Last weekend saw the presentation of a slew of major science fiction and fantasy awards, starting with the Hugo awards, whose winners included John Scalzi's Redshirts (for best novel); Brian K Vaughan's Saga (for best graphic story); a(nother) best editor Hugo to Patrick Nielsen Hayden (my editor!); and a much-deserved John W Campbell Award for best new writer to my former student Mur Lafferty, whose debut novel, The Shambling Guide to New York City shows her talent off to great effect. All the winners were notable, of course, especially the richly deserved Best Novelette prize to Pat Cadigan for "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi."
Also presented were the Parsec Awards for best genre podcasts, whose winners included Now Cydonia by Rick Kennett (Best Speculative Fiction Story: Small Cast) and I Have Your Heart… by Molly Crabapple, Kim Boekbinder & Jim Batt (Best Speculative Fiction Video Story).
Finally, I was delighted to accept the Libertarian Futurist Society's Prometheus Award for my novel Pirate Cinema, which coincidentally comes out in paperback this week. Patrick Nielsen Hayden was kind enough to read an acceptance out on my behalf (I missed the ceremony because I was at Burning Man), which you can check out below, along with the video for "I Have Your Heart."
When I started thinking critically about copyright and the Internet, I
came at it as an artist, thinking about what I knew about creativity.
I came out of science fiction, where we've been ripping each others'
ideas and storylines and titles off since the earliest pulp era, to
the great benefit of our genre. Of *course* remixing is at the heart
of creativity. Of *course* we stand on the shoulders of giants. As the
protagonist of this novel remarks, "creativity means combining two
things in a way that no one has ever thought of combining them
before," or as my mentor Judith Merril wrote in her Hugo-winning
memoir "Better to Have Loved":
"Whereas in other literary fields you wouldn't dare take an idea from
another writer and use it, because that would be considered
plagiarism, science fiction people loved to build on each other's
stories. The business of giving away ideas and promoting other
people's work was a part of the community at large."
But as the years went by and the fight wore on, I realized that I was
coming at it from a very parochial angle. Earning a living in the arts
is an unlikely thing, and adapting Internet regulation to maximize the
benefit of the minuscule minority of professional artists was flat-out
insane. After all, the Internet is the nervous system of the 21st
century — everything we do today involves the Internet and everything
we do tomorrow will require it. The rules that govern the Internet
ultimately regulate every corner of human existence, from falling in
love to getting an education to electing a government to organizing
the street-protests that brings that government down again.
Once you get to thinking of things that way, you start to realize that
even if the absence of rules that imposted unaccountable censorship
and universal surveillance and the subversion of the integrity of the
computers in our pockets, walls and bodies meant the end of the
entertainment industry and my relegation to the breadline, they'd
*still be worth it*.
Now, I happen to think we can go on creating even in a world where
we're not allowed to spy on everyone and break their computers to make
sure they're not listening to music or watching TV or reading books
the wrong way. I happen to think that we can guarantee a living to a
comparably sized, statistically insignificant rump of would-be
artists, even without the power to secretly and unaccountably censor
the Internet. But even if that weren't the case, we should still throw
out censorship, surveillance and control as unfit for purpose.
This year has seen incredible revelations about the scope and scale of
global Internet surveillance and the total lack of adult supervision
for the world's clutch of depraved spooks. We've known about mass
surveillance for three presidential administrations, since Mark Klein
bravely blew the whistle on AT&T's work with the NSA in 2005, but the
Snowden leaks have blown the lid off things, and given the stalled
court actions over Klein's leaks the momentum they needed to push
But even if we beat back the spooks, even if we kick Big Content in
the pants and send them packing, the fight's just getting started.
Every single problem everyone has from now on will involve the
Internet, because the Internet will be woven into every facet of our
lives. Every problem will suggest the solution that coked-up
Hollyweird fatcats and the creeps who read *Nineteen Eighty-Four* as a
manual for statecraft arrived at: just break the Internet so that my
problem goes away.
This fight is getting started, and it has no end in sight.
Organizations like EFF and the ACLU and the Free Software Foundation
and Fight for the Future are the best bulwark we have against the
special pleading that says, "If I don't get to redesign the Internet
to solve my problem, there's going to be *trouble*."
Thank you very, very much for this honor. Pirate Cinema just keeps on
getting more topical, and I hope that your recognition will help it
spread to the places it needs to be heard, and help to create a
generation who'll stand up for the network we all depend upon.