Thursday, July 02, 2009

Nerd Word of the Week: Megacorp

Dell paperback edition, August 1978. Cover pai...Image via Wikipedia

Megacorp (n.) - A business entity that has achieved such a far-reaching level of vertical and horizontal integration that its power rivals that of entire nations, often to the extent of fielding its own military force and enacting its own laws. William Gibson gets credit for coining the parent term megacoporation within his Sprawl Trilogy (which actually includes three novels, Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, and three short stories, "Burning Chrome," "Johnny Mnemonic" and "New Rose Hotel").

The idea of a superpowerful corporation predates Gibson, of course, with such companies appearing as early as Robert A. Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy and Robert Asprin's The Cold Cash War. The megacorp idea continues to reap fertile returns in contemporary science fiction, including the omninationals from Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, the burbclaves of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, the planet-spanning corporatocracies of Charles Stross's Glasshouse, the ubiquitous Blue Sun from Joss Whedon's Serenity/Firefly universe, and in the government-supplanting megacorp Buy 'N Large from Disney/Pixar's WALL-E. Megacorps are almost always evil, and almost always at odds with the story's protagonist. Capitalism rarely gets a loving nod from sci-fi authors, even in the pro-software-corporation world of David Louis Edelman's Infoquake and Multireal.

I bring it up because: A mere 47 years ago today, the quintessential real-life megacorp was born. Wal-Mart opened its first location in Rogers, Arkansas on July 2, 1962. Wal-mart has neither a standing army nor its own government (yet), but it does wield such remarkable market influence that it inspired the aforementioned Buy 'N Large. This is ironic because the creator of the Buy 'N Large concept, Disney, is itself a much more cogent example of a megacorp, with its staggering multinational diversification and and extraordinary level of legal autonomy within the confines of its Disney World resort outside Orlando, FL. Only Disney employees can own land within Disney World's boundaries, and Disney sets the building codes, establishes utility standards, runs the fire department, and can exercise eminent domain within those borders. And you thought the line for Space Mountain was scary.

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  1. Eminent.
    It's "eminent domain" not immenent.

  2. Domain is eminent. Doom is imminent (but only if you believe the prophesies).

  3. Stross' Glasshouse FTW! Just read it a few months ago ... had to throw my hat in on that, apologies for my lack of relevance (though on a positive note, at least i'm not busting your chops on grammar issues! :)