- "The Swerve": My Locus column on hope in the dark.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
"The Swerve" (permalink)
My latest Locus Magazine column is "The Swerve," a short essay about the shape that hope takes when happy endings are off the table – it's specifically about the looming environmental collapse, but it also describes my view on the polycrisis of musketfuckery, forced birth, and covid denial:
In this metaphor, we are in a bus barreling toward a cliff. The people in the front seats – who control the driver – insist that we don't need to turn the bus before we go over the edge. Indeed, they insist that turning the wheel is reckless, because the bus might roll and someone might break a leg.
When we demand to know what they're going to do about that cliff and the long plummet to the rocks below, we're called alarmists. There's plenty of time to build a bridge. Also, maybe we don't need a bridge! Maybe we'll figure out how to add wings to the bus, or a cool rocket engine!
I wrote this column back in May (print magazines have long production cycles). Back then, the southwest was on fire and The Guardian was reporting on the "carbon bombs" that the fossil fuel industry was planning to detonate around us:
Six weeks later, I write these words from beneath a "heat dome" over my home in California that has made leaving the house literally painful for several hours every day. We're almost at wildfire season, too.
Then there's the polycrisis, which has exploded over the past six weeks, as the war in Ukraine deepened, as mass shootings swept the country, as forced birth laws went into effect in more than a dozen states. Omicron BA.4/5 is kicking off, escaping both vaccine and recovery immunities.
The time to fix the climate emergency was decades ago, back when Exxon's own scientists warned them that action was needed (#ExxonKnew). They warned us about the cliff over the horizon, and Exxon – and the rest of the hydrocarbon death cult – spent billions to convince us that there was no cliff.
The good news is that climate denial is over (covid denial's still in its prime, though). The bad news is that the deniers have pivoted to incrementalism. They want us to tinker in the margins. Swap out plastic straws for paper ones (but keep pretending that all the other single-use plastic is recyclable).
Switch to electric vehicles (and keep up the geometrically incoherent pretense that it's possible to climate-harden our cities without public transit).
Europe – and the world – now say that if we're going to switch off the supply of Russian gas, we're going to have to switch the coal plants back on. You can punish the mad dictator of Russia, or you can have a habitable planet for your kids, but not both.
There's an old joke from Ireland whose punchline is "If you wanted to get there, I wouldn't start from here." The time to build out renewable capacity and shutter oil and gas and coal plants was twenty years ago. We could have started under George HW Bush, who campaigned in 1988 on convening a global summit, including China and the USSR, to "talk about global warming." But the climate deniers went to work on Bush after he took office, and in 1992, he told the Rio Earth Summit that "the American way of life is not up for negotiations. Period."
We have run out of time to build a bridge. We're going to have to yank the bus wheel. At this late stage, the hopeful future is based on the swerve. The people at the front are right that this will probably roll the bus. They're right that it's gonna hurt. But they're wrong about everything else.
As I write in Locus, "I don’t know what the first-class passengers were thinking. Some of them will be dead of natural causes before the bus goes over the cliff, and they didn’t want to sacrifice any of their material comforts to ensure that the rest of us continued to live once they passed on, I suppose.
"Others are just ideologically committed to traveling in a straight line. The swerve is morally bankrupt. It’s communism. The only way to get over the cliff – if such a thing exists – is to floor the bus. Go as fast as possible. Leap the gorge! The Fonz did it, right?"
One week ago, I became a US citizen. Friends asked me why I'd want to become a citizen of a country whose politics and culture have descended into such dysfunction? I answered that it was the dysfunction that made me want my citizenship.
Remember when Trump's Muslim Ban went into effect and permanent residents of the US were taken into immigration detention and denied access to lawyers unless they surrendered their Green Cards first? President DeSantis or Cruz will do the same and worse.
The more human rights I can lay claim to, the better. Citizenship isn't an inviolable shield against authoritarians, but the life of a US citizen is far less precarious than the life of an immigrant, even one with "permanent residency."
