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INTERVIEW: Cory Doctorow


photo by Joi Ito,
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

[Editor’s Note: A while back, SF Signal published a Mind Meld feature on Tomorrow’s Big Genre Stars. Patrick at Stomping on Yeti has been profiling these writers and has agreed to cross-post them here.]

This week’s featured author in my 21-part Keeping An Eye On… series probably doesn’t need an introduction. Cory Doctorow, internet superstar, is arguably the best known of the 21 authors on this list. Cory Doctorow won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer way back in the year 2000 and followed that up with the Locus Award for Best First Novel three years later with Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Cory’s latest book, Little Brother, garnered both a Hugo nomination for Best Novel and a spot on the New York Times bestseller List. Besides his fiction, Cory is also a vocal technology activist, most notably on the subjects of digital rights management and other copyright/content related issues. He is also a well respected journalist and blogger on these here interwebz, serving as a co-editor of, which anyone who stumbled across this blog should already be aware of.

I think that’s too much introduction for an SF author who needs none, so onto the interview itself.

PW: If we are keeping an eye on you, what should be looking for in the near future? What have you been working on recently?

CD: Next novel: Makers, from Tor and HarperCollins UK, at the end of October, currently syndicated on

Next short story collection: With A Little Help, an ambitious, self-published open content project with several different hardcopy editions, an audiobook and more.

Presently working on For The Win, a YA novel about union organizers in games, tentatively scheduled by Tor/HC UK for spring 2010; and a short story, “Chicken Little”, for a Fred Pohl tribute anthology from Tor.

PW: If a reader has never heard of you before reading this, they are obviously lying. But if we are playing along, what is the one single piece of work of yours (novel, short story, binary code, etc.) would you like them to read?

CD: Little Brother.

PW: Describe your writing style in haiku-form.

CD: My writing

Is poorly suited

To haiku

PW: Your most recent book, Little Brother, was primarily marketed as a YA novel. What was the hardest part of writing a YA novel? How do you respond to adult readers who dismiss YA novels as something below them?

CD: It wasn’t hard in any way that is distinct from the difficulty of writing adult-oriented novels! As to adults who say it, I just throw a copy of Tom Sawyer at them, and follow it up with The Hobbit if necessary.

PW: Little Brother, which just came out last year, has already been adapted into a play in Chicago. What did you think when you first heard about the adaptation? When you actually got to Chicago to see it, was it what you expected?

CD: I was very excited to hear that the adaptation was underway; the company has also adapted Gaiman’s Starlight and I’d heard good things about them. Seeing the production was a trip, I didn’t stop grinning for days.

PW: Your next book, Makers, is being serialized for free on What are the benefits of publishing your work like this?

CD: Well, I’ve never done this kind of serial before, so it remains to be seen. We hope that it’ll get people excited about the book for its publication.

If you mean, what are the benefits of free electronic release, I’ll just quote Tim O’Reilly and say, “My problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”

PW: You’ve been at the forefront of the publishing industry and one of the biggest supporters of utilizing technology to deliver content. What is at the bleeding edge of the intersection of publishing and technology?

CD: Print on demand, as used by publishers and individuals, to reduce the capital cost of experimenting with print.

PW: What is the biggest mistake mainstream publishing is currently making in their efforts to keep up with current technology trends? I would say the ebook pricing model.

CD: No, it’s DRM, especially the Kindle. It’s abominable that in 2010, after the *record industry* has figured out that DRM doesn’t work, alienates customers, and gives too much control to the DRM companies, publishing is still mouthing inane noises about how DRM is necessary.

PW: In one of my favorite webcomics,, you have a recurring role as an internet superhero. How do you feel about this?

CD: I’m tickled.

PW: How do you respond to criticisms that authors with a strong internet presence (such as yourself or John Scalzi) have an unfair advantage in competing for non-juried awards?

CD: I don’t. That’s a silly thing to say. It’s like saying Heinlein has so many fans that they all vote for him on the Hugos, which are a measure of which books fans like.

PW: If I told you I was charging a dollar per view of this interview (I’m not), what would you say to me?

CD: I’d say that I’m doing this for free, in the ten minutes I have between 5AM and 510 when my daughter wakes up, at the expense of income-generating activity, because I understood that you were working for free too. If you want me for commercial activity, we can talk about my word-rate and go from there.

PW: For years, you’ve been one of the most recognizable internet “celebrities.” How do you balance maintaining your internet presence with continuing your writing career?

CD: Blogging and writing are the same thing – blogging is how I keep track of everything that will become writing some day.

PW: Hypothetically, you get kicked off the list for being too well known. Who do you nominate in your place?

CD: I don’t really follow, think about, or care about celebrity, so I can’t really answer this. Nicola Tesla, he’s cool.

PW: You get to choose a single SF/F author (can be living, dead, or zombie) to write one additional book. Who do you choose and why?

CD: I’d love to get another Borribles book out of De Lairabeitti, because that’s the rockingest trilogy I’ve read.

PW: What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

CD: I suck at “bests” — which is why I wrote 40,000 blog posts instead of picking the 10 best things on the internet and stopping.

That said, Kadrey’s Sandman Slim, which I review today on BB, is great.

PW: [Obligatory pimpage] Is there anywhere online that readers can follow you and your work? [/obligatory pimpage]

CD: and

Thanks again to Cory for giving me some time out of his busy schedule and also thanks to John for rerunning the interviews on SF Signal. If you enjoyed this interview, feel free to stop by my own SF Blog,, for more interviews and similar content.

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