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More NerdCore Science Fiction From Cory Doctorow 122

Andrew Leonard writes "Cory Doctorow has published a new short story in Salon. This time around, he's imagined a cyberpunk wi-fi future, with spectrum cops, a mobile multinational startup, and guerilla warfare on Indian reservations. Readers who liked his previous story, "0wnz0red" will undoubtedly savor this one." We've posted things about Cory before, but I personally enjoy his writing, so here's more!
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More NerdCore Science Fiction From Cory Doctorow

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  • It's always interesting to see how close some of the "predictions" come to real life.
  • by mcgroarty ( 633843 ) <brian.mcgroarty@gmail . c om> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:18PM (#5098026) Homepage
    Also, it's worth mentioning that Cory's got a new book out. You can read about (or download!) Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom [] online, or you can make Cory a buck and pick it up in dead tree form.

    He's enjoyed a few brief jumps up the best seller lists at Amazon. He's been up to the triple digits. It'd be cool to see him pushed into the double digits.

  • by _typo ( 122952 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:23PM (#5098047) Homepage
    Wi-Fi is the Never Ending Buzzword (tm)!
  • Easier to view (Score:5, Informative)

    by br0ck ( 237309 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:23PM (#5098052)
    This may be obvious, but try the print layout [] to skip paging and avoid the huge ads in the middle of the text.
  • by coinreturn ( 617535 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:29PM (#5098105)
    His ability to write is rather average. The underdeveloped characters are stereotypes and he uses excruciating detail to describe minutia which DOES NOT MATTER. Writing involves showing the TELLING details and having a strong sense of POV.

    Nowadays, everyone with a computer thinks hes a writer!
    • You're being generous.

      I couldn't even get through a few paragraphs.

      Why anyone would compare his stuff to the likes of HHGTTG or Snow Crash is beyond me.

      This guy's a hack. But he wrote a story about Wi-Fi, buzzword of the new millenium.

    • by Ponty ( 15710 )
      Excruciating detail can be helpful sometimes. I know I've read some really good writing that makes artful use of it.

      It's the semi-poser wannabe writing that gets me. The use of familiar words in vaguely correct arrangements doesn't make good writing:

      You gotta read your classics, bro. I've been catching up over the past six months or so, doing a lot of reading. Mostly free e-books from the Gutenberg Project. Descartes' "Meditations" are some heavy shiznit.
      Crap, man. That's worse than Thomas Wolfe.
    • by Ieshan ( 409693 ) <ieshan&gmail,com> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:40PM (#5098183) Homepage Journal
      Why does everyone with a computer think they're a critic? =P
    • Ever read Moby Dick?

    • He may be average, but it's always funny for someone to criticize writing in a post that gets gets plural and singular tenses messed up and uses all caps.

      Personally, I find him an above average fiction writer. Hardly my favorite, and his characters are not well developed, but head and shoulders above a lot of stuff that gets published. Perhaps head, shoulders, and bellybutton above the web average.
      • There is a huge difference between 'interesting' and 'syntactically incorrect'. Besides, why exactly is it important for someone to have good grammar when criticizing someone's ability to tell an interesting story?

        • I you want people to take what you've written seriously, you should take the effort to make it if not strictly grammatical then at least not obviously ignorant.

          Just because you can type it out quickly doesn't make your thought better. And it's especially ironic when bad grammar is used to criticize a writer. It makes it hard to take seriously.

          But pretty much I believe if you're writing it, you should write it coherently. No one worries about split infinitives and crap like that, but if you can't get your tenses correct take a little longer with your posts.
    • by mjang ( 536415 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @08:21PM (#5098862)
      Your ability to post a negative comment about someone who has spent a lot of time on something they care about (and giving it away for free) is rather average. It's hardly worth the score 5 you currently have. The over-capitalization of words and excruciatingly uninspired or thought-provoking critique really does not matter.

      Nowadays, everyone with a slashdot account thinks they're a critic!
    • I agree this is just so much wannabe cybershit that was done 20 years or more ago by those sheep in The Wrong Trousers (Directors Cut)

      Fucking hell Popup ads in floortiles...

    • The most interesting works of modern fiction I've read were seldom examples of the finest writing style -- that's what the "classics" are for. Their value is more in the concepts and characters they introduce than in their use of language.

      I think that Doctorow's short stories do a good job of presenting a scenario based on a popular current meme, while the idea is still fresh.
    • ...above-average skill at finishing a story that he's started.

      Everybody who has more than a couple (dozen?) stories started who are going to finish them "one of these days" please raise your hand. (Ouch, I can't count that high.)

