Attack Surface - Tor/Forge Blog

Spring Into eBook Sales: March 2023!

“March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” or so sayeth the sages of yore regarding March weather. Not so with our eBook deals. We’ve got a whole pride of lion-tier eBook deals! For the rest of March, we’re proud to present great books at steep discounts in digital format 😎

Check it out!

Unconquerable SunPlaceholder of  -93 by Kate Elliott — $2.99

Princess Sun has finally come of age. Growing up in the shadow of her mother, Eirene, has been no easy task. The legendary queen-marshal did what everyone thought impossible: expel the invaders and build Chaonia into a magnificent republic, one to be respected—and feared. But the cutthroat ambassador corps and conniving noble houses have never ceased to scheme—and they have plans that need Sun to be removed as heir, or better yet, dead. To survive, the princess must rely on her wits and companions: her biggest rival, her secret lover, and a dangerous prisoner of war. Take the brilliance and cunning courage of Princess Leia—add in a dazzling futuristic setting where pop culture and propaganda are one and the same—and hold on tight.

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Attack SurfaceImage Placeholder of - 88 by Cory Doctorow — $2.99

Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side. In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for an transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents, and manipulate their every move. The perks were fantastic, and the pay was obscene. Just for fun, and to piss off her masters, Masha sometimes used her mad skills to help those same troublemakers evade detection, if their cause was just. It was a dangerous game and a hell of a rush. But seriously self-destructive. And unsustainable. When her targets were strangers in faraway police states, it was easy to compartmentalize, to ignore the collateral damage of murder, rape, and torture. But when it hits close to home, and the hacks and exploits she’s devised are directed at her friends and family, Masha realizes she has to choose. And whatever choice she makes, someone is going to get hurt.

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Deadmen WalkingPoster Placeholder of - 80 by Sherrilyn Kenyon — $3.99

Deadmen tell their tales . . .To catch evil, it takes evil. Enter Devyl Bane– an ancient dark warlord returned to the human realm as one of the most notorious pirates in the New World. A man of many secrets, Bane makes a pact with Thorn– an immortal charged with securing the worst creations the ancient gods ever released into our world. Those powers have been imprisoned for eons behind enchanted gates . . . gates that are beginning to buckle. At Thorn’s behest, Bane takes command of a crew of Deadmen and, together, they are humanity’s last hope to restore the gates and return the damned to their hell realms. But things are never so simple….

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A Queen in HidingImage Place holder  of - 63 by Sarah Kozloff — $3.99

Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cerulia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be. But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom.

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ImagerPlace holder  of - 26 by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. — $3.99

Rhennthyl, son of a leading wool merchant in L’Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, has his entire life transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager–-one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

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Vallista by Steven Brust — $2.99

Vlad Taltos is an Easterner—an underprivileged human in an Empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the Empire’s organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he’s been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad’s life is…messy. Meanwhile, for years, Vlad’s path has been repeatedly crossed by Devera, a small Dragaeran girl of indeterminate powers who turns up at the oddest moments in his life. Now Devera has appeared again—to lead Vlad into a mysterious, seemingly empty manor overlooking the Great Sea.

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Empire Games by Charlie Stross — $3.99

The year is 2020. It’s seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly-reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. But Miriam Burgeson, commissioner in charge of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence—the paratime espionage agency tasked with catalyzing the Commonwealth’s great leap forward—has a problem. For years, she’s warned everyone: “The Americans are coming.” Now their drones arrive in the middle of a succession crisis. In another timeline, the U.S. has recruited Miriam’s own estranged daughter to spy across timelines in order to bring down any remaining world-walkers who might threaten national security. Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies try to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.

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Dragonslayer by Duncan M. Hamilton — $3.99

With the dragons believed dead, the kingdom had no more need for dragonslayers. Drunk, disgraced, and all but forgotten, Guillot has long since left his days of heroism behind him. As forgotten places are disturbed in the quest for power, and things long dormant awaken, the kingdom finds itself in need of a dragonslayer once again, and Guillot is the only one left…

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Dancer’s Lament by Ian C. Esslemont — $3.99

Ian C. Esslemont’s prequel trilogy takes readers deeper into the politics and intrigue of the New York Times bestselling Malazan Empire. The first book of the Path to Ascendancy trilogy, Dancer’s Lament, focuses on the genesis of the empire and features Dancer, the skilled assassin, who, alongside the mage Kellanved, would found the Malazan empire.

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Child of a Mad Godimage alt text by R.A. Salvatore — $3.99

When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home. The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

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Without Honoralt image text by David Hagberg — $3.99

When Aoleyn loses her parents, she is left to fend for herself among a tribe of vicious barbarians. Bound by rigid traditions, she dreams of escaping to the world beyond her mountain home. The only hope for achieving the kind of freedom she searches for is to learn how to wield the mysterious power used by the tribe’s coven known as the Song of Usgar. Thankfully, Aoleyn may be the strongest witch to have ever lived, but magic comes at price. Not only has her abilities caught the eye of the brutish warlord that leads the tribe, but the demon of the mountain hunts all who wield the Coven’s power, and Aoleyn’s talent has made her a beacon in the night.

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Excerpt: Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

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Image Placeholder of - 25Cory Doctorow’s Attack Surface is a standalone novel set in the world of New York Times bestsellers Little Brother and Homeland.

Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side.

In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for an transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents, and manipulate their every move. The perks were fantastic, and the pay was obscene.

Just for fun, and to piss off her masters, Masha sometimes used her mad skills to help those same troublemakers evade detection, if their cause was just. It was a dangerous game and a hell of a rush. But seriously self-destructive. And unsustainable.

When her targets were strangers in faraway police states, it was easy to compartmentalize, to ignore the collateral damage of murder, rape, and torture. But when it hits close to home, and the hacks and exploits she’s devised are directed at her friends and family–including boy wonder Marcus Yallow, her old crush and archrival, and his entourage of naïve idealists–Masha realizes she has to choose.

And whatever choice she makes, someone is going to get hurt.

Please enjoy this free excerpt of Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow, out now in paperback!


That was why I loved technology: if you use it right, it gives you power—and takes away other peoples’ privacy. I was on my sixteenth straight hour at the main telcoms data-center for Bltz, the capital of Slovstakia. Those are both aliases, obviously. Unlike certain persons I could name, I keep my secrets.

Sixteen hours, for what my boss had assured the client—the Slovstakian Interior Ministry—would be a three-hour job. You don’t get as high as she did in the Stasi without knowing how to be a tactical asshole when the situation demands it.

