I liked this book quite a lot for its ideas, not so much for its story.
Start off with the dislikes: I'm not sure if it was the plot or the plotting that I didn't care for, but something there just didn't do it for me. It seemed that the plot was somewhat trivial and unimportant in the grand scheme of things (but in a world with no money or death, what is important?). But, on the other hand, it's nice to not have a save-all-of-creation kind of plot, to have something so understated as a battle for control of some rides at Disney.
That said, I really liked the society he set up. I've spent a great deal of time since reading this thinking of all the ways a reputation-based economy would make the world different. This is what kept me reading, Whuffie. Question: Is there some sort of derivation for Whuffie, or is it completely invented?
It was refreshing to have a short book after taking a month to read QS last time. I'll try to be back with more, but look forward to others' thoughts.
I read that Whuffie began with hackers, most of whom had lots of whuffie and little money.
I loved this book! I can't put my words together tonight, but will respond better later.
Oops, I started a post-singularity thread, which is what this genre is called by many. Also, Cory Doctorow's and Charles Stross' photos appear on the cover of the new Locus, with 2 interviews inside.
This, from two emails I received today from Cory Doctorow's notification list:
The preliminary ballot for the Nebula Award came out yesterday, and my
novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is one of six novels that made
the first cut. Between now and Feb 15, my colleagues in the Science
Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) will vote on a final
ballot. It's exhilarating to have just gotten this far, but it will be
truly amazing if my first novel makes the final ballot. If you're a
SFWA member, I hope you'll remember the book when your preliminary
ballot arrives in the mail!
Paladin of Souls -- Lois McMaster Bujold (Eos, Oct03)
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom -- Cory Doctorow (Tor, Feb03)
Omega -- Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov03)
Perfect Circle -- Sean Stewart (Small Beer Press, Jun04)
Conquistador -- S.M. Stirling (Roc, Feb04)
The Knight -- Gene Wolfe (Tor, Jan04)
Nebula ballot: http://sfwa.org/news/nebpre04.htm
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom: http://craphound.com/down
Rick Kleffel's "Agony Column" has a fun piece on my next book, and the
thing I'm working on these days...
This book really energized me to spend more time with scifi. This, like Neuromancer, is like candy for me, it gets me all excited and greedy for more. I became immersed in his world, loved imagining the instant and almost telepathic communication possible, the gathering of info with a glance, the very personal ethical decisions each person is faced with when he/she circumvents death. Like Erf, I found whoofie really interesting, and even began thinking in whoofie-terms. I enjoyed the characters and the revelations and resulting self-discovery that the main guy experienced upon losing his connection to the net. All in all, I found it to be a fascinating idea-novel, and having practically grown up in Disneyland myself (it opened on the day of my birth, even), I enjoyed the many references. I'm glad Doctorow contrasted the wired life with the disconnected life, a good way to examine the implications.
I've enjoyed dipping into Cory Doctorow's boingboing.net site for a few months now, and find him to be particularly interesting as the son of two Troskyists and himself a strong proponent of copyright revolution on the internet. I respond to his freshness as sort of the new kid on the block, and look forward to his other works, especially Eastern Standard Tribe.
I hope Ficus pipes in too.
I will, but you may not be excited about my comments.
I got the Tradepaper version of the book, it is a very striking green and blue. That is the best thing I can say about the book, that and I can now take Cory Doctorow off my reading list. I previously read a short story collection of his called a Place So Foreign and 8 More. It too was very bland and did not engage me. I thought maybe he would be better at the novel length, but now I know he is not.
It wasn't written very well, I didn't really care about the characters, and the story was not all that interesting or whizz-bang. I didn't feel all that grounded in his world. I guessed who the murderer was, long before it was revealed.
I didn't like how the book started out. With all kinds of jargon and acronyms, it was like a dialect. But what it made me think of was the future was inhabited by morons. I don't know Doctorow eased off, or if I just got used to it, but in any event I hate books that butcher the language.
I don't know if I had not heard about squatting at Disney, if I would have felt more of a 'wow' regarding the story, but I don't think so. Although I never read it until it went into paper, I had heard about it, read the blurb on the back. It just isn't all that radical an idea, nor is it well done in terms of making me feel like it was real.