      • I'm pretty sure the most important part of getting a book published is getting a book finished. I'm sure there's a lot of crap that gets rejected, but I'm certan that there's a ton of cool stuff that never gets past the 10th page.
      • Amen to that. I've started so many stories, of all sorts, drama, sci-fi, Arthurian legend, etc, I can't count. They all are about 3 chapters long, and GOOD, by the opinion of the people who I let read them. It's just getting chapters 4->X on paper which kills me. I can get it started good, just can't close the deal.

        Anyone else run into this in the past? How'd you get around it? (If you did)
        • You may have come across this suggestion already, so I don't know if it'll help, but anyway...

          Mystery and crime writers often decide on the end first and then work backwards. I think you can apply this to all kinds of fiction. A story is like a journey, if only metaphorically, and you generally don't embark on a journey without having some idea of where you want to get to.

          When I say "the end," I don't necessarily mean what happens in the last chapter, or the last paragraph. Rather, I mean what changes have happened by the time you get to the final page - what results does the story have? For example, if you're writing a story where the good guys face death at every turn, you should decide whether all of them will survive to the end of the book. If you decide to kill one of them off, that could happen in chapter 2, but it would still be one of the results of the story.

          Once you've decided what your results will be, you can then decide on a plausible path (aka a plot) that allows all of them to happen. I've used this technique to restart a large fantasy novel which had been languishing for about 10 years while I found excuses to do other things. It's nearly doubled in size (from about 50,000 words to about 90,000), and I've been beavering away at it for some six months now, which is longer than I ever managed to stick at it before.

          A site that you may find useful is run by the author Holly Lisle []. She has an article describing this technique, plus lots of other good stuff.

          Good luck!

    • The underdeveloped characters are stereotypes and he uses excruciating detail to describe minutia which DOES NOT MATTER. Writing involves showing the TELLING details and having a strong sense of POV.

      I would argue that the details DO matter. What makes these stories interesting are the technical / political / social concepts each story explores. To better express these concepts, a certain degree of detail is needed.

      The trouble is, this detail ends up highlighting a lack of detail elsewhere. There are attempts at fleshing out the world in which these concepts are playing out. But these attempts ultimately fall flat. One example, as has been pointed out, is the commonly underdeveloped character.

      Doctorow has a good start. Enough to be kind of interesting now. I hope he improves with time. Then he may be worthy of the breathless praise his critics currently scoff at.
  • sounds like crap. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    like most sci-fi, crappy drama with some flashing lights thrown it.
  • give salon money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tomlord ( 473109 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:44PM (#5098206)
    Salon has a bunch of good content. Maybe you agree that this story is good. Subscribe!

  • we all know that Cory is just pharming Whuffie.
  • by zephc ( 225327 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @06:55PM (#5098298)
    check out the Prime Intellect [] novella-length story
    • by Clover_Kicker ( 20761 ) <> on Thursday January 16, 2003 @08:08PM (#5098764)
      >if you want GOOD scifi... (Score:2)
      >by zephc (225327) Neutral on 06:55 PM January 16th, 2003 (#5098298)
      >check out the Prime Intellect [] novella-length story

      Oh come now, let's do a stronger sales pitch for an excellent story.

      From the into to Prime Intellect []:
      In the best possible future, there will be
      no war, no famine, no crime,
      no sickness, no oppression,
      no fear, no limits, no shame... ...and nothing to do.

      This online novel contains strong language and explicit violence.
      If you are under 21 years old, or easily offended, please leave.

      Here's a brief excerpt to give you a taste:
      Later, Raven made the traditional toast. Her strong voice boomed out through the rooms and courtyards she had envisioned. Caroline's handcuffs disappeared, and like everyone else she found herself holding a drink. "It's time for our toast," Raven declared. "Who are we going to toast?"

      "PRIME INTELLECT!" answered over four thousand enthusiastic voices.
      "To Prime Intellect, for making the world safe from people like us!"
      And four thousand people, instead of tossing back those drinks, inverted their glasses, baptising the floor in alcohol.
      "My heart just isn't in that toast any more," a balding older man told Caroline. She wondered briefly if he had chosen to be old for some reason, or if it was his way of letting nature take its course. "I mean, we're amateurs against Prime Intellect. I killed six college students. It killed the whole universe. Not even in the same league."
      • I just finished the first chapter. Definitely some interesting reading. I plan to finish it.

      • That is just a perfect selection for a teaser passage. It gets so much of the sense of the book across yet without any of the really gross stuff or revealing any spoilers... I don't think I could have found such a good selection for this purpose if I'd spent a week thinking about it.

        Of course I'm a bit close to the problem...

        • Fancy meeting you here :)

          I liked the text ad that someone took out on K5:

          The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect []
          Read localroger's novel free online: Kinky sex, ultraviolence, super AI, the ultimate VR game, and TEOTWAWKI twice!