I just wish she’d let me recon the data-center before she handed down the work estimate. The thing is, the communications infrastructure of Slovstakia was built long before the Berlin Wall fell, and it consisted of copper wires wrapped in newspaper and dipped in gutta-percha. After the Wall came down, responsibility for the telcoms had been transferred to the loving hands of Anton Tkachi, who had once been a top spook in Soviet Slovstakia. There are a lot of decades in which it would suck to have your telcoms run by an incompetent, greedy kleptocrat, but the 1990s represented a particularly poorly chosen decade to have sat out the normal cycle of telcoms upgrades. Because internet.

After Tkachi was purged—imprisoned 2005, hospitalized with “mental illness” in 2006, dead in 2007—the Slovstakian Ministry of Communications cycled through a succession of contract operators—Swisscom, T-Mob, Vodaphone, Orange (God help us all)—each of which billed the country for some of the jankiest telcoms gear you’ve ever seen, the thrice-brewed teabags of the telecommunications world, stuff that had been in war zones, leaving each layer of gear half-configured, half-secured, and half-documented.

The internet in Slovstakia sucked monkey shit.

Anyway, my boss, Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, promised the Interior Ministry that I would only need three hours, and the Interior Ministry had called up the telcoms ministry and given them orders to be nice to the Americanski lady who was coming over to do top-secret work for them, and give her everything she needed. I can tell that they laid it on thick, because when I first arrived at the country’s main data-center, a big old brutalist pile that I had to stop and take a picture of for my collection of Soviet Brutalist Buildings That They Used to Shoot You for Taking Pictures Of—hashtags are for losers who voluntarily submit to 280-character straitjackets (and sentences can too a preposition end with)—the guy on the desk sent me straight to the director of telcoms security.

His name was Litvinchuk and he was tightly wound. You could tell because he had his own force of telcoms cops dressed like RoboCop standing guard outside his door with guns longer than their legs, reeking of garlic sausage and the sweat of a thousand layers of Kevlar. Litvinchuk welcomed me cordially, gave me a long-ass speech about how excited he was to have some fresh foreign contractors in his data-center (again) and especially ones from a company as expensive as Xoth Intelligence.

“Wait, that’s not right word,” he said, in a broad Yakov Smirnoff accent (he had a master’s from the London School of Economics and I’d watched him do a TEDx talk where he sounded like a BBC World Service newsreader). “Exclusive? Illustrious?” He looked to me—specifically, to my tits, which was where every Slovstakian official I’d met addressed his remarks. I didn’t cross my arms.

“Infamous,” I said.

He smirked. “I’m sure. Miss Maximow”—he pronounced the w as a v, as they always did as soon as I got east of France—“we are all very excited to have you at our premises. However, I’m sure you understand that we must be careful to keep records of which contractors work on our sensitive systems.” He slid a paperclipped form across his desk to me. I counted to seven—more efficient and just as effective as ten—and picked it up. Nine pages, smudgily photocopied, full of questions like “List all NGOs and charitable organizations to which you have contributed, directly or indirectly.”

“No,” I said.

He gave me his best fish-face, which I’m sure was super-effective against the farm boys cosplaying Judge Dredd in the hallway. But I’d been glared at by Ilsa, She-Wolf of the etc., etc., and had been inured to even the hairiest of eyeballs.

“I must insist,” he said.

“I don’t fill in this kind of form,” I said. “Company policy. Xoth has negotiated blanket permission to access your premises from the Interior Ministry for all its personnel.” This was true. I hated paperwork, and this kind of paperwork the most—the kind that asked you questions you could never fully or honestly answer, so that there’d always be an official crime to pin on you if you stepped on the wrong toes. Lucky for me, Xoth had a no-exceptions policy that techs were not allowed to fill in any official documentation at client sites. I’d take notes on my own work, but they’d go up the chain to my boss—Ilsa, She-Wolf etc.—who’d sanitize them and pass them back to the Interior Ministry for their own logs, omitting key details so that we would be able to bill them for any future maintenance.

I did my best to look bored—not hard, I was so bored my eyeballs ached—and stared at this post-Soviet phone commissar.

“I will fill it out for you,” he said.

I shrugged.

He worked quickly, pen dancing over the paper. Not his first paper-pushing rodeo. He passed it back to me. “Sign.” He smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile.

I looked down. It was all in Cyrillic.

“Nope,” I said.

He switched off the smile. “Madam.” He made it sound like missy. I could tell we weren’t going to get along. “You will not get into my data-center until we have gathered basic information. That is our protocol.”

He stared at me, fish-face plus plus, clearly waiting for me to lose my cool. Long before Ilsa began her regime of hard-core stoicism training, I had mastered situations like this. You don’t get far in the DHS if you don’t know how to bureaucracy. I turned boredom up by a notch. I tried to project the sense that I had more time to burn than he did.

He held out his hand. I’d assumed he’d be a short-fingered vulgarian, but he had pianist’s fingers, and a hell of a manicure, the kind of thing that made me feel self-conscious about my lack of girly cred. “ID.”

Xoth gives us fancy ID cards to wear on client sites, with RFIDs and sapphire-coated smart chips and holograms, props for impressing rubes. I could knock one up in an afternoon. I unclipped mine from my lanyard and handed it over.

The pen danced again at the bottom of the form, and he turned the paper to show me. He’d added “signed, per, Masha Maximow” to the signature line. Good for you, Boris. You made a funny. What an asshole.

“We done?”

He carefully made a xerox on a desktop printer/scanner/copier—one that I knew five different exploits for, and could use to take over his whole network, if I wanted to—and handed it to me. “For your records.”

I folded it into quarters and stuck it in my back pocket. “Which way?”

He said something in Russki and one of the Stormtroopers struggled in under the weight of his body armor and escorted me to the data-center. I took one look at the racks and racks of hardware, zipped up my fleece against the icy wind of the chillers, and got to work. It was going to be a long three hours.


By the time I finally finished, I was freezing and swearing. My hoodie was totally inadequate and I suspected that my long-fingered vulgarian had ordered one of his Armored Borises to turn the thermostat down to sub-Arctic.

But it was done, and the test-cases ran, and so I got up off the folding chair I’d been hauling around the data-center’s corridors as I moved from one rack to another, tracing wires, untangling the hairball of grifty IT contractor shortcuts and fat-fingering.

Surveying my work, I had a deep feeling of … Well, to be honest, a deep feeling of pointlessness. I’d labored for sixteen hours—fifteen if you subtract meals and pee breaks—getting the Xoth Sectec network appliance installed, and all I had to show for my trouble was an inconspicuous black one-unit-high server box, mounted on the bottom shelf of the furthest rack (this was Xoth policy—put our gear in the most out-of-way place, just in case barbarian hordes topple our dictator clients and storm the gates, looking for mediagenic evidence of collaboration with evil surveillance contractors) (that would be me).

