If one has followed Bitcoin privacy advocate and podcast host, Matt Odell, then they will have certainly seen him promote the book, The Mandibles. Released in 2016, The Mandibles was the 14th novel by acclaimed writer Lionel Shriver, detailing a wealthy family’s descent into poverty as they contend with hyperinflation in 2030s America. Odell often refers to The Mandibles as the quintessential Bitcoin book since it shows a dystopic future that most Bitcoiners find probable; it can help motivate readers to prepare for what might come.
Recently, Odell had the opportunity to talk with Shriver for the first time on his podcast, Citadel Dispatch, offering a glimpse of what went into the book’s creation. Prior to 2008, Shriver was horribly bored by economics. However, the financial crisis changed her view of the whole world and made her aware of just how fragile the modern economic system truly is. There had been times in the past that writing a novel had allowed her to exorcize her fears of a certain subject, but writing The Mandibles only made her more fearful of a potential economic collapse. Doing research on past hyperinflations made Shriver realize just how dependent we are on the functionality of money, no matter how much of it we have.
The scope of the subject material also baffled her as a writer. She quickly realized that “most disasters do not occur in a vacuum… any economic collapse will entail huge political conflict and perhaps military conflict.” Shriver admitted in the interview that she had to keep the financial collapse in The Mandibles restricted to the United States. She did this as a favor to herself as a writer, while understanding that if the U.S. succumbed to hyperinflation, it would take the rest of the world down with it.
As an economic dystopian novel, The Mandibles is a very particular work of art that neither Shriver’s editor nor publisher appreciated. Upon reading the novel, Shriver’s editor put giant red X’s through vast swaths of the book, turning it into the length of a pamphlet. While she did pare back some of the economics that were in the original version, Shriver went against her editor’s advice and had the book published as is. Despite not receiving any advertising backing from her publisher, the book became a word-of-mouth smash hit, eventually gracing the front page of The New York Times’ books section.
Shriver professes that she is sympathetic to the idea of separating money from state, however as someone who distrusts the new, she is “disappointed in the crypto world” and looks at bitcoin as very risky. Odell brought up the fact that her only sentence in The Mandibles regarding Bitcoin was dismissive and she admitted that if she wrote the book today, she would give it more credence.
The last quarter of the conversation consisted of Odell attempting to orange-pill Shriver. Matt told her that Bitcoiners can read her novel and not be “complete doomers” because they believe that bitcoin can help lessen the blows of a possible future hyperinflation. Despite his best attempts, Shriver made it clear that she believes if Bitcoin gains success it will put a giant target on its back and that governments will do anything to not give up their right to seigniorage. Odell made it clear that Bitcoin was built for adversarial environments to which Shriver responded, “all I can do is wish you well, with a certain level of skepticism and to warn you as to what could happen if [Bitcoin] really starts to work.”