inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #51 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Fri 31 Jan 03 15:37
    
You want Abraham Lincoln in your head ... but don't you think you're
more likely to end up with John Poindexter?

(Ick. Need to wash my prefrontal lobes out with alcohol for that
thought.)

Seriously, Cory's right: there's a huge danger from broken algorithms,
stupid assumptions, and "the computer said you're evil so it must be
true". What's alarming, though, is that a lot of folks stand to make a
lot of money if they can convince enough holders-of-purse-strings
(read: politicians) that this snake oil can be made to work, so that
the governments throw money at it.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #52 of 254: Bill's Burrow (gjk) Fri 31 Jan 03 15:47
    

Gaack.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #53 of 254: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 31 Jan 03 16:09
    
Anybody who actually works with large amounts of inconsistently-formatted
data would see the fallacy in suppositions about NSA/TIA/GOD quickly
enough. 
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #54 of 254: the invetned stiff is dumb (bbraasch) Fri 31 Jan 03 16:12
    
ahh, but Larry Ellison would contend that what's good for Oracle is good 
for America.  Imagine the license fees.  It doesn't have to work.  It 
just needs to get licensed.  
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #55 of 254: Bill's Burrow (gjk) Fri 31 Jan 03 16:42
    

Gaaaaack.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #56 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 1 Feb 03 05:05
    
Changing the subject slightly (but keeping on one of Cory's tracks):
http://www.itworld.com/Net/4087/030131euantipiracy/

Turns out that in addition to the EUCD (European Union Copyright
Directive), the EU Commission is trying to grapple with the conflict
between the public interest/public domain and the demands of the big
intelectual property oligopolists. This new draft directive, if
approved, goes to the European Parliament for ratification and then has
to be implemented in local law by each EU member state. (The EU
constitutionally does _not_ work like the USA, because it started life
as a treaty organisation, not a nation.) The interesting aspect here is
that the draft -- which has already been condemned by the BSA, MPAA,
and all the usual suspects -- basically exempts non-commercial users of
p2p networks who download copyrighted materials from any  criminal
sanction. This seems to be a first for a major governmental
organisation, and while I'm not sure about whether it goes far enough I
think it's interesting that p2p users are now a significant enough
group that the legislators are taking their interests into account.

(The sort of disconnect that might emerge if the EU opts for tolerance
while the US federal government goes for zero-tolerance is somewhat
mind boggling. Expect the mother of all trade wars ...)
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #57 of 254: Bill's Burrows (gjk) Sat 1 Feb 03 06:44
    

There could be almost as much money in that as the Drug War!
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #58 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 1 Feb 03 07:16
    
Oh f*ck.

Just seen the news (about the shuttle). My sympathies.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #59 of 254: Bill's Burrows (gjk) Sat 1 Feb 03 07:25
    

Shuttle flights (particulaly this one) have had international crews for well
over a decade now.  It's everybody's loss, so we share the grief with you,
too.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #60 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 1 Feb 03 09:51
    
The shuttle news is stunning. I slept in this morning (been running a sleep
defecit all week, and so I didn't roll out of bed until after 9AM) and
grabbed the iBook and started paging through the wires. There were a few
mentions in the RSS early on, and then they snowballed, as every single feed
I read posted at least one story about the disaster.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #61 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 1 Feb 03 09:54
    
I don't know what to make of the EUCD news. Superficially, it seems like
progress, but OTOH, it still exposes sharers to *civil* liability, right?
And by not exempting tool-makers and network-providers, it still creates
artificial pressure to design file-sharing apps to be attack-resistant
instead of usable.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #62 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 1 Feb 03 12:12
    
I'm not sure of the EU directive, either. It's still a draft. It may
still be nobbled by RIAA and MPAA. It might go the opposite way, too.
All I can say is, it looks like evidence that *someone* is beginning to
wake up and realise there's a public interest story here, not just big
corporations screaming about the e-v-i-l  p-i-r-a-t-e-s stealing their
profits.