But now I got to celebrate. I looked over my shoulder and made sure I was alone—the RoboCops had made a point of standing behind me, watching my ass, as I dragged my chair around—bent down and touched my toes, feeling the awesome stretch in my hamstrings and the unkinking of my neck and shoulders as my hair brushed the ground. Then I stood, cracked my knuckles, plugged my laptop into my phone, and tunneled out to a network box I’d left in my hotel room that morning, making sure it was all charged up and successfully connected to the hotel’s wifi, which (see above) sucked monkey shit. I fired up a virtual machine on my laptop, choosing a container with a fully patched version of the latest freebie version of Windows, and used its browser to connect to Facebook.

The Slovstakian uprising hadn’t figured out that the only real use for Facebook in a revolution was as a place to teach people how to use something more secure than Facebook. All their communications was in a couple of groups that they accessed over Facebook’s Tor Hidden Service, good old https://facebookcorewwwi.onion, which was pretty good operational security (if I did say so myself).

Their problem was that they were way, way outgunned—as of now, they were facing down the best Xoth had to offer (at least, the best Xoth had to offer in its middle-upper pricing tier). Things were about to get very, very bad for the plucky demonstrators of Slovstakia.

The virtual Windows box in my virtual machine connected through the hotel’s network to Tor—The Onion Router, a system that bounced network connections all over the world, separately encrypting each hop, making it much harder to trace, intercept, or modify its users’ packets—and to Facebook’s hidden service, a darknet site based in a much nicer data-center than this one, in an out-of-the-way corner of Oregon with remarkably low year-round temperatures (ambient chilling is the number one money-saver when it comes to running a building full of superheated computers).

I alt-tabbed into my monitor for the Sectec box beside me, using an untunneled interface on my phone’s native network connection. That Sectec box could handle ten million simultaneous connections, combing through all their packet-streams using machine-learning models originally developed to recognize cancer cells on a microscope slide (fun fact!). Sure enough, it registered the existence of a stock Windows laptop in the Sofitel Bltz, communicating over Tor. It profiled the machine by fingerprinting its packets, did a quick lookup in Xoth’s customer-facing API to find a viable exploit against that configuration, and injected a redirect to the virtual machine on my laptop. I pinned the monitor window to the top of my desktop and flipped back to the VM, watching as the browser’s location bar flickered to an innocuous-seeming error message, and by flipping to a diagnostic view of the VM, I could see the payload strike home.

It used a 0-day for Tor Browser—always based on a slightly out-of-date version of Firefox and thus conveniently vulnerable to yesterday’s exploits—to bust out of the browser’s sandbox and into the OS. Then it deployed a higher-value exploit, one that attacked Windows, and inserted some persistent code that could bypass the bootloader’s integrity check, hooking into a module that loaded later in the process. In less than five seconds, it was done: the virtual machine was fully compromised, and it was already trying to hook into my webcam and mic; scouring my hard drive for interesting files; snaffling up saved password files from my browser, and loading its keylogger. Since all that was happening in a virtual machine—not an actual computer, just a piece of software pretending to be a computer—none of that stuff really happened, thankfully.

Now it was time to really test it. Sectec has a mode where it can scour all the traffic in and out of the network for specific email addresses and usernames, to locate specific people. I gave it Litvinchuk’s email address, and waited for his computer to make itself known. Took less than a minute—he was polling the ministry’s mail server every sixty seconds. Two minutes later, I controlled his computer and I was cataloguing his porn habits and downloading his search history. I have a useful script for this; it locates anything in my targets’ computers that make mention of me, because I am a nosy bitch and they should know better, really.

Litvinchuk was into some predictably gross porn—why is it always being peed on?!—and had googled the shit out of me. He also had a covert agent who’d searched my room; they had put a location logger on my phone using a crufty network appliance I’d already discovered in my epic debugging session in the data-center. I could have fed that logger false data, but I turned it off because fuck him sideways. I downloaded half a gig of videos of Litvinchuk in full-bore German heavy latex, gleaming with piss, then stood, stretched again, and shut my lid.


I’d started my adventure at 4 p.m. the day before. Now it was 8 a.m. and that meant that the demonstrations in the main square would be down to skeleton crews. Anyone interesting only came out after suppertime and worked the barricades in the dark, when the bad stuff always kicked off. That’s when the provocateurs and neofascists came out—often the same people—and the hard-core protesters had to work extra hard.

I called the Sofitel on the way back and ordered room service. All they had was breakfast and I wanted dinner, so I ordered triple, and gave up on explaining that I only needed one set of cutlery.

I arrived at the room’s door at the same time as the confused waiter. I waved at him and carded the door open, then followed him and his cart in. He was one of those order guys you saw around the hotel, someone who’d once had a job in Soviet brute-force heavy industry but ended up pushing room service trolleys when it all went to China. Those guys never spoke English, not like their strapping sons, who spoke gamer-international, the language of Let’s Play videos and image boards. “Dobre,” I said, “Pajalsta,” and took the folio from him and added a ten-euro tip—everything at the Sofitel was denominated in euros, ever since the local currency had collapsed. I hadn’t even bothered to change any cash on this trip, but I had bought a 10,000,000,000-dinar note from an enterprising street seller who’d been targeting the tourist trade. I liked the engraving of the opera house on the back, but the Boris on the front was a unibrowed thick-fingered vulgarian straight out of central casting. I kept forgetting to google him, but I was pretty sure he was being celebrated for something suitably terrible, purging Armenians or collaborating with Stalin.

My alarm went off four hours later. I found my bathing suit and underwater MP3 player and the hotel robe, made sure all my devices were powered down with their USB ports covered, and headed for the pool.

Swimming—even with loud tunes—always churns my subconscious, boredom forcing it to look inward at its neglected corners. So somewhere around the fiftieth lap (it was a small pool), I remembered what was happening that day. I did the time zone calculation in my head and realized there was still time to do something about it. Fucketty shitbuckets. I hauled myself out of the pool and toward a towel.

I perched, dripping, on the room’s desk chair and powered up my phone for a quick peek at the pictures of the screw-heads on my laptop. I had covered all the screws with glitter nail polish and shot clear pics of each one, with a little label beside it, so that I could easily verify whether someone had unscrewed my laptop lid and done something sneaky, like inserting a hardware keylogger or, you know, some Semtex and packing nails. I used an open-source astronomy package designed to match pictures with known constellations to verify two of the seven screws. The glitter patterns had become old friends by this point, since I checked them every time I’d been out of sight of my computer before powering it up again.

