Friday, January 05, 2007

Cory Doctorow: King of Interviews

In my Real Life, I interview a lot of people. Why can't I have an excuse to interview this guy?

Selected snippets from Doctorow's interview with SFRevu:

On peer to peer sharing of info.
But even if it turns out that P2P is the death knell for $300 million movies and artists who earn a living from recording, so what? Radio was bad news for Vaudeville, too. Today's recording artists can earn a living because radio and records killed the careers of many live performers. If bands have to be more like Phish to survive, that's how it goes. Particular copyright business models aren't written into the Constitution; technology giveth and technology taketh away.

P2P is enabling more filmmakers, more musicians, and more writers and other creators to produce a wider variety of works that please a wider audience than ever before. That's the purpose of copyright -- to enable maximal expression and cultural participation, even if it costs us Police Academy *n-1* and payola-driven boy-bands.

On copyright and SF:
The pulps today pay $0.02-6/word; it's pretty much the word-rate Hugo Gernsback was paying in 1928. Yet people continue to write and submit, even though tuppence doesn't go nearly as far in 2007 as it did during the New Deal. Note that the compensation here has NOTHING to do with copyright. You could give writers a million years of copyright and the right to behead people who infringe their rights and it wouldn't change the word-rate at Asimov's.

On the American lifestyle (see below, re Vegas):
SFRevu: I've heard varying numbers on how many planet Earth's it would take to provide everyone with an "American" standard of living, ranging from 10 to 20 or so. That's always seemed bogus to me since a) Americans suffer from over-abundance and b) information doesn't consume resources to be replicated. Mostly. What's your take?

Cory: Well, America has lots of weird consumption inefficiencies, especially away from the coastal cities where we're encouraged to own a lot more house, car and material goods than we need. I'd be more interested in how much it would take to provide every person in the world the kind of life they enjoy in one of the moderate-priced European "B" cities like Florence. Walkable places with incredible food, design, manufacturing, schools, racial diversity, etc. Places with great public transit AND a high level of private vehicle ownership, as well as universal health-care, cheap or free universities, and refreshing absence of paranoid security theater aimed at eliminating abstract nouns like "terror."

The American lifestyle frankly sucks. The media is generally shit. The food stinks. We spend too much time in traffic and too much time taking care of a badly built McHouse that has the ergonomics of a coach seat on a discount airline. Add to that the lack of health care (just listened to a Stanford lecture about the American Couple that cited a study that determined that the single biggest predictor of long-term marital happiness is whether both partners have health care), the enormous wealth-gap between the rich and poor, blisteringly expensive tertiary education, an infant mortality rate that's straight out of Victorian England, and a national security apparat that shoves its fist up my asshole every time I get on an airplane, and I don't think that this country is much of a paragon of quality living.

America has lots going for it -- innovation, the Bill of Rights, a willingness to let its language mutate in exciting and interesting ways, but the standard of living is not America's signal virtue.

Read the whole thing.

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