- Naomi Kritzer's "Liberty's Daughter": The market authoritarianism of a seastead childhood.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2003, 2008, 2013, 2018, 2022
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Naomi Kritzer's "Liberty's Daughter" (permalink)
There's so much sf about "competent men" running their families with entrepreneurial zeal, clarity of vision and a firm confident hand. But there's precious little fiction about how much being raised by a Heinlein dad would suuuck. But it would, and in Naomi Kritzer's Liberty's Daughter, we get a peek inside the nightmare:
Beck Garrison is a seasteader, living on a floating platform built by libertarian cranks to get away from big government, taxes, and the idea that people owe each other care and consideration. Various kinds of market trufans have built their own fiefdoms: there's a sin city, a biotech free-for-all, a lawless Mad Max zone, and so on.
Beck's father, Paul, is some kind of local functionary. He's wealthy and respected, both a power-broker and a power in his own right. He pays for Beck to get private tutoring (no public schools – no public anything) and if she needs bailing out from some kind of sticky situation, he's got her on his account with Alpha Dogs, the toughest mercenaries on the sea (no police, either). An armed society is a polite society, after all.
Beck has a job, naturally (there ain't no such thing as a free lunch). She's a finder: for all that the steaders worship commerce as a sacrament consecrated to the holy Invisible Hand, there's not a lot of retail at sea. California – the nearest onshore neighbor – has lots of pesky taxes, and besides, it's a long ways off. Besides, space is at a premium on the stead, so people don't have attics and basements to fill with excess consumer junk.
Instead, when a steader needs something – a shoelace, a fashion accessory, or any other creature comfort – they hire a finder like Beck to clamber around between the decks of the aircraft carriers, scows, yachts and other vessels comprising the stead. It's a good way for Beck to earn spending money, and she's a natural at it. After all, she's been a steader since she was four, when her mother died in a drunk driving accident and her father took her to sea.
The story opens with a finding job. Beck wants a pair of sparkly shoes for her client, and the woman who owns them is an indentured servant whose sister has gone missing. Find the sister, get the shoes.
Indentured servant? Yeah, of course. Freedom of contract is the one freedom from which all the others flow, so you can sell yourself into bond labor. Hell, maybe you can earn enough to buy a share in the stead and become a co-owner/citizen.
This is the setup for Beck's adventure, which sees her liberating bond slaves tricked into fatal work details, getting involved in reality TV production, meeting illegal IWW organizers, and becoming embroiled in a pandemic that threatens the lives of all the steaders. It's a coming of age novel, told with the same straightforward, spunky zeal of Heinlein's juvies, but from the perspective of the daughter, not the dad.
Kritzer makes it clear that growing up under the thumb of a TANSTAAFL-worshipping, self-regarding, wealthy autocrat who worships selfishness as the necessary precondition for market clearing would be a goddamned nightmare. She also thinks through some of the important implications of life in one of these offshore libertarian archipelagos, like the fact that the wealthy residents would be overwhelming drawn from the ranks of corporate criminals and tax-cheats, and the underclass would be bail-skipping proles ensnared in the War on Drugs.
But Liberty's Daughter isn't a hymn to big government. Most of the steaders are escaping the US government, a state whose authoritarian and cruel proclivities are well-documented. Kritzer uses the labor dispute at the core of the novel to reveal market authoritarianism – the coercive power that hunger and poverty transfers from the have-nots to the haves. Think of Anatole France's wry observation that "the law, in its majestic equality, equally forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."
If you're familiar with Kritzer's work, you won't be surprised to learn that she tells a zippy, fast moving tale that smuggles in sharp observations about the cleavage lines between solidarity and selfishness. Her story "So Much Cooking" – published years before the pandemic – captured life under lockdown with eerie prescience:
More recently, her "Better Living Through Algorithms" is a dazzling display of knifework that'll cut you a dozen times before you even notice that you're bleeding:
If you habitually read Kritzer's short fiction, Liberty's Daughter might be familiar to you, as it is adapted from a series of stories that originally ran in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Kritzer's YA debut, Catfishing on the CatNet, was also adapted from a short story, "Cat Pictures Please," which won the Hugo Award in 2016:
"Libertarian exit" – buying a country, or an archipelago, or just a luxury bunker – has been in the air lately. It's a major element of my new novel, The Lost Cause, which came out this month – anarchocapitalist wreckers try to sabotage the Green New Deal from the seastead they've moored to the tallest point in the drowned Grand Caymans and declared to be a sovereign nation:
Kritzer is great at catching that zeitgeist. Seasteading is part of a long, bitter dream of a certain kind of selfish person to escape society, a tale told in lurid and fascinating detail in Raymond Craib's 2022 history Adventure Capitalism:
There's a longstanding joke to the effect that you can shut down any discussion of the merits of a libertarian exit by asking three questions about the brave new world:
I. Whether you can sell your organs;
II. Whether you can sell yourself into slavery; and
III. Whether there is any age of consent.
Kritzer tackles the first two, but tacks around the third. Instead, by giving us a young adult protagonist who has been raised in a rusting libertopia, she finds a decidedly less incendiary way to think about the role of autonomy in adolescents, and thus generates far more light than heat.