I booted it, pulled the towel over my head (to defeat hidden cameras), and keyed in my passphrase while going “AAAAH” medium-loud, just to defeat anyone trying to guess my passphrase from the sounds of my fingers on the keys. Xoth had an airgap room for really sensitive stuff, walls shielded with a Faraday cage, full of computers that undercover Xoth techs bought by walking into consumer electronics stores and buying computers off the shelf without ever letting them out of their sight. After being flashed with a Xoth version of Tails, a paranoid Linux distro, and having their wifi cards and Bluetooth radios ripped out with pliers, their USB ports were covered with 3-D printed snaps that couldn’t be removed without shattering them. You brought your encrypted data in on a thumb drive, requisitioned a machine, broke the seal, plugged in your USB stick and read the data, then handed the machine back to a tech to be flashed and resealed. Compared to that shit, I wasn’t all that paranoid.

Litvinchuk had been a busy Boris: my computer downloaded and sorted his own wiretap orders as he took the Sectec out for a spin. I looked through the list, and yup, I already knew a lot of those names. They were the people I was planning to meet for drinks in a few hours. I made a few quick revisions to my Cryptoparty slides.

It was getting to be time for lunch-ish or dinner-esque, whatever you call a 3 p.m. meal. I was about to phone down for room service when my phone alarmed me, which isn’t something it does often, because I’ve turned off every notifier.

When that chirp goes off it is a pure sphincter-tightener.

“Wedding of Marcus Yallow and Ange Carvelli” and a shortened URL. Because livestreaming. Because Marcus. Because exhibitionist attention-whore. Because shithead.

God, he drove me crazy. I fired up the livestream. They’d made everyone they loved fly to Boston for the wedding, because of the girl’s grad school schedule, and they’d filled the hall with robots they borrowed from the MIT Media Lab to give it some nerd cred. Of course she didn’t wear white. Her dress was ribbed with EL wire that pulsed in time with the music, and Marcus’s suit—Beatles black, with a narrow tie and drainpipe pants that made his legs look even scrawnier than usual—was also wired up, but it only pulsed when they touched, moving bands of light across its surface from the point of contact.

Okay, that was pretty cool.

The officiant was a prominent Cambridge hacker, one of the ones they’d hauled in when they were after Chelsea Manning. She’d been a kid then, but now she looked older, her wife holding their kids on her lap off to one side. She wore a colander on her head, because she was ordained in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which was frankly too much.

Marcus and his girlie exchanged vows. Marcus promised to make her coffee, rub her feet (ugh), review her code, and say sorry and mean it; she promised to back down when she was wrong, forgive him when he apologized, and love him “until the wheels come off” (double ugh). They kissed and received their applause. I gave it three minutes, making sure that the ceremony was well and truly done and the reception about to start. I’m not a monster.

Here’s the thing about Cambridge: they have drone delivery there. For a little extra, you can time the delivery to the minute. I checked the time in the corner of the screen. There was a big window right behind the officiant with a view of the Charles River and the snow and the tracks of students’ boots. I checked the time again.

The drone came right up to the window and rapped on it politely. It had four big rotors and a sensor package that fed me all kinds of telemetry on the activity in the room, from Bluetooth device IDs to lidar outlines of all the humans in the space. The wedding livestream showed it tapping on the window from the bride and groom’s POV (the stream ran off about a dozen cameras and was smart enough to switch between them based on which one was capturing the most action); the stream from the drone showed me the opposite view, Marcus and his girl and all their nice nerdly friends and family gaping at the fisheye camera.

Marcus broke the tableau by opening the window, and the drone daintily coasted into the room and deployed its box into his hands. He pulled the ripstrip on the plasticky wrapping and revealed the gift-wrapped box within. She took the card out of the envelope and read it. I admit it gave me a shiver to hear her say my name.

When Marcus heard it, his face did a funny. That gave me a shiver too—a different kind. He and I have a complicated history. I rubbed my fingers, the ones he’d broken when I was only sixteen. He did it in order to steal my phone, because I had a video that exonerated him of being a terrorist. Complicated. Those fingers hurt whenever I thought of him.

He looked at the drone’s sensor package. “Thank you, Masha,” he said. “Wherever you are.” The usual was for this to be a recording that you could watch later, but if you were a creepy stalker chick (ahem), you could watch it in real time. I emojied the drone and it bobbled a curtsey and gave me five seconds to commit another $50 to hold on to it for five more minutes, because it had other packages to deliver. I released it and its feed died.

On the livestream, I watched them unwrap my gift. I’d almost sent them a bag of kopi luwak, which is a kind of coffee bean that’s fed raw to a civet cat, then harvested from its poop and roasted, but then I’d read an animal welfare article about the treatment of civet cats. So I’d given them a Raspi Altair 8080: that is, a 1974 “personal computer” that you controlled with a row of faceplate switches and read using peanut-bulb blinkenlights, which had been painstakingly restored with a Raspberry Pi open-source CPU inside it, giving it approximately eight bazillion times the computing power. Most of the interior was left empty by the refit, and the craftswoman who’d sold it to me had filled the empty space with a bunch of carved wooden automata that cranked a set of irregular gears around in whirring circles while the computer was operating, which you could see if you swapped in the optional transparent case.

Marcus knew exactly what it was (because I’d found it through his Twitter feed) and how much it cost (because he’d moaned about never being able to afford it, not in a million years), and he had a look of profoundly satisfying shock on his face. He told his girlie all about it in that spittle-flecked hyperactive mode he slipped into when he was really, really excited. The expression that crossed her face was even more satisfying: a mix of jealousy and appreciation that I reveled in like the petty, terrible person I am.

I felt like the fairy who curses Sleeping Beauty out of spite when she thinks she hasn’t been invited to her christening, except that this was a wedding and not a christening. Oh, and they invited me, of course.

But I had work to do. Hey, I’d sent a thoughtful gift, even if I totally upstaged their stupid nerd chic wedding. Shoulda had a nerdier wedding, if they didn’t want to get upstaged.

I was still hungry and now it was getting to be time to head out to the square. Room service at the Sofitel sucked anyway. I’d get a doner kebab. Hell, I’d get a sack of them and bring them along.


The vegan café where my pet revolutionary cell met was called the Danube Bar Resto, and they could always be found there before the night’s action, because fuck opsec, why not just make it easy for the secret police to round you all up somewhere far from a crowd? I despair.

Kriztina was already there, chowing down on something that had never had the chance to breathe and live and run and play. I cracked open the crumpled top on my sack of kebab and let her smell the meaty perfume. “Save room,” I said.

She laugh-choked and gave me a mouth-full thumbs-up as I sat down next to her. There were eight of them in Kriztina’s little cell, a couple of graphic designers, two webmonkeys, a poet (seriously), and the rest didn’t even pretend to be employed. Few under-thirties in Slovstakia were, after all.

