Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a 2003 science fiction book, the first novel by Cory Doctorow . Contributing with its publication by Tor Books , Doctorow published the full text of the novel under a Creative Commons License.

The novel was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2004.


  • Julius (also known as Jules), the narrator of the book, is more than a century old. His childhood dream is living at Disney World (aka “The Magic Kingdom”).
  • Lil, age 23, with long red hair and freckles, is Jules’ girlfriend. She is 15 percent of Jules’ age, but outwardly the same age. She was raised in Walt Disney World.
  • Dan is Jules’ best male friend. He is a missionary for the Bitchun utopia who has lost the will to no longer technophobes left to convert.
  • Debra is one of the old guards of Disney World and was a comrade of Lil’s parents before they went deadhead. She spent a decade in Disneyland Beijing, coding sim-wrinkles.
  • Tim is a programmer of synthetic memories.
  • Tom and Rita are Lil’s parents who were “members of the original ad hoc who had seized power in Walt Disney World, wresting control from a gang of wealthy forming shareholders who had been operating their private preserve.”
  • Zed (also known as Zoya) is a transhuman who was married to Julius for 18 months, went crazy, and reverted to a backup from before she met Julius.


  • ” Bitchun Society ” is the dominant Earth culture in which rejuvenation and body-enhancement have made death obsolete,
  • Whuffie , a form of digital social reputation , replaces money and is a constantly updated rating that measures how much esteem and respect other people have for a person. 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.
  • “Deadhead” is a verb and a noun for suspended animation ; Which is done for two-hour plane trips, lengthy space trips, and ten thousand years substitutes for suicide.
  • Adhocracy is a kind of organism That is an opposite of bureaucracy That HAS REPLACED corporations .
  • “Refresh” or “restore from backup” is the cure for dying; Which consists of creating a “force-grown” clone and downloading into its mind a backup of one’s own created. Synthesized memories (from other data sources filling in the gap between last backup and death) were an innovation created in the book.
  • HERF gun is a form of electromagnetic weapon , a narrow cylinder the length of a hand that outputs high energy radio frequency. It generates a variable-dispersion yet directional and focused beam that can punch through a floor or wall and fuse everything there or can be used to disable the electronic interface in a brain without harming that brain; But is blocked by a Faraday cage .
  • “Sim-rides” are AI software driven simulations of the reality that communicate with each other and by the guests, by them each time they ride and spinning age-appropriate tales related to the theme of the ride.


This future history book takes place in the 22nd century, mostly in Walt Disney World . Disney World is run by rival adhocracies , each dedicated to providing the best experience to the park’s visitors and competing for the Whuffie the guests offer.

Plot summary

The story is told in first person by Julius, whose old college buddy Dan used to be one of the most popular people in the country (as measured by Whuffie). Julius and Girlfriend Lil are working with the committee (called an ad hoc ) that oversees the Magic Kingdom ‘s Liberty Square . Dan, who has hit rock bottom and lost all his Whuffie, does not believe in rejuvenation and wishes to die, but not while he’s at rock bottom. He moves in with Julius and Lil in order to rebuild his life. At the park, Julius is murdered and soon refreshed. By the time he wakes up, Debra’s ad hoc group has taken control of the Hall of Presidents , And is planning to replace its old-fashioned animatronic robots with the synthetic memory imprinting of the experience of being the president for a moment. Julius believes that this rival had a distraction so that they could 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 virtualization of the park, endangering his relationship with both Lil and Dan; Eventually Lil leaves Julius for Dan. Julius finally “cracks” when he sees his dreams turned to dust and he bashes up the attractions in the Hall of Presidents, in the process also damaging his own cranial interface to the point that he can no longer back himself up. This pushes his whuffie to ground level when he is caught and gives Debra and her colleagues enough “sympathy Whuffie” to take over the Haunted Mansion, by invitation of the same fans who had recruited to work in the Mansion.

Dan leaves Lil, Julius is kicked out of the ad hoc and his whuffie hits rock bottom – low enough that others take his possessions with impunity and elevators do not stop for him. Then comes the revelation: a few days before Dan’s planned suicide by lethal injection, Dan reveals that it was in fact he who had arranged to kill Julius, in collusion with Debra, in exchange for the Whuffie that her team could give him. Dan had one of his dreams come true. Debra then had herself restored from a backup made before this plan, so that she would honestly believe that she was not involved. He makes this public; Debra is thrown out, Julius gets sympathy Whuffie and, ironically enough, he develops a friendly affection for his sweet young murderer. He never restores himself, because doing so would erase his memories of that entire year, his last with Dan, but lives with his damaged interface. The book is a record of the transpiring events of the past year. Dan decides not to take a lethal injection, but to deadhead (putting oneself into a voluntary coma) till the heat death of the Universe . His restored backup will have a partial record of the transpiring events. Dan decides not to take a lethal injection, but to deadhead (putting oneself into a voluntary coma) till the heat death of the Universe . His restored backup will have a partial record of the transpiring events. Dan decides not to take a lethal injection, but to deadhead (putting oneself into a voluntary coma) till the heat death of the Universe .

Cultural cross references

  • Snow Crash Spectacular parade based on Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash book .
  • The book contains references to the Beatles song ” Rocky Raccoon “. Julius’ girlfriend leaves him for his friend Dan, just as Lil leaves Rocky Raccoon for a man named Dan in the song. At the beginning of the book, Jules and Lil sing some lyrics from the song.
  • Doctorow’s short story “Truncat” is also set in the Bitchun Society, sometime after the events of Down and Out .
  • Doctorow’s short story “I, Row Boat,” a play on words of Isaac Asimov ‘s I, Robot , aussi Appears to be set in the Sami universe (though more distantly future), with references to artificial uploading and downloading of intelligence, purpose No explicit mention of the Bitchun Society or Whuffie.
  • The title is a reference to George Orwell ‘s Down and Out in Paris and London .


On February 12, 2004, Doctorow re-licensed his book under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike (by-nc-sa) license. Under the new license, one can 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, amusing re-arrangements of the text. Doctorow has rated that he is pleased that people are building his work, and that he hopes that further innovations will follow.

In spite of that, in 2007 invalid DMCA takedown was sent by Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) with regard to this novel. [1] [2] [3] Cory Doctorow said ” Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was the first novel released under a Creative Commons license, and I’ve spent the past four years exhorting fans to copy my work and share it. Now I have begun to hear what I have to say. I am a hypocrite who uses SFWA to send out legal threats to people who heeded my exhortation. ” [1]

Release details

  • 2003, US, Tor Books ( ISBN 0-7653-0436-8 ), Pub Date 1 February 2003, Hardcover
  • 2003, US, Tor Books (ISBN?), Pub date? February 2003, e-Book
  • 2003, US, Tor Books ( ISBN 0-7653-0953-X ), Pub Date December 5, 2003, Paperback

See also

  • Whuffie
  • 2003 in literature
  • Postcyberpunk
  • Transhumanism
  • adhocracy
  • Post scarcity
  • Subvocal recognition
  • Liberty Square


  1. ^ Jump up to:b Arstechnica Article Worse than Vogon poetry: bogus DMCA takedowns stun sci-fi lovers published August 31, 2007
  2. Jump up^ Chris Meadows,SFWA issues mistakenly broad DMCA TAKEDOWOWS-unwittingly harming sci-fi writers such as Cory Doctorow ArchivedDecember 5, 2011, at theWayback Machine., August 31, 2007, TeleRead
  3. Jump up^ Cory Doctorow,Science Fiction Writers of America abuses the DMCA, August 30, 2007, boingboing

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