A Life Before Sleep - scifi by M. Stephen Stewart


Enter a future dominated by advertising and corporate control with the unique short, A Life Before Sleep, the first side-story in the Mindshare series.

In the future, the unauthorized dissemination of knowledge is a grave crime, and Doctor Samantha Vanay is a career criminal. Through secret teachings, and a delicate alliance with one very powerful, very mysterious man known only as The Red Merchant, she has become a major player in an illicit empire of knowledge brokers.

On the hunt for a big payout, Doctor Vanay pushes too far, too fast, bringing her into the crosshairs of Planetary Link Corporation, her country's ruling power. The heat doesn't bother Vanay. She has a plan--keep her mouth shut and stay in The Merchant's good graces no matter what happens. But all that changes when Vanay realizes she may lose more than her freedom.


As a Science Fiction author, I love to use the genre as a means to explore the extremes of humanity and society. So, like the main title in its series, We Are Watching, the story in A Life Before Sleep is inspired by the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden, where it was revealed that the organization has been freely spying on US citizens. I wanted to take that to the furthest possible conclusion by creating a society where people are being monitored at all times in their daily lives.

My goal was to explore how that would affect culture and interpersonal relationships, as well as what a citizen's role becomes in a country where knowledge and information are so tightly controlled by one organization, that the simple act of learning something without that organization's approval is a serious crime. In writing A Life Before Sleep, I realized that most people would begrudgingly accept those laws as a necessary sacrifice for safety and security in a deeply troubled world. But, there would be a spirited few, with an assortment of motivations, who would actively work against those laws.

In the case of Doctor Samantha Vanay, the story's main character, her primary motivation is money and proving to other people that she's superior. Of course, as the story goes on, those motivations are examined, and ultimately called into question when she's forced to make a decision that she never thought she'd have to make.

Contrastingly, Vanay's assistant, Rachel MacArthur, isn't driven forward by pride and greed the same way Vanay is. Sure, Rachel loves the money she makes (working in the illegal information trade is extremely lucrative), but she's idealistic. She'd do the same thing for much less pay, simply because she doesn't agree with Planetary Link's control on knowledge.

In putting the two of them together, there's wonderful tension. They treat each other as friends, they have the same goal, but they want to reach that goal for different reasons, and each has a different "end-game," which makes the other consider why they became information brokers in the first place. So, when Planetary Link's Security division catches wind of a new, dangerous push into really forbidden knowledge by Vanay, things get intense between the doctor and her assistant.