Makers is a novel by Canadian-British science fiction author Cory Doctorow. It was released in October 2009. The novel is available free on the author’s website, as a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA download. It is also published in traditional paper form by HarperVoyager.
The book focuses on a near-future imagining of members of the maker culture, a group Doctorow characterizes as being composed of “people who hack hardware, business-models, and living arrangements to discover ways of staying alive and happy even when the economy is falling down the toilet.”
The Creative Class is a posited socioeconomic class identified by American economist and social scientist Richard Florida, a professor and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. According to Florida, the Creative Class are a key driving force for economic development of post-industrial cities in the United States.
It’s hard to read Makers without reflecting it against the world we live in today. The book was entertaining, but while reading it, I kept having a niggling feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
I know Cory Doctorow as a forward-thinking author who likes to push the boundaries of technology and ideas of capitalism through his actions in liberalising copyright laws. He offers his books free on his website and encourages readers and fans to ‘remix’ them. It’s really hard not to think about this while reading Makers.
The problem with Makers in this context, is that it feels like Cory Doctorow is presenting us with an argument as to why everything that he has been championing is a bad idea – or at least not a good idea. It is characteristic of a science fiction novel to show us a possible (bad) outcome of a new society, and Makers does this quite realistically. It does however, also paint a bleak future for many who believe that the current (capitalist) methods are worse.
I guess the niggling feeling the book gave me was due to a lack of hope in that future. This isn’t usually a problem, but because the hackers, who are generally portrayed and known in our society as optimistic and resourceful (hippies of our time) are only given the choice of shit or shit, and the only thing that they enjoyed doing (hacking) kept mutating into different forms that were out of their control and would cause them more grief, there was nothing for the reader to hold on to.
I generally love bleak stories (see my review on The People In The Trees) but Cory Doctorow’s writing style, which is quite ‘pop’ (as opposed to literary or tech) is juxtaposed and exposed against the serious topic the book is trying to present. It was probably his intention to create that discomfort… in which case, it is a book that does its job.
A good read, that would definitely make you question the corporate, political, and societal set-ups we have today, and make you think about what kind of a world we are giving to our future generations.