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Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom illo


(Click to embiggen)

Illustrator Brian J. Smith did me the tremendous honor of creating this fabulous, detailed illustration inspired by my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, which turned ten this year. He hid all kinds of great little gracenotes in it, too -- tons of characters from the book and from the Disney parks.


Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Brian J. Smith

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom read-aloud part 02

As I mentioned in my March Locus column, I'm celebrating the tenth anniversary of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by planning a prequel volume. As part of that planning, I'm going to read aloud the entire text of that first book into the podcast, making notes on the book as I go. Here's part two.

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."

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom read-aloud part 01

As I mentioned in my March Locus column, I'm celebrating the tenth anniversary of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by planning a prequel volume. As part of that planning, I'm going to read aloud the entire text of that first book into the podcast, making notes on the book as I go. Here's part one.

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."

Ten Years On

Here's a reading of my recent Locus column, Ten Years On, in which I reflect on my first decade as a novelist and discuss a possible further volume related to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, my first-ever novel:

I never thought I’d write a sequel. The allure of writing books has always been the experience of discovering and exploring a place and people that have been cooked up by my imagination. By the time I’ve squeezed the book out through my fingertips, I’m generally pretty sick of that place and those people, and frankly glad to be shut of them. But a sequel to Little Brother happened, and when it was done, I discovered that I’d thoroughly enjoyed it. It was like discovering that a whole gang of close friends I’d lost touch with after high-school had stayed tight, and were happy to welcome me back into their bosom. Thoroughly enjoyed it? It was amazing.

Back to February 2013. When my publisher told me that the book would come out on Feb 5, I immediately flashed back on Feb 3, 2003, ten years and two days before the publication of Homeland, when my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was published. D&O was all kinds of firsts: the first novel I’d ever written, the first book of mine Tor ever published, and the first Creative Commons licensed novel – ever. It’s shocking to think that an entire decade has roared past in the interim, with 14 more books in print, and another two (Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, a non-fiction book; and Anda’s Game, a full-length graphic novel from First Second) in the pipeline.

Realizing that I was a decade into my writing career literally staggered me. I missed a step while walking down the street and nearly fell over.

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

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom free audiobook

Sean Puckett has read my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, aloud for the Voices in the Dark site. The download is free and CC licensed, and it's very good.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

(Thanks, Tomi!)

Alternate covers for DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM


Brian J. Smith created a series of covers for my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. I really like the busted animatronic!

Down and Out redesign

Bruce Campbell did a nice PDF redesign of the text of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, my first novel. Thanks, Bruce!

Disney-fan’s discussion of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Jennifer Hoffman's written an interesting guide to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom:

I first discovered this novel shortly after it's release, when prowling my local library for books about Disney World. Along with the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, it opened up the possibility of thinking critically about Disney Parks, taking them seriously as works of art and culture, and approaching them as implementations of virtual reality and games theory. These books also let me know that hipsters and members of Mensa were kicking back in the parks, loving the attractions as much as I do. That enjoying the Parks and taking them seriously don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Bulgarian Creative Commons fan-trans of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

A group of Bulgarian fans have produced a free/open translation of my first novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It was edited by Milena Ivanova, cover art by Biliana Savova, and features an introduction by Vladimir Poleganov. I'm immensely honored and delighted. Thanks to all the volunteers who made this edition.

Ден за ден в Магическото царство

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom: Utopianism and the problems with Whuffie

Duke University's Gerry Canavan is teaching my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom in a class on utopias and he conducted an interview with me on the subject for the course:

CD: I based Whuffie at the time more on Slashdot’s Karma, and I don’t know that Faceook has an exact analogue to it. I guess Facebook has this thing where you can see who has the most inbound links, who has the most friends, and you can “digg” up yourself by getting more of those.

I think that in general we have a pathological response to anything we measure. We tend not to measure the thing we care about; we tend to measure something that indicates its presence. It’s often very hard to measure the thing that you’re hoping for. You don’t actually care about how calories you eat; you care about how much weight you’re going to gain from the calories you eat. But as soon as we go, oh, well, calories are a pretty good proxy for weight gain, we start to come up with these foods that are incredibly unhealthy but nevertheless have very few calories in them. In the same way, Google doesn’t really care about inbound links because inbound links are good per se; Google cares about inbound links because inbound links are a good proxy for “someone likes this page; someone thinks this page is a useful place to be, is a good place to be.” But as soon as Google starts counting that, people start finding ways to make links that don’t actually serve as a proxy for that conclusion at all.

GDP is another good example. We don’t care about GDP because GDP itself is good; we care about GDP because the basket of indicators that we measure with GDP are a proxy for the overall health of the society—except as soon as you start measuring GDP, people figure out how to make the GDP go up by doing things like trading derivatives of derivates of subprime subderivates of derivatives, but which actually does the reverse of what we care about by undermining the quality of life and the stability of society.

So I think that one of the biggest problems that Google has, taking Google as probably the best example of someone trying to build a reputation currency, is that as soon as Google gives you any insight into how they are building their reputation system it ceases to be very good as a reputation system. As soon as Google stops measuring something you created by accident and starts measuring something you created on purpose, it stops being something that they want to measure. And this is joined by the twin problem that what Google fundamentally has is a security problem; they have hackers who are trying to undermine the integrity of the system. And the natural response to a problem that arises when attackers know how your system works is to try to keep the details of your system secret—but keeping the details of Google’s system secret is also not very good because it means that we don’t have any reason to trust it. All we know when we search Google is that we get a result that seems like a good result; but we don’t know that there isn’t a much better result that Google has either deliberately or accidentally excluded from its listings for reasons that are attributable to either malice or incompetence. So they’re really trapped between a rock and a hard place: if they publish how their system works, people will game their system; if they don’t publish how their system works it becomes less useful and trustworthy and good. It suffers from the problem of alchemy; if alchemists don’t tell people what they learned, then every alchemist needs to discover for themselves that drinking mercury is a bad idea, and alchemy stagnates. When you start to publishing, you get science—but Google can’t publish or they’ll also get more attacks.

So it’s a really thorny, thorny problem, and I elide that problem with Whuffie by imagining a completely undescribed science fictional system that can disambiguate every object in the universe so when you look at something and have a response to it the system knows that the response is being driven by the color of the car but not by the car, or the shirt but not the person wearing it, or the person wearing it and not the shirt, and also know how you feel about it. So it can know what you’re feeling and what you’re feeling it about. And I don’t actually think we have a computer that could that; I don’t think we have Supreme Court judges or Ph.D. philosophers that can do that.

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