Monday, September 17, 2018

Scroogled by Cory Docotorow - The Day Google Became Evil

Originally published in RADAR, Doctorow has released this story under a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Download this and other Creative Commons short stories in a Cory Doctorow anthology, “With A Little Help”. Click here.

doctorow-by-joi_ito.jpg
Photo of Croy Doctorow by Joi Ito. CC-BY Hosted on flickr.

Scroogled

“Give me six lines written by the most honorable of men, and I will find an
excuse in them to hang him.” - Cardinal Richelieu

Greg landed at SFO at 8PM, but by the time he made it to the front of the
customs line it was after midnight. He had it good — he’d been in first class,
first off the plane, brown as a nut and loose-limbed after a month on the beach
at Cabo, SCUBA diving three days a week, bumming around and flirting with
French college girls the rest of the time. When he’d left San Francisco a month
before, he’d been a stoop-shouldered, pot-bellied wreck — now he was a bronze
god, drawing appreciative looks from the stews at the front of the plane.

In the four hours he spent in the customs line, he fell from god back to man.
His warm buzz wore off, the sweat ran down the crack of his ass, and his
shoulders and neck grew so tense that his upper back felt like a tennis racket.
The batteries on his iPod died after the third hour, leaving him with nothing
to do except eavesdrop on the middle-aged couple ahead of him.

“They’ve starting googling us at the border,” she said. “I told you they’d do
it.”

“I thought that didn’t start until next month?” The man had brought a huge
sombrero on board, carefully stowing it in its own overhead locker, and now he
was stuck alternately wearing it and holding it.

Googling at the border. Christ. Greg vested out from Google six months before,
cashing in his options and “taking some me time,” which turned out to be harder
than he expected. Five months later, what he’d mostly done is fix his friends’
PCs and websites, and watch daytime TV, and gain ten pounds, which he blamed on
being at home, instead of in the Googleplex, with its excellent 24-hour gym.

The writing had been on the wall. Google had a whole pod of lawyers in charge
of dealing with the world’s governments, and scumbag lobbyists on the Hill to
try to keep the law from turning them into the world’s best snitch. It was a
losing battle. The US Government had spent $15 /billion/ on a program to
fingerprint and photograph visitors at the border, and hadn’t caught /a single/
terrorist. Clearly, the public sector was not equipped to Do Search Right.

The DHS officers had bags under their eyes as they squinted at their screens,
prodding mistrustfully at their keyboards with sausage fingers. No wonder it
was taking four hours to get out of the goddamned airport.

“Evening,” he said, as he handed the man his sweaty passport. The man grunted
and swiped it, then stared at his screen, clicking. A lot. He had a little bit
of dried food in the corner of his mouth and his tongue crept out and licked at
it as he concentrated.

“Want to tell me about June, 1998?”

Greg turned his head this way and that. “I’m sorry?”

“You posted a message to alt.burningman on June 17, 1998 about your plan to
attend Burning Man. You posted, ‘Would taking shrooms be a really bad idea?’”

[Read More…]

Monday, September 3, 2018

The J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature

An annual lecture on fantasy, sci-fi, and other speculative fiction, held at Pembroke College, Oxford

From 1925-1945 J.R.R. Tolkien served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford. During this time he wrote The Hobbit and the majority of The Lord of the Rings.

Since 2013 the students of Pembroke College have organised an annual public lecture in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien. The purpose of the lecture series is to promote speculative fiction — including, but not limited to, the fantasy genre — as literature worthy of study and scrutiny, and to advance our understanding of it by hearing from some of the most influential and talented people working in the field today.

- About The Series

‘Tolkien appears in the fantasy universe in the same way that Mount Fuji appeared in old Japanese prints. Sometimes small, in the distance, and sometimes big and close-to, and sometimes not there at all, and that’s because the artist is standing on Mount Fuji.’
— Terry Pratchett