Or, Muskcoin: a credible proposal.

So, a few weeks ago I was chewing over COVID19 on Mars (insert any other pandemic here), a discussion of how a Musk-initiated Mars colony circa 2070 might handle an aggressive viral pandemic.

Which brings me onto the topic of Elon Musk (okay, Tesla) recently buying $1.5Bn of BitCoins. I personally think this is a stunt, but an interesting one: BtC is a commodity in a bubble; if it goes up, Tesla turns a profit, and if it goes down it's a tax write-off. As Tesla is currently ridiculously over-valued this therefore looks like a smart way of hedging against some of their risk. But it got me thinking about SpaceX ...

Some of you have read Neptune's Brood, right? Shortlisted for the 2014 Hugo award, and, ahem, currently on offer for $4.99 as an ebook (North American edition only, sorry British folks).

What are the opportunities for Musk's colony to implement its own cryptocurrency?

In terms of "Neptune's Brood", MuskCoin might be a plausible implementation of Medium Money.

On Earth it would function as a cryptocurrency backed by the Mars colony. Blockchain is used for transactions. However, the proof-of-work in generating a MuskCoin is non-algorithmic: you transmit a digital certificate for your shiny new coin to MuskBank on Mars, where it is countersigned with a string from MuskBank's One Time Pad, which was generated on and only exists on Mars. The blockchain is then updated—from Mars. The publicly issued checksum of MuskBank's OTP is itself published via the Blockchain.

MuskCoin is required in payment for cargo capacity on Earth-to-Mars shipping, or for purchasing real estate on Mars. It has a floating terrestrial exchange rate: the idea is that it's used for mediating interplanetary exchanges.

Unlike Bitcoin there's a central bank and an anti-forgery mechanism. It's not inherently deflationary like Bitcoin, because the Martian Central Bank can if necessary generate a new one time pad and add its checksum to the blockchain, expanding the money supply. The proof of work doesn't inflate over time, either—it remains constant, and is ridiculously hard to forge (the only reasonable mechanism would be to figure out how to derive the one time pad from the published checksum, which should be impossible). And given its founder's ego issues, the unit of currency will be the Elon.

Conversion between Elons and regular (fast) money: you use it to acquire title to a chunk of land on Mars, then put it on the real estate market. When somebody buys it, you get your exchange rate.

One side-effect of it being Mars-backed is Mars has a shallower gravity well than Earth: once the colony is up and running and eating its own dogfood (in terms of semiconductor and high-end space-rated fabrications), it may be cheaper to buy satellites and other spacecraft from Mars than to lift them from Earth, as long as you schedule their launches years in advance. However, that's a long-term consequence. The main point is that it provides a way to loosely couple the Martian economy with Earth's, without locking Mars into fiscal interdependency with other-planetary economic cycles.

Note that I have certain ideological assumptions: namely that BitCoin itself is a highly inappropriate currency for anyone, much less an embryonic Mars colony. It's designed to promote Libertarian values, is inherently deflationary, and ridiculously wasteful of energy, all of which are liabilities when you live in a tin can on a lump of rock with no air. Interplanetary colonies for at least the first couple of centuries are going to be highly regimented collectivist institutions, more like a 1950s Kibbutz than a libertarian utopia. But any sufficiently large colony will eventually need to interact at a macroeconomic level with its neighbors—Mars will get out of the inevitable early Juche phase fairy soon, or Mars will die—at which point some species of currency seems desirable. However, one that is directly exchangable with existing terrestrial currencies is an invitation to disaster (if nothing else it renders the Mars colony vulnerable to speculators on Earth).


It's 2021! And I have publications coming.

First up, due out in the USA/Canada only on July 13th (no UK sale— see below) is a short Laundry novella, Escape from Puroland. As the cover copy says:

Regular readers of Charles Stross's Laundry Files might have noticed Bob Howard's absence from the events of The Nightmare Stacks, and his subsequent return from Tokyo at the start of The Delirium Brief.

Escape from Puroland explains what he was doing there.

This is going to be available as a hardcover and ebook. I emphasize that it's not a full novel, but a rather short novella—about 90 pages. (Incoming 1-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads ahoy: "Too short: this is a rip-off!")

