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Down and Out

    in the

    Magic Kingdom

    Cory Doctorow

    ? 2003 Cory Doctorow



    Tor Books, January 2003

    ISBN: 0765304368

Cory Doctorow Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom 1


    He sparkles! He fizzes! He does backflips and breaks the furniture! Science

    fiction needs Cory Doctorow!

    Bruce Sterling

    Author, The Hacker Crackdown and Distraction

     • —

    In the true spirit of Walt Disney, Doctorow has ripped a part of our common

    culture, mixed it with a brilliant story, and burned into our culture a new set

    of memes that will be with us for a generation at least. Lawrence Lessig

    Author, The Future of Ideas

     • —

    Cory Doctorow doesn‟t just write about the future - I think he lives


    Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom isn‟t just a really good read, it‟s also,

    like the best kind of fiction, a kind of guide book. See the Tomorrowland of

    Tomorrow today, and while you‟re there, why not drop by Frontierland, and

    the Haunted Mansion as well? (It‟s the Mansion that‟s the haunted heart of

    this book.) Cory makes me feel nostalgic for the future - a dizzying, yet

    rather pleasant sensation, as if I‟m spiraling down the tracks of Space

    Mountain over and over again. Visit the Magic Kingdom and live forever! Kelly Link

    Author, Stranger Things Happen

     • —

    Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is the most entertaining and exciting

    science fiction story I‟ve read in the last few years. I love page-turners,

    especially when they are as unusual as this novel. I predict big things for

    Down and Outit could easily become a breakout genre-buster. Mark Frauenfelder

    Contributing Editor, Wired Magazine

    Imagine you woke up one day and Walt Disney had taken over the world. Not only that, but money‟s been abolished and somebody‟s developed the

    Cure for Death. Welcome to the Bitchun Society—and make sure you‟re

    strapped in tight, because it‟s going to be a wild ride. In a world where

    everyone‟s wishes can come true, one man returns to the original,

    crumbling city of dreamsDisney World. Here in the spiritual center of the

    Bitchun Society he struggles to find and preserve the original, human face

    of the Magic Kingdom against the young, post-human and increasingly alien inheritors of the Earth. Now that any experience can be simulated, human relationships become ever more fragile; and to Julius, the corny, mechanical ghosts of the Haunted Mansion have come to seem like a precious link to a past when we could tell the real from the simulated, the

    true from the false.

    Cory Doctorowcultural critic, Disneyphile, and ultimate Early Adopteruses language with the reckless confidence of the Beat poets. Yet

    behind the dazzling prose and vibrant characters lie ideas we should all pay

    heed to. The future rushes on like a plummeting roller coaster, and it‟s hard

    to see where we‟re going. But at least with this book Doctorow has given us

    a map of the park.

    Karl Schroeder

    Author, Permanence

     • —

    Cory Doctorow is the most interesting new SF writer I‟ve come across in

    years. He starts out at the point where older SF writers‟ speculations end.

    It‟s a distinct pleasure to give him some Whuffie.

    Rudy Rucker

    Author, Spaceland

Cory Doctorow Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom 2

    Cory Doctorow rocks! I check his blog about ten times a day, because he‟s

    always one of the first to notice a major incursion from the socialtechnological-

    pop-cultural future, and his voice is a compelling vehicle for news from the future. Down and Out in The Magic Kingdom is about a world that is visible in its outlines today, if you know where to look, from

    reputation systems to peer-to-peer adhocracies. Doctorow knows where to

    look, and how to word-paint the rest of us into the picture. Howard Rheingold

    Author, Smart Mobs

     • —

    Doctorow is more than just a sick mind looking to twist the perceptions of

    those whose realities remain uncorrupted - though that should be enough recommendation to read his work. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is black comedic, sci-fi prophecy on the dangers of surrendering our consensual hallucination to the regime. Fun to read, but difficult to sleep


    Douglas Rushkoff

    Author of Cyberia and Media Virus!

     • —

    “Wow! Disney imagineering meets nanotechnology, the reputation

    economy, and Ray Kurzweil‟s transhuman future. As much fun as Neal

    Stephenson‟s Snow Crash, and as packed with mind bending ideas about

    social changes cascading from the frontiers of science.”

    Tim O‟Reilly

    Publisher and Founder, O‟Reilly and Associates

     • —

    Doctorow has created a rich and exciting vision of the future, and then wrote a page-turner of a story in it. I couldn‟t put the book down.

