Update: Utopia's title is now "Walkaway" and it drops on April 25, 2017.
My biggest (and, IMO, best) adult novel has just sold to Tor for a very pleasing sum of money; it will hit shelves in 2017.
Here's my editor in Publishers Weekly:
The novel, which marks Doctorow’s first solo adult fiction effort since 2009’s Makers, is set in the latter part of this century; Hayden described it as a “big, sprawling story” about what happens when advancements in technology make peace and abundance for all a possibility, allowing humans to “simply walk away from the systems of work and coercive authority that have run the world since agriculture began.”
Here's what I sent to my publicist by way of a quote:
Of all the novels I've written, I'm most proud of Utopia. In it, I finally found a way to express all my fears about where we're heading and all my hopes for how we might head it off. Everyone I know feels that inchoate dread that Occupy shorthanded as 'things are fucked up and shit', and that feeling's given me the cold grue for most of a decade. Finally, I've managed to get that feeling and where it comes from into an orderly narrative that -- I hope -- transfers it from my brain to yours. I want to make a world that works even when it's broken down, a world where we see ourselves with a common destiny, where every person is owed a debt to, and owes a debt to, every other person. I want to make the world where our coming disasters are attended by outpourings of cooperation and empathy. Not because I find this aesthetically pleasing: because I want to live through those disasters, and I want my child to live through them. I want you to live through them, too, and your children.
And here's an essay I wrote when I started work on the book:
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking that writing books in which people act good while not facing much existential adversity is a kind of easy optimism. Much more interesting are stories about people who behave well when they are at risk for life and limb: the person who shares with his neighbor when doing so might mean his own starvation; the person who takes in an orphan when she can hardly feed her own children. In short, the most optimistic fiction you can write is fiction where people treat each other well under conditions of crisis.
This is a narrative we desperately need to hear. In crisis – in the horrible, slow-motion, global economic/environmental catastrophe that we inhabit – we form theories about how everyone else will react and plan accordingly. When Katrina hit, people nodded when soldiers and mercenaries shot ‘‘looters’’ in New Orleans, convinced that looting was the sort of thing that transpired after disasters. That was news. Hardly noticed, months after the fact, was the truth that there was practically no looting in post-Katrina New Orleans, and that those shot – particularly those shot by Blackwater mercenaries – were innocents who’d been killed in the service of a lie: the lie that human beings are bad, and that the first thing we do when the veneer of civilization falls away is kill, rape, and/or eat one another. This lie was a racist lie, and it was a speciest lie, too.
This is the worst kind of lie: the lie that makes itself true. When enough people believe the libel against the human race, the vile calumny that ‘‘human nature’’ would have us all at each others’ throats were it not for coercive force, it becomes a truth. If you are sure your neighbor will kill you when the lights go out, the natural thing to do is kill him at the first flicker – and even if you’re more reasonable than that, you still won’t want to let a potential killer into your shelter; you won’t want to share your food with him; you won’t want to take in his children when they need it.
Utopia will have a 20 city book-tour and will be attended by some rather exciting news that I will be revealing in good time.
Many, many thanks to my agent, Russell Galen, for all his hard work on this; and thank you to my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, for making it happen.
(Thanks, Old Miser!)
(Image: Utopia, Felipe Venâncio, CC-BY)