Episode 72: Cory Doctorow


Welcome to the world. Shapers conversations science fiction the green a process and this episode's guest after all to another episode of the world. Shapers the podcast right. I talked to other sites fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process. My name is edward role. I am also an author of science fiction and fantasy Are we start by giving you idea of some of the stuff i've been working on and of course the main thing right now is shapers of worlds which i'm not exactly working on it because it's out it's an anthology of short fiction featuring some of the authors who were guests during the first year of this podcast and it's quite amazing list of authors There's new fiction from sean maguire. Tanya huff david weber. Eliadah junior dj butler christopher rocky. Oh john c rights chevy dna and some guy named edward willett and there are also stories by john. Scouse e david brin joe haldeman. Judy scher asia. Funded the doctor charles. Egan gareth l powell derek. Coon skin three dire so among that group you have winters of every major award in the science fiction. Fantasy field international bestseller's and the like so. It's a really great collection. I hope you'll check it out again. It's called shapers of worlds. It's available and e book everywhere. The trade paperback is out there and can be ordered to bit it's not Immediately in stock in some places but you can order it and you can also go to your local bookstore. They can certainly bring it in or you could go to your library and have them bring it in or you can order it directly from the publisher which is my publisher as in the publishing company. I own called the shadow pop press and that's just shadow. Press dot com. You can download the e book directly from there Or you can order the trade paperback directly from there. I've already started working on the second. Shapers of worlds anthology. This one having been successfully kick started earlier this year. Now planning to run a kickstarter for a second anthology. Probably march of twenty twenty one and the authors that are already lined up include c. new fiction from jeremy shaw brian thomas schmidt kelley armstrong re brennan Helen dale susan forest. Adria lake craft. Ira newman candice. Jane dorsey Tim pratt and There's some that might be original. Might be reprints. James alan gardner for example and definitely reprints from jeffrey a carver kerry von David d lene likely reprint barbara hambly matt hughes and sterling and are still some that i might get something from who haven't committed yet but They haven't said no so. We'll see how that all goes So again look for that kickstarter. Probably in march the other two things. I'll just mentioned briefly. I do have the third book in my world. Shaper series from da books is out an e book in trade paperback. It's called the moonlit world. I like to call it. Where roles vampires and peasants and again that set an elaborate shaped worlds where the shapers of the world's live inside them rather like the authors that i interview on this podcast living inside the books that they create Most of them probably wouldn't want to do that. I wouldn't particularly want to live in some of the world's i've created. But if you could well. That's kind of the premise of Of world-shapers the first book takes place in my main characters shaped world. Which is very much like ours. The second book as she embarks on a quest to travel to many of these shaped worlds and gathered than all of them so that they can all be protected from the ravages of bad guy called the adversary. The second book called master of the world takes place in jules verne inspired a world's very steam punky with submarines airships and that sort of thing and then again Moonlit world the moonlit world. The third book is where wilson vampires so check out and the other new thing i have out is a young adult. Fantasy called blue fire. This is written under my pseudonym. E c blake this edition of it is under ec. Blake was originally published under another title About three or four years ago but from a publisher who is sadly no longer with us. So this is an epic y fantasy quite long about one hundred thirteen thousand words. What's a good sized chunk of fantasy. It's out an e book right now. And i'm working on getting the print a book out in pretty short order. And there's some other stuff coming from shadow pop press. I also have a science fiction. Do allergy called peregrine rising. Right to know and falcons egg Sort of a space opera geology. Those two and they have also been working by a defunct publisher so they are also now out in e book from shadow. Pop rest so again if you go to shop dot com. You can get those if you went to check out all my books and by autographed copies. Edward willett shop dot com is an online store. That i run where you can do that. Okay that takes care of that. I should just mention that The world shapers. Podcast is part of the schedule and podcast network. And then it's time to move onto episodes exciting guest course. Dr gray doctor is a science fiction author activist and journalist. He is the author of radicalized and walkaway science fiction for adults. So why a graphic novel called in real life the nonfiction business book information doesn't want to be free and young adult novels like homeland pirates cinema and little brother. His latest book is posing the monster slayer a picture book for young readers. His next book which will actually be his latest book. When this goes live it will be out is attack surface a an adult sequel to little brother. He maintains a daily blog at pearl. Distict dot net. He works for the electronic. Frontier foundation is a mit media. Lab research. Affiliate is a visiting professor of computer science at open university of visiting professor of practice at the university of north carolina school of library and information science and co founded. The uk open rights group born in toronto. He now lives in los angeles. Oh cory welcome to the world shapers. Thank you thank you for having me on that. It's nice to talk to you. Yeah we met. Two long time ago. With the canadian connection i think it might have been an edmonton at concern about two thousand or something. Release scotch when. I wasn't at that but i think in winnipeg at the world con- oh that yeah a world somewhere else at some point or another but that also sounds positive so thanks so much for for doing this so we're gonna talk about The little brother series in particular as an example of your creative process. But before we get to that i always take my guests back into the of time and so i'd like to take you back into the mists of time and find out you know all that biographical stuff. Where did you grow up. And how did you get interested in writing and in particular Science fiction and fantasy well science fiction. I don't think you read a lot of fantasy. perhaps. But i've written some. I've got one fantasy novel. Although it's upending all about wi fi comes to town someone leaves town And and have written some fantasy stories. So yeah a little bit. So my dad was a Comics and fantasy fan conan fan. And when i was little he used to tell