Monday, January 21, 2008

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

How did I get to know Cory Doctorow? That's a good question. I think Cory's just a very astute networker. I first learned that he knew of my existance by finding pictures of me at a WorldCon on his website. I was surprised to see that he even got my name right (he later told me that he made sure to have my nametag in one picture so he would be able to label the pictures right.)

Other connections I've had with Cory. When I graduated Clarion West he sent my class free copies of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction, hot off the press. I often ran into him at cons and remember him saying at a workshop panel that it had taken him five years to start selling stories after he completed Clarion. At the time it was rather heartening, as he's gone on to a stellar career.

I got to know him best when he was my instructor at Viable Paradise. Cory's an especially hardworking and conscientious instructor; he makes a point of reading everything his students have written. He's also a gifted speaker, able to give hour long talks on things like intellectual property that are engaging and interesting from beginning to end.

Of his books, my personal favorite is Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, most likely because I did part of my undergrad in economics, and because I'm one of those people who probably doesn't really "get" cyberpunk. I confess, rather a lot of it blows right past me. This book takes place in a future when humans can be backed up and restored, thus making them immortal, and when economics has evolved to be based entirely on goodwill. Thus, how rich you are depends on how others think of you. A new form of government, the ad hocracy, now controls Disney World, and the main character works on the Hall of Presidents. Somewhat depressed by being murdered, this main character and the government in charge of the Haunted Mansion are locked in a ridiculously low stakes battle about the fate of their respective rides. The novel is tongue in cheek, but only up to a certain point. Cory doesn't shy away from serious issues about identity and personal integrety as the main character chooses the path less traveled.

I also recently finished Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, which is a fantastic book. Why isn't it my favorite? I've got a shallow reason for that. I've got a really weak stomach when it comes to gore, and Cory's an evocative writer. This world that he creates is not safe for people like me. As I read, I was constantly braced for more unpleasantness. Having said that, this is not an especially violent or graphic novel. My reaction is entirely due to Cory's skill in making the scenes engrossing and vivid. I highly recommend either novel, and really need to get reading more of his. They're in my endless stack.

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