“You want drink?” Oksana always had spending money. I’d pegged her as a snitch when I first met her, but it turned out she just made good money working for a law firm that did a lot of western business and didn’t mind having a trans girl for a paralegal. Once I’d satisfied myself that she didn’t appear anywhere in Litvinchuk’s master lists of turncoats, I’d come to like her. She reminded me of some of the women I’d known in the Middle East, brave fuckers who’d managed to look like a million bucks even as their cities were being pounded to gravel around their pretty shoulders, fearless beneath their hijabs and glamorous even when they were covered in dust and blood.

“Sure.” It would be something with wheatgrass and live microbes and probably twigs, but mostly orange juice and mango pulp. The guy who ran the place liked to talk about how the chlorophyll “oxygenated” your blood—of course chlorophyll only makes oxygen in the presence of sunlight, and if you’ve got sunlight in your colon, you’ve got big problems. Even if you could get grass to fill your back passage with oxygen, it’s not like your asshole has any way to absorb it. I get my oxygen the old-fashioned way: I breathe.

“Tonight—” Kriztina started. I held up a hand.

“Batteries or bags,” I said. Everyone looked embarrassed. Those of us whose phones had removable batteries removed them. The rest of them put their phones into the Faraday bags I’d handed out when I first started hanging out with these amateurs.

“Before we talk about tonight, I want to walk you through some new precautions.” They groaned. I was such a buzzkill. “First: running Paranoid Android is no longer optional. You have to get the nightly build, every night, and you have to check the signatures, every single time.” The groans were louder. “I’m not fucking around, people. The Interior Ministry now has a network appliance that gets a fresh load of exploits three times a day. If you’re not fresh, you’re meat.

“Second, make sure your IMSI-catcher countermeasures are up to date. They just bought an update package for their fake cell towers and they’ll be capturing the unique IDs of every phone that answers a ping from them. The app your phone used last week to tell a fake tower from a real one? Useless now. Update, update, update. Check every signature, too.

“Third, make sure your smart-meters aren’t sneaking back online. After Minsk, the Interior Ministry’s really looking for a chance to pull the same trick, turn off heat in the middle of February for anyone they suspect of demonstrations.

“Finally, everyone has to wear dazzle, no exceptions.” Again with the groans, but I got the tubes out of my bag and passed them around. The dazzle was super-reflective in visible light and infrared and anyone who tried to take a picture of someone wearing it would just get a lens flare and jitter from their camera’s overloaded sensors. It had been developed for paparazzi-haunted celebs, but the smell of the stuff and the greasy feel it left on your skin—not to mention persistent rumors that it was a powerful carcinogen—had doomed it to an existence as a novelty item used only by teenagers on class picture day and surveillance-haunted weirdos.

I slurped the green juice Oksana had just handed me and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it tanged unmistakably of tequila. She winked at me. Oh, Oksana, you are a hero.

“Get to it,” I said. “Update before we leave. Remember, opsec is a team sport. Your mistake exposes all your friends.”

They got to it. Kriztina and Oksana and I checked everyone else’s work, and then each other’s. Friends don’t let friends leak data. We also smeared each other with dazzle, and they made jokes in Boris about the smell, which I could almost follow, though my Boris was a lot worse than everyone else’s English.

“Nazis tonight,” Kriztina said, looking at her phone. She knew people who knew people, because Slovstakia was so small that everyone was someone’s cousin. That meant that when someone’s idiot skinhead cousin and his friends started boozing and heil-ing and getting all suited and booted, which meant telescoping steel rods (the must-have neo-Nazi fashion accessory of the season) and brass knucks. The neo-Nazis were someone’s useful idiots; they’d come out to the demonstrations and shout about bringing down the government, and then they’d start giving those one-armed salutes and charging the police lines.

It wasn’t that they lacked sincerity—they really did hate immigrants, especially refugees, especially brown ones; as well as Russians, Jews, Muslims, queers, vegans, the European parliament, and every single member of the national congress, personally. They may have even come by those views organically, by dint of their own intolerant knuckleheaded generalized resentment. But these characters also had money, a clubhouse, a source for those nifty telescoping batons, and someone had given them workshops on how to make a really effective Molotov, without which they would surely have removed themselves from the gene pool already.

I’d been inside Litvinchuk’s network for a month, ever since I landed in-country to backstop the sales team that was working him, feeding them URLs of pastebins where hackers dumped sensitive data they’d pulled out of his data-centers, data we also trickled to his political rivals, making him look worse and worse and making the case to give us a shitpile of reserve-currency dollars better and better.

So I knew what his theory was on the skinheads: he blamed the Kremlin. He blamed the Kremlin for everything. It wasn’t a bad strategy—Moscow certainly did like to meddle in the affairs of its former satellite states. But I had figured out which personal accounts his own senior staff were using, and done some digging there, and I thought that maybe the skinheads were actually unwitting skirmishers in the civil service empire-building that Borises excelled at. Which didn’t necessarily mean the Kremlin had clean hands; maybe they were backing one of Litvinchuk’s lieutenants in the hopes of destabilizing things and replacing their canny adversary with someone dumber and more biddable.

“What do we do about it?”

Kriztina and her cell exchanged looks, then muttered phrases in Boris that I couldn’t follow. This turned into an argument that got quieter—not louder— as it intensified, dropping to hisses and whispers that were every bit as attention-grabbing as any shouting match. It was lucky for them that the Danube Bar Resto’s other customers weren’t snitches (I was pretty sure, anyway).

“Pawel says we should back out when they show up. Oksana says we should go to the other side of the square, and move if they go where we are.”

“What do you think?”

Kriztina made a face. “I hear that they’re going to go in hard tonight. Maybe the big one. It’s bad. If we’re in the background when they go over the barricades—”

I nodded. “You don’t want everyone in the world to associate you with a bunch of thugs who crack heads with the cops.”

“Yes, but also, we don’t want to sit by and let cops bust our heads to prove we’re not with them.”

“That’s sensible.”

Oksana shook her head. “We must protect ourselves,” she said. “Helmets, masks.”

“Masks don’t stop bullets,” Pawel said.

“I agree. Masks don’t stop bullets. If they start shooting, you’ll have to shelter or run. Nothing’s going to change that.”

He made a sour face.

The tension was palpable. Kriztina’s pretty face looked sad. Her little cell had been good friends before they’d been “dangerous radicals.” I didn’t have that problem because I didn’t have friends.

“It’s true that you can’t survive bullets and it’s true that the pinheads are going to try to provoke something terrible if they can. It’s true that the cops on the other side are scared shitless and haven’t been paid in a month. There are some factors you can control, and some you can’t. Wishing things were different won’t make them different. It’s okay to call it a night and try again later. Maybe the cops and the Nazis will cancel each other out.”