me. Modified conan stories is a trotskyist. So you're telling me modified conan in which conan was replaced by a trio called. Harry larry and mary and in which their endgame was after. You know felling. The grand vizier was not to Install themselves on the throne but rather to create like a socialist. And when my mom was in grad school my dad used to turn on the tv and we would watch judith. Merril introduced Doctor who on tv ontario. And i was very Excited to watch doctor. Who and my dad knew judy through radical political circles. And when i was about nine or ten years old my school went on a trip to the space out library. Which is the the science fiction reference library. She founded in toronto where she was the writer in residence and she came out and said you know kids. If you write a story you can bring it to me and critique it for you which is really a remarkable thing that that the closest analogy canadian analogy. I came up with wing coming out and going look look kids. If you're ever having a pickup game and you want some tips. Just just give me a call. And i'll come by and help you out with it. So you know except judy wasn't a torian. Gretzky is but that was like very inspiring and then when i and i knew judy from tv and recognized her and so it was like doubly exciting to to have her invite us down to the to the library to give her manuscripts and then within a year to we also went down to boca science fiction bookstore. The oldest science fiction bookstore in the world and Again in school trip and the one behind the counter was writer. Who was just about to sell her for a story. Tanya huff and i i was you know maybe ten or maybe eleven and i had a dollar and tanya asked me what kind of like to read i told her and she me back to the use section and she found me a copy of little fuzzy. That was a dollar by h beam piper. Was the first book ever spent my own money on. And i started bringing manuscripts to judy and to tanya I had started writing a few years before. The first thing i remember writing was after seeing star wars at the university theater blur street and you know having a really exciting time. Not because it's the greatest movie ever written. But because kids audiovisual material was so poor like david and goliath a few other terrible shows and then just having a complex narrative was very exciting for me really chimed with me and i went home and i just started writing out the star wars story over and over again like a kid practicing scales on the piano and so i started writing stories and started. Bring them to judy and to tanya who bless her socks would would actually like while working in the bookstore allow you know callo fourteen year old to bring her stories and would critique them for me and give me writing advice and judy what she would do is use these workshops or these one sessions as a way to start workshops so she would find writers who are writing about the same level and get them to start meeting together and the you know the library spare room and so on. So that's how i started work. Shopping eventually with the ceaseless street irregulars which you know. It's cross schrader and David nickel and peter watts from time to time and madeleine. Ashby and Hugh spencer and many other writers really exciting group of people and i also started writing Going to writing workshop at my high school this groovy alternative school in downtown toronto and and it was run exactly like all these other workshops. i'd been to. And i couldn't figure it out until i learned that had actually started that workshop to as part of a writer in the schools program and so and then you know when i started selling stories started so my first story to on spec when i was seventeen to their youth issue and When i started selling stories. I joined canada and i started going to the hydra meetings and these were again a thing that judy started they. Were potluck dinners. That would be a moveable feast from from one house to the other every six or eight weeks. And that's how the prisoners gravity people and got involved with tv on -tario and helped out on the show and so really like there are a lot of people in the story. Put the one name that comes up over. And over and judy merrill and while judy was like hugely important to my life i mean she liked me just fine but it wasn't like i was her protege right. She did this for so many people She basically created a formal science fiction writers apprenticeship in toronto at that i lucked into there are other. There are other factors to like. It was the early days of online Writer in phantom and for a time there was a dial up service called genie. That general electric ron was very expensive to use during the day They they used it to absorb their access capacity at night so it was a flat rate to use it from six. Pm to eight am and then it was like twenty dollars an hour during the day but they gave free unlimited access to science fiction writers america members and every sf w a member who had a modem was on genie so all the famous every famous writer in the world was on genie. And it's like a seventeen year old. I joined this. Bbs and was like trading quips. With you know. Neil gaiman and and george martin and you know hanging out with damon knight and that's how i ended up going to clarion. That's how i met my editor. Patrick nielsen hayden You know people. They all pitched in like like fifteen bucks each to send me to clarion all the writers there And so it was really. It was a remarkable time. I don't think there's ever been a time quite like it for becoming a writer. I mean there are other things that are that are that writers today have going for them like our own and what pat and other ways of forming communities and so on but that was a fabulous moment. Unfortunately i lived in weaver in saskatchewan where i didn't have any of that stuff. Never he to you need to be. You need to do a curled which has moved from to toronto. Tanya was actually what my second or third guest on here. So i've had fabulous And rob sawyer. Had the canadian connection judas. Sinead ahead that canadian going on very early on here on the on the cast while tanya likes to embarrass me by telling a story about when we were at the london world con- and chatting and someone came up to her after and said. Do you know corey dr. Oh and he was like yeah. I know since you know his pads. Well you just looking at your bio you essentially attended four universities without obtaining a degree. So how did your career evolve from from from all of that. Well you know. I kept writing and selling and i went to clarion and then had a drought after that i sold some stories beforehand but it took me a long time to the really excellent stuff that i learned there And and then you know eventually figured it out and University was not really for me. I'd gone to an amazing alternative school where you know really. We've been in charge of designing our own curriculum. And i'd spent seven years in this four year program taking a year out to right and taking era to organize street demonstrations against the invasion of iraq. Under the first george bush and doing just all kinds of stuff that was highly educational but