Cory Doctorow: The Engagement-Maximization Presidency

Photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker

Incentives matter.

The dominance of ad-supported businesses online created an odd and perverse incentive to “maximize engagement” – to go to enormous lengths to create tools that people used for as long as possible, even when this made the product worse. Think of how Google added a “trending searches” drop­down to the default search-bar on Android, so that any time you went looking for a ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Let’s Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech

Photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker

At long last, the techlash has arrived, and not a minute too soon. I have been involved in the tech industry since I got my first programming job in 1988. I’ve been a sysadmin, a CIO, a trainer, a software company founder, and an activist. I’ve argued against terrible laws and argued for good ones. I’ve dreamed of the promise of tech and been haunted ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: What I’ve Learned About Being a Writer

You will fail more than you succeed. You will remember the failures more often than the successes.

The people who believe in you now will believe in you always. Get rid of everyone else.

Readers will love your work. They will think this means they love you. They will be wrong, but do not correct them. You will no longer be yourself when you’re among readers, but an amalgamation of ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Persuasion, Adaptation, and the Arms Race for Your Attention

Photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker

As we all know, time travelers have to be very careful when they visit the past, because their evolved immune systems allow them to harbor pathogens that the olde timey people are defenseless against. One careless bowel movement, a single badly timed cough, a bit of blood spilled, and whole civilizations are in pandemic peril.

Surviving to the future means adapting to the risks of ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Demon-Haunted World

Cheating is a given.

Inspectors certify that gas-station pumps are pumping unadulter­ated fuel and accurately reporting the count, and they put tamper-evident seals on the pumps that will alert them to attempts by station owners to fiddle the pumps in their favor. Same for voting machines, cash registers, and the scales at your grocery store.

The basic theory of cheating is to assume that the cheater is ‘‘rational’’ and won’t ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Be the First One to Not Do Something that No One Else Has Ever Not Thought of Doing Before

The legendary musician, producer, and weirdo Brian Eno has many notable accomplishments and high among them is the production of the ‘‘Oblique Strategies’’ deck, a deck of cards emblazoned with gnomic and hard-to-parse advice that is meant to shake your creative rut: ‘‘Fill every beat with something,’’ or ‘‘Infinitesimal gradations’’ or ‘‘Do nothing for as long as possible.’’

My favorite of these – first learned from Bruce Sterling – is ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: Story Isn’t Just “Stuff Happens”

I brought my dogs to a new dog park this weekend, one frequented by experienced dog owners who enjoyed socializing their dogs. The park I usually go to is less frequented, with fewer dogs, and the owners are all worried and anxious sorts. Their dogs tend to be unsocialized, which contributes to their own fear about their dog’s potential behavior, and then their anxiety gets to the dogs, too, making

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Cory Doctorow: Weaponized Narrative

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’’ To this day, especially in times of ‘‘disaster,’’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

–Mr Rogers

In ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: How to Write a Book in a Month

We all want to learn how to write books faster. The pace of the news cycle today has heated up to such an extent that for those of us who aren’t in the 1% of writers, if we don’t come out with a book a year, it feels like the world has forgotten us amid the buzz of ever more intensifying world horror. I’m not immune to this pressure. Juggling ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: The Jubilee: Fill Your Boots

In 1972, a group of researchers funded by the Volkswagen Foundation published a seismic book called Limits to Growth, which used the most sophisticated techniques of the day to model the planet Earth and project its future. The book’s authors were trying to figure out how rosy a future the world’s poor could count on: would they some day enjoy the cars and refrigerators and other benefits of the ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley:If You Want to Level Up, Get Back to the Basics

There are few things, for me, that are as equally depressing and energiz­ing as reading a really great book. Great books are why I got into this business in the first place, which is why I’m often so shocked when I hear from other professional writers that they don’t read anymore. Try ask­ing a panel of professional writers at your next convention to name five books they read this year. ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: It’s Time to Short Surveillance and Go Long on Freedom

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you voted for Donald Trump and you’re ecstatic that he’s taking the White House. You might even be rubbing your hands in glee at the thought that Obama was dumb enough to operationalize George W. Bush’s surveillance apparatus – rather than living up to his election promise to dismantle it – because now there’s a technological means by which President Trump can ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: The Privacy Wars Are About to Get a Whole Lot Worse

While you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field. ...Read More
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Kameron Hurley: When to Quit Your Day Job

The best writing career advice I ever received wasn’t ‘‘write every day’’ (because I certainly don’t), but, ‘‘Don’t quit your day job.’’

