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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

DAY OF THE DOCTOROW, PART I

Excerpts from Cory Doctorow's live appearance before an audience of Second Life Residents last Sunday. Background details here.

Hamlet Linden: Among the top tier 'thought leaders' of the Internet age, Cory Doctorow is an award-winning writer, a passionate digital rights advocate, and the co-editor of the mammothly popular Boing Boing blog. His latest novel, Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, is a deeply moving tale of magic, love, family, and Internet connectivity. Ladies and gentlemen, furries, faeries, space warriors, and other Second Life species of indeterminate gender and classification, I'm proud to present: Cory Doctorow's avatar!

[Uproarious applause]

For those few here (and I hope it's just a few) who haven't read Someone Comes to Town yet, why not give us your brief cocktail party pitch for the story?

Cory Doctorow: Hmm-- it's not an easy book to summarize. Alan is a serial entrepreneur who moved to Toronto to get away from his family. His father is a mountain and his mother is a washing machine. He has several brothers, including one who is an island, three who nest like Russian dolls, a precognitive, and a demonic savage. When he was a teenager, he murdered the latter brother, with his other brothers cooperating. And now that brother is back form the dead, stalking them all. Alan has fallen in with a gang of anarcho-info-hippies who are using dumpster-dived hardware to build meshing WiFi repeaters in a mad bid to unwire all of Toronto, or at least the bohemian Kensington Market streets. Meanwhile, his neighbors-- a student household-- contain a girl with wings and a mean-spirited guitar player/bartender, who, it appears, may be in league with the demonic brother.

So that's it in a nutshell. A very large and n-dimensional nutshell.

HL: If someone asked me to classify Someone Comes to Town, I'd call it "high-tech magic realism". (That may be a new genre!) But how's that hit you?

CD: I think that's a good classification. I've been calling it a techie contemporary fantasy -- contemporary fantasy being the label commonly applied to magic realist fiction when written by North American popular authors instead of Marquez and his cohort.

HL: I'd say this is your most personal, heartfelt work of fiction, least it strikes me as such.

CD: Well, the most important moment I had in writing instruction was while I was at the Clarion workshop in 1992. My instructor, James Patrick Kelly, listened to my fellow students praising a story I'd written, and when they were done, he said, "Cory Doctorow, you are an a**hole. You've managed to write a completely vacuous piece utterly devoid of any emotional oomph, but with enough clever that it's convinced these people that it has merit." He told me that I needed to learn to sit down at the keyboard and open a vein.

That's what I've been trying to learn to do ever since.

Continued tomorrow...

UPDATE, 8/24: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Much more background on this interview, this blog, and the online world it's devoted to here.

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