Monday, December 31, 2018

The World According To...

Image: Russ Seidel

Authors create their own worlds. It's the job, right? We create the setting, the people, the situations. Sometimes it's completely based on the real world (Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies), sometimes it's partially based on reality (Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale), and sometimes it's many light years to the left of reality (Frank Herbert's Dune).

As authors of Parallels: Felix Was Here, we created our own universes. Now suppose you were allowed to bring such a creation to life (and not just in a film or at an amusement park like DisneyWorld's Avatar)? What changes would you make? Here are my top three:

1. A Four Day Work Week

I live in the US. I don't have a job, but I do have two children, one in 9th grade, one in 7th, and I am exhausted. I don't think I can get through three-and-a-half more years on this schedule. We get up at 5 or 6 a.m. because classes start at 7:20 a.m. (No, that is not a typo.) After school, there is an avalanche of homework, doctor's appointments, instrument lessons, instrument practice, play rehearsals, and on and on. It's a race to get out the door in the morning and a race to beat the clock to get to bed at a reasonable hour. (And we lose both of those races at a rate of near 50%.) Getting a Ph.D. and working full-time as a math professor was not this stressful, I swear. (All the time, unfortunately.)

A four-day work week may never happen in this country, but it does exist in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, and Germany.

2. A Sleep Machine

Image: ALT1040

Did I mention my never-ending exhaustion? Let's fix that sucker once and for all, shall we? I'd like a machine in which I could program my desired hours of sleep, plug in, and get those 8 (or 9 or 10) hours of happy, happy dreamtime--guaranteed.

I know, I know, this already exists as Ambien, Lunesta, and other medications, but Rosanne Barr is a cautionary tale on why one shouldn't mix writing (tweet, tweet) with drugs. Enough said.

(I suspect cats have their own internal sleep machines already. Lucky fur balls.)

3. Beam Me Up, or rather, Beam Me Away

Image: Andrew

How cool would it be to have a means for instantaneous teleportation? Forget airport security lines, lost luggage, or even forgotten homework. What if you could go anywhere at any time in just seconds? What a world that would be!

I suppose it would have to come with certain regulations. We can't all zip over to Disney's Expedition Everest roller coaster after school (or Times Square for New Year's Eve, or the beach for lunch hour). But it sure would come in handy, if say, you were in the path of a natural disaster like fire, flood, or hurricane.

The technical side of instantaneous teleportation could have some nifty side effects. Consider the idea of breaking down a human body into particles and then reassembling them. On one hand, there is the fear of mistakes, an idea Micheal Crichton used in Timeline. But what about fixing things in the body? What if such a teleportation machine could be used to instantaneously heal a broken bone, remove a tumor, or rewrite your genes to ferret out certain illnesses? Doctors would go nuts! (But surgeons would have to kiss their scalpels goodbye.)

And then there's the other stuff. The trucking/railroad/air transport industry of moving goods would go the way of the dinosaur. Reduced fossil fuel use would help the environment. Maybe we could transport our garbage to the center of the sun! And imagine storage. What if you could put all your clutter into the equivalent of a data cloud? OMG! No more stacks and stacks of plastic bins filling our garages and basements!

Of course, this is the part of the story where something horrible happens. Let's not forget Stephen King's The Jaunt.


What things would you come up with for a better universe? What horrible/wonderful consequences might arise from them? Where would you go if instantaneous transformation was possible?


  1. My mother did work a 4-day week for DMV years ago. I'm actually still hoping for a 40 hour day so I can get everything done.

  2. Beaming me - or teleporting me - would be awesome!

  3. I'm all for the 4-day work week (and no 10-hour days either). And I would love teleportation. Anything to get rid of commute times and traffic.

  4. Teleportation sounds amazing!

  5. A 4 day week sounds okay, but I'm afraid for a lot of us, it wouldn't make much of a difference, because we work every day anyway.

    I'd love to beam up to anywhere in the world. So many places I'd like to see!

  6. I'm with L. Diane Wolfe for the 40 hour day. I never feel like I get enough done. ;)

  7. I sort of do that already. I work 12-hour shifts, but only 3 of them per week. I work nights, though, so it takes time to recover.

  8. A really great article, I enjoyed reading it.

  9. I want those kittens!! Boy, if we could sleep half as much as cats do... I'm so glad two of my kids are in college. They can do their own homework for once!


Your comments are most appreciated!