We stopped digging vertically in our pursuit of a life free from surveillance when we reached one mile straight down into the bosom of the earth, and began to excavate laterally. With that single perpendicular shaft the only access to our refuge, we finally felt safe from all prying eyes dominant on the panopticon surface. Now we could begin to build our surveillance-free society.
from “Thirteen Ways of Being Looked At By a Blackbird SR71” by Paul Di Filippo
Taking its inspiration from Wallace Stevens’ iconic poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” Paul Di Filippo's story is a fitting way to close out the Watchlist anthology. (Yes, I know this is only the 31st story I’ve featured here at the blog; I’ve saved editor Bryan Hurt’s story for the final blog post tomorrow.) In his story, Di Filippo (author of The Steampunk Trilogy) presents us with a baker’s dozen of surveillance-themed vignettes. Though none of them are directly connected by character or plot, each of them strikes a warning, like the clapper of an alarm bell, about our state of being watched. Make no mistake about it: Big Brother, Eye in the Sky, street cams, webcams, binocular lenses peeping through half-closed blinds--whatever or however, someone is watching our every move and tracking our very keystrokes. In short fictional bursts, Di Filippo writes about “eyeball spoofing,” cloaking garments, “phablets” that yell at schoolkids to do their homework, and “ineradicable, military-grade, self-replicating smart dust” that turns the world into “the Totally Transparent Society.” And, oh yes, there are flocks of drones watching us--not unlike in Stevens’ poem: “The only moving thing/Was the eye of the blackbird.”
Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt, will be published by O/R Books on May 21. The “persons of interest” contributing short stories to the anthology include Etgar Keret, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, David Abrams, Randa Jarrar, Katherine Karlin, Miracle Jones, Mark Irwin, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Dale Peck, Bonnie Nadzam, Lucy Corin, Chika Unigwe, Paul Di Filippo, Lincoln Michel, Dana Johnson, Mark Chiusano, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Chanelle Benz, Sean Bernard, Kelly Luce, Zhang Ran, Miles Klee, Carmen Maria Machado, Steven Hayward, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Alexis Landau and Bryan Hurt.