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This week, I’m podcasting How Big Tech Monopolies Distort Our Public Discourse, a new article I wrote for the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Deeplinks blog. It’s the most comprehensive of the articles I’ve written about the problems of surveillance capitalism, a subject I’ve also addressed in a forthcoming, book-length essay. In a nutshell, my dispute with the “surveillance capitalism” hypothesis is that I think it overstates how effective Big Tech is at changing our minds with advanced machine learning techniques, while underplaying the role that monopoly plays in allowing Big Tech to poison and distort our public discourse.

I think this is a distinction with a difference, because if Big Tech has figured out how to use data to rob us of our free will, anti-monopoly enforcement won’t solve the problem – it’ll just create lots of smaller companies with their own Big Data mind-control rays. But if the problem rests in monopoly itself, then we can solve the problem with anti-monopoly techniques that have been used to counter every other species of robber-baron, from oil to aluminum to groceries to telephones.

MP3

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Here’s part four of my new reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (you can follow all the installments, as well as the reading I did in 2008/9, here).

In this installment, we meet Kurt, the crustypunk high-tech dumpster-diver. Kurt is loosely based on my old friend Darren Atkinson, who pulled down a six-figure income by recovering, repairing and reselling high-tech waste from Toronto’s industrial suburbs. Darren was the subject of the first feature I ever sold to Wired, Dumpster Diving, which was published in the September, 1997 issue.

This is easily the weirdest novel I ever wrote. Gene Wolfe (RIP) gave me an amazing quote for it: “Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is a glorious book, but there are hundreds of those. It is more. It is a glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read.”

Here’s how my publisher described it when it came out:

Alan is a middle-aged entrepeneur who moves to a bohemian neighborhood of Toronto. Living next door is a young woman who reveals to him that she has wings—which grow back after each attempt to cut them off.

Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain, his mother is a washing machine, and among his brothers are sets of Russian nesting dolls.

Now two of the three dolls are on his doorstep, starving, because their innermost member has vanished. It appears that Davey, another brother who Alan and his siblings killed years ago, may have returned, bent on revenge.

Under the circumstances it seems only reasonable for Alan to join a scheme to blanket Toronto with free wireless Internet, spearheaded by a brilliant technopunk who builds miracles from scavenged parts. But Alan’s past won’t leave him alone—and Davey isn’t the only one gunning for him and his friends.

Whipsawing between the preposterous, the amazing, and the deeply felt, Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is unlike any novel you have ever read.

MP3

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Here’s part three of my new reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (you can follow all the installments, as well as the reading I did in 2008/9, here).

This is easily the weirdest novel I ever wrote. Gene Wolfe (RIP) gave me an amazing quote for it: “Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is a glorious book, but there are hundreds of those. It is more. It is a glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read.”

Here’s how my publisher described it when it came out:

Alan is a middle-aged entrepeneur who moves to a bohemian neighborhood of Toronto. Living next door is a young woman who reveals to him that she has wings—which grow back after each attempt to cut them off.

Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain, his mother is a washing machine, and among his brothers are sets of Russian nesting dolls.

Now two of the three dolls are on his doorstep, starving, because their innermost member has vanished. It appears that Davey, another brother who Alan and his siblings killed years ago, may have returned, bent on revenge.

Under the circumstances it seems only reasonable for Alan to join a scheme to blanket Toronto with free wireless Internet, spearheaded by a brilliant technopunk who builds miracles from scavenged parts. But Alan’s past won’t leave him alone—and Davey isn’t the only one gunning for him and his friends.

Whipsawing between the preposterous, the amazing, and the deeply felt, Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is unlike any novel you have ever read.

MP3

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For this week’s podcast, I take a break from my reading of my 2009 novel, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, to read aloud my latest Locus column, Rules for Writers. The column sums up a long-overdue revelation I had teaching on the Writing Excuses cruise last fall: that the “rules” we advise writers to follow are actually just “places where it’s easy to go wrong.”

There’s an important distinction between this and the tired injunction, “You have to know the rules to break the rules.” It’s more like, “If you want to figure out how to make this better, start by checking on whether you messed up when doing the difficult stuff.”

MP3

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Here’s part two of my new reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (you can follow all the installments, as well as the reading I did in 2008/9, here).

In this installment, we meet Kurt, the crustypunk high-tech dumpster-diver. Kurt is loosely based on my old friend Darren Atkinson, who pulled down a six-figure income by recovering, repairing and reselling high-tech waste from Toronto’s industrial suburbs. Darren was the subject of the first feature I ever sold to Wired, Dumpster Diving, which was published in the September, 1997 issue.

This is easily the weirdest novel I ever wrote. Gene Wolfe (RIP) gave me an amazing quote for it: “Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is a glorious book, but there are hundreds of those. It is more. It is a glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read.”

Here’s how my publisher described it when it came out:

Alan is a middle-aged entrepeneur who moves to a bohemian neighborhood of Toronto. Living next door is a young woman who reveals to him that she has wings—which grow back after each attempt to cut them off.

Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain, his mother is a washing machine, and among his brothers are sets of Russian nesting dolls.

Now two of the three dolls are on his doorstep, starving, because their innermost member has vanished. It appears that Davey, another brother who Alan and his siblings killed years ago, may have returned, bent on revenge.

