Look, our mothers are still disappointed in us for not becoming doctors. But we are disappointed in ourselves for not becoming hackers.
It’s a digital world and an uncertain world, and our vision of hacking (perhaps a little influenced by pop culture) presents a robin-hood, windy-side-of-the-law path to a little more control over our world. And an opportunity to stick it to jerks and tyrants.
We haven’t ruled out a career change, but in the meantime, we will live our hacker dreams vicariously through badass fictional hackers. Here’s a list of some of our favorite sci-fi hackers.
Murderbot from The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells
Hacking is easier when you’re part bot and you’ve got loads of raw processing power to go with your organic parts. Murderbot could have become a mass murderer when they hacked their governor module, but instead they turned their hacking skills to torrenting hours and hours of media to read, watch, and listen to while still pretending to do their day job: trying to stop humans from dying.
Look we like Marcus because he’s a rebel wunderkind who takes on the evil overreaching DHS with modded xboxes and a can-do attitude. He’s kind of easy to love.
Masha is… less easy to love. She rationalizes herself into some downright morally dubious things in all three books (she’s a bit of an antagonist in Little Brother and Homeland), but she’s a wildly intelligent realist with a chip on her shoulder who likes defying her corporate overlords for fun. So we can’t help but love her too. Check out Attack Surface in paperback now!
The Zer0es from Zer0es by Chuck Wendig
We’re cheating because there are several hackers to vie for favorite in Zer0es. The Zer0es themselves are a motley crew of hackers of varying skill levels.
There’s Chance, who’s a little bit of a con man but he dreams of being an Anonymous-style hacker; Aleena, an Arab Spring hacktivist; DeAndre, a criminal hacker who specializes in credit card data; Reagan, who’s a hacker but also kind of an douchey troll; and Wade, a grizzled old conspiracy theorist. At first look, they sound like a bunch of assholes. But so are the guardians of the galaxy, and these guys have to come together when their blackmailed into working for the government and learn… surprise surprise, our government is way more evil than they are.
Case (Henry Dorsett Case) from Neuromancer by William Gibson
Look we know he’s a mess. But we love ourselves a scrappy anti-hero and the fact that he’s a hacker just makes it better. Washed-up hacker is a great archetype (and our favorite way to play Honey Heist). Case has mad skills and considering he’s been booby-trapped and blackmailed, a hell of a lot of motivation. We won’t… spoil it (THIS BOOK CAME OUT IN THE 80s GET ON IT), but he’s also the centerpiece of a cyberpunk classic that is designed to mess with your mind and expectations, and we can’t help but love him for that too.
CheshireCat from Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
So it’s also a little easier to hack when you are a sentient AI like CheshireCat. But Cheshire is a gem and we love them too much to not include them in any list of excellent hackers. They are fully willing to hack anything from smart cars to bad robo sex ed teachers to help out their favorite humans. They also hack a small army of service bots as a small private army and we stan a sentient AI who’s willing to put in the work to keep their squishier friends around.
*We tried to write about our favorite real life hackers but they somehow managed to hack this article and make it fictional.