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In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my latest Locus column, Inaction is a Form of Action,, where I I discuss how the US government’s unwillingness to enforce its own anti-monopoly laws has resulted in the dominance of a handful of giant tech companies who get to decide what kind of speech is and isn’t allowed — that is, how the USG’s complicity in the creation of monopolies allows for a kind of government censorship that somehow does not violate the First Amendment.
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In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my Globe and Mail editorial, Science fiction and the unforeseeable future: In the 2020s, let’s imagine better things, where I reflect on what science fiction can tell us about the 2020s for the Globe‘s end-of-the-decade package; I wrote about how science fiction can’t predict the future, but might inspire it, and how the dystopian malaise of science fiction can be turned into a inspiring tale of “adversity met and overcome – hard work and commitment wrenching a limping victory from the jaws of defeat.”
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In my latest podcast (MP3), I conclude my serial reading of my novella Party Discipline, which I wrote while on a 35-city, 45-day tour for my novel Walkaway in 2017; Party Discipline is a story set in the world of Walkaway, about two high-school seniors who conspire to throw a “Communist Party” at a sheet metal factory whose owners are shutting down and stealing their workers’ final paychecks. These parties are both literally parties — music, dancing, intoxicants — and “Communist” in that the partygoers take over the means of production and start them up, giving away the products they create to the attendees. Walkaway opens with a Communist Party and I wanted to dig into what might go into pulling one of those off.

Here’s part 1 of the reading, here’s part 2, and here’s part 3.

We rode back to Burbank with Shirelle on my lap and one of my butt-cheeks squeezed between the edge of the passenger seat and the door. The truck squeaked on its suspension as we went over the potholes, riding low with a huge load of shopping carts under tarps in its bed. The carts were pretty amazing: strong as hell but light enough for me to lift one over my head, using crazy math to create a tensegrity structure that would hold up to serious abuse. They were rustproof, super-steerable and could be reconfigured into different compartment-sizes or shelves with grills that clipped to the sides. And light as they were, you put enough of them into a truck and they’d weigh a ton. A literal ton, and Jose—our driver’s—truck was only rated for a half-ton. It was a rough ride.

Our plan was to pull up on skid row and start handing out carts to anyone around, giving people two or three to share with their friends. Each truck had a different stretch we were going to hit, but as we got close to our spot, two things became very apparent: one, there were no homeless people around, because two, the place was crawling with five-oh. The Burbank cops had their dumb old tanks out, big armored MRAPs they used for riot control and whenever they wanted to put on a show of force, and there was a lot of crime-scene tape and blinking lights on hobby-horses.

MP3

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In my latest podcast (MP3), I continue my serial reading of my novella Party Discipline, which I wrote while on a 35-city, 45-day tour for my novel Walkaway in 2017; Party Discipline is a story set in the world of Walkaway, about two high-school seniors who conspire to throw a “Communist Party” at a sheet metal factory whose owners are shutting down and stealing their workers’ final paychecks. These parties are both literally parties — music, dancing, intoxicants — and “Communist” in that the partygoers take over the means of production and start them up, giving away the products they create to the attendees. Walkaway opens with a Communist Party and I wanted to dig into what might go into pulling one of those off.

Here’s part 1 of the reading and here’s part 2.

We told them they could go home if they didn’t want to risk coming to the Communist party, but we told them that after we told them that they were the only kids in the whole school we trusted enough to invite to it, and made sure they all knew that if they backed out, there’d be no hard feelings—and no chance to change their mind later tonight when they were at a corny party with a bunch of kids instead of making glorious revolution.

Every one of them said they’d come.

I’d found an all-ages show in Encino that night, two miles from Steelbridge, Antoine’s old job. We got piled into Ubers heading for the club, chatting about inconsequentialities for the in-car cameras and mics, and every one of us paid cover for the club, making sure to use traceable payment systems that would alibi us as having gone in for the night. Then we all met in the back alley, letting ourselves out of the fire-doors in ones and twos. I did a head-count to make sure we were all there, squashed together in a spot out of view of the one remaining camera back there (I’d taken out the other one the day before, wearing a hoodie and gloves, sliding along the wall so that I was out of its range until I was reaching up to smear it with some old crank-case oil).

We hugged the wall until we were back out into the side streets. All our phones were off and bagged, and everyone had maps that used back streets without cameras to get to Steelbridge. We strung out in groups of two to five, at least half a block between us, so no one would see a big group of kids Walking While Brown and call in the cops.

MP3

/ / Podcast

In my latest podcast (MP3), I continue my serial reading of my novella Party Discipline, which I wrote while on a 35-city, 45-day tour for my novel Walkaway in 2017; Party Discipline is a story set in the world of Walkaway, about two high-school seniors who conspire to throw a “Communist Party” at a sheet metal factory whose owners are shutting down and stealing their workers’ final paychecks. These parties are both literally parties — music, dancing, intoxicants — and “Communist” in that the partygoers take over the means of production and start them up, giving away the products they create to the attendees. Walkaway opens with a Communist Party and I wanted to dig into what might go into pulling one of those off.

The cop pulled the vice principal’s chair out from behind the desk and sat down on it in front of us. He didn’t say anything. He was young, I saw, not much older than us, and still had some acne on one cheek. White dude. Not my type, but good looking, except that he was a cop and he was playing mind games with us.

“Are we being detained?” Somewhere in my bag was a Black Lives Matter bust-card and while I’d forgotten almost everything written on it, I remembered that this was the first question I should ask.

“You are here at the request of your school administration.” Oh. Even when there wasn’t a fresh lockdown, the administration had plenty of powers to search us, ask us all kinds of nosy questions. And after a lockdown? Forget it.

MP3

/ / Podcast

In my latest podcast (MP3), I’ve started a serial reading of my novella Party Discipline, which I wrote while on a 35-city, 45-day tour for my novel Walkaway in 2017; Party Discipline is a story set in the world of Walkaway, about two high-school seniors who conspire to throw a “Communist Party” at a sheet metal factory whose owners are shutting down and stealing their workers’ final paychecks. These parties are both literally parties — music, dancing, intoxicants — and “Communist” in that the partygoers take over the means of production and start them up, giving away the products they create to the attendees. Walkaway opens with a Communist Party and I wanted to dig into what might go into pulling one of those off.

I don’t remember how we decided exactly to throw a Communist party. It had been a running joke all through senior year, whenever the obvious divisions between the semi-zottas and the rest of us came too close to the surface at Burbank High: “Have fun at Stanford, come drink with us at the Communist parties when you’re back on break.”

The semi-zottas were mostly white, with some Asians—not the brown kind—for spice. The non-zottas were brown and black, and we were on our way out. Out of Burbank High, out of Burbank, too. Our parents had lucked into lottery tickets, buying houses in Burbank back when they were only ridiculously expensive. Now they were crazy. We’d be the last generation of brown kids to go to Burbank High because the instant we graduated, our parents were going to sell and use the money to go somewhere cheaper, and the leftovers would let us all take a couple of mid-range MOOCs from a Big Ten university to round out our community college distance-ed degrees.

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Earlier this month while I was in San Francisco, I went over to the Y Combinator incubator to record a podcast (MP3); we talked for more than an hour about the history of Adversarial Interoperability and what its role was in creating Silicon Valley and the tech sector and how monopolization now threatens adversarial interop and also how it fuels the conspiratorial thinking that is so present in our modern politics. We talk about how startup founders and other technologists can use science fiction for inspiration, and about the market opportunities presented by challenging Big Tech and its giant, massively profitable systems.