It's one of two planned novellas I need to write before the final full-length Laundry novel about Bob et al; I found myself blocked by current events from roughly 2018, hence the switch of direction in Dead Lies Dreaming, which is the start of a separate ongoing series.

(British readers: you have not been forgotten! Over the years I've published a number of Laundry short stories and novellas in the USA via Tor.com. None of them have been released in the UK so far. However, once I write the last planned novella, there'll be enough for a full sized Laundry short story collection, which of course will show up in the UK in due course.)

Second up, due out on September 28th in both the US and UK, is Invisible Sun, the last book in the Empire Games trilogy (and the last novel in the Merchant Princes setting).

Invisible Sun was previously due out in January, and a lot of folks are asking me why their pre-order has been cancelled and bookstores are saying it's out of stock. This is mostly due to Amazon and/or other wholesaler databases: if a book is delayed by more than 6 months they cancel advance orders with no explanation, or show it as out of stock.

What happened was a perfect storm, for a book originally due for publication in 2017. First, my editor David Hartwell died suddenly and unexpectedly. David was the main impetus behind the entire Merchant Princes series, and he commissioned the new trilogy: his death not only deprived me of a friend but disrupted the project and threw Tor's entire editorial workflow into chaos for a while. Then, in 2017 my father became unwell and died (a week after his 93rd birthday). Work staggered on, and then in 2018 my mother had a series of strokes and ended up in a nursing facility: her health declined and she died in mid-2019 (a week after her 90th birthday). Losing your editor and both parents in the space of 3 years is not a productivity-enhancing experience, to put it mildly, and my mid-crisis attempts to get the capstone of a million-word saga to gel were not good. But I finally completed work on a fifth re-write of Invisible Sun and sent it to my agent for delivery ... in February 2020, just as COVID19 came along. COVID didn't actually kill anyone I was directly working with, but it disrupted my publishers—editorial are all working from home these days—and shut down their printers for a few months. Hence the delay.

But despite all the deaths, despair, and pandemic, Invisible Sun is now with the production department at Tor and it will arrive on September 28th, unless a dinosaur-killer asteroid gets us first. (And it's the longest book in the series by quite a margin: I had a lot of plot threads to wrap up, and only a limited stockpile of nuclear weapons this time round!)

Third up—you weren't expecting this, were you?—I just delivered another novel! I don't normally talk about books before the publishing contract's signed, but as the paperwork is in the pipeline and the book is actually with an editor already, I think it's now safe to mention that In His House is the sequel to Dead Lies Dreaming. Barely a week has passed since the end of the previous story before Eve learns that her plan to sideline Rupert might not have worked as intended: meanwhile, on the other side of London, the nefarious Thieftaker-General is preparing to bid for a government contract, the Banks children are about to meet their new nanny, and Wendy Deere has been asked to investigate why human DNA traces are showing up in the butcher counter produce of a supermarket. All these plot strands converge in the dungeons under a castle in the Channel Islands, where Rupert's plan to summon a blood drenched horror is about to bear strange fruit ...

Due to COVID-related disruption and the need to coordinate both my British and American publishers, I can't give you a publication date for In His House. It might show up very late this year, or it might be delayed until some time in 2022: I don't know, but I'll update you when I have something concrete to report.

In the meantime I'm pushing on with Bones and Nightmares, the third book in the sequence, although I might get diverted onto other projects by editorial request (possibilities: that last Laundry novella, the long-overdue space opera, or even the last Bob novel). Watch this space.

Time for a thought experiment! (For those of us who don't want to keep chewing on the sore that is the US presidential succession—if you do, please stick to this already-existing discussion: cross-contamination into this new discussion will be dealt with harshly.)

We all know by now that Elon Musk wants to appoint himself Pope-Emperor of Mars. As the world's richest man (currently, and only on paper—it's based on the Tesla share valuation, which is wildly inflated) and as the guy with the private space program that scooped 50% of the planetary civil launch market in the past decade, it's not entirely inconceivable. Evidently SpaceX hope to fly Starship to orbit in the next 1-2 years and land a Starship on Mars within this decade. Let's suppose it happens.

So then ...

