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Podcast

My podcast is a regular feed in which I read from one of my stories for a few minutes at least once a week, from whatever friend's house, airport, hotel, conference, treaty negotiation or what-have-you that I'm currently at. You can get the Podcast through iTunes. Alternatively:

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Podcast files an Oggs, streams, and different bitrate MP3s


Wil Wheaton has a surreal moment reading the Homeland audiobook

As mentioned yesterday, the DRM-free, independent audiobook of my novel Homeland is available from the Humble Bundle for the next two weeks, along with a collection of brilliant science fiction and fantasy from authors ranging from Scott Westerfeld to Holly Black.

I commissioned the audiobook for the project, and paid Wil Wheaton to read it at the Skyboat Studio in Los Angeles, for mastering by John Taylor Williams in DC. If you've read the book, you'll know that Wil has a cameo in the story, early on, and when he read that passage, he couldn't help but crack up. Gabrielle de Cuir, the talented director, made sure we captured that audio, and here's your chance to hear it (MP3).

Wil's reading is amazing, and it was such a pleasure to listen to the roughs as they came in from the studio. There are a couple more of these funny moments I'll be publishing this week, so watch this space!

Humble Bundle, featuring the DRM-free audio edition of Homeland


Podcast: If GCHQ wants to improve national security it must fix our technology

Here's a reading (MP3) of my latest Guardian column, If GCHQ wants to improve national security it must fix our technology where I try to convey the insanity of spy agencies that weaken Internet security in order to make it easier for them to spy on people, by comparing this to germ warfare.

Last year, when I finished that talk in Seattle, a talk about all the ways that insecure computers put us all at risk, a woman in the audience put up her hand and said, “Well, you’ve scared the hell out of me. Now what do I do? How do I make my computers secure?”

And I had to answer: “You can’t. No one of us can. I was a systems administrator 15 years ago. That means that I’m barely qualified to plug in a WiFi router today. I can’t make my devices secure and neither can you. Not when our governments are buying up information about flaws in our computers and weaponising them as part of their crime-fighting and anti-terrorism strategies. Not when it is illegal to tell people if there are flaws in their computers, where such a disclosure might compromise someone’s anti-copying strategy.

But: If I had just stood here and spent an hour telling you about water-borne parasites; if I had told you about how inadequate water-treatment would put you and everyone you love at risk of horrifying illness and terrible, painful death; if I had explained that our very civilisation was at risk because the intelligence services were pursuing a strategy of keeping information about pathogens secret so they can weaponise them, knowing that no one is working on a cure; you would not ask me ‘How can I purify the water coming out of my tap?’”

Because when it comes to public health, individual action only gets you so far. It doesn’t matter how good your water is, if your neighbour’s water gives him cholera, there’s a good chance you’ll get cholera, too. And even if you stay healthy, you’re not going to have a very good time of it when everyone else in your country is striken and has taken to their beds.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3


Podcast: Cold Equations and Moral Hazard

Here's a reading (MP3) of my latest Locus column, Cold Equations and Moral Hazard which considers the way that science fiction can manipulate our ideas about the technical necessity for human misery, and how that narrative can be hijacked for self-serving ends.

Apparently, editor John W. Campbell sent back three rewrites in which the pilot figured out how to save the girl. He was adamant that the universe must punish the girl.

The universe wasn’t punishing the girl, though. Godwin was – and so was Barton (albeit reluctantly).

The parameters of ‘‘The Cold Equations’’ are not the inescapable laws of physics. Zoom out beyond the page’s edges and you’ll find the author’s hands carefully arranging the scenery so that the plague, the world, the fuel, the girl and the pilot are all poised to inevitably lead to her execution. The author, not the girl, decided that there was no autopilot that could land the ship without the pilot. The author decided that the plague was fatal to all concerned, and that the vaccine needed to be delivered within a timeframe that could only be attained through the execution of the stowaway.

It is, then, a contrivance. A circumstance engineered for a justifiable murder. An elaborate shell game that makes the poor pilot – and the company he serves – into victims every bit as much as the dead girl is a victim, forced by circumstance and girlish naïveté to stain their souls with murder.

Moral hazard is the economist’s term for a rule that encourages people to behave badly. For example, a rule that says that you’re not liable for your factory’s pollution if you don’t know about it encourages factory owners to totally ignore their effluent pipes – it turns willful ignorance into a profitable strategy.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3


Podcast: What does David Cameron’s Great Firewall look like?

Here's a reading of a recent Guardian column, What does David Cameron's Great Firewall look like? which debunks the UK government's stupid arguments for its national anti-porn firewall:

David Cameron's attempt to create a Made-in-Britain version of Iran's "Halal Internet" is the worst of both worlds for parents like me. Kids are prevented from seeing things that they need to access – sites about sexual health, for example – and I still have to monitor my daughter all the time when she uses the net (or teach her how to cope with seeing things no kid should see) because the filter won't stop her from accessing the bad stuff.

