Read an excerpt from Malka Older’s cyberpunk/technothriller novel Infomocracy.

It’s been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global microdemocracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything’s on the line.

With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?



Jurassic Park (and its subsequent sequels):  During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok. In the sequels people keep ending up on the abandoned islands. And then for some reason despite all the danger in the three movies, they STILL manage to open Jurassic World in the fourth one! 

Yeah these movies are awesome (some more so than others). I bet you can hear the T-Rex roaring in your head when you look at that top gif. 


Yes most of these will involve dinosaurs:

Keep reading

Flying malware: the Virus Copter

At the 2012 San Francisco Drone Olympics (now called DroneGames, thanks, no doubt, to awful bullying from the organized crime syndicate known as the International Olympic Committee), there were many fascinating entries, but the champion was James “substack” Halliday’s Virus-Copter (github), which made wireless contact with its competitors, infected them with viruses that put them under its control, sent them off to infect the rest of the cohort, and then caused them to “run amok.”

Many people have written to point out that Virus-Copter shares some DNA with one of the plot elements in my novel Pirate Cinema, but I assure you the resemblance is entirely coincidental. Drones, after all, are stranger than technothrillers.

Here’s the $300 drone the competitors were flying.

The payload virus.tar includes:

   node cross-compiled for the ARM chips running on the drones
*    felixge’s ar-drone module
*    some iwconfig/iwlist wrappers in lib/iw.js
*    open wireless networks in nodes.json (gathered by the deployment computer)

Report from the DroneGames (formerly Drone Olympics ;-))

Read the rest…

Stephenson's REAMDE: perfectly executed, mammoth, ambitious technothriller #5yrsago

Back in 2010, I found myself in Seattle (I was touring with my novel For the Win – a young adult science fiction novel about gold-farming), I stopped by Neal Stephenson’s place for breakfast and asked him what he was working on. He said, “You ever heard of ‘gold-farming?’” I couldn’t help but smile.

Stephenson’s one of my favorite novelists, a writer who is both very good at what he does, and who is nevertheless willing to go all the way out to the edge of his prodigious talents and take brave risks. Even when these don’t fully pay off, they’re always exhilarating experiments – Stephenson’s imperfect results being better than most writers’ best days. So while Snow Crash and Diamond Agedrew critical fire for having a lot of seemingly ornamental plot-discursions that never quite paid off at the end, the insanely ambitious and enormousSystem of the World ruthlessly hunted down every conceivable loose end and executed it before the final page was turned. As much as I enjoyed the latter, I found that I preferred Stephenson’s loose ends to the sometimes mechanical exercise of tying them all off. His next book, Anathem, solved this problem somewhat by having a lot fewer moving parts (a bit of a joke there for those of you who’ve read the book!) and thus a simpler, cleaner finish. As good and audacious as Anathem was, it lacked the intense, fractal plot-complexity of System, and I missed that a little.

REAMDE, Stephenson’s latest novel – the “have you ever heard of 'gold-farming’” – novel is a book that represents a new kind of equilibrium in Stephenson’s literary canon: a book that is simultaneously as baroque asSystem of the World and as cleanly and crisply finished as Anathem. It is, in other words, a triumph, all 980 pages of it.

REAMDE starts off as a clever, if somewhat straightforward technothriller. Richard Forthrast is the black sheep of a rugged, formidable midwestern family. After a checkered career of minor crime and notoriety, Richard has founded an enormous and enormously profitable multiplayer online game, called T'Rain. This has left him uncomfortably wealthy and powerful, and somewhat constrained by his corporate success. But at least he can help out his relations, like his favored adopted niece Zula, an Eritrean refugee who was raised on the family homestead in Iowa and is now putting her advanced geoscience degree to work as a technician in the T'Rain world, designing the geosystems that deposit precious metals where gold-farmers (an integral part of the T'Rain economy) can dig it up.

The story begins in earnest when Zula’s foolish hacker boyfriend sells some stolen credit-card numbers to a front for the Russian mob, and then finds himself at their mercy as the bagman’s entire user directory is encrypted by a piece of malicious ransomware called REAMDE (a Chinglish mangling of “Readme”) that is targeted at T'Rain players (the malware also encrypts the backup). Now the mob needs to pay off the ransom – a trifling $75 worth of virtual gold – so that they can decrypt the data. Except that the in-game region where the gold-drop is to be made is now clogged with powerful griefers who waylay extortion victims and steal the gold they’re bringing to the crooks.

After a bunch of wrangling and danger, Zula, her hacker boyfriend, and the Russian gangsters end up in Xianmen, China (the first two aren’t there voluntarily), trying to track down the virus’s author, and that’s where the ambition of the REAMDE starts to kick in. You see, at this point, Stephenson is only a couple hundred pages into his thousand-page epic, and he’s only marshalled a few of the many bands of characters who spend the next 700 pages embroiled in one of the most startling, exciting, white-knuckle technothrillers I’ve had the pleasure of losing a week of my life to.

REAMDE goes from being a story about virtual worlds to a much bigger geopolitical tale about the war on terror, filled with grace-note, high-detail technical excursions into international shipping, American survivalism, MI6 spycraft, Philippines sex-tourism, and lots and lots and lots of guns. This last part is one of the great testimonials I can make about REAMDE, because books about guncraft generally bore me down to the marrow. But Stephenson’s several exquisitely choreographed shoot-outs (including an epic, 100+ page climactic mini-war) are filled with technical gubbins about guns that convey the real and genuine enthusiasm of a hardcore gun-nut, with so much verve, so much moment, that I found myself itching to find a firing range and try some of this stuff out for myself.

Combine that with a cast of characters that, while recognizably Stephensonian archetypes, are nevertheless novel, likable, and complex, and you’ve got a powerful, magnificent book that is worth the sizable forests that will have to be demolished to commit it to paper, and the sizable lump that it will represent in your bag or briefcase while you finish it. Here’s a book that, all on its own, makes a hell of a case for buying an ebook reader, assuming you can find a DRM-free ebook edition.