Monday, June 28, 2010

Cory Doctorow On The Digital World

I wasn't able to make it to the Cory Doctorow event earlier this month but I was lucky to have an opportunity to talk to him by phone! This was my first phone interview & I owe a big thank you to both S.F. Robertson and Aly who came to my rescue and gave me some great pointers :)

So if you have a peak at Cory's bio below, you will see why I was excited (and intimidated) to have the opportunity to talk to him. His latest novel, FOR THE WIN, is "an action-adventure story about games, economics and labor politics". I am not really a gamer (I leave that for my hubby & kids) but I am a business geek. In FOR THE WIN, Cory covers many business topics & really breaks them down into something easy to understand...and fun, can you beleive that! I loved how he weaves a little eco/finance education into the story, adds in a little poli sci and given he reader a little business lesson without all the bordom of a textbook! As you can see, FOR THE WIN is not a beach read, but it is a really thought-provoking read. So of course, I had to ask Cory why a business/gamer/YA mix: he sees games and the virtual world popularity as a "natural empathy from teens to explain the weird parts in the grown up world".

What really stuck with me long after our chat was Cory's view of social networking. You hear a lot about how kids are spending too much online & not enough time in 'normal' social settings, not so for Cory. To him, "life as a teen as constrained - they don't go out to play anymore as parents hear scary stories, hanging around the food courts is not allowed, and so these networks emerged". As a parent, I totally see this, just now allowing my son, at age 8, to go ride his bike with a friend around the neighborhood, something I recall doing at age 4 or 5! The other day, while my son was playing a few games on the internet he asked me if he could have a Facebook account, yikes!

I loved this article by Cory a couple of years ago about writing YA, so couldn't help but share: Nature's Daredevils: Writing for Young Audiences. My favorite part: "That's one of the most wonderful things about writing for younger audiences — it matters. We all read for entertainment, no matter how old we are, but kids also read to find out how the world works. They pay keen attention, they argue back. There's a consequentiality to writing for young people that makes it immensely satisfying." See, YA isn't just fluff :) I could have picked Cory's brain for hours, he is really a very well-spoken, kind person and I really appreciate that he took the time to chat with me.

About the author:

Cory Doctorow ( is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger -- the co-editor of Boing Boing ( and the author of the or Teens/HarperCollins UK novels like FOR THE WIN and the bestselling LITTLE BROTHER. He is the former European director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in London.

About the book:
In the virtual future, you've got to organize to survive.

At any hour of the day or night, millions of people around the globe are engrossed in multiplayer online games, questing and battling to win virtual gold, jewels, and precious artifacts. Meanwhile, others seek to exploit this vast shadow economy, running electronic sweatshops in the world’s poorest countries, where countless “gold farmers,” bound to their work by abusive contracts and physical threats, harvest virtual treasure for their employers to sell to First World gamers who are willing to spend real money to skip straight to higher-level gameplay.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of “General Robotwalla.”

In Shenzen, heart of China’s industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power—including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister’s people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once—a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.


  1. How cool that you got a chance to talk to Cory Doctorow! I really enjoy his perspective on all things digital, whether or not I agree with his take on the situation.

    I need to write my review of FOR THE WIN, which I finished reading last week.

  2. I recently downloaded a free ebook of Little Brother, but I haven't read it yet.

    Thanks for the recommendation of For the Win.