April 26, 2012

The End of Internet Privacy

If you do anything online, this issue needs your immediate attention.

Right now, the US is poised to pass a new law that would permit US intelligence services to spy on almost everything we do online. It’s called the ‘Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act‘.

This may be a US law, but it effects everyone else, because companies that we trust with our personal information, like Facebook and Microsoft, are key supporters of this bill that lets corporations share all user activity and content – ie. information about us – with US government agents without needing a warrant in the name of cyber-security — nullifying privacy guarantees for almost everyone around the world, no matter where we live and surf online.

This is genuinely disturbing stuff. Here’s what Wired.com‘s James Bramford (and quoted by Forbes magazine) has to say about what we can expect from the National Security Agency’s newest and biggest surveillance complex, innocuously named the Utah Data Center. This is real, not science fiction:

“Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.”

But this kind of thing starts with laws like the CISPA, which surrender our privacy to big business and big government.

If enough of us speak out, we can stop companies that profit from our business from supporting cyber-spying. Please sign the Avaaz petition to keep these companies from handing over our private information to others. Here’s the statement you’d be signing:

‘To Facebook, Microsoft and IBM:

‘As concerned customers from around the world, we urge you to immediately drop your support for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). Our democracy and civil liberties are under threat from the excessive and unnecessary Internet surveillance powers it grants to the US government. The Internet is a crucial tool for people around the world to exchange ideas and work collectively to build the world we all want. We urge you to show true global leadership and do all you can to protect our Internet freedom.’

This is incredibly important, and once this power over your information is handed over to people in another country, who can’t be held responsible, we will never get this privacy back. It is a level and depth of surveillance that the most controlling totalitarian states would dream of having. At the time of posting, there were already over 760,000 signatures on the petition protesting against this, and Avaaz hope to reach a million. Please sign the petition now.

April 23, 2012

Win the Chance to be a Character in a Book!

To celebrate the release of ‘Merciless Reason’, the third book in the Wildenstern Saga, we are offering one reader the chance to make an appearance as a character in my next novel.* Like a walk-on part in a film, except you won’t have to walk. To enter, you need to do two things:

1. Simply answer this question:
In the opening chapter of ‘Ancient Appetites’, the first Wildenstern book, Nate goes hunting for a wild motorcycle in the Wicklow Mountains. What do the local people call this creature?**

2. Send us a short written description of what you look like. Include some of your interests or hobbies. Use no more than forty words – no photos or attachments please!

Send your entry by email to: competition@oisinmcgann.com.
Please put your answer to the question in the subject line.

There will also be three runners-up, each of whom will receive inscribed copies of all three Wildenstern novels.

The closing date for the competition is the 15th of June.

*My next book is entitled ‘Rat-Runners’. It’s not a Wildenstern book, but will be a thrilling piece of work nonetheless.

**The first chapter of ‘Ancient Appetites’ can be found here. Hint: The name starts with a ‘B’.

The winner will be announced on or before the 15th of July at www.oisinmcgann.com.

For the Terms & Conditions, please refer to the ‘Merciless Reason’ page.

And on a final, related note, I recently did a guest post on the Falcata Times blog for their Steampunk Week. It’s a letter to Nathaniel from his father, Edgar, after Nate’s first attempt to flee from the family (before the events of ‘Ancient Appetites’). It is a note of caution from a ruthless old businessman to a son he considers gormless and impulsive. It won’t warm your heart.

April 20, 2012

The Word on the Street

So, I didn’t win the Mordus du Polar Award in France (goddamnit). That honour went to Marie-Aude Murail for ‘Le Tueur a la Cravate’ – congratulations Marie-Aude.

While I’m on, there are a few things I thought worth spreading word about:

I did a recent guest post on a blog called Pivot Dublin, which is devoted to design issues of all kinds. My piece concerns my doubts about our ability to create books for kids moving from the stage where they’re confident to read, to where they might be able to read novels. I think one of the main problems here is that the publishing industry is, understandably enough, run by book-lovers. But that has led to a kind of prejudice when it comes to reading, and we’re seeing it when kids hit eight or nine. With kids increasingly reading in so many different ways, we should be able to convince increasing numbers to read books, but we’re not. I think the way we approach the design of books is one of the reasons for this.

On a different note, I’m going to be doing a couple of events down in Listowel for their Writers’ Week. The dates are yet to be finalized, but there’ll be at least two events down there.

In other news, I found an interesting piece on self-publishing versus going mainstream recently, and whether the Big Six publishers are floundering or merely changing slowly. It’s informative and well-argued. You should check it out.

Speaking of the publishers and what they’re up to, David Maybury’s recent piece on Bologna Book Fair for the Bookseller is full of enlightening notes. And while we’re there, word of looting at Bologna might make you wonder what strange breed goes to a book fair to steal books.

What was the whole point in going digital if people are going to just steal the printed versions?