not formally recognize until i finally got a diploma and went to university and university was far more regimented and really felt like a giant step backwards and so i got a job. In the burgeoning tech industry doing for voyager which was the best cd rom publisher. The world had ever seen really an amazing dream. Come true job. And from there. I got into the web and never looked back but but i kept on writing and kept on selling stories and eventually books and novels. What was your first. Mobile was down and out in the magic kingdom so it was a short novel. And it was in. Part inspired. By bob wilson so i i went to his signing four spin at boca and i spent a great book but the first thing i noticed about it was that it was only two hundred pages long and i was like you know bob. This book is two hundred pages long as it even a novel. So yeah fifty. Thousand words is a novel like really totally fifty thousand words is novel and i was like well. Finally i figured out how i can finish a book. I'm only going to write one. That's fifty thousand words long and the magic kingdom is a fifty thousand word novel. And you know i i wrote. I was writing on it. And i went to new york. We took the amtrak to new york for christmas and stayed with my cousin and midtown and had lunch with the nielsen. Hayden's were at toward now. Patrick nielsen hayden is of is present therapy. Who's the senior editor there. And i had gone and read slush tour before and and and hung out with patrick and knew him from genie and over lunch he said like. When are you gonna write me a novel. And i said well. I have a book that i'm working on now and he said well. How's it coming. And i said well i've got you know i've got. I've gotten quite a ways into it. And he said if you got three chapters in an outline. And i said yes and he said well then you better send it to me and then that was december and he bought it in june and that was what year that was. I wanna say it was like two thousand but it didn't come out until two thousand and three was my second book. I had written a book with carl schrader beforehand Someone i knew from the well which was another online service started by the people who did the whole earth. Catalog had seen that. I was selling a lot of short stories and she said. Do you want to write a book on how to publish fiction. And i said yes but i've never novel to novelist. She said go find a novelist. So i asked carla if he would write the novel chapters and i would right the short story chapters and we wrote this. The complete idiot's guide to publishing science fiction together. I have a copy of it somewhere. It was looking at my bookshelf. Here to see if i could scottish remember getting when it came out. Yeah that was very good first book project because it's superstructure. They had a real diverse first chorus formula. You know like down to like each chapter has so many sections. Each section has so many paragraphs here is what you know makes a complete section and so on and if you could if you could tick all the boxes you'd have a functional book at the end and everybody that complete idiots. I did right. Genetics demystified which is pretty funny. Considering had to teach myself genetics derided. I always worry about that just a little bit. I have a friend who writes good books about genomics. Adam rutherford whose latest book is. Is that a brilliant. Genomics book called how to argue with a racist which is a terrific title yet. Is your you you move short stories two novels. Why do you find the difference between the two for figure. More of a short story writer by temperament or a novelist. Or do you plant sorry. Do you think there's a difference. I mean there's definitely a difference. I mean at this point in terms of like how much work i put into one versus the other. I'm definitely novelist. I have probably written more words of novel than of short story. Although i've i've written a lot more short stories than novels but in terms of overall volume and i've won prizes for both and i think the major difference is that it's it's about how much it's about how much how much ornamentation you get you know like i. I him at to not to packing for a trip. Which is thing we used to do before the plague. And there'd be some trips where you just take a carry on bag and that's a short story and you've got to be pretty ruthless with what goes in that bag and then some where you take like a suitcase and that's like a novella and you can you know you can carry some comfort items. Maybe like when. I go when i go on tour. I always bring a big suitcase. And it's got an air a collapsible kettle and some coffee and a nice flask of whisky in it. You're gonna have some comfort items. You can have some ornamentation. You can have a nice jacket to wear if you're in case you go good dinner and then with a novel. It's like getting a shipping container. And you get to put everything in it you know we've written a lot of nonfiction as well with all of your interest in electronic rights and freedom of information and all that stuff at you find that the nonfiction writing feeds into your fiction writing both in skill side and on i mean obviously you you tend to have this the same kind of overall philosophy. I guess going through your nonfiction and fiction. Is that safe to say for the most part. Here's what i what i like. It really depends on what you mean by the nonfiction i would. I wouldn't defied divide it so rigorously into fiction or nonfiction or short and long form pieces. I would divide it into what sometimes called stock and flow so stock are the longer synthetic pieces that that are really significant and that kind of stand on their own and flow. Is the stuff that you do for a moment to moment and so for me. Flow is blogging. Blogging is a thing that i have done for now almost twenty years in fact more than twenty years if you count a bunch of things that i did that were indistinguishable from blogging accept. The word blogging hadn't been invented yet and for me blogging as the process of taking the thing that a writer might jot a commonplace book to remind themselves of it later and instead publishing it along with enough context that a notional stranger can understand why you're taking notes on it right what it is that. Snag your attention about it. And that process of writing material for strangers is powerfully. Mnemonic at it makes you think through why this is important to you why this is caught your interest and it makes you big be rigorous and you can't cheat the way that you do with your own nuts where you make these notes that you think are very clear and then go back and they're very cryptic and they don't make any sense to you and that creates a kind of supersaturated solution. A fragmentary story ideas are fragmentary ideas overall that can be synthesized into fiction and nonfiction and so on and what happens is over time these. This solution has these little fragments in it. And they bumped together and they kind of nucleate and they crystallize into a speech or a story or novel or an essay or a book length. Work of nonfiction. Or what have you and and you know that stock represents a synthesis. It represents a kind of