Hi: I'm back. And a regular commenter asked me an interesting question anent the state of current US/UK politics: how much money can you make by crying fire in a crowded theatre?

Note that "crowded theatre" and "crying fire" are not to be taken literally; rather, it's a question about how much money you can make by manipulating social media to drive public opinion.

I am off to Dortmund is a bit over than 12 hours.

Meanwhile, "Dark State" is coming soooooon ... click on the cover below to read an excerpt:

(You can now pre-order the US hardback and the UK trade paperback.)

Sorry about the quiet around here. I'm stuck dealing with a couple of parallel deadlines, and I'm about to take a week out for U-Con in Dortmund, the Eurocon (next weekend).

Meanwhile the UK has just gone through another surreal eruption of politics—and it's too early to say that it's over.

The Nightmare Stacks has been reissued in paperback in the UK and as a lower cost ebook in the USA, and The Delirium Brief is nearly upon us, so it's about time for me to write my usual crib sheet essay about the seventh Laundry Files novel!

It should be fairly obvious by now that, although initially the stories were set in the same year as publication, the Laundry universe has now dropped behind the real world calendar and diverged drastically from our own history. "The Annihilation Score" was set during the summer of 2013, in a UK suffering from a surplus of superheroes (or at least extradimensional brain-eater afflicted humans experiencing outbreaks of eldritch powers before their heads exploded: some of whom assumed that donning skin tight lycra and committing vigilante crimes was a sensible reaction to being parasitized). It reached a conclusive and grisly climax in the massacre at the Last Night of the Proms, an annual British cultural event; a horrible event the true nature of which was, nevertheless, suppressed and presented to the public as a terrorist incident not unlike the Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002. At the end of "The Annihilation Score" the Laundry's cordon of secrecy was in tatters but plausible deniability had been maintained—barely.

"The Nightmare Stacks" takes place in March-May 2014, and is the story of how the continually escallating threats faced by the Laundry finally overcame the agency's ability to suppress and contain incursions without public notice, and is the first half of a two-book pivot point in the series (the ongoing consequences of the disaster in Leeds continue to the inevitable conclusion in "The Delirium Brief"); it's the beginning of the tumble over the cliff-edge leading down to the Lovecraftian Singularity.

And we have a new narrative viewpoint, and sundry new protagonists showing up.

"Maaaartin...?" begins one of Kurtzhau's friends.

I've just stuck my head around the door to offer refreshments to the gang of 13-year olds currently camping out around my son's wargame table.

"Remember that time the doorbell rang and there was nobody there...?"

 "Um," I say, yes remembering but also, cringing. Oh shit. I'd forgotten that.

When that doorbell rang, I was in the middle of writing a fight scene for The Wreck of the Marissa. It's first person, and the main character is a foul-mouthed former mercenary NCO I vaguely imagine played by Daniel Craig.

You ever seen that experiment where you get somebody who swears they never dream and you wake them up from REM sleep?

And they say something like, "But the giant chickens are genuflecting"?



I'm thinking of writing something set in the mid-21st century and asked Charlie if he had any good resources for futurism on a ~30 year time scale. And lo and behold, a guest post appeared.

Now, I'm not much of a futurist, or really any kind of futurist in the formal sense. But I like to think I can see where things might be going, so here's a brief rundown of what I'm anticipating we'll see by mid-century.

Hi! Charlie here. I'm about to hit the road for ten days (I'm one of the guests at Italcon next week). And while I'm away, I'm handing over the blogging podium to a new guest blogger: April Daniels, author of Dreadnought (and, forthcoming, Sovereign).

April Daniels graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature, and then promptly lost her job during the 2008 stock crash and recession. After she recovered from homelessness, she completed her first manuscript by scribbling a few sentences at a time between calls while working in the customer support department for a well-known video game console.

She has a number of hobbies, most of which are boring and predictable. As nostalgia for the 1990s comes into its full bloom, she has become ever more convinced that she was born two or three years too late and missed all the good stuff the first time around.

Early in her writing practice, April set her narrative defaults to “lots of lesbians” and never looked back.

Dear Mr Stross

I'd like to apologize in advance, but after consulting with my colleagues in other departments at Reality Publishing Corporation, I'm afraid we can't publish your book, "Zero Day: The story of MS17-010", as things stand. However, I'd like to add that it was a gripping read, very well written, and we hope to see more from you in future!

Because the plot of your yarn is highly technical, we engaged a specialist external reader to evaluate it. And they had some unfortunate words to say on the subject of plausibility. I attach the reader's report, in the hope that you might consider amending your manuscript accordingly.


E. S. Blofeld, Editorial Director

Today, and for the next two weeks, those of you lucky enough to live in North America (not the UK/EU/rest of world: sorry) can buy the ebook edition of The Atrocity Archives, the first book in the Laundry Files, for just $1.99!

Oh, and if you've been holding off buying the latest book in the series, the ebook price of The Nightmare Stacks has now dropped (to $7.99, from $9.99). It hasn't quite caught up in the UK, but the UK paperback of "The Nightmare Stacks" is due out next Thursday (and the ebook price should drop then).

(Note that Ace do not plan to publish "The Nightmare Stacks" in paperback in the US at this time. The midlist mass market paperback distribution channel in the US is imploding, as ebooks have cannibalized the market for disposable reading matter. (There might at some point be a trade paperback, but don't hold your breath.)

