Contracts Are Signed with a Word

I suspect this is true of all writers, but I crave feedback. When someone tells me they bought one of my books, the first thing I say is “Thanks.” Because, really, thanks. I couldn’t do any of this without my readers.

The second thing I say, almost without fail, is, “You’ll have to tell me what you think of it.” Neither comment is an empty pleasantry. I say both with with utter — almost desperate — sincerity.

I don’t stop with that friendly little sentence, either. I’ve talked about it before on my writing advice blog, but I have a whole list of Reader Response Questions ready for any reader willing to face the unyielding interrogation that grows out of my vain curiosity.

The first question on the list is, “What was your favorite (or most memorable) scene?” I can learn a lot about my book (and about a reader) from the answer to that one question.

I’ve been surprised, though, how often the answer (with regard to Gods Tomorrow) has been a scene fairly early in the book, after Katie’s first day at work, when she’s riding home in a taxi. The thing is…she’s new in town. She doesn’t have a home here.

Yet.

It’s our second real chance to see Hathor Tech in action. She calls up her personal shopper and asks it to find her an apartment here in town. Then (right then) she scrolls through some photos on her handheld, sorts the list by price and then by proximity to work, and spends a moment considering them all. Really, though, she likes them all. And why wouldn’t she? One and all, they were hand-picked just for her.

She chooses one out of the list — like you might choose a donut from the case at your neighborhood bakery — and says, “Okay, I’ll take that one.” And just like that, the place is hers.

I suspect the people who choose that as their favorite scene are all ones who’ve gone through the grueling ordeal of a real estate closing (probably recently). Still, it’s got a strong appeal for all of us. The drudgery of paperwork, the bureaucracy of a credit application…it’s an insidious and all-too-familiar evil.

In Katie’s world, though, there’s no need for it. Think through what goes into that mountain of paperwork. It’s all about clarifying who you are (as the buyer or the seller), capturing your commitment to a major financial transaction, and ensuring (for legal purposes) that you have access to certain critical information about the property in question.

Let’s take a moment to consider just that last item. With Hathor in place, for any belonging worth the hassle of preparing such paperwork, it would be worth putting the critical information into the database, and then you know the buyer has access to it. Everyone in the world has access to it.

Not only that, you’d have access to far more information. If you were buying a house, you wouldn’t just learn whether or not the buyer had personally encountered evidence of water damage. You could find out how often the previous owner needed to call a plumber, and for each visit, why.

You could check on the previous occupants, searching their conversations for keywords related to home improvements — paint, carpet, foundation, termites — and see how often those conversations were followed up with actual work on the house. Better yet, you could hire a Service to run all those checks and more, and give you a letter grade on the house (or tell you how much to take off the offer for red flags).

As far as the rest of it — your identity and your commitment (and ability to pay) — well, you’d better believe Hathor is also paying close attention to both of those things, and you can rest assured they’ll get their own blog posts in due time.

So what’s to lose? A two-hour ordeal, and cramped, ink-stained hands. That’s it. In a world with everything on the record, financial transactions safely in the hands of the database services, signing a contract, selling a house, starting a new job…it’s all as easy as ordering a donut. Just say, “Okay, I’ll take that one,” and it’s done.

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