“Affordances” is my new science fiction story for Slate/ASU’s Future Tense project; it’s a tale exploring my theory of “the shitty technology adoption curve,” in which terrible technological ideas are first imposed on poor and powerless people, and then refined and normalized until they are spread over all the rest of us.
The Green European Journal has published a package on the proposed new European Copyright Directive: first, an outstanding interview with the rebel Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda (previously); and then a new science fiction story I’ve written to show what a future where our speech is governed by unaccountable black-box copyright censorbots might look like: “False Flag.”
Reason’s December issue celebrates the magazine’s 50th anniversary with a series of commissioned pieces on the past and future of the magazine’s subjects: freedom, markets, property rights, privacy and similar matters: I contributed a short story to the issue called Sole and Despotic Dominion, which takes the form of a support chat between a dishwasher owner and its manufacturer’s rep, who has the unhappy job of describing why the dishwasher won’t accept his dishes.
The story is part of a series of thought-experiments/science fiction tales about appliances that follow the Iphone App Store model of limiting interoperability to manufacturer-approved items; it started with the 2015 story “If Dishwashers Were Iphones,” and it followed up in my novella “Unauthorized Bread,” which will be published in my 2019 book Radicalized (Unauthorized Bread is also being developed for TV).
I am using Disher dishes. The ones I bought in Dubai.
Sir yes thank you. Please stand by while I investigate your account.
THANK YOU FOR STANDING BY. WE AT DISHER VALUE YOUR TRUST AND STRIVE TO EARN IT EVERY DAY. IF YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS, CONCERNS OR COMPLIMENTS ABOUT YOUR DISHER EXPERIENCE PLEASE LET US KNOW
Sir thank you I am back. I see from your IP address and other telemetry that you are in Melstone, Montana. Is that correct?
Yes. I took a new job and got relocated here.
Sir thank you I see your problem. Your dishes were sold for use within Shia territories in the Middle East and Asian regions. They are not authorized for use in the USA.
What? Are you crazy? They’re Disher dishes, this is a Disher dishwasher!
Sir I am sorry you are unhappy. However, I must correct you. Please allow me to offer this frequently asked question:
Q. ARE PRODUCTS BOUGHT IN FOREIGN KITCHEN STORES USABLE WITH MY DISHER SPECKLESS?
The trademarks and other intellectual property in the products sold by different Disher affiliated companies through the regional Kitchen Stores are licensed for use on a territory-by-territory basis. In many cases, different territorial licensors own the exclusive right to manufacture and distribute different brands in the Kitchen Store, and part of Disher’s commitment to respecting international laws and intellectual property is our use of the sensors in Disher Speckless systems to optimize your Disher experience by ensuring that our devices do not violate these important contractual arrangements.
Sir I’m afraid it’s not a joke. Please allow me to offer this frequently asked question:
Sole and Despotic Dominion [Cory Doctorow/Reason]
I was lucky enough to be invited to submit a piece to Ian Bogost’s Atlantic series on the future of cities (previously: James Bridle, Bruce Sterling, Molly Sauter, Adam Greenfield); I told Ian I wanted to build on my 2017 Locus column about using networks to allow us to coordinate our work and play in a way that maximized our freedom, so that we could work outdoors on nice days, or commute when the traffic was light, or just throw an impromptu block party when the neighborhood needed a break.
I wrote the novella Party Discipline while I was on my grueling US/Canada/UK tour for my novel Walkaway, last spring. Today, Tor.com publishes the tale, in which two seniors at Burbank High confront their uncertain future by planning a “Communist party” in which they take over a defunct factory and start it up again, a tangible, dangerous, playful reminder that material abundance is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.
Melbourne’s Deakin University commissioned me to write a science fiction story about the design and regulation of self-driving cars, inspired by my essay about the misapplication of the “Trolley Problem” to autonomous vehicles.
Huxleyed Into the Full Orwell is a new short story I wrote for Vice Magazine’s just-launched science fiction section Terraform, which also has new stories up by Claire Evans, Bruce Sterling, and Adam Rothstein.
“Huxleyed” is a story about the way that entertainment companies’ war on general purpose computing could lead into a horrible mashup of the surveillance tyranny of Orwell and the entertainment tyranny of Huxley.
The First Amendment Area was a good 800 yards from the courthouse, an imposing cage of chicken-wire and dangling zip-cuffs. The people inside the First Amendment area were weird. I mean, I include myself in that group. After all, I vacuformed my own Guy Fawkes mask mold. That is not the action of a sane woman. Shandra was weirder, though. She’d thought up the whole demonstration, socialed the everfuck out of the news, rallied a couple hundred weirdos to join her in the chicken-farm, shouting impotently at the courthouse, ringed by cops scarily into their Afghanistan-surplus riot-gear.
“Shandra, how is this supposed to work again?”
“Like this,” she said, and powered up her—weird—device. It started life as a compact projector, the kind of thing you use for screening dull-ass presentations in school auditoriums. But then she’d added a hydrogen-cell that she wore in a backpack, and a homebrew steadicam rig that she strapped to her front, making her look like the world’s most overburdened suicide bomber. I could tell that she was already freaking out the cops on the other side of the chicken wire, and they snapped into palpable alert when a beam of light emerged from the projector. I could only imagine how many tasers, sniper-rifles and gas-grenades were trained on her at that moment. But she didn’t give any sign that she noticed or cared.
(Image: Koren Shadmi)
Medium have published an excerpt from “The Man Who Sold the Moon, my 36,000 word novella in Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, a project to inspire optimism and ambition about the future and technology that Neal Stephenson kicked off (see also What Will it Take to Get Us Back to the Moon?).
Gateways, Tor Books