On yesterday's "This Week in Google," a Google engineer called Matt Cutts revealed that the company started encrypting its queries in 2008 after reading my novel Little Brother, in which one of the plot-elements is a guerrilla movement that gets a friendly ISP to encrypt a lot of its traffic so that the movement's own encrypted connections won't stand out. I am incredibly honored and flattered to learn about this!
Coincidentally, I learned about this at the same time that Jens brought #oplittlebrother to my attention: it's a plan to organize a mass purchase of Little Brother on Saturday (tomorrow!).
This Week in Google 211: We Just Installed the Internet
My novel Little Brother is the "One City One Book" pick for the San Francisco Public Library this year; and in its honor, they've put together an amazing city-wide scavenger hunt called "Rogue Agent." It features fiendish puzzles and awesome clues, and kicks off on September 14. It's a team-sport, so start thinking about your teammates now; I'll be at the SFPL at the end of September to read from the book and talk about it.
It's time for another Humble Ebook Bundle! Once again, I was honored to serve as volunteer curator of the Humble Ebook Bundle, a project from the Humble Indie Bundle people who've made Internet history by bundling together awesome, DRM-free media and letting you name your price for it. We did the first Humble Ebook Bundle last fall (with my novel Pirate Cinema) and made over $1.25 million in two weeks (!). The new Ebook Bundle is even cooler. Here's the lineup:
* The Last Unicorn (deluxe edition), by Peter Beagle
* Just a Geek, by Wil Wheaton
* Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
* Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
* Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson
* Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold
As with all the bundles, there is a secret stash of releases in the wings for week two; if your payment is higher than the average at the time you make it, you get them for free (and they are sweet!). Otherwise, you can always get them by topping up your payment. And as always, there's charities involved -- you can earmark some or all of your payment for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Child's Play, and the Science Fiction Writers of America Emergency Medical Fund.
Boys from Brett Wierzbicki's English class at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Queens, NY have been reading my novel Little Brother and Brett gave them the option of doing a book-remix instead of a traditional book-report. All told, they produced seven absolutely terrific remixes of the book, and they were good enough to send them all along for me to share:
Joel's chapter: Joel wrote his own ending for the book, describing the jail-time Marcus served between the final chapter and the epilogue:
“Marcus Yallow.” That was the prison guard, who was fair to everyone, calling my name for dinner. You might have forgotten who I am, which is okay because it has been a while. I am Marcus Yallow, who has been jailed for trying to ruin the DHS, who took over San Francisco when the terrorist attacks occurred on the Golden Gate Bridge. Throughout the time between my first jail time and this one, my mission was to bring down the DHS. What makes my blood boil was the severe haircut lady getting off even though she was part of the reason why I rebelled against the department. So look, I in jail but she got off.
We Didn't Start the Xnet: Tyler and Eric made their own remix of "We Didn't Start the Fire" with a Little Brother theme (see above)!
Eduardo's remix: Eduardo wrote a five-page alternate chapter for the scene following the bombing of the Bay Bridge:
I heard rumbling underground, the first thing that came to mind was the train passing underneath, I felt Darryl tapping me very hard on my shoulder.
“Look!” he said pointing his finder outside towards the street. “Look Van, look Jolu, why are they all running?” he said.
While he was talking I knew that he was very nervous because his voice was starting to crack. I began to worry because never in my life have I seen anything like this since I've been living here. We all gaped as we saw everyone running as if a madman was running wildly with a gun. I heard screaming and people yelling get out, get out, the streets were stentorian. The thing that really got me shaking was when I saw helicopters hovering over the buildings, they were very close to the roofs as if trying to take a closer glimpse of the area.
JuanMario's sequel: Juan Mario wrote his own sequel to the story, set two years after Marcus's arrest:
It’s been two years since X-net and the incident with the DHS. I was released from Juvenile prison in November of last year, it was hard finding a job after being locked up and being the center of media attention for a whole year. I had my parents and friends to help and support me though. It took me a while to find a job, but who wants to hire an ex-terrorist that started a a riot in San Fransico? Not many would.
