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10,000 Dragons

This may be the most political story I ever write. It's not my usual line of work. The occasional political essay, sure, but not fiction. It's also sci-fi, which again is not my usual line of things. But there really wasn't any other way to frame this story except as SF. How else could I explore a truculent mainland China, with its island-building, designs on space exploration and electronic surveillance police state, except in the context of a future we are currently living? If you can imagine the things that science fiction has been warning us about for decades—facial recognition as a standard biometric marker and predictive policing, you can probably reconcile the fact that these very technologies are being used to shape the lives of real people right now. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect for me is the propaganda machine rather than the robotic one: "Once you lose trust, you will face restrictions everywhere." It's as if someone looked at the era of Communist posters and decided we need to return to the principles of benevolent Big Brother, so they made an app for it. (Download mandatory for party cadres.) This tendency is not ideologically restricted to Communism. The particular strain of authoritarian messaging in question is something I grew up with as well in an otherwise democratic country. My own government has long had a fondness for patriotic music videos, hard controls on the press and civil society, and media blitzes for the latest government initiatives. That turned out to be helpful in shaping how propaganda was infused into the daily lives of my characters.

Ultimately, the takeaway I have always hoped for from this is that individuality wins over state thought-control—but it's a hope I have come to doubt multiple times over.

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