dialectic where we're two things that are in in dialogue with one another or maybe an opposition to each other. Get together and kind of duke it out and your imagination in your critical analysis and what comes out is something that is recognizably descended from both but but not Not obviously latent in either. But i think this is tying in to talking about your process for creating novels which always starts with that the way you try but you kind of just explained annoying Yeah let's We're gonna talk about attack surface. Which is the new one. Little brother ceres. But maybe give a quick overview of little brother homeland and attack surface and for those who have not unimaginably read any of them well so little brother and homeland or why novels and their their books about kids who use technology to resist technology. The kids who find themselves and circumstances dire personal and social peril because of of technology that is being wheeled against them and who fashioned their own counter attacks out of the technology that they figure out how to master and wield on their own behalf and little brother is a book about the war on terror so it it opens with this young man. Marcus yellow and his friends being caught in a terrorist attack on san francisco which traumatic enough. But what's far more traumatic as the immediate transformation of the city into armed police state with mass surveillance checkpoints and so on and they are so appalled by this that they build a resistance movement. They they used hacked. Xboxes with critic graphically secured wireless communications to communicate with one another and Build a network that the. Nsa can't wiretap and they conspire together to kick the department of homeland security out of this city and restore their constitutional rights in homeland. The sequel the reputation they have Ends up with them. Inheriting collection of of really sensitive government leaks that reveal a lot of government wrongdoing and they said about trying to release these leaks in a way that will Hold the powerful to account And they they do this in a way that they were. They try to be as careful as they can and they're doing it in the midst of an election campaign that they're running but they're Beset on the one hand by mercenaries from Private military contractors who want to suppress these leaks who've been paid to suppress the leaks and on the other hand by activists who want the leaks released as soon as possible with no reductions and no selectivity. And they're they're they're in the middle of this pincer and the third book The one that's just come out is attack surfaced and it's not exactly sequel. It's the third little brother boat but it's a standalone book and it's intended for adults and not because it has sex in it Speaking as a fifty year old. I'm here to tell you that Being an adult doesn't mean that you have more sex than a teenager that that rather because it is about confronting your life's work and having a moral reckoning with what you have done which is i think i think that mostly adults do and It involves this young woman. Masha who appears in the other two books she something of the antagonised to the other two books. She's in the book. She works for the department of homeland. Security trying to catch the heroes and in the second book. She moves to iraq where she is a Military contractor insurgents using technology And in the third book in this new book she has moved onto the private sector and is supplying cyber weapons to post-soviet dictators in eastern europe. Who want to crush pro democracy movements by you know hacking people's phones and figuring out who to arrest and torture basically started the belarus situation that that we're living through as we record this now and she has through her whole career compartmentalized. She's she's found ways to rationalize what she's doing and to not think too hard about the negative consequences of it and she's finally reached a point where she can't rationalize it anymore. Where the tactics that. She engages in to convince herself that she's one of the good guys have reached breaking point so by the time we meet her her day. Job is installing surveillance equipment in the national telcos main data center and her hobby is teaching the activists. She's supposed to be catching with it. How to evade it and her bosses who are not exactly the forgiving type. Figure out what she's doing and she has to flee the country and when she gets back to san francisco she realizes to her horror that her childhood best friend who she's been relishing. The prospect of being re reacquainted with is now a black lives matter who's being targeted by the same cyber weapons that she herself spent her whole career building. And that's when she asked have this this reckoning and the little brother books are interesting as artifacts in the world because of the impact that they had they are there are a lot of technologists and cyber lawyers and cryptographer and human rights workers and activists who started off by reading little brother and homeland and they the convinced them on the one hand. That technology could be abused terrible ways and on the other hand that the laboratory power technology is real if you watch the Documentary about edward snowden citizen four. You can see that as he's fleeing hong kong he grabs a copy of homeland off his bedside table and sticks it in his go bag and that is one of my proudest accomplishments. Right that that you have these people who have acquired these rare and important technical skills for the express purpose of using them to help people and not hurt people and to defend people from from corporate power and state power. And in this third one is addressed to a different cohort a cohort. Who who got in for other reasons just because their passion for the field and because it looked like a good job but who've grown increasingly discontented with the compromises that they had to make along the way you know the twenty thousand google irs walked out last year or the workers at amazon and at facebook and microsoft and salesforce and at apple who've who have voiced their concerns or quit. Their jobs walked off the job of surveillance over censorship over manipulation and over sexual harassment and impunity in their workplaces and that's That group of people really is waiting to be radicalized and this is a book in some ways for them. It's a book to to show them. What redemption looks like when you spent your career rationalizing your way into doing things that you know in your heart. You shouldn't be doing. Was there a specific impetus for this one specific group of ideas that came together to to inspire you to write this third book. Because you talked about how ideas will bounce around synthesize. Yeah no no one instigating incident really more like that. There was a critical mass of fragments. Right that that You know a one of the things that i spent a lotta time. Campaigning on is transparency modify ability interoperability and And and user control over smart devices that as computers infiltrate our cars and our medical implants and our tractors and our homes Rather them these computers being designed to be responsive