    Bruce Schneier

    Author, Secrets and Lies

    Cory Doctorow is one of our best new writers: smart, daring, savvy, entertaining, ambitious, plugged-in, and as good a guide to the wired world

    of the twenty-first century that stretches out before us as you‟re going to


Gardner Dozois

    Editor, Asimov‟s SF

     • —

    Cory Doctorow‟s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” tells a gripping,

    fast-paced story that hinges on thought-provoking extrapolation from today‟s technical realities. This is the sort of book that captures and defines

    the spirit of a turning point in human history when our tools remake ourselves and our world.

    Mitch Kapor

    Founder, Lotus, Inc., co-founder Electronic Frontier Foundation

Cory Doctorow Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom 3

    A Note About This Book

    “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” is my first novel. It‟s an actual, nofoolin‟

    words-on-paper book, published by the good people at Tor Books in New York City. You can buy this book in stores or online, by following links like this one:


    So, what‟s with this file? Good question.

    I‟m releasing the entire text of this book as a free, freely redistributable ebook.

    You can download it, put it on a P2P net, put it on your site, email it

    to a friend, and, if you‟re addicted to dead trees, you can even print it.

    Why am I doing this thing? Well, it‟s a long story, but to shorten it up: firsttime

    novelists have a tough row to hoe. Our publishers don‟t have a lot of

    promotional budget to throw at unknown factors like us. Mostly, we rise and fall based on word-of-mouth. I‟m not bad at word-of-mouth. I have


    blog, Boing Boing (http://boingboing.net), where I do a lot of word-ofmouthing.

    I compulsively tell friends and strangers about things that I like. And telling people about stuff I like is way, way easier if I can just send it to

    ‟em. Way easier.

    What‟s more, P2P nets kick all kinds of ass. Most of the books, music and

    movies ever released are not available for sale, anywhere in the world. In

    the brief time that P2P nets have flourished, the ad-hoc masses of the

Internet have managed to put just about everything online. What‟s more,

    they‟ve done it for cheaper than any other archiving/revival effort ever. I‟m

    a stone infovore and this kinda Internet mishegas gives me a serious frisson

    of futurosity.

    Yeah, there are legal problems. Yeah, it‟s hard to figure out how people are

    gonna make money doing it. Yeah, there is a lot of social upheaval and a

    serious threat to innovation, freedom, business, and whatnot. It‟s your basic

    end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario, and as a science fiction writer,

    end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenaria are my stock-in-trade. I‟m especially grateful to my publisher, Tor Books (http://www.tor.com)

    and my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

    (http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite) for being hep enough to let me try out

    this experiment.

    All that said, here‟s the deal: I‟m releasing this book under a license

    developed by the Creative Commons project


    This is a project that lets people like me roll our own license agreements for

    the distribution of our creative work under terms similar to those employed

    by the Free/Open Source Software movement. It‟s a great project, and


    proud to be a part of it.

    Here's a summary of the licence:


    Attribution. The licensor permits others to copy,

    distribute, display, and perform the work. In return, licensees must give the original author credit.

    Noncommercial. The licensor permits others to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work. In return, licensees may not use the work for commercial

    purposesunless they get the licensor's permission.

    No Derivative Works. The licensor permits others to copy, distribute, display and perform only unaltered copies of the worknot derivative works based on it.

    The full terms of the license are here:


Cory Doctorow Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom 4


    I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the Bitchun

    Society, to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies; to realize my

    boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to see the death of

    the workplace and of work.

    I never thought I‟d live to see the day when Keep A-Movin‟ Dan would

    decide to deadhead until the heat death of the Universe. Dan was in his second or third blush of youth when I first met him, sometime late-XXI. He was a rangy cowpoke, apparent 25 or so, all rawhide squint-lines and sunburned neck, boots worn thin and infinitely comfortable. I was in the middle of my Chem thesis, my fourth Doctorate, and he was taking a break from Saving the World, chilling on campus in

    Toronto and core-dumping for some poor Anthro major. We hooked up at the Grad Students‟ Union—the GSU, or Gazoo for those who knewon a

    busy Friday night, spring-ish. I was fighting a coral-slow battle for a stool at

    the scratched bar, inching my way closer every time the press of bodies shifted, and he had one of the few seats, surrounded by a litter of cigarette

    junk and empties, clearly encamped.

