[Plura-list] Attack Surface is out!; SF as intuition pump; Beyond Cyberpunk; Half-Life's G-Man performs "Once in a Lifetime"

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue Oct 13 14:31:59 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Attack Surface is out!: It's my book-birthday!

* SF as intuition pump: Optimistic disaster stories for the future!

* Beyond Cyberpunk: What it means to write technorealistic,
post-cyberpunk literature.

* Half-Life's G-Man performs "Once in a Lifetime": Where does this
machinima go to?

* This day in history: 2010, 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


📖 Attack Surface is out!

Today is the US/Canada release-date for Attack Surface, the third Little
Brother book. It's been a long time coming (Homeland, the second book,
came out in 2013)!

It's the fourth book I've published in 2020, and it's my last book of
the year.


When the lockdown hit in March, I started thinking about what I'd do if
my US/Canada/UK/India events were all canceled, but I still treated it
as a distant contingency. But well, here we are!

My US publisher, Tor Books, has put together a series of 8 ticketed
events, each with a pair of brilliant, fascinating guests, to break down
all the themes in the book. Each is sponsored by a different bookstore
and each comes with a copy of the book.


We kick off the series TONIGHT at 5PM Pacific/8PM Eastern with "Politics
and Protest," sponsored by The Strand NYC, with guests Eva Galperin (EFF
Threat Lab) and Ron Deibert (U of T Citizen Lab).


There will be video releases of these events eventually, but if you want
to attend more than one and don't need more than one copy of the book,
you can donate your copy to a school, prison, library, etc. Here's a
list of institutions seeking copies:


And if you are affiliated with an organization or institution that would
like to put your name down for a freebie, here's the form. I'm checking
it several times/day and adding new entries to the list:


I got a fantastic surprise this morning: a review by Paul Di Filippo in
the Washington Post:


He starts by calling me "among the best of the current practitioners of
near-future sf," and, incredibly, the review only gets better after that!

Di Filippo says the book is a "political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold
and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance," whose hero,
Masha, is "a protagonist worth rooting for, whose inner conflicts and
cognitive dissonances propel her to surprising, heroic actions."

He closes by saying that my work "charts the universal currents of the
human heart and soul with precision."

I mean, wow.

If you'd prefer an audiobook of Attack Surface; you're in luck! I
produced my own audio edition of the book, with Amber Benson narrating,
and it's amazing!

Those of you who backed the audio on Kickstarter will be getting your
emails from BackerKit shortly (I've got an email in to them and will
post an update to the KS as soon as they get back to me.

If you missed the presale, you can still get the audio, everywhere
*except* Audible, who refuse to carry my work as it's DRM-free (that's
why I had to fund the audiobook; publishers aren't interested in the
rights to audio that can't be sold on the dominant platform).

Here's some of the stores carrying the book today:


Supporting Cast (Audiobooks from Slate):


I expect that both Downpour and Google Play should have copies for sale
any minute now (both have the book in their systems but haven't made it
live yet).

And of course, you can get it direct from me, along with all my other
ebooks and audiobooks:



📖 SF as intuition pump

I have a column up in today's Slate's Future Tense: "The Dangers of
Cynical Sci-Fi Disaster Stories."


It's an exploration of fiction as an "intuition pump": Daniel Denning's
"thought experiment structured to allow the thinker to use their
intuition to develop an answer to a problem."

That is, we use fiction to mentally rehearse potential scenarios.

I'm a fiction writer. More specifically, I'm a science fiction writer,
which means I'm a pulp fiction writer, so plot is always front and
center when I work ("I can do fucking plot. I can feel my links to
Dashiell Hammett… I’ve still got wheels on my tractor"-William Gibson)

And unfortunately, there's easy plot wins to be had through cynicism:
rather than choosing between man-vs-man and man-vs-nature stories, we
get a twofer by combining them into man-vs-nature-vs-man (the tsunami
knocks your house down and your neighbors come over to eat you).

I have both enjoyed and written these kinds of stories, even though I
knew they were lies. Disasters, history tells us, are when people rise
to the occasion, not when they sink into barbarism.

Sure, plutes are always worried that crises will precipitate a
comeuppance, but let's not let elite panic override our own experience:
if your neighbor's house fell down, you'd race to dig through the
rubble, right? Not steal their Amazon packages while they were distracted.

The more I think about this kind of plotting, the more I worry that it
is priming our intuition pumps with the wrong stuff, with the precursors
for barbarism, the fiction-driven conviction that disasters precipitate
a war of all against all.