          I probably would have used that blurb if I'd seen it before I wrote my own post.
          • Oh, about that ad...

            I wrote it, but Zapata took it out. That was part of the deal how I got my arm twisted to put it online after it sat on my hard drive for 8 years.

            It's the most interesting thing that's happened to me lately (hey, I don't go to casinos any more) and I owe Z a great big thanks for the bootprint on my butt. And Rusty, of course, for hosting it. Especially considering that neither of them had actually read the work at hand before they made the offers.

        • I didn't actualy get very far, because after reading the first few paragraphs I had this feeling that reading about bored people might be boring. I don't know why...
          • I had this feeling that reading about bored people might be boring.

            My suggestion is try Chapter 2. If you find those people boring too then you just don't like my writing.

            No prob with that; I'll deal.

            Out of curiosity, is there anybody whose writing you do like?

            • I also like Amy Tan, at least I liked the joy luck club. the bonesetters daughter got to be a little dull after a while.

              I also really liked The Satanic Verses but I set the book down when the story got really weird (after the two get to that old ladies house )and haven't picked it up since then. Maybe at some point I will.

              I don't really read as much as I'd like to though.

              I might give your book another chance at some point, but it's mostly a time issue.
        • aren't you the guy who wrote that series of articles about counting cards at casinos? that was fantastic stuff, i'll have to check this piece out too.
    • Eh... Sounds like a... er... I think I'll stick to eating cheese puffs and watching CSPAN.

      I personally like Jeff Noon and Steve Beards collaboration, Mappalujo. . It contains stuff that doesn't make ANY sense, but then again, that was part of the point.
  • 0wnz0red (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LesPaul75 ( 571752 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @07:06PM (#5098363) Journal
    I read 0wnz0red last week -- someone here on /. had a link to it in their sig. One of the great things about Doctorow's sci-fi is the "feasibility" of it. In particular, I wonder how close we really are to the microcontroller that interfaces directly to the human nervous system. Ten years? Twenty? Surely it will happen within our lifetimes (?). When it does, let's just hope that the API is open-source. :)
    • I thought the stories weakness was the drastic oversimplification of a brain-computer link. There are baby steps occurring now (things like light detection for the blind and that Warwick [] guy.

      But I agree that this sort of thing is coming at some point, and it better damn well be open. Because, when the technology matures, you won't have a choice. You'll need your own connection just to compete. Like developers today need the Internet, only exponentially greater. The idea of controlling autonomic functions of the body with a computer was new to me, though, and was where I really thought the story shone. Also the mention of "Trusted Computing" and its relevance. I shudder to think of the consequences if the day comes when we are forced to accept a brain-computer connection, and we don't own root.

    • This probably won't be happening for a while. First of all, there's the hardware problem. Which wire leads where? Then once you've got your connection to the hardware (well, wetware really), you still need to reverse engineer the protocols used. Granted, humans have become pretty good at reverse engineering the last couple years, but this will still be significantly hard. There's no documentation and no decompilers.

      I'm all for it; I'll be first in line for a jack which will bypass regular senses and plug directly into my brain (yeah, okay... I've read too much William Gibson).

      As for being proprietory or not... I see this tech being developed at a research center in a company, not at some university lab. This company is going to want to make money off of their research investments. So it probably won't be open/free in the beginning.

      Happy hacking!

  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @07:11PM (#5098384) Homepage Journal
    Plug in the back of your neck = matrix
    Programming yourself = Nano's from AO
    MIB's and Gmen in the black mesa desert = half life.

    I found the story interesting mainly because of the locations. Small details like eating el torito burrito's along the 101, living here in the bay area I know all these spots, it almost makes the story more realistic to me in that sense.

    The really interesting thing is seeing how modern writers take what they see now, and apply that to their story.

    The whole, healing aids virus thing was a trip, probably the most original thing in the story. Other than that though, the story is just silicon valley facts mixed in with hollywood/gaming fiction.

    I liked it though.
  • by EnlightenmentFan ( 617608 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @07:13PM (#5098404) Homepage Journal
    Paul Boutin just wrote up Doctorow's novel in this story [].
  • Not the best writer (Score:4, Informative)

    by HisMother ( 413313 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @07:14PM (#5098414)

    As other folks have pointed out, this guy's writing is heavy on irrelevant details, and weak on character development (i.e., salient details.) One thing I never figured out on reading 0wnz0r3d (sp?) was which of the two main characters were gay, if either was. It's not the most important detail, but it seems relevant to character development - yet I don't think it's answerable based on the text.
    • yet I don't think it's answerable based on the text.

