This is a guest post by Deedee Davies.
I’ve had an interest for a long time in dystopian tales. I really enjoyed reading old sci-fi anthologies from the 50s and 60s when I was younger, and the ethos of a lot of those old stories has stayed with me through the years. It was actually while sitting watching telly one night – several years ago now – that the idea for this story came to me. I wanted to write something that expressed my own feelings about the rampant proliferation of adverts on TV, extrapolate on how far it could go, and explore what might go wrong.
It feels like there are more ads than programming on telly these days. It’s definitely one of my pet peeves, and I remember recently there was a movement towards upping the length of ad breaks in TV programmes to seven minutes per break. SEVEN MINUTES! it makes me wonder how much of your viewing time in an hour is what you sat down to watch, and how much is what advertising companies want you to watch; what they want you to buy, to think, to do, even how they want you to act. It’s a concept that was wonderfully conveyed in films like ‘They Live’, where you see advertising stripped back to its bare bones, with commands like ‘Obey’ and ‘Consume’.
My partner and I often have discussions on the fake science in shampoo commercials, and the ridiculous names they think up for the ingredients and ‘benefits’. He’s a scientist and often scoffs at the ridiculous claims they make. Since rules have been tightened to the extent where adverts can’t claim something that isn’t demonstrably true, they end up adding nonsensical by-lines, like ‘may help reduce dandruff in 99% of cases’.
These companies are really good at dreaming up things that people don’t need, and making it sound like no-one could possibly do without them.
Another element of the story deals with getting out of contracts for things you don’t want. Have you ever tried cancelling a service? They make it really, really difficult. On more than one occasion, I’ve been talked back into keeping whatever it was I was trying to get rid of, even when I didn’t use it (e.g. contact lens subscription, TV package reduction). OK, so maybe I’m not the most assertive person, and I can be swayed by reasonable-sounding arguments, but I’m also really stubborn – surely I should be able to get what I want – or more to the point, not get what I don’t want?
As for the virtual products and experiences mentioned in the story, they already exist. How many gamers have purchased products that don’t exist for virtual worlds like Second Life or the Sims? And only last week, I had a virtual business meeting with screen-sharing to cut down on travel costs. I guess the scary thing for me, writing this at the moment, is that I penned most of this story about ten years ago, and quite a few of these things are already happening!
On the flip side though, I support the idea of someone who’s made a choice not to have the easy life, and has taken harsh reality over fake comfort. I’d like to think that I’d be one of those people, given the choice; that come Adbots-take-over-the-world Day, I’d prefer to deal with real life’s ups and downs than live in a fake wonderland.
I guess only time will tell…
My writing blog is here: http://deedeedavies.wordpress.com/
My art site is here: http://www.3dfantasyart.co.uk/
You can contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org