Today in Prime Writing, Abby Goldsmith joins us with an interesting take on what happens when social media and performative society gets taken to the extreme.
• • •
“Join us or die.” Does that sound like an exaggeration of social media peer pressure? Anyone who dares tease out nuance in an online argument does so at their own peril.
In MAJORITY, my debut novel, the rulers of the galaxy insist that Thomas must join them or die. Once he joins the Torth Majority, he cannot unplug from their peer pressure. Each Torth has an ever-present audience inside their minds. The Torth consider themselves to be egalitarian. They have no crimes, no secrets, no privacy, no way to escape. There is only constant judgment. Everyone is watching everyone else.
An influential Torth has wrangled Thomas into the ruling collective because she believes in his astronomical potential as an inventor. However, Thomas quickly learns that the Torth Majority is no utopia, despite superluminal technology and an emphasis on egalitarianism. The Torth vote to enslave Thomas’s foster family, consigning them to alien ghettos and gladiatorial pits. The only way Thomas can rescue his loved ones is to trick his crowd-pleasing mentor…plus her inner audience of thirty trillion fans.
And so Thomas’s galactic conquest begins.
One of the biggest joys of my life was getting readers on board with terrifically unusual characters and subverted tropes. MAJORITY features a prophesied Chosen One who gets betrayed by–and becomes subordinate to–the actual hero of the story. There’s a monstrous parody of a spoiled galactic princess who has a hidden heart of gold, but whose status in a twisted society forces her to do awful things. And there’s Thomas, an adolescent boy who is wise beyond his years because he absorbs the life experiences of anyone who sits near him. When I see reader comments rooting for these characters, I am over the moon. It’s magic.
I posted this entire series for an online audience, chapter by chapter, before it got picked up by Podium. In hindsight, I think there is a lot to be said for the web serial to publication pipeline. If I had published each book as I wrote them, I am 100% certain it would either fail to end, or it would end in disaster. Instead, I was able to go back and make canonical changes. As I crafted the final books in the series, sometimes I would realize the whole construct was leaning too far this way or that, veering in a direction I didn’t quite want it to go. So I would shore up the foundation. I would make a course correction and steer the whole thing back on track.
Since MAJORITY is all about someone who heroically defies common collective wisdom, I guess it was inevitable that I would follow my own unconventional path to publication. I threw aside well-meant advice from industry experts, such as “you should publish as you go” and “make the first book a stand-alone with series potential” and “don’t have a prologue” and “you shouldn’t write a disabled hero if you’re not disabled” and “only kids will want to read about a kid.” No. I did it my way for the sake of the story.
But I did question myself a lot. I still worry. Am I screwing over my future self? Will I be stuck in obscurity because of my choice to defy common trends? I really want a massive audience–so why am I daring to do things that most industry experts advise writers not to do?
Well, here it is: the main reason I want a huge readership is because I believe I have something new to say, something new to add to cultural conversations. I won’t sacrifice that newness. I’ve finally come to terms with this as my path. I’m wearing newness as a badge of honor.
From the Kirkus review of MAJORITY: "Wrapped within the narrative is a sharp critique of social media, as the Torth’s ubiquitous “Megacosm” hive-mind is basically a super-internet. Thoughtful explorations of morality, altruism, justice and mercy, and the idea that godlike powers come with godlike responsibilities add depth and breadth to this auspicious entry in SF literature’s mutant-superman genre."
Abby Goldsmith is the author of the Torth series, with 750,000+ reads on Royal Road. She’s a member of SFWA and an alumni of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, with short works in Escape Pod, Fantasy Magazine, and Writer’s Digest Books. Abby lives in Austin, Texas as a video editor and game artist and is married to her favourite reader.
Buy Majority at Amazon.