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Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Conversation with Cory Doctorow

I'll be sharing my thoughts on Cory Doctorow's & Jen Wang's In Real Life this weekend, as we wrap up #GraphicNovelWeek, but today, Cory has dropped by to have a Very Serious Conversation as part of the 30 Questions with Cory Doctorow blog tour! I'm a fan of Cory's, and one of the major reasons for that is the way his passion comes through in every aspect of his online presence. In Real Life takes a relatable approach to a number of problems that are easy to keep at a distance, and today, Cory and I are going to dig into that a bit.
Check it out below, and make sure to stop back by this weekend for my thoughts on In Real Life!

Your work (both as a traditional author and as a journalist on Boing Boing) centers around tackling very modern problems — or, rather, new permutations of old problems — file-sharing and DRM (copyright), gold farming and in-game economics (exploitation, consumerism, actual-world economics), etc. They're all interconnected, of course, but if you could sit someone down and make them understand your passion about any one thing, what would it be? What would you want them to take away from your conversation?

My other fall 2014 book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free, tries to answer this question. Basically, my message is that the world is made out of computers. Our houses, cars, airplanes, etc are made of computers that we put our bodies into, and increasingly, our bodies are full of computers, from pacemakers to hearing aids. As estoeric as Internet policy and regulation are, they’re the secret forces that shape the whole world -- information doesn’t want to be free, but PEOPLE do, and in the information age, people can’t be free without free and fair information infrastructure.

The Internet isn’t a glorified video-on-demand service, it’s not a tool for organizing jihad, it’s not a better pornography delivery system, it’s not a platform for MMOs -- it’s the nervous system of the twenty first century, and when we treat its individual applications as the central fact of the net, we end up making decisions that undermine and redound through all of society and down through our future.

In the forward to In Real Life, you talk about how one of the huge changes we've seen as a result of internet access is the ease with which people can come together and join their voices. We've seen it in things like the campaign to stop SOPA, various grassroots social justice endeavors (like the Steubenville rape case, etc), and of course the plethora of petition sites we see nowadays. But as much as we band together and make our voices heard on things like DRM, exchange of ideas and internet freedom, it doesn't seem like any battles are ever really won; as soon as one piece of legislation is struck down, 3 more appear hydra-like in its place; wherever there is money to be made, it seems someone will be there to control, portion and profit... all of which is a really long-winded way of saying, are we fighting a losing battle? Will history remember us as lovable upstarts who ultimately lost, or pioneers in freeing up intellectual property?

The issue isn't copyright, or free speech, or social justice. These are all epiphenomena of a more fundamental issue: corruption.

Lawmakers represent an ever-shrinking cadre of rich and powerful investors who command more and more wealth, and who use that wealth to ensure that the law continues to tilt towards them, towards their continued enrichment and ongoing positions of power.

A free and open Internet through which we can organize to fight this rot is the prerequisite to solving all other problems. By definition, the rich and powerful are organized -- they have solved their coordination problems, the underlying problem of all human endeavor:
how to get stuff done by groups of people with a minimum of time stepping on each others' toes.

By definition, the opposition to the establishment is less organized than the establishment. The Internet radically lowers the cost of organizing (imagine making Wikipedia without the Internet!), and while that confers a benefit to the establishment, it confers a greater benefit to the opposition -- in that the establishment's just getting more of what it already has, while the opposition is getting something new.

I'm not an optimist and I'm not a pessimist. I'm *hopeful*.

If your ship sank in the open sea, treading water until you couldn't kick anymore wouldn't be an act of optimism. You know you probably won't be rescued. But you kick anyway. Because you haven't given up hope. Because not everyone who kicked was rescued, but because everyone who was rescued kicked.

And if you were supporting your loved ones -- your kids, your spouse -- you'd kick harder. Because you'd be hoping for them, too.

The alternative to fighting back is capitulating. To hell with that.

Will we get an follow-up stories, even brief web-comic style ones, from Anda and/or Raymond down the line? Or any side characters?

There's a new webcomic short up on Tor.com called Con/Game, that Jen and I did to promote the book. I'm generally not much of a sequels guy -- I'm more forward looking ("let the way of others be lit by the flames of the bridges I burned behind me!"). But never say never -- I didn't plan on writing a LITTLE BROTHER sequel, but when HOMELAND popped into my head, I wrote it in 8 weeks flat.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Cory!
Hope to see the rest of you this weekend, when I talk about In Real Life as part of my 5-in-5 vlog for #GraphicNovelWeek!

Check out the rest of the 30 Questions with Cory Doctorow tour stops at these awesome blogs!
Wednesday, October 8th – Bunbury in the Stacks http://bunburyinthestacks.com/
Thursday, October 9th – Stacked http://www.stackedbooks.org/
Friday, October 10th – Forever YA http://foreveryoungadult.com/
Saturday, October 11th – CBR Robot 6 http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/
Sunday, October 12th – The Midnight Garden http://www.themidnightgarden.net/
Monday, October 13th – Cuddlebuggery http://cuddlebuggery.com/
Tuesday, October 14th -- Guys Lit Wire http://guyslitwire.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, October 15th – Novel Thoughts http://www.novelthoughtsblog.com/
Thursday, October 16th – The Book Rat - Hey, you're here!
Friday, October 17th – Alice Marvels http://www.alicemarvels.com/

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
Get It | Add It
196 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by First Second
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role playing game that she spends most of her free time on. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. Gaming is, for Anda, entirely a good thing.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer - a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake.

From acclaimed teen author and digerati bigwig Cory Doctorow and rising star cartoonist Jen Wang, In Real Life is a sensitive, thoughtful look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture-clash.

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