Sometimes these little accidents work out for the best. Three months after he was originally scheduled to appear in New York City, science fiction novelist, Boing Boing staffer, and, of course, staunch defender of all things First Amendment, Cory Doctorow finally found himself on the subterranean at Manhattan’s Helen Mills Theater, the star of a fundraising event for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Thanks in part to rescheduling at the hands of unspecified health issues on the part of a CBLDF staffer, the second attempt at a Doctorow-centric fundraiser for the cause came complete with a the added bonus of a co-headliner—turntablist, published author, and fellow part-time culture jammer, Paul “DJ Spooky” Miller, whose recently-issued second book, Sound Unbound features media essays by a number of prominent counter-cultural theorists, Doctorow included.
In New York for just a few days, on route to a small convention in southwestern Massachusetts, Doctorow arrived at the venue early, decked in a tied-on hat and his customary horn-rimmed glasses, greeting all in the lobby one at a time with a smiling “hi, I’m Cory!” as Spooky busied himself prepping his Macbook on-stage for his multi-media contributions to the evening’s festivities.
Coordinator, and proponent of all things “mashup,” Jeff “Jah Furry” Newelt hopped on stage behind the transparent podium on stage left to introduce Spooky, who happily took the helm from behind his notebook to discuss media, “open source strategies,” and the ways in which they relate to the comic book and his aforementioned collection of essays, making a multi-media pitstop along the way to perform a live mix of an Allen Ginsburg poem.
After a subsequent introduction by Spooky, Doctorow made his way to the clear podium, soon abandoning its confines for a spot at center stage. The author delivered his own presentation at a breakneck pace, a marked contrast to the more languid professorial tone of his predecessor. Unlike Spooky, Doctorow’s talk seemed a touch less plotted out—instead opting to base his discussion of the democratizing effects of the Web around a story of activist triumph on a trip to the UN.
If there’s a complaint to be levied against the event, it’s that neither speaker’s presentation successfully embraced the collaborative spirit of their subject matter, though, in their defense, its likely that the majority of those present didn’t pay the $20 ticket price to hear the opinions of their fellow audience members—and, despite their somewhat polarizing approach to their chosen topics, both proved to be informative and immensely entertaining.
Besides, running a bit ahead of schedule after their respective talks, Spooky and Doctorow ultimately embraced the spirit of collaboration a touch more, pushing their chairs together at the center of the stage, and letting the audience dictate the remainder of the subject matter with a handful of questions.
In all, it proved a rather success event, the happy embrace of progressive thoughts and artistic ideals for the benefit a plucky little organization that has spent the last 20-plus years of its tireless existence defending precisely those ideals.