Sometimes, authors write stories. They try their hand at a detective tale and then they write a romantic story. Other authors write because they want to teach their readers something by guising a political or societal aspect in their writing. One of these is John Twelve Hawks. And he just so happens to be one of the more elusive authors out there.
John Twelve Hawks writes science fiction novels that are set in wha the trope calls Twenty Minutes in the Future. Basically, the trope describes worlds that could be ours, if only a tiny thing would have gone wrong.
Twenty Minutes in the Future
The world of books that are set twenty minutes in the future are not that different from ours. They aren’t postapocalyptic worlds like the ones we know from Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games or Veronica Roth‘s Divergent Series.The worlds are not so different from ours. In fact, it’s usually only one tiny detail that makes the world we know into some kind of horror vision of what we could easily become.
This isn’t a new concept. It has existed for as long as Science Fiction has had traction in an audience. In the list that follows, I’ll mention movies, because when something is gaining mainstream traction, there’s usually movie. For twenty minutes in the future, scifi is the place to go.
- In the 1970s and early 1980s, twenty minutes in the future, there was gang violence and law free zones.
- John Carpenter‘s 1982 classic Escape from New York sees Manhattan Island as a prison that governs itself
- Another John Carpenter movie. In 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13, a police station in a high crime zone is being shut down but ends up being besieged.
- In 1979’s The Warriors, gangs number in the tens of thousands and basically run the city.
- In the 1980s, industrialism and the world being taken over by corporations becomes the norm
- In Paul Verhoeven‘s Robocop, a company named OCP has taken over Detroit and pretty much bought the police.
- In Terry Gilliam‘s 1985 movie Brazil a bureaucrat becomes an enemy of the state due to some administrative error.
- In the 1990s, moral decay was what made twenty minutes in the future such an awful place
- In the movie adaptation of The Crow, Detroit has become some impoverished hellhole where crime runs rampant.
- In Escape from LA, America is a moral state. These morals are enforced by the military and people who do not act morally are deported.
- In Se7en, two detectives who uphold law and order are confronted with a killer who may or may not be wrong
- In the 2000s, technology was on the rise and Big Data makes our lives hard. Especially when technology is combined with government.
- In Stealth a super advanced military fighter jet becomes aware, downloads the entire internet and messes things up.
- In Eagle Eye an artificial intelligence tracks two people whom it leads into danger and tracks them with every day electronics.
Now that you’ve got a good overview of what this setting of fiction, let’s have a look at what today’s twenty minutes in the future entails.
We live in a world of Big Data where surveillance is one of the bigger concerns. Our phones are constantly connected to the internet, Facebook and Twitter are updated constantly with everything we do. Basically, our entire lives are digitalized and we keep losing more and more control over how much we share and what the information is used for.
An author who has specialized in drawing up futures in which Big Data is running rampant. This man is known as John Twelve Hawks.
Who is John Twelve Hawks?
John Twelve Hawks is an author. Because he’s written books. He’s also very passionate about privacy, because all his writings – not just his books – are about privacy and our human right to it. Hawks first rose to fame with his Fourth Realm Trilogy that weaves science fiction, an argument for privacy as well as some good ancient cults and secret society stuff. it’s made up of the following books:
- The Traveler: ISBN 978-0-375-43440-2, published June 2005 by Doubleday
- The Dark River: ISBN 978-0-385-51429-3, published July 2007 by Doubleday
- The Golden City: ISBN 978-1400079315, published September 2009 by Doubleday
Following that, it’s gotten quiet around JXIIH, as Hawks is referred to by his fans. Also, very little is actually known about him. Or her, really. Even though I think he confirmed to be a man at some point. You see, John Twelve Hawks is not his real name. Nobody but his publisher – it is assumed – knows his real name. Despite the massive interest in his books, nobody has yet come forth with information about the author’s real identity.
It’s been taken from interviews that he’s visited East Germany, which means he was an adult before 1989, when the wall and the Deutsche Demokratische Republik fell. He’s said he is a Buddhist and – despite heavily drawing on native American themes and imagery in The Fourth Realm – he is not native American. He’s not in his 20s anymore. When asked about why he chose a pen name, he gave the following answer to Joseph Malozzi on his blog:
My mother and the rest of my family don’t know that I have written the novels. Those people I know who aren’t close friends see me as a failure by the American standards of success. Being a “failure” in such a way has been a continual lesson. It’s helped me realize that we make quick judgments of others based on little real information. We assume so much – but don’t know the secrets held within the heart.
After the initial success of The Fourth Realm and the buzz that followed it, it got quiet around the author. Until 2014.
Spark and Against Authority
In 2014, John Twelve Hawks resurfaced again. He published Against Authority, his presumable first foray into the world of Non-Fiction, and Spark (ISBN 978-0385538671, published October 2014 by Doubleday), in which he once more goes into the world of Big Data and constant surveillance.
In Against Authority Hawks describes the world as he sees it. The way we’re heading towards complete surveillance and goes into his biography a bit. Apparently, he was the subject of neurological experiments as a child, by which he means that he was manipulated into believing things that he refused.
In Spark he tells the story of Jacob Underwood who thinks he’s dead. He thinks he’s a Spark of energy, inhabiting a Shell that just so happens to be a human body. But actually, he’s dead. This is a neurological disorder called Cotard Delusion. Because he’s completely emotionless, he is employed by a big bank that needs certain clients killed. However, his latest assignment sees him chase a former bank employee in a world where a series of terrorist attacks that wiped out several schools across the globe with students in them – known as the Day of Rage – has led to a global system of surveillance that makes privacy something that virtually doesn’t exist.
All in all, John Twelve Hawks is a very relevant author taking a critical and non-polemic albeit clearly biased look at where surveillance and our continuous loss of privacy could be going. It might spark you to question your habits on social media or the use of cameras to provide security. And even if it doesn’t, you will get a good and thrilling read out of it.
Because I usually let you off with a video of some sort every week and there obviously isn’t one for JXIIH, I had to find something different. In the movie version of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta the terrorist known only as V explains why people opt for more surveillance.
Also, there’s a 2014 music album by John Digweed and Nick Muir that features the electronically distorted voice of John Twelve Hawks, reading passages from The Traveller.