Well, I’m fucked. Strength in Numbers is (was) all about the quest for the “Satoshi Hoard,” the 1,000,000 Bitcoins that have never been in circulation, now worth nearly half a billion dollars. More than that, it was set up as a “Grail Quest,” the idea being that the mysterious Satoshi, inventor of Bitcoin, was a great idealist. And now… We have two exhaustive news reports, one in Wired and one in Gizmodo, that have probably (always the conditional “probably” with these things) revealed the real inventor of Bitcoin as Craig Wright, an Australian inventor/genius. This isn’t like the Newsweek article, in which the magazine that recently declared on its front cover that “Heaven is Real!” misidentified “Satoshi” based purely on his legal name and a few coincidences.
No, this guy is likely. And he’s a crackpot. Which is not a surprise, given the eccentricities I read about in the great cryptographers in The Codebreakers. He’s a climate change denier who put his hoard into a trust that had a special paragraph allowing proceeds to be used in a petty vendetta “to show the ‘lies and fraud perpetrated by Adam Westwood of the Australian Tax Office,” who took a challenge to make a pencil from scratch, “and spent years on the problem, going so far as to make his own bricks to build his own kiln in which to mix the pencil’s graphite.”
What he’s not, is the Satoshi I invented for the book, the Obi-Wan-esque figure setting a test for humanity. And if the Hoard really truly is accounted for, and this guy has it, well… So much for the quest. This is definitely not the guy who launches Our Heroes on a search for his 1,000,000 Bitcoins, for any reason whatsoever.
So what the fuck do I do? I’m 20,000 words into a novel that’s been overtaken by events. Good question, right? Here’s all I can think of now.
- Pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that it’s all a dream. That this guy has a “Napoleon Delusion” and isn’t really Satoshi. But…a “startup was backed in June 2013 by $23 million in bitcoins owned by Wright. That sum would be worth more than $60 million today. At the time of the company’s incorporation, Wright’s investment in that one firm alone represented more than 1.5 percent of all existing bitcoins, a strangely large stash for an unknown player in the bitcoin world.” That’s a lot of coin, so to speak.
- Totally make up an alternate universe in which there’s no such thing as Bitcoin, but call it Cybercoin or some shit, and everything else is true except this one fucking thing that fucks up my story. Which totally looks like I got caught flat-footed and “patched” the story, which is exactly what I’d be doing.
- Scrap the whole Bitcoin thing and reframe the quest for something boring like, I don’t know, sunken treasure or some Clive Cussler thing. Boring boring boring.
Regardless, there’s no way I can go on with the plot I have. I’m feeling pretty shit right now.
EDIT: On further consideration, I’m not just angry for my book. Hey, at least I didn’t write all 70k before I had to throw it out, right? But also, maybe I’ve spent enough time reading about Bitcoin that I drank a bit of the Kool-Aid, maybe I ingested some of the idealism-libertarian-free commerce ideas. And the idea that this guy is at the heart of it, it makes me sad and sick. Read the articles, see for yourself.
I know, every child cries when Santa’s beard gets tugged off, and there’s some sad old thing behind it. We’re all shocked when the architect of liberty writes about how many slaves he had to have whipped because their productivity in his nail factory wasn’t sufficient. Philip Larkin’s poems are still beautiful, even if he was an awful old racist.
The idea persists when the man is forgotten – Bitcoin’s taken on a life of its own now, and unless “Satoshi” decides to spend all 1,100,000 Bitcoins at once to crash the market to somehow punish some Australian tax guy, it doesn’t matter who started it.
My book is fucked, but hey – at least I have a prison break and some really hot sex scenes I can rescue from the wreckage.