The Literary Works, talks and other news of Cory Doctorow

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Cory Doctorow's Literary Works
Updated: 1 hour 38 min ago

Overclocked is now a DRM-free audiobook

Tue, 2015/01/27 - 15:20


My multi-award-winning short story collection Overclocked is now a DRM-free audiobook, courtesy of Downpour.com

And no, it's not on Audible, because they refuse to carry my books unless I let them put DRM on them.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live through a bioweapon attack or to have every aspect of your life governed by invisible ants? In Cory Doctorow’s collection of novellas, he wields his formidable experience in technology and computing to give us mind-bending sci-fi tales that explore the possibilities of information technology—and its various uses—run amok.

“Anda’s Game” is a spin on the bizarre new phenomenon of “cyber sweatshops,” in which people are paid very low wages to play online games all day in order to generate in-game wealth, which can be converted into actual money. Another tale tells of the heroic exploits of “sysadmins”—systems administrators—as they defend the cyberworld, and hence the world at large, from worms and bioweapons. And yes, there is a story about zombies too.


Overclocked :
Stories of the Future Present

How to fix copyright in two easy steps (and one hard one)

Fri, 2015/01/23 - 07:41


My new Locus column, A New Deal for Copyright, summarizes the argument in my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free, and proposes a set of policy changes we could make that would help artists make money in the Internet age while decoupling copyright from Internet surveillance and censorship.

There are two small policy interventions that would make a huge differ­ence to the balance of commercial power in the arts, while safeguarding human rights and civil liberties.

1. Reform DRM law.

It should never be a crime to:

* Report a vulnerability in a DRM;

* Remove DRM to accomplish a lawful purpose.

With this simple reform, DRM would no longer turn our devices into long-lived reservoirs of pathogens (because bugs could be reported as soon as they were discovered), and would no longer give the whip-hand over publishing to tech companies (because re­moving DRM to do something legal, like moving a book between two different readers, would be likewise legal).

2. Reform intermediary liability.

* The DMCA ‘‘safe harbor’’ should require submission of evidence that the identified works are indeed infringing;

* If you file a DMCA takedown notice that ma­terially misrepresents the facts as you know them or should have known them, you should be liable to stiff, exemplary statutory damages, with both the intermediary and the creator of the censored work having a cause of action against you, and with the courts having the power to award costs to the victims’ lawyers.

By ensuring a minimum standard of care for censorship demands, and penalties for abuse, the practice of carelessly sending millions of slop­pily compiled takedowns would be stopped dead (last year, Fox perjured itself and had copies of my novel Homeland removed from sites that were authorized to host them, because it couldn’t be bothered to distinguish my novel from its TV show). Likewise, penalties for abuse with a loser-pays system of fees would give the victims of malicious censorship attempts grounds for punishing the wrongdoers who make a mockery of out the copyright holder’s toolkit to silence their opponents.

But so long as we’re making a wish-list, here’s the big policy change that would make all this stuff much less fraught: STOP APPLYING COPYRIGHT TO ANYONE EXCEPT THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.

A New Deal for Copyright

Consumerist on Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free

Fri, 2015/01/23 - 05:50


Consumerist's Kate Cox has turned in a long, excellent, in-depth review of my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free, really nailing the book's thesis. Namely, that extremist copyright laws don't just mess up artists, but actually endanger all our privacy, freedom and whole digital lives.

Doctorow draws two bright lines connecting copyright law to other major issues: government surveillance, as shared by Edward Snowden; censorship by private companies; and the necessity of free expression to civil and human rights.

Copyright claims are often used as a silencing tactic, where a party with power issues a takedown claim to get content from a party with less power removed from the internet.

For example, Doctorow cites copyright takedown notices issued by police departments demanding to have videos of their officers committing illegal acts taken down on the grounds that the police, not the person with an iPhone who recorded them, have copyright on the videos. Or takedown notices issued by the Church of Scientology to have removed articles from opponents who used leaked internal documents to criticize the organization.

“There are almost never penalties for abusing the takedown process,” Doctorow notes. “It’s the measure of first resort for rich and powerful people and companies who are threatened by online disclosures of corruption and misdeeds.”

Likewise, intermediary companies become gatekeepers of what end users may and may not consume — because they don’t want to get sued. So they fall into the “notice and takedown” scheme, and pass it all along to you. And that includes possibly having your entire broadband connection throttled or hijacked if a copyright holder doesn’t like what a user of that connection has been doing.

Because they have the right, and the ability, to keep an eye on you if you’re anywhere in the ecosystem: using a computer, phone, or internet connection that you didn’t build out of string yourself.

