I'm excited to see the folks at Law and the Multiverse (a blog that considers legal questions through the lens of comics, movies and fiction) having a look at the legal issues raised in Little Brother. It's very timely, what with the sequel, Homeland, coming out on Tuesday!
A large portion of the book’s plot rests on the intersection of law and technology. Bruce Schneier thought the technology was handled pretty well, which is a strong endorsement. But what about the law? There are a couple of minor errors (e.g. referring to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as the “9th Circuit Appellate Division Court”) that make one wonder about the larger issues. Was it illegal for Marcus and his friends to have been imprisoned at “Gitmo-by-the-Bay” without access to an attorney and without being charged with a crime? And what about the waterboarding? Could the Bay Area Department of Homeland Security be headed by a Major General and staffed by other members of the military? Could the State Troopers have saved the day?
The Law and the Multiverse people wrote a great book that runs through all the high points of US law by examining how it applies to superheros in comic books.
Little Brother, Part 1
Next Tuesday marks the publication of my latest YA novel, Homeland, and I'll be kicking off a month-long tour across the US on February 5 with a stop in Seattle, followed by Portland and San Francisco.
From there, I swing to the southwest -- a region I've never toured! -- with stops in Salt Lake City and Tempe. Then it's northeast to NYC, south to Cincinnati, Miami, Chapel Hill, Decatur, Oxford, MS, Memphis, and New Orleans.
Then I do two stops in Texas: Austin and Houston, before crossing northeast again to Portsmouth and Concord, NH; down to DC, over to Boston, then Albuquerque.
There's also a couple stops I'll be making after the tour proper: Lawrence, KS and Toronto.
I'll be reading from the book, talking about the themes and my inspiration for writing it, and about how Aaron Swartz contributed to it. I'm hoping that the public appearances turn into a chance to brainstorm about how to keep Aaron's work going. The events are all-ages and kid-friendly, and I'll be happy to sign your books, ereaders, floppy discs, laptops, or whatever.
I don't think that there are going to be any more cities added -- pretty much every day is a travel-day already. But there is some time for press interviews, podcasts, and so forth, so if that's your thing feel free to mail me and I'll forward you on to my publicist to see if we can schedule it in.
Touring is hard work, but I love it. Everywhere I go, I meet happy mutants -- young and old -- and get to talk with them about their passions and hopes. It's what keeps me going through the year. I really hope you'll come out and join the fun!
Here's the full schedule:
Homeland Tour/Cory Doctorow/February 5 - 26, 2013
Here's a long excerpt:
And here's some things the critics are saying:
"Outstanding for its target audience, and even those outside Doctorow’s traditional reach may find themselves moved by its call to action" - Kirkus
"Fans of Little Brother and the author’s other stories of technophiliac hacktivism ought to love this book" - Publishers Weekly
* Assuming your town is one of the ones I'm coming to, of course. Alert readers will have already noticed that there's not much action in the midwest, Rockies, or northeast, which is a deliberate decision in the hopes of minimizing weather delays during a jam-packed tour schedule. Sorry! I got to as much of the northeast and midwest as I could back on the Pirate Cinema tour in November.
Here's a reading from my upcoming novel, Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother. It's a rehearsal for the readings I'll be giving at schools and libraries when I leave for my 22-city US tour next week.
He fitted me with a blood pressure cuff -- yeah, it was a tactical cuff, which clearly made this guy as happy as a pig in shit -- and then started in with the electrodes. He had a lot of electrodes and he was going to use 'em all, that much was clear. Each one went in over a smear of conductive jelly that came out of a disposable packet, like the ketchup packets you get at McDonald's. These, at least, were non-tactical, emblazoned instead with German writing and an unfamiliar logo.
That was when I started puckering and unpuckering my anus.
Yes, you read that right. Here's the thing about lie detectors: they work by measuring the signs of nervousness, like increases in pulse, respiration, and yeah, sweatiness. The theory is that people get more nervous when they're lying, and that nervousness can be measured by the gadget.
