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May 2017 19

by Nicole Powers

The action in Cory Doctorow’s new novel, Walkaway, takes place in — and outside of — a dystopian society where the resistance, instead of fighting to change it, have decided to walk away from it. Plagued by inequality gone wild and the ravages of climate change, the “default” society is divided into the elite “zotta” have-everything class and the proletariat for whom — in an extreme gig economy — even an honest day’s work is a luxury.

With no hope of even getting on the first rung of success’s ladder, leaving default to occupy abandoned spaces outside of the fortified cities and create a new society based on community-forward ideals is not only the ultimate act of defiance for the disaffected, it just makes plain sense for those who see through the shared fiction that currency is the preeminent measure of value. Thus the ever-morphing domain of the walkaways attracts some of the brightest young minds who, in a post-scarcity world, can 3D print almost everything they need using discarded recyclables as raw material.

The success of the walkaway encampments challenges the capitalist foundations of default, and the resulting brain-drain brings about an even greater threat to the zottas’ position as society’s self-appointed gods. As drone-delivered bombs explode above them, the geniuses of the subterranean Walkaway U unlock the key to humanity’s Holy Grail: immortality. Having always assumed their wealth would entitle them — and them alone — to eternal life, the threat to the elites’ institutionalized deification leads to a very uncivil war. But when the path to immortality is open source — allowing anyone who cares to get their brain scanned a chance of life after meat-death — bullets and bombs can’t kill a beyond-material world whose time has come.

I caught up with bestselling sci-fi author, activist, and BoingBoing co-editor, Doctorow by phone to discuss some of Walkaway’s themes and ideas, which serve both as cautionary parables and inspiration for dealing with many of the online and meat-space existential crises we face today.

“What about walkaways?” Hubert, Etc said. “Seems to me that they’re doing something that makes a difference. No money, no pretending money matters, and they’re doing it right now.”

Nicole Powers: We both walked away from London. I left because of the poll tax and I know you left more recently because of the Tories. Obviously, the concept of Walkaway very much mirrors what you’ve done in your own life. How much were you thinking about that as you were writing the book?

Cory Doctorow: I don’t remember the exact timing, but I was either mostly done or done with Walkaway when we left London. So it wasn’t exactly that the one inspired the other very much. I think that the thing that I was mostly inspired by… well, a couple of things. One was the idea that if Atlas Shrugged and the one percenters decide they can secede from the human race, the human race might shrug back. They might say, good riddance, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. The thing that I hope I got at here is that, if civilization decides that you are irrelevant, that you have nothing to contribute economically, that maybe with technology and the ability to find other people who feel the same way you do, you can just decide not to petition civilization for the right to exist, but rather to strike out on your own and stake out your own place.

Maybe I was inspired by the success of Occupy in that regard. I was, more than anything, just totally amazed that Occupy lasted as long and worked as well as it did. I know that it’s fashionable now to look back on it and say, well, wasn’t that a giant waste everyone’s time. But if there’s one thing Occupy showed us, it’s that people were able to assert their right to these spaces — literally, physically, parts of their cities. And that they could assert it and they could hold it in a way, that in our very private property-centric world, it’s hard to imagine could have happened. Like, St. Paul’s Cathedral — how was it that it lasted as long as it did? That’s an amazing thing and I think that there are people who will have been radicalized by that. People who, in retrospect, will think back on that and go, you know, if that worked, what can we do next?

The walkaway net had high-speed zones, and this had been one of them, but the major hard-line links had been destroyed in the blaze and they’d dropped back to stupid meshing wireless and there was only so much electromagnetic spectrum in the universe.

NP: Walkaway very much exists in a post-net neutrality world. They’ve worked away from the World Wide Web to an extent and created their own mesh net. You talk about the mesh net a lot, and the way it’s supported via drones and blimps. I know a lot of geeks are already working on mesh nets. Do you think, given the threats to the web that we’re seeing, it’s time for activists to invest in a mesh outside of the World Wide Web?

CD: I don’t think that it needs to be outside of the World Wide Web, or even outside of the telecom companies. I think it needs to interpret them as damage and route around them. Actually, someone asked me the other day whether or not we’re going to have multiple internets. It was a similar version to this question. Are we going to have more than one internet? Are we going to separate off? Are we going to balkanize out into multiple internets?

There’s this technical element of it that works against that, where the internet is really good at tunneling protocols through each other. People who attempt to separate one network from another using things like packet filtering but leaving them electrically connected so that there’s a way for one to talk to the other one — they tend to be very surprised by how easy it is and how thoroughly they end up being reconnected. There are lots of people who try very hard to air gap networks and to build networks that are electrically separated —sometimes for very good reasons — in order to preserve data integrity, to stop randos from hacking into the MRI machine and crashing.

