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@ontext by Cory Doctorow

01/05/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy ©ontext in the USA - or Buy ©ontext in the UK

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pub: Tachyon. 240 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61696-048-3.

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‘©ontext’ is an opportunity to get inside Science Fiction writer Cory Doctorow’s head with the collected works of his various articles for various publications from 2008-2010 under one cover. He examines how to spot SF fans on plane flights and presumably to avoid them (even if he doesn’t admit to it) to how he organises his time between emails, his daughter, travels and other work. Looking at his hectic schedule, I wonder when he fits in his storywriting as it was the one thing missed out. Something else I wondered about was how many of his fans will copy, let alone understand, how he arranges his computer filing system. Something Doctorow does and I’ve never considered is links to Amazon to get a few pence for review website links.

There’s an interesting argument about SF writers not predicting the future here. I agree in part but the entire point of Science Fiction is to have a wider landscape to depict stories and ideas than other genres. Exploiting current ideas on particular science subjects and seeing where they will lead is part and parcel of the job. If an SF writer can point out potential dangers then at least some thought can be given to avoiding such a path. I wonder how the current camera monitors in the cities would be had there not been a George Orwell and ‘1984’?

Doctorow’s comments on advance book copies would suggest that there are many in circulation and a missed profit for the writer. I know we get a few here at SFCrowsnest although it’s only a few so it’s hardly a wide notion any more. If anything, I tend to see them as being rare oddities because of their limited print run and fans of any author in that way tend to see them as unique editions to their collections. Maybe he should question Locus, where he writes a column, as to why they demand two copies of every book sent in for review and what do they do with the spare copy? Surely they don’t sell it to make their own profit, do they?

His examination of restrictive practices with e-books will certainly make you wonder as this problem is currently escalating. I suspect whichever company that comes up with a gadget that isn’t restrictive will eventually rule the roost and force the others to change their view and policy.

Much of this book examines subjects that aren’t Science Fiction in nature. That in itself isn’t a bad thing and we and you, the SFCrowsnest reader, tends to have some liberal tastes but if you’re looking for more about Doctorow’s SF thoughts less so.

If there is anything to be critical of with this book is the concentration of pages on a single subject matter. When it’s spread out over a few weeks or months in the original publications, you’re getting it in small doses. Not that the subject matter isn’t interesting but I do get a little concerned that some people will view this as padding than diversity. I did find myself disagreeing occasionally, but more to the point that like many Net users, Doctorow stays with what works for him, rather than considering the choices that other people stay with. Linux is all very well, but it can lock you from choosing some software or stall, especially when I tried to link into Doctorow’s BoingBoing website. Just because Linux is further down the chain than Apple, it doesn’t mean the hackers aren’t going to turn their attention to it eventually.

Nevertheless, there is plenty here to chew over here and will make you think, especially about Internet security.

GF Willmetts

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This book has 82 votes in the sci-fi charts

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