Finally, we're about two months away from the next Laundry Files novel, The Delirium Brief is due out in the USA on July 11th, and in the UK on July 6th.

So if you've been holding off on getting your teeth into the Laundry Files, now is the best time to stock up on summer reading!

^^^ Me again. M Harold Page. The writer with the swords and some books in print, rather than the one with the cats and a metric tonne of books in print (plus enough rockets that we really should get him that Tracy Island in which to keep them).

Did I say "swords"? 

Right now it's actually blasters because I'm wearing my Space Opera hat. 

Yes, despite all my books to date featuring many, many swordfights, I wrote a Space Opera. It's called "The Wreck of the Marissa (The Eternal Dome of the Unknowable #1)".

And yes, as you might guess from its title, it's at the other end of the spectrum from the transhuman wibbletech extrapolative futures that Charlie likes to explore. It's also not Military SF. Though there's fighting - the protagonist is a retired mercenary turned archaeologist - it's small scale stuff and the focus isn't on the regular army.

But what subgenre is it?

The same subgenre as EC Tubb's Dumarest books - hero wanders the galaxy in search of Earth - or Moon's Vatta's War - hero trades across the galaxy while coming to her family's rescue - or Firefly - oddball crew trade between worlds - or, of course, the venerable Traveller Roleplaying Game - I've been reviewing the new Mongoose Traveller over on Black Gate (*).

It's partly defined by vibe; hardboiled adventure in an imperfectly distributed future where there are more planets like Tatooine than Coruscant. However, it's also defined by protagonist(s) and scope; independent operators struggling to make a go of it in a hostile human universe with the antagonists capped at corporation or "house" level, with no Dark Lord, and no saving the galaxy.

You know exactly what I mean. It's the subgenre that that bears the same relation to Space Opera that Sword & Sorcery bears to Heroic Fantasy.

But it doesn't have a name! And though I'm half a century late to the game, I think we should call it "Star Punk".

Here's why.

So it's that time in the book production cycle again, and in the next couple of weeks "Empire Games" is going to be finalized for paperback release this autumn. Which means it's my last chance to hunt down and fix any typos/errata in the hardback/initial ebook release.

Got any typos in "Empire Games" (not any other books, thanks!) that you've been saving up? If so, please tell me what it is in a comment below. If it's a hardback, please identify the page and line number it occurs on. If you're using an ebook, cut-and-paste about a line of text that includes the error (so I can search for it). Thanks!

Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, has just announced her intention of calling a UK-wide general election to be held on June 8th. (She will have to bypass the 2011 Parliament Act, achieve a 2/3rds majority, or call a vote of no confidence in her own government in order to do it, but one way or the other, she can make it happen.)

Parliamentary boundary changes coming into effect in 2018 do not apply; this election will be carried out in existing constituencies rather than the downsized number due for a 2020 election.

May currently has a roughly 20% lead in opinion polls and faces disorganized opposition, except in Scotland (which, with roughly 10% of the total seats, can safely be ignored: she risks losing at most a single sitting MP north of the border—her only one).

Predictable side-effects would include the next UK general election scheduled by the Parliament Act (2011) being pushed back to June 2022, three years after the due date for the conclusion of Article 50 negotiations over UK departure from the EU (rather than 13 months after Brexit-date).

I have some speculations about the big picture and what's going on, but before I unleash it on the blog I want to see what the hive mind thinks.

(Previously, I intended to blog a blue-sky SFnal world-building question this week, but hey: politics just farted.)

Where are we going to be, a century from now?

Let's go back and chew on this old bone again--from a different angle.

Let me first eliminate from discussion a bunch of possible outcomes I'm not interested in examining. Total human extinction could happen in a variety of ways, ranging from wars over access to scarce resources (idiotic, but it's something humans have prior form for), to plagues, to the collapse of agricultural viability on a global scale due to climate change, sudden catastrophic collapse of unrecognized critical infrastrcture (e.g. the single factory in Bangladesh that makes the cheap quantum computer chips everyone uses to get around the central planning problem is taken out by a Cat-6 Typhoon: this causes a cascading loss of efficiency in global supply chains, leading to ...) to an asteroid mining operation gone horribly wrong. But scenarios in which everyone is dead are not currently interesting to me, as a fiction writer.

Let's also ignore transport technology, Mars colonization, climate change, the shift to non-carbon energy sources and distribution, how the hell the west will survive the shift to robotic labour (I'm assuming that by 2117 we'll have robots that can make a good stab at changing the bed linen, which is just about the acme of low-paid but algorithmically intractable jobs right now). I mean, if we're currently hearing billionaires discussing the merits of a universal basic income system, I think that tells us where the SS Titans of Capitalism is trying to steer to avoid the iceberg ...

What new fun things can I project that are both plausible, likely, and didn't feature in my earlier prognostication set a century out?

So I've been busy lately.

After lying on my back panting for a few days (the usual follow-up to finishing a new novel in first draft) I'm now making plans for the rewrite, because no novel is ever publishable in its initial form, and there are things I need to sort out before it goes anywhere near an editor. (Notably: I started out with over-ambitious plans for a funky structure that proved unworkable, so now I need to go back and un-kink everything so that the story flows smoothly on its own terms—which it will, because I think I got the rest of it right.) So I'm about to dive back down the rabbit hole of Ghost Engine to try and produce a final draft by the end of the month.

And while this was going on, other stuff happened that's going to distract me from blogging for a while.




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