If Then Else – Hello, World

My latest work of fiction is now available as an open access book under a Creative Commons license. It’s a young adult story about a young coder whose brother is caught up in an FBI sting and arrested on a bogus terrorism charge. It was inspired by cases like it – a lot of would-be dissidents or coversimply disgruntled and unwary people have been persuaded by paid informants to say they would do stupid things that they wouldn’t have without official encouragement – and by the ways that we are all under unprecedented mass surveillance by both the state and by corporations.

Follow the link to download an ebook or PDF version for free or, if you really like print, you can order a print-on-demand copy via Lulu at cost. Lulu often has discount coupons to offset the price. Otherwise it will run you $6.29 plus $3.99 for shipping.

I had a lot of fun writing this book. I started it as a NaNoWriMo project, fueled by my increasing frustration about life in our modern-day panopitcon. It was improved by recommendations from my always-first reader to whom I am married, my agent, and an assistant editor who liked it, but not enough to get it past her publisher. As I wrote earlier this year, I decided the heck with trying to sell it. The fun part – writing – is done, so why not just release it into the wild?

So I did, using PressBooks to format the text in html, mobi, ePub, and PDF versions, which you can do with the push of a button.  Though you do have to pay something for this service, it’s a nice way to create a handsome book with a choice of styles. I decided to use Leonard, named for a favorite author of mine, Elmore Leonard. (Dillard is another favorite style – named for Annie Dillard – but this one seemed appropriate, and it is a bit more compact, which keeps the pagination and, therefore, the cost for the POD version down.) I also got useful support from Hugh McGuire, the creator of PressBooks, when I wanted to use a courier-style font for some of the text and wasn’t sure how. (Solution: monospace!)

In February I started to serialize the book via Twitter, chapter by chapter. And then – with a bit of delay because of various distractions – I wrapped up formatting and putting a print on demand version together.

By the way, my protagonist is big on privacy, and so am I. Here are some of the things I use to maintain some privacy online.

StartPage is a Dutch search engine that uses Google but doesn’t track your search history. (DuckDuckGo is also a good option, but I like being able to limit my searches by date, which is easier using StartPage.)

Privacy Badger is a browser extension that blocks non-consensual third party trackers. Sometimes you have to turn it off to load a page, but that’s super-easy.

uBlock Origin is an open source browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that blocks ads and trackers. Most people use AdBlock Plus, but their business model is problematic.

HTTPS Everywhere helps encrypt sites that have encryption available but not fully implemented. Encryption keeps mischief-makers from intercepting web traffic and routing you to places you don’t want to go or injecting malware.

Tor is a project to develop privacy tools online, including a browser and a complete operating system you can run on a flash drive. It works by routing your traffic through multiple servers, making it a distributed anonymous network.

Tunnel Bear is a VPN (virtual private network) application for computers and phones. It lets you conceal your IP address and location by routing your traffic through servers in another country.

I started collecting news about surveillance on a Tumblr last year – something I plan to keep up, if only for my own awareness.

For more expertise on privacy than I have, check out the wonderful Library Freedom Project.


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