Nominations are open again for science fiction's Hugo Awards -- if you attended last year's WorldCon or have supported/bought a membership for this year's con, you get a vote. There's a lively LJ group discussing potential nominees (I often wait for the annual Locus Magazine best-of list to use as a crib for my nominations). My own eligible works are two novels: Pirate Cinema and Rapture of the Nerds (with Charles Stross), both from Tor Books. Here's Charlie Stross's list of eligible works, and here's a wider list instigated by John Scalzi. Feel free to leave your favorites (or own eligible works) in the comments here.
My latest Guardian column is about positive externalities, the value that bystanders get from the stuff you're already doing:
That's the crux of this irrational fear of positive externalities: "If something I do has value, I deserve a cut." It's one thing to say that someone who hires you to do a job, or purchases your product, should pay you money. But positive externalities are the waste-product of something we were already going to do. They're things that you have thrown away, that you have thrown off, that you have generated in the process of enjoying yourself and living your life.
The mania to internalise your positive externalities is the essence of cutting off your nose to spite your face. I walk down the street whistling a jaunty tune because I'm in a good mood — but stop as soon as I see someone smiling and enjoying the music. I keep my porchlight on to read by on a warm night, but if I catch you using the light to read your map, I switch it off, because those are my photons — I paid for 'em!
Worse still: the infectious idea of internalising externalities turns its victims into grasping, would-be rentiers. You translate a document because you need it in two languages. I come along and use those translations to teach a computer something about context. You tell me I owe you a slice of all the revenue my software generates. That's just crazy. It's like saying that someone who figures out how to recycle the rubbish you set out at the kerb should give you a piece of their earnings. Harvesting positive externalities involves collecting billions of minute shreds of residual value – snippets of discarded string –and balling them up into something big and useful.
If every shred needs to be accounted for and paid for, then the harvest won't happen. Paying for every link you make, or every link you count, or every document you analyse is a losing game. Forget payment: the process of figuring out who to pay and how much is owed would totally swamp the expected return from whatever it is you're planning on making out of all those unloved scraps.
Why trying to charge for everything will kill online creativity
This is pretty cool: Berlin's C-base hackerspace has spawned a theatre troupe called C-atre. They've produced a theatrical adaptation of my short story "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" (from my collection Overclocked) and they're staging it later this month at Berlin's Transmediale festival.
Update: Drat. It really looks like this is going to be impossible. Thanks to everyone who wrote in with offers and suggestions, but it just won't happen. Sorry about this -- and sorry, New Mexico, I tried!
If you caught last month's post on my upcoming tour in February for Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother, you'll have seen that I'm meant to be speaking in Albuquerque, NM on the evening of Feb 11, and in NYC on the morning of Feb 12. This turns out to be a nearly impossible trick to pull off, because the last red-eye out of Albuquerque airport to New York on the night of the 11th departs at 1930h, too early for me to do any kind of event at the store in Albuquerque.
On the other hand, there is a slightly later flight out of Phoenix that would work, but there's no way to get to PHX in time to make it... Unless you happen to be or know a pilot who wants to help out by zipping me from Albuquerque to Phoenix that night. I can offer a signed super-limited edition of my short story collection With a Little Help, a signed copy of Homeland, and a $100 donation to the southwestern library or literacy charity of your choice in return. Tor will also pick up your fuel costs.
Unfortunately, the alternative is canceling the Albuquerque stop, which I really don't want to do. I've never been to Albuquerque, and was looking forward to it, especially since I know that the nice folks at Alamosa Books really worked hard to get me in. It's a long shot -- everyone else was ready to give up on this when I suggested trying to find a pilot. But the southwest is full of retired pilots, and it's the kind of big sky country where hobby fliers sometimes congregate, so I thought it'd be worth a shot.
Are you game? Please email my publicist, Patty Garcia. Please use the comments below to let me know if I've overlooked another possibility, but please keep in mind that the morning event in NYC can't be moved, and neither can the event the day before. In other words, this is the only night I can appear in Albuquerque, and Alamosa is the only place I can appear.
One more thing, and it should go without saying: I can only accept a ride from a qualified pilot with an up-to-date license and an airworthy, certified aircraft, and we reserve the right to gratefully decline your offer if we're even a little uncertain about either of these facts. I promised my wife I wouldn't risk my life on this tour.
(Image: Stearman Bi-Plane, Jack Herlihy, Pilot, 1929, PA1968.1.39, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from abqmuseumphotoarchives's photostream)
My latest Locus column is "Where Characters Come From," and it advances a neurological theory for why fiction works, and where writers find their characters.
As a writer, I know that there’s a point in the writing when the engine of the story really seems to roar to life, and at that moment, the characters start feeling like real people. When you start working on a story, the characters are like finger-puppets, and putting words into their mouths is a bit embarrassing, like you’re sitting at your desk waggling your hands at one another and making them speak in funny, squeaky voices. But once those characters ‘‘catch,’’ they become people, and writing them feels more like you’re recounting something that happened than something you’re making up. This reality also extends to your autonomic nervous system, which will set your heart racing when your characters face danger, make you weepy at their tragedies, has you grinning foolishly at their victories.
In some ways, this is even weirder. For a writer to trick himself into feeling emotional rapport for the imaginary people he himself invented seems dangerous, akin to a dealer who starts dipping into the product. Where does this sense of reality – this physical, limbic reaction to inconsequential non-events – spring from?
Where Characters Come From
I'm delighted to announce that my novel Pirate Cinema is a finalist for this year's Prometheus Award, given by the Libertarian Futurist Society. Winning the Prometheus for Little Brother, and being nominated again for Makers was a major honor, and I've got my fingers crossed for this year.
Geoffrey Cole of Prism Magazine has posted the first part of a three-part interview we conducted in Vancouver, back when I was touring with Pirate Cinema. In this part, we talk about many subjects, notably Rapture of the Nerds:
The “Rapture” in Rapture of the Nerds has many meanings. Foremost, it is the ascension of most of biological humanity to a purely digital existence. Do you really think that such a huge percentage of humanity would leave their bodies behind if they could?
Yeah, totally. The question of whether such an option will likely be available to us is something I’m not at all certain about, but in the presence of such an option, I’m very confident that large numbers of people would opt for it. We like get-evolved-quick schemes. If you can sell Thighmasters, you can sell mind uploading.
An Interview with Cory Doctorow, Part 1 of 3
I sat down with the fascinating crew at the Titanium Physicists podcast to serve as their special physics-ignoramus guest in an episode about entropy (MP3)
The next issue of Theatre Bay Area will feature the full text of Josh Costello's theatrical adaptation of my novel Little Brother, which was incredibly well-received on stage in San Francisco last year.
Today, on a very special Cory Doctorow podcast, the podcasting debut of Ms Poesy Emmeline Fibonacci Nautilus Taylor Doctorow!