Place So Foreign cover

Cory Doctorow’s Jagged Edges

This post is part of CSI’s Thoughtful Optimism and Science Fiction project. To learn more about the project, visit

Listening to my co-readers react to the stories in Cory Doctorow’s A Place So Foreign and Eight More (2003), I’m thinking about how Doctorow’s free-culture politics and Creative Commons distribution schemes shape the way his stories work. We’re marvelling at how he creates a compelling world, with characters who seem to have fully-formed lives that extend far beyond the story, without resorting to tedious info dumps. We’re also wondering why the stories start so many threads and peek down so many avenues that never get fully resolved.

My theory: Doctorow is writing stories that are meant to be hacked, forked, expanded, adapted and reshaped. Want to learn more about the mysterious alien “Dugouts” in “The Super Man and the Dugout”? Wondering how an entire economic system can be built on donkey-trading in “Return to Pleasure Island”? Write your own answer! Turn it into a play, or a YouTube video, or a graphic novel, or a haiku.

By the way, the entire book is available as plain text, free to use, share, destroy and rebuild at Cory’s website.