PODCAST: Cory Doctorow talks Makers, 3-D printers, and Disney at Harvard Book Store [MP3]

Cory Doctorow opens his mouth, and nerdgasms fall out: at any given moment, he's liable to be spouting off about feral robot dogs, space domes over Disney World, or building a haunted hotel modeled after a Quake level ("I'll open-source this idea," says he). And we'd expect nothing less -- after all, he's one of the superclocking brains behind BoingBoing, that exalted bestiary of sweet-ass geekdom.

In his blogging career, Doctorow's pitched plenty of woo at maker culture and all things steampunk, while railing against DRM. But he writes fiction, too -- under a Creative Commons license, of course. Following the success of Little Brother (in which a clutch of teenage hackers find themselves falsely imprisoned and tortured when a terrorist bombing transforms San Francisco into a police state), Doctorow's latest is Makers
(which you can download or read on Tor for free), where two fringe inventors defibrillate a collapsed economy with 3-D printers and an FDR-ish "New Work" movement. Then Disney gets its Mickey Mouse mitts on the issue, and all hell breaks loose. According to Doctorow, the 3-D printers around which the story revolves serve as "a metaphor about the panic of the replication of digital goods." So at his packed Harvard Book Store appearance on Monday night, he must've gotten a kick out of Paige M. Gutenborg, the HBS's print-on-demand book machine.

After a brisk reading, Doctorow spent most of his time fielding audience questions -- or, as he jokingly put it, "thinly veiled polemics disguised as questions." But his fans were perhaps the most well-behaved bunch of question-askers ever to grace the People's Republic of Cambridge. Unlike at E.L. Doctorow's reading a couple months back, not a single attendee lobbed a query so cringe-inducingly awful it made me pray for spontaneous human combustion. In fact, the discussion was downright lively. Behold the resulting nuggets of wisdom.

Doctorow on computers as literary devices in cyberpunk: "I think William Gibson is a genius and a treasure to the human race, but if I were designing a cyberspace deck, I'd put a circuit breaker in it."

On why he publishes under a Creative Commons license: "There is a certain romance of being a blacksmith at Pioneer Village, but I'm a science-fiction writer; I'm supposed to be making at least contemporary, if not futuristic, art. And so making contemporary art that's not supposed to be copied, to me, just doesn't make any sense."

On piracy: "If it wasn't for mixtapes, my entire adolescence would have been celibate."

On the role of the sci-fi author: "There's this old aphorism that the job of the science-fiction writer is to look at the movie theater and the automobile and predict the drive-in ... but I think if you want to be a great predictive science-fiction writer, you should look at the automobile and look at the movie theater and say, 'We will have drive-ins, which will incentivize children to get driving licenses, which will mean that for the first time, citizens of Western democracies will routinely carry photo ID, and in 25 years, we'll have a surveillance state.' "

On why we shouldn't dismiss fanfic as trivial: "That's like judging a sex act by what's left behind on the sheets. It's a process, not a destination."

DOWNLOAD: Cory Doctorow reads from Makers [MP3]

Recorded live at the Harvard Book Store on November 16, 2009. To subscribe to this podcast, use this RSS feed or bookmark the Boston Phoenix podcast blog.

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