I was incredibly happy to appear on the MMT Podcast again this week, talking about economics, science fiction, interoperability, tech workers and tech ethics, and my new novel ATTACK SURFACE, which comes out in the UK tomorrow (Oct 13 US/Canada):
We also delved into my new nonfiction book, HOW TO DESTROY SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM, and how it looks at the problem of misinformation, and how that same point of view is weaponized by Masha, the protagonist and antihero of Attack Surface.
It’s been 12 years since I went on my first book tour and in the years since, I’ve met and spoken with tens of thousands of readers in hundreds of cities on five continents in support of more than a dozen books.
Now I’ve got another major book coming out: ATTACK SURFACE.
How do you tour a book during a pandemic? I think we’re still figuring that out. I’ll tell you one thing, I won’t be leaving Los Angeles this time around. Instead, my US publisher, Tor Books, has set up eight remote “Attack Surface Lectures.”
Each event has a different theme and different guest-hosts/co-discussants, chosen both for their expertise and their ability to discuss their subjects in ways that are fascinating and engaging.
ATTACK SURFACE is the third Little Brother book, a standalone book for adults.
It stars Masha, a young woman who is finally reckoning with the moral character of the work she’s done, developing surveillance tools to fight Iraqi insurgents and ex-Soviet democracy activists.
Masha has struggled with her work for years, compartmentalizing her qualms, rationalizing her way into worse situations.
She goes home to San Francisco and discovers her best friend, a BLM activist, is being targeted by the surveillance weapons Masha herself invented.
What follows is a Little Brother-style technothriller, full of rigorous description and extrapolation on cybersecurity, surveillance and resistance, that illuminates the tale of a tech worker grappling with their own life’s work.
Obviously, this covers a lot of ground, as is reflected in the eight nights of talks we’re announcing today:
I. Politics & Protest, Oct 13, with Eva Galperin and Ron Deibert, hosted by The Strand Bookstore
II. Cross-Medium SciFi, Oct 14, with Amber Benson and John Rogers, hosted by Brookline Booksmith
III. Intersectionality: Race, Surveillance, and Tech and Its History, Oct 15, with Malkia Cyril and Meredith Whittaker, hosted by Booksmith
IV. SciFi Genre, Oct 16, with Sarah Gailey and Chuck Wendig, hosted by Fountain Books
V. Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk, Oct 19, with Bruce Sterling and Christopher Brown, hosted by Andeersons Bookshop
VI. Tech in SciFi, Oct 20, with Ken Liu and Annalee Newitz, hosted by Interabang
VII. Little Revolutions, Oct 21, with Tochi Onyebuchi and Bethany C Morrow, hosted by Skylight Books
VIII. OpSec & Personal Cyber-Security: How Can You Be Safe?, Oct 22, with Runa Sandvik and Window Snyder, hosted by Third Place Books
Some of the events come with either a hardcover and a signed bookplate, or, with some stores, actual signed books.
(those stores’ stock is being shipped to my house, and I’m signing after each event and mailing out from here)
I’ve never done anything like this and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it. Book tours are crazy marathons – I did 35 cities in 3 countries in 45 days for Walkaway a couple years ago – and this is an entirely different kind of thing.
But I’m also (very) excited. Revisiting Little Brother after seven years is quite an experience. ATTACK SURFACE – a book about uprisings, police-state tactics, and the digital tools as oppressors and liberators – is (unfortunately) very timely.
Having an excuse to talk about this book and its themes with you all – and with so many distinguished and brilliant guests – is going to keep me sane next month. I really hope you can make it.
I have a favor to ask of you. I don’t often ask readers for stuff, but this is maybe the most important ask of my career. It’s a Kickstarter – I know, ‘another crowdfunder?’ – but it’s:
a) Really cool;
b) Potentially transformative for publishing.
Here’s the tldr: Attack Surface – AKA Little Brother 3- is coming out in 5 weeks. I retained audio rights and produced an amazing edition that Audible refuses to carry. You can pre-order the audiobook, ebook (and previous volumes), DRM- and EULA-free.
That’s the summary, but the details matter. First: the book itself. ATTACK SURFACE is a standalone Little Brother book about Masha, the young woman from the start and end of the other two books; unlike Marcus, who fights surveillance tech, Masha builds it.
Attack Surface is the story of how Masha has a long-overdue moral reckoning with the way that her work has hurt people, something she finally grapples with when she comes home to San Francisco.
Masha learns her childhood best friend is leading a BLM-style uprising – and she’s being targeted by the same cyberweapons that Masha built to hunt Iraqi insurgents and post-Soviet democracy movements.
I wrote Little Brother in 2006, it came out in 2008, and people tell me it’s “prescient” because the digital human rights issues it grapples with – high-tech authoritarianism and high-tech resistance – are so present in our current world.
But it’s not so much prescient as observant. I wrote Little Brother during the Bush administration’s vicious, relentless, tech-driven war on human rights. Little Brother was a bet that these would not get better on their own.