All of them shook their heads in unison and started talking. Even the bystander vegans couldn’t ignore the racket. Kriztina flushed and waved her hands like a conductor and they quieted down. The staring vegans pretended to stop staring.

“Maybe we can win them over,” Kriztina said, quietly. Everyone groaned. This was Kriztina’s go-to fantasy. None of us had even been alive in 1993 when the tanks rolled in Moscow to put down Yeltsin’s ragtag band of radicals, but of course they all knew the story of how his young, idealistic supporters had spoken to the soldiers about the justice of their cause and then the tank drivers had refused to roll over the revolutionaries. Then there had been borscht and vodka for all the Borises, and the big Boris, Boris Yeltsin, had led the USSR to a peaceful transition.

Pawel broke the tension. “You first.”

Pre-Order Attack Surface in Paperback Here:

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Five of Our Favorite Fictional Hackers

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.

Placeholder of  -92Murderbot 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.

Place holder  of - 69Marcus Yallow  a.k.a “w1n5t0n” and Masha Maximow from Little Brother, Homeland, and Attack Surface

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! 

Image Place holder  of - 56The 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.

Image Placeholder of - 49Poster Placeholder of - 95Case (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.

book-catfishingCheshireCat 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.

Honorable mentions to Mitch from Vicious by V. E. Schwab and Wade from Ready Player One (and Two now!) by Ernest Kline.

*We tried to write about our favorite real life hackers but they somehow managed to hack this article and make it fictional.


SFF Books to Gift Every Member of Your Weird and Cranky Family

‘Tis the season for yearly awkward family holiday interactions! And what’s more stressful than trying to find that perfect gift for blood relatives? Is your mom forbidding you from giving your terrible aunt a bottle of $15 Chardonnay for the fourth year in a row? We’ve got you covered—check out our extremely helpful and entirely appropriate holiday gift guide to help *inspire* you!

By Rachel Taylor and a bunch of raccoons in a trench coat

For your wine aunt


Oh, the wine aunts. We love them so much because a) they know how to have a good time and b) they are super easy to shop for because, wine! But your mom is complaining that no, you cannot get your aunt a bottle of Chardonnay for the sixth year in a row. So why not get them a great book they can enjoy while sipping a glass of the good stuff? Gift them The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab! It’s fun, sexy, and a little bit fantastical and makes for a great wordy wine pairing.

For you gay cousin


On the off chance you aren’t the gay cousin yourself, boy, have we got recommendations for you! Because as everyone except NASA knows, space is gay.

You should get them this year’s Hugo Award winner A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine or Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott. Come for the epic space empire politics, stay for the powerful queer ladies.

For grandma’s ghost


So, grandma’s a ghost. This is fine. You can still get ghost grandma a gift. She’ll appreciate anything you give her! We suggest You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce. Horror/thrillers might not have been grandma’s jam when she was chilling in the world of the living, but now that she’s shuffled off this mortal coil, she needs IDEAS on how to conduct her hauntings! This book will give her some great spooky ideas, and maybe she’ll be inspired to rejoin this sphere as one of the fae. And look, now you’re her favorite grandchild for showing her how to come back, and you’ll probably be spared from some malicious fairy tricks! We’re calling that a win. 

For your goth nephew


We get it Cameron, Aunt Dierdre sucks for not letting you get a lip ring. We’ve got just the thing to distract you from all these squares. Necromancers in a haunted space castle! The first two books of The Locked Tomb Trilogy, Gideon the Ninth and Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, are just what your goth nephew needs. 

For your evil twin


If you’re unlucky lucky enough to have a twin, you are either besties or worsties. Get them The Murders of Molly Southborne by Tade Thompson, featuring a girl who grows murderous identical clones every time she bleeds and has to fight them all to the death. It works as both a thoughtful gift and a threat depending on your existing twin relationship.

For your mom, to distract her from the fact that no one is having a good time


Mom spent so many hours on the latkes but everyone is yelling and now she is sad. But you are her favorite child and you anticipated smoothing this situation with a sweet and fantastical gift: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. 

Is your sister still breaking her heart? Is your stepfather still hiding in the basement because he never learned to process negative emotions? Sure. But now she’s distracted by a book that is basically the literary equivalent of a warm hug! In The House in the Cerulean Sea, she will find children that are not disappointments to her, and of course a heartwarming tale of magic and found family.

For your younger sibling that’s venturing out for the first time


It’s your baby sibling’s first time going out into the big, wide world on their own :’) As the sibling you secretly love most, of course you want to provide them with something that will keep them entertained AND safe. May we suggest To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini? It has aliens, spaceships, AND it’s over 900 PAGES LONG. You know what that’s great for? Smacking someone foolish enough to try and jump your favorite sibling. BOOM, SELF-DEFENSE. Plus it’s full of first contact, space battles, and sentient space suits, so it’s sure to keep them entertained while they skip freshman orientation or make that first subway commute.

For your brother-in-law who simply MUST HAVE all the latest tech


He wanted a smart microwave that he can control with his phone so he can have nachos the moment he walks in the door. You just want him to understand that anything ‘smart’ can be hacked and tech is well and good until your iFridge starts surveilling you. Get him Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow instead, a whip-smart cyber thriller that explores just how hard it is to stay hidden and private in a digital world, particularly when you cannot trust your government. By this time next year, he will be a security advocate and you can get him a Faraday bag.

For your grumpy grandpa


Back in the day, kids used to have more RESPECT. This is what’s wrong with this country, all these hooligans doing whatever they want. Let’s give grandpa a break this year, shall we?

Hahahaha just kidding, give your grandpa Old Man’s War by John Scalzi and watch the fireworks. And when he flings it at your head, you will now own a great book! We’re all doing so well this holiday season. 

For your bored teen stepsister


Wow, this family gathering really sucks and your little sis has NO CHILL letting everyone know how insanely bored she is. Which, can you blame her? Give her a mental escape from this excruciating party with mermaids, magic, and mystery. A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow will definitely give her the mental out she needs before your parents yell at her for playing with her phone all night. 