Clearly, not all of us have a choice in this matter, as steady day jobs continue to be eradicated and the ‘‘gig economy’’ becomes the norm. I’ve been laid off from at least half a dozen jobs in my adult life, and I’m not even 40. Many of ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Peak Indifference

Ever since the first days of public access to the Internet, activ­ists like me have been making dire warnings about the privacy implications of leaving data-trails behind you when you engage in everyday activity. We hoped that people would think forward to the potential risks of disclosures down the road – that the individually harmless crumbs of personal in­formation could be painstakingly, disastrously aggregated by crimi­nals, or repressive governments, or ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: Hard Publishing Truths: Relationships Matter

One of my favorite publishing stories is from an established short story writer who tweeted that a story of his had been rejected from a magazine. Within a few minutes of sharing that, the editor of the publication e-mailed them and apologized for the rejection. ‘‘Our new slush reader didn’t rec­ognize your name,’’ the editor said, and promptly bought the story.

The myth of the meritocracy runs deep in publishing. ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Peace In Our Time

E-books are game-changers, but not in the way we all thought they would be. Far from taking over print, e-book sales have stagnated at less than a quarter of print sales and show every sign of staying there or declining for the foreseeable future.

But e-books continue to be a source of bitter controversy that divides publishers from two of their most potentially useful allies: writers’ groups and libraries.

Below, ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: Cultivating Inspiration on Deadline

Like most people trying to stay above water in this tricky economy, I’ve been looking into ways to use my time more effectively. I have a bushel of novel and short story deadlines, a busy day job, and I’m feeling increasing pressure to sell more work now while the getting is good.

To get even this far, I’ve given up a lot of things. It’s been my policy to play ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Wealth Inequality Is Even Worsein Reputation Economies

I need to confess something: ‘‘Whuffie’’ would make a terrible cur­rency.

In 2003, I published my first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, in which all society’s scarcities, even death and energy, have been overcome, and where conflicts over resources – notably, who gets to run Walt Dis­ney World and what they get to do there – are apportioned using a virtual currency called ‘‘Whuffie.’’ Unlike other ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: The Sad Economics of Writing Short Fiction

The abysmally low payment terms for science fiction and fantasy short story markets have been a sad topic of conversation among writers for de­cades. Gone are the days when writing and selling a short story would pay your rent (unless you’re selling to Tor.com).

Rates for writing short fiction are even lower than those for modern magazines and newspapers, which may be hard to wrap one’s head around, but having ...Read More

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Cory Doctorow: Wicked Problems: Resilience Through Sensing

A problem is said to be ‘‘wicked’’ when the various parties engaged with it can’t even agree what the problem is, let alone the solution. As the name implies, wicked problems are hard to deal with.

More than a decade ago, the Federal Communica­tions Commission got its first inkling of a wicked problem on its horizon.

Here’s the problem: around the world, we chop up the electromagnetic spectrum into dedicated-use ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: When the Writing Sprint Goes Wrong

Talk to any career writer, and you’ll hear a lot of anxious worry about sales, about events, about what to say or not to say online, about bad reviews or no reviews, about sexism and table placement and pub­lishers who don’t invest enough in their authors’ careers. You’ll hear about health concerns, about checks that don’t come on time or don’t

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Kameron Hurley: On Career-Building: The Marathon in the Desert

I had a conversation with my spouse the other day about how ‘‘bor­ing’’ my life had become the last few years, ever since I got a real professional job and stopped moving house all the time. My life had become a long marathon in an exhausting desert, and could no longer be carved up into amusing scenes and anecdotes.

That meant that

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Cory Doctorow: What If People Were Sensors, Not Things to be Sensed?

The Internet of Things is starting to emerge. You can tell it’s just starting, because we’re still using the ungainly name ‘‘Internet of Things.’’ It’s one of those coinages that tells you that we don’t know what a thing is or what it’s for, like ‘‘horseless carriage’’ or ‘‘3D printer.’’

But there’s one thing we do know about the IoT: it involves a lot of sensing. The IoT is what ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley: Your Author Meltdown Will Be Live-Tweeted

While standing in line with my spouse to get onto the Book Expo America (BEA) show floor, we started up a conversation about how eas­ily the plain paper badges could be forged. All you need is a good color copier. As we bantered back and forth, the woman in front of us kept looking at us sideways. The third time she did

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Cory Doctorow: Skynet Ascendant

As I’ve written here before, science fiction is terrible at predicting the future, but it’s great at predicting the present. SF writers imagine all the futures they can, and these futures are processed by a huge, dynamic system consisting of editors, booksellers, and readers. The futures that attain popular and commercial success tell us what fears and aspirations for technology and society are bubbling in our collective imaginations.

When you ...Read More

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Kameron Hurley:Money, Fame, Notoriety: What Are We Self-Publishing For?

Like a lot of new writers, I got through years and years of rejection slips by believing I was simply misunderstood.

I suppose you could chalk a lot of this up to being young. But I also knew very little about writing, or publishing, or how to tell a good story. That trifecta of ignorance led me to invest in a lot

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