‘Majority’ Imagines Internet Hate Mobs to the Extreme

Abby Goldsmith’s science fiction novel Majority tells the story of a group of young people from Earth who get abducted by the Torth, a galaxy-spanning civilization ruled by merciless telepaths.

“There’s a galactic empire, and these people are all neurally, superluminally connected,” Goldsmith says in Episode 550 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “They can communicate instantaneously, and they vote on everything. It’s mob rule taken to an extreme.”

The Torth mentally surveil each other at all times, competing to build audiences of “orbiters,” and summary execution awaits any Torth who goes against public opinion. Parallels between Torth society and the internet are obvious. “Here in the information age, in the social media age, we all see more and more what’s happening,” Goldsmith says. “Social media’s not the best for mental health. We see dogpiles online and that sort of thing.”

Goldsmith has been working on Majority and its sequels since the early 2000s. She says that even back then she had a bad feeling about the direction of internet culture. “I had a friend in high school, and we would get on AOL chat, and she would just lie to people, straight up fool them,” Goldsmith says. “She’d be really manipulative, and I would watch her do that. It was very easy for her to sucker people in. And I was like, ‘Wow, lying is going to be a thing.’”

She hopes her books will serve as a warning about the dangers of social media. “We’re just at the beginning of, I think, an age of this, so I really wanted to explore that and take it to its logical conclusion,” she says. “Mob rule, where everyone votes on everything, we don’t even have that yet in our world. But I think it’s going to come. I think we’re going to see it at some point.”

Listen to the complete interview with Abby Goldsmith in Episode 550 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Abby Goldsmith on emotions:

[The Torth] don’t want intense emotions in their society, so they’ve outlawed that, and by extension a lot of friendliness, that sort of thing, is just out the window. So love doesn’t exist. … I think in science fiction there’s always been kind of a vibe that emotions are bad, and having family and having friends is terrible, like with the Jedi Knights. To be a good Jedi Knight you should reject family and friends, basically. And with Vulcans, it’s like, “Oh, we don’t have sex or relationships. Maybe once every seven years we have an orgy, and that’s it.” And that’s supposed to be a good thing? So I was always like, “Eh, I don’t see that leading anywhere good, personally.”

Abby Goldsmith on the film industry:

I wrote to Disney as a 15-year-old, “How can I work for you?” They sent back a list of all the colleges I should go to, and I was like, “All right, number one on the list is CalArts. I’m going there.” … The year before I graduated there was a job fair, and I got an offer from LucasArts, and they were like, “We’ll pay you $50,000 a year to start, and you can work on the new Star Wars films.” And I was like, “Nah, I’m going to finish my schooling because I’m sure it’ll be easy to get a job, no problem.” And then the very next year Disney laid off 800 feature film animators, and the industry was flooded with those people. So students like me didn’t have a chance. It was pretty ridiculous.

Abby Goldsmith on the Torth series:

Having the whole series prewritten I think in a lot of ways is a superpower. I’ve noticed Michael J. Sullivan with his Riyria series, he did that as well, and the series he wrote is very cohesive for that reason. I think a lot of series authors, they start to meander or lose the thread if they are publishing as they go. You see that a lot with series authors. It’ll dwindle into stats or melee battles, or they’ll just not finish the series, or they’ll end it with a giant, tragic accident where everyone dies. … With the supergenius [characters], I was able to go back and make sure that those supergeniuses were on top of things. So they do come across as smart. They always know what’s about to happen.

Abby Goldsmith on Royal Road vs. Wattpad:

I relaunched the entire series on Royal Road, and part of the reason is that Wattpad has kind of lost a lot of the discoverability features that made it so great. I still had the same readership, but nobody new was coming in. And I’ve heard that from a lot of Wattpad authors as well. People that had a million reads on their series were unable to get anyone to notice their next book. And meanwhile I’m hearing all kinds of crazy stories from Royal Road of authors who would gain a million fans overnight. I knew writers that were earning a full-time living on Patreon from advance chapters from Royal Road. So I was like, “I absolutely have to try Royal Road. It’s no question.”

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