Inevitably — and I got this from Genevieve Bell who is an anthropologist at Intel who did a study of this — she said that inevitably those networks are cross-connected. The value of cross-connecting two networks is so high that no matter how risky it is to connect one network to another, people always end up doing it. Whether that’s the spy network that is supposed to be totally air-gapped because it’s where all your cyber weapons are, or the finance network, or the hospital network — all of those sensitive networks inevitably get reconnected to the internet by someone. You just literally walk the perimeter and you find that someone has taken a patch cable to the two patch panels in the wiring closet and cross-connected one to the other. Or they’ve brought in a DSL modem. Or they’ve brought in a USB dongle connected to a hot spot. Or something. Those networks always end up reconnected. I think that it’s probably a fool’s errant to say, well we’re going to disconnect our web from their web. I think it’s better to say, we are going to build a web that subsumes their web.

NP: In the UK, police are getting new powers to remotely disable phones, and it seems at the point where your government can switch off your phone, or spy on it, then you need a failsafe you can flip to.

CD: Yeah. I think that this is a place where our abstractions collide with reality. Because there isn’t a way to give governments the power to switch your phone off. There’s only a way to give governments the power to reconfigure a phone to do all of the things or not do any of the things that phones can do. Once you give a government the power to reach in and run code on your phone that turns it off, that you don’t want run, you’re also giving them the power to run other arbitrary code on your phone. And not just the government, but anyone who successfully impersonates the government to your phone…

Even much more benign versions of this, like the California law that says that carriers need to be able to brick a phone if it’s reported stolen in order to reduce phone theft. That’s, I think, passed with the best of intentions, but there is no such thing as something that just allows carriers to brick phones. What that is, is it’s a way to brick phones that anyone who knows the secret can use against any phone that they want. And if we haven’t seen that exploited in the wild yet, we should expect it to be exploited in the wild soon.

“Science may be resistant to power, but it’s not immune. It’s a race: either the walkaways release immortality to the world, or the zottas install themselves as permanent god-emperors.”

NP: I watched your New York Public Library Q&A with Edward Snowden two days ago. You both spoke about immorality being used as a MacGuffin in the book. However, I read an article recently about a surgeon that successfully transplanted a head on to a rat. That same surgeon says he’s going to do that on a human within the year. Then you have Mark Zuckerberg working on his mind-reading project. We’re already heading in the direction that you describe in the book. And, if that comes to pass, there’s going to be this horrific situation where — if it’s left in the hands of the elite — the one percenters are going to get to decide who donates their body and whose brains get to live on.

CD: Ha,ha!

NP: Is this really a MacGuffin or is the idea that it’s a MacGuffin wishful thinking on your part given what’s actually going on in the real world?

CD: No, I seriously think it’s a MacGuffin. Just because Zuck thinks that he knows about neuroscience doesn’t mean that he knows about neuroscience. Dunning-Kruger is alive and well. The reason that con artists targeted successful, intelligent people is they always overestimated their ability to spot a con in domains other than the one that they knew something about. You find a stock broker and you would hook them with a horse race con because stock brokers would assume that understanding a stock market very well also made them really good at understanding horse races — and they were horribly wrong and got taken for every penny. So I wouldn’t say that Zuck’s enthusiasm is any indication of anything except his hubris.

In terms of the transplantation of a rat head, we can’t interrogate the rat to know whether or not that was a successful operation, right? We have only external factors to evaluate the quality of the experimental outcome. It may be that, if you could talk to the rat, you’d find out that the head transplant was not nearly so successful as we thought… So in my view, anyway, it’s a very metaphorical thing.

Where it does touch with reality is in what James Hughes calls ‘transhumanism.’ He wrote a very good book about this called Citizen Cyborg that’s more generally about the ways that technologies give us longer lives of higher quality, and how the uneven distribution of technology in that domain — where that inequality is a function of economic inequality — that it magnifies economic inequality very, very terribly.

Jim, in particular, is worried and interested about the way that maybe we might alter our germplasm, which does seem to me to be well within reach. I mean, we have parts of our genome that at least there’s burgeoning consensus if they’re expressed in certain ways, they probably only do bad things and not good things. And we can, in theory, eliminate those parts of our genome from fertilized zygotes, at least in vitro. So it may be that there are people who are wealthy enough to have IVF and to have CRISPR surgery on the IVF before implantation whose germplasm is permanently altered to remove things that are potentially very harmful. That to me feels like something that it is a little bit like speciation. So if there’s a thing in Walkaway that resonates with you, the place where I would say you should be taking that resonance and trying to apply it to the real-world is not in the hypothetical life extension technologies, but in very non-hypothetical and very real stuff that we’re doing right now.

NP: I see it in the vote that was taken yesterday in which the House passed the American Healthcare Act. That’s very much saying, these people have a right to live because they have money, and these people don’t because they don’t.

CD: Yeah. I think that’s absolutely right.

“Of course I’m talking about economists! I think you have to be a mathematician to appreciate how full of shit economists are, how astrological their equations are. No offense to your egalitarian soul, but you lack the training to understand how deeply bogus those neat equations are.”

NP: Continuing on with the theme of the delusions of grand people, like Zuckerberg… I loved the line in your book where you talk about how economics is the astrology of math, and how it’s often just used to justify terrible things. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

CD: This is actually a thing that mainstream economists have observed and that Thomas Piketty delves into at some length in Capital in the Twenty-First Century. That economics exists in a marketplace in which the fitness factor that gets you funded, and gets you pricey consultation gigs and makes your life very good, is not being accurate but saying things that make rich people happy — because they give politicians reasons to make rich people richer.

