Young Adult Geared Cyberpunk Series ‘Little Brother’ From Cory Doctorow Gets To Complicated Questions on Tech and Responsibility

His Writing Radicalized Young Hackers. Now He Wants to Redeem Them

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother series has been a young-adult sci-fi bible for teen hacktivists. But with the latest and darkest book in the trilogy, it’s all grown up.

ANDY GREENBERG BACKCHANNEL10.12.2020 07:00 AM

FROM WIRED MAGAZINE

SET THE FIRST and last books in Cory Doctorow’s epic, three-book Little Brother cypherpunk saga side by side, and they read a bit like a creative writing master class on telling two starkly opposite stories from the same prompt. The common premise: Islamist terrorists bomb the Bay Bridge. Thousands die. The Department of Homeland responds by turning San Francisco into a fascist, total-surveillance police state. The protagonist, a digitally gifted, troublemaking teen, must decide how to respond.

In the first Little Brother installment, which Doctorow published in 2008, the answer seemed righteously inevitable: The hero uses his hacker skills to fight back. Specifically, he and his plucky hacker friends figure out how to jailbreak their Xboxes and channel the video game consoles’ encrypted comms over the Tor network to create Xnet, a cheap, anonymous, surveillance-proof system for organizing protest and foiling the panopticon cops by injecting false data into their totalitarian schemes.

In Doctorow’s third work in the series, publishing this week and titled Attack Surface, the protagonist takes an altogether different path. And while that path threads through the same alternate-world timeline of events, it’s tinted with all the shades of gray that the world has accumulated in the dozen long years since the series’ first, wide-eyed story.

This time the hero—or antihero, more like—instead chooses to go work for the DHS. After all, she’s angry, itching to use her prowess in digital exploitation, and someone needs to help hunt these terrorists who actually knows what she’s doing. To get the job, she breaks into her friends’ Xnet system—it was riddled with hackable bugs, of course—and uses information cascade modeling to identify all of the resistance’s leaders, then serves up the map to the authorities. Not long after, she swaps her DHS job for a contract position in Iraq, where she uses those same tricks to identify insurgent leaders, hack their devices, find them, and target them for killing.

The money is very good, and it keeps getting better. She’s transferred to Mexico City, switches contractors, and becomes accustomed to flying first-class, room service in Japanese-themed hotels, and aged scotch on the corporate account. Eventually she finds her employer is offering her exploitation skills to a kleptocratic Eastern European government that’s using them to suppress a “color revolution”-style movement. To assuage her guilt, she starts helping the dissidents, too, building surveillance systems by day and advising idealistic young rebels on how to defeat them by night—even while knowing that they’re almost certainly doomed, that the technological terrain has put them at an impossible disadvantage.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

AT WIRED.com

How LIBRARIANS Under the Nazi Occupation of France, Fought Back!

Getting Lost in the Libraries of Paris Researching WWII

Janet Skeslien Charles Finds Her Way to Her New Book 

By Janet Skeslien Charles


February 19, 2021

from LITHUB.com

The American Library in Paris sits in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Its collection of 100,000 books is spread over three stories. Members from 60 countries can work at long tables or whisper at the coffee machine. As the programs manager, I oversaw the ALP’s weekly Evening with an Author series, hosting journalists, debut novelists, and National Book Award winners. At events, I stood in the back of the reading room, one eye on the crowd, the other on my journal as I jotted down the writers’ words. During the day, at my desk in the bustling back office, I also took note of what colleagues said and was particularly captivated by the World War II story of the courageous librarians who defied the Nazi “Library Protector” in order to hand-deliver books to Jewish readers. 

During the Nazi occupation of France, Dorothy Reeder, the Directress of the Library, stood up to the Bibliotheksschütz, Dr. Hermann Fuchs, who had full authority over intellectual activity in the country at the time. Before the war, these two book lovers had chatted at international library conferences; later, they would find themselves on opposing sides. I longed to learn more about them, and began searching for answers to my questions: What had brought the Directress to France? What became of her? Who was the Bibliotheksschütz before the war? Was he eventually arrested for his role? 

Worried that nothing would come of my research, I was reticent to tell coworkers about the project. But I wasn’t shy about reaching out to strangers and sent dozens of emails to various libraries where the Directress and her staff had worked. I contacted people with the last names of Reeder, Netchaeff, or Oustinoff in hopes that they were related to the ALP librarians. I read through hundreds of pages of scanned documents from the American Library Association archives, including Dorothy Reeder’s correspondence. I interviewed French women who’d lived through the Occupation.

To learn more about the day-to-day life of Parisians during the war, I turned to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF). This modern library is made up of four buildings in a configuration that resembles four open books; however, the public resources are less accessible than this design would suggest, with the tomes for the general public on the basement level and the research library in the sub-basement.

