Themepunks – a fascinating view of a post-corporate world

Salon is serializing a new science fiction novella, Themepunks, by Cory Doctorow.  The story takes place in the very near future and features blogger Andrea Fleeks as the narrator and major agent of change in a riveting story that I could not stop reading. Cory knows his subject. He makes this story so real that it is like experiencing virtual reality. He hold your attention even in the presence of an overwhelming barrage of embedded advertisements, (See Disclaimer at end.)

The book is about a post-dotcom boom and bust, built on the ready availability of commodity hardware and open source code. It concerns itself with the lives of a blogger working for the San Jose Mercury, a team of visionary tech entrepreneurs, the CEO of Kodak/Duracell, a shanty town of Florida squatters, and a large cast of media people and other sharks.

Salon magazine has begun to serialize the book, and they will publish a section every Monday for ten weeks.  When the whole thing is done, Tor will publish it between covers, but Cory took the opportunity to do what Dickens did — write a novel in serial form just a few weeks ahead of his readers.

His choice of an abandoned mall in Hollywood, Florida, as the location of an unlikely industrial renaissance is perfect.

When I read his novella, it was like deja vu all over again. In the Seventies, I was part of a startup which took over a partially abandoned shopping center a half-hour north of Hollywood, Florida.

We eventually we had  a hundred people and three Gardner-Denver wiring machines turning out computer systems before we moved to larger quarters.

Cory’s use of a journalist/blogger as the narrator is a master stroke. I am hooked. Cory has my attention for the rest of the series.


The only downside to reading the Salon serialization is the crude and intrusive use of advertisements. To get to the story in the first place, you may have to wade through one of the lamest surveys I have ever taken. You can bypass much of it by clicking on the skip button, but you are deluged by multiple ads on every page of the story.

Savvy marketing people will be using this expensive and embarrassing effort by Salon and Marriott as a classic example of how to alienate prospects. Obviously no one at either company bothered to read the novella and see what the ad frequency looked like.

Removing 75-80% of the ads would make for a more normal content/ad balance.

I would be interested in your comments, because I think this could be a viable model for generating revenue, if the advertisers weren’t so greedy as they are here.

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