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Encyclopedia > Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom

Down And Out in the Magic Kingdom is a 2003 science fiction book, the first novel by Canadian author and digital-rights activist Cory Doctorow. Probably its most notable feature is the fact that, concurrent with its publication by Tor Books, the entire text of the novel was released under a Creative Commons license on Doctorow's website, allowing the whole text of the book to be read for free and distributed without his or his publisher's permission. This has not seemed to adversely affect the book's sales; it received mostly positive reviews and sold relatively well.



The book takes place in the 22nd century, mostly in Walt Disney World. Earth now lives under the "Bitchun Society," in which rejuvenation and body-enhancement have made death obsolete, material goods are no longer scarce, and everyone is granted basic rights that in our present age are mostly considered luxuries. This abundance has brought about the end of labor and money, and the only thing that makes one person worth more than anyone else is "Whuffie", a constantly updated rating that measures how much esteem and respect other people have for you. This rating system determines who gets the few scarce items, like the best housing, a table in a crowded restaurant, or a good place in a queue for a theme park attraction.

The narrator of the book, Jules, has fulfilled his childhood dream of living at Disney World, which, since corporations no longer exist, is now run by rival ad-hoc committees, each dedicated to providing the best experience to the park's visitors and competing for the Whuffie the guests offer. Jules has a girlfriend a century younger than himself (but outwardly the same age), and both of them work for the committee that oversees the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square. When Jules is killed -- a minor annoyance, as he is revived in a new body within a few days with his memories intact -- he discovers that another ad-hoc group with a notoriously aggressive, high-Whuffie leader has taken control of the Hall of Presidents, and is going to replace its old-fashioned animatronic robots with high-tech, direct-neural imprinting. Jules believes that this rival committee engineered his temporary death in order to seize the Hall in the interim. Fearing that they will next try to revamp his favorite ride, The Haunted Mansion, he resolves to take a stand against the dehumanization of the park.

End spoilers


On February 12, 2004, Doctorow re-licensed his book. Under the new Creative Commons license, one can now make derivative works from the book without permission, provided the license and attribution is retained with each new work and the derivatives are not used commercially. Already, fans of the book have begun a Russian translation, an audio book version, and several amusing re-arrangements of the text. Doctorow is pleased that people are building on his work, and hopes that further innovations will follow.

ISBN numbers

  • ISBN 0765304368 (hardcover)
  • ISBN 076530953X (paperback)

See also

External links

The official site for the book on Cory Doctorow's homepage (http://www.craphound.com/down). Includes the full, free text of the book in many downloadable formats.

  Results from FactBites:
Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom » News (947 words)
This is the second audio adaptation of Down and Out — the podcaster Mark Forman read the book aloud on his podcast in August 2005.
Joseph Petviashvili is a fan of my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom — he likes it so much that he’s created a software version of “Whuffie,”; the reputation currency that forms the basis of the Bitchun Society I described in the book.
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom has just been published in Spain as Tocando Fondo, and in Japan as マジック・キングダムで落ちぶれて ハヤカワ文庫SF.
The Infinite Matrix | Cory Doctorow | Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom 2 (2672 words)
We rode down the staircase, facing up, listening to the clamor of voices from the cemetery and the squawk of the red-eyed raven.
I debarked from the Buggy and stalked quickly out of the exit queue, leaning heavily against the fence, staring blindly at the pet cemetery.
Debra used to send me out to give the children piggyback rides, just to keep our Whuffie up while she was evicting the squatters.
  More results at FactBites »



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