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Plugged

Plugged is the coolest book I’ve ever written. 

Not because it takes place in the coolest world or has the coolest characters. This book is cooler than a glacier in sunglasses simply because it exists. 

Sterling & Stone has 400+ published books in its library, but Plugged is a secret marvel, recognized by a discerning few. 

After Johnny and I finished The Beam’s first season, we shared an overwhelm at the size of our new world. There was so much we wanted to understand about how the world of 2097 came to be in the years before our story got there. I had written a rich timeline from 2013 to the mid 2100s to inform that first season, but it wasn’t enough. We needed a story bible. 

I was at one of Ethan’s baseball games in the spring of 2014 when I got an idea prompted by the realization that Johnny and I are both born storytellers, and would surely get more out of a story bible written in narrative form. 

Somewhere around the third inning I was considering an oral history of the world, like in the World War Z novel. As the game was ending I thought, No. This book should be written by a future version of Malcolm Gladwell

And so Plugged: How Hyperconnectivity and The Beam Changed the Way We Think by Sterling Gibson was born. 

We made a list of shit we wanted to know about the world, then I wrote an outline to give each of those elements narrative form, with a chronological web that would give color and context to the biggest world we would ever create. 

Sterling got his name from the first half of our studio moniker and William Gibson. Johnny turned that outline into a draft with a narrative voice that playfully mimics Malcolm Gladwell’s style.

The storytelling is great, believable as a narrative nonfiction title from the future with many wonderful details. Johnny even did the math to make our explanations for the lattice (an impenetrable barrier of nanobots hovering above the North American Union) make scientific sense. 

We published Plugged with pride, ready to reap the rewards of our cleverness. 

But Sterling’s debut was met with a deafening silence that highlighted a disheartening gap between reality and our expectations. 

And yet, from within that vast silence, a few diehards emerged, and their deep appreciation for what we had done made writing Plugged even more worth it. 

One such reader emailed to (kindly) inform us about a blunder we had made in the book. Clive Spooner — the billionaire who crowdfunded his empire on the moon — told Gibson a story about the World Cup. Neither Johnny or I are soccer guys, and therefore ignorant of the fact that the World Cup is only held every four years.

Gibson would never have made that mistake, the reader wrote us.

And he was right. 

So we blamed it on Gibson. 

Instead of correcting it in Plugged, Johnny and I decided to treat it as cannon, writing Sterling Gibson as a character into the next season, and having another character call the veracity of his reporting into question. After all, he made that absurd mistake about Clive Spooner at the World Cup in Plugged. 

I would love an excuse to write more books like this, specifically from Gibson. We had another one outlined, but could never justify the time. It was an investigative backstory on O from The Beam’s, Future of Sex series. 

The Beam is my favorite of mine and Johnny’s co-created worlds, and in its weird little way, Plugged is my favorite part of that world. 

In 1990, Clive Spooner was born in England. In 2015, he came to America and amassed great wealth almost immediately by selling shovels. Spooner didn’t actually sell shovels, of course, but that’s how he described his first American business to the hundreds of biographers who interviewed him throughout his life. “In the Gold Rush,” he said, “it wasn’t the gold prospectors themselves who got rich. It was the smart men selling shovels to optimistic souls who made the real money.” That’s what Spooner did for telecommunications. He had a chip designed that completely cloaked all location-sensitive pings made by mobiles (called “cell phones” in 2015), then nudged civil rights groups he’d already riled up to push the U.S. government to enact stricter privacy regulations on the industry. When cell phone manufacturers all scrambled to comply, Spooner’s company, Microdyne, was there with a quick and relatively inexpensive solution.


“It was a bit shortsighted of me, seeing how things turned out,” Spooner told reporter Cason Whitley in a 2073 interview. In the interview, Spooner — easily one of the NAU’s wealthiest people — looks maybe 40 despite his 83 years and still has the charming, upper-class British accent he brought with him to America in 2015. “At the time, though, nobody wanted anyone but their friends to know where they were. But those friends? Hell, people back then wanted their friends to know everything, so I should have realized I was paddling in the wrong direction even though that direction made me rich.” He chuckles. “You have to realize, this was before even the next-gen Internet. Social telecommunication back then was so pointless, though I’ll admit I found it fun. There was a thing called Facebook, and people would send updates to their friends, telling them where they were. They’d put up pictures, then send those pictures to everyone as if everyone cared about where they were and what they were doing.

At this point, Spooner’s eyes brighten with nostalgia. “And then there was Twitter! Oh, Twitter was even worse. And by ‘worse,’ I mean devilishly, pointlessly fun. You could write a sentence, and people were supposed to care about it. You could tag your location there, too, and the photos were usually geotagged if you looked at the metadata. Because, see, in those old networks, people wanted others to know where they were and what they were doing, but somehow didn’t want their mobiles telling the world where they were without.

Enjoy the shit out of this for free. I’m just thrilled that you’re going to read it. You can do that here!