Sorry. Still bummed out by the news, still in NASA denial (Not Another
Shuttle Accident). Normal interview questions will probably be resumed
tomorrow. (Although this does make me wonder if we're living in a
Steve Baxter novel.)
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #63 of 254: Ebru Kefeli (kefe) Sun 2 Feb 03 05:23
    
I'm one of that new users of the Well, and just have the time to read
the first chapter of the book. Unfortunately do not know the computer
technology system as you do and my question will be about a small
detail. 
Why did you pick Istanbul in a lot of cities around world to be the
Dan's last destination spending eight years over there (actually here).
And it seems he has done small except smoking hash and going to the
bazaar. Just out of curiosity, do you think Istanbul is a city like
that today and will not change in the future. Cause i think that
Istanbul is going to be sort of a metropolis of the Middle East in the
future.

In here, we have been hearing a lot about the shuttle in the news for
two days, hope they will find out the cause as soon as possible, my
condolences.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #64 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 08:35
    
Actually, Istanbul was totally random. I needed a city for Dan to have
passed his time in, and I was planning a holiday in Istanbul (I ended up
not going), so I had some travel brochures around.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #65 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 08:36
    
Oh, and Istanbul, is, of course, the Interzone from William S. Burroughs'
works.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #66 of 254: Wild Bill Burrows and his friend G-Man (gjk) Sun 2 Feb 03 09:19
    

I always thought that.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #67 of 254: Ebru Kefeli (kefe) Sun 2 Feb 03 09:57
    
I thought that it was random, but needed to ask. Thank you. 

By the way, it seems you are going to make a lot of fans in here soon.
I am telling a lot of science-fiction reading friends about Magic
Kingdom and already people started to read it. 
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #68 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 11:30
    
Hey, thanks, Ebru!
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #69 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sun 2 Feb 03 12:44
    
I visited Istanbul with a school trip back when I was about 14 -- well
over twenty years ago. Impressive architecture, masses of history, and
I was too damn young to appreciate it. (Good coffee, too.) I imagine
it's changed a lot since 1979, though ...

Cory: influence of foreign travel on your writing. Care to expound?
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #70 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 12:58
    
I've always travelled a lot -- when I was 12, my parents took a self-
financed sabattical and we spent six months travelling around Europe in a
leased Renualt 9, visiting 14 countries, including Soviet Russia. I've since
spent extended periods in Baja California, Mexico and Costa Rica. I live on
the road for a couple weeks a month, speaking at conferences and so forth,
mostly in the US and Canada, though I do get to Europe once or twice a year.

Travel has always figured heavily into the stuff I write. I like real,
mimetic settings; they seem easier to actually bring to life. Eastern
Standard Tribe is set in Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, and London (and
some other places...) all cities I'd spent substantial amounts of time in
the year before I wrote the book. I've set several stories in rural Costa
Rica, and I'm working on two novels now -- one's set in Toronto and rural
Ontario and the other's set in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

The character of these places really grounds the story for me. There's a lot
of talk about the de-regionalizing of the world in the face of globalism:
fewer accents, more transplants, but there're still really distinctive
cultures and aesthetics in different places. I'm nostalgic -- almost to the
point of sentimentality -- for the faux-futurism of bygone days, and I love
the googie architecture of LA, roadside theme motels with neon signs
advertising Color TV on back-roads near Niagara Falls, the steampunk roar of
the London Tube.

The googiest googie of them all is Disney World, of course. It feels like
such a quaint and naive lost futurism to me, from the pneumatic trash system
(a technology that I used to epitomize the futuristic non-visionaries of the
pseudo-Scientology cult in my "bugout" stories) to the Skinnerian HR
policies. One of the most fun parts of writing D&OITMK was thinking about
how the park would continue on its PeopleMover/Monorail tradition of bad
guesses about tomorrow.
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #71 of 254: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 2 Feb 03 18:29
    
"Lost futurism" makes me think of a book I've seen around, _Yesterday's 
Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future_. There's an exhibit by the 
same name (http://www.leelanauhistory.org/yt/). Have you incorporated a 
retro scifi aesthetic into any of your works? 
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #72 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Sun 2 Feb 03 20:53
    
One of my early stories, "Resume," which was published in On Spec, was about
gullible sf fans who were duped into pouring their life-savings into
gigantic fireworks displays to contact Alpha-Centaurians by a charismatic
Ur-fan.