And for parents who don't understand that filters are bunkum, the situation is much worse. It's one thing to know that there are risks to your kid from the internet. But parents who rely on the filter are living in bubble of false security. There's nothing more deadly than a false sense of security: If you know your car is having brake problems, you can compensate by driving with extra care, increasing your following distance, and so on. If you falsely believe your brakes to be in good running order, you're liable to find out the hard way that they aren't (if you survive, you can thank Bruce Schneier for that apt and useful analogy).

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3


Podcast: Cheap writing tricks

Here's a reading of my latest Locus column, Cheap Writing Tricks, which discusses the mysterious business of why stories are satisfying, and how to make them so:

Plots are funny things. In the real world, stuff is always happening, but it’s not a plot. People live. People die. People are made glorious or miserable. Things eagerly awaited are realized, or hopes are cruelly dashed. Love is gained; love is lost. But all these things are not a plot – they lack the fundamental tidiness and orderliness that makes a story a story.

In fiction-land, stories have beginnings, middles and ends. They have dramatic tension, which rises to a climax towards the end of the story, and then roll on a while longer, into denouement. A plot is what you get when you draw a line around a set of circumstances and say, ‘‘These things are all part of one story, and they comprise its beginning, middle and end, and its arc from low tension to high. This moment here is the climax of this story.’’

That line is wholly arbitrary, of course – your personal life-story’s climax is merely a passing moment in someone else’s arc – but the really weird thing is that a story that lacks this arbitrariness feels arbitrary. A bunch of things that happen without any curation or pruning away of extraneous moments do not a story make, despite the fact that this is how the world actually works.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3


Podcast: Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful

Here's a reading of my latest Guardian column, Digital failures are inevitable, but we need them to be graceful, about the social and political factors that make all the difference when choosing technologies.

Banshee fails gracefully because its authors don't attempt any lock-in. When I find myself diverging from the design philosophy of Banshee to the extent that I want to use a rival system to manage my music, Banshee is designed to assist me in switching. Unlike Apple, Microsoft, and others, who treat you as a product to be bought and sold – and who have engineered laws like the DMCA to make it illegal to convert your files for use with rival products – Banshee is designed to work with me until we part ways, and then to gracefully bow out and let me move on to someone else's version of this particular bit of plumbing.

A good example of this is Amazon's MP3 store. Until recently, it worked beautifully. I'd pay a reasonable price for my music, and Amazon would let me download it to my computer with as little fuss as possible. Recently, that changed. Amazon wants to promote its cloud drive services, so now it requires that you lock yourself into an Amazon-proprietary downloader to get your MP3s. The Amazon MP3 store started life with a lot of rhetoric about liberation (they made t-shirts that trumpeted "DRM: Don't Restrict Me!") that contrasted their offering with the locked-in world of the iTunes Store. Now that Amazon has won enough marketshare in the MP3 world, it's using that position to try and gain ground in the world of cloud computing – at the expense of its customers.

Lucky for me, MP3 is an open format, so MP3 investments fail well. The fact that I bought hundreds of pounds' worth of music from Amazon doesn't stop me from taking my business elsewhere now that they've decided to treat me as a strategic asset instead of a customer. By contrast, I was once unwise enough to spend thousands on audiobooks from Amazon's Audible subsidiary (the major player in the audiobook world), kidding myself that the DRM wouldn't matter. But the day I switched to Ubuntu, I realised that I was going to have to spend a month running three old Macs around the clock in order to re-record all those audiobooks and get them out of their DRM wrappers.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3 link


Flowers From Al 02


Here's the second, concluding part of my reading of my 2003 short story "Flowers From Al," written with Charlie Stross for New Voices in Science Fiction, a Mike Resnick anthology (Here's part one). It's a pervy, weird story of transhuman romance.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3 link


Flowers From Al 01


Here's part one of my 2003 short story "Flowers From Al," written with Charlie Stross for New Voices in Science Fiction, a Mike Resnick anthology. It's a pervy, weird story of transhuman romance.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3 link


Christmastime daddy-daughter podcast with Poesy

Every year, there's a day or two between the date that my daughter's school shuts and the day that my wife's office shuts for Christmas holidays. Those are the official seasonal mid-week daddy-daughter days, and for the past two years, my daughter and I have gone to my office to record a podcast. Last year's was great, but I think we hit a new high this year (MP3).


Lawful Interception 04

Here's part four of a reading of my novella Lawful Interception, a sequel, of sorts, to Little Brother and Homeland. In addition to the free online read, you can buy this as an ebook single (DRM-free, of course!)

(Image: Yuko Shimizu)

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3 link


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