    Some duration into my foray, he cocked his head at me and raised a sunbleached

    eyebrow. “You get any closer, son, and we‟re going to have to get

    a pre-nup.”

    I was apparent forty or so, and I thought about bridling at being called son, but I looked into his eyes and decided that he had enough realtime that

    he could call me son anytime he wanted. I backed off a little and apologized.

    He struck a cig and blew a pungent, strong plume over the bartender‟s

    head. “Don‟t worry about it. I‟m probably a little over accustomed to

    personal space.”

    I couldn‟t remember the last time I‟d heard anyone on-world talk about

    personal space. With the mortality rate at zero and the birth-rate at non-zero,

    the world was inexorably accreting a dense carpet of people, even with the

    migratory and deadhead drains on the population. “You‟ve been


    I asked—his eyes were too sharp for him to have missed an instant‟s

    experience to deadheading.

    He chuckled. “No sir, not me. I‟m into the kind of macho shitheadery

    that you only come across on-world. Jaunting‟s for play; I need work. ” The

    bar-glass tinkled a counterpoint.

    I took a moment to conjure a HUD with his Whuffie score on it. I had to

    resize the windowhe had too many zeroes to fit on my standard display. I

    tried to act cool, but he caught the upwards flick of my eyes and then their

    involuntary widening. He tried a little aw-shucksery, gave it up and let a

    prideful grin show.

    “I try not to pay it much mind. Some people, they get overly grateful. ”

    He must‟ve seen my eyes flick up again, to pull his Whuffie history. “Wait,

    don‟t go doing that—I‟ll tell you about it, you really got to know.

    “Damn, you know, it‟s so easy to get used to life without hyperlinks.

    You‟d think you‟d really miss ‟em, but you don‟t.”

    And it clicked for me. He was a missionaryone of those fringedwellers

    who act as emissary from the Bitchun Society to the benighted corners of the world where, for whatever reasons, they want to die, starve,

    and choke on petrochem waste. It‟s amazing that these communities


    more than a generation; in the Bitchun Society proper, we usually outlive our detractors. The missionaries don‟t have such a high success rate—you

    have to be awfully convincing to get through to a culture that‟s already

    successfully resisted nearly a century‟s worth of propaganda—but when

    you convert a whole village, you accrue all the Whuffie they have to give.

    More often, missionaries end up getting refreshed from a backup after they

    aren‟t heard from for a decade or so. I‟d never met one in the flesh before.

    “How many successful missions have you had?” I asked.

    “Figured it out, huh? I‟ve just come off my fifth in twenty

    yearscounterrevolutionaries hidden out in the old Cheyenne Mountain NORAD site, still there a generation later. ” He sandpapered his whiskers

    with his fingertips. “Their parents went to ground after their life‟s savings

    vanished, and they had no use for tech any more advanced than a rifle. Plenty of those, though.”

    He spun a fascinating yarn then, how he slowly gained the acceptance of

    the mountain-dwellers, and then their trust, and then betrayed it in subtle,

    beneficent ways: introducing Free Energy to their greenhouses, then a

Cory Doctorow Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom 5

    gengineered crop or two, then curing a couple deaths, slowly inching them

    toward the Bitchun Society, until they couldn‟t remember why they hadn‟t

    wanted to be a part of it from the start. Now they were mostly off-world, exploring toy frontiers with unlimited energy and unlimited supplies and

    deadheading through the dull times en route.

    “I guess it‟d be too much of a shock for them to stay on-world. They

    think of us as the enemy, you knowthey had all kinds of plans drawn


    for when we invaded them and took them away; hollow suicide teeth, booby-traps, fall-back-and-rendezvous points for the survivors. They just

    can‟t get over hating us, even though we don‟t even know they exist. Offworld,

    they can pretend that they‟re still living rough and hard. ” He rubbed

    his chin again, his hard calluses grating over his whiskers. “But for me, the

    real rough life is right here, on-world. The little enclaves, each one is like an

    alternate history of humanity—what if we‟d taken the Free Energy, but


    deadheading? What if we‟d taken deadheading, but only for the critically ill,

    not for people who didn‟t want to be bored on long bus-rides? Or no

    hyperlinks, no ad-hocracy, no Whuffie? Each one is different and wonderful.”

