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Here we get one of Cory’s activism message as story stories. This one’s about self-driving cars and the dangers of DRM.

As usual, the story’s pretty gripping. Because it’s short, though, there’s not as much chance for character and plot as in something like Little Brother. Taking that into account, the characters we get are relatively well fleshed out.

There’s an audio version available, but I read the web version. It’s got various multi-media (embedded tweets, reader polls at the end of each section, animated graphics) that made that seem the most appropriate way.

I’m trying to figure out how to talk about the issues in the story. There are a lot of ways I could go, but I guess I’ll focus on just one thing here.

Potential problems are mostly what Cory talks about, but without any real solutions. I mean, he has characters using various hacks or work-arounds to get around the DRM in self-driving cars. But I see self-driving cars as an inevitable technology, so I’d like to see ideas about how to make them in a responsible, open way.

I also found myself taking the reader polls less and less seriously as the story went on. I lost interest in putting the time into figuring out an honest answer and was mostly interested in seeing what the current results were. I also found myself wondering if the results were even real.

The story’s medium-short, so check it out if you’re interested. For fans of Doctorow, or for someone who wants a story to help inform or think about issues involving broader use of DRM and self-driving cars.

Link to the story here.

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Part of a series, though this story was my introduction.

Qumqam, a djinn, is wandering the United States during the Trump presidency when he comes across agents who have come to take a family he’s been watching. When the aging neighbor woman comes out of her house to intervene, Qumqam gets a pleasant surprise.

This one’s short, clocking in at less than 2,000 words. It’s got the punch that often makes a story this short work for me.

It’s also what I’ve been thinking of as an indulgent story recently. I know, not super descriptive by itself, but it came up when I was reading a comic the other day (this one). The stories line up with things I believe, or ways I think about issues, but resolve them in a similar sort of way to action movies—somewhat to very over the top, simplified, but still satisfying. Indulgent.

I haven’t read much of Ahmed’s besides his first novel. It’s been a while, but it was a good read. Fun. Unfortunately, I haven’t thought much about his writing recently. After reading “Clay and Smokeless Fire,” though, I’m eager for more of his work.

If you like his stuff, maybe check out his Patreon.