Bacon’s Rebellion was lucky enough to snag an interview with “Dust Mites” author Jim Bacon. As he is the blog contributor most familiar with the book, Bacon interviewed himself.
JAB: Thank you so much for granting this interview, Mr. Bacon. First, let’s dispense with formalities. Do you go by James?
JAB: Jim would be fine.
JAB: Your novel is set in the year 2075 when there are numerous American colonies on the Moon. The colonies — one in particular, Galileo Station — is chafing under the imperial rule of an out-of-touch Congress and imperial presidency in Washington, D.C. Do you think that’s a plausible scenario?
JAB: I picked the year 2075, only 53 years from now, for literary reasons. I was deliberately playing on the parallels with the American Revolution. The incident that precipitates the action in the novel — the dispatch of the U.S. Marshal’s Special Operations Group into the underground city of Galileo Station to arrest its governor to stand trial — plays a role analogous to the events at Lexington and Concord in sparking a rebellion.
While the date may be arbitrary, let me advance a few propositions: (1) human exploration of the Moon will be commonplace by the end of the decade; (2) colonization of the Moon for scientific, military and economic imperatives will soon follow; and (3) tensions inevitably will arise between the U.S. colonies and the imperial power. It is not implausible to think that the central government in Washington, D.C., will continue to accumulate power over the next half century and become more assertive and more authoritarian than ever.
In the “world” of “Dust Mites” — or, to be more exact, in the Earth-Moon system of “Dust Mites” — Galileo Station was formed as a commercial enterprise, similar to the way in which Jamestown and Virginia were formed as a commercial enterprise. (Please note the Virginia reference, which is mandatory for columns in Bacon’s Rebellion.) Given its roots in market capitalism, Galileo Station has evolved market-based institutions and a Wild West, laissez-faire culture at odds with the statist philosophy prevailing in Washington, D.C.
JAB: It sounds like you have created a libertarian utopia. How realistic is that?
JAB: Such as perception would be based on a false premise. I devote much of the book to exploring the points of view of Galileo Station’s critics. To be sure, I contrast the economic dynamism of Galileo Station with the lethargy and stagnation of the United States, but I have characters suggesting that the economic boom is unsustainable and fragile, and warning that the colony has developed no stabilizing institutions should that boom collapse. Moreover, the novel describes an underclass comprised of society’s inevitable losers. I don’t believe in utopias. No economic or political system is perfect. But some are clearly better than others.
JAB: One of your more brilliant observations — pardon the flattery — is your portrayal of the U.S. political system in 2075. There are three political parties — the dominant Social Democrats, the Enterprise Party, and the Faith Nation. What is your thinking behind that?
JAB: Extrapolating from the politics at play today, I see society evolving into three distinct blocs. The dominant bloc is the Social Democrats, which is animated by the same principles as the left wing of the Democratic Party today. This party sees government as the solution for all social and economic problems, and it is driven by the imperative to accumulate centralized power. Likewise, Social Democrat rhetoric values equality and equity above all other virtues (although the distribution of power is anything but equal). The great challenge in 2075 will be ensuring that the fruits of genetic engineering, robotics, and artificial intelligence are spread equally throughout society rather than remaining the province of the wealthy.
I anticipate that the pro-business elements of today’s Democratic Party will schism from the party and join the main-street Republicans under the banner of The Enterprise Party in calling for more freedom in the civic and economic realms. In the novel, the Enterprisers value innovation highly, and they advocate a lighter hand of government. However, the party is secular in orientation, deems itself pro-science, and is comfortable with harnessing powerful new technologies for the greater good.
The Faith Nation is comprised of Americans with strong religious values — by 2075 very much a minority, but still an important one. Members of the Faith Nation are repelled by the direction modern science has taken. They see the genetic engineering of human babies as usurping the role of God. They regard the widespread use of artificial organs and human-machine interfaces as an abomination, transmogrifying humans into something less than human. Just as the Puritans established colonies in the New World to gain religious freedom, members of the Faith Nation have colonies on the Moon as well.
“Dust Mites” explores the interaction of these factions when presented with the challenge of a rebellious lunar colony.