The result is a cracking read with a sting in its tail.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- Build your own Patek Philippe-style Chronograph using this DIY Wooden Watchmaking Kit https://www.yankodesign.com/2023/11/19/build-your-own-patek-philippe-style-chronograph-using-this-diy-wooden-watchmaking-kit/
2023 CBC Massey Lectures: Astra Taylor https://www.cbc.ca/radiointeractives/ideas/2023-cbc-massey-lectures-astra-taylor
The main risk of machine learning is not that it's good at what it does https://mamot.fr/@email@example.com/111443798898077800
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Vivendi burning MP3.com library to the ground https://web.archive.org/web/20031125201326/http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2003/11/21/14616/561
#15yrsago Homes with Tails: Homeowners providing their own fiber https://web.archive.org/web/20081123114400/http://www.newamerica.net/files/HomesWithTails_wu_slater.pdf
#15yrsago Voices of a People’s History of the United States: Fantastic voice actors read the historic work of people who demanded justice from America https://memex.craphound.com/2008/11/21/voices-of-a-peoples-history-of-the-united-states-fantastic-voice-actors-read-the-historic-work-of-people-who-demanded-justice-from-america/
#10yrsago Sweden’s telcos hand over mass spying powers to police, tax authority, customs and other agencies https://falkvinge.net/2013/11/19/swedish-regime-to-give-police-customs-tax-authorities-realtime-access-to-citizens-phone-mail-more/
#10yrsago Differences between life when you’re poor and life when you’re middle class https://web.archive.org/web/20131109113219/https://killermartinis.kinja.com/why-i-make-terrible-decisions-or-poverty-thoughts-1450123558
#10yrsago Because is a new, Internet-driven preposition, because grammar https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/english-has-a-new-preposition-because-internet/281601/
#10yrsago NSA Primary Sources: a catalog of leaked NSA files https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/nsadocs
#10yrsago Health Canada outs 40,000 medical marijuana users https://web.archive.org/web/20131125023133/http://metronews.ca/news/ottawa/861955/medical-marijuana-patients-outed-by-health-canada/
#5yrsago Machine learning hucksters invent an AI racist uncle that predicts your personality from your facial bone structure https://www.faception.com
#5yrsago Assessing Snowden’s legacy, five years on https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/11/the-snowden-legacy-part-one-whats-changed-really/
#5yrsago Make: a gingerbread house zoetrope https://medium.com/george-eastman-museum/how-we-made-a-gingerbread-house-zoetrope-b4112b5a9dbe
#5yrsago UK minister says airlines used “exploitative algorithms” to split up families unless they paid extra https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/airline-flights-pay-extra-to-sit-together-split-up-family-algorithm-minister-a8640771.html
#5yrsago The billionaire family who profited off the opioid epidemic are finally facing legal reprisals https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/19/sackler-family-members-face-mass-litigation-criminal-investigations-over-opioids-crisis
#5yrsago In a weird way, Donald Trump is the most honest American president in history https://theintercept.com/2018/11/21/thanksgiving-donald-trump-lies-honest-president/
#5yrsago Americans pay some of the highest prices for wireless data in the world, and it’s going to get worse https://research.rewheel.fi/downloads/The_state_of_4G_pricing_DFMonitor_10th_release_2H2018_PUBLIC.pdf
#1yrago Universities secretly sold their students to online casinos https://pluralistic.net/2022/11/21/rah-rah/#sis-boom-bah
Today's top sources:
- A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS JAN 2025
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS FEB 2024
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM
Latest podcast: Moral Hazard (from Communications Breakdown) https://craphound.com/stories/2023/11/12/moral-hazard-from-communications-breakdown/
- Lost Cause at Simsbury Public Library, Nov 20 (Simsbury, CT)
Generation of Lost Causes, Nov 22 (Toronto)
Who Is Watching Big Tech? Nov 27 (Toronto)`
The Lost Cause at The Strand (NYC), Nov 29
The Lost Cause at Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill), Dec 5
- Digital Markets Act; Interoperability; Entrenchment; Copyright; "What-About-Ism" (Digital Markets Research Hub)
Science fiction for a dystopian present (Institute of Art and Ideas)
Pushing back on unconstrained capitalism (Changelog)
- "The Lost Cause:" a solarpunk novel of hope in the climate emergency, Tor Books (US), Head of Zeus (UK), November 2023 (http://lost-cause.org). Signed, personalized copies at Dark Delicacies (https://www.darkdel.com/store/p3007/Pre-Order_Signed_Copies%3A_The_Lost_Cause_HB.html#/)
"The Internet Con": A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech (Verso) September 2023 (http://seizethemeansofcomputation.org). Signed copies at Book Soup (https://www.booksoup.com/book/9781804291245).
"Red Team Blues": "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books http://redteamblues.com. Signed copies at Dark Delicacies (US): and Forbidden Planet (UK): https://forbiddenplanet.com/385004-red-team-blues-signed-edition-hardcover/.
"Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"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?sk=f6cd10e54e20a07d4c6d0f3ac011af6b) (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#/.
- The Bezzle: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about prison-tech and other grifts, Tor Books, February 2024
Picks and Shovels: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about the heroic era of the PC, Tor Books, February 2025
Unauthorized Bread: a graphic novel adapted from my novella about refugees, toasters and DRM, FirstSecond, 2025
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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla