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May 26, 2008

Little Brother signing in NYC today
Posted by Patrick at 11:43 AM * 29 comments

Since the book has been much discussed around here, it seems like a good idea to announce that Cory Doctorow will make a public appearance in New York City today, speaking and signing from 5 to 7 PM at Books of Wonder, 18 West 18th St, (212) 989-3270. We’ll be there.

Comments on Little Brother signing in NYC today:
#1 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:36 PM:

Will Cory be wearing the red cape and goggles?

#2 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Don't be silly, be only wears those when he's blogging.

Everyone knows that.

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 12:45 PM:

Since my hideous lung infection seems to have partially resolved, I also plan to attend. They'll have piles of books for sale there, right? So if I want to get mine and two more (for my teenage quasi-nephews) signed, that won't be a problem?

#4 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:32 PM:

Oh my god, I'm so sick of you talking endlessly about that book you edited!

(Severely just kidding in reference to people who say similar things on BoingBoing)

#5 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 01:35 PM:

Cripes, ethan, won't you people ever stop flogging Boing Boing over here?

#6 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:02 PM:

After the recent music posts, I read it as _singing_.



#7 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Oh, I wish I were within driving distance! I'm a hundred pages in and loving it.

#8 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 03:40 PM:

ethan @#4: ya beat me to it :)

#9 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 04:39 PM:

Cadbury Moose @6:
Drat you, drat you, drat you, you gave me an earworm. How can I keep from singing now?

My high school days were simple once
But now that time is ending.
I've learned how much I have to lose
And what is worth defending.
My freedom and my privacy
Depend on one another.
And those who threaten either one
Will deal with Little Brother.

Encryption guards my web of trust
Against the infiltration
Of DHS officials who
Would pry for information.
The Xnet grows with leaps and bounds
No outside force can smother
The message spreads from peer to peer:
We all are Little Brother.

The army trucks and prison cells
That caught us and confined us
Stripped all the innocence away
That we had thought defined us.
But now we know how strong we are
When we work with each other
So anyone who's watching us:
Watch out for Little Brother.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 05:20 PM:

abi #9: *applause*

#11 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 06:03 PM:

I liked Little Brother (as I told Cory at the Borderlands San Francisco signing). It's a good story that I was thrown out of only a couple of times because of simplification or exaggeration of technical principles. (The Vista hack in the book doesn't work, Cory doesn't show Marcus with the technical chops to hack WEP encryption, which almost every home wireless network in San Francisco would have implemented by 2006, the concept of blogs and livejournals running on the XNET with its limited hardware resources isn't really amplified, etc.)

But, you know, Marcus is basically a victim who retaliates by becoming a random prankster. In terms of actually defeating the practices of the Bush administration, Homeland Security, and allied corporations, I suspect this technique might have limited success. The value in the story, for me, is in the detailing of the plausibility of Homeland Security's outrageous bullying (It Can Happen Here) and the characterization of the personal reactions of Marcus and his friends.

Yes, public encryption would probably be a basic, necessary tool for any organized revolution in the United States. Cory does a pretty good job of dramatizing that and introducing it to a non-technical readership. But skepticism (instead of a desire for more mythologizing) gets triggered in me at a certain threshhold of eulogy for "Little Brother." I say this as an occasional participant in other, older attempts to protest/resist tyranny in the U.S. (some of which involved faith in other merry pranksters).

Cory (with his education and ability to exploit the power of the press), not Marcus, is a true hero of the modern revolution.

#12 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 08:10 PM:

"But, you know, Marcus is basically a victim who retaliates by becoming a random prankster"

That's a meanspirited simplification. One of the strengths of the story is that Marcus's behavior isn't "random"; he uses tools, he builds networks, and he helps people empower one another. At one point he does go too far in the direction of "pranks", harming people he cares about, and he's chastened by the realization. If it were actually the story of nothing more than "random pranks," there wouldn't be a story.

"[S]kepticism (instead of a desire for more mythologizing) gets triggered in me at a certain threshhold of eulogy for Little Brother."

This is pretty rich coming from someone who's spent years lecturing those of us who weren't There In The Sixties about the incredible value of Myth and Art, now sadly unappreciated in these fallen, commercialized, materialistic later times. Evidently, if people younger than Lenny Bailes are skeptical and hardnosed, Lenny weeps for the lost dreamland of 1960s utopianism, whereas if they actually deploy mythology and imagination, Lenny's there to rap them on those nose for getting details wrong, and to characterize positive comments with poisonous terms like "eulogy." I'm afraid this has left me, over a period of years, with a sense that Lenny Bailes is determined to find fault with me, my friends, and all our works, when he isn't whining to third parties about how mean we were the last time he behaved like this.

