Pirate Cinemaby Cory Doctorow
From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, Cory Doctorow, comes a new tale of a disaffected brilliant youngster who finds himself standing up to tyranny
From the New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, Cory Doctorow, comes a new tale of a disaffected brilliant youngster who finds himself standing up to tyranny
“His most cogent, energizing call-to-arms to date.” Booklist, starred review
“Funny, thought-provoking, and glorious.” School Library Journal (starred review)
“Fun...Pirate Cinema offers ample and appetizing food for thought.” Seattle Times
“A wonderful, important book...I'd recommend Little Brother over pretty much any book I've read this year.” Neil Gaiman on Little Brother
“A rousing tale of techno-geek rebellion.” Scott Westerfeld on Little Brother
“A terrific read ... A neat story and a cogently written, passionately felt argument. It's a stirring call to arms.” The New York Times on Little Brother
“One of the year's most important books.” Chicago Tribune on Little Brother
“A worthy younger sibling to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is lively, precocious, and most importantly, a little scary.” Brian K. Vaughan, author of the graphic novel Y: The Last Man on Little Brother
“Believable and frightening...Filled with sharp dialogue and detailed descriptions of how to counteract gait-recognition cameras, arphids (radio frequency ID tags), wireless Internet tracers and other surveillance devices, this work makes its admittedly didactic point within a tautly crafted fictional framework.” Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Little Brother
“I'm a huge fan of Little Brother. Reading about m1k3y, Ange, and their friends helped me visualize the escalating intrusions on our freedom and privacy wrought by advances in technology. The book describes a dystopia that seems chillingly plausible-and near.” Alex Kozinski, Chief Justice of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Little Brother
“Freaking cool...Doctorow is terrific at finding the human aura shimmering around technology.” Los Angeles Times on Little Brother
Read an Excerpt
By Cory Doctorow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2012 Cory Doctorow
All rights reserved.
ALONE NO MORE/THE JAMMIE DODGERS/POSH DIGS/ABSTRACTION OF ELECTRICITY
My "adventure" wasn't much fun after that. I was smart enough to find a shelter for runaways run by a church in Shoreditch, and I checked myself in that night, lying and saying I was eighteen. I was worried that they'd send me home if I said I was sixteen. I'm pretty sure the old dear behind the counter knew that I was lying, but she didn't seem to mind. She had a strong Yorkshire accent that managed to be stern and affectionate at the same time.
My bedfellows in the shelter — all boys, girls were kept in a separate place — ranged from terrifying to terrified. Some were proper hard men, all gangster talk about knives and beatings and that. Some were even younger looking than me, with haunted eyes and quick flinches whenever anyone spoke too loud. We slept eight to a room, in bunk beds that were barely wide enough to contain my skinny shoulders, and the next day, another old dear let me pick out some clothes and a backpack from mountains of donated stuff. The clothes were actually pretty good. Better, in fact, than the clothes I'd arrived in London wearing; Bradford was a good five years behind the bleeding edge of fashion you saw on the streets of Shoreditch, so these last-year's castoffs were smarter than anything I'd ever owned.
They fed me a tasteless but filling breakfast of oatmeal and greasy bacon that sat in my stomach like a rock after they kicked me out into the streets. It was 8:00 A.M. and everyone was marching for the tube to go to work, or queuing up for the buses, and it seemed like I was the only one with nowhere to go. I still had about forty pounds in my pocket, but that wouldn't go very far in the posh coffee bars of Shoreditch, where even a black coffee cost three quid. And I didn't have a laptop anymore (every time I thought of my lost video, never to be uploaded to a YouTube, gone forever, my heart cramped up in my chest).
I watched the people streaming down into Old Street Station, clattering down the stairs, dodging the men trying to hand them free newspapers (I got one of each to read later), and stepping around the tramps who rattled their cups at them, striving to puncture the goggled, headphoned solitude and impinge upon their consciousness. They were largely unsuccessful.
I thought dismally that I would probably have to join them soon. I had never had a real job and I didn't think the nice people with the posh film companies in Soho were looking to hire a plucky, underage video editor with a thick northern accent and someone else's clothes on his back. How the bloody hell did all those tramps earn a living? Hundreds of people had gone by and not a one of them had given a penny, as far as I could tell.
Then, without warning, they scattered, melting into the crowds and vanishing into the streets. A moment later, a flock of Community Support Police Officers in bright yellow high-visibility vests swaggered out of each of the station's exits, each swiveling slowly so that the cameras around their bodies got a good look at the street.
I sighed and slumped. Begging was hard enough to contemplate. But begging and being on the run from the cops all the time? It was too miserable to even think about.
The PCSOs disappeared into the distance, ducking into the Starbucks or getting on buses, and the tramps trickled back from their hidey holes. A new lad stationed himself at the bottom of the stairwell where I was standing, a huge grin plastered on his face, framed by a three-day beard that was somehow rakish instead of sad. He had a sign drawn on a large sheet of white cardboard, with several things glued or duct-taped to it: a box of Kleenex, a pump-handled hand-sanitizer, a tray of breath-mints with a little single-serving lever that dropped one into your hand. Above them was written, in big, friendly graffiti letters, FREE TISSUE/SANITIZER/MINTS — HELP THE HOMELESS — FANKS, GUV!, and next to that, a cup that rattled from all the pound coins in it.
As commuters pelted out of the station and headed for the stairs, they'd stop and read his sign, laugh, drop a pound in his cup, take a squirt of sanitizer or a Kleenex or a mint (he'd urge them to do it; it seemed they were in danger of passing by without helping themselves), laugh again, and head upstairs.
I thought I was being subtle and nearly invisible, skulking at the top of the stairwell and watching, but at the next break in the commuter traffic, he looked square at me and gave me a "Come here" gesture. Caught, I made my way to him. He stuck his hand out.
"Jem Dodger," he said. "Gentleman of leisure and lover of fine food and laughter. Pleased to make your acquaintance, guv." He said it in a broad, comic cockney accent and even tugged at an invisible cap brim as he said it. I laughed.
"Trent McCauley," I said. I tried to think of something as cool as "gentleman of leisure" to add, but all I came up with was "Cinema aficionado and inveterate pirate," which sounded a lot better in my head than it did in the London air, but he smiled back at me.
"Trent," he said. "Saw you at the shelter last night. Let me guess. First night, yeah?"
"In the shelter? Yeah."
"In the world, son. Forgive me for saying so, but you have the look of someone who's just got off a bus from the arse-end of East Shitshire with a hat full of dreams, a pocketful of hope, and a head full of grape jelly. Have I got that right?"
I felt a little jet of resentment, but I had to concede the point. "Technically I've been here for two days," I said. "Last night was my first night in the shelter."
He winked. "Spent the first night wandering the glittering streets of London, didn't ya?"
I shook my head. "You certainly seem to know a lot about me."
"Mate," he said, and he lost the cockney accent and came across pure north, like he'd been raised on the next estate. "I am you. I was you, anyway. A few years ago. Now I'm the Jammie Dodger, Prince of the London Byways, Count of the Canalsides, Squire of the Squat, and so on and so on."
Another train had come in, and more people were coming out of the station. He shooed me off to one side and began his smiling come-ons to the new arrivals. A minute later, he'd collected another twelve quid and he waved me back over.
"Now, Master McCauley, you may be wondering why I called you over here."
I found his chirpy mode of speech impossible to resist, so I went with it. "Indeed I am, Mr. Dodger. Wondering that very thing, I was."
He nodded encouragement, pleased that I was going along with the wheeze. "Right. Well, you saw all the other sorry sods holding up signs in this station, I take it?"
"None of 'em is making a penny. None of 'em know how to make a penny. That's cos most of the people who end up here get here because something awful's gone wrong with them and they don't have the cunning and fortitude to roll with it. Mostly, people end up holding a sign and shaking a cup because someone's done them over terribly — raped them, beat them up, given them awful head-drugs — and they don't have the education, skills or sanity to work out how to do any better.
"Now, me, I'm here because I am a gentleman of leisure, as I believe I have informed you already. Whatever happened in my past, I was clever and quick and tricksy enough to deal with it. So when I landed up holding a sign in a tube station hoping for the average Londoner to open his wallet and his heart to buy me supper, I didn't just find any old sheet of brown cardboard box, scrawl a pathetic message on it, and hope for the best.
"No. I went out and bought all different kinds of cards — bright yellow, pink, blue, plain white — and tested each one. See?" He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and drew out a small, worn notebook. He opened it to the first page and stuck it under my nose. It was headed "Colors: (HELP THE HOMELESS)" and there were two columns running its length, one listing different colored cardboards, the other showing different amounts.
"Look at that, would you? See how poorly brown performs? It's the bottom of the barrel. People just don't want to open their wallets to a man holding a sign that looks like it was made out of an old cardboard box. You'd think they would, right? Appearance of deserving thrift an' all? But they don't. They like practically any color except brown. And the best one, well, it's good old white." He rattled his sign. "Lots of contrast, looks clean. I buy a new one every day down at the art supply shop in Shoreditch High Street. The punters like a man what takes pride in his sign."
Another tubeload of passengers came up, and he shooed me off again, making another twentysome pounds in just a few minutes. "Now, as to wording, just have a look." He showed me the subsequent pages of his book. Each had a different header: HOMELESS — HELP. HUNGRY — HELP. HELP THE HUNGRY. HELP THE HOMELESS. DESPERATE. DESPERATE — HELP. "What I noticed was, people really respond to a call for action. It's not enough to say, 'homeless, miserable, starving' and so on. You need to cap it off with a request of some kind, so they know what you're after. 'Help the Homeless' outperforms everything else I've tried. Simple, to the point."
He flipped more pages, and now I was looking at charts showing all the different things he'd given away with his signboard, and the combinations he'd tried. "You gave away liverwurst?" I stared at the page.
"Well, no," he said. "But I tried. Turns out no one wants to accept a cracker and liver-paste from a tramp in a tube station." He shrugged. "It wasn't a great idea. I ended up eating liverwurst for three days. But it didn't cost me much to try and fail. If you want to double your success rate, triple your failure rate. That's what I always say. And sometimes, you've just got to be crazy about it. Every time I go into a shop, I'm on the lookout for something else I can do. See this?" He held up a tiny screwdriver. "Eyeglass tightener. You wait until sunglasses season, I'm going to be minted. 'Free DIY Spectacle Repair. Help the Homeless.'"
"Why are you telling me all this?"
He shrugged again. "I tell anyone who'll listen, to be honest. Breaks my heart to see those poor sods going hungry. And you seemed like you were fresh off the boat, like you probably needed a little help."
"So you think I should go make a sign like yours?"
He nodded. "Why not? But this is just a way to get a little ready cash when I need it." He carefully rolled up the signboard, emptying his cup into his front pocket, which bulged from the serious weight of an unthinkable quantity of pound and two-pound coins. "Come on, I'll buy you a coffee."
He walked us past the Starbucks and up Old Street to Shoreditch High Street, then down a small alley, to a tiny espresso stand set in the doorway of an office building. The man who ran it was ancient, with arthritic, knobby fingers and knuckles like walnuts. He accepted two pound coins from Jem and set about making us two lattes, pulling the espresso shots from a tarnished machine that looked even older than he did. The espresso ran out of the basket and into the paper cup in a golden stream, and he frothed the milk with a kind of even, unconscious swirling gesture, then combined the two with a steady hand. He handed them to us, wordlessly, then shooed us off.
"Fyodor makes the best espresso in east London," Jem said, as he brought his cup to his lips and sipped. He closed his eyes for a second, then swallowed and opened them, wiping at the foam on his lip with the back of his hand. "Had his own shop years ago, went into retirement, got bored, set up that stand. Likes to keep his hand in. Practically no one knows about him. He's kind of a secret. So don't go telling all your mates, all right? Once Vice gets wind of that place, it'll be mobbed with awful Shoreditch fashion victims. I've seen it happen. Fyodor wouldn't be able to take it. It'd kill him. Promise me."
"I promise." I was really starting to enjoy his overblown, dramatic way of speaking. "On my life I doth swear it," I said. I didn't mention that the only coffee I'd ever drunk was Nescafé.
