inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #26 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 19 Sep 12 02:28
    
Jon, for the detailed answer to #25 I will defer to Cory (and to the
front matter in the free ebook which explains it in some detail), but
let's just say for now: the hardcover went into reprint last week, so 
the common knowledge that a free version would be available this week
didn't dent our early sales.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #27 of 119: Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Wed 19 Sep 12 04:27
    
The issue is threefold:

1. Commercial. Providing that more people treat the free ebook as an
enticement than a replacement, we're ahead of the game. There's nothing we
can do to coerce people who are determined not to pay for the book from
getting it for free (there was a "pirate" ebook online the day this went on
sale -- weeks before I got time to put the official one online). So we have
to *convince*, rather than coerce. Visibly enacting generous, ethical
behavior encourages readers to reciprocate with their own generosity.

2. Moral. The war on copying is responsible for the bulk surveillance,
censorship and control measures enacted in law and treaties around the world
(TPP, ACTA, IPRED, DMCA, DEA). By insisting that it's possible and desirable
to prevent copying, we legitimize these efforts. Besides, I copy my ass off
and always had. I'd have been a virgin to the age of 25 if not for mix tapes
. It's the height of hypocrisy to characterize my own copying as normal and
harmless and everyone else's as evil theft.

3. Artistic. It's the 21st century. Anything anyone likes will be widely
copied. Copying will never, ever get harder. Our grandchildren will marvel
at how shitty and cumbersome copying was in 2012. The contemporary reality
of art is that it is copied. If you're making art that isn't intended for
copying, you're not making contemporary art. There's nothing wrong with
being retro. If your muse wants you to play blacksmith at a Civil War
reenactment, go and do your thing, dude. But I'm a science fiction writer,
and I'm supposed to be -- at the very least -- contemporary, if not actually
futuristic. So I make artistic works that are designed to be copied from
birth.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #28 of 119: Rob Myers (robmyers) Wed 19 Sep 12 04:45
    
Cory, the license this time is NC-ND, and you explain in the book that
this is due to the publishers wanting to manage translation rights.
How you would *like* this to ultimately work, and will the industry
need to change much to support it?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #29 of 119: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 19 Sep 12 05:01
    
Also, regarding the point repeated below, and related to <robmyers>'
question:

"The contemporary reality of art is that it is copied. If you're
making art that isn't intended for copying, you're not making
contemporary art."

Can you talk about the power of the "free culture" license
(http://freedomdefined.org/Licenses/CC-BY) as a driver for creativity?
How important is derivation and modification to aesthetic process? 
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #30 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 19 Sep 12 08:43
    
Rob #28: from my angle, the issue is this: translations would happen
anyway, if we released the book under a permissive license, but they'd
be amateur translations. This is not a knock on amateurism -- some
amateur translations are very good indeed -- but with a publisher in
the loop and paying for a translation we're more likely to see an
element of quality control, if only because the publisher hopefully has
an interest in producing a quality product. (We may also get a rush
job because translators are paid by the page, but that's a trade-off.)

This doesn't always happen, of course.

Jonl #29: that's really not something I can address coherently -- you
need to await Cory's response.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #31 of 119: Ed Ward (captward) Wed 19 Sep 12 10:34
    
Via e-mail from Martin:

Charlie & Cory - the two of you and others seem to have shown a few
times and a few years ago that giving away the ebook for free does'nt
hurt sales that hard, apparantly readers want a physical book for the
shelf or an ebook that's better formatted than the html dump. The first
item is probably especially true for genre readers .

Publishers should know this (if they know their readers), and are
often still reluctant to give the stuff away for free. Is this just a
problem of inertia, or are they (whoever, not knowing the publishing
landscape) trying to protect future business models that might be
impossible with CC-ed content?

Are the publishers looking into the past or into the future?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #32 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 19 Sep 12 12:54
    
I had two immediate take-aways from reading your book. One was a much
deeper appreciation for variations of the concept of the singularity -
you both take it in a number of possible directions rather than the
orthodox view of Ray Kurzwiel. Til now I hadn't given the concept much
credence. Tho I wonder if it isn't just a great backdrop for good
science fiction. What do you each actually think about the singularity
as an eventuality?; similar or different for humans and machines?