This isn't about Little Brother any more than those other arguments with Lenny were actually about Dylan, or the dreams of the 1960s, or the Grateful Dead. It's all about Lenny and I'm tired of it.

#13 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:03 PM:

Abby @#9: Awesome! I especially like the line "no outside force can smother" -- that needs to be crossbred back into the original somehow.

#14 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 09:05 PM:

In terms of attempting to disrupt the activities of Homeland Security, it seems to me that the principal act Marcus commits in "Little Brother" is the random RFID scrambling. The context I read made me think this was portrayed as a useful revolutionary activity.

The stuff about establishing the XNET to build community is fine and believable (except, for me, the question of how easy it would have been to tap into existing wireless networks and set up encrypted blogs running on XBOX servers). A sentence or two along the lines of "luckily someone had just written a WEP cracker for Paranoid Linux that Marcus downloaded and transferred from his Windows machine" would have helped with that, at least for me. I'm still all in favor of employing the power of myth in art -- but there's also an element of the craft involved to sustain willing suspension of disbelief. Evidently, though, for a large number of readers, Cory succeeds with this.

I didn't think expressing my reaction to the book would sting you that way, Patrick. But apparently it has. Your retort to me contains a lot of personal baggage about things not said here. I've learned to keep a lid on some of my own feelings in this regard.

I'm not aware of ever arguing with you about Bob Dylan, although I do remember consistently chirping in on many forums when people say he has an awful voice to point out that maybe it's not so awful.

In trying to parse this comment from you, I come up with the idea that you might be reacting to a recent post I made on my livejournal comparing the "Old Weird America" celebrated by Dylan in his Basement Tapes to "the Old Weird SF Fandom" that I enjoy and which is in the process of being obscured from most of the people who regard themselves as members of "modern day" fandom. I don't know if that's what's bugging you. I also made a statement in the editorial of a recent fanzine I published that I'm feeling a bit frustrated with modern day fandom. We probably have different takes on that, but I won't go into the details here, since this thread isn't about that.

Sorry. If this were still USEnet or GEnie I might say more -- but it's your weblog ("living room") here and I don't see any use in saying things that might further provoke you.

I'll leave you only with my personal observation that you sometimes get pretty hot headed when you feel intellectual turf that you believe is true and good is being undermined.

If I have any additional thoughts on the use of the "mythic and poetic" vs. the "realistic" in fiction (a topic on which Cory expressed some opinions in his San Francisco signing session), I'll put them someplace else.

#15 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:02 PM:

Lenny, I'm not annoyed with you for your opinions about Little Brother. And this isn't about some recent LJ post or fanzine editorial by you, neither of which I've read.

I said my piece in comment #12.

#16 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:08 PM:

abi @ 9: That's lovely. Now I can't keep from singing.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:09 PM:

Lenny, you have a long track record of deprecating and/or disapproving of things Patrick does. That coin has turned up tails a high percentage of the times you've tossed it.

#18 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:30 PM:

Abi, you are my hero -- that is JUST BRILLIANT!

#19 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:38 PM:

Lenny, addressing your three technical complaints one-by-one:

1) The Vista hack in the book doesn't work.

Hah! I complained about this back when it wasn't too late to change things. Cory's answer was that this is a hack that exists in the fictional, future "Vista4Schools" OS that Marcus's school uses. The resemblance to a recent real-world security hole was meant by Cory as an in-joke.

2) Cory doesn't show Marcus with the technical chops to hack WEP encryption, which almost every home wireless network in San Francisco would have implemented by 2006.

Dude, seriously, it does not take heavy technical chops to hack WEP. That's why WEP's been officially deprecated by the Wi-Fi Alliance since 2003. (And yet, it's still the default security option on many commercial routers.) I have no trouble believing that ParanoidLinux would ship with a WEP-cracking script in the default distro. Also, I'm pretty sure the book is set in the near-future (probably 2010), not 2006.

3) The concept of blogs and livejournals running on the XNET with its limited hardware resources isn't really amplified.

We don't actually know what the capabilities of the fictional Xbox Universal are. Or how many people use Xnet. It's entirely possible that only a few tens of thousands of people are on Xnet, and no one server gets enough traffic to crush it.

#20 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Lenny Bailes: I don't know about the WEP being ubiquitous in 2006. Here in LA, in 2008, I can usually find an open network within a 1/4 mile of pretty much anywhere. It may not be convenient, but it's usually doable.