Yesterday was July 4, my first Independence Day as an American citizen. I made dinner and we hosted friends, and I decorated the back yard with my American heroes – dozens of photos of people who fought in some way to make this a better place:
We ate dinner surrounded by these fighters, who all tried to grab the wheel in one way or another. We ate while our phone chimed with news of mass shootings. We ate in the swelter of the heat dome.
The swerve is our hopeful future. It's not a future where we avoid disaster, but it is a future where we stop pretending that there is no disaster. It's a future where refugee crises continue, but where we meet them with humanitarian aid, not gulags and razor wire.
It's a future of wildfires, but one where we use controlled burns to reduce them and evacuations to minimize their harm.
It's a future of habitat loss driving zoonotic plagues, but it's a future where we learn covid's lessons and apply them to create effective public health responses.
It's a future of mass extinctions, but it's also one where we commit to habitat restoration and rescue as many of our "horizontal brothers and sisters" (as John Muir put it) as we can.
In many ways, it's a terrible future. It's too late to build a bridge, or fix the bus's brakes, or do anything except yank the wheel. It's gonna hurt.
But the helpless nightmare of sitting in the back of the bus while its well-fed up there in the front rows insist that we can't do anything? Ending that is a hopeful future. It's the happy ending we can hope for.
It's too late to avoid disaster, but it doesn't have to be a catastrophe. We gotta grab the wheel. Oust every "good" politician who refuses to wield the power we handed to them. Work in your community to help your neighbors. Give material support to people fleeing cruel forced birth laws. Demand better. Fight. Be part of the lineage of American heroes who fought and fought. Fight on. Grab the wheel. Let's roll.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- How to save more lives and avoid a privacy apocalypse https://www.ft.com/content/fa2683ec-fca0-4c5f-805c-531f1412831e (h/t Tim Harford)
Singapore craft beer uses recycled sewage https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/01/singapore-craft-beer-newbrew-uses-recycled-sewage-highlight-water-scarcity (h/t Roz Doctorow)
Valedictorian Rips Into Erosion Of Public Education In Graduation Speech https://popularresistance.org/lausd-high-school-valedictorian-rips-into-the-erosion-of-public-education-in-graduation-speech-sparking-mass-support/ (h/t Gord Doctorow)
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Themepark queues and traffic-shaping https://web.archive.org/web/20020713135906/https://slate.msn.com/?id=2067672
#20yrsago Shredding Hollywood’s digital television FUD https://web.archive.org/web/20020708144624/http://bpdg.blogs.eff.org/archives/000148.html
#20yrsago What is Palladium? What is the area of a Moebius Strip? https://web.archive.org/web/20020903152133/http://vitanuova.loyalty.org/2002-07-03.html
#20yrsago Janis Ian vs the RIAA https://web.archive.org/web/20020802085517/https://janisian.com/article-internet_debacle.html
#15yrsago RIP, Fred Saberhagen http://www.locusmag.com/2007/2007NewsArchive.html
#15yrsago Lewis Shiner’s short fiction online for free https://www.lewisshiner.com/liberation/manifesto.html
#15yrsago Me on CBC, talking Universal v. iTunes https://web.archive.org/web/20070729115503/http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/qpodcast_20070704_2752.mp3
#10yrsago Meet the legions of wingnuts who think Andy Griffith was a communist and want him to burn in hell https://www.theblaze.com/tag/report-andy-griffith-dies-at-86
#10yrsago Team Human: a high-school vampire novel doesn’t suck (it rocks) https://memex.craphound.com/2012/07/03/team-human-a-high-school-vampire-novel-doesnt-suck-it-rocks/
#10yrsago Karl Marx on a MasterCard https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2012/06/15/155106232/the-karl-marx-mastercard-is-here-it-needs-a-tagline
#10yrsago Fretting about Facebook, 17th century style https://tomstandage.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/the-distractions-of-social-media-1673-style/
#10yrsago WELL users pledge more than $100K to community buyout https://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2012/07/will-the-well-survive-members-pledge-to-buy-from-salon.html
#10yrsago Chuck D’s rules for the music business https://craphound.com/images/ChuckDsRulesfortheMusicBusiness.png
#10yrsago EFF weighs in on Charles Carreon’s latest dumb stunt https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/07/bears-still-good-cancer-still-bad-also-bad-trying-punish-critic-preventing-him