This doesn't work so well. There's plenty of cool customers who're capable of lying without any outward signs of anxiety, because they're not feeling any anxiety. That's pretty much the definition of a sociopath, in fact: someone who doesn't have any reaction to a lie. So lie detectors work great, except when it comes to the most dangerous liars in the world. That's the "It's better than nothing" stupidity I mentioned before, remember?
But there're plenty of people who start off nervous -- say, people who're nervous because they're taking a lie detector test on which depends their job or their freedom. Or someone who's been kidnapped by a couple of private mercenaries who've threatened to take him to their hideout if he doesn't cooperate.
But sometimes, lie detectors can tell the difference between normal nervousness and lying nervousness. Which is why it's useful to inject a few little extra signs of anxiety into the process. There are lots of ways to do this. Supposedly, spies used to keep a thumbtack in their shoe and they could wiggle their toes against it to make their nervous systems do the Charleston at just the right moment to make their "calm" state seem pretty damned nervous. So when they told a lie, any additional nervousness would be swamped by the crazy parasympathetic nervous system jitterbug their bodies were jangling through.
Thumbtacks in your shoe are overkill, though. They're fine for super-macho super-spies for whom a punctured toe is a badge of honor. But if you ever need to beat a polygraph, just pucker up -- your butt, that is.
Squeezing and releasing your butt-hole recruits many major muscle- and nerve groups, gets a lot of blood flowing, and makes you look like you're at least as nervous as a liar, when all you're doing are some rhythmic bum-squeezes. As a side bonus, do it enough and you will have BUNS OF STEEL.
Mastering by John Taylor Williams: email@example.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."
The Atlantic's book club, 1book140, is asking for votes on its book for February. I'm surprised and delighted to see my novel Little Brother on that list, and the timing couldn't be better, what with the sequel, Homeland, coming out on Feb 5.
It's also in great company: "Wonderstruck" by Brian Selznick; "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" and "Just As Long as We're Together" by Judy Blume; "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier; and "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green.
1book140: Vote for Our February Book
Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother, comes out on Feb 5, and as with my previous books, I'm going to be making it available as a free CC-licensed download. Whenever that happens, lots of people write to me to tell me how much they enjoyed it, and ask if they can just send me some money to say thanks.
I don't want their money (don't want to cut my publisher, who does so much to make the book happen, out of the loop), but I do want to help them share the love. So instead, I publish a list of librarians, teachers, and other people at similar institutions who would like free copies of my books, and ask people to express their gratitude by buying a copy of the book and sending it to one of them. It's paying your debts forward in real-time. You do a good deed. The recipient gets to share my book with patrons, students, and other people who are looking to read it. My publisher gets the sale. The bookseller gets her margin. I get the royalty, and credit for the sales number (which improves my future advances, my position on the bestseller list, and my chances of making foreign translation sales). Win, win, win.
That's where you come in. I want to launch the book's website with a long list of people who want free copies of the book. If you're a teacher, librarian, halfway house worker, shelter worker, etc, and you're interested in getting your name on that list, please email my assistant Olga Nunes at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include your name, institutional affiliation, and its address and phone number (for shipping info). We'll make sure it's all ready to go when we launch.
Tell your friends! Spread the word!
Suicide Girls has just published part two of its two-part interview with me about Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother (here's part one). In it, we talk about activism, clicktivism, and the future of Internet-connected politics:
There is a lot of cynicism about clicktivism and the idea that if it’s too easy to be politicized, if all you need to do to take action is click an online petition, then it siphons off energy that could be used to change the world. It’s probably true that some people go, I’ve done my bit, I clicked that petition. But other people who never would have taken any political action start with that one click.