to the people who own them and who trust their live to them. These computers have been increasingly designed to extract revenue from those people by subjugating them and by surveilling them. i'm by putting their interests. Be beat behind. The interests of the shareholders that companies that made them and not only. Does this expose us to risk from the companies themselves but devices designed to be treacherous to hide its workings from you to prevent you from reconfiguring it to work. How you need to work is the device that if it's debra compromised by bad guy whether that's the state or whether that's a a criminal or a rival company or what have you That device by design is not gonna let you reconfigure it so that it listens to you. It's designed to hide its workings from you and so i really wanted to illustrate the way in which a world of design devices designed to control their users presents a kind of endless playground for the worst and our species and to to show what that would mean for human rights in a digital era. What did your planning outlining process. Look like and what does it look like. Generally when you set out to write a novel do detailed outline. Do you do the sketchy outline and it evolves as you write. How does that work for you. It's really different but by book Mostly what i have done is written a sort of treatment. That explains what kind of thing will go on in the book and then written the book Use a kind of heuristic. Where at every turn. I ask myself. What problem is the character trying to solve hauer. They're going to fail through no fault of their own. How will things get worse. And raise the stakes. And what will that new problem look like. And how will they try to solve that. And if you do that enough times you reach a climax because eventually things can't get any worse and then that's the that's the climax. I ran into trouble with this one because it went really long. I had a really hard time bringing it in for a landing and it came in at a over one hundred and seventy thousand words. And i knew that i wanted a book about one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty thousand words so i. I actually hired external editor for this book. A woman named juliet almond and Julia random house editor who now works for the new york transit authority and she gave me some really good suggestions. For tightening the book we we eliminated the love interest and replaced him with the sidekick basically and that was a pretty major piece of surgery on the book and it was traumatic to under no But it made the book much better. It also got the book down to about one hundred and thirty four thousand words which is perfect and it me that i needed to be more Outline oriented for the next book. That whatever i would lose in the spontaneity i would gain in the lack of need for for that kind of traumatic rewrite and so the book that i'm working on now i wrote a very detailed outline and i'm keeping it updated as i go because obviously the for of every battle is the plan of attack. So i'm i'm changing the outline as i go so that i have a kind of as built trying when i'm done and i found it to be quite Relieving i i mean every book in my experience feels like you're cheating now right feels like because there's no way you can hold all the pieces of a book in your head and so at a certain point there's a lot of kind of work being done to keep the book consistent and it always comes. They're always comes a time writing a book where you feel like wylie coyote having run off the cliff and knowing that if you look down that there's just empty air below you a lot of finishing a book as down to not looking down. It's it's trusting that you'll get to the other side if you just keep running and this feels like cheating too but in a different way in that. I'm following this recipe. I wrote and the part of my brain that writes the p. Is not the part of my brain. That does the writing and it kind of feels like almost hacky like i got an outline from someone and now i'm just following their instructions except that someone is me. What does your actual writing process. Look like a you have a lot of things that you do Do right with working on fiction. You were as certain time every day or or how does that work crew now. I long ago lost the luxury of being able to set aside a certain time every day i really just squeeze it in I'm what i do. Is i have a a word count. I hit every day and The book that i'm working on right now it's a five hundred words a day word count It's two pages generally takes about fifteen or twenty minutes. It's a little easier without line. Have to say. And i just sit down and i write it and the thing that freed me up to do that. Kind of daily work was the realization that although there were days when i felt like my writing was very good and days when i felt like my writing was terrible and although there were days or are there were parts of the work that we're very good in parts that needed revision that they were unconnected right that the quality of the work was completely unrelated. To how i felt about the quality of the work. Some of the stuff. I felt great about was garbage and some of the stuff i felt garbage was great and that the thing that that the feeling related to not the objective quality of the work but rather to like my blood sugar and my anxiety and stress levels. And how much sleep i'd gotten and once i realized that the quality of words related to my feeling the words then i could just write whatever words that were even if they were stupid sounding words and later on i could go back and fix them if it turned out that the way i felt about them was was true and you know that was liberating but it's also somewhat depressing over time because it is an don acc- right the joy that you feel when you feel like you're writing really really well kind of gets leached out of the thing once you acknowledged that how you feel about the workers not connected to the object quality the work and you start to realize oh i feel great about this. Maybe it's crap. Well maybe the operative word is work because it is of course work. Sometimes sometimes it feels like play but a lot of the time. It feels like work these. I fine much as i. You know i enjoy having written but yeah so. Do you write sequentially mike. Just you start at the beginning to the end. That's exactly yup. You're not one of these people that are seen together along the way and now nothing of the sort. I do right like. Tk for to calm which is like a journalistic convention. If there's a thing that i need to go look up later mike. You know the name of a minor character then. I didn't bother to make a note of and i do right. F c k for fact check. If there's a thing that i think i might have gotten wrong. That's mostly to stop myself. Getting into a wikipedia trance and i just right with a plain old text editor. You know like not even a word processor. Do you find that you have to do a lot of research on these on these books. I mean you're dealing with cutting edge technology. And that sort of thing. And i know you ve kind of deal with that all the time but you do you find things that you have to research as your as