4 Ways Copyright Law Actually Controls Your Whole Digital Life [Kate Cox/Consumerist]

My talk on the Internet of Things, wealth disparity, surveillance, evidence-based policy and the future of the world

Fri, 2015/01/16 - 08:38



Here's the audio from last night's talk on the Internet of Things at Central European University in Budapest! It was recorded by the Mindenki Joga Radio Show.

Interview with the RiYL podcast about personal politics and big-P politics

Wed, 2014/12/31 - 07:21


I sat down for an interview with the RiYL podcast (MP3) at NYCC last fall. We covered a lot of material that I don't get a lot of chances to talk about, particularly the relationship between personal politics and big-P politics. Listening to it again, I'm very satisfied with how it turned out.

Podcast: Happy Xmas! (guest starring Poesy)

Mon, 2014/12/22 - 10:29

It's that time again! School is out, but I'm still working, so the kid came to the office with me, just in time to record a new podcast. This year, Poesy performs a stirring rendition of Jingle Bells, with dirty words!

MP3

LISTEN: Wil Wheaton reads “Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free”

Fri, 2014/12/19 - 10:18


I've posted the first chapter (MP3) of Wil Wheaton's reading of my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free (which sports introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer!), which is available as a $15 DRM-free audiobook, sweetened by samples from Amanda Palmer and Dresden Dolls' "Coin-Operated Boy."

In sharply argued, fast-moving chapters, Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free takes on the state of copyright and creative success in the digital age. Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them. An essential read for anyone with a stake in the future of the arts, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free offers a vivid guide to the ways creativity and the Internet interact today, and to what might be coming next.

DRM-free audiobook

Interview with Radio New Zealand’s This Way Up

Fri, 2014/12/19 - 02:10

Radio New Zealand National's This Way Up recorded this interview with me, which airs tomorrow (Saturday), about my book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free (MP3).

Interview with The Command Line podcast

Sun, 2014/12/14 - 03:54

I just appeared on the Command Line podcast (MP3) to talk about Information Doesn't Want to Be Free -- Thomas and I really had a wide-ranging and excellent conversation:

In this episode, I interview Cory Doctorow about his latest book, “Information Doesn’t Want to be Free: Laws for the Internet Age.” If you are interested in learning more about the topics we discuss and that that book covers, you can also check out books by the scholars we mention: Lawrence Lessig, James Boyle and William Patry. I compared Cory’s book to “The Indie Band Survival Guide” the authors of which are friends of the show whom I have also interviewed.

The audiobook version of the book is already available. Check Cory’s site, the free download and electronic editions should be available soon.

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: the audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton (if you were to share this, I’d consider it a personal favor!)

Wed, 2014/12/10 - 12:15


I've independently produced an audiobook edition of my nonfiction book Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age, paying Wil Wheaton to narrate it (he did such a great job on the Homeland audiobook, with a mixdown by the wonderful John Taylor Williams, and bed-music from Amanda Palmer and Dresden Dolls.

Both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman contributed forewords to this one, and Wil reads them, too (of course). I could not be happier with how it came out. My sincere thanks to Wil, the Skyboat Media people (Cassandra and Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki), John Taylor Williams, and to Amanda for the music.

The book is $15, is DRM free, and has no EULA -- you don't need to give up any of your rights to buy it. It should be available in Downpour and other DRM-free outlets soon, but, of course, it won't be in Itunes or Audible, because both companies insist that you use DRM with your works, and I don't use DRM (for reasons that this book goes to some length to explain).


Information Doesn't Want to Be Free, read by Wil Wheaton,
with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free Audiobook

Wed, 2014/12/10 - 10:14

Information Doesn't Want to Be Free, read by Wil Wheaton
With introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.

In sharply argued, fast-moving chapters, Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free takes on the state of copyright and creative success in the digital age. Can small artists still thrive in the Internet era? Can giant record labels avoid alienating their audiences? This is a book about the pitfalls and the opportunities that creative industries (and individuals) are confronting today — about how the old models have failed or found new footing, and about what might soon replace them. An essential read for anyone with a stake in the future of the arts, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free offers a vivid guide to the ways creativity and the Internet interact today, and to what might be coming next.

 

When Ed Snowden met Marcus Yallow

Tue, 2014/12/02 - 09:16


Here's a scene from Citizenfour, Laura Poitras's acclaimed documentary on Edward Snowden, showing Snowden packing his bags to leave Hong Kong, showing the book on his nightstand: my novel Homeland.

I literally could not be more proud than I am right now. Thanks to Poitras and her helper, Maria, for this clip.

Why should we care about characters?

Mon, 2014/12/01 - 06:21

I appear in the latest edition of the Writing Excuses podcast (MP3), recorded live at Westercon in Salt Lake City last summer, with Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler, talking about why we care about characters.