The height of the barrier to entry has to be correlated with the overall size of the movement. If it takes an enormous affirmative step to start your journey, then a lot of people will never start. If on the other hand it’s cheap to try, then a lot of people will try. And the more people you have trying, the more people you will have who will find that it’s what they want to do. That’s the upside of it. This is why I’m not cynical about clicktivism. This is why I’m glad to have a spectrum of ways that people can engage. The shopkeeper understands that the first requirement for selling things is getting people in the door; a political activist has to understand that the first requirement for building a movement is to have people take some step to want to be involved in a movement. And the smaller that step can be, the easier it is to get them involved.
I think of it like a church…It’s a tiny minority of people who join the clergy, but all of the people who join the clergy started by showing up on Sunday. If step one is eschew all material things, take a vow of silence and a vow of chastity and wear a hair shirt for the rest of your life, your clergy will be thinly populated. You need a step one that isn’t total engagement for the rest of your life, right?
Cory Doctorow: Homeland Part 2
My next novel, Homeland (the sequel to Little Brother) is out in a few weeks, and I recently sat down with Nicole Powers from Suicide Girls for an interview about the book and the issues it raises, especially the student-debt bubble:
When it was just rich people going, it wasn’t about just getting a better job, because you were already rich, you already had the entré into the better job. You could already do unfunded apprenticeships and your parents’ friends were the people offering you the unfunded apprenticeships. You had a good five ways within the system. But now it’s a market transaction, and once it’s a market transaction we start applying cost benefit analysis to it. We start saying, well if the university degree earns you so many pounds, then it makes sense to start talking about you paying so many pounds. And if the objective here is to take people whose lifetime income expectancy was so many pounds, and make it a little bit higher –– which is what we call social mobility –– then why shouldn’t that be a virtuous cycle and they pay back into it. That way the university can expand the number of students they take on and all the rest of it, right?
The problem with that is that it’s become a Ponzi scheme, especially in America. We haven’t quite gotten there here. But in America, you have this crazy thing where it is somewhat true and it’s also universally received as true, that you can’t get a good job without a university degree. It’s also the case that universities, including many state colleges –– that are actually owned by the public –– can act as loan originators, which is to say they lend you the money but where those loans are then backed by the federal government. They can lend you any amount of money because there’s no risk to them because the government will take the loan off their hands. Those loans are then further secured by the federal government when they float them as bonds. So you have this weird perverse incentive where the universities, the more they charge the more they get –– which is a bit weird right? Because in real market economies, the more you charge the more you get up to a point, and then people start going, wait a second, that’s not worth it anymore, and they stop paying in. But if I tell you that you can’t get a job unless you get a degree, and then I tell you that no matter how much the degree costs I can get you a loan for that much, all of a sudden you start getting takers for those crazy propositions and that starts to look like a bubble, like a pyramid scheme.
Cory Doctorow: Homeland
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.
As I mentioned yesterday, the sequel to Little Brother is coming out in February. Called Homeland, it picks up the action shortly after Little Brother ends, and features the continuing and exciting adventures of the characters from the first book. Tor, my publisher, have posted the first cut at the 20-city US tour schedule (the Canadian dates are still TBD, as is a likely stop in Lawrence, KS). I'll be on the road for most of February, and I'm visiting a lot of cities in the south and southwest where I've never appeared, so I'm looking forward to seeing some new faces!
Here's a short list of the cities I'll be visiting: Seattle, Portland OR (Beaverton), San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Tempe, Albuquerque, New York, Cincinnati (Crestview Hills KY), Miami (Coral Gables), Chapel Hill, Decatur, Oxford MS, Memphis, New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Nashua NH, Portsmouth NH, Concord NH, Washington DC, and Cambridge MA. Like I say, those are the confirmed stops, but there are more to come, and Tor will be keeping the master list at the link below.
Mark your calendars and spread the word!
I've just wrapped up a couple of days at the Fliporto literary festival in Olinda, Brazil, and was delighted to get a copy of the newly published Cinema Pirata, the Brazilian edition of Pirate Cinema, published by the excellent Galera Record.