NP: The fallacy of trickle-down economics, etc.

CD: Right. I mean, basically, governments that do things that benefit the donor class at the expense of everyone else need to be able to explain why they shouldn’t be sent to the guillotines. And the way that they explain it is by having very articulate and respected economists describe why it’s better for you and me that our interests are not being served by the government.

NP: I just love that you even float that idea… because economics is considered a hallowed science by so many.

CD: I’ve written more than one book about heterodox economics. I wrote For The Win and it got a very good write-up in The Financial Times. I hope that this will also get thought well of in those circles. I think that the idea that laissez-faire market orthodoxy is overly simplistic, doesn’t accord with realities, is observed and so on. It is actually a pretty mainstream idea within economics — it’s just not a mainstream idea within the economists who are incredibly well paid.

One of the B&B’s game-changing tools was “lovedaresnot” … The core idea was that radical or difficult ideas were held back by the thought that no one else had them. That fear of isolation led people to stay “in the closet” about their ideas, making them the “love that dares not speak its name.” So lovedaresnot (shortened to “Dare Snot”) gave you a way to find out if anyone else felt the same, without forcing you to out yourself.

Anyone could put a question — a Snot Dare — up, like “Do you think we should turf that sexist asshole?” People who secretly agreed signed the question with a one-time key that they didn’t have to reveal unless a pre-specified number of votes were on the record. Then the system broadcast a message telling signers to come back with their signing keys and de-anonymize themselves, escrowing the results until a critical mass of signers had de-cloaked. Quick as you could say “I am Spartacus,” a consensus plopped out of the system.

NP: You have a wonderful description of a post-Occupy form of consensus, which is very appealing to me. Politics and the media can often combine to produce a society where the vocal minority rule. I think that’s very much what we saw in the last election cycle, where there was a silent majority that was scared to voice opinions. As a woman, this can be especially frustrating when making an argument in mixed company where there’s always going to be people that are able to shout louder. So I liked the concept of lovedaresnot. Can you explain a little about that idea and where it came from?

CD: It’s one of the many ways in which we use networks to break the collective action problem, which is one of the great old problems of our species — figuring out how to work together when we need a lot of people together to make something happen. And when having any less than the threshold for action means that everyone ends up wasting their time or worse. It can be very, very hard to organize those. It’s actually a thing laissez-faire economists spend a lot of time worrying about. They worry about free riders because that’s the situation in which free-riding is really dangerous; it can convince all of the people, who might otherwise pitch in and help reach the threshold, to just not bother.

In some ways, it’s an extension of what we’ve seen happen with Kickstarter and crowdfunding projects which are all about trying to figure out how to overcome these deadlocks… Bruce Schneier originally proposed something called the Street Performer Protocol, which draws its inspiration from the practices of some street performers of doing an act for free. They might play a bunch of songs or they might be a juggler and they’ll do a bunch of juggling, then, when they get to the end of the act, they say, all right, I have a finale, and you’ve seen what I have on offer, so the finale is going to be amazing. They’ll talk it up and they’ll say, I’ll do the finale once there’s $50 in my hat. I don’t care who puts the $50 in the hat, and I don’t care who watches afterwards, but until there’s $50 in the hat, the show does not go on. You sometimes get this with NPR fundraisers too, we don’t do anything until there’s X dollars.

The Street Performer Protocol, historically when people have tried to make it into a web thing for say a musician to put out a new album, the way that it’s worked is you have some escrow authority, a third-party, a platform who takes all the money for the musician and holds on to it, and when the musician delivers the album, then they get the money. That way, they don’t just do a runner with it. The thing that Kickstarter did that was amazing was they said musicians have a hard time making albums unless they have the money in the first place. They don’t have access to credit that would allow them to make the album, deliver the album, and then collect the money from all the backers and use it to pay back the creditors who loaned them the money to keep going in the studio. If they had access to that credit, they wouldn’t need the crowdfunder… So Kickstarter was like, what if we just made a thing where sometimes people get ripped off or disappointed. They give the money to the musician, the musician goes into the studio, comes out six months later and says, you know what, I tried, no, there’s no record, sorry. If you did that, you would enable all the musicians who could produce an album but for the lack of capital to produce something — and they would be the majority… They would swamp the disappointment effect that arose from the musicians who just never came out of the studio with anything viable or just spent it all on beer or whatever. And it turned out they were right.

Now you have people trying versions of Kickstarter where they are removing one thing at a time to see what the minimum viable crowdfunder is. You have Indiegogo, where you get the money even if you don’t reach the threshold… You have GoFundMe, where you don’t have to set a threshold. It’s just an open platform. People are trying to see how much you can omit before you cease to have a viable crowdfunding platform… It’s like a game of Jenga for behavioral economics, where you see how much you can remove before it all falls over.

Daresnot, this idea that you can have a cryptographically secret place where you cast votes and, until the vote reaches the threshold, the votes are never disclosed — no one knows how it’s going, but once it reaches the threshold, then all of a sudden some action is triggered — is really just a metaphorical way of talking about these other collective action beaters and where they might go.