The second was a great appreciation for humanity 1.0 as being the real
science fiction. I'm not a luddite by any means, but the more I
suspended my belief to become immersed in the universes you create the
more I felt that basic humanity itself will be around for quite a long
time and is much more difficult to imagine in its actual possible
futures. 

Word to future readers, don't speed read this book as I did. Much like
being in the ending of Space Odyssey, too much at once and a good
reason why you should buy it and read it slowly.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #33 of 119: Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Wed 19 Sep 12 13:37
    
@RobMyers: Well, I hope that at some point, I'll have a semistable set of
foreign publishers who are comfortable with the idea, and it it won't be a
problem.

@JonL: It's a truism for me that everyone considers her/his own contribution
to be a truly creative work, and all the bits s/he builds upon (the form of
the novel, the English language, the idea of Singularity, etc) to be mere
plumbing and not really a vital part of the creative process.

The reality is that all works are made of other works. The reason writers
are typically photographed in front of a wall of other peoples' books is by
way of saying "Look at all the cool ideas I stole!"

@Martin: I think the problem is that publishers are huge and unweildy. The
scale they sought through mergers and acquistions 10-20 years ago has turned
them into timid behemoths with top-down edicts about the Future of the
Business, especially when it comes to ebooks.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #34 of 119: Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Wed 19 Sep 12 13:42
    
@tcn Thanks for the kind words. I think the Singularity is best understood
as a metaphor for our contemporary anxiety about the speed of tech change. I
don't think it's useful as a literal prediction, but it does show you what
mind-body dualism is transformed into when you apply titanic secular and
technological pressure to it.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #35 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 19 Sep 12 14:10
    
Lord knows we tried applying a lot of drugs to it in the 60's and 70's
:)
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #36 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 19 Sep 12 14:11
    
Caught your #torchat...don't you love that kind of tech? Were you
surprised or intrigued by any of the questions?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #37 of 119: Dave Waite (dwaite) Wed 19 Sep 12 21:30
    
I just downloaded the file from bn.com.  I finished Rule 34 about a
week ago and really enjoyed many aspects of that story in near future
tech.  This one seems to be a little further in the future setting.

My question is how do you decide how far out you need to go to make it
plausible that the tech being used is likely to be there?  Is it just
shooting at a moving target?  I'd love to hear you talk about tech in
the future and near future and how you apply it in your stories.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #38 of 119: Via E-Mail From Winkhorst (captward) Thu 20 Sep 12 01:23
    
I haven't read TROTN yet, but it seems you guys have achieved
something together that is both chimeric and chimerical, and while
close to your respective outputs, it percolates with a wholly different
voice, or more exactly, it feels like the 'same', but 'different'.
Will you keep collaborating in the future? And why do you think science
fiction is so prone to collaborations? I would say they are
tremendously rare in any other genre?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #39 of 119: Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Thu 20 Sep 12 02:54
    
@tcn I think Twitter's a little awkward for chats, tbh. While I like the
cabined-off nature of the commitment (blocking 1h to pay close attention is
a LOT easier in my workflow than the sort of week-long intermittent
commitment from the WELL), the mixed contexts are a PITA. People who follow
me bitch that they're seeing their timeline filled up with #torchat stuff.
Yes, they have a filter problem, but Twitter collapses so many contexts into
a single one that it means that specialized tasks -- chatting -- ends up
pissing off lots of people.

@dwaite: My favorite trick is the "unspecified near-future contrafactual"
timeline. Some time within a couple years, with a bunch of stuff that's
familiar, and some stuff that seems possible, and then one or two things
that are clearly not on the drawing board and stretch plausibility. I like
that timeslot because it is so *atemporal* - a no-time in which the story's
goals can trump realism.

@captward: It's in the genre's DNA. In Damon Knight's FUTURIANS, he talks
about Asimov, Blish, Kidd, Knight, Kornbluth, Merril, Pohl, Woolheim et al
shared a house (Merril's memoir went further and implied a certain degree of
proto-polyamorism), tropes, typewriters, everything. One writer would invent
a new wrinkle on FTL travel and the rest would write it through and through,
all the possibilities, individually and in pairs, something between a
musical jam and a peer-review session for a scientific proposition.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #40 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 20 Sep 12 02:58
    
Ed #31 - yes, publishers know this stuff.