      Obviously this is terrible, nothing should ever be vague in a story, God forbid the consumers of mass media would ever have to think about something that wasn't spelled out for them. (coughDeckardisaReplicantcough)
      • No, I'm not saying that at all. The ambiguity in Blade Runner, left open to interpretation, makes the story more interesting, because it's central to the story. In this case though, it doesn't matter what the answer is, and there's no way to tell what it is anyway, and you're not sure whether the author wants you to wonder about it or not. That's not interesting, that's just annoying. It is, as I said, bad writing.
  • Nerdcore? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tuxinatorium ( 463682 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @07:15PM (#5098417) Homepage
    By that do you mean nerds' porn or nerd porn? Like goatse?
  • This reads like the log from a bad D&D game.
  • Bleh (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    More self-aggrandizing tripe. This is the crap I churned out in my high school writing class when I was insecure about myself, so the hero was always an idealized me.

    Just because you have a blog and hang on to the coat-tails of every popular 'net movement, doesn't mean you're an author worth your salt.


    Jimbo Mofer
  • Okay, writing about CVS repositories in fiction is just... laughable. (referring to his earlier work, Ownz0r3d).

    That's just not going to work, sci fi or not.
  • by tbmaddux ( 145207 ) on Thursday January 16, 2003 @08:06PM (#5098751) Homepage Journal
    Just finished the story and flipped on TechTV [] to hear Leo say that Cory Doctorow is on the show tonight, wearing his "cyberactivist" hat.

    Well, they just showed a shot of him. Thick black glasses, flat top, blue Star Trek : TOS shirt, no hat.

    And oh, the story? I liked it... inconsequential stuff that reminded me a bit of Sterling and his Leggy Starlitz character ("Zeitgeist," anyone?).

  • Someone needs to tell the author that the dotcom days are gone and no amount of WiFi bullshit is going to ever bring them back.
  • Lee-Daniel flipped the windows to transparent and let the sun shine in, provoking groans from the corporation.

    bleh, what drab writing. Provoking just seems to be the wrong word here, in fact I think it might be totally wrong. If I were writing, I would have said something like:

    "The driver flipped a switch, and the voltage across the windows went to zero. They became clear, and sunlight flooded into the bus. The corporation didn't like it. It -- they -- groaned."

    I wonder if salon would ever publish any of my cyberpunk crap. My guess is this guy knows somebody, his stuff is so boring.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know, personally, two guys who front as nobodies so they can participate in online discussions without being flooded with fanmail, job applications and gee gosh wow bullshit.

    There's also the Maxim girl who chimes in on a certain jokey-newsie site every once in a while. It's funny to watch jackoff artists ignore her posts and two hours later carry on the running gag about how much they lust her.

    Penn (as in 'n' Teller) is right, being ignored is the most desirable leisure good. Not that he's Mr. Wonderful. Comparisons to Michael Moore are unstoppable and inevitable.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This guy's a hack, and is definitely worse than Katz, which takes some doing.

    He's yet another techno-dilettante - except he's also an inept writer in addition to being an inept "technologist." I've seen quotes from this guy in reference to computer security that are quite laughable. Why do technical publications interview dumbass "writers" about security issues instead of interviewing security professionals? Because tools like this guy have suddenly become a "name" in tech. Actual proficiency doesn't matter. Which shouldn't be surprising, considering what we've seen in our industry in the recent past. But I still can't get over it.

    Katz picked the perfect time to jump on the techno-bandwagon. He used everybody on slashdot to create hype and sell books. Anyone who thought he was contributing out of altruism was a sap. He used y'all, and he shamelessy exploited the murders of innocent children as well - over and over again.

    Now Doctorow is jumping on the techno-babble bandwagon, and people are actually buying into it. It boggles the mind. Anyone with any sort of appreciation for literature or technology knows that the man is a no-talent. He's full of shit. He should not be making money. Do not encourage him.

    His free distribution in multiple formats is a cheap gimmick. It'll get media attention, which is all he needs. There's another good reason why why he's giving it away - it's not worth paying for.

    Save your money for writers who have a clue, please. Just take a look at the comments here - for once the slashtards have it right. And the arguments of his defenders are glaringly weak ad hominems.

    • Save your money for writers who have a clue, please. Just take a look at the comments here - for once the slashtards have it right. And the arguments of his defenders are glaringly weak ad hominems.

      On the other hand, your post was an incredibly clever and insightful critique. Presumably it only reads like a lame excuse for yet another tedious Katz-bash to people too unsophisticated to properly appreciate the full, blinding light of your intellect.

  • I think that these are some of the best writings available for free and I salute the authors for having the vision to be replacing the now terminated public domain with new rules.

    Cory and other authors of his ilk are going to be around a lot longer than the copyright restricted whores to the media machine.

    His works are going to live a long time in the digital age.

    Flame me if you must, but be constructive.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong