Down and Out
? 2003 Cory Doctorow
Tor Books, January 2003
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!
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
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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
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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 Out—it 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 dreams—Disney 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 Doctorow—cultural critic, Disneyphile, and ultimate Early Adopter—uses 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.
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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.
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
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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
Author of Cyberia and Media Virus!
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“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.”
Publisher and Founder, O‟Reilly and Associates
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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.
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
Editor, Asimov‟s SF
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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.
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
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
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
purposes—unless they get the licensor's permission.
No Derivative Works. The licensor permits others to copy, distribute, display and perform only unaltered copies of the work—not 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 knew—on 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
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
I couldn‟t remember the last time I‟d heard anyone on-world talk about