I’ve talked for years about something I call the Magnificent Seven Business Model. In the Magnificent Seven, you have a village that every year the bandits ride into and take all their stuff. One year they decide instead of paying the bandits, they will go and hire mercenaries to kill the bandits, because they only have to pay the mercenaries once where they have to pay the bandits every year.

In the world of patent and copyright trolling, you have things like the “Happy Birthday” people who charge you a license fee that’s less than it would cost you to fight the copyright claim for the song “Happy Birthday” — even though you’re pretty sure that if you did fight the copyright claim, you would win. Collectively, all the people paying license fees to the “Happy Birthday” copyright trolls were paying much more than it would cost to litigate the copyright, but individually they weren’t. So you could imagine a thing where you said, once 1,000 other people promise not to pay any more money to the “Happy Birthday” people, then I won’t either and we will all divert our funds to pay a lawyer to defend anyone who gets sued by the “Happy Birthday” people — once we reach that critical threshold.

That actually would probably work. It could fight a lot of trolling business models. We could fight patent trolling business models and it’d be really interesting. The more people you had who were in the pool, the more desperate the trolls would be to find new people to shore up their revenues, the more aggressive their claims would be, the more people would find the pool and join it, and eventually they’d drive themselves out of business. The harder they push, the harder the pushback would be.

NP: That sounds like a business model and a platform that needs to happen.

CD: If I were a class action lawyer with a little extra money looking to create a platform, I would make that platform as a way of drumming up business. Because the other thing that it does is once you invalidate the copyright, then you get a class action to sue them for falsely asserting it.

The people who use this place decided they would rather be robbed than surveilled. Stuff is just stuff, but being recorded all the time is creepy. As for lockers, you’re free to put some in, but I don’t think they’d last. Once you’ve got lockers, you’re implicitly saying that anything that’s not in a locker is ‘unprotected’—”

“Which it was,” Etcetera pointed out.

“Yeah,” she said. “That’s a perfectly valid point. But you won’t win the argument with it.”

NP: You and Snowden talked about a full-Orwell future, which we’re very much hurtling towards… What I love with your novels is that you’re actually creating a demand elasticity for crypto and privacy rights to fight that. People come to your novels because they’re great stories, but leave with a greater understanding of the need for crypto and privacy.

CD: At the very least, I hope I’m helping people think through some of the more abstract elements of why this stuff matters. A lot of public health problems involve very abstract harms that are a long time in the future. This is one of the problems of climate change, understanding climate change and really viscerally feeling the risks associated with it. It’s a difficult enterprise because climate change is a long way off and the explanation for it, and the specifics of it, are extremely technical. That’s been one of the problems we’ve had in doing something about climate change. And climate oriented science fiction, like the stuff Kim Stanley Robinson is writing, that does yeoman service because it helps us understand, in a very visceral way, what’s going on with climate change and what the problems are. It helps us live through it in advance. That is definitely one of the things fiction can do.

One of the most gratifying things in my life these years is that I frequently meet adults who read Little Brother as kids, and they have gone into computer science, information security, entrepreneurship, and public policy as a result. They are like my botnet, right? They are people whose practice in this technical trade that’s very important, and that is really dominated by money, and they bring into their practice non-financial considerations about ethics. And that’s really important.

Engineering and ethics have always had an important relationship to one another. Where engineering and ethics have become too far divorced, we’ve had really ghastly things. Engineers made every weapon of mass destruction. Engineers made all of the great killing machines. Engineers provided the data processing that allowed every modern genocidal system to run. So engineering ethics often arises as a reaction to these awful outcomes where we create situations where engineers look at themselves in the mirror and realize that their profession, which they got into for the technical challenges or to make the world a better place, has become an existential threat to the species. That it has become a way to allow people to magnify their worse impulses to the great detriment of many, many, many millions of people — sometimes with mass graves to boot. So getting people involved and inspired to think about the ethical dimension of technology, and then to do something about it, is a very gratifying thing indeed.

“What’s a ‘covered dish’ person?”

“Oh. If there’s a disaster, do you go over to your neighbor’s house with: a) a covered dish or b) a shotgun? It’s game theory. If you believe your neighbor is coming over with a shotgun, you’d be an idiot to pick a); if she believes the same thing about you, you can bet she’s not going to choose a) either. The way to get to a) is to do a) even if you think your neighbor will pick b). Sometimes she’ll point her gun at you and tell you to get off her land, but if she was only holding the gun because she thought you’d have one, then she’ll put on the safety and you can have a potluck.”

NP: A lot of the systems that governments have in place depend on a government seeing the population as an adversarial force. In Walkaway, you introduced this idea of ‘covered dish people.’ We’ve seen in real life that when disasters happen — be it 9/11 or a hurricane — that the vast majority of people are covered dish people. Yet, we’re still functioning with a government that doesn’t even believe that the covered dish mentality can exist. How do we change the way we fundamentally run things so that we’re actually running things for the benefit of the 99% covered dish people, rather than the 1% that would shoot you for a casserole?