On the (Digital) Road: Tor Author Events in October

We are in a time of social distancing, but your favorite Tor authors are still coming to screens near you in the month of October! Check out where you can find them here:

V. E. Schwab, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

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Tuesday, October 6
The Center for Fiction, in conversation with Julia Whelan
Register Here
6:00 PM ET

Wednesday, October 7
Books & Books, in conversation with Rebecca Roanhorse
Register Here
6:00 PM ET

Thursday, October 8
Quail Ridge Books, in conversation with Naomi Novik
Register Here
6:00 PM ET

Friday, October 9
One More Page Books, in conversation with Patricia Riley
Register Here
6:00 PM ET

Sunday, October 11
Brookline Booksmith, in conversation with Holly Black
Register Here
6:00 PM ET

Monday, October 12
Blue Willow Bookshop, in conversation with Marlon James + Alice Sola Kim
Register Here
6:00 PM CT

Tuesday, October 13
Joseph-Beth Booksellers, in conversation with Tochi Onyebuchi
Register Here
6:00 PM ET

Wednesday, October 14
Anderson’s Bookshop, in conversation with John Scalzi
Register Here
6:00 PM CT

Thursday, October 15
Old Firehouse Books, in conversation with Samantha Shannon
Register Here
6:00 PM MT

Friday, October 16
University Bookstore, in conversation with Madeline Miller
Register Here
6:00 PM PT

Saturday, October 17
Skylight Books, in conversation with Taylor Jenkins Reid
Register Here
6:00 PM PT

Sunday, October 18
Mysterious Galaxy, in conversation with Felicia Day
Register Here
2:00 PM PT

Sarah Kozloff, A Queen in Hiding, Brian Naslund, Sorcery of a Queen, Lavie Tidhar, By Force Alone

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Wednesday, October 7
Katy Budget Books, Fantasy Virtual Panel
Register Here
12:00 PM ET

Cory Doctorow, Attack Surface

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Tuesday, October 13
The Strand, in conversation with Ron Deibert and Eva Galperin on ‘Politics & Protest’
Register Here
8:00 PM ET

Wednesday, October 14
Brookline Booksmith, in conversation with Amber Benson and ​John Rogers on ‘Cross-Medium SciFi’
Register Here
8:00 PM ET

Thursday, October 15
The Booksmith, in conversation with Malkia Cyril and Meredith Whittaker on ‘Race, Surveillance, and Tech and Its History’
Register Here
5:00 PM PT

Friday, October 16
Fountain Bookstore, in conversation with Sarah Gailey and Chuck Wendig on ‘SciFi Genre’
Register Here
6:00 PM ET

Monday, October 19
Anderson’s Bookshop, in conversation with Bruce Sterling and Chris Brown on ‘Cyberpunk and Post-Cyberpunk’
Register Here
7:00 PM CT

Tuesday, October 20
Interabang, in conversation with Ken Liu and Annalee Newitz on ‘Tech in SciFi’
Register Here
7:00 PM CT

Wednesday, October 21
Skylight Books, in conversation with Tochi Onyebuchi and Bethany C. Morrow on ‘Little Revolutions’
Register Here
5:00 PM PT

Thursday, October 22
Third Place Books, in conversation with Runa Sandvik and Window Snyder​ on ‘OpSec & Personal Cyber-Security: How Can You Be Safe?’
Register Here
5:00 PM PT

Mary Robinette Kowal, The Relentless Moon


Wednesday, October 21
Old Firehouse Books
7:00 PM MT

Patrick Tomlinson, In the Black


Wednesday, October 21
Future Telling Conference
Register Here
6:00 PM CT

John Scalzi, The Last Emperox


Thursday, October 29
The Strand, in conversation with Rebecca Roanhorse
7:00 PM ET


VIDEO: Cory Doctorow on Writing

We are so excited for all of you to read Attack Surface, so we decided to offer a special treat—an inside look into Cory Doctorow’s writing habits and advice! Check out his video on writing here.


Excited for the book? Pre-order Attack Surface here!

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Transcript of video:

On Writing with Cory Docotorow

Question: What is your favorite way to procrastinate?

Cory Doctorow: I think my favorite way to procrastinate is to write something else. I have written whole books by procrastinating about books. Little Brother was written while I was procrastinating about Makers.

What is your ideal time and place for writing?

CD: It’s funny, I have a writing space at home. I have an office full of books and tchotkes, that you know–I just had a writing friend over and he was like ‘Oh it’s the opening credit reel from that Ray Bradbury show where he shows you all of his junk.’ And I’m like: ‘Yeah, basically’. And I’ve got a 40 inch monitor and a great chair and a standing desk that comes up and down and all of the things! And yet, I have to say, I do the majority of my writing on the road. I always have.

I sold my first novel while I was doing a startup and then I went to work as the European director of an NGO. I was on the road 27 days a month, and I learned to write with my laptop folded all the way vertical and my fingers like this (gesture: hands bent back fully back palms out, fingers crooked in a typing motion) on the keyboard. And then between flights I would crouch down next to the toilets where the AC outlet was because Always Be Charging is the lesson of any writer.

So as it turns out, I write everywhere. In theory, I write at home, but that’s pretty aspirational.

What’s your advice for writing complicated and occasionally unlikeable characters, like Masha in Attack Surface?

You know they say that no one is the villain of their own story, but anyone who’s ever lain awake at night recriminating with themselves about some thing that they did that day or 10 years before knows, it’s actually pretty easy to be the villain of your own story. That compartmentalization, self doubt, and inability to be perfect is, I think, part of the human condition. And there is something very sympathetic, being in the head of someone who’s wrestling with their better nature and their worse and who’s rationalizing their way in and out of trouble.

Masha was a fun character to write because she knows when she’s rationalizing and she doesn’t kid herself about it. And because of that, she thinks she’s better than people who think they’re doing good–who talk themselves into thinking that they’re doing good even when they’re not. It made for really gnarly writing. It also I think it changed how I think about my own life. I mean, like everyone else, I am a flawed vessel, and being inside the head of someone who was so rigorous with and hard on herself made it a little harder for me to kid myself when I knew I was doing the wrong thing.


Meet Our Books Cosmos: Air Signs

Ready to meet more of the shining stars of our Chaos and Cosmos campaign?! We’re swooning over our incredible Air signs today: Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow, Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson, and I Come With Knives by S. A. Hunt.

Why are they Air signs? We have no idea, ask publicity team members and astrology wizards Laura Eztkorn, Giselle Gonzalez, and Anna Merz.


“Gemini are adaptable, impulsive, and outgoing, but also nosey and sometimes unreliable.

Sounds like Masha Maximow. Except maybe the outgoing part…”

Image Place holder  of - 2Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side. In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for a transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents, and manipulate their every move. Masha sometimes used her mad skills to help those same troublemakers evade detection, if their cause was just. But when it hits close to home, and the hacks and exploits she’s devised are directed at her friends and family, Masha realizes she has to choose.

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“Libras are always on a quest for knowledge, but can be unreliable, cold, and tactless. They’re always chasing after adventures and are vastly independent!…Sounds like our favorite assassin from Trouble the Saints!”

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Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The dangerous magic of The Night Circus meets the powerful historical exploration of The Underground Railroad in Alaya Dawn Johnson’s timely and unsettling novel, set against the darkly glamorous backdrop of New York City, where an assassin falls in love and tries to change her fate at the dawn of World War II.