Remember my teacher Ms.Galvez at Caesar Chavez high? Well, after she got replaced by the DHS, she started a little book store in the heart of the city, and yes she hired me in January. Its been seven months, I’ve been saving up for college tuition. She pays me fairly well $12 an hour eight hours a day, five days a week. Thats a total of $106 a day, $530 a week, and $2120 a month. Not bad for an ex-con huh?
It was the of June 2014. I was leaving work at 5pm. Joseph and Julia were checking in. Ange and I were leaving, I was waiting outside while Ange was in the restroom, when Joseph walked out the store with Ange. “Where are you going Joe? Don’t you work now?” I asked. He replied, “Don’t worry man Julia is going to cover for me I got something to take care of, and my aunt Galvez won’t fire me, I’m her beloved nephew.”
Sean's alternate ending: Sean wrote his own ending to the book!
“We have found our target,” said Charles, an officer in the DHS.
“Perfect! No more hacking!” cried Al who is Charles’ partner.
“Listen, you let me go you old jerks, or else you will have more trouble on your hands,” exclaimed Marcus.
“Yeah, yeah, tell it to the judge,” laughed Al.
“That is fine, your choice, but remember, you will feel the heat later,” said Marcus confidently.
Thomasz P's song: a Little-Brother-themed set of lyrics for "The Saga Begins," by Weird Al (itself a parody of "The Day the Music Died")
In the not so distant future,
In the city of San Francisco,
Terrorists had launched an attack,
While Marcus and friends were playing a game,
And called soldiers to them,
Hoping to get aid for his pal.
Their response, it was a shocker.
Hunter's video game: Hunter specced out a Little Brother video game called "Rise of the DHS (Rated 'T' for Teen)"
Prologue (The beginning cut-scene):
Everything is dark, and you’re breathing very heavily because you have a bag over your head and can’t see where you are. Soon enough, you realize that you’ve been put on a ship! When you depart, you recognize that you’re on “Treasure Island” and the people who have beaten and captured you are Americans; not terrorists! You are questioned and tortured for several days and are only allowed to leave when your captors feel they have questioned you after enough torture. When you have finally “snapped” and begged not to be taken back to your dirty cell, you are dropped off on the outskirts of San Francisco with your friends who have also been taken into questioning by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). You are given back your cell phone which is your very first piece of equipment collected in the game, and you realize that one of your friends, Darryl, is not with you. Before you can ask the soldiers where he is, they quickly turn around and drive away. Leaving you in the dust with your two other friends (Jolu and Van), you all start crying over the loss of a life-long friend as you make your way back into the city. You and your friends then have coffee and try to make sense out of what happened during the past week. It is here where you, personally, make a vow to get revenge against the DHS and more importantly, save Darryl. However, you and your friends don’t make your experience in captivity public because it could interfere with the plan of revenge.
I'm delighted to announce that Chariho High School in Wood River Junction, RI, has chosen my novel Little Brother for its One School/One Book program. Above is a video I recorded for the students; here's a press release [PDF] from Chariho:
FOR THE FIRST TIME, Chariho Regional High School’s Summer Reading Program is One School - One Book: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow has been chosen for the Chariho Regional High School’s One School – One Book 2013 Summer Reading Program. Programming events will kick off as students are introduced to the novel through a video message from Little Brother author Cory Doctorow.
In light of current events, Little Brother will provide Chariho students and staff with a sizzling summer tale that is both timely and thought-provoking. The novel follows in the tradition of novels such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 by jolting its readers with a reality that is often overlooked or passively accepted. The themes in Little Brother bring current social and political issues alive and challenge readers to question, reflect, and take action. As a school-wide reading event, Little Brother will generate great discussions among students and staff and will have significant cross-curricular connections.
This is a good year for Little Brother; it's also the One City/One Book pick for San Francisco.
I am as pleased as is humanly possible to announce that the San Francisco Public Library system has chosen my novel Little Brother for its "One City/One Book" program, the first ever young adult novel to be so honored by the SFPL. I'll be coming to San Francisco in late September to visit the city's libraries and present the book. Thank you, San Francisco -- and thank you especially, SFPL!