In keeping with the infamous French bureaucracy, to access the research level, you must have a letter from a professor or an employer and go through an interview. I wasn’t a student, and since I’d recently dedicated all my time to research, I no longer had an employer. An Ivy-League acquaintance was rejected after her interview, and I became nervous that I wouldn’t pass the test.The American Library in Paris sits in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Its collection of 100,000 books is spread over three stories.

In preparation for my appointment, I carried a list of books to consult as well as a copy of my first novel, physical proof that I was an author. The reference librarian conducting the interview was cordial; we discussed my project for 20 minutes. She hadn’t heard of the librarians who’d resisted during the war, which made me want to write the book even more.

With a stamp of approval on my application, I moved to the cashier’s desk. A researcher’s pass costs 50 euros, or $70, for a year.

“What’s your profession?” the cashier asked.

“I’m an author.”

She glanced at the paperwork. Not finding the appropriate box to check, she said, “We’ll just write that you’re unemployed.”

Library card in hand, I passed through immense metal doors and down two narrow escalators, to a last set of doors that older researchers have trouble opening without assistance. With 40 million documents, the BNF houses the national memory and much of the international memory. All precautions against fire are taken. It feels like a bunker.

READ THE FULL PIECE AT LITHUB

New Article! I’m Featured at Cyberpunks.com With A Review of Philip K Dick Novel

The Haunted Typewriter

Three StigmataAsks all the Cyberpunk Questions in Another Classic Philip K Dick Novel

‘You were wrong,’ Eldritch said. ‘I did not find God in the Prox system. But I found something better.’THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH BY PHILIP K DICK

Philip K Dickis one of the heavies of cyberpunk history. His work remains an open treasure chest of fulfilling novels,old interviewsand a number ofdocumentariesthat display the man’s genius and prophetic insight. Thankfully, due to our present culture’s in-the-woodwork- paranoiacs and psychopaths willing to bear witness to not just their pain but also their forebears and history, Dick remains a vibrant part of the culture.

He is represented not just in the multiple blockbuster adaptations of his fiction works into films such asBlade Runner,Total Recall,Paycheck,Next, andMinority Reportand of course one of my top five

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Teaching Classic Lit Helps Game Designers Make Better Stories – From Wired Magazine

The Haunted Typewriter

Are you game? See How Homer, Faulkner, and Ibsen can help.

CINDY FRENKELCULTURE 02.25.2021 07:00 AM

“THE LANGUAGE I’VE invented is pronounced with the same phonetics as Latin,” explained Justin Harlan, my 21-year-old student. He was doing a presentation on his video game Ordenai, which was so outstanding that it left my boisterous class speechless. 

This was in the fall of 2019, my first semester teachingCreative Writing for Video Gamers at Lawrence Technological University(LTU) in Southfield, Michigan. This was a class I created, with the help of other faculty, and a prerequisite for those majoring in video game design. Awestruck at the scope of Harlan’s game, I noticed several elements readily found in classic literature that were intimately woven into his story. This helped me realize that appreciating classic literature and art could enhance not only the creation of video games but the player’s experience as well.

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Looking Into Dan Harmon’s Storytelling Methodology: The STORY CIRCLE – from StudioBinder

How the Dan Harmon Story Circle Can Make Your Story Better

BY STUDIOBINDER ON 

The act of storytelling has always been with us. Anthropologist Joseph Campbell took stories from around the world and found they all shared the same basic structure. Campbell’s Hero’s Journey laid out each of the fundamental steps in this story structure. A few decades later, Dan Harmon took this same idea and created the Story Circle. In Dan Harmon’s Story Circle, there are 8 essential steps that can guide almost any story from Fade In to Fade Out. Let’s walk through each step with examples so you can apply this foolproof structure to your next great idea.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL STORY STRUCTURE

The universal language of storytelling

There are two universal languages. One is math…the other is story. Storytelling is built into the human experience. It’s how we pass on our history, where we can learn how to live, and answer questions about “right” and “wrong.” 

It doesn’t take a PhD in English Lit to understand what makes a story good or bad. We all know what a story should do, even if we can’t articulate it. Perhaps the most common storytelling element that “makes or breaks” a story is structure.

Our goal for today is to lay out one such narrative formula: the Dan Harmon Story Circle. Let’s start with a quick definition.

READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION ON STUDIOBINDER.com

CLICK THE LINK for More Video On The Story Circle as Well As Useful Worksheet Packets – All Free – Just Reblogging This Content with Source Rather Than Stealing It

The Beleaguered Art of Essay Writing

Here are some sources that discuss what an Essay is, from its origins, and pulling it back from being a totally cookie cutter form used by uninterested students when given an assignment to choose a thesis and defend it. An essay, literally ‘an attempt’, is an exploration of a subject, to do with life, that brings in the personality and experience of the writer to some degree.

