Volume 33, Number 01, Fall, 2014

2014 Prometheus Award winner

Best Novel: Homeland

Cory Doctorow's acceptance speech

I’d like to thank the LFS for a third time for honoring me with this extremely prestigious prize which I value very, very highly.

The central question of Homeland, and I think, of our time, is the question of whether technology is good or bad for us. Whether it helps the cause of human progress, justice and dignity. And I increasingly think that that’s not the right question to ask. The right question to ask is what we can do to ensure that technology serves that purpose.

The person who wrote the afterword to this book was a young man name Aaron Schwartz whose story you may be familar with. He died shortly before the book came out. You may have heard that the cause that Aaron was involved with was whether or not information wants to be free.

But, as it turns out I had occasion earlier this year to go on retreat with information. We went to a cabin in the Cotswolds. We told stories about our parents. We wept. We drank okay Chardonnay. At the end of it information confessed to me that it wants nothing at all, except for us to stop anthropomorphizing it. But what is certainly true is that people want to be free and when you live in an information society, you can’t be free without free information.

This last year has seen the coincidence of the publication of this book and the leaks by Edward Snowden, who I think of as a hero, that went to expose the deep rot that is at the core of this book, particularly the news that the US and British governments have been participating in the sabotage of the network security on which the networks that all of our individual security depends.

But it also had a another parallel. One that I’m not very happy with at all, and is both saddening and shocking to those who have kept a close eye on it. Two days ago I woke up in my hotel room to discover hundreds of tweets from people saying, my goodness, I didn’t want to inhabit the Cory Doctorow future #Ferguson. And if there’s one thing that Ferguson has shown us, it’s why we need the projects to find out how technology makes us more free. Aaron Schwartz and Edward Snowden.

The increased militarization is the result of the increased disparity in our society, the increased wealth and injustice that we’ve seen in our society. It is true that there is no dignity in the fact that some of us clean toilets and all of us use toilets. But if we were to figure out tomorrow how to automate a way how to clean toilets it would be just as much an indigity and an injustice if we found nothing for the people who had cleaned our toilets to do and declared them, therefore, worthless.

And so this is the project of the book, and I hope that it is a project that we can take on as a field. To automate our way out of drudgery, to use technology to organize the downfall of the establishment that sees scarcity as a feature and not a bug.

It’s why I wrote this book. It is why I got out of bed this morning. And, I think it may be a first for a libertarian prize, I’d like to thank you for your solidarity and your participation in this project.

Thank you.

Cory Doctorow is the author of ten novels (including a graphic novel and a collaboration with Charles Stross) and three collections. He has won multiple Locus Awards, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Sunburst Award, the White Pine Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award.

Doctorow’s novels, Little Brother and Pirate Cinema also won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel.

Doctorow was born in Toronto, Canada in 1971 and became a British citizen by naturalization in 2011. He is a noted writer and speaker on intellectual property and an opponent of digital rights management

There are several photos from the ceremonies in the pdf version of the issue

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