Under the circumstances it seems only reasonable for Alan to join a scheme to blanket Toronto with free wireless Internet, spearheaded by a brilliant technopunk who builds miracles from scavenged parts. But Alan’s past won’t leave him alone—and Davey isn’t the only one gunning for him and his friends.

Whipsawing between the preposterous, the amazing, and the deeply felt, Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is unlike any novel you have ever read.

MP3

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Here’s part one (MP3) of my new reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, which debuted last weekend on the Podapalooza festival.

It’s easily the weirdest novel I ever wrote. Gene Wolfe (RIP) gave me an amazing quote for it: “Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is a glorious book, but there are hundreds of those. It is more. It is a glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read.”

Here’s how my publisher described it when it came out:

Alan is a middle-aged entrepeneur who moves to a bohemian neighborhood of Toronto. Living next door is a young woman who reveals to him that she has wings—which grow back after each attempt to cut them off.

Alan understands. He himself has a secret or two. His father is a mountain, his mother is a washing machine, and among his brothers are sets of Russian nesting dolls.

Now two of the three dolls are on his doorstep, starving, because their innermost member has vanished. It appears that Davey, another brother who Alan and his siblings killed years ago, may have returned, bent on revenge.

Under the circumstances it seems only reasonable for Alan to join a scheme to blanket Toronto with free wireless Internet, spearheaded by a brilliant technopunk who builds miracles from scavenged parts. But Alan’s past won’t leave him alone—and Davey isn’t the only one gunning for him and his friends.

Whipsawing between the preposterous, the amazing, and the deeply felt, Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town is unlike any novel you have ever read.

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I am about to start a serialized podcast reading of my novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, whose first hour I’ve already got in the can. It debuts later this week on the Podapalooza festival, a pay-what-you-like, virtual podcasting festival that benefits Givedirectly, which makes direct cash grants to families affected by coronavirus — and I’ll be putting it in my feed next Monday.

In the meantime, I have been casting about for something to read into this week’s podcast; this weekend, my friends Doselle Young and Gretchen Ash stopped by and sat at the end of our driveway while my wife and I sat on our porch and we all ate tacos together (socially distanced socializing!) and I mentioned this to them and Doselle suggested that I read aloud John Scalzi’s new novel, The Last Emperox, and I texted John and asked if he’d be up for it, and he was, and here we are.

The Last Emperox is the final volume in the “Interdependency” trilogy that began with “The Collapsing Empire,” a novel about a galactic civilization that depends on wormholes that allow for faster-than-light travel, just as those wormholes start mysteriously failing. The first book came out at the same time as my 2017 novel Walkaway and John and I toured our books together back then.

John was supposed to be on an intense, national tour with his book right now, but, of course, he is not. He is one of the first wave of writers experimenting with what book publicity looks like in the age of pandemic, and is blazing the trail for those of us who will come later (I have three books out between now and Christmas, so this is something I’m watching very closely). A lot of the future of authorship is going to rely upon mutual aid, so getting a chance to plug Scalzi’s (excellent) new book in the podcast (MP3) is something I’m really excited about.

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This week for my podcast, I’m doing a swap with Wil Wheaton and his podcast! he’s gonna read one of my short stories, and I’m reading a couple of his public journal entries about the role my novel Little Brother played in helping him parent his son Nolan (MP3). It’s a lovely memory and a beautiful example of the joys and pitfalls of parenting, and I’m so honored to be reminded of the role that I played in Wil and Nolan’s relationship.

Thanks to Wil for suggesting this piece — it’s a bit of turnabout as I wrote him into Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother, and then he had to read his own character’s lines when he narrated the audiobook (the third Little Brother book, Attack Surface, comes out next October).

Wil has released his reading too: a fantastic audiobook of my story Return to Pleasure Island from my first short story collection, A Place So Foreign and Eight More.

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My latest podcast (MP3) is a reading of my 2017 Locus column “The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots ,” about the nature of material scarcity, which is a subject of enormous significance at this moment as production has ground to a halt, and in which the use of the internet to coordinate our activity is at an all-time high. The essay’s thesis is that the answer to the climate change crisis might coordination, not privation — holidays when our renewable energy sources weren’t producing, work when they were. Making hay while the sun shines. Given the enforced time off so many of us are living through, the ideas are more salient than they were when I started thinking about them in 2017.

Cheapness and coordination go hand in hand. Trains gave us railroad time, the first system of timekeeping that synchronized clocks beyond ear­shot of the clocktower’s bells, so 11:00 a.m. in New York was also 11:00 a.m. in Toronto – and they also made it drastically cheaper to move goods from one place to another, both to bring them to market and to refine them further in multi-stage, distributed industrial processes. Spoke-and-hub aviation gave us flight transfers in 45 minutes, including baggage logistics, making it possible to go from small, out of the way places to large, centralized places without having to provide economically unsustainable point-to-point direct routes between every small town and every big city. Walmart’s supply chains stretch from China to Burbank with fantastic reli­ability, so that everything Walmart sells is always available, without having to wait for misshipments and misorders. A single McDonald’s hamburger can contain beef from 1,000 animals – the company isn’t a restaurant chain, it’s a logistics firm that solves problems involving fractional cows.