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“Aquarius signs tend to hold onto grudges (useful in a witchhunter!) and are often intelligent and unpredictable (also a useful trait in a witchhunter!)”

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I Come With Knives by S. A. Hunt

Robin plots to confront the Lazenbury coven and destroy them once and for all. Meanwhile, a dangerous serial killer only known as The Serpent is abducting and killing Blackfield residents. An elusive order of magicians known as the Dogs of Odysseus also show up with Robin in their sights. Robin must handle these new threats on top of the menace from the Lazenbury coven, but a secret about Robin’s past may throw all of her plans into jeopardy.

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VIDEO: Cory Doctorow Introduces Masha in Attack Surface

We met the mysterious and morally ambiguous character Masha in Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Homeland, and we’re excited that she’s getting her time to shine in the upcoming book Attack Surface!

But what went into introducing this character? Check out Cory as he talks more about Masha, Attack Surface, and more here.


Excited for the book? Pre-order Attack Surface here!

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What Would You Keep in a Bag of Holding? (Chaotic Answers Only)

The Chaos and Cosmos continues!

We asked our Chaos and Cosmos authors: What would you keep in a bag of holding? And then we just sat back and embraced the chaos.

We have some ideas of our own of course: A lightsaber. Two-hundred and seven cheese wheels. A dragon egg maybe.

Let us know what you’d keep in yours in the comments!

What would you keep in your bag of holding?

Kate Elliott, author of Unconquerable Sun

A trans-dimensional gateway, and an unending supply of freshly baked cookies.

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Mary Robinette Kowal, author of The Relentless Moon

Fountain pens, paper, books, crochet, my laptop, and a blanket for a cozy nap. Also, my cat Elsie would probably be in there, because it is a thing that she can get inside that she should not be inside.

S. A. Hunt, author of I Come With Knives

Definitely not a portable hole, or another bag of holding. That’s a good way to rip a hole in space and time, and get sucked into the Astral Plane. What I would keep in my bag of holding? Probably a sword, my wallet, and chargers for my devices. Maybe a pack of soft-baked cookies and a water bottle.

Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of Trouble the Saints

Futon mattress, green tea, electric kettle, pens, ink, notebooks, towel, a lot of conditioner and a hair pick.

Ryan Van Loan, author of The Sin in the Steel

Oh! Can I say another bag of holding whose destruction results in opening a gate to the Astral Plane? No? Hmm…well I imagine it’d probably be pretty similar to the contents of the bag Hermione has in The Deathly Hallows. Books and glamping tents and more books and potions and wands and quills and ink and…have I mentioned books?

Kit Rocha, author of Deal with the Devil

A bowling alley (complete with skunky beer), fifty pounds of hot smoked salmon, and a 1961 Thunderbird.

Jenn Lyons, author of The Memory of Souls

If my backpack is anything to go by: fountain pens, journals, and watercolor supplies.

Andrea Hairston, author of Master of Poisons

  • Portals to other worlds
  • A bike that never rusts or needs air in the tire
  • Dark chocolate bonbons with caramel filling
  • A truth serum

Christopher Paolini, author of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Survival equipment and writing supplies.

Place holder  of - 76  Image Placeholder of - 87  

S. L. Huang, author of Burning Roses

Toilet paper. (Too real?)

Also a sword, my TI-92 graphing calculator, and a whole lot of tea.

Cory Doctorow, author of Attack Surface

A wet bar, an espresso machine, a burr grinder, well, I already have the bag I take on planes that has a sleeping bag, good pajamas, a hot water bottle, an ice pack, footie slippers, an eye mask…I’m the most comfortable man in the sky, so I’ll definitely carry all of that, some really good pens, more spare batteries than is wise, I could go on.

 Us: How many spare batteries is wise?

Like, if there was a lithium fire, you’d want it to be terrible but not catastrophic, that’s the wise level.

V. E. Schwab, author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Dark chocolate and really good English Breakfast tea, at all times.


Relatable, right?


Every Tor Book Coming This Fall

We’re dreaming of fall weather at Tor…the changing of colors, the crackle of a bonfire, the tastes of our favorite fall foods. And we can hardly contain ourselves as we wait for our fall books to finally make their way into our hands. Check out which books are coming to shelves near you this fall below:

September 8

Place holder  of - 99Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne

Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure. When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.

September 15

Image Placeholder of - 82To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move. As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human. While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

Poster Placeholder of - 81The Hellion by S. A. Hunt

Robin Martine has destroyed witches all across the country, but since her confrontation with the demon Andras, Robin has had to deal with her toughest adversary yet: herself. While coming to grips with new abilities, she and her boyfriend Kenway make their way to the deserts of rural Texas, where new opportunities await.

September 19

Placeholder of  -94The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford

In a snowbound inn high in the Alps, four people meet who will alter fate. Together they will wage an intrigue-filled campaign against the might of Byzantium to secure the English throne for Richard, Duke of Gloucester—and make him Richard III. Available for the first time in nearly two decades, with a new introduction by New York Times-bestselling author Scott Lynch, The Dragon Waiting is a masterpiece of blood and magic.

October 6

Image Place holder  of - 33The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

October 13

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side. In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for a transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents, and manipulate their every move. The perks were fantastic, and the pay was obscene. When her targets were strangers in faraway police states, it was easy to compartmentalize, to ignore the collateral damage of murder, rape, and torture. But when it hits close to home, and the hacks and exploits she’s devised are directed at her friends and family–including boy wonder Marcus Yallow, her old crush and archrival, and his entourage of naïve idealists–Masha realizes she has to choose.

Dune: The Duke of Celadan by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Leto Atreides, Duke of Caladan and father of the Muad’Dib. While all know of his fall and the rise of his son, little is known about the quiet ruler of Caladan and his partner Jessica. Or how a Duke of an inconsequential planet earned an emperor’s favor, the ire of House Harkonnen, and set himself on a collision course with his own death. This is the story.

October 20

To Hold Up the Sky by Cixin Liu

In To Hold Up the Sky, Cixin Liu takes us across time and space, from a rural mountain community where elementary students must use physicas to prevent an alien invasion; to coal mines in northern China where new technology will either save lives of unleash a fire that will burn for centuries; to a time very much like our own, when superstring computers predict our every move; to 10,000 years in the future, when humanity is finally able to begin anew; to the very collapse of the universe itself.

November 17

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage. Now, as new technological discoveries begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

December 1

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

Poison was only the beginning…. The deadly siege of Silasta woke the ancient spirits, and now the city-state must find its place in this new world of magic. But people and politics are always treacherous, and it will take all of Jovan and Kalina’s skills as proofer and spy to save their country when witches and assassins turn their sights to domination.

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