A young man named Alex came out to my Decatur, GA Homeland tour-stop and we had a charming (if brief) conversation, and subsequently snapped this quite wonderful photo. One of Alex's teachers subsequently wrote to me to say that Alex had taken high academic honors in a Letters About Literature contest about Little Brother, and he was kind enough to allow me to reproduce both the photo and the letter here.
Dear Cory Doctorow,
Little Brother is one of those drastically important books that deals with real issues affecting everyone. This book was, in my opinion, more than just a book; it was a persuasive, life-changing book, the kind of gem that comes around too infrequently.
Before I read Little Brother I was scared to try something different. I surrounded myself with the same old young-adult novels (you know- goes on a quest, learns many things, big fight with a troll, the end) and never dared to step out of my little box.
One day during the sixth grade I saw a kid with too many teeth sitting in a dusty corner, reading Little Brother, and asked him what it was about. He shrugged and muttered something incoherent about Harajuku Fun Madness. When I arrived at home I looked up the book on the internet. Before long I discovered your website, and became intrigued by the fact that you were just giving away your e-books.
The book shipped in two days.
I am always thinking. Constantly tossing up an idea, usually shooting it down, tossing up another one, sometimes it flies, I wait for it to crash, then I walk over to it and shoot it another three or four times for good measure. The few months before I read Little Brother this had dumbed down a bit. I could feel it, like I was wearing earplugs, and only low, muffled, blurry ideas wandered through occasionally to stop and say hi before continuing on their way.
After (and during) the reading of Little Brother the haze had lifted and was replaced by an energetic excitement that jumpstarted my brain to life. My neurons hummed like lawnmowers. A refreshing feeling of urgency and eagerness surged through me-- a feeling I’d not experienced since being eight years old on Christmas. And I started thinking again.
I put my flawless (yeah, right) guess-and-test technique to work, meticulously weeding through all the information to make sense of things. I realized just how possible the police-state situation could be- after 9/11 security everywhere was increased and tightened. The scanners updated. The rules stricter. The pat-downs more, ahem, thorough. What if this happened, but on a much larger scale?
Also, I’m a bit more paranoid. I know about those looming possibilities, terrifying ones- that technology could be used against me, that my freedom is more fragile than I thought. Already I’ve begun questioning the things presented to me as fact. I look at something and decide for myself if it’s the opinion I want to have.
My favorite part about Little Brother is how, in some way or another, it opened me up to so many other books and authors- Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, the list could go on and on.
Little Brother was and still remains the most important book I’ve ever read. If I had not read your book I would be awfully different, and probably much more ignorant and stubborn. Because of your book I started writing. I read more. I think more. You have written a book that is not only good, but life-changing as well. Thanks.
The UK Bookseller WH Smith has been experiencing some kind of bug in its ebook store, whereby it adds DRM to all of the Kobo ebooks it sells, even the ones that are supposed to be DRM-free (like mine). Apparently, this is a metadata-parsing issue. I spoke to my agent and publisher, and WH Smith/Kobo came up with a good workaround while they fix the bug:
Kobo/WH Smith have come up with a solution that enables your
e-books to still be on sale. The DRM wording has been manually
removed from the WH Smith site and when readers click to purchase
the book it forwards them to the Kobo site where it clearly states
the e-books are DRM-free until WH Smiths is able to update their
website which will be at the end of April.
Little Brother [eBook]
Here's a nice surprise: a glowing review of my new novel Homeland in the WSJ.
"Homeland" is as dead serious as "1984," as potentially important a "novel of ideas," with a much more engaging central character and an apparently inexhaustible supply of information on everything from brewing coffee to sneaky surveillance and how to defeat it.
Mr. Doctorow is bang up-to-date (as Orwell never was) on the uses of rapidly changing technology, both good and bad. If you want to keep up, there's a four-page appendix on how to protect your privacy and use the Net productively—so long as you're allowed, that is.
Hey, Oxford, MS! I'm coming to town today, and signing at Square Books at 5PM on the tour for my new book Homeland. I'll be in Memphis tomorrow, and then I go to New Orleans on Tuesday. Though I can hardly believe it, the tour is only halfway along, and there's tons more stops to come.