Ready Player One - Tor/Forge Blog



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  -91Murderbot 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.

Image Place holder  of - 48Marcus 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! 

Poster Placeholder of - 82The 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 - 91Place holder  of - 53Case (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.


7 Times Science Fiction Made Sports Better

Next week is a big week in the sports world. Sunday is Super Bowl LII, and Friday, February 9th marks the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics, a worldwide contest that’s been going on since ancient times. We have a few fans here on staff, but a lot of us feel that, well, modern day sports are a bit lacking. We prefer the sports we find in the pages of science fiction novels. Here are just a few of our favorites. What’s your favorite science fiction sport?

Head On by John Scalzi

Image Placeholder of - 57 The goal of the game in Head On is to decapitate a select player on the opposing team and throw their head through a goal post. Members of each team attack each other with hammers and swords. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible, much less unethical. But in Hilketa—a violent and fast-paced popular past time—all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.

Runtime by S. B. Divya

Placeholder of  -39 Ever run a marathon? How about an ultra-marathon? Now add cyborgs, and you’ve basically got the Minerva Sierra Challenge in Divya’s novella Runtime. Most runners in the race have corporate sponsorships, top of the line cyborg parts, and great support teams to make it little less dangerous (only a little). Running without those things is practically a death sentence, but there are always those out there willing to give it a try, even if the system is rigged against them. This is one for perpetual underdogs everywhere (I’m looking at you, Cleveland Browns).

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Poster Placeholder of - 84 Okay, so we know the competition to gain control of the OASIS in Ready Player One isn’t actually a sport. It’s a game, with puzzles, video games, and trivia contests. But we think it fits on this list anyway, because the consequences can still be deadly—as Wade discovers when goons from Innovative Online Industries start trying to kill him and his friends.
Steel by Richard Matheson

Image Place holder  of - 73 Frankly, we think a lot of sports could be improved by upgrading the technology involved—and we don’t just mean better replay cameras. Why not replace the athletes with robots? We love the robot boxing depicted in Matheson’s story more than we love actual boxing, to be honest—it’s much more fun to picture giant robots slugging it out than men. Less bloody, too.
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Place holder  of - 82 Growing up, we all knew a few kids who would rather play sports than study. Too bad they weren’t growing up on Kurt Vonnegut’s Mars, where that’s the reality! The only problem: the only sport Martians play is German batball. Imagine baseball, but with no bats, only two bases, and a ball the shape and size of a big, heavy honeydew melon. Sounds fun, right?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

The entire premise of Ender’s Game is, well, a game—a video game simulation of a war. Putting that aside though, there is definitely a sport in Ender’s world: the Battle Room. Children at Battle School are organized into armies and go into zero-g combat games against other armies. While we don’t necessarily want to attend Battle School, we definitely want to join Dragon Army someday. Somebody get to work making that a reality, will you?
Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams

Some sports and games have a LOT of rules to remember. Others are like Brockian Ultra-Cricket, from Life, the Universe, and Everything. It’s a game where the goal is basically for players to hit each other with whatever’s at hand, then retreat a safe distance and apologize—for points. The lack of rules means games pretty much never end, and often devolve into all-out warfare. Sounds like a great way to work out some frustration!

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