Serious question, for discussion.

After the events of January 6th, I currently expect the inauguration to happen on January 20th, although there will be death threats against both the incoming president and vice-president. How seriously they're taken by the US Secret Service, FBI, and other relevant security agencies is going to be telling: we know that white supremacists have pursued a policy of entryism in police and military forces for decades now (globally, not just in the USA), and although a palace coup by the Praetorian Secret Service seems vanishingly unlikely, there may be conspiracies from within the state apparat of repression.

It's fairly obvious that the new administration will go after the rioters/putsch plotters/lynch mob. It's possible there'll be a criminal investigation of elements of the Trump administration: all those high-level resignations on the 7th suggest that something very illegal was going on, in relation to the storming of the Capitol. Possibly enough to justify the prosecution of a former president, if there is a smoking gun to be found ...

And it also looks as if the Republican party have lost their grip on the executive and congressional branches of government (but not yet on the judiciary), and are beginning to wake up to the moral hazard of farming baby alligators in their bathtub: the promise of croc-skin shoes is all very well, but when the alligator grows up and gets loose in your house, you have a problem on your hand.

Are the Trumpists going to split and form a new party? Or are the Republicans going to split, many of them deserting to the Democrat coalition, and leave the rump party to the neo-Nazis? Or something else?

I'm in a holding pattern on the blog just now because I'm frantically busy with end-of-year work: publisher production departments like to clear their desks before the office shuts down for a fortnight, and they expect to come back to a full in-tray on January 4th, and of course authors don't have families or friends to socialize with, so why not share the joy of a tight deadline copy edit check with your loved ones this festive season?

That's not actually what I'm working on right now, but I am actually working way more than usual, and as a result I hope to have good news to share with you early in the new year.

As for the blog?

I ought to blog about either an update on my COVID19 forecast, or an update on my Brexit forecast, but those are basically boring and disgusting and demoralizing and would take precious brain cells away from bringing you the next book, so naaah. If you feel like updating me with your predictions for 2021 in the comments below, though, go right ahead.

Finally, I have one thought to leave you with. Apparently the Washington Post ran a write-in competition for the best summary of 2020, and the winner (a nine year old from the mid-west) came up with this totally accurate description: "2020 was like taking care to look both ways before you cross the road, and then being hit by a submarine."

Happy solstice!

Today is December 6th. The UK left the EU most of a year ago, but a transition agreement is in effect; it expires on December 31st, and negotiations between the British government and the EU appear to be on the rocks.

How did we get here and where are we going?

I've been head-down in the guts of a novel this month, hence lack of blogging: purely by coincidence, I'm working on the next-but-one sequel to Dead Lies Dreaming.

Which reminds me that Dead Lies Dreaming came out nearly a month ago, and some of you probably have read it and have questions!

So feel free to ask me anything about the book in the comments below.

(Be warned that (a) there will probably be spoilers, and (b) I will probably not answer questions that would supply spoilers for the next books in the ongoing project.)

This is your official thread for discussing the upcoming US presidential and congressional election on November 3rd; along with its possible outcomes.

Do not chat about the US supreme court, congress, presidency, constitution, constitutional crises (possible), coup (possible), Donald Trump and his hellspawn offspring and associates, or anything about US politics in general on the Laundry Files book launch threads. If you do, your comments will be ruthlessly moderated into oblivion.

You are allowed and encouraged to discuss those topics in the comments below this topic.

(If you want to discuss "Dead Lies Dreaming" here I won't stop you, but there's plenty of other places for that!)

As you know by now, my next novel, Dead Lies Dreaming comes out next week—on Tuesday the 27th in the US and Thursday 29th in the UK, because I've got different publishers in different territories).

Signed copies can be ordered from Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh via the Hive online mail order service.

(You can also order it via Big River co and all good bookshops, but they don't stock signed copies: Link to Amazon US: Link to Amazon UK. Ebooks are available too, and I gather the audiobook—again, there's a different version in the US, from Audible, and the UK, from Hachette Digital—should be released at the same time.)