I also am not a big fan of Disney/world/land. I was never a Disney kid, I was more into Looney Tunes, and I never went to the park (in Florida) until I was an adult. I found it to be an average tacky theme park. I just don't get the hoopla. I also have a friend whose brother works for them and they are seriously nasty people and treat their employees (those who work in the park anyway) very badly. I also find the whole 'cast' concept pretentious.
Probably the main problem for me was the idea of Whuffie points. I don't think he could have spent much time thinking about it at all. I realize that there are those who believe work and the economy based on scarcity will be ended by the economics of technology in the future. All I could think about is that since Whuffie is universal, the smart, interested and involved people would be overwhelmed by the idiots who have brought us the celebrity-culture and the rush for your 15 minutes of fame. Whuffie would accrue to the latest Britney Spears and who is hot, those who are dating hotties, and wearing the most Ďiní clothes, and listening to the most Ďiní music.
The other option is old-fashioned nationalism, religious fanaticism, and just plain demagogues. Before Hitler, Mussolini, and Milosevic were criminals and reviled by humanity, they were popular and well respected and the darlings of the majority of their countrymen. People wanted to believe in something better and they were fooled or didnít care about the bad stuff. We also just went through the genocide in Rwanda and Sudan , which boils down to the popular side against the Ďotherí side. Why would giving people points (power) for popularity lead to a good result, and not produce a more grisly outcome ? Thirty years of failed liberal policies have proved that people donít always behave better when they are free from want.
Finally while work may be an economic exercise it is also how people organize their lives. Not everyone will zone out or party all the time. Some people would continue to 'work' doing what they loved and enjoyed. Not for money but for fun, and personal satisfaction. Now if where you work is suddenly closed, changed or not there because someone important lost Whuffie points then your whole life is turned upside down.
For example a person who is a chef, and loves to cook, works at a restaurant not for money but for joy. That is what they do, who they are, and where their friends can find them. Then one day the person who is running the place, who has the skills to juggle food, people, orders and supplies loses all his or her Whuffie. Food isn't delivered, people won't eat there, and your job ends. Now your life is up in the air. The same with people doing one thing and maybe depending on day care and it isn't there one morning. People need order and Whuffie seems, because it is popularity and fad driven, to be very volatile. That kind of volatility seems to border on mental illness in terms of ordering your life around it. Yes you won't starve, but what kind of life can you live if the cycle of life and change is even faster than it is now ?
I just found the book to be very shallow in terms of entertainment and not well thought out regarding his future. It also seemed tired and same-old even though he was trying to do something new.
I had a strong feeling you wouldn't like it, Ficus, and even had a hunch you weren't a Disney kid. Of course nostalgia was part of the allure for me, and the Disney company of the early years was not the Disney company it is now.
I agree the future and characters Doctorow painted was shallow and disfunctional to the extreme, and I don't think he was trying to portray a utopian society - to the contrary, I think he showed that even without scarcity and death (two major stumbling blocks in the present), all that would remain would be the shallow end of existence (in all its manifestations). He said with tongue in cheek, at least twice, that those people who had ethical objections to backup...well, died...and now no one was left to object. I don't think the Whuffie economy was presented as a solution...Doctorow is a geek, and Whuffie is a concept that has existed in the hacker world in fact; I'm sure he was running with it, to extrapolate a world based upon that.
I'm curious whether you had similar objections to Neuromancer. It also had the language that was tailored to the world. I loved both books for many of the same reasons, and enjoyed puzzling out the language in both. Both books are enmeshed in cyberculture, which happens to fascinate me. I love the idea of an alternate culture that exists side-by-side with traditional cultures and crosses all boundaries of nationality and age. Having been, like you, a programmer and in my case also a student of psychology, I crave more discussion of how this emerging sub-society could play out as it matures. Us oldsters have been afforded a view from the very beginning of something unlike anything that has ever come before. Just yesterday I came across an article that offhandedly referred to the 1980's as: When Everything Changed. I get tingles just imagining all the futures that could spin from that.
A note: I also figured out the murderer as soon as it happened. That didn't bother me, as this was clearly not a murder mystery, but a book of ideas.
I have never read Neuromancer. In fact I haven't read any Gibson. I think I finally broke down and picked Neuromancer up, but have not yet read it. I am not all that interested in Cyberpunk. I read it sparingly. A big part of the problem is the way they hack up the language and seem to roll in the bleeding parts.
