This is a guest post by filmmaker, author, entrepreneur, and now Virtual Reality developer Hugh Hancock.

Virtual Reality's here. Woo. Yay. More tech toys.

The UK just voted to leave the EU. Trump's in line for the White House. Climate change is making its effects felt. Automation's really starting to bite. A lot of very smart people are starting to get very worried about AI.

So why exactly should you care about a bunch of nerds strapping really expensive phone housings to their face?

Well, I recently dropped a 20-year film career to go full-time into VR - specifically room-scale VR, the kind where you walk around and flail about. I've spent the last 2-3 months completely immersed in it, for full-on 80-hour-week crunch values of "fully immersed", developing Left-Hand Path, a Dark Souls-inspired room-scale VR RPG.

There's a reason for that. I've been doing the "futuristic tech" thing for a while and I've been involved in massive, super-exciting technology shifts before. I founded a rather successful dotcom during the first dotcom era, for example.

This feels as exciting. I'm pretty sure that ignoring VR right now looks a lot like ignoring that "Interweb" thing circa 1996. It's going to change the world.

And here's the important bit: it gives us a whole load of reasons to hope that it'll change it for the better.

Nightmare Stacks

"The Nightmare Stacks" (book 7 of the Laundry Files) comes out tomorrow in the United States. And in a classic example of the universe trying to obsolete my stories before publication, the UK went into total political, diplomatic, and financial meltdown last Friday. (There's a meltdown of similar proportions in the novel, but it's triggered by a much more fixable cause than a referendum-gone-wrong, namely an alien invasion.) So I guess that means "The Nightmare Stacks" is now lightweight escapism rather than a horrible threat!

Anyway, I'll be reading from and signing copies of "The Nightmare Stacks" in Powell's City of Books in Portland this Thursday evening. If you're not local, you can order copies here. (And if you don't need them signed, Amazon have the hardcover here or the Kindle ebook here.

So, I have some preliminary winners to announce!

If you're the author of one of the entries listed below the fold, please drop me an email with your real-world name and a postal address where you can receive a package?

No Laundry operatives will turn up on your doorstep with an arrest warrant, honest.

(Update: I am still waiting to hear from: Martin, Phil, and ecotax. And would appreciate it if Thomas Jorgensen would also get in touch.)

Contrary to popular belief, the UK does have a written constitution—it's just scattered across roughly 25 different pieces of legislation, subject to amendment on the fly whenever Parliament damn well pleases.

And since devolution came in, more than one parliament has to be convinced to amend the constitutional framework before it can be changed.

It is becoming apparent that The Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly may have veto power over BRexit per the House of Lords European Union Committee (11th Report of Session 2015-16,
"The process of withdrawing from the European Union"). See paras 70-71, "The role of the devolved legislatures in implementing the withdrawal agreement" -- section 29 of the Scotland Act 1998 binds the Scottish Parliament to act in a manner compatible with EU law, and Scottish parliamentary consent would be required to amend this. (A similar provision underpins the devolution settlements of Wales—which voted for Brexit—and Northern Ireland—which voted against it.)

So we have a royal mess coming down the pipeline.

Okay, so the idiots did it; they broke the UK.

This is a book launch month and I should really be blogging about "The Nightmare Stacks" but British politics has just entered a nightmarish alignment and we're in CASE NIGHTMARE TWEED territory. So book-related business as usual will resume tomorrow, after I've vented.

Annihilation Score

So, while this week sees the first publication of "The Nightmare Stacks", it also sees the paperback publication (on both sides of the Atlantic!) of "The Annihilation Score". And as is my custom these days, I figure it's time to post a brief essay about the novel. Keep reading below the fold if you dare; here be spoilers!

This week I'm doing appearances in the UK to launch The Nightmare Stacks—and can I take this opportunity to plug my local Edinburgh SF specialist bookstore, Transreal Fiction, who can supply signed copies of my work all year round?—but on June 27th I'm off to the USA for a few weeks in Portland and the Bay Area.

Crate of hardcovers

Here's what I'm getting up to:

Montage of Daily Express covers

British people don't like to talk about racism, much less admit that their fellow Brits—much less they, themselves—are racists. It's far too easy to point to other bad examples in foreign lands, from Jim Crow and segregation in the Deep South to men with Hugo Boss uniforms and gas chambers in the Nazi Reich. But racism is a thing in the UK, with deep-running currents that occasionally bubble to the surface. And right now we're getting a most unwelcome but richly deserved reminder of what it's about.

(Text below the cut contains strong language)

Just a quick reminder: the UK Laundry Files competition from last month is closing next Tuesday! If you want to enter for the chance to win some free swag, you've got about four days and some hours left.

Note that announcing the winners may take a few days—I'm going to be in London next week (List of events here) and there are a lot of entries to sort through!

And in other news: audiobooks of THE RHESUS CHART and THE ANNIHILATION SCORE are now available in the UK from the usual sources. (Just don't ask me about THE FULLER MEMORANDUM and THE APOCALYPSE CODEX: they fell through the cracks a few years ago, dammit.)