COVID-19 has put a brake on any plans I might have had to promote the book in public, but I'm doing a number of webcast events over the next few weeks. Here are the highlights:

Outpost 2020 is a virtual SF convention taking place from Friday 23rd (tomorrow!) to Sunday 25th. I'm on a discussion panel on Saturday 24th at 4pm (UK time), on the subject of "Reborn from the Apocalypse": Both history and current events teach that a Biblical-proportioned apocalypse is not necessarily confined to the realms of fiction. How can we reinvent ourselves, and more importantly, will we?. (Panelists: Charlie Stross, Gabriel Partida, David D. Perlmutter. Moderator: Mike Fatum.)

Orbit Live! As part of a series of Crowdcast events, at 8pm GMT on Thursday 27th RJ Barker is going to host myself and Luke Arnold in conversation about our new books: sign up for the crowdcast here.

Reddit AmA: No book launch is complete these days without an Ask me Anything on Reddit, which in my case is booked for Tuesday 3rd, starting at 5pm, UK time (9am on the US west coast, give or take an hour—the clocks change this weekend in the UK but I'm not sure when the US catches up).

The N├╝rnberg Digital Festival is a community driven Festival with about 20.000 attendees in Nuremberg, to discuss the future, change and everything that comes with it. Obviously this year it's an extra-digital (i.e. online-only) festival, which has the silver lining of enabling the organizers to invite guests to connect from a long way away. Which is why I'm doing an interview/keynote on Monday November 9th at 5pm (UK time). You can find out more about the Festival here (as well as buying tickets for any or all days' events). It's titled "Are we in dystopian times?" which seems to be an ongoing theme of most of the events I'm being invited to these days, and probably gives you some idea of what my answer is likely to be ...

Anyway, that's all for now: I'll add to this post if new events show up.

I've been writing Laundry Files stories since 1999, and there's now about 1.4 million words in that universe. That's a lot of stuff: a typical novel these days is 100,000 words, but these books trend long, and this count includes 11 novels (of which, #10 comes out later this month) and some shorter work. It occurs to me that while some of you have been following them from the beginning, a lot of people come to them cold in the shape of one story or another.

So below the fold I'm going to explain the Laundry Files time line, the various sub-series that share the setting, and give a running order for the series—including short stories as well as novels.

(The series title, "The Laundry Files", was pinned on me by editorial fiat at a previous publisher whose policy was that any group of 3 or more connected novels had to have a common name. It wasn't my idea: my editor at the time also published Jim Butcher, and Bob—my sole protagonist at that point in the series—worked for an organization disparagingly nicknamed "the Laundry", so the inevitable happened. Using a singular series title gives the impression that it has a singular theme, which would be like calling Terry Pratchett's Discworld books as "the Unseen University series". Anyway ...)

Entanglements Cover.jpg

Many thanks to Charlie for giving me the chance to write about editing and my latest project. I'm very excited about the publication of Entanglements. The book has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and terrific reviews in Lightspeed, Science, and the Financial Times. MIT Press has created a very nice "Pubpub" page about Entanglements, with information about the book and its various contributors. The "On the Stories" section has an essay about by Nick Wolven about his amazing story, "Sparkly Bits," and a fun Zoom conversation with James Patrick Kelly, Nancy Kress, and Sam J. Miller. I think the site is well worth checking out, and here's the Pubpub description of the book:

A young editor once asked me what was the biggest secret to editing a fiction magazine. My answer was "confidence." I have to be confident that the stories I choose will fit together, that people will read them and enjoy them, and most importantly, that each month I'll receive enough publishable material to fill the pages of the magazine.

It's been ages since I last hosted a guest blogger here, but today I'd like to introduce you to Sheila Williams, who will be talking about her work next week.

Normally my gues bloggers are other SF/F authors, but Sheila is something different: she's the multiple Hugo-Award winning editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Sheila started at Asimov's in June 1982 as the editorial assistant. Over the years, she was promoted to a number of different editorial positions at the magazine and she also served as the executive editor of Analog from 1998 until 2004. With Rick Wilber, she is also the co-founder of the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. This annual award has been bestowed on the best short story by an undergraduate student at the International Conference on the Fantastic since 1994.

In addition, Sheila is the editor or co-editor of twenty-six anthologies. Her newest anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow's Lovers, Families, and Friends, is the 2020 volume of the Twelve Tomorrow series. The book is just out from MIT Press.

