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Fulfilled Predictions in Sponsored By…


It has been almost twenty years since “Sponsored By…” was published (in conjunction with the Midwest Writing Center), so I thought I’d skim it and see which of my predictions came true.

The novel is an over-the-top vision of a future America where everything, including children, are sponsored by Corporations.

I wrote it in 1999/2000 while working in a cubicle at a software company.

The book got a couple good reviews, but my favorite was from the Anchorage Press: “If you want to read a better dystopian novel, opt for David Foster Wallace‘s Infinite Jest.”

My favorite predictions are the Cloud-Logos and Appliances with Smart Chips that feed your consumer info to corporations (see the end of this article).

First, the things in the novel which I never thought would disappear: Newspapers (named the Microsoft Herald – but I guess they DO give us news now), landlines, malls, bookstores, CDs and diskettes. Ha!

Next, the things I got right (or almost right). Keep in mind this was just a year after Google was launched, people still had to “tape” shows they wanted to watch later, and cell phones were used strictly for calls:

  • Sponsored weather reports.
  • Urinal ads.
  • Child sponsorship and forehead tattoos.
  • Ads always on your television screen, even during programming.
  • Hologram ads at stop lights that dance on your car hood.
  • Rats painted with pest control logos.
  • Soldiers with oil company logos.
  • Blimps spraying fast-food scents in the streets.
  • TV screens in elevators to show ads.
  • Cameras on every street corner (we were protesting this at the time, to no avail).
  • Naming rights for State Parks.
  • Hallway floors filled with a checkerboard of ads.
  • Baseball fields with ads painted on the grass.
  • Housing to be made to look like products, IE huge jeans, candy bars and soda cans.
  • Abortion Pills.
  • Birth Taxes.
  • Blue dye and perfume in polluted water.
  • 96-inch televisions
  • Mass consumption of coconut water.
  • Genetics tests pre-birth can show baby’s IQ, body type, and sexual preference.

Then, some things I predicted, but haven’t quite come to fruition:

  • Corporations literally write the news (this one is debatable).
  • Factory farms growing pigs without legs.
  • Huge billboards floating in the middle of the river like a wall of ads.
  • Brocco-lettuce
  • Sponsored State Capitol Buildings

Finally, the existence of “Marketing Reports.” Compilations of your daily habits for use by Marketers in the name of Customer Service (again, this was before MySpace, FB, and loyalty cards).

Excerpt:

“Did you compile the marketing report on the Traechals?” Kifer asked.

Bale pulled a manila envelope from the back of his jeans.

The microchips implanted in consumer products made information gathering easy, but the reporting method was still in its infancy. The marketing reports stated everything from a person’s criminal, medical and driving records, to yearly government drug test results. The reports had the usage patterns of household appliances, insurance company claims, movie rentals, purchase histories from supermarkets, and even telephone usage. Everything was tracked in the name of customer service, and Bale had a knack for piecing all the information together. He could read the pages of reports and determine the person’s habits and tastes in just seconds, along with a detailed daily schedule. Computers would soon spit out the same type of information, but until that day came Kifer knew of no human with the same talent.”

I don’t recommend reading the book. Its clunky and outdated. I also wrote the main character to have no agency, so he is literally just swept through the story and only makes one fateful decision. I do like the ending though. It takes place in a Wal-Mart-esque setting, where a guerilla news team takes over the airwaves and exposes a child-breeding ring. Everyone in the store is aghast, until the news is over, then they go back to asking the prices of the televisions.

So yes.  Read Infinite Jest instead — or at least pretend to.

 


Categorized as: Journal

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