The trouble is, publishing is an ancient industry, and has been around
in its present form, modulo the odd format shift (e.g. the replacement
of mass-market paperbacks via grocery stores with hardcovers via big
box bookstores as the backbone of the midlist in the early-to-mid
1990s) for over a century.

It's also a relatively marginal, unprofitable industry: nobody goes
into publishing to make a fortune. (I'm pleased to say that the
proportion of corporate sociopaths I've encountered in the field in a
couple of decades is precisely zero. I've heard *rumours*, but they
usually end with "... and then they went looking for a line of work
that had more potential for getting rich.")

Finally, during the 1980s and 1990s a wave of corporate take-overs
resulted in most of the traditional publishing houses being swept up by
multinational entertainment conglomerates.

Because it's a marginal business, successful publishers tend to be
risk-averse. They're also not notably computer literate -- they use
them as tools, but as a rule you don't get CS majors running publishing
houses. (I hasten to add that they're not stupid either; they're
generally very bright, literate people who went into publishing because
they loved books. But they're *not* IT geeks, as a rule.) 

And this tends to colour their perceptions.

Publishing isn't just about publishers; it's about the distribution
chain that gets the product into the end-users' hands. This
traditionally involved wholesalers and retail stores, and sales
channels, and warehouses, and mechanisms for handling returned stock
(which was sold on credit terms -- booksellers paid the publishers'
invoice at 90 or 120 days, or returned the stock as unsold inventory).
These channels *still exist* -- ebooks are still less than 50% of the
market. And the publishers are generally very wary about doing anything
that might piss off the general book trade. This is why, for example,
you can't buy your ebooks at a discount direct from the big publishers'
own web sites. 

As for DRM, this is mandatory at five of the big six. Because they're
not-terribly-profitable minor subsidiaries of large media
organizations, whose boards have mandated DRM from the top down (often
in response to internal lobbying by their music, film, TV and other
media arms). Yes, it's counter-productive and dumb. But it's also the
sort of response you expect to see from execs who are acutely aware
that they're responsible to their shareholders for not screwing the
pooch to the tune of a couple of billion dollars. Icebergs don't melt
very fast!
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #41 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 20 Sep 12 03:07
    
@tcn: my twitter feed basically exploded messily, splattering random
gobbets of unlinked conversations all over the place.

I'm happier in a slower environment like the WELL that permits
well-constructed replies. But then, I'm an old USENET head.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #42 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 20 Sep 12 03:23
    
#37, on plausibility of tech in SF settings: one problem with the
singularity is that it presupposes the existence of such vastly
trans-human intelligences (either AIs or IAs -- intelligence-amplified
humans) that we can't make any useful estimates of what will or will
not be possible at any given time post-singularity, other than that we
should stick within the limits of physics.

I'm a lot more comfortable with non-singularity extrapolation these
days: we can at least make some plausible guesses about what's going to
be out there in ten years time, and they're pretty science fictional
-- even though about 30-50% of all the cars currently on the roads will
still be there, and ditto most of the people currently alive. The
world of 2022 is roughly 80% here today. Another 18% is on the radar:
it's in the labs, or on the road maps, and nobody's going to be
terribly surprised by it. But there's a final 2% which is very hard to
predict, and that's what makes the near future so interesting to tinker
with. 
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #43 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 20 Sep 12 05:47
    
What particular possibilites capture your imagination these days? Do
you think the "next big leap" will be in tech or human evolution, or
some combination of both?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #44 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 20 Sep 12 06:59
    
Ted, human evolution doesn't make big leaps within a human-friendly
time scale, by definition.

Tech ... now, that's a hard question. On the one hand, the low-hanging
fruit in scientific research have all been plucked; it mostly takes
teamwork and a big budget to push back the frontiers of sciencce -- or
lots of individuals beavering away in their own highly specialised
corner for decades. But on the other hand, there is still scope for
huge advances, even without invoking new laws of nature or an AI
singularity. Progress in electronics and communication today is
probably about where progress in aviation was in the 1950s; the end of
miniaturization/speed improvements/reductions in power draw is in sight
but there's a long way to go yet. Meanwhile we've barely begun to
scratch the surface of bioengineering, artificial life, and actual
working molecular nanotechnology -- but the progress in electronics I
just mentioned is a necessary and spectacularly useful prerequisite for
breakthroughs in those fields. 

