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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

New World Notes on “In Real Life,” the graphic novel based on “Anda’s Game”


As mentioned, In Real Life is a graphic novel adapted by Jen Wang from my short story Anda's Game, out in the autumn. Wagner James Au of New World News got an advance copy and had some kind words about the book, as well as its context in MMOs like Warcraft and Second Life.


"Well, certainly the way that the economy shaped up in SL, and the contrast between that, WoW and Eve Online all played a part in my thinking about the relationship between play, game-mastering, democracy and economics," Cory tells me. "I think in some way, games are a kind of Singaporean experience: an authoritarian state that is not accountable to its subjects attempts to optimize their experience for some balance of productivity and entertainment." (Cory wrote a whole essay on that topic for InformationWeek.)

Cory Doctorow on How Second Life Influenced In Real Life His New Graphic Novel About MMOs & Gold Farmers (Plus, a Bit About Cory's Own Second Life)

HOMELAND audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, DRM-free, in the new Humble Bundle!

For the past two months, I've been working on a secret project to produce an independent audiobook adaptation of my bestselling novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, one of my favorite audiobook voice-actors (and a hell of a great guy, besides!). The audiobook is out as of today, and I'm proud to say that for the next two weeks, it is exclusively available through the new Humble Ebook Bundle, which kicks off today, featuring an amazing collection of name-your-price DRM-free ebooks by authors like Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld, as well as Wil Wheaton. As always, there are some surprise bonus titles that will be added in week two, and so long as you pay more than the average at the time of purchase, you'll get these automatically.
Excerpt …

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

Get a signed, inscribed copy of “In Real Life” delivered to your door, courtesy of WORD Books


As previously mentioned, Jen Wang and I have adapted my short story "Anda's Game" as a full-length, young adult graphic novel called "In Real Life," which comes out next October. Brooklyn's excellent WORD bookstore has generously offered to take pre-orders for signed copies; I'll drop by the store during New York Comic-Con and sign and personalize a copy for you and they'll ship it to you straightaway.

Security as a public health discipline, not an engineering one


In my latest Guardian column, If GCHQ wants to improve national security it must fix our technology, I argue that computer security isn't really an engineering issue, it's a public health issue. As with public health, it's more important to be sure that our pathogens are disclosed, understood and disclosed than it is to keep them secret so we can use them against our enemies.

Scientists formulate theories that they attempt to prove through experiments that are reviewed by peers, who attempt to spot flaws in the reasoning and methodology. Scientific theories are in a state of continuous, tumultuous improvement as old ideas are overturned in part or whole, and replaced with new ones.

Security is science on meth. There is a bedrock of security that is considered relatively stable – the mathematics of scrambling and descrambling messages – but everything above that bedrock has all the stability of a half-set custard. That is, the best way to use those stable, well-validated algorithms is mostly up for grabs, as the complex interplay of incompatible systems, human error, legacy systems, regulations, laziness, recklessness, naivete, adversarial cunning and perverse commercial incentives all jumble together in ways that open the American retailer Target to the loss of 100m credit card numbers, and the whole internet to GCHQ spying.

As Schneier says: “Anyone can design a security system that works so well that he can’t figure out how to break it.” That is to say, your best effort at security is, by definition, only secure against people who are at least as dumb as you are. Unless you happen to be the smartest person in the world, you need to subject your security system to the kind of scrutiny that scientists use to validate their theories, and be prepared to incrementally patch and refactor things as new errors are discovered and reported

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

(Image: File:CoughsAndSneezesSpreadDiseases.jpg, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Snowden at SXSW: immediate impressions


Yesterday at SXSW, Barton Gellman and I did a one-hour introductory Q&A before Edward Snowden's appearance. Right after Snowden and his colleagues from the ACLU wrapped up, I sat down and wrote up their event for The Guardian, who've just posted my impressions:

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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

Cold Equations and Moral Hazard: science fiction considered harmful to the future


My latest Locus column is "Cold Equations and Moral Hazard", an essay about the way that our narratives about the future can pave the way for bad people to create, and benefit from, disasters. "If being in a lifeboat gives you the power to make everyone else shut the hell up and listen (or else), then wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if our ship were to go down?"

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.

Cold Equations and Moral Hazard

Guest review: my daughter reviews Ariol

I love reading with my daughter, Poesy, who has just turned six. We agree on almost all of her favorites, and re-reading them is one of our best-loved activities, and how we pass the time on boring bus-rides and so forth. However, there are a few books that Poesy loves, but which leave me cold. First among these is are the Ariol books, a long-running French kids' comic series that are being swiftly translated into English by Papercutz (there are three books out so far, and a fourth is due in May). Ariol was co-created by the amazing and talented Emmanuel Guibert, whose other work includes the anarcho-gonzo Sardine kids' comics; the brilliant WWI memoir Alan's War, and the extraordinary memoir of doctors in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan The Photographer.

I love Guibert, but not Ariol. Poesy, on the other hand, can't get enough of it. This is cool -- and better than cool, because my reluctance to read her these books over and over (and over and over) has actually driven her to be a much better independent reader, and she often picks up an Ariol book, sits herself down, and reads it to herself for hours, snickering. Ariol is like your kid's obnoxious friend who is so incredibly naughty that you dread his visits, and who your kid adores and wants to play with all the time (thankfully, he also lives in a comic book).

It's exciting to see Poesy developing her own taste, separate from ours, and I wanted to give her a chance to explain what she likes about Ariol. So we sat down in my office and recorded this video review together. If you've got little anarcho-readers in your household, Poesy wants you to know that you should let them read some Ariol books.

There's also a long-running French-Canadian Ariol cartoon, which has been dubbed into many languages. You can find tons on Youtube, including this English one.

Ariol #1: Just a Donkey Like You and Me

Ariol #2: Thunder Horse

Ariol #3: Happy as a Pig...

Ariol #4: A Beautiful Cow [forthcoming May 6, 2014]

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