#10yrsago Charles Carreon: “Mission accomplished” https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/07/carreon-claims-victory-drops-his-lawsuit-against-the-oatmeal-et-al/
#10yrsago Chinese-built ghost town in Angola – the first of many to come? https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-18646243
#10yrsago ACTA IS DEAD (ish) (for now) https://web.archive.org/web/20120707030758/www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/6578/125/
#10yrsago Why we still fight about music and copyright on the Internet https://locusmag.com/2012/07/cory-doctorow-music-the-internets-original-sin/
#5yrsago AT&T: it’s not “forced arbitration” because no one forced you to have broadband https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/06/att-forced-arbitration-isnt-forced-because-no-one-has-to-buy-service/
#5yrsago California has so much solar power it has to pay Arizona to use its excess energy https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-fi-electricity-solar/
#5yrsago Now any Floridian can ask to have public schools’ science and literary curriculum censored https://web.archive.org/web/20170501000000*/https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/nationworld/ct-florida-science-school-law-20170702-story.html
#5yrsago A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: DNA, individuals, and species https://memex.craphound.com/2017/07/03/a-brief-history-of-everyone-who-ever-lived-dna-individuals-and-species/
#5yrsago Celebrate Independence Day with MC Frontalot’s nerdcore rap about free software vs open source https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fffQjrTCkLI
#5yrsago Dominic Cummings thought up the Brexit Bus and its NHS lie, now says referendum was a “dumb idea” https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-news-vote-leave-director-dominic-cummings-leave-eu-error-nhs-ps350-million-lie-bus-advert-a7822386.html
#5yrsago Vidangel is a stupid censorship service and we should welcome it anyway https://www.wired.com/story/vidangel-movie-filtering/
#5yrsago For sale: any Australian’s full health record for a mere $22 https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/04/the-medicare-machine-patient-details-of-any-australian-for-sale-on-darknet
#5yrsago Bloomberg: Middle-class Americans were “fleeced” by neoliberalism https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2017-04-07/how-middle-class-america-got-fleeced
#5yrsago In the 1990s, a Serbian biology textbook used a still from Raising Arizona for its cover art https://www.avclub.com/nicolas-cage-was-on-the-cover-of-a-serbian-biology-text-1798228781
#5yrsago Mom feared being beaten by United crew, so she didn’t complain when her son’s seat was given away https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/35811846/hawaii-teacher-forced-to-hold-son-on-lap-after-united-gives-purchased-seat-to-standby-passenger/
#5yrsago Debullshitifying the free speech debate about CNN and Trump’s alt-right wrestling GIF https://www.popehat.com/2017/07/05/cnn-doxing-and-a-few-ways-in-which-we-are-full-of-shit-as-a-political-culture/
#1yrago Podcasting "Self Publishing": My column on monopolism, publishing, and the fortunes of authors https://pluralistic.net/2021/07/05/ideomotor-response/#self-publishing
#1yrago Conspiracy fantasy: The political significance and personal appeal of conspiratorialism https://pluralistic.net/2021/07/05/ideomotor-response/#qonspiracy
#1yrago The future is symmetrical: Broadband netizens vs asymmetrical mouse-potatoes https://pluralistic.net/2021/07/03/beautiful-symmetry/#fibrous-growth
#1yrago Biden admin orders an end to surprise ER billing https://pluralistic.net/2021/07/02/spoil-the-surprise/#surprise-billing
- Some Men Rob You With a Fountain Pen, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Friday's progress: 597 words (22452 words total)
The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. Friday's progress: 530 words (18706 words total)
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE
A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: Reasonable Agreement: On the Crapification of Literary Contracts https://craphound.com/news/2022/06/27/reasonable-agreement-on-the-crapification-of-literary-contracts/
- A New HOPE (NYC), Jul 24
DEFCON 30 (Las Vegas), Aug 13
- UK Competition and Markets Authority Data, Technology and Analytics Conference 2022:
Supp-Lie Demand (Bad Faith podcast with Briahna Joy Gray):
The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop: Mapping Fiction’s Influence on Real-World Tech
- "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022
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