your writing. It's really the other way around. I mean there are sometimes a detail or two will come up like that but mostly what's going on. Is this process of taking everything that seems significant and turning it into a blog. Post is Gives you a of material that you have already researched. So you're doing research for a book you don't know you're writing and the book you write comes out of the research you do. Instead of the other way around. I did write a book that was set in china and india and spent some time there in homeland. There's a sequence where they propose a An alternative way of running on insurgent election campaign and i canvassed a bunch of people. I knew who worked in net roots politics and a young man named aaron swartz who one of their read. it founders. Who very tragically killed himself. The year the book came out. gave me A really really good sequence for and you know that was just like there was just a tk. Like i will figure out what goes in the scene later and then when the book was not i wrote to erin for advice and he just sent me a couple of paragraphs i dropped in once. You have your completed draft. What does your revision process. Look like do you use to use beta readers or people like that or how does that all work for. I use my editor. My agent and in the case of the last book used my my this outside editor. But i tend to use a lot of beta readers i did have some sensitivity readers for walkaway particularly for the sequences in which there's a trans character And i did have a sensitivity reader for radicalized where it's a story about an african american relations with the us police but for the most part it's it's adder agent and sometimes outside editor. And what does your actual revision process. Look like personally do you go through. You know my line or you making big changes or more just cleaning up language. Or what sort of things do you find yourself working on well. It strongly very by book. Obviously with with attack surface. There was this major surgery. I'm with walkway. I decided that. I wanted that book to be shorter as well. I went through it line by line. I just basically put five thousand words out of the book every morning and put them in a new file. And then just tinkered with it. Until i was four thousand words. What i found was that in doing this. I started to identify techs of my own bad habits my own where i would be needlessly verbose and it got really fast. I got really good at doing it. And both fortunately and unfortunately the practice of doing that with the whole book meant that by the time i wrote my next one. I wasn't making those mistakes anymore. So when i wanted to cut down When i wanted to cut down in re surface. I didn't have twenty percent fat at the sentence level that i could just trim out because i taught myself a better habit and often what i'll do is read the book aloud. I find that that's a really powerful way to revise. I know bruce sterling told me once that When he was he did a residency. Out here in la At art center in pasadena and he drove a trailer stuff from texas to la for his his residency and he had a new book out. I think it was carry audits. And he strapped his laptop into the passenger seat and had it Do text to speech for the entire book while he drove cross country and he would just pullover whenever he heard a line that sounded wrong and fix it. It'd be a lot of pulling over if i were doing that. Yeah reading aloud is is a great way. You're just well of course as you to read every line of course every word you don't skip over anything in your head and if you don't find the mistakes while you're reading it out loud during revision you will totally find them when you're doing a public reading later on when it's too late to change you. Certainly harry true actually producing an audio book When the reader gets to them you know. Yeah i actually have a copy of a first edition of mortels life. Of course he lives in saskatchewan in saskatoon and he was at the schedule book awards a few years ago as the speaker and he He opened up to one particular place and made a correction. That had made it all the way through the publication. So now we have this hand corrected copy of autograph copy of life pie and i. I quit it in in a plastic bag and put it away somewhere. Dan damon knight used to do this. There was a book that i think john campbell had retitled the ricky and terror that originally had a title like you know A happy story about space or something and and every time someone would britain damon a copy of the book he would he would open it to the saddle page and cross out campbell's title and right in his own would you talked about the In this particular case having an editor as you were before it went to the editor you had an editor once. It gets to the publication level with the publisher's editor. What kind of feedback do you typically get. So might my patrick. Who i've known since i was seventeen. He is He tends to be pretty macro. He usually will have one or two things where he's like. This thing really needs fix but mostly he. You know the way that he approaches that i think is that science fiction is a story in which you have a kind of micro and macrocosm microcosm is the character in the macrocosm is the world. They need to be parallel to one another. They need to have. They need to be sort of as above so below powers of ten kind of relationship to one another and if the character the characters like a little cog wheel that spins around and around interfacing with very big wheel that is the world and the character spins and spins and spins and tell. The world makes a full revolution. And you see it in the round and a lot of the times when the books falter. It's because they at the teeth aren't meshing because there's some way in which the world and the character are not matched for each other so a lot of the times. His suggestions will be sort of thematic. You'll be like if you do this with the character or and or this the world you'll get much better mesh. Does he work with like an editorial letter that you get or is it a conversation. Oftentimes this conversation but We we notionally well. I mean what actually usually happens. S he says. I will get you in a letter and time will go by. And he'll go like actually. Let's just talk on the phone. That's what i'm used to sheila. Gobert ause my editor and it's always phone conversations so when people talk about getting these massive editorial letters. I've never actually had one of those. So i was wondering what they're like well. Juliet juliet gave me a proper editorial letter. But that was a that was a separate process. Now i also wanted to mention. You're doing something interesting with a kickstarter for the audiobook version of this. So that has funded. It'll be over so you. Can't you know people hearing this can't contribute. But tell me about that and how that came about and why you did it. Sure so. I will not make my work available under a dr ram and there's a lot of reasons for that but you know from an author's perspective. The most important one is that under the revisions to the canadian. Copyright act in twenty eleven and under the us digital millennium