More recently, my novella "A Place So Foreign" -- which will be collected in
my short-story collection that Four Walls Eight Windows will publish in
September, called "A Place So Foreign and Eight More" -- is about time-
leakage in a cross-temporal economy. It's set in 1902 rural Utah (a setting
I ripped off from Tom D. Fitzgerald's "Great Brain" kids books) and in a
1975 where time-travellers have ushered in a Jetsons-futuristic revolution,
and transdimensional travellers meet to trade goods across dimensions.

The story revolves around a cabal that is smuggling all the great works of
SF back in time to Jules Verne, who has put his name on the works of Twain,
Wells, and ER Burroughs. (It comes to a head when Verne demands a copy of
Neuromancer to publish under his own name).
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #73 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 3 Feb 03 04:47
    
Question from Peter Hollo (raven (at) fourplay.com.au):

Cory's commented that the future that he maps out in "Down and Out" is
         
explicitly _not_ one that he views as possible - and certainly there's
         
no small amount of parable/parody in the way it's written. Cory also  
         
mentions lower down that the "new movement" which I myself have
pondered that Charlie & Cory are at the vanguard of tends to treat
computers as actual/non-metaphorical fodder (although Charlie's
hilarious and clever "Atrocity Archive" sequence is doing something
very twisted to everything from number theory to network admin to
quantum physics) but plays fast and loose with bio/nano-tech...        
                             
                                                                      
         
I was wondering how this reflects on that somewhat jaded but (I think)
         
still useful term, "hard science fiction"? And possibly with the      
         
somewhat less-used "radical hard sf", which was coined I believe by   
         
David Pringle and Colin Greenland in Interzone and referred to various
         
British writers such as Paul McAuley and Iain M Banks (and of course
the Australian Greg Egan), who were attempting a form of hard science  
            
fiction that reacted against "the trad SF approach of filtering the   
         
future through One Big Change -- nanotechnology, immortality, biotech.
         
If there's one thing we've learnt from the twentieth century, it's
that change is continuous and is advancing on a thousand different
fronts."          
(see http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/intpmca.htm)            
         
                                                                      
         
I imagine Charlie and Cory both in a sense fitting in with the idea of
         
radical hard science fiction, but going about it in a somewhat more   
         
relaxed manner... Where do you think this potential new movement might
         
be positioned in relation to (radical) hard science fiction (and
indeed what do you think of the terms)?                                
               
                                                                      
         
(...inasmuch as you care about pigeon-holes like this at all, of
course; but it's interesting to filter this via Michael Swanwick's
introduction to Paul McAuley's novella "Making History" - see 
http://www.michaelswanwick.com/nonfic/mcauley.html - in which he      
         
explains why "radical hard sf" is important and noteworthy in
discussing McAuley...)                                                 
                   
                                                                      
         
PS to Charlie - another writer who comes to mind is Al Reynolds,      
         
although he takes a somewhat different and perhaps "harder" approach -
         
although in such a far-future setting that it's hard to tell what's   
         
really "hard". A little while ago you interviewed Alastair Reynolds
and you (or he - I'm not sure, as I correspond with him too *g*) were
going to make the transcript available. Any chance of that? 

[[ Postscript from Charlie: I've got some answers, but I figured it
would be interesting to see what Cory makes of Peter's questions before
I open my trap :) ]]
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #74 of 254: Life in the big (doctorow) Mon 3 Feb 03 08:36
    
I think that writers like Karl Schroeder (who actually understands physics)
and Peter Watts (who actually understand biology) are better bunched in with
the radical-hard group than me.

I'm not a scientist -- don't really even have a science background. Without
google, I can't even name the laws of thermodynamics in order. What I *do*
have a strong background in is *technology*. Scientific advances are
interesting -- and I like to read SF written about them -- but I am
perfectly happy to treat science in a Clarke's-Law/indistinguishable-from-
magic way.

But I like to think of myself as rigorously imaginative when I write about
*technology*, regardless of the science that it sits atop. It's a cliche
that you don't have to know how a TV works to watch one: you also don't have
to know how a TV works to write about the way that it might evolve and what
that might do to our society. I don't know much about the physics (or even
the math) of networking, but I'm perfectly capable of thinking hard about
what P2P nets mean in modern civilization.

