Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

By Deane Barker on January 3, 2004

I finally got around to reading Cory Doctorow’s novella novel (see the comments), “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.” It’s quite good, and he’s got it posted for free on his Web site (in no less than 17 different formats). You may know Doctorow from Boing Boing fame.

If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, the book will mean more to you because it revolves around the park. It’s set in a future where bodies are cloned and if you die, you just restore a clone from backup. Consequently, you lose everything since your last backup. I have to admit that I’ll never look at backups quite the same way again.

Another central concept (borrowed from blogrolls, perhaps), is “Whuffie.” There is no money in this world, everything is bought by reputation. The more people like you, the more Whuffie you have, the more power you have. When you meet someone new, you “ping their Whuffie,” to see if they’re worth your time.

The actual plot revolves around The Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom and the “ad hoc” political groups that have formed to manage them like little countries. The group managing the Hall of Presidents has designs on taking over The Haunted Mansion. Intrigue ensues.

It’s short — you can put it away in a couple of hours. It’s winning some great sci-fi awards as well. Worth checking out.



  1. Hey, dude — thanks for the kind words. Book’s a novel, though, not a novella (definition: novel is 40,000 or more; D&O is about 52000 words in manuscript form)

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