Page 006

Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.






   Why would an author give away an unlimited number of copies of her book

   for free?


   That's a good question. When `Underground''s researcher, Julian

   Assange, first suggested releasing an electronic version of the book on

   the Net for free, I had to stop and think about just that question.


   I'd spent nearly three years researching, writing and editing the nearly

   500 pages of `Underground'. Julian had worked thousands of

   hours doing painstaking research; discovering and cultivating sources,

   digging with great resourcefulness into obscure databases and legal

   papers, not to mention providing valuable editorial advice.


   So why would I give away this carefully ripened fruit for free?


   Because part of the joy of creating a piece of art is in knowing that

   many people can - and are - enjoying it. Particularly people who can't

   otherwise afford to pay $11 USD for a book. People such as cash strapped

   hackers. This book is about them, their lives and obsessions. It rubs

   clear a small circle in the frosted glass so the reader can peer into

   that hazy world. `Underground' belongs on the Net, in their ephemeral



   The critics have been good to `Underground', for which I am very

   grateful. But the best praise came from two of the hackers detailed in

   the book. Surprising praise, because while the text is free of the

   narrative moralising that plague other works, the selection of material

   is often very personal and evokes mixed sympathies. One of the hackers,

   Anthrax dropped by my office to say `Hi'. Out of the blue, he said with

   a note of amazement, `When I read those chapters, it was so real, as if

   you had been right there inside my head'. Not long after Par, half a

   world away, and with a real tone of bewildered incredulity in his voice

   made exactly the same observation. For a writer, it just doesn't get any

   better than that.


   By releasing this book for free on the Net, I'm hoping more people

   will not only enjoy the story of how the international computer

   underground rose to power, but also make the journey into the minds

   of hackers involved. When I first began sketching out the book's

   structure, I decided to go with depth. I wanted the reader to

   think, 'NOW I understand, because I too was there.' I hope those

   words will enter your thoughts as you read this electronic book.


   Michael Hall, a supersmart lawyer on the book's legal team, told me

   in July last year he saw a young man in Sydney reading a copy of

   `Underground' beside him on the #380 bus to North Bondi. Michael

   said he wanted to lean over and proclaim proudly, `I legalled that

   book!'. Instead, he chose to watch the young man's reactions.


   The young man was completely absorbed, reading hungrily through his

   well-worn copy, which he had completely personalised. The pages were

   covered in highlighter, scrawled margin writing and post-it notes. He

   had underlined sections and dog-eared pages. If the bus had detoured to

   Brisbane, he probably wouldn't have noticed.