Indeed, I think that science sometimes gets in the way of understanding
technology. In the heyday of P2P, a lot of greybeards came forward to tell
us that P2P networking is nothing new, they'd been doing it since UUCP,
since FIDOnet, since time immemorial. I'm sure they're correct (my first
email address had !bangs in it), but that isn't a very interesting fact.

It's indisputable that the P2P of UUCP is *not* the P2P of Napster or
Gnutella. Plugging your ears, stroking your beard and blithely calling on
people to move on, nothing to see here doesn't change that fact.

I don't think of this fiction as "radical hard" at all. I think of it as
"overclocked." Made by hackers, encrufted with radiator fins, built with a
joyous disregard for the erosion of mean-times-between-failure and duty-
cycle of the critical components. The rallying cry is YMMV!, not
"reproducible science."
  
inkwell.vue.174 : Cory Doctorow: Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
permalink #75 of 254: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Mon 3 Feb 03 09:21
    
Okay,  time for my two eurocents ...

"Radical Hard SF" is an empty slogan, but an interesting one. It was
coined by Simon Ounsley, one of the original Interzone editorial
collective, around 1984-5, as I recall it. The IZ collective started
that British SF mag as a successor to "New Worlds" (which wasn't then
publishing -- it was resurrected as an anthology in the late 80's/early
90's and may yet rise again). Before Dave Pringle acquired complete
control, IZ had a much more eclectic team of amateur editors. They were
generally dissatisfied with the focus of a lot of the post new-wave SF
 they  were getting by way of submissions -- it was mostly  sub-New
Worlds stuff -- and wanted to see something new and fresh. At the same
time, cyberpunk was beginning to happen in the US. So Simon coined the
phrase "radical hard SF" and issued a challenge through the editorial
page to the readers and writers to send the stuff in. He cunningly
avoided _defining_ it; any definition  would have aged unrecognizably.
Instead, he left it up to the writers ...

Paul MacAuley is one of the Interzone generation of writers most
closely associated with the call. Others include Kim Newman, Greg Egan,
and so on -- but it's not a movement; it's a backdrop for writers to
do their own thing. (I was a bit too late and too young to really fit
in that basket -- while I sold my first story to Interzone in 1986, I
didn't really get a complete handle on what I was doing until around
1990-93, and besides, I'm going to come to that in a minute :)

(Apropos Peter's question about my Al Reynolds interview: it is being
printed in the current issue of "Dreamwatch" magazine in the UK. I'll
add it to my website as soon as the copyright position allows.)

Now, enough about everyone else, let's talk about me. Like Cory, I'm
not a scientist -- certainly not a physicist or astronomer, as many of
the old school of SF writers were prior to the 1960's. However, I _do_
have a couple of science degrees (in pharmacy  -- a biomedical
speciality -- and computer science). I'm just educated enough  to know
how ignorant I really am, and to read eclectically.  The John W.
Campbell generation of writers knew their aerospace engineering, radio
telegraphy, and astronomy; I wouldn't measure up in those fields.
However, I _do_ know computers and operating systems and a chunk of
algorithmics and complexity theory and pharmacodynamics and genetics.
These are mostly new sciences that weren't around to  be the basis of
written SF  in the 1930's, and it should be no surprise that what I
emit doesn't much resemble the old school.

And it's not just me.

Take John Meaney. Here's a hard-SF writer who has a handle on quantum
entanglement, complexity theory, and oriental martial arts. (If you
haven't read his books you're missing something: one of the brightest
undiscovered gems of British SF.) Or Ken MacLeod -- former socialist
agitator and mainframe driver. I suppose I should enlist the name of
Greg Egan in this cause -- he certainly gets it, but he's so damn smart
he makes me feel like a snail. These are guys at  the _hard_ end of
what I suppose you could call Algorithmic SF. (Well okay, Ken is
towards the softer end.) Position Cory at the other end -- the humanist
to Egan's cyberpunk, if you believe in polar opposites -- and you've
begin to map out  the shape of the new generation in SF.

In summary: 1930-1958: space travel, outer space, engineering.
1959-1984: inner space, psychological exploration, new wave, literary
virtues.
1985-???: cyberspace, stylistic virtues, complexity, reticulation.

"Are we not Cyberpunk? We are Devo!"
  

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