copyright act we as creators as the owners of those copyright cannot authorize our readers to remove the drm and so if we sell work that's locked to amazon with amazon's drm and then amazon. We have a dispute and we walk away from amazon and find another publisher for our work or another retailer for our work. those books are locked into amazon silo. It's like if every time you sold a book at walmart. They got to decide which lightbulbs and bookcases and chairs. You could you could read them in. And yes if you wanted to. You could get another in another light bulb and another bookcase for you. Know the The indigo books. That you're you're gonna go by now but you could see that that switching cost would really lock in the suppliers that is us to this monopoly platform and so amazon will thankfully allow you to sell e books without but not audiobooks and they completely dominate the audiobook market. They're more than ninety percent of it through their audible division. Which when they bought it in two thousand eight. They promised they would remove the dram from and then reneged. And i won't allow books to be. So which means cutting myself off for more than ninety percent of the market and understandably mcmillan's not all that interested in acquiring the rights to a book that they can't sell in the place where ninety percent of the shoppers are. And i don't blame them and so i- retain those rights and i live in southern california which means that I'm fifty minutes drive from one of the powerhouse audiobook studios Sky boat media And i'm only a few minutes away from my friend. amber benson's house. She's a writer A doll writer. But she's also a An actor she played tara and buffy and she's a wonderful wonderful voice actor and audiobook reader. And so i had amber read. The book paid her saga after rates and paid the director. Sandra declare and paid my editor. John taylor williams. Who's been editing. My podcast for more than a decade and we produced a really kick ass audiobook. And i've done this before with other books. But this time. I really wanted to make a statement in part because there's finally this pro-competitive anti-monopoly energy in the world. And i decided. I would presell the audio book on kickstarter along with the books. I'm publishers. e book retailers. So that you can buy my e books at all the retail platforms kobo and beyond and Indigo and amazon. And so on. But you can also just buy them for me. And and i get the thirty percent that would otherwise be taken by one of those companies when you buy for me and i take the seventy percent that remains and send it to my publisher and they take the twenty five percent that would be my royalty and send it back to me so it comes out to like forty seven and a half percent. So i'm pre selling the the yearbook pre selling the audiobook. I'm selling the backlist. Titles the first two books All on kickstarter. And i've discounted the audiobook. It's going to sell for twenty five bucks. But i'm selling it for fifteen and as i speak The kickstarter sitting at two hundred and thirty eight thousand eight hundred and eighty three dollars and it was a really good sum of money. Well seven thousand bucks was some thousand bucks was the goal. But that's just like the amount of money that it would sort of cost me to do. The listing and the fulfilment and whatever it just an opportunity cost. It wasn't really. I wasn't really i wanted about this much. This was. This was kind of where i was shooting. In fact i'm hoping to get significantly more because the last four or five days of the campaign or when you get a whole lot of pledges What i really want is to sell ten thousand audiobooks. And i think that if i sell ten thousand audiobooks to ten thousand customers that it will tempt mcmillan into buying the rights to my next book and into helping me produce it and market it this way with another crowd funder and that if we can do that we can probably tempt other bestselling writers into issuing amazon audible and we can start creating a new kind of audible exclusive the book that's exclusive of audible that's available in all the places you know. Its first life as as a discount title on kickstarter for preorder and then in all the all the major retailers except amazon. And i think that will bring amazon table. I think that that's that's that gets amazon where it hurts. That is what they care about and not being able to sell your bestsellers. The best sellers in the field is a big deal for them and then we can get more equitable proposition. One where where we get to decide as the copyright owners whether we want their so-called protection but a lot of your activity is as an activist as well as a writer and that does probably kind of tie into my big philosophical questions that i always ask at the end which is why do you right. Why why do you write and to consider the writing or the other things that you do. Are they all one piece two separate things. Are you an activist. And a writer. You at activists i then writer. How do you put all those pieces together. But at the core of that. Why do you right. And why do you write science-fiction fantasy particularly. Yeah well so. I think that that like In terms of rhetoric and politics writing as a way to carry on the argument it puts a lot of blood. And sinew you on what could otherwise be very Dry academic kind of argument about tech policy questions But more importantly or just as importantly i write for the reason anyone who makes art makes art right because we have this like important difficult to Difficult to stop need to make art one of the reasons that artistic markets are so. Dysfunctional is because people make art even when they don't have a reasonable expectation of a return right when when people are traumatized by he and war and torture and so on. We give them art therapy. You know like like arts important. And i make art because i'm an artist and artists make art and all humans make art. And it's really important to the human condition in terms of what happens when you right. There's there it is a weird question right You know the the more. I think about writing though weirder writing gets because it when you read fiction you have a limbic involuntary emotional response to the plight of imaginary people whom you know to be on inconsequential by definition like things that happened to imaginary people have no consequences right like the the yogurt you eight with your breakfast. This morning had a more tragic death in romeo and juliet because they were never alive and so they didn't die whereas yogurt was once alive. And then you killed it. And and i think what's going on is that we have a an automatic involuntary process by which we learn to model other people in order to empathize with them. That you know from the the models you build up people you've never met you know whether that someone you know on the internet or someone that you hear about secondhand like a celebrity or like the new kid at school you have met yet but the other kids are talking about them and it gives you you create a kind of picture of who they are and what they would do under certain circumstances. And that's how you you predict what they'll