The History and Purpose of the Essay
The Lost Origins of the Essay
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative

FROM A HISTORY AND POETICS OF THE ESSAY:

2013 by Jeff Porter

The essay occupies an odd place in the history of literature. One moment, the essay is a marginal form, barely alive on the fringes of poetry and fiction, the next, the trendiest thing in town. Recently, its fortunes have been on the rise. Wherever you look, the essay turns up: in graphic memoirs, in blogs, on the radio, in poetry. Its proponents range from Ira Glass and David Sedaris to Andrew Sullivan and Julie Powell, not to mention filmmakers such as Agnes Varda and Harun Farocki. No other genre is as infinitely adaptable as the essay.

In its directness and intimacy, the essay is the ideal literary form for the twenty-first century. Overwhelmed by an endless flux of information, we inwardly crave the momentary stay against confusion promised by the essay. We relish, as Scott Russell Sanders wrote, “the spectacle of a single consciousness” confronting the chaos of cultural overload to which we awake each day.1 The trademark of the essay is its intimacy, the human voice addressing an imagined audience. We also relish the opportunity to lose ourselves in the wandering thoughts of the writer. In his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Samuel Johnson defined the essay as “a loose sully of the mind; an irregular indigested piece.” What Johnson saw as disorder we see as an experiment in form and sensibility. We eagerly embrace the essay’s nonlinear quality, losing ourselves in its unpredictable twists and turns and moody swings. Yet getting lost in an essay is not the same as getting lost in a novel. Novels have plots; the essay is famous for rambling, its paratactic structure favoring breaks and digressions over continuity—the kind of disjointedness criticized by Johnson. What Johnson didn’t like appeals to us now. It is the mindful-ness of the essayist, no matter how digressive, that offers us a refuge from the hullabaloo of the world, the discursive slippage from one thought to another.

Most readers know that the word “essay” comes from the French essai. The verb form, essayer, means to attempt, to experiment, to try out. The standard definition of the genre holds that an essay is essentially a way of trying on a thought or an idea like a hat. The fitting room in a French clothing store, by the way, is called a salon d’essayage. On an artsier note, the Club d’Essai was the name of an experimental sound studio directed by the inventor of musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, in Paris after the war.

In a way, all thought is experimental and remains so until it can be fixed in a sentence. We are all essayists for a brief moment. As O.B. Hardison, Jr. has noted, Roland Barthes suggests that the essay may have even preceded the concept of genre, owing to its ability to emulate the genesis of thinking.2 If there is something that is fundamental about the essay to the play of the human mind, as Montaigne insisted also, one wonders why it took so long for the form to evolve. Why wasn’t there a Bronze Age essay, for instance, something written by the hero in retirement (surely Nestor would have had something to say after the burning of Troy) or perhaps set down by the stay-at-home wife, the caretaker of the oikos, a meditation on crushing olives or weaving while waiting the warrior’s return? Given the wanderings of Odysseus, his irrepressible digressiveness and curiosity, not to mention his fondness for the personal anecdote, the Odyssey might have been that Ur-essay. It could at least have contained essay-like intervals—“On Cyclopes” or “Of Listening”—enlivened by shrewd reflections on the credulity of men and the cleverness of fish.

READ THE FULL PIECE AT – THE ESSAY REVIEW.ORG

Using “He said.” in your dialogue? – from Thepassivevoice.com

February 8, 2021 by PG

From Dave Farland:

I don’t often give actual tips on how to compose stories. I tend to focus my lessons on storytelling to things that you can’t learn elsewhere.  Yet from time to time, it might be worthwhile to actually give a few technical tips. Today we will go over one on how to improve your dialogue. 

A few years ago, I listened to a bestselling writer give perhaps the worst advice on dialog tags that I’ve ever heard.  He told new writers, “Never use the word said.  It’s boring and repetitious.  Worst of all, it doesn’t really tell us much about the feeling behind what has been spoken.”

His advice was that you should “mix it up, and never repeat verbs that deal with speaking on the same page.  If you are forced to use the word said, he suggested that you add an adverb to it in order to define the quality of the words spoken.  

Given his advice, you might have a teen “mumble” one sentence:

“I don’t want to go to church,” she mumbled.

While the reply would use a different verb:

“Well you’re going to go, Missy,” Dad retorted.

The problem that arises is that we find ourselves using a lot of verbs that seem rather silly when put into a string of tags.  Thus, you might have people mumbling, shouting, profaning, teasing, snarling, squealing, averring, blaming, and so on in rapid succession.   

READ THE FULL ARTICLE at THE PASSIVE VOICE