And it was a bet that tales of seizing the means of computation would inspire people to take up digital arms of their own. It worked. Hundreds of cryptographers, security experts, cyberlawyers, etc have told me that Little Brother started them on their paths.
ATTACK SURFACE – a technothriller about racial injustice, police brutality, high-tech turnkey totalitarianism, mass protests and mass surveillance – was written between May 2016 and Nov 2018, before the current uprisings and the tech worker walkouts.
But just as with Little Brother, the seeds of the current situation were all around us in 2016, and if Little Brother inspired a cohort of digital activists, I hope Attack Surface will give a much-needed push to a group of techies (currently) on the wrong side of history.
As I learned from Little Brother, there is something powerful about technologically rigorous thrillers about struggles for justice – stories that marry excitement, praxis and ethics. Of all my career achievements, the people I’ve reached this way matter the most.
Speaking of careers and ethics. As you probably know, I hate DRM with the heat of 10000 suns: it is a security/privacy nightmare, a monopolist’s best friend, and a gross insult to human rights. As you may also know, Audible will not carry any audiobooks unless they have DRM.
Audible is Amazon’s audiobook division, a monopolist with a total stranglehold on the audiobook market. Audiobooks currently account for almost as much revenue as hardcovers, and if you don’t sell on Audible, you sacrifice about 95% of that income.
That’s a decision I’ve made, and it means that publishers are no longer willing to pay for my audiobook rights (who can blame them?). According to my agent, living my principles this way has cost me enough to have paid off my mortgage and maybe funding my retirement.
I’ve tried a lot of tactics to get around Audible; selling through the indies (libro.fm, downpour.com, etc), through Google Play, and through my own shop (craphound.com/shop).
I appreciate the support there but it’s a tiny fraction of what I’m giving up – both in terms of dollars and reach – by refusing to lock my books (and my readers) (that’s you) to Amazon’s platform for all eternity with Audible DRM.
Which brings me to this audiobook.
Look, this is a great audiobook. I hired Amber Benson (a brilliant writer and actor who played Tara on Buffy), Skyboat Media and director Cassandra de Cuir, and Wryneck Studios, and we produced a 15h long, unabridged masterpiece.
It’s done. It’s wild. I can’t stop listening to it. It drops on Oct 13, with the print/ebook edition.
It’ll be on sale in all audiobook stores (except Audible) on the 13th,for $24.95.
But! You can get it for a mere $20 via my first Kickstarter.
What’s more, you can pre-order the ebook – and also buy the previous ebooks and audiobooks (read by Wil Wheaton and Kirby Heyborne) – all DRM free, all free of license “agreements.”
The deal is: “You bought it, you own it, don’t violate copyright law and we’re good.”
And here’s the groundbreaking part. For this Kickstarter, I’m the retailer. If you pre-order the ebook from my KS, I get the 30% that would otherwise go to Jeff Bezos – and I get the 25% that is the standard ebook royalty.
This is a first-of-its-kind experiment in letting authors, agents, readers and a major publisher deal directly with one another in a transaction that completely sidesteps the monopolists who have profited so handsomely during this crisis.
Which is where you come in: if you help me pre-sell a ton of ebooks and audiobooks through this crowdfunder, it will show publishing that readers are willing to buy their ebooks and audiobooks without enriching a monopolist, even if it means an extra click or two.
So, to recap:
Attack Surface is the third Little Brother book
It aims to radicalize a generation of tech workers while entertaining its audience as a cracking, technologically rigorous thriller
The audiobook is amazing, read by the fantastic Amber Benson
If you pre-order through the Kickstarter:
You get a cheaper price than you’ll get anywhere else
You get a DRM- and EULA-free purchase
You’ll fight monopolies and support authorship
If you’ve ever enjoyed my work and wondered how you could pay me back: this is it. This is the thing. Do this, and you will help me artistically, professionally, politically, and (ofc) financially.
This Kickstarter is one of the most important moments in my professional career, an experiment to see if I can viably publish audiobooks without caving into Amazon’s monopolistic requirement that all Audible books be sold with DRM that locks it to Amazon’s corporate platform…forever. If you’ve ever wanted to thank me for this podcast or my other work, there has never been a better way than to order the audiobook (or ebook) (or both!).
Attack Surface is a standalone novel, meaning you can enjoy it without reading Little Brother or its sequel, Homeland. Please give this extended preview a listen and, if you enjoy it, back the Kickstarter and (this is very important): TELL YOUR FRIENDS.
My latest podcast (MP3) is a reading of the author’s note from “Attack Surface” — the third Little Brother book, which comes out on Oct 12. I recorded this for the audiobook edition of Attack Suface, which I’ve been recording all last week with Amber Benson and the Cassandra de Cuir from Skyboat Media. If you like what you hear, please consider pre-ordering the book — it’s a scary time to have a book in the production pipeline!