As an evangelist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cory Doctorow is a familiar voice on these pages. Currently the European Affairs Coordinator for EFF, he spends two to three weeks a month travelling and keeping an eye on European patent and copyright developments.

But he’s also a co-editor of Boing Boing, the super-popular blog, and a renowned science fiction writer whose first book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, was recently picked as a finalist in the prestigious Nebula Awards. His newest book, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, due to be released May 1, 2005, is an ambitious work mixing Wi-Fi, sci-fi, and fantasy.



For this interview, we wanted to let Cory let down his creative hair and talk about his work as a serious science fiction writer.



Richard Koman: So you’re a finalist for a Nebula Award. That’s a pretty big deal.



Cory Doctorow: Well, it’s pretty exciting. It’s the award that writers give to writers. The accolade of your peers is very exciting, always. There’s lots of good stuff on the ballot. There’s a book I blurbed on the ballot by Sean Stewart. And there’s a book by Gene Wolfe on the ballot, and Gene just wrote me a blurb, so it’s a slightly incestuous affair here, but at the same time it would be quite an amazing feat for my first book to win one of the top two accolades in the field.



The other thing that just happened is one of my short stories called “Anda’s Game” was picked up by Michael Chabon for the Best of American Short Stories anthology, which is really one of the big, tony anthologies and not the sort of thing that features a lot of science fiction, but I guess there’s quite a bit of science fiction this time around. But it’s still very exciting.



RK: Tell me about “Anda’s Game.”



CD: It’s part of a cycle of stories I’m writing where I deconstruct classic science fiction. In this case it’s a deconstruction of Ender’s Game. It’s a story of little girls who are pressed into working in sweat shops in games, who spend all day doing repetitive grinding tasks like making shirts, which are then converted into gold and sold on eBay. It’s about the first union organizer who goes into cyberspace to organize these little girls.



RK: So is it a deconstruction or a parody?



CD: There’s a little of both, I think. My feelings towards Scott Card are pretty mixed. Politically, he and I are pretty far apart. He’s a copyright maximalist who believes in the war in Iraq. His work I find to be very uneven. But at the same time, Ender’s Game was a novel that was very important to me when I was younger, and I wanted to get at the core of how that worked for me. The other one I did was “I, Robot.” I take apart Isaac Asimov’s Robots world. Asmiov was a good old FDR crypto socialist, who believed that technology regulation was good for society provided that it was undertaken by grand old men in white robes who really knew what they were talking about and, you know, I understand the point of an engineer’s technocratic utopia, I just don’t agree with it.



It’s hard not to like Asimov; he’s a really likable guy. But at the same time, the philosophical, technological underpinnings of the Robot books are in my view really odious and I really wanted to take a crack at them and see what they looked when you laid bare their assumptions.



RK: A few years back I interviewed the chief scientist for the Army’s simulation command and he explicitly mentioned Ender’s Game as the novel that many military people read and said, “That’s me!”



CD: Yeah, it’s part of a tradition of military science fiction like Starship Troopers and so on that kind of glorify the military training process and what it means to become a military man and go through that process.



Heinlein and lots of other writers have written these stories where nerdy but very intelligent people try to find a way to make their outsides match their insides by going away and joining the military and becoming physically strong and proving themselves by engaging in military bravery. There’s certainly a strong thread of that running through Ender’s Game; it’s really about someone who becomes strong in body and mind and becomes a kind of ascetic–it’s got its pluses and minuses but I thought it was worth talking about a different way that children find themselves used in online worlds and what it means to have a truly global online world.



In Ender’s Game there’s a kind of One World government, where you have these people from all over the world gathered together to defend humanity and so on, and he kind of glosses over what it means to have people who come from great economic disparity all join together in a virtual environment in the same system of governance. And I thought it would be worth taking a couple of pokes at that anthill and see what comes up.



More here.

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