Oh, and finally there's the potential for the totally unforseen. Which
we should pencil in as a routine " ... and then, every ten years,
something huge and unexpected happens."
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #45 of 119: Via E-Mail From Bambi (captward) Thu 20 Sep 12 07:34
    
I have been reading Science Fiction for a very long time (since I was
a pre teen), and have read books by both Cory and Charlie. But for
those who maybe are maybe starting out with books by these two guys, or
maybe new to SciFi / fantasy, fantastic genre, or both, maybe a little
history on how Cory and Charlie got started in writing, and SciFi /
fantasy / fantastic genre(s) in particular would be great.

Thanks for the great discussion!
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #46 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Thu 20 Sep 12 09:07
    
Thanks for <44> Charlie. And that answers what was going to be another
question as to the current sentiment for the borg or hive mind. Don't
think that or the singularity are going to occur anytime soon, if at
all. Sort of see both as the tech version of the New Agers of the 80's
and 90's.

I really like your penciled in routine: "something huge and unexpected
happens". Think that should become a mantra. That was some of the
great fun of your book ... just as I thought I knew where you were
going, there was a leap. I had the feeling you both were being carried
along during the writing w/o a definite end point from the beginning
and may have been surprised how it all turned out. Yes, no?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #47 of 119: Via email from Winkhorst (jonl) Thu 20 Sep 12 13:17
    
Is TROTN part of what I perceive as a theme, or trend, which we could
call the The Torpid Singularity, in which the Singularity madness of
the nineties and noughties is put on hold, and we start to see that the
road that gets to Geekdom in Heaven (if that's its final destination,
which I don't think it is) is longer and way more messier than we
thought, that it's going to be a process so slow that we're going to be
able to speculate away at leisure, that the sudden Skynet moment when
machine intelligence takes over, the instant fix of sensawunda, is not
around the corner, that it might elude us for a while or even forever?

I'm thinking about Egan's Zendegi, for instance.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #48 of 119: Type A: The only type that counts! (doctorow) Thu 20 Sep 12 13:18
    
@Bambi I started with Star Wars; in 1977, it was the most complex narrative
six-year-old me had seen. The idea of a complex story totally seized me and
I went home, gathered up scrap paper, and fashioned a paperback out of it by
trimming and stapling it, and then wrote out the Star Wars story as best as
I could, writing it over and over like a kid practicing scales. I found it
SO enjoyable that I declared I'd be a writer. I started sending out fiction
to magazines when I was 16 and selling when I was 17. Made my first "pro
market" sale 10 years later, and my first novel came out 5 years after that.

@tcn: I fantisize about functional high resolution anatomical scanners.
Something with 10x the resolution of CT scan, none of the rads, that you can
move and walk around in. I've got chronic back pain (as does a large slice
of the population) and if I could get this, they could actually figure out
what's causing it instead of saying things like, "Maybe if we cut your belly
open, moved all your organs out of your abdominal cavity and replaced a
couple discs you'd feel better (eventually)."
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #49 of 119: Via email from Winkhorst (jonl) Thu 20 Sep 12 13:49
    
Is TROTN part of what I perceive as a theme, or trend, which we could
call the The Torpid Singularity, in which the Singularity madness of
the nineties and noughties is put on hold, and we start to see that the
road that gets to Geekdom in Heaven (if that's its final destination,
which I don't think it is) is longer and way more messier than we
thought, that it's going to be a process so slow that we're going to be
able to speculate away at leisure, that the sudden Skynet moment when
machine intelligence takes over, the instant fix of sensawunda, is not
around the corner, that it might elude us for a while or even forever?

I'm thinking about Egan's Zendegi, for instance.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #50 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Fri 21 Sep 12 09:45
    
Winkhorst: I try not to follow trends!

However, I will note that yes, the singularity is not a new idea --
it's 20-25 years old in SF. Which means there's time for both an
immediate backlash (which typically takes a decade to show up in
book-length form) and then a more nuanced critical response. And I'd
like to think RoTN was part of that. 

(Alas, Zendegi occupies a niche in my overflowing to-read library.
Because I'm unable to speed read due to retinal damage, and while I'm
writing I find it difficult to read fiction for pleasure. So you
probably read a lot more SF than I do ...)
  

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