of happiness. “At first it appeared that he’d gotten what he’d wanted, but as he looked more deeply at the glittering future he discovered that humanity was paying a terrible price for its material security,” Dani said. “And that’s when he had to decide whether he was going to leave unchanged a future that would place him the very highest echelons of culture or restore to humanity a vision of freedom that it had forgotten. The story is his journey from the former to the latter.”
The genesis of the book came about about 16 years ago when Eytan, a high school economics teacher, was starting his fledgling career in Compton, California. “Surrounded by the oppressive and endemic poverty of the inner city, he wondered if perhaps there was a better system than the one that had clearly failed,” Dani said. “It was during that Eytan came up with the idea of applying the rules of incorporation to an individual.”
The book takes place in a post-singularity future, in which a mature nanotechnological infrastructure is powered by safe fusion reactors. “This gives society the effect of limitless energy and the beginnings of effective immortality,” Dani said. “In short we needed to create a utopia so compelling that even our readers would be confused (in the beginning) as to why our protagonist would have reservations.”
The other key element to the novel is the incorporated system. “It’s a world where every human being is automatically incorporated at birth and bound to contractual lifelong relationships to whoever purchases their stock,” Dani said. “This system in effect, creates a dictatorship of the content, which is to say a society so restrictive yet prosperous that no one seems to notice its true effect until our protagonist pops out of his suspension chamber and says, ‘The Emperor has no clothes.'”
Dani said that he and his brother find it both prescient and depressing that their story has, as its basis, what happens when the economic necessity of a sound dollar gets sacrificed for the political desires of a poorly disciplined but powerful ruling class. “We further explore how the concomitant maturation of advanced VR (i.e. Second Life on speed) creates a perfect storm that ultimately destroys our civilization more effectively than the collapse of Rome,” he said. “It is from the ashes of this destruction that our world is created and that our protagonist eventually emerges.”