I write speculative fiction. Not the kind with aliens or wizards. I write about the near future. It’s not like I haven’t thought about drones being used against civilians to gather information, dispense stuff, even cause collateral losses (aka death of civilians). From spying to patrolling borders to targeted bomb strikes that kill, the international debate about drones cannot be ignored.
Truth is I haven’t been ready to travel along the thought path where drones might exist in my neighborhood or yours. Red light cameras, London’s city street cameras, cameras built into cops’ clothing put me in a queasy intellectual and emotional clash about personal rights and public protection. Now put the capability of flying small drones along a busy city street or interstate route with the ability to build a database of who is traveling where and what they are carrying in their vehicle, or maybe used to cause disruption in the name of national security. Why wouldn’t drones be used against suspected terrorists or criminals within our borders? Is it a long path from using drones in other countries to justification within the United States?
Until now I’ve sidestepped writing about a government where leaders feel empowered to take almost any action in the name of national security. In March I’m heading into seclusion to revise the third Ashwood book. Drones, used for neutral reasons and for what might be seen as evil, are in the storyline. Like global warming, genetically modified agriculture, or multinational corporations, a futuristic book needs to deal with security hungry government.
My children and grandchildren will live with that reality. Spending a few weeks intellectually with powerful fictional players in a world with few private corners makes me nervous. I’m about half way to accepting that a whole lot of people can tell where I am writing through my use of technology. Think I’ll leave the cellphone on the table and enjoy a few walks in the woods before tiny drones flying through the trees might take note.