Little Brother middle school English curriculum materials

Fri, 2014/11/21 - 07:16


James Scot Brodie is a teacher at Presidio Middle School in San Francisco, where Jen Wang and I spoke last month on our tour for In Real Life; prior to my arriving, he assigned my book Little Brother to his students, and produced some curricular materials that he's generously given to me to publish.

Little Brother Portfolio | Little Brother Acronym Challenge | Little Brother Biography project

He writes,

I was thrilled when the librarian announced that Cory Doctorow was going to make an appearance at our school. As an English teacher, aspiring writer, and complete nerd -- I find author visits a nice perk to the job. The students too, like to get out of the classroom whenever they can and author visits are a rare treat. I’ve been teaching for about five years and I’ve met two authors. It then dawned on me that we seldom read the books of the authors that come to visit our school. Mainly because our closets are filled with tons of dead people. Maybe five percent of our class sets are from the living, although Mr. Gomez somehow scored 40 copies of The Fault In Our Stars (he must know someone).

Nevertheless, it was early September and Doctorow was set to visit on October 16. I was determined to have my students read the book, but we only had ten copies from a box on loan from the public library. Now, Doctorow is super generous with his stuff and offers a lot of material to educators and students for free via his website, so I figured I would tap into this and download the book. At the same time I didn’t want to print up 102 copies for my 3 English classes. That would take forever, cost a lot, and kill too many trees. So, long story short, this is what I did: I purchased the audio book, and two copies of the text. I read the book, making “marginal” and underlining vocabulary words, slowly sculpting it into a “teacher’s edition.” I also came up with questions for each chapter. Most the questions are simple guided questions (who, what, when, where and why), but I also made sure that each chapter has a question where the students can relate the reading to their own lives -- these inquiries were also great springboards for interesting classroom discussions. I printed up these sheets and students completed them as we listened to the audio book. This is where the second book comes into play – I used the unmarked version of the text to display on the white board at the front of the class via my ELMO projector for all the class to see. I was surprised at how huge I could get the book -- it was roughly four feet by six feet and I didn’t know this but the little orange button on the left is for focusing (a student pointed this out to me). I’ll have to say it was one of the most positive reading experiences I’ve ever had with a class. It may be psychological but the minute I projected the book on the board and hit the play button on the audio book -- students were enthralled as if watching a movie. Of course it may also have something to do with Mr. Doctorow’s book -- there is a lot in there that the modern day teenager can relate to.

The entire unit took about six weeks. Students gathered all their vocabulary/question sheets into a portfolio. I purchased card stock and brass fasteners for students to make covers for these portfolios (which they decorated themselves) and this turned out to be a great boon for students that couldn’t afford to purchase their own copies of the book, because when the big day came -- Doctorow autographed copies for his admirers. And this is how the lesson plan ended up here, Cory signed a few, thought they were cool and offered to post them. There are a couple of other activities that I’ve thrown in, but the above is the real meat and potatoes. Use them as you like, put your own personal spin on them and hopefully it will save you some time.

James Scot Brodie
English Teacher
SFUSD

Wide-ranging conversation with Portland’s KBOO about Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free

Thu, 2014/11/20 - 19:02


Last month, I sat down for a long conversation (MP3) with Ken Jones for the Between the Covers at Portland, Oregon's KBOO community radio station, talking about my book Information Doesn't Want to be Free. They've posted the audio so people from outside of Portland can hear it too!

Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free interview with Baltimore morning radio

Tue, 2014/11/18 - 00:41

I'm heading to Ann Arbor, DC and Baltimore this week for a series of talks -- I did a a quick interview with Baltimore's WYPR (MP3) that came out very well!

Huxleyed into the Full Orwell

Mon, 2014/11/17 - 12:24


​Huxleyed Into the Full Orwell is a new short story I wrote for Vice Magazine's just-launched science fiction section Terraform, which also has new stories up by Claire Evans, Bruce Sterling, and Adam Rothstein.

"Huxleyed" is a story about the way that entertainment companies' war on general purpose computing could lead into a horrible mashup of the surveillance tyranny of Orwell and the entertainment tyranny of Huxley.


The First Amendment Area was a good 800 yards from the courthouse, an imposing cage of chicken-wire and dangling zip-cuffs. The people inside the First Amendment area were weird. I mean, I include myself in that group. After all, I vacuformed my own Guy Fawkes mask mold. That is not the action of a sane woman. Shandra was weirder, though. She'd thought up the whole demonstration, socialed the everfuck out of the news, rallied a couple hundred weirdos to join her in the chicken-farm, shouting impotently at the courthouse, ringed by cops scarily into their Afghanistan-surplus riot-gear.

"Shandra, how is this supposed to work again?"