"You're overdoing it," he said. "You were doing okay until you got to 'doth.'"
"Noted," I said. Personally, I liked "doth."
"Here's the thing," he said. "Most of the poor bastards who end up on the street never really think it through. It's not a surprise, really. Like I said, people usually get here as the result of some awful trauma, and once they're on the road, it's hard to catch your breath and get some perspective. So nothing against them, but there's a smart way to be homeless and a dumb way. Do you want to learn about the smart way?"
I had a pang of suspicion just then. I didn't know this person. I hadn't even noticed him in the shelter (but then, I'd spent my time there trying not to inadvertently provoke any of the boys with eye contact, especially the ones talking about their knives and fights). Everything I knew about being homeless I'd learned from lurid Daily Mail cover stories about poor tramps and runaway kids who'd been cut up, fouled, and left in pieces in rubbish bins all over England.
One word kept going round my head: "Groomer." Supposedly, there was an army of groomers out there, men and women and even kids who tried to get vulnerable teens (like me, I suppose) to involve themselves with some dirty, ghastly pedophile scheme. These, too, featured prominently in the screaming headlines of the Daily Mail and the Sun, and we had an annual mandatory lecture on "network safety" that was all about these characters. I didn't really believe in them, of course. Trying to find random kids to abuse on the net made about as much sense as calling random phone numbers until you got a child of your preferred age and sex and asking if she or he wanted to come over and touch your monkey.
I'd pointed this out once in class, right after the teacher finished showing us a slide that showed that practically every kid that was abused was abused by a family member, a teacher or some other trusted adult. "Doesn't that slide mean that we should be spending all our time worrying about you, not some stranger on the net?" I'd got a week's detention.
But it's one thing to be brave and sensible in class; another thing to be ever-so-smart and brave as you're standing on a London street with less than thirty quid to your name, a runaway in a strange city with some smart-arse offering to show you the ropes.
"You're not going to cut me up and leave me in a lot of rubbish bins all over England are you?" I said.
He shook his head. "No, too messy. I'm more the cement-block-around-the-ankles-heave-ho-into-the-Thames sort. The eels'll skeltonize you inside of a month. I'll take your teeth so they can't do the dental records thing."
"I confess that I don't know what to say to that."
He slapped me on the shoulder. "Don't be daft, son. Look, I promise I won't take you inside any secluded potential murder sites. This is the Jammie Dodger's tour of London, admission free. It's better than the Ripper tour, better than one of them blue disk walking tours, better than a pub crawl. When you're done with the Jammie Dodger tour, you've got knowledge you can use. What say you, stout fellow?"
"You're overdoing it," I said. "You were doing okay until you got to 'stout fellow.'"
"It's a fair cop," he said. "Come on."
* * *
Our first stop was a Waitrose grocery store in the Barbican. It was a huge place, oozing poshness out into the street. Mums with high-tech push-chairs and well-preserved oldies cruised in and out, along with the occasional sharp-dressed man in a suit. Jem led me through the front door and told me to get a shopping cart. I did, noting that it had a working checkout screen on it — all the ones back home were perpetually broken.
As I pushed it over to him in the produce section, one of the security guards — cheap suit, bad hair, conspicuous earphone — detached himself from the wall and drifted over to us. He hung back short of actually approaching us, but made no secret of the fact that he was watching us. Jem didn't seem to mind. He walked us straight into the fruit section, where there were ranks of carefully groomed berries and succulent delights from around the world, the packages cleverly displaying each to its best effect. I'd never seen fruit like this: it was like hyper-fruit, like the fruit from films. The carton of blackberries didn't have a single squashed or otherwise odd-shaped one. The strawberries were so perfect they looked like they'd been cast from PVC.
Excerpted from Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2012 Cory Doctorow. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Cory Doctorow is a co-editor of Boing Boing and a columnist for multiple publications including the Guardian, Locus, and Publishers Weekly. He was named one of the Web's twenty-five influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. His award-winning YA novel Little Brother was a New York Times bestseller. Born and raised in Canada, he currently lives in London.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I had great difficulty putting it down. I would describe the book a little but its so much greater than the sum of its parts. I would not do to it justice. Give it a shot.
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