I didn't take Doctorow's book as a perfect society, but found it too silly to be plausible. I also don't really think of what he created as a reputation-based economy. I think a reputation is something that takes time to build, and it will carry you through rough spots. What Docotorw showed with rapid changes in points was a popularity-based economy, and that I think is not only unworkable but a bad idea.
So is the Mansion thing even a real ride/venue or was it made up for the book ?
And you're right...I also took it to imply popularity rather than reputation - another sign of the shallowness remaining in this world. That was exactly his aim. You might find this comment from his interview in the new Locus interesting - Down and Out is...What Doctorow showed with rapid changes in points was a popularity-based economy, and that I think is not only unworkable but a bad idea.
"a utopian book about a post-scarcity world where the big problem with the guiding principle is it's powerfully normative: it really punishes minority viewpoints." Having read some of Doctorow's views I am convinced that he values the minority viewpoint, and is making a statement in the book.
The Haunted Mansion is indeed a ride, first built at Disneyland, and is exactly as he described. However, while DisneyWorld may have a Hall of Presidents, "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" (a robot) first opened at Disneyland in 1966. I saw it when it was brand new, and it had everyone gasping in amazement.
Another issue the book brings up, and I liked, was the preservation of art vs. revisionism. When Walt Disney was alive, it was the artistic vision of the man as well as his personal supervision that created the magic, and in my opinion art of Disneyland. I see the core conflicts in this book essentially about this idea. It was shocking to imagine such a place, treasured to many, altered so completely to satisfy the curiosity and vanity of its caretakers. As we know, art has been vandalized in the past to satisfy the changing sensibilities over time. Cory Doctorow is known for expanding commonly used terms to be inclusive of technological changes (see his comments in Locus about his definition of "book".) To many who grew up with Disney's magic, Doctorow's view of Disney's work as art makes good sense, and there is indeed strong loyalty to his vision among many people.
Ficus, while I know this book wasn't your cup of tea, I appreciate the open mind you brought to it, and the fact that you gave it a try. Not having touched the Disney magic in your own experience, must have made a lot of this difficult material.
By the way, if there were any bleeding parts in Neuromancer or this book, I don't remember them, and am pretty sure there wasn't any "rolling" in them...but it's funny that I avoid a lot of the vampire stuff and Anita Blake for that very reason.
edit: oh, I see you meant roll in the bleeding parts of the language. Well, cultural and sociological extrapolations must include changes in language, no?
Last edited by intensityxx; January 6th, 2005 at 08:57 PM.
Though I read Locus, it is for the ads, book reviews, books received, and the short columns. I almost never read the interviews; the authors and what they do and why, usually just isn't of interest to me. So I would have missed Doctorow's comments. I will say the type of book that presents only one side of a bad idea and seems to champion it, is always a tough read for me. I look at it as if the author is pushing that idea, rather than showing the dangers, and am usually put off. However in this case it was the bad writing and poor storytelling that just didn't capture me, as well as the bad ideas that turned me off.Originally Posted by intensityxx
With all due respect to those who love them: I would have to say that I would not consider the Disney parks art. Disney may have had a vision, but it was for a theme park and rides. They may qualify for some sort of historic preservation, but that would be as far as I am prepared to go. I also don't really consider films art, and so I don't think it is possible for anyone to change or alter real art, short of actually hacking it up. A lot of the modern stuff (installations, performance) I think is more an attempt to generate shock and attention than art.
I would say if Doctorow had a theme regarding the changes at Disney, it would be the more generic: preservation (and honoring tradition) vs change as part of real life (and the requirements for modernization). I donít think it is just about art.
No I didn't find the book or the material difficult, it just didn't engage me. If I had some sort of nostalgia I might have had a more positive response, but I didn't.
Yes I meant the language . Actually most modern vampire books are not real bloody. The older ones that treat the subject as straight good-vs-evil horror can be messy. Those that look at the vampire as another type of life-form are often more focused on the internal workings of the vampire, and how s/he interacts with humans and society. Anita, who is not a vampire, is actually much more bloody than most vampires. There are a couple books in the series with chopped children - but LKH purposely wanted her female lead to deal with tough situations to balance what she saw as a tendency in mysteries for female leads to have a male character take care of all the 'unpleasantness'. Anita is almost unique in fiction in that she actually changes through the books. She starts out as a bigoted red-neck who thinks right is on her side, and ends up not only seeing that monsters are people too, but that some people are actually monsters. Book 1 (Guilty Pleasures) to book 9 (Obsidian Butterfly) are really amazing. After that Anita has changed into a nymphomaniac, and is only worth reading in the hope that she will eventually change again.
