[Plura-list] Announcing the Attack Surface tour; WV's deabeat governor now owes $140m; Faulty TV behind daily, town-wide internet outages

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Thu Sep 24 11:38:35 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Announcing the Attack Surface tour: Eight nights, 16 guests, and me,
signing and mailing hundreds of books.

* WV's deabeat governor now owes $140m: Billionaire Jim Justice made his
money the old fashioned way: fraud.

* Faulty TV behind daily, town-wide internet outages: The real story
here is that Openreach actually fixed something.

* Blogcritics on Attack Surface: "Doctorow has recreated our world in
all its scary detail."

* This day in history: 2010, 2015, 2019

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


🦃 Announcing the Attack Surface tour

It's been 12 years since I went on my first book tour and in the years
since, I've met and spoken with tens of thousands of readers in hundreds
of cities on five continents in support of more than a dozen books.

Now I've got another major book coming out: ATTACK SURFACE.

How do you tour a book during a pandemic? I think we're still figuring
that out. I'll tell you one thing, I won't be leaving Los Angeles this
time around. Instead, my US publisher, Tor Books, has set up eight
remote "Attack Surface Lectures."


Each event has a different theme and different
guest-hosts/co-discussants, chosen both for their expertise and their
ability to discuss their subjects in ways that are fascinating and engaging.

ATTACK SURFACE is the third Little Brother book, a standalone book for

It stars Masha, a young woman who is finally reckoning with the moral
character of the work she's done, developing surveillance tools to fight
Iraqi insurgents and ex-Soviet democracy activists.

Masha has struggled with her work for years, compartmentalizing her
qualms, rationalizing her way into worse situations.

She goes home to San Francisco and discovers her best friend, a BLM
activist, is being targeted by the surveillance weapons Masha herself

What follows is a Little Brother-style technothriller, full of rigorous
description and extrapolation on cybersecurity, surveillance and
resistance, that illuminates the tale of a tech worker grappling with
their own life's work.

Obviously, this covers a lot of ground, as is reflected in the eight
nights of talks we're announcing today:

I. Politics & Protest, Oct 13, with Eva Galperin and Ron Deibert, hosted
by The Strand Bookstore

II. Cross-Medium SciFi, Oct 14, with Amber Benson and John Rogers,
hosted by Brookline Booksmith

III. ​​Intersectionality: Race, Surveillance, and Tech and Its History,
Oct 15, with Malkia Cyril and Meredith Whittaker, hosted by Booksmith

IV. SciFi Genre, Oct 16, with Sarah Gailey and Chuck Wendig, hosted by
Fountain Books

V. Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk, Oct 19, with Bruce Sterling and
Christopher Brown, hosted by Andeersons Bookshop

VI. Tech in SciFi, Oct 20, with Ken Liu and Annalee Newitz, hosted by

VII. Little Revolutions, Oct 21, with Tochi Onyebuchi and Bethany C
Morrow, hosted by Skylight Books

VIII. OpSec & Personal Cyber-Security: How Can You Be Safe?, Oct 22,
with Runa Sandvik and Window Snyder, hosted by Third Place Books

Some of the events come with either a hardcover and a signed bookplate,
or, with some stores, actual signed books.

(those stores' stock is being shipped to my house, and I'm signing after
each event and mailing out from here)

(yes, really)

I've never done anything like this and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't
nervous about it. Book tours are crazy marathons - I did 35 cities in 3
countries in 45 days for Walkaway a couple years ago - and this is an
entirely different kind of thing.

But I'm also (very) excited. Revisiting Little Brother after seven years
is quite an experience. ATTACK SURFACE - a book about uprisings,
police-state tactics, and the digital tools as oppressors and liberators
- is (unfortunately) very timely.

Having an excuse to talk about this book and its themes with you all -
and with so many distinguished and brilliant guests - is going to keep
me sane next month. I really hope you can make it.


🦃 WV's deabeat governor now owes $140m

Jim Justice's 2016 campaign for Governor of West Virginia made a simple
pitch: Justice is the richest man in WV, a billionaire, and therefore he
is better than everyone else and will do a good job governing the state.

Unfortunately (for WV), every billionaire is policy failure and Justice
is no exception.

You know the old saw about how rich people are super cheap and that's
why they're rich? It's definitely true that a lot of plutes are cheap,
but what's *more* true is that plutes *cheat*.

Justice made his money the old fashioned way: fraud.

After inheriting a coal empire from daddy, Justice built up the family
fortune by (checks notes) not paying his bills.

Justice companies have been named in 600+ nonpayment suits in 20+ states.


Justice is good at fraud: he stiffs you and makes you sue him for
nonpayment. Then he stiffs you on the judgment and makes you sue him
again. And again. And again. He's been at it since the go-go coal days
of the 1990s and never stopped - not even after becoming governor.

Justice is an equal-opportunity deadbeat. He stiffed his coal companies'
insurance company, stranding his own workers with no care for chronic
illnesses they got while working in his coal businesses.

(Justice also stiffed the DoJ when they fined him for safety violations)

Many of the untreated workers died.

Justice has stolen his workers' wages, then stiffed them on their
judgments. He's stolen from the federal government, defrauding them and
then stiffing them on their judgments.

Back in May, Propublica's Ken Ward Jr and Alex Mierjeski created an
interactive Jim Justice crime explorer, allowing you to search through
the $128m in outstanding claims against the governor.


