It’s my book-birthday! Today marks publication of the Tor (US/Canada) paperback edition of ATTACK SURFACE, a standalone adult Little Brother book.
Little Brother and its sequel Homeland were young adult novels that told the tale of Marcus Yallow, a bright young activist in San Francisco who works with his peers to organize resistance to both state- and private-sector surveillance and control.
The books’ impact rippled out farther than I dared dream. I’ve lost track of the number of cryptographers, hackers, activists, cyberlawyers and others who told me that they embarked on their tech careers after reading them.
These readers tell me that reading Little Brother and Homeland inspired them to devote themselves to taking technological control away from powerful corporations and giving it to people, putting them in charge of their own technological destiny.
This has been a source of enormous pride – never moreso than in Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’s documentary, when Edward Snowden grabs his copy of Homeland off his Hong Kong bedside table as he heads for a safe-house.
Despite the growing movement of public interest, ethical technologists, the main current of the tech industry for decades has been an unbroken tendency towards spying, control, and manipulation.
These technological shackles are made by geeks who bear striking similarities to the Little Brother readers who’ve told me the story of their technopolitical awakenings – they share a love of the power of technology and the human connections we make through networks.
Without these people and their scarce expertise – arrived at through passionate exploration of tech – these technologies of control wouldn’t exist. They started from the same place as Marcus Yallow and his fans, but they took a very different path.
Attack Surface is the story of how that happens. Its (anti)hero is Masha Maximow, who appears as Marcus’s frenemy in the first two books – a more talented hacker than Marcus, who bats for the other side.
In Little Brother, Masha is working for the DHS in its project to turn San Francisco into a police state in the wake of a terrorist attack. In Homeland, she’s working on a forward operations base as a private military contractor, spying on jihadi insurgents.
When we meet her again in Attack Surface, Masha is a very highly paid senior technologist for a cyber-arms-dealer that sells spy tools to the most brutal, autocratic dictators in the world – something she’s deeply, self-destructively conflicted about.
When Masha gets caught helping pro-democracy protestors defeat the spyware she herself installed and maintained, she is cashiered and flees back home to San Francisco, where she makes a horrifying discovery.
Tanisha, her childhood best friend, who has devoted her life to racial justice struggles, is being targeted with the same malware that Masha helped inflict on protesters half a world away. For Masha, the war has come home.
That’s what makes this a book for adults, rather than a YA novel – it’s a tale about moral reckonings. It’s a story about being an adult that your younger self would neither recognize, nor approve of. It’s a story about redemption and struggle.
Like the other Little Brother novels, it’s a book whose technopolitics are firmly grounded in real-world technologies, from anti-malware countermeasures for state phone hacking to defeating facial recognition by exploiting machine learning’s deep flaws.
The book’s been out for a year now, and in addition to praise from the trade press and newspapers like the Washington Post, it’s attracted a loyal following of readers, many of whom never read Little Brother or Homeland.
Like the public interest technologists who tell me how Little Brother helped set the course of their lives, these Masha Maximow fans tell me how reading Attack Surface helped change that course – made them confront the compromises they’d made and decide to make a change.
It’s an honor and a privilege to have affected so many lives in this way, and I’m profoundly grateful to the readers who’ve contacted me to tell me about their experience of the book.
And now the paperback is out! A whole new group of readers can discover Masha, Attack Surface, and read about how it’s never too late to reckon with the morality of your past self’s actions.
You may recall that I produced my own audiobook for Attack Surface – something I had to do because Audible – Amazon’s monopoly audiobook company – refuses to carry my work because I won’t put DRM on it.
The audiobook was amazing – read by Buffy’s Amber Benson, who put in a virtuoso performance, and the presales audiobook was the most successful audiobook Kickstarter in crowdfunding history.
Like the print novel, the audiobook for Attack Surface has enjoyed a brilliant post-launch afterlife, selling briskly and attracting great reviews.
To celebrate the paperback’s release, I’m offering the Attack Surface audio, along with the audio for Homeland (read by Wil Wheaton) and Little Brother (read by Kirby Heyborne) – normally $70 in all – in a bundle for $30:
As with my other releases, my local indie bookstore, Dark Delicacies, is accepting orders for signed copies of the paperback – I’ll even drop by and personalize them for you!
If the themes of Attack Surface interest you, I recommend checking out the video and audio archives of the Attack Surface Lectures, a series of eight online panels hosted by indie bookstores and undertaken with a range of stellar guest-speakers, available as video and audio.
“Politics and Protest” with Eva Galperin and Ron Deibert, hosted by The Strand:
“Cross-Media SF” with Amber Benson and John Rogers, hosted The Brookline Booksmith:
“Race, Surveillance and Tech” with Malkia Cyril and Meredith Whittaker, hosted by Booksmith:
“Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk” with Bruce Sterling and Christopher Brown, hosted by Andersons:
“Opsec and Personal Cybersecurity,” with Runa Sandvik and Window Snyder, hosted by Third Place Books:
“Sci Fi Genre,” with Chuck Wendig and Sarah Gailey, hosted by Fountain Bookstore:
“Tech in SF,” with Annalee Newitz and Ken Liu, hosted by Interrabang:
I’m eternally grateful to all the people who helped with this book – the editorial team at Tor, the booksellers, my co-panelists, the reviewers and critics, the audiobook team, my Kickstarter backers, and you, my readers. Thank you.