    I have a stupid habit of arguing for the sake of, and I found myself saying, “Wonderful? Oh sure, nothing finer than, oh, let‟s see, dying,

    starving, freezing, broiling, killing, cruelty and ignorance and pain and

    misery. I know I sure miss it.”

    Keep A-Movin‟ Dan snorted. “You think a junkie misses sobriety?”

    I knocked on the bar. “Hello! There aren‟t any junkies anymore!”

He struck another cig. “But you know what a junkie is, right? Junkies

    don‟t miss sobriety, because they don‟t remember how sharp everything

    was, how the pain made the joy sweeter. We can‟t remember what it was

    like to work to earn our keep; to worry that there might not be enough, that

    we might get sick or get hit by a bus. We don‟t remember what it was like

    to take chances, and we sure as shit don‟t remember what it felt like to have

    them pay off.”

    He had a point. Here I was, only in my second or third adulthood, and already ready to toss it all in and do something, anything, else. He had a

    point—but I wasn‟t about to admit it. “So you say. I say, I take a chance

    when I strike up a conversation in a bar, when I fall in love . . . And what

    about the deadheads? Two people I know, they just went deadhead for ten

    thousand years! Tell me that‟s not taking a chance!” Truth be told,


    everyone I‟d known in my eighty-some years were deadheading or jaunting or just gone. Lonely days, then.

    “Brother, that‟s committing half-assed suicide. The way we‟re going,

    they‟ll be lucky if someone doesn‟t just switch ‟em off when it comes


    to reanimate. In case you haven‟t noticed, it‟s getting a little crowded

    around here.”

    I made pish-tosh sounds and wiped off my forehead with a barnapkin

    the Gazoo was beastly hot on summer nights. “Uh-huh, just like

    the world was getting a little crowded a hundred years ago, before Free Energy. Like it was getting too greenhousey, too nukey, too hot or too cold.

    We fixed it then, we‟ll fix it again when the time comes. I‟m gonna be here

    in ten thousand years, you damn betcha, but I think I‟ll do it the long way


    He cocked his head again, and gave it some thought. If it had been any of the other grad students, I‟d have assumed he was grepping for some

    bolstering factoids to support his next sally. But with him, I just knew he

    was thinking about it, the old-fashioned way.

    “I think that if I‟m still here in ten thousand years, I‟m going to be crazy

    as hell. Ten thousand years, pal! Ten thousand years ago, the state-of-the-art

    was a goat. You really think you‟re going to be anything recognizably

    human in a hundred centuries? Me, I‟m not interested in being a postperson.

    I‟m going to wake up one day, and I‟m going to say, ‟Well, I guess

    I‟ve seen about enough,‟ and that‟ll be my last day.”

    I had seen where he was going with this, and I had stopped paying attention while I readied my response. I probably should have paid more attention. “But why? Why not just deadhead for a few centuries, see if

    there‟s anything that takes your fancy, and if not, back to sleep for

    a few

    more? Why do anything so final?”

    He embarrassed me by making a show of thinking it over again, making me feel like I was just a half-pissed glib poltroon. “I suppose it‟s because

    nothing else is. I‟ve always known that someday, I was going to stop moving, stop seeking, stop kicking, and have done with it. There‟ll come a

    day when I don‟t have anything left to do, except stop.”

     • —

    On campus, they called him Keep-A-Movin‟ Dan, because of his

    cowboy vibe and because of his lifestyle, and he somehow grew to take over every conversation I had for the next six months. I pinged his Whuffie

    a few times, and noticed that it was climbing steadily upward as he accumulated more esteem from the people he met.

    I‟d pretty much pissed away most of my Whuffie—all the savings from

    the symphonies and the first three thesesdrinking myself stupid at


    Gazoo, hogging library terminals, pestering profs, until I‟d expended all the

    respect anyone had ever afforded me. All except Dan, who, for some

Cory Doctorow Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom 6

    reason, stood me to regular beers and meals and movies. I got to feeling like I was someone specialnot everyone had a chum


    exotic as Keep-A-Movin‟ Dan, the legendary missionary who visited the only places left that were closed to the Bitchun Society. I can‟t say for sure

    why he hung around with me. He mentioned once or twice that he‟d liked

    my symphonies, and he‟d read my Ergonomics thesis on applying themepark

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