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[Xmca-l] Imagination… EFF Presents: Pwning Tomorrow
This entered into my email consciousness today, and I thought imagineers of this list might be intrigued how some of today's writers are imagining the future in regards to the Internet, where we live on this list, after all?
Seems to be relevant. The EFF requests a donation, but the digital download is available free.
Below is the introduction, by David Maass of the EFF:
Introduction to "Pwning Tomorrow"
Let’s start with the end.
The final work in this collection, Free Fall, is a novella by paranormal romance writer Carolyn Jewel. It’s a thriller in which a litigator (who happens to be a witch) partners up with her infosec expert witness (who happens to be a demon) for a passionate encounter, bookended by battles against a tyrannical dark force.
A hacker and a lawyer with supernatural powers pairing up to fight the good fight? That’s a pretty fitting metaphor for the work we’ve done at EFF these last 25 years.
Carolyn Jewel also happens to be the lead plaintiff in Jewel v. NSA, our years-long lawsuit to end warrantless, mass surveillance of our electronic communications. Long before Edward Snowden got the entire world paying attention, Carolyn—like so many other writers—knew what was going on and stood up against it. Today, the PEN American Center, the largest association of writers in the world, is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NSA.
Writers understand the threats to our freedom in the digital age, and they help the rest of us understand it. This is especially true of those who write speculative fiction.
In an essay for Locus, Cory Doctorow once explained that science fiction writers give us the “narrative vocabularies by which futures can be debated, discussed, adopted, or discarded.” Over the decades, this vocabulary has become so very rich; where would we be without terms like “Orwellian” and “Kafkaesque” to describe government dystopias, without “pre-crime” and “Skynet” to describe emerging technology? The fantasy genre has also contributed to the digital rights lexicon with concepts like “Eye of Sauron” and “trolls.”
Imagination is among the most powerful weapons in the battle for Internet freedom. When new policies are introduced, we try to imagine how they will impact civil liberties years, even decades from now. We use our creativity to generate campaigns to fight back and utilize our ingenuity to design technological countermeasures. Creativity gives us an edge in our fight against the well-funded institutions that are devising new ways to invade our privacy and chill our speech every fiscal year.
In the Internet freedom community, a love of genre fiction often goes hand in hand with a commitment to civil liberties, whether it’s Citizen Lab’s habit of naming malware investigations after James Bond films, Access Now’s rebranding of the nefarious Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act as the “Darth Vader” bill, or Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld’s epic explainers that compare the politics of the unlicensed spectrum to “Game of Thrones.” Walk through EFF’s offices and you’ll see sci-fi everywhere you look: Babylon 5 DVDs in our general counsel’s office, mechanical tribbles on a technologist’s’ table, Van Gogh’s TARDIS Starry Night on our international rights director’s wall.
That’s why we thought a story collection would be a great way to help celebrate our 25th anniversary, with two-dozen superstar writers speculating on the next 25 years and beyond.
In this book, you’ll find a variety of stories. Some are brand new, like Madeline Ashby’s “Be Seeing You,” a story of a bodyguard whose employers insist on watching the world through her digital eyes, and some are older classics, such as Lewis Shiner’s 1985 adventure “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” featuring mutants, state secrets, and a robotic Santa Claus.
We have stories that play with concepts of intellectual property, such as Charlie Jane Anders’ “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” a satire on overreaching anti-piracy legislation and Annalee Newitz’s “Unclaimed,” a hardboiled mystery about orphan works. Meanwhile, Paul Ford’s “Nanolaw with Daughter,” parodies how legal threats are increasingly becoming an automated process.
The Internet of Things provided inspiration for “Business as Usual,” Pat Cadigan’s story of an interface designer’s relationship with a smart refrigerator. Other authors imagined what will happen when corporate marketing becomes even more pervasive and controlling, such as in Raam Namez’ “Water,” and Rudy Rucker and Eileen Gunn’s collaboration, “Hive Mind Man.”
In “The Smartest Mob,” David Brin explores the positive possibilities of crowdsourcing news and public safety, while Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Gambler,” goes the other way, examining how mainstream media pits tabloid sensationalism against investigative reporting. Several stories play with how digital augmentation will affect our concepts of ourselves, including Neil Gaiman’s “Changes,” Lauren Beukes’ “Slipping,” and Kameron Hurley’s “The Light Brigade.” Hannu Rajaniemi’s “His Master’s Voice” even has a cyborg dog and cat rescuing their owner, who was imprisoned for playing around with forbidden biotechnology.
The authors yank today’s technologies forward with a surreal or unexpected twist. Charles Human’s “Dance Dance Revolution” wonders what would happen if drone warfare were paired with the dance rhythm arcade game. Cory Doctorow spoofs Google’s “Don’t be evil” motto in “Scroogled.” Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg (who collaborate under the pseudonym S.L. Grey) imagine how voices from beyond the grave would communicate via social media. Charles Yu’s story—the name of which is too long to reprint here—parodies how office technology can spiral out of control.
Then there are stories about hackers, such as Bruce Sterling’s “The Brain Dump” about hacker culture in Ukraine, and, of course, Carolyn Jewel’s novella.
Consider this your NSFW warning: Carolyn’s Free Fall is steamy. But that’s all the more reason to include it in this collection: in authoritarian regimes, graphic and unconventional depictions of romance are often among the first to be banned, along with any fiction that challenges the status quo.
It’s worth noting that we don’t just love this stuff, some of us actually create it, too: two of the authors in this collection were once part of EFF’s team. Before founding io9.com and becoming tech culture editor at Ars Technica, Annalee Newitz analyzed policy and interfaced with the media at EFF. Cory Doctorow, who worked as EFF’s European Affairs Coordinator for four years, recently returned to help with our Apollo 1201 Project to defeat anti-circumvention measures—also known as digital rights management, or DRM. (Cory even invoked 2001: A Space Odyssey in the press release.)
We would like to thank all of these authors for not only allowing us to publish their stories, but for making them available under Creative Commons licenses, so the collection can be shared among the likeminded and curious. We are especially grateful to Cory for his help reaching out to all these authors. In addition, we are thankful for Nick Harkaway’s feedback and encouragement, for Tessellate Media’s advice and assistance in e-publishing, O’Reilly Media, and Troy Mott’s assistance with formatting. Most of all, we thank our supporters for their continued dedication to our causes.
We hope you are as inspired by these authors as we are. Please share it far and wide.
— Dave Maass, EFF Investigative Researcher, 2015