CD: This is a collective action problem again. I think that what kind of person you are is partly temperamental. There’s some people who think more about an alliance to a wider polity, and some people who are more inclined to think about their allegiance to the people around them and to draw the border much closer to home. But, with few exceptions, I don’t think anyone is born an absolute. I think what happens is that our social system causes one or the other to emerge from us in the same way that our personal circumstances cause either our resilient, understanding self or our temper-prone, angry self to rise to the surface. You know that when you’re tired and grumpy, and maybe you had a glass of wine, you’re more likely to snap than when you are well rested and happy, then you can roll with the punches.

I think that we have built a system that encourages people to be tired and grumpy, to let their worst selves come to the fore. Building a system where your best self can come to the fore involves, in part, figuring out how to overcome the people who benefit from this worst system. This market doctrine system where the very rich have everything accrued to them and where the economists that they pay to give them intellectual cover explain that being greedy is the best way to organize a society.

Figuring out how to break that deadlock is going to involve doing things like small money fundraising and political activism of the sort that we’ve seen actually since the Trump election. You know, the collapse of the first round of the Obamacare repeal, and whatever is going to happen as a result of this one, that’s an example of exactly how people who don’t have the same amount of money but who have the support from networks and the ability to organize themselves to work collectively can outmaneuver these big top-down, very wealthy systems of power.

Walkaway is available now via Tor Publishing. For more on Cory Doctorow visit craphound.com.

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SG Interview: Cory Doctorow — Homeland Part 2
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SG Interview: Cory Doctorow — On Little And Big Brother

This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and is published here under Creative Commons License 4.0. It may be reposted freely with attribution to the author, Nicole Powers, and this notice.

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May 2016 03

By Blogbot

This Wednesday Nicole Powers and Moxi and Bradley Suicide are celebrating May 4th, the most important date in the geek calendar — aka International Star Wars Day (May The 4th Be With You!) — with our favorite sci-fi author and game developer Steven-Elliot Altman. (Check out his dystopian novel, The Killswitch Review, which was serialized on SuicideGirls here.)

**UPDATE**

Want to learn more about Pearl’s Peril and Ancient Aliens — and why Moxi wants to have alien sex?!? Watch last night’s show feat. Steven-Elliot Altman here or via the player below.

You can listen – and watch – the world’s leading BYOB radio show live on Wednesday nights from 8 til 9 PM at our state-of-the-art all digital, 100% Hollywood home: ZHollywood.tv

If you have questions for the SG Radio crew or our guests, you can call in during the live broadcast at: 1-855-TRV-inLA (1-855-878-4652)

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

About Steven-Elliot Altman

Steven-Elliot Altman is a bestselling science fiction author, film and television screenwriter, graphic novelist, and videogame developer. His games include Acclaim’s multiple award-winning title 9Dragons and Wooga’s Facebook sensation Pearl’s Peril. Steve’s novels include Captain America Is Dead, Zen In The Art Of Slaying Vampires, Batman: Fear Itself, The Killswitch Review, The Irregulars, and Deprivers. He’s also the editor of the critically-acclaimed anthology The Touch and a contributor to Shadows Over Baker Street, a Hugo Award Winning anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories. Steve’s also a proud member of SFWA and the current Vice-Chairman of the steering committee of the Writers Guild of America’s Videogame Division. Steve is presently writing the videogame Ancient Aliens, based on the History Channels’ hit television series, and is overseeing the development of his own science fiction series for MarVista Entertainment based upon his novel Deprivers.

To cyber-stalk Steven-Elliot Altman, visit his Twitter.

Calling All SuicideGirl Videogame Fans! 

Steven-Elliot Altman and the History Channel cordially invite you to check out the beta test of AncientAliens: The Game on Facebook (coming to mobile next week). Help ancient astronaut theorists uncover the truth about alien visitations in our remote past as you abduct humans, alter their DNA and build the pyramids.

Go here: https://apps.facebook.com/playancientaliens

Enter the password: “letsplayancientaliens” to be one of the first to experience the game and ask Steve any questions you may have.

 

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The World’s Leading BYOB Radio Show Is Sponsored By Mangria

“As a nightly consumer of red wine, I was shocked one evening to find I had just half a glass left in the bottle. So I did what any decent alcoholic, ex-con, American would do… I went to the fridge and the liquor cabinet, then poured, mixed and measured. Thus Mangria was born.” — Adam Carolla

For more info visit Carolla Drink’s websiteFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Dec 2014 10

by Blogbot

This Thursday, December 11th on SuicideGirls Radio, hosts Moxi Suicide and Nicole Powers will be joined by award-winning playwright Jennifer Haley, whose mind-blowing play, The Nether, explores second life morality and virtual criminality.

You can listen – and watch – the world’s leading BYOB radio show live on Thursday nights from 7 til 8 PM [note new time] at our state-of-the-art all digital home: TradioV.com.

If you have questions for the SG Radio crew or our guests, you can call in during the live broadcast at: 1-855-TRV-inLA (1-855-878-4652)

For updates on all things SG Radio-related, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

About Jennifer Haley
Jennifer is a playwright whose work delves into ethics in virtual reality and the impact of technology on our human relationships, identity, and desire. She won the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Los Angeles Ovation Award and Drama Critics Circle Award for her play, The Nether, which premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles and was subsequently produced at The Royal Court Theatre in London.