You are right change may indeed impact the language, but that is for those in the future to deal with. I want to read about it in proper modern day language. I also don't enjoy the dialects of the past, which also might be authentic but for me it is like driving over a highway filled with speed bumps - it just never flows.
Last edited by FicusFan; January 7th, 2005 at 05:33 AM.
I was thinking of the classic nude works that had historically been painted over in another era with fig leafs, etc., or the rewriting of classic text to reflect PC sensibilities.I also don't really consider films art, and so I don't think it is possible for anyone to change or alter real art, short of actually hacking it up.
Sounds good to me.I would say if Doctorow had a theme regarding the changes at Disney, it would be the more generic: preservation (and honoring tradition) vs change as part of real life (and the requirements for modernization). I donít think it is just about art.
I didn't mean to sound like I doubted your intelligence (I don't).No I didn't find the book or the material difficult, it just didn't engage me.
That's more what I meant.If I had some sort of nostalgia I might have had a more positive response, but I didn't.
I've enjoyed this discussion; it's broadened my appreciation of the book. Where's Erf? Off playing with acronyms?
I wish more people had read this. Thanks to those who voted for this book, and for including me this round.
I certainly enjoyed this book, although it's not in my all-time top-ten, if you know what I mean. I grew up in Souther CA, so I experienced frist hand lots of Disney stuff, and the Haunted Mansion is in fact one of my favorite rides. However, I got so burned out on Disneyland growing up that I have practically boycotted them and haven't been to the park since I was 17. However, I've got friends who are completely obsessed with the park and all the atmosphere and know "cast members" and such, and so I looked at this book more as an examination of that sub-culture as much as anything else.
As for the "Whuffie" concept, I agree that it isn't realistic, but I took it pretty light-heartedly. In fact, the biggest problem that I had with the whole book was that I took it very light-heartedly, yet there was an air of melancholy throughout the whole thing radiating from the protagonist. That made it a little more difficult to simply enjoy.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading "Easter Standard Tribes" when it comes out. It will still be a fringey speculative concept of social organization, but I imagine it will be fun as well.
I have Eastern Standard Tribes, it's been out for awhile. His newest one is out in May I think - it's urban fantasy. I like the idea of Eastern Standard Tribes, that internet cultures, "tribes", form internationally around timezones when they can be together online. More speculation about cyberculture, Hooray!
I thoroughly enjoyed Down and Out. But, then again, I am a Disney kid too. The Haunted Mansion was the first ride my family would run to when the park opened, follows by the Pirates of the Caribbean and then Space Mountain.
I completely understood the desire to not touch The Haunted Mansion. It is sacred.
So, beyond the amusing concepts of what would happen to Disneyland in the future, I enjoyed the humor of the novel. It was light and fun. It was short and sweet, albeit almost too short. What really bugged me about the novel was I wanted to understand the culture better, in particular, the concept of whuffie. I felt a little let down by the superficialty of the novel. In the end, though, I rate it well (not top 10, or even top 100), but a decent quick read with some good humor and interesting ideas.
Well thats what I ment by hacking it up. The paintings covered over, the statues that had their genitals hacked off (the Vatican has a big box of marble penises ), or were draped, have all been destroyed to my mind.Originally Posted by intensityxx
Some things can be repaired: removing the drape or the paint-over, and others are beyond repair. But that brings up something like the damaged ancient statues that have lost parts due to age and/or neglect, and not due to any political or social agenda. Are these pieces, like the Venus de Milo, lesser works of art because they have been damaged and no longer represent the artist's vision ? As a whole person she might be a rather ordinary statue and not have the allure of the damaged one. The whole debate of whether they were removing dirt or Michaelangeo's work when they cleaned the Sistine Chapel. What is the artist's vision when he or she has been dead for hundreds of years and no one can tell ?
In terms of those who tamper with books, I laugh at them because they will eventually punish themselves. Sooner or later the true version comes out and then those who produced the edited version are branded for all time as either dishonest or incompetent. The pen is truly mightier than the sword.