"Like this," she said, and powered up her—weird—device. It started life as a compact projector, the kind of thing you use for screening dull-ass presentations in school auditoriums. But then she'd added a hydrogen-cell that she wore in a backpack, and a homebrew steadicam rig that she strapped to her front, making her look like the world's most overburdened suicide bomber. I could tell that she was already freaking out the cops on the other side of the chicken wire, and they snapped into palpable alert when a beam of light emerged from the projector. I could only imagine how many tasers, sniper-rifles and gas-grenades were trained on her at that moment. But she didn't give any sign that she noticed or cared.

​Huxleyed Into the Full Orwell


(Image: Koren Shadmi)

Audio from Seattle Hieroglyph event with Neal Stepehenson

Wed, 2014/11/12 - 08:21

Here's an MP3 of the audio from the Reigniting Society’s Ambition with Science Fiction event that I did with Neal Stephenson and Ed Finn at Seattle Town Hall on Oct 26, to promote the Hieroglyph anthology, designed to inspire optimistic technologies to solve the Earth's most urgent problems. I had a story in it called The Man Who Sold the Moon.

Stories are a fuggly hack

Wed, 2014/11/12 - 08:15


My latest Locus Magazine column is Stories Are a Fuggly Hack, in which I point out the limits of storytelling as an artform, and bemoan all the artists from other fields -- visual art, music -- who aspire to storytelling in order to make their art.

There are other media, much more abstract media, that seemingly manage to jump straight to the feels: painting, photography, poetry, sculpture, music. Not always – all of these things can tell stories, but they don’t need to in order to make you feel things. Instead, they seem to reach right inside your skull and tickle the feeling parts of you, trig­gering cascades of intense emotion that are all the more powerful for their inexplicable nature.

Now, this stuff is all very primal and non-rational and is hard to taxonomize and rationalize and turn into something repeatable. If I can’t tell you why ‘‘Guernica’’ makes me feel Guernica-ey, then how are you supposed to improve on it in a future iteration to fine-tune the emotive effect? At least with stories, you know that if you tell a scary story, and it works, the audience will experience fear. But the emotional oomph of non-narrative art is much more mysterious, more of an art, really, and though it may be harder to systematize, when it gets in the groove, look out.

Which is why, as a ‘‘storyteller,’’ I sometimes get a little impatient with people who are really good at those other media – none of which I have any talent for, incidentally – when they rhapsodize about sto­rytelling as a way of practicing their art. That’s not because I want to jealously guard my preserve here in storyland, but because making someone feel something without all that tedious making-stuff-up is a hell of an accomplishment and it’s heartbreaking to see brilliant artists turn their back on it.

Stories Are a Fuggly Hack [Cory Doctorow/Locus]

(Image: Großmutters Geschichten 19Jh, Public Domain)

Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking: art for the crowdfunding age

Tue, 2014/11/11 - 14:21


Amanda Palmer's new book Art of Asking is a moving and insightful memoir of her life performing music while making personal connections with her fans; I wrote a long, in-depth review of it for The New Statesman.

There's a litmus test for how you will likely feel about Palmer's Kickstarter: Palmer invited local musicians in each city on her tour to come onstage and jam with the band. She asked that they come by for an afternoon's quick rehearsal, and offered them beer, t-shirts, and gratitude and recognition. This move - something that Palmer's bands had often done on previous tours - enraged her detractors like nothing else.

The inaccurate headline: "Musician raises $1 million from fans, asks her band to play for free." (Palmer's band was paid, it was the jamming local performers who were volunteers.) Even after it was corrected, even after Palmer relented and offered the volunteer musicians $100 to come on stage with her, she was still pilloried for "not valuing the hard work of fellow musicians".

But in truth, the practice of letting fans jam with the band is an honourable and widespread one. I once spent a night on New Orleans' Bourbon Street, hopping from bar to club, listening to the always-excellent house-bands performing blues and rock and rockabilly and jazz. And without fail, during each set, someone would walk in off the street, a musician on holiday from some much-less-exotic city, perhaps in a state that began and ended with a vowel, with a guitar or sax or even an accordion, and that person would take the stage with the band and jam in. It was a gift - from the band to the vacationing musician, from the musician to the band, from the crowd (who would cheer on the newcomer with real zest), and to the crowd. It wasn't a market transaction, though sometimes a beer or a t-shirt or a CD would change hands (and in any conceivable direction).

As Palmer points out, other bands have run successful Kickstarters in which they charge their backers for the privilege of performing on stage during the tour. No one bats an eye at the idea that musicians should pay to perform, nor do they balk at the idea that they should be paid to perform. But let no money change hands at all and all of our reactions are disordered. Art without the market is a terrifying thing, a frank admission that the alleged "music industry"'s most indispensable components - the musicians - never really had a realistic chance of earning anything, and the ones that do get paid are statistical outliers.

Standing naked in front of an audience: Amanda Palmer and a new way to make art [Cory Doctorow/New Statesman]