Writing novels for the 21st century tech economy

Eliot Peper ‘11 talks about his newest book “Bandwidth” and his inspirations from GPS and the startup community

August 3, 2018 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News

Eliot PeperIf you are a writer, you are an entrepreneur. A statement that UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) alumnus Eliot Peper ’11 believes in. In a few short years, he turned a hobby into a successful career. A critically acclaimed novelist and business strategist, Peper is intentional with his own media diet, curious and enthusiastic about the intersection of technology and society.

“I was writing for fun. It was never part of my career plan,” laughs Peper. “I was always a voracious reader. I would hide in the library stacks as a kid.”

Impassioned by fiction writing, he believes literature gives readers access to human nature, a medium that shines when it both entertains and challenges perceptions of daily life. Writing about subjects that pique his interests, Peper is moved daily by the stories and characters in his own life and uses fiction to frame society’s deeper truths.

“As readers, fiction offers us a plausible alternative reality, a window into some else’s heart and mind,” said Peper. “When that reality is compelling, it transports us. We get this strange break from our daily consciousness.”

The year was 2012. Inspired by his time working in Silicon Valley, Peper noticed that there were a lot of books about how to build a startup company, but little about the human drama behind them. Before hit shows like HBO’s Silicon Valley, pop culture did little to illuminate startup life. Peper wanted to change that in his first novel “Version 1.0.”

“In the startup world, there are big personalities, and a lot of big dreams and big doubts,” said Peper. “Most startups don’t fail because of the product but because the team explodes. Human drama is the fabric of it all.”

Eliot PeperHis first three novels follow a tech startup from day one in the garage to the launch of the IPO, a trilogy of technological power. In his latest book, "Bandwidth" he delves further, describing it as a “science fiction thriller featuring hackers and spies grappling over the geopolitics of climate change, with a group of techno-utopian activists hijacking the global feed to manipulate world leader.” In the novel, there is a ubiquitous digital feed, one that is as personal as it is pervasive.

“When you look at an issue like climate change, we know how to fix it,” said Peper. “It’s not a technical problem, rather it’s that none of us can agree to do it. The actual problem is one of human collaboration. I hope that when readers exit the alternative reality of the book, they come away armed with new tools to reframe these issues.”

Wrestling with political structures and incentives, the book goes behind the scenes of our energy system, examining the human politics of climate change. Influenced by Professor David Victor’s class Politics of Energy Policy and a brief stint working at the GPS Laboratory on International Law and Regulation, Peper addresses how the digital world shapes our experience of reality and politics.

“I’ve been interested in climate change for a long time and it’s why I went to GPS,” said Peper. “I loved attending Politics of Energy Policy, the class definitely inspired the novel. Professor Victor was one of my best teachers, his style and ideas resonated with me.”

After realizing his passion for the startup world, Peper took several independent study courses at GPS and spent his summer internship cofounding a startup.

Eliot Peper“I always felt like there was room to move at GPS – that breadth of research was a big boon for me,” said Peper. “Because it attracts a diverse set of students and interests, I enjoyed growing with a cohort with different goals and conceptions. It definitely yielded interesting friends!”

Post graduation, Peper went on to create his own career path and even started a company with his now wife, GPS alumna Andrea Castillo ’09, to advise companies on international market entry.

Empowered by GPS, Peper hopes other students will remember to stay curious and cultivate a bias to action - turning passion into something valuable and tangible. While literature can be transporting and entertaining, it is these seeds of truth that can also change the world.

“Follow your enthusiasm. We are our own barriers, we are our own worst enemy and we judge ourselves before others do,” said Peper. “Read and study things you enjoy. It shouldn’t feel like work. It’s an incredible boon to just spend time learning about things you connect with organically.”

Interested in reading more? Get Peper’s latest reading recommendations and updates on his new books at http://www.eliotpeper.com.

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