Starting My First Novel: Beyond 2049

Kevin Ann
5 min readMay 12, 2019


I’m making my very first attempt at writing a novel-length work of fiction targeting 100,000 words or 400 pages. Beyond 2049 will be a novel to explore the world beyond the year 2049 in the context of mind uploading and the conflict between America and China. Since I’ve never written fiction before, I want to keep a companion set of writings here on Medium to improve and motivate my writing, and hopefully to interact and get feedback from other readers and writers of fiction.

I’ve written much for my own personal and unpublished blog posts, as well as published scientific research in the field of theoretical quantum information theory (Google Scholar profile), but they’ve been standalone, declarative, technical statements and ideas. Being such, they require many conditions to be useful and engaging, in particular, readers would have to be very interested, have the background knowledge, and even understand me and my thinking to fully.

Will get more into background later, but I want to dive right into it.

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

1. Creation vs. Analysis

Last night, I sat down to try to get words onto a Google Docs document. I was very surprised that 2,500 words spilled out in 2 hours effortlessly, as I saw on the word count using the “Shift + Command + C” hotkey combo on the Google Chrome browser in Google Docs. It was like the words came out by themselves. It was less about my consciously thinking of what to write then doing it, and more about just channeling my thoughts. It was a total flow experience. It seems like there are two antagonistic processes involved.

  1. Creation
    Just get the words out to express the ideas as a first draft as a stream of consciousness. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, organization, voice, conciseness, or anything.
  2. Analysis
    After there’s good material to work with, then the analysis and editing can begin. Here, we can worry about mundane issues like spelling, grammar, punctuation, spacing of lines and paragraphs to more readability issues such as point of view, themes, cadence of story, internal consistency, and so on.

These two antagonistic processes should be kept separate. It appears that “Writer’s Block” is really trying to do both of them at the same time.

2. Learning How to Write Fiction

I’ve finished the following books so far about writing fiction. I have about 20–30 more queued up, but these provide a very solid foundation.

  1. Ben Bova — The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells
  2. Sean Platt, Johnny Truant, and David Wright — Write. Publish. Repeat.
  3. Peter Economy and Randy Ingermanson — Writing Fiction for Dummies
  4. Alexander Steele (Editor) — Gotham Writer’s Workshop: Writing Fiction
  5. Dwight Swain — Techniques of the Selling Writer

Like in any other area, there’s usually a sense in writing that there’s some ethereal or mysterious “talent” that transcends the field, which the practitioner either has or doesn’t. Although there’s no doubt that talent exists, it is also true there are existing and clearly-defined techniques and processes to improve as a writer. I take the following words as a practical guide and inspiration:

If you knew how much work went into it, you would not call it genius. — Michaelangelo

Don’t let the “selling” part give the impression of some dirtiness or lack of artistic purity, rather it’s practical and necessary to write clear, digestible, and engaging fiction that provides the reader an emotional experience that can best convey and communicate your ideas. Your reader is willing to spend their money to buy your work, and probably much more importantly, their non-renewable time and attention, so it’s important to reciprocate that respect and make this a good emotional experience and useful time spent.

It’s truly liberating to approach this all with “Beginner’s Mind.” I know I have much to learn and don’t believe I have any skill at all in writing fiction, and so there’s no pressure to perform. I’m doing this for two reasons:
1. Intrinsic Interest
I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but never had a reason or time to until now.
2. Passive Income
I must admit that passive income is an intense motivator, perhaps more than the intrinsic interest, which is actually saying a lot. I have no illusions that there’ll be much money, but it would be nice to get passive and residual income for doing something I wanted to do anyways, in this case the 70% royalties from Amazon Kindle Publishing.

3. Themes and Issues

Mind uploading and its consequences is the theme that most appealed to me, and there’ll be rich interconnections between it and the two following broad areas:

  1. Technology
    Mind uploading will not be in a vacuum, but will touch every bit of science, technology, government, and even the most mundane issues may require a deep dive and re-orientation of the most wide ranging issues in philosophy and religion
  2. Conflict between America and China
    Since mind uploading does not exist in a vacuum, the impending civilizational between the USA and China will always be a practical background.

The follow is a list of themes and issues I want to explore in the novel. Their more with respect to the science, technology, and philosophy of mind uploading. It’s alphabetized and thus organized arbitrarily here, but these are lifted from a spreadsheet where I plan to order them by priority and tag them by chapter and section. I plan to make an analogous list to explore conflict between America and China, which will entail themes and issues related to existing political ideology, government, and geopolitical issues.

computational irreducibility — computations as “real” — copies of you — east vs. west — emotions as encapsulation of rationality — global warming — god as more or mere computation — gradual vs. abrupt transition — hardware: computation — hardware: memory — hedonistic imperative — humans torturing AIs — individual vs. state — inherent value of AI vs. uploaded minds — left and right as outdated — mixing of AI and minds — natural death vs. mind upload — neo-ludditism — neo-neocortex — new overnment functions — new vistas of experience, cognition, feeling — privacy — probabilities of deaths for biological immortality — prostheses neural — prostheses physical — qualia of biological brains vs zombies — quantum information — religion (to research): christianity, judaism, islam, hinduism, etc. — religious mappings: mind uploads and singularity as rapture/heaven — reverse-engineered human brain and cognitive biases — right to die — rights of digital vs. biological natives — sadistic AI and eternity of torture — simulation hypothesis as mind of god — simulation vs. emulation of mind — software and hardware — themes from religion — timeframes of consciousness — type 1 vs. type 2 errors — various types of wealth

So as a quick summary, these are working notes. In particular, to help write Beyond 2049. In general, to improve as a writer and connect with people. Hopefully it is valuable to others to read as it has been to me to write. Expect a lot more to come!

- Kev



Kevin Ann

AI/full-stack software engineer | trader/investor/entrepreneur | physics phd