2003 January 10

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Cory Doctorow's first novel, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, is out. On slashdot he got called "the next Neal Stephenson" (which in my book is high praise), and he's a recent winner of the Campbell award, but I admit I haven't read more than the first chapter yet, so this isn't a review of the book. (Though I did read a previous short story of his: "0wnz0red" , and you should too.) The reason I think it's cool enough to mention now is that Doctorow has had the guts to release the thing on a Creative Commons license for free download, here.

And I think that standing out on that kind of limb is something that should be supported. We have here an author making his already relatively-anticipated first novel available for free, before you can even actually buy the thing. ("Relatively anticipated"? Well, Tor thinks highly enough of it that it's releasing it in hardcover, which is something I think publishers generally reserve for things they have hopes for.) Doctorow has been among those of us who detest the copyright extremists (e.g. here), and now that it's come time for him to put up or shut up, he's put up. What can you say but, "Bravo!"

It seems to be working very well for him, in a free publicity kind of way: 20,000 downloads in the first day. Of course, some of that is from the novelty of the exercise -- the only comparable one I'm familiar with is the two-year-old Baen Free Library, but to my knowledge they have yet to post a new release before it's available in stores. (Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe they've just never posted a new release by an author I've been interested in. Not that I'm criticising -- the Free Library is also firmly among the Good Guys in the copyright wars.)

In the Note About the Book, Doctorow writes, about file-sharing and the threat of the Internet to Copyright As We Know It:

Yeah, there are legal problems. Yeah, itís hard to figure out how people are gonna make money doing it. Yeah, there is a lot of social upheaval and a serious threat to innovation, freedom, business, and whatnot. Itís your basic end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario, and as a science fiction writer, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenaria are my stock-in-trade.
People often confuse "the end of the world as we know it", with "the end of the world." It's good to be clear on the difference.

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Posted by: fg on January 17, 2003 03:45 PM
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