A stack of US hardcover copies

So "The Nightmare Stacks" is just 11 days away in the UK (and 18 in the USA) and my UK publisher, Orbit, have kindly posted an extract from the first chapter:

A vampire is haunting Whitby; it's traditional.

It's an hour after dusk on a Saturday evening four weeks before the spring gothic festival. Alex the Vampire strolls along the sea front, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his tweed jacket. There's a chill breeze blowing onshore, and he has the pavement to himself as he walks, eyes downcast and chin tucked into his chest, lost in thought. What profound insight does the creature of the night contemplate as he paces along the North Promenade beside the beach, opposite a row of moonlit houses? What ancient wisdom, what hideous secrets haunt the conscience of the undying?

Let's take a look inside his head ...

Carry on reading "The Nightmare Stacks"

In case you were wondering where to buy it, here are some handy links:

[US Hardcover via Amazon] [US Kindle store] [All formats via Barnes and Noble]

[UK Hardcover via Amazon] [UK/EU Kindle store] [Via Waterstones]

There's an old saying that only two things are unavoidable: death and taxes. I think this is wrong—the two unavoidable things are politics, and it's seldom-admitted offspring, bureaucracy. (Their Titan) parent is of course economics.)

Politics: you may not like it but you can't ignore it because whenever two or more people have ideas about how to do something requiring the participation of two or more people there's going to be an argument about how to do it. Bureaucracy: because once the argument is settled you need to coordinate the tasks, and once your community exceeds Dunbar's number you need to develop mechanisms for managing work and social relationships between people who don't know each other.

It's fairly obvious that technology affects the implementation details of politics and bureaucracy (and there's feedback involved too, via market regulators and command economies). And there are scale issues too. Back in the 1670s and 1680s century when Samuel Pepys served as Secretary for the Admiralty, administration for the Royal Navy ran on a handful of staff and relied on disbursement of funds—in cash—to ships' captains to see to their maintenance and the pay of their sailors. Today it's hard to imagine a modern defense ministry running on cash-in-hand: even Da'esh have accountants and an org chart. But the ability to run a modern bureaucratic defense procurement and supply organization is required due to the capital-intensive nature of modern warfare (you try buying an Aircraft Carrier with cash) and relies in turn on availability of modern tools: not just computers, but accounting procedures, project management, quality assurance, process control, and a host of other specialities that simply didn't exist back in the age of sail. On the other hand, back in the 17th century ships and squadrons might be commanded by officers weeks or months from the nearest political point of control and operating on the basis of orders which, although obsolete, had not been countermanded (and it wasn't just at sea: for example, the Battle of New Orleans took place in 1815, weeks after the treaty ending hostilities had been signed).

So. Taking the space cadets seriously for once ...

What are the political problems that would arise from the extension of an Earth-based political framework to governance of off-world space colonies? And what kind of bureaucratic mechanisms might be developed to deal with the arising issues?

A crate of Nightmare Stacks

We interrupt this blog to bring you a news flash: somewhere in Scotland, an author just got home from a trip (hence the recent quiet) to discover a crate on his doorstep! A crate of nightmares! Grimoires bound in lurid magenta-on-black sleeves, pulsing and squirming to escape into the wild!

(The American edition is somewhat more discreet, and is probably a week behind.)

Publishers always ship authors a box of books right before publication. It's evidence that the thing has been printed and over the next few days cartons like this will be winging their way to warehouses, distribution hubs, and the stock rooms of bookstores who have pre-ordered it. It's not due to go on sale until June 23rd in the UK, and the 28th in the USA, but it takes a couple of weeks to filter through the supply chain so that stock is on hand everywhere.

I'm going to be in London on the 22nd, where Professor Ed James will be interviewing me on behalf of the British Science Fiction Association from 6pm; all are welcome. (Hopefully there'll be video of the event afterwards.)

The next day (the 23rd) I'm doing a launch/signing at the Forbidden Planet London Megastore at 6pm! Again, all are welcome, and FP are taking pre-orders (via that link).

And on Friday 24th I'm doing a reading and signing at Blackwell's Bookshop in Edinburgh from 6:30pm!

(These bookshops—and Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh—will have some signed copies for sale afterwards as well; they're generally happy to sell via mail order.)

The following week I am off to the west coast of the USA, for a number of events starting with the launch of the US edition, which comes out five days later (because supply chain reasons). I'll put up a separate itinerary on the blog in due course.

(I'm back from Balticon and blogging again. Sorry about the hiatus!)

If you're a regular on this blog you're probably more than a little familiar with the Rapture of the Nerds (as Ken Macleod calls it)—the particular variety of eschatological singularity initially proposed by Russian Orthodox theologian Nikolai Federovitch Federov and championed more recently by Raymond Kurzweil that posits that the great destiny-determining task of humanity is not space colonization, or achieving immortality, but the "great task", The Religion of Resusciative Resurrection. In Federov's view it's our duty not only to transcend human limits but to strive to bring about the resurrection of everyone who has ever lived, or who might have lived.

You