Other plays include Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, which premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville 2008 Humana Festival, and They Call Her Froggy, in development with Center Theatre Group and American Conservatory Theater.

The Nether will transfer to the Duke of York’s Theatre in London’s West End, with performances starting on January 30 ahead of an official opening on February 23. The show is booking for a 12-week season through April 25, 2015. For more info visit JenniferHaley.com/ and TheNetherPlay.com/.

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Jan 2014 22

by Alexander Hinkley

[Rambo in Fast Times]

SG Gamer of the Week this week is Rambo. She is a retro gamer that loves a lot of the classics. I sat down with Rambo to talk about some of her favorite and least favorite video games. She also shares her plans for a video game-related tattoo. Can’t go wrong with Final Fantasy VII!

What is the story behind your SuicideGirls nickname? It reminds me of the movies…

The story behind my SG name is just that Rambo is a complete badass, and so am I 😉

When did you first get into playing video games?

I started playing video games around the age of four. I grew up with two brothers and a dad who all loved video games so they’ve been a huge part of my life for pretty much as long as I can remember.

What are some of your favorite games?

Some of my favorite games are Final Fantasy 7, 8, and 9 for PS1, Donkey Kong Country for SNES, Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past for SNES, Mario Kart 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for N64, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn for Nintendo Wii.

Ah so you are more of a retro gamer. What would you say is your favorite system?

Definitely a retro gamer! My favorite system is a toss up between PS1 and N64.

I noticed you didn’t mention Majora’s Mask. Did you not like that game?

I actually haven’t played Majora’s Mask!

Recommend a PS1 or N64 game that many people don’t know about but is amazing.

Well, I think Rogue Trip for PS1 is totally underrated. Such a fun game!

What is the worst game you’ve ever played?

Haha, ummm probably ClayFighter for N64.

What are you currently playing?
I’m currently playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii.

Tell me about your tattoos. How many do you have, where, and what?

I have a bunch of tattoos. Not sure how many exactly, somewhere near 15 I think? I’ve got roses for my mom and brother, “Patience is a Virtue” on my tummy, the Creation of Man hands on my back, matryoshka dolls on my arm for my aunt, and lots more.

Would you ever consider getting a video game-related tattoo?

I will absolutely get a video game-related tattoo! I’m planning to get Rupees, and brainstorming a FF7 tattoo as well.

If Guardian Forces were real, which one would you junction?

Bahamut! Although Shiva and Ifrit will always hold a special place in my heart.

Cloud vs Squall vs Zidane. Who wins?

Cloud, without a shadow of a doubt!

What is the longest you’ve ever gamed without stopping?

I think the longest I’ve ever gamed without stopping is something like 12 hours (when I was much younger and had that kind of free time on my hands, haha).

Aside from video games, what are some other things you like to do for fun?

I love anything creative. I do a lot of photography, sewing, paper crafts, crocheting, and cooking.

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Nov 2013 13

by Alex Hinkley

This week’s SG Gamer of the Week is Jeckyl. She is a hardcore girl that has a not-so-secret nerdy side to her. Jeckyl loves Star Wars and owning face in Call of Duty. I talked to her about some of her favorite games and what she thinks of Disney taking over the Star Wars franchise.

So tell me about your SG nickname, Jeckyl. The first thing that comes to mind is Doctor Jeckyl…

Yeah that’s exactly where the name comes from. My Suicide Girls persona is sort of like my alter ego, like a Jekyll and Hyde thing. I like to think that Jeckyl is the opposite of me and that, as Jeckyl, I get to act out all the things I’d be too shy to do as myself.

What are some of your favorite games of all-time?

Alice: Madness Returns, Super Mario Brothers, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

What about favorite current games?

Black Ops 2, Assassins Creed 3, and FIFA 13.

So I take it you are a soccer fan? Do you like any other sports?

I am yes. Soccer players are very nice to look at. =P Occasionally I’ll watch rugby or hockey, but I’m really more into roller derby. It’s my favorite sport!

PS3 or Xbox 360?

PS3.

Are you into online gaming or are you more of a campaign type girl?

Online. I like to kick ass.

I’m sure all the Black Ops 2 players reading this will want to know, what’s your k/d?

1.75. I’ve been thinking of getting it tattooed on my arm as a testament to my awesomeness.

Your profile says you live in South Africa. Tell me about what it’s like living there from a gaming perspective. Do video games cost more there? Does the internet suck?

The internet is a real pain here. It went down about three times today already. I don’t think games are more expensive but some games we don’t have yet so we have to order from overseas and shipping can get pretty pricey. Gaming seems to be growing here though, we even have an annual gaming convention called Rage where we get to play and sample all the latest stuff, it’s really rad.

You mentioned Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was one of your all-time faves, does this mean you are a huge Star Wars fan in general?

I am, yes, a closet fan though. Being a nerd kinda contradicts my hardcore alternative image. But Star Wars is a classic, and I’m a sucker for the classics. Also Hayden Christensen is a dish.