So much so that I can go to Office Depot and buy a sniffer, which will (for something like 20 bucks) tell me signal strength and band, so I can get a more likely hit.

Right now, as I check the available networks, I cna see three unsecured (and I have to block them, so the machine doesn't choose to switch to one of them when the oddities of signal make it stronger than the actual network I am on).

Bruce Schneier explained in an essay why he doesn't secure his home network, and how often he find free wireless in various places.

#21 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 10:45 PM:

I was in San Francisco last month and didn't have too much trouble finding open access points in residential neighborhoods--not as easy as when I was there in 2006, but not that hard, either.

Making RFID tracking useless is a very valuable action in a repressive situation.

I spent a fairly long time doing things both effective and not in the period just after the sixties (that is, starting in the mid-seventies) and Marcus rang true as a character. While there are quibbles I could make about the book (and when aren't there?), it put the heart back in me in a way nothing had since seeing Cosi Fan Tutti during a period of small-r romantic despair.

I may overestimate the book because it's the book I wanted to write thirty-some years ago, when I had a head full of ideas that were driving...okay, okay, enough.

#22 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:13 PM:


I don't know if this was intentional, but you can sing that to the tune of Professor Pangloss's song 'The Best of All Possible Worlds' from Bernstein's Candide. (The Original Broadway Cast recording, if you please.)

(It properly needs a chorus, though.)

#23 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:29 PM:

#20: Terry, I thought about the issue of access to wireless networks in San Francisco a bit before making that comment. I've been in SF since the technology was invented. I searched back in my mind to all the places I've visited in the City, trying to be sure about when open networks began being replaced by encrypted ones. I'm pretty sure that WEP was fairly ubiquitous by 2006. (And it certainly is, now.) I also thought a bit about whether I'd have the story take Marcus down near a local coffeehouse to get an unecrypted connection for his XBOX. I recognized that that might be an awkward story complication. I tried to put myself in the place of a 16-year old reading the story and trying to follow through -- getting the copy of Paranoid Linux, installing it and so forth -- then discovering that all the networks he can reach from his bedroom are encrypted. The solution of finding a WEP cracker on the Internet and downloading it to the XBOX seems like it might be the most realistic solution to that problem. Since one aspect of the story that Cory talks about is providing an actual instruction manual for kids who might want to emulate Marcus -- and since he does such a good, detailed job of framing some of the other technology in the story -- I was disappointed that he didn't throw that in there.

But you can't think of everything, and it isn't really a big deal. The larger question I think about in connection with the story is whether what Marcus does in response to the treatment he receives from DHS would actually be an effective countermeasure in the real world. I'm not sure. It may be beside the point. Certainly the concept of setting up a private network where kids can talk to each other outside the range of an oppressive "Big Brother" is a revolutionary concept that Cory handles well (I think.)

Patrick: I looked up definitions of "eulogy" all over the web and haven't found the poisonous connotation you feel it implies. I was trying to say that in reading Abi's poem my reaction was that "Little Brother" will *not* actually keep us safe, but Cory Doctorow might, if we help him. (As for the other stuff, I think discussion of that is best left for personal communication if you ever want to indulge in any.)

#24 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2008, 11:35 PM:

Lenny: I took eulogy to be a bit condemnatory.

Just me, but it's a praise for something dead, and in the context, that's not flattering, and comes across as (at least) dismissive, and at worst, well I should like to think Patrick took it to it's worst, because that was bad enough.

#25 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 12:10 AM:

abi, #9, they should put that on the book jacket.

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Although I am glad it pleased people (especially Cory), #9 probably doesn't have legs. It may be written from Marcus's point of view, but it's definitely not in his voice, and voice is important in the book.

The reason I chose the original that I did is that Little Brother is such an intensely moral work. It's as fervent in its beliefs of right and wrong as the Victorians who wrote that hymn.

And, perhaps, I was thinking of the version Enya sings ("In prison cells and dungeons vile, our thoughts to them are winging...")

#27 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2008, 04:04 PM:

abi: That's one of my favorite songs of that stripe.

I first heard it when a girlfriend (quaker) gave it to me on a tape.

How can we keep from singing? When I hear it it's also a case of, how can I keep from tearing.

#28 ::: Zeno Paradoxus ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2008, 07:45 AM:

Tangentially on this topic, Cory has made yet another appearance in xkcd...

#29 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2008, 04:57 PM:

Abi at No.9

That is utterly splendid! (Sorry about the earworm.)


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