Mark Forman, a podcaster, is reading Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom on his podcast with regular, chapter-by-chapter readings. He’s got the prologue and chapter one live now. Here’s the Podcast feed.
Tim Bennett has done a fantastic text remix of Down and Out. He says, “The text was generated by separating the novel’s sentences onto separate lines. Then I sorted them alphabetically from the last letter, to the first, so that sentences would cluster in roughly rhyming groups. From that process I refined the rhymes and constructed a short narrative.”
The sun was warm on my skin, and the flowers were in bloom
I woke disoriented and crabby, without my customary morning jolt of endorphin
I lurched out of the bed, naked, and thumped to the bathroom
I nearly started crying right then
I foraged a slice of bread with cheese and noticed a crumby plate in the sink
Lil shot me a look – she looked ready to wring my neck
She set her mug down with a harder-than-necessary clunk
I was an emotional wreck
I was hyperventilating, light-headed
“Lil,” I said, then stopped
I hated how pathetic I sounded
Lil folded her arms and glared
I threw my glass at the wall
She went nuts
Now I wanted to hit something besides the wall
I looked inside myself, and I saw that I didn’t have the guts
John Sanchez has translated the novel into Opish, “a children’s language comparable to Pig Latin.”
Opish is essentially English with the letters “op” added after every consonant. For example, Disney World becomes Dopisopnopeyop Woporoplopdop in Opish…
The Opish title is Dopowopnop anopdop Outop inop tophope Mopagopicop Kopinopgopdopomop and the author’s Opish name is Coporopyop Dopocopotoporopowop.
Peter sez, “Here’s Phillip Torrone reading ‘Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom’ on a Sony Librié. The Librié is the first device that uses the incredibly cool e-ink technology co-developed by Philips and Sony; according the a few scattered reports, it’s like reading actual paper. The Librié, being a Sony device, comes with the dumbest DRM ever: a library of 400 titles that evaporate off of your device in 60 days. Not no more! Here’s a wiki on the Librié that has some software you can use to create Librié books from ASCII files.”
I lived long enough t’ be seein’ th’ cure fer Davy Jones’ locker; t’ be seein’ th’ rise o’ th’ Bitchun Society, t’ learn ten languages; t’ compose three symphonies; t’ reckon me boyhood dream o’ takin’ up residence in Disney World; t’ be seein’ th’ Davy Jones’ locker o’ th’ workplace an’ o’ work.
I nerethought I’d live t’ be seein’ th’ tide when Keep A-Movin’ Dan would decide t’ deadhead until th’ heat Davy Jones’ locker o’ th’ Universe.
A conceit in my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is that our cellphones will disappear into our bodies, silently feeding us audio via cochlear implants and micing our throats to pick up sub-vocalizations (something I think I ripped off from Harry Harrison, though others have done it too). Now a DARPA program has produced a functional prototype of a subvocal pickup that can turn words you haven’t spoken into signals on the wire.
One system, being developed for DARPA by Rick Brown of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, relies on a sensor worn around the neck called a tuned electromagnetic resonator collar (TERC). Using sensing techniques developed for magnetic resonance imaging, the collar detects changes in capacitance caused by movement of the vocal cords, and is designed to allow speech to be heard above loud background noise.
DARPA is also pursuing an approach first developed at NASA’s Ames lab, which involves placing electrodes called electromyographic sensors on the neck, to detect changes in impedance during speech. A neural network processes the data and identifies the pattern of words. The sensor can even detect subvocal or silent speech. The speech pattern is sent to a computerised voice generator that recreates the speaker’s words.
The fall edition of Currents in Electronic Literacy contains a tremendous scholarly essay on Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Eric Mason, called “Remediating the Magic Kingdom: Notes Toward a Poetics of Technology.”
This description of the process of flash-baking reveals the textuality of technology because the experience of the Presidents’ lives that the technology delivers is achieved specifically through texts such as “newspaper headlines, speeches, distilled biographies, personal papers.” The technologicity of texts that this description constructs is one that downplays the specific technological context of these textual genres (i.e. attempts to obscure their specific technologicities). The techno-logic of “gestalts” presented above suggests as well that the experience of a technology is irrelevant to its content–that you can place content from newspapers and biographies into the technology of flash-baking without any loss or change. Such a technologicity of texts works to undermine the specificity of a text’s technological context and the lived experience of technology. Conversely, a responsible poetics of technology refuses to ignore and refuses to obscure the irreducible differences of technologies, arguing that a text and the technology used to create and consume it are consubstantial elements that can be articulated but never transcended.
What I like about Doctorow is that he possesses a skill few writers today, in an age when literary windbags are editorially indulged, possess: his tales are short, sweet, and get down to business. From the 50’s to the late 70’s, most of SF’s finest talents were forced by market-driven publishing conventions to keep their books in the 175-to-225-page range. And while any artist would chafe against such creative restrictions, these writers took lemons and made lemonade, training themselves in the craft of storytelling efficiency. Even today I find myself consistently impressed by how well short novels from that period by the likes of Anderson and Silverberg and others hold up, and I see Cory Doctorow as a new talent who has studied well and learned some valuable lessons at that school. Hopefully other newcomers will get the message that you don’t need 950 pages to get the job done.
Who *wouldn’t* want to live in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, with no other responsibilities than to mind operations at the Haunted Mansion (Best ride ever.)? As it happens, our hero Jules is afforded this opportunity in near (?) future as part of the Bitchun Society, where death has been rendered obsolete, replaced by a memory storage process which requires everybody to be “online.” Live forever, download into a new body when necessary or whenever the mood strikes – imagine the Fountain of Youth as an FTP site.
Single for Now Magazine
Today’s edition of SciFi Wire (the wire service of the SciFi channel) features an amazing, flattering article about the fact that my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award for Best Novel.
Doctorow also tackles morality, cloning, socialism, poverty, the right to die, freedom of choice, hubris and the cult of celebrity in the book. He said he has heard from many Disney people, and the reaction and comments about the book were “all positive. They say I captured the mood and details just right.”
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was released in February 2003 to widespread acclaim. Blog critic Kevin Marks wrote, “About once every 10 years, a science fiction novel appears that redefines the art form. One that describes a world different from our own, but recognizably yours: extrapolated from current trends, but richly evocative of its difference, adding words to the language that needed to be coined.”
The Austin (Texas) Statesman said, “It may be the best debut science-fiction novel since [William Gibson’s] Neuromancer.”
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom went on to win a Locus Award for best first novel. If it wins the Nebula, it will join Neuromancer (1984) as a debut-novel winner.