do empathize with them and this process. It's very naive and automatic. There's no conscious intervention needed to do it and it can be tricked into spending time building and maintaining models of people that you can't encounter like imaginary people like strangers and like dead people like you can probably imagine what your grandma would say if she could see you now and that's drawing on that model and i think when you read you experience the empathic cognitive version of an optical illusion where the writer tricks your model maker into modeling the imaginary person that is the subject to the story and then you experience empathy for them and i think that when you write a similar thing happens that that when we start writing feel master pretoria read like you're putting on a puppet show for yourself because you know you're making it up and you're like hey let's all go on a quest sure that's great to me. Yeah you're right but over time that same part of your brain that readers us to experience empathy and have the aesthetic experience of reading a novel builds up the model of your characters and they start to tell you what they wanna do. Your kind of inhaling your own farts basically right. You're you've got this the the exhaust of your of your very regimented planning of your specific imaginative process. In which you say what imaginary characters do becomes the source of a of a bunch of intuition about what these imaginary people would do. That arrived in exactly the same way that your intuition about what real people do arrives. And that's a that's a pretty cool thing and then as to why science fiction well you know it's kind of in my dna. It's between judy and living in the twenty-first century and being so engaged with technological Subjects science fiction really the natural genre for me. Well i think you've kind of answered the next question which is do you hope that your fiction has some impact on the real world. I think very clearly you do. Yeah i really do. I really i mean i would do it. You know. Even if i if i didn't have that but you know one of the things that keeps me going when when things are low and i don't feel like working and it's not very satisfying and everything's terrible is the thought that i'm making a difference in the world that this thing has has meaning in the world and we'll make the world a better place and what you've mentioned that you're working on something. What are you working on now. I'm writing utopian. Post new deal novel called the lost cause that is in many ways indistinguishable from a dystopia environmental novel in that it is full of floods and fires zoonotic plays refugees and so on but the difference is that the people in the book have met the crisis head on and they have begun a multi century long process of addressing it. So they're like a bunch of them are working on relocating all the coastal cities in the world twenty kilometers inland You know they. They have high density living plans to accommodate refugees as larger parts of the world become uninhabitable. They are Replacing major aviation routes with high speed rail links. They're just. They're doing the work and they call themselves the generation in two hundred years not to the future and they start with something called. The canadian miracle That that starts after a hung parliament Trigger or no. No confidence vote. Triggers a snap election in canada and Election surprises meyer. The tory and liberal candidates in Scandal and are a row grant maty woman becomes the pm and she ushers in what they call the canadian miracle the the first green new deal the first leap manifesto implementation after calgary is basically washed away. And she they relocate. All of the parts of calgary that are in the flood plain and create a new way of thinking about climate work and care work and the canadian miracle is well underway there. There's this practice of what they call the the blue helmets who are exchange workers who go all around the world to learn methods and to teach methods from their home countries and this large circulating population of blue helmets are really at the center of the story. And so the story the story i should mention turns on truth and reconciliation with the white nationalist militias. Who think that they're not living in a utopia but rather a dystopia ongoing on there. Yeah glad to hear. There's still some canadian content so oh yes very much. So and aware can people. When will that come out. Oh i haven't sold it. I never saw my books before. I write them. I always tell them after they're done so it doesn't have publication date. Okay but my my editors really excited about it. And i sent it to them. I suspect it will find a home. And where can people find you online. You are online i presume. Oh yes so you can. You can find all my work at pluralistic dot. Net pluralistic is available. If you go there you'll find out how to get it as a twitter feed. So i post several essays a day as twitter threads Or you can read them on the web or full text r. s. s. i. Podcast a lot of There are also available as daily email newsletter. And they're also available on mastodon and tumbler everything. September and twitter is is surveillance free. There's no analytics no tracking No cookies and it's all completely free. Speech and free is embarrassed license creative commons attribution only. Okay well thanks so much for being on the world shapers korea. I really appreciate it. I enjoyed the chatter. Hope you do too great and best of luck with attack surface. Thank you very much. Thanks for for the chat. It's been really nice. So thanks again to corey doctor for that great conversation. I certainly enjoyed it. And i hope you did too. That's the end of another episode of the wheelchair. I just a reminder that the world shapers are online at the world shapers dot com where you'll find a complete archive of all has steps odes and transcripts of most of them. You can also find the world. Shapers on twitter at the world shapers on facebook app the world shapers and you can find me online at edward willett dot com. You can find me on twitter at willett to tease on willett to els and to tease you can find me on facebook at edward don willett and you could find me on instagram at edward willett author. Because yeah i didn't manage to get exactly the same thing on my social media accounts you can also find my online shop. At to edward willett shop dot com and again. My publishing company is shout. Oppressed dot com. You'll find lots of great books there. including shapers of worlds which is the anthology featuring first year guests of this podcast. And as i said look for kickstarter in march of twenty twenty one probably For a second anthology shapers of world's volume two featuring a guests from the second year of this podcast. All right. that's it for the world shapers this time. Thanks again so much for coming along. And i hope that you'll come back many more times in the future to hear more interviews with some of the great science fiction and fantasy authors. We've entertained mightn't and challenged us so much over the years. That's it for this episode

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