What's more, there are even better plots - chewier, gnarlier ones - to
be had in telling stories of crisis in which people DO rise to the
occasion, but can't agree on what to do about it - where crisis becomes
disaster because of good faith, not bad.

Today, Tor Books published Attack Surface, the third Little Brother
book, in which I really lean into this idea, finding my plot points
primarily in irreconcilable and even vicious differences among people
trying to do good.

I'm not just trying to tell better stories - I'm also trying to create
better intuitions. So many of the techies who found inspiration through
Little Brother still manage to rationalize their way into perverting
technology into something that oppresses rather than liberating.

The stories they tell themselves are often about the bestial nature of
humanity and the justifiability of putting those beasts in high-tech cages.

"New stories will help us understand the importance of seizing the means
of computation and using it to build movements that break up monopolies,
fight oligarchy, and demand pluralistic, shared power for a pluralistic,
shared world."


📖 Beyond Cyberpunk

I'm a "post-cyberpunk" writer. That is, I was raised on and inspired by
cyberpunk fiction, and, unlike the majority of the cyberpunks, I
actually went to work in the tech industry, thanks, in large part to them.


Over the years, I've given a lot of thought to what it means to be
"post-cyberpunk" and I think the key difference lies in how you relate
to computers and networks: whether they are metaphors, or concrete
things in the world.

The technologist-wizard archetype of cyberpunk needs to be able to cast
spells with technology, to transcend its limits and make it do the
impossible - but the post-cyberpunk hero depends on their comprehensive
knowledge of the *possible*, *all* the things a computer can do.

In some ways, this transition was inevitable. The 15-or-so-years of
cyberpunk supremacy coincided with a moment of both widespread
technological excitement and technological inexperience: most people
hadn't used computers much, but they really wanted to.

Today, in the post-cyberpunk era, technological know-how is much more
widely distributed, as is technological disillusionment. The "poetics of
the technological subculture" (as William Gibson memorably phrased it)
are no longer quite so esoteric.

Attack Surface, my latest novel, is a decidedly post-cyberpunk novel,
inviting readers to relate to its technological elements as they relate
to their daily lives, rather than their dreams of the future.

I'm doing an event on Oct 19 hosted by Andersons Bookshop with OG
cyberpunk, "Chairman" Bruce Sterling; and Christopher Brown, a new and
exciting post-cyberpunk writer (both Chris and I were mentored by Bruce)
on this subject:



📖 Half-Life's G-Man performs "Once in a Lifetime"

Machinima has its roots in the early cracker and demoscene - stunters
who'd use the games' sprites to create splashscreen animations in
tribute to their prowess.

As highly customizable games like Doom hit the market, the scene
intensified, excited by the prospect of actual feature film production
on the cheap, assisted by game-engines.

Pioneers like Hugh Hancock stretched the realm of possibility with
incredible and heroic efforts, but Hugh died before he could see his
vision bear fruit - today, major studios use game engines to animate
movies and shorts all the time.


I always think of Hugh and get a little sad smile when I see this stuff
in the wild. Today, I found this: a remake of Talking Heads' Once in a
Lifetime starring G-Man from Half-Life, created by Corey Laddo.


It's nothing short of spectacular - exactly the kind of creative,
playful experiment Hugh dreamed of.


📖 This day in history

#10yrsago HOWTO Make jello blood-worms

#10yrsago Kevin Kelly’s WHAT TECHNOLOGY WANTS: how technology changes us
and vice-versa

#5yrsago CIA black-site torture survivors sue shrinks who made $85M
overseeing CIA torture program

#5yrsago Police end round-the-clock Assange detail at London’s
Ecuadorian embassy

#5yrsago How to make “Dracula’s dentures” cookie sandwiches


📖 Colophon

Today's top sources: Boing Boing (https://boingboing.net/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 528 words (71794

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 17)

Upcoming appearances:

* The Attack Surface Lectures: 8 nights of bookstore-hosted events in
which I and a massive group of entertaining and knowledgeable experts
discourse on my latest novel's themes, Oct 13-22

* Milehicon (Guest of Honor!), Oct 23-5, https://milehicon.org/

* Coding Democracy/Toronto International Festival of Authors, Oct 24

Recent appearances:

* Savage Lovecast

* Trashfuture: Stolen Likes Acknowledgment

* David Pakman: It's Monopolies, Not Surveillance

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the
basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution.


📖 How to get Pluralistic:

Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection):


Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and


Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising):


*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: signature.asc
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 195 bytes
Desc: OpenPGP digital signature
URL: <http://mail.flarn.com/pipermail/plura-list/attachments/20201013/4fd4c013/attachment.sig>

More information about the Plura-list mailing list