My new DIY short story collection With a Little Help has garnered a positive writeup and review in the Wall Street Journal, thanks to Tom Shippey:
So far so good, but "With a Little Help" shows that Mr. Doctorow isn't starry-eyed about what will happen next. State bureaucracies can use technology as well as individuals, and a struggle has already started over who will control the Internet. The evil side of the IT revolution is that the state can check on everything, and its data-banks get bigger all the time. Who has not cracked a joke in an email, or made some electronic comment, that could be taken the wrong way? Once you've attracted attention, the story "Scroogled" points out, "scroogled" is exactly what you could be.
Another Doctorow thought: Computer-guided traffic could be much more efficient, right? But would it be fair, or would the road clear magically for government apparatchiks and guys with the right microchip, while all the lights turn mysteriously red for those on some secret gray-list? The story "Human Readable" puts both sides of the argument.
Whatever the future, here and now Mr. Doctorow's stories offer compelling images of the way it's going to be. Venture capitalists? Forget them, says "Other People's Money." Big money is dumb money. Much easier, says one old-lady manufacturer to a smart young gigafund manager, for her to make and market her own product, and keep the money (just like Mr. Doctorow), than for him to find and fund a hundred products and take a rake-off. He only deals in six-figure multiples, and that's no good: not nimble enough. And he has to get a return on all those billions, poor outdated soul.
The Author as Agent of Change
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