As part of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, EFF released Pwning Tomorrow: Electronic Frontier, an anthology of speculative fiction from more than 20 authors, including Bruce Sterling, Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, and Charlie Jane Anders.
EFF meets many speculative fiction fans in the course of its work to protect digital civil liberties, and the 21 stories in this collection inspire a sharper sense of the futures we may experience and the role of rights and freedoms there. The authors explore the wonders and perils of technology over the next 25 years and beyond, imagining the consequences of everything from abusive intellectual property lawsuits to out-of-control viral marketing, from over-protective intelligent fridges to violently loyal cyber-pets.
It's also important to know that writers have long been at the forefront of the fight against mass surveillance in the real world. Paranormal romance author Carolyn Jewel is the lead plaintiff in Jewel v. NSA, EFF’s long-running lawsuit against warrantless collection of electronic communications. Her novella, "Free Fall," rounds out the collection.
Excerpt from The Gambler, by Paolo Bacigalupi
My father was a gambler. He believed in the workings of karma and luck. He hunted for lucky numbers on license plates and bet on lotteries and fighting roosters. Looking back, I think perhaps he was not a large man, but when he took me to the Muy Thai fights, I thought him so. He would bet and he would win and laugh and drink lao-lao with his friends, and they all seemed so large. In the heat drip of Vientiane, he was a lucky ghost, walking the mirror-sheen streets in the darkness.
Everything for my father was a gamble: roulette and blackjack, new rice variants and the arrival of the monsoons. When the pretender monarch Khamsing announced his New Lao Kingdom, my father gambled on civil disobedience. He bet on the teachings of Mr. Henry David Thoreau and on whisper sheets posted on lampposts. He bet on saffron-robed monks marching in protest and on the hidden humanity of the soldiers with their well-oiled AK-47s and their mirrored helmets.
My father was a gambler, but my mother was not. While he wrote letters to the editor that brought the secret police to our door, she made plans for escape. The old Lao Democratic Republic collapsed, and the New Lao Kingdom blossomed with tanks on the avenues and tuk-tuks burning on the street corners. Pha That Luang’s shining gold chedi collapsed under shelling, and I rode away on a UN evacuation helicopter under the care of kind Mrs. Yamaguchi.
From the open doors of the helicopter, we watched smoke columns rise over the city like nagas coiling. We crossed the brown ribbon of the Mekong with its jeweled belt of burning cars on the Friendship Bridge. I remember a Mercedes floating in the water like a paper boat on Loi Kratong, burning despite the water all around.
Afterward, there was silence from the land of a million elephants, a void into which light and Skype calls and e-mail disappeared. The roads were blocked. The telecoms died. A black hole opened where my country had once stood.
Sometimes, when I wake in the night to the swish and honk of Los Angeles traffic, the confusing polyglot of dozens of countries and cultures all pressed together in this American melting pot, I stand at my window and look down a boulevard full of red lights, where it is not safe to walk alone at night, and yet everyone obeys the traffic signals. I look down on the brash and noisy Americans in their many hues, and remember my parents: my father who cared too much to let me live under the self-declared monarchy, and my mother who would not let me die as a consequence. I lean against the window and cry with relief and loss.
Every week I go to temple and pray for them, light incense and make a triple bow to Buddha, Damma, and Sangha, and pray that they may have a good rebirth, and then I step into the light and noise and vibrancy of America.