In the few short months since, Justice's bad debts have ballooned to
$140,000,000 (!!), thanks to crimes involving stiffing Essar Steel
Algoma for steel shipments, stiffing a Texas company over bulldozers,
and more.


Justice is running for re-election and standing on his record as a
businessman and a governor. He followed Trump's lead in 2016, refusing
to put his assets in a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest.

He has conflicts! Like the environmental protection settlement he's on
both sides of, which stands to save him millions.


🦃 Faulty TV behind daily, town-wide internet outages

For 18 months, people in the Welsh village of Aberhosan lost their
broadband signal at 7 every morning. No one could figure it out.
Engineers at BT Openreach - the privatized engineering spinoff from BT -
undertook multiple steps, including replacing cabling to the village.

Finally, after a year and a half, they figured it out.

One of the villagers had an old TV set they'd switch on every day at 7.
The faulty TV would blast out a single high-level impulse noise (SHINE)
that knocked out broadband for the whole village.


You might think the quirkiest thing about this story is the broken TV
and its mortified owner, but you'd be wrong. The most amazing thing here
is the BT Openreach, literally the worst company in the world, solved a
single, solitary problem, even if it did take them 18 months.

Seriously: if BT Openreach was a satirical comedy about technical
incompetence, poor back-end support, buck-passing, jobsworthing, and
pure sadism, it would be cancelled midway through the first series for
being so broad than no one could suspend their disbelief.

But I didn't post this merely to note the amusing busted TV or to remind
everyone that BT Openreach should be shoved into a lead-lined pit,
sealed with 200m of concrete, and the whole thing signposted MENE MENE

Mostly I posted it because I wanted an excuse to relay the funniest
everything-stops-working-every-day-at-the-same-time story I ever heard.

It's Michael Skeet's story, and it comes from the days when he was
working at the old CBC Toronto studios on Jarvis St.

Every night at 9PM, all the equipment in one of the studios would
suddenly lose power and then restart. Then it would happen again every
morning at 3AM.

Engineers tore the studio apart, rebuilt key power supply components,
etc. Nothing worked.

Then, one morning at 5AM, the cursed studio had an explosion in its main
transformer. When the smoke cleared, the entire studio was spattered
with...baked beans.

Have you figured it out?

I didn't.

The overnight security guard would arrive on shift every night at 9. He
would open the main transformer door and put his dinner - a can of beans
- on top of the transformer to heat up.

At 3AM, he'd open the door again to get out his hot beany supper.

The transformer had an automated safety feature: when you opened the
door, it cut the power so that you didn't electrocute yourself.

After *years* of this, the night watchman forgot to get his beans out,

Mystery solved!

PS: BT Openreach sucks.


🦃 Blogcritics on Attack Surface

The most nail-biting moments in a novelist's career are that moment just
before publication, when the very first reviews start to trickle in, and
you don't know how the book will be received. It's hard not to fall prey
to gnawing doubt!

For me, that moment is now: just before ATTACK SURFACE, the third Little
Brother book, comes out (Oct 1 in UK/AU/NZ/SA etc; Oct 13 in US/Canada).

Thankfully, things are looking good on that score!

For example, Richard Marcus's new review on Blogcritics, the venerable
web publication, which calls it: "A brilliant book with a great main
character, a riveting plot, and an incredibly topical story combine to
make this an essential read."


Seriously, you can't ask for better than that - though Marcus manages
it, saying "Doctorow has recreated our world in all its scary detail."

(the review is also scheduled to run in the Seattle Post Intelligencer!)

Now, in the interest of balance, I must note this review from
"McMasters," who wrote the first Amazon review on the book:

"A bit childish and making too much of an effort to have 'strong female
characters', to the point of only havng female charcters. I guess that

He gave it one star.

For the record, there are some male "charcters" too!


🦃 This day in history

#10yrsago Microsoft’s DRM makes your computer vulnerable to attack

#10yrsago Multinational copyright companies will require French ISPs
turn over 150,000 subscriber names and addresses per day

#5yrsago Kentucky Republican state Senator: the First Amendment protects
my right to receive bribes

#5yrsago Walt Disney’s plan for the FBI of tomorrow

#5yrsago Study: tracking every RPG book in every public & academic
library in the

#5yrsago Dooce quits mommyblogging amid toxic pressure from advertisers

#1yrago Here’s how to take Wired’s advice and get your own e-scooter,
for a fraction of the cost

#1yrago Trial begins for the “cum/ex” bankers accused of stealing €447m
and trying for €60b

#1yrago At the UN, Greta Thunberg excoriates world leaders and her
elders for climate inaction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWEpTok6AJo

#1yrago Far-right Australian billionaire demands $500k and a vow of
silence from a satirical vlogger

#1yrago Nerf unveils “DRM for darts”

#1yrago Permanent Record: Edward Snowden and the making of a

#1yrago Annalee Newitz’s “Future of Another Timeline”: in which punk
feminist time travelers battle Men’s Rights Advocates who want to stop
feminism from every emerging


🦃 Colophon

Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 507 words (64876

Currently reading: Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: IP https://craphound.com/podcast/2020/09/14/ip/

Upcoming appearances:

* Stanford Human-Computer Interaction Seminar, Sept 25,

* Writing into an Uncertain Future, Afterwords Festival, Oct 1,

* 3 Big Ideas To Fix the Internet, Oct 7,

* 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

Recent appearances:

* Little Brother vs. Big Audiobook (Techdirt podcast):

* Control, Power and Resistance in the 21st Century (Novara Media):

* Tech, surveillance & more (Marco Montemagno):

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.

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