On the Forbidden Planet blog, Jen Wang and I discuss the origin-story of In Real Life, our graphic novel, which comes out on Oct 14.
This is the third iteration of an idea that I’ve been circling around since the early 2000s. It started with a Slashdot story about a (notoriously unreliable) games developer announcing that he’d been secretly paying cheap Mexican workers to labour in a popular video-game in order to amass game-treasure that could be sold on Ebay.
That idea rolled around and around in my head and in summer 2005, I wrote a story called “Anda’s Game” (the title a play on “Ender’s Game”), which imagined labour unions taking advantage of the fact that “gold farmers” worked in a gamespace that their bosses didn’t own — a space that actually prohibited the bosses’ business! — so that they could organise workers who were otherwise not reachable.
This, in turn, related to my frustration with the dialog about globalism and labour that started in the 1980s, with the Reagan/Thatcher/Mulroney war on unions. When the car wars kicked off and jobs began to move from Detroit and southern Ontario to Mexico, the workers there acted as though the enemy was Mexicans, not their bosses.
This was profoundly ahistorical. In the early days of the labour movement, when waves of new immigrants were regularly presenting themselves as new industrial workforces, it was common for the bosses to fire striking workers from one country and replace them with scabs from another, and then use racism to play them off against each other – — “You’re the proud sons of Germany! Are you going to let some lazy Irish pig tell you that you’re not allowed to earn a buck?”
Director’s Commentary : Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang talk In Real Life [Forbidden Planet]