Canada Reads spotlight: Radicalized by Cory Doctorow
Given the ongoing developments with COVID-19 and the related travel concerns, Canada Reads was postponed.
This episode is all about Radicalized by Cory Doctorow. This collection of sci-fi novellas tells four prescient stories about technology: the first follows a refugee who jailbreaks her smart appliances, the next is about a white superhero who becomes embroiled in case of police brutality, the third is about a man whose insurance company denies his wife life-saving treatment and the fourth is about rich preppers who prepare for the end of the world.
Cory Doctorow on writing Radicalized
"Writing the four novellas that make up Radicalized was partly an accident. I did not set out to write this book. I was working on another book — my third Little Brother book that's coming out later in October — and I had horrific Trump anxiety. I would get up every day feeling like it was the apocalypse — and go to bed every night feeling like the apocalypse was one day closer. I started to write these novellas therapeutically.
"I, as a science fiction writer, often encounter dystopian apocalyptic narratives. They are always about people who, after the end of the world, discover that if you've got the right kind of gumption, then your natural leadership will elevate you to the place you want to be. The availability of this narrative in our imagination is some of what drives the prepper movement — these people who build luxury bunkers to cower and wet the bed in while they wait for their better people to reboot civilization, until the day they can re-emerge with an AR-15 and a thumb drive full of bitcoin and assemble a harem and live a Frazetta painting.
The solution involves people running toward the trouble, not running away from it.- Cory Doctorow
"Those people are not just going to be disappointed because you can't shoot germs, but they're also not part of the solution. The solution involves people running toward the trouble, not running away from it. The solution involves people putting their strong backs and their intelligent minds and unique skills to work when things break down. I think that if we are to build a resilient society, we shouldn't be building a society that we assume will never break down, we should be building a society whose citizenry are ready to come to its aid when things go wrong."
Why Akil Augustine chose Radicalized
"I feel like the examples that Cory uses in Radicalized, they are parallel universes. They are things that could be happening right now or they are things that are happening right now, he's just repackaging them in a more ridiculous way. But these things are happening. I was always aware of it, but I don't think I understood how it plays out over a long period of time. Cory gave us examples of the slippery slope we could be stepping on.
I think you can bring Canada into focus if you put us into focus against a larger backdrop, which is the planet.- Akil Augustine
"This is one world. You might want to separate yourself as a Canadian in terms of your identity, but let's look at the fact that part of Canada's identity is a feature of being America's little brother. We couldn't be the peacekeepers we are, if we didn't have the biggest warmonger next door. We couldn't be in the economic positions we're in, if we didn't have the most important trading partner within 20 steps of our border. As much as you want to say that Canada's a separate entity, a lot of our best features are because of our geography and our political relations to other nations. I think you can bring Canada into focus if you put us into focus against a larger backdrop, which is the planet."
Akil Augustine and Cory Doctorow chat about Radicalized
Akil Augustine (AA): "Are you a writer of warnings?"
Cory Doctorow (CD): "Warnings, but also I want it to be a program for technological self-determination. So it's not just like, 'This is going to be terrible.' The other half of this is, 'This will all be so great if we don't screw it up.' When you seize control of the computation around you, when you make the device answer to you instead of pushing you around — the reason we like these things is because they do stuff for us. They free us up from drudgery and allow us to have more authentic relationships with the people around us and to devote ourselves to the things that matter. But when they hijack our attention, when they hijack our pocketbooks, then they do the opposite of what we got them for. I want people not just to be scared of how terrible things might be, but also excited about how great we can make them if the technology becomes something that is under our control."
I got into technology because I was excited by it, not because I was angry about it.- Cory Doctorow
AA: "And that's one of the subtle differences I find between what you've done and the series Black Mirror, which is something that I often compare your book to. It seems like there's a little bit of sprinkling of, 'Maybe we don't all die at the end,' from you, as opposed to Black Mirror."
CD: "I got into technology because I was excited by it, not because I was angry about it. And what I'm angry about now is that glorious web that we built with our own hands, that was a billion different websites each of them a little smallholding by someone doing something weird and individual. Now it's like a mall with the same 22 stores and half of them are going out of business. I want to actually live in a world of texture and difference, where we're not all crammed into this one size fits all thing."