"Down and Out" is out and about!

My friend Cory Doctorow’s new book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom has hit the bookshelves…and the Web!

Photo: Cover of Cory's book, 'Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom'.

Down and Out is Cory’s full novel, and it’s full of all his pet obsessions: Disneyland, technologically-enhanced humans, pop culture, audio-animatronics, online identity and reputation (the term “Whuffie”, which he uses in the novel, was originally a term he used at OpenCola as a measure of reputation or “karma”) and ad-hoc collectives of talent working together to form a whole greater than the sum its parts. Here’s the opening line:

I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the Bitchun Society, to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies; to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to see the death of the workplace and of work.

Here’s the quick summary:

Jules is a young man barely a century old. He’s lived long enough to see the cure for death and the end of scarcity, to learn ten languages and compose three symphonies…and to realize his boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World.

Disney World! The greatest artistic achievement of the long-ago twentieth century. Now in the care of a network of volunteer “ad-hocs” who keep the classic attractions running as they always have, enhanced with only the smallest high-tech touches.

Now, though, it seems the “ad hocs” are under attack. A new group has taken over the Hall of the Presidents and is replacing its venerable audioanimatronics with new, immersive direct-to-brain interfaces that give guests the illusion of being Washington, Lincoln, and all the others. For Jules, this is an attack on the artistic purity of Disney World itself. Worse: it appears this new group has had Jules killed. This upsets him. (It’s only his fourth death and revival, after all.) Now it’s war: war for the soul of the Magic Kingdom, a war of ever-shifting reputations, technical wizardry, and entirely unpredictable outcomes.

You can get the book in one of two ways:

  • Hardcover. You can buy it at your local bookstore or one of the usual online suspects.
  • Online, and for free! Yes, that’s right, you have Cory’s permission to download the text of the book, for free — you don’t even have to give away any personal information. He’s making it available in plain old ASCII text, HTML, printable PDF and Palm PDB formats, and without copy-protection, digital rights management or anything else that prevents you from sharing the files. Why? Because he believes — and I think that he’s right here — that file-sharing isn’t piracy, but fandom and promotion. As the computer industry’s most beloved publisher Tim O’Reilly puts it, piracy isn’t the artist’s worst enemy; obscurity is.

(The license under which Cory’s releasing electronic versions of the book is a Creative Commons license. This particular license says you must attribute the work to him, you’re free to distribute it for non-commercial purposes, and you’re not allowed to make derivative works with first getting his permission.)

And finally, a picture of the author that I took when we went to Disneyland:

Photo: Cory standing outside the gates of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

Out and about at the Magic Kingdom. Cory Doctorow, taken October 2000.

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