Of course you know what I have to ask next. Favorite Star Wars movie?

I really liked The Clone Wars but with some reservations. The Clone Wars animated series was surprisingly good, too. Much better than the movie. Yoda was pretty kick ass.

How do you feel about Disney acquiring Star Wars?

I’m actually kind of excited to see what Disney does with it. I really lost faith in Lucas Films after a few glitches they passed off as movies these last few years. I think it’s a really awesome way to introduce Star Wars to a newer generation that grew up without it. And really nothing beats Star Wars on the big screen so I’m definitely looking forward to next movies!

If you could make your own video game, what would you make?

Probably a cross between Black Ops 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3. It would be really cool to combine the storyline and killing styles in Assassin’s Creed with the machinery from Black Ops. People’s minds would melt from awesome overload.

For more on Jeckyl visit her SuicideGirls‘ profile and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Aug 2013 13

by Alexander Hinkley


[Toxic Suicide in Wicker Wonderland]

This week’s SuicideGirl Gamer of the Week is Toxic. Toxic loves nerds. Probably because she is one. She’s into Transformers and role-playing games, especially Final Fantasy. I spoke to her about some of her favorites and whether or not she would support a FFVII remake.

Toxic seems like an odd nickname for such a pretty girl. What made you choose it?

Honestly, Toxic wasn’t my original choice. I had a different name picked out that was totally girlie but it didn’t roll off the tongue like “Toxic Suicide” does. Toxic suits me though in more ways than one. Get to know me and you will see why!

Judging from the fact you have “Decepticon” tattooed across your ribs, I take it you are a fan of Transformers?

Don’t let my hot girl disguise fool you. I am just lying low until our leader Megatron collects enough energon cubes here on Earth. With the energy we acquire we can finally reconquer Cybertron and take down the autobots.

When did you get that tattoo anyway?

Wade Davidson at Raven Ink Tattoo tattooed “Decepticon” on my ribs the summer of 2011. I debated getting this tattoo for a long time. Originally I did not want a lot of tattoos…Wow has that changed! Being a Transformers fan since childhood, I can’t imagine not having a tribute to Saturday mornings of watching G1. I cannot believe I didn’t get it sooner. My tattoo always gets me attention from my favorite people to converse with NERDS! Fellow nerds like me! GOODNESS DO I LOVE NERDS!

Tell me about your other tattoos.

Where to start? We can start with my first tattoo. I have “Your Name” tattooed in a heart on my right butt check. Originally I wanted something small that could be easily covered. My heart was done by an artist named Steve O in Susanville, CA.

I have two full sleeves. Both of my sleeves are being done by Jason Iffert at Raven Ink Tattoo in Portland, OR. My right arm is a floral sleeve. It features many of my favorite flowers including a tiger lily and a sunflower. I also have a pinup witch of my mother on my right arm. The pin up is a contribution by Wade Davidson. My left arm is a sleeve of Dr. Seuss characters. All the characters from all my favorite books. There are two small pieces on my left wrist not part of the Seuss theme. I have a matching friendship tattoo on my inner left wrist with my BFF Britney. I also have a “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” piece done by artist John MacDonell.

On the back of my neck I have an owl I named “Dexter” by artist Tomma Mueller. I love Dexter– he has the body of a strawberry! Below that is my full back piece being done by Sharkbait Struckman at Mr. Tattoo in Milwaukie, OR. My full back piece is of the tree of knowledge with owls. This piece is my newest and I love how it is turning out so far. He is such an awesome artist!

Favorite transformer?

My favorite transformer is a hard subject because it’s so close between two: #1 is, and always will be, Megatron. Megatron is a ruthless leader who shows no mercy. #2 is Soundwave, not only because he talks in a cool robotic voice, but he has a cassette deck in his chest that popped out more Decepticons (Like Ravage and Laserbeak). Sooooo rad!

What are some of your favorite video games?

I am a sucker for the classics, especially RPGs, they are by far my favorite to play. My favorite game of all time has to be Final Fantasy VII on PS1, though. The storyline, characters, and summons, I can spend all day running around getting into battles to work up my materia and limit breaks. A close second favorite has to be Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for Super NES. Best Zelda game ever hands down! I used to spend hours playing this game with my dad as a kid. When I finally beat it by myself it was a moment to remember… I mean I had the Triforce in my little Link hands!

Other games I really enjoy playing Final Fantasy VIII (PS1), Donkey Kong Country 1-3 (Super NES), Kingdom Hearts (PS2), Street Fighter II (Super NES), Mortal Kombat (I play it in the arcade), Eternal Champions (Sega), Tomb Raider (PS1), Legend of Legia (PS1), Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega), Tetris (NES), Duckhunt (NES), and of course Super Mario Bros. (NES). I like pretty much every Mario but especially love the original 1-3.

Preferred system?

I really love my Wii because I can download classic games and play them on my console. I have so many amazing games downloaded into it. Thank God because my NES is to the point where you blow hard and they still aren’t playing!

What about least favorite game? Ever played one that just absolutely sucked?