Dead Lies Dreaming - UK cover

Today is September 27th, 2020. On October 27th, Dead Lies Dreaming will be published in the USA and Canada: the British edition drops on October 29th. (Yes, there will be audio editions too, via the usual outlets.)

This book is being marketed as the tenth Laundry Files novel. That's not exactly true, though it's not entirely wrong, either: the tenth Laundry book, about the continuing tribulations of Bob Howard and his co-workers, hasn't been written yet. (Bob is a civil servant who by implication deals with political movers and shakers, and politics has turned so batshit crazy in the past three years that I just can't go there right now.)

There is a novella about Bob coming next summer. It's titled Escape from Puroland and Tor.com will be publishing it as an ebook and hardcover in the USA. (No UK publication is scheduled as yet, but we're working on it.) I've got one more novella planned, about Derek the DM, and then either one or two final books: I'm not certain how many it will take to wrap the main story arc yet, but rest assured that the tale of SOE's Q-Division, the Laundry, reaches its conclusion some time in 2015. Also rest assured that at least one of our protagonists survives ... as does the New Management.

All Glory to the Black Pharaoh! Long may he rule over this spectred isle!

(But what's this book about?)

Global viral pandemics, insane right-wing dictator-wannabes trying to set fire to the planet, and climate change aside, I'm officially declaring 2020 to be the Year of the Conspiracy Theory.

This was the year when QAnon, a frankly puerile rehashing of antisemitic conspiracy theories going back to the infamous Tsarist secret police fabrication The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, went viral: its true number of followers is unclear but in the tens of thousands, and they've begun showing up in US politics as Republican candidates capable of displacing the merely crazy, such as Tea Partiers, who at least were identifiably a political movement (backed by Koch brothers lobbying money).

Nothing about the toxic farrago of memes stewing in the Qanon midden should come as a surprise to anyone who read the Illuminatus! trilogy back in the 1970s, except possibly the fact that this craziness has leached into mainstream politics. But I think it's worrying indicative of the way our post-1995, internet-enabled media environment is messing with the collective subconscious: conspiratorial thinking is now mainstream.

Anyway. When life hands you lemons its time to make lemonade. How could I (if I had more energy and fewer plans) monetize this trend, without sacrificing my dignity, sanity, and sense of integrity along the way?

I'm calling it time for the revival of the big fat 1960s-1980s cold war spy/conspiracy thriller. A doozy of a plot downloaded itself into my head yesterday, and I have neither the time nor the marketing stance to write it, so here it is. (Marketing: I'm positioned as an SF author, not a thriller/mens adventure author, so I'd be selling to a different editorial and marketing department and the book advances for starting out again wouldn't be great.)




  • Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed

Recent Comments

  • Elderly Cynic on Central Banking on Mars!: That's probably what that idiot is thinking about. But the distances in the Bozo scheme are much lo...
  • Bill Arnold on Central Banking on Mars!: When I was a wee thing my mother had an ancient Singer sewing machine. Originally hand-cranked, some...
  • Bill Arnold on Central Banking on Mars!: Know what we did there? Suck a whole lot of Potentiality out of certain things. Why? It drives me up...
  • Elderly Cynic on Central Banking on Mars!: I hadn't noticed that it was starting there :-) But a line of nearly constant latitude from north A...
  • Paul on Central Banking on Mars!: E C @ 1422 You mean like this one? https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/faroe-islands-underwater-...
  • Niala on Central Banking on Mars!: Allen Thomson @1433: "To shorten the route from Central America to India?" No, there were no French...
  • Allen Thomson on Central Banking on Mars!: Which is precisely why the Suez canal was built in the first place! To shorten the route from Centr...
  • Elderly Cynic on Central Banking on Mars!: Which is precisely why the Suez canal was built in the first place!...
  • Allen Thomson on Central Banking on Mars!: I'd have expected it to drop south round the Cape instead. A quick check on Google Earth indicates ...
  • Allen Thomson on Central Banking on Mars!: So I'd not totally rule out your ship passing Malta on its way to India Yes, that would make sense....

Search this blog