There is one game that I like but I am terrible at it – Altered Beast which I played on Sega Genesis. I was really good at it when I was a little kid but now I can’t even make it past level two. I strive for improvement though. Besides that I am not a big fan of shooting games. I’ve tried them and they aren’t really my thing.

If you could compare yourself to one video game character, who would it be and why?

I am totally Yuffie Kisaragi from FFVII. When my brother and I used to play we always gave her character my name. For one, Yuffie is a babe with a big personality just like me. She is a very sassy, feisty, and headstrong. I like to compare myself to her good traits because I am definitely not a Materia thief. The best part about Yuffie is she is a ninja just like me!

Did you get a Gold Chocobo and all that?

Yes, I obtained the Gold Chocobo. So much racing, breeding, and gil spent. It’s a long and grueling task but is necessary! Trust me you want the “Knights of the round” Summon especially in the “weapons” and final battles. The way you get it is with the Gold Chocobo. I just started a new FFVII game a while ago and am at the Chocobo side quest yet again. Got to have a game night soon so I can tackle it.

Which was harder in your opinion, Ruby or Emerald Weapon?

They are both pretty tough battles but if your equipped well and have the “Knights of the Round” Materia it makes it a lot easier. I would have to say though Ruby is harder than Emerald weapon, though.

Do you think Sony should remake FFVII in high definition for PS3 or leave the game alone?

I am usually one to say don’t mess with the classics but I wouldn’t mind playing a revamped version of FFVII. It would look so pretty on my LED TV. Only condition though is no major changes to the game/storyline and it keeps its integrity.

For more on Toxic find her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and SuicideGirls.

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Jun 2013 13

by Alexander Hinkley


[GoGo Suicide in The Twelfth]

GoGo is a sexy Italian model that is also into video games. She’s also a movie buff and hardcore Game of Thrones fan, so it’s safe to say that GoGo actually loves all sorts of nerdy things.

Is there a story behind your SG nickname?

There sort of isn’t one. When I first applied for the site I had to pick a nickname and GoGo is what came to mind. It sounded short and cute and easy to remember!

How long have you been modeling?

Since I applied for SuicideGirls in 2004.

You have a ton of really cool tattoos. Is there any special symbolism behind them?

Not really, I mean, besides the name of my dog on my ankle and Rain Dogs across my knuckles over Tom Waits, the rest is just ideas of things that I like / inspire me. I usually just give a rough idea to the artist and let him or her do the rest.

What are some of your favorite video games?

The Silent Hill saga has a special place in my heart. Other than that, I love Diablo 3, LA Noire, and Call of Duty.

Do you play games online much?

I used to be really into Diablo 3 and would play for hours every day. But the servers are so horrible, always down, and always laggy, so eventually I just kinda gradually gave up on it. Call of Duty is a game I like to play sporadically, like when I am really frustrated so I can just shoot some motherfuckers.

Which class do you prefer in Diablo 3?

Wizard all the way! I’m definitely a disintegrate/archon combo wizard.

Ever try to make money on the auction house?

Not real money, only gold to buy more equipment with. I never got that far as wanting to spend hundreds of real dollars for it. Maybe I would have been tempted once or twice if the servers were more reliable, but alas…

What’s your console of choice?

PS3 and desktop 🙂

Do you think the Silent Hill franchise has gotten better or worse over time?

I think it had ups and downs. Some of them were great, some not so great, but overall it’s the universe of it that really gets to you, you know? 1 and 3 are my favorites.

How/when did you first get into playing video games?

Gosh I don’t know. When my parents gave me a Sega Master System for Christmas when I was little, I guess!

Judging by the fact you list “Winterfell” as your hometown, I take it you’re a Game of Thrones fan?

Huge! I wouldn’t know where to begin! Last year I did a tribute shoot that came out super cool. It was the “grown up version” of Arya Stark. You should check it out!

So where did you really grow up?

Italy, books, and the internet 🙂

Which is better, the books or the TV show?

This is a hard question! I LOVE the books and at the same time I LOVE the show. I would instinctively pick the book because there’s just more of everything, and you can spend months reading them and being absorbed in the whole imaginarium –– but they sure are doing a great job with the TV version, too. The TV show has the potential to be on air for a long time, whereas the books are being published too far apart and it’s such a long, painful wait!

Favorite character?

Tyrion and Arya. Bran seems to be heading in a very badass direction too, whereas Jon isn’t really as interesting as he once was. But given the huge cliffhanger of the last book, I expect greater things for him to come. *SPOILER ALERT* (I just don’t want him to really be dead). I have to say since Theon became Reek, he also started to really interest me.

Have you gotten a chance to try the GoT RPG that was released back in May?

I haven’t! I feel like between the books and the TV show I have enough GoT in my life if that makes sense!

I understand you’re also somewhat of a movie buff. If you could make any movie into a video game, what would it be?

I am, that’s another subject I could talk about forever! Let me think… Perhaps an Oldboy inspired game where you wake up in a room you don’t know why and you have to solve the mystery and riddles etc. Hmm that sounds like Silent Hill a bit doesn’t it? 🙂

For more of GoGo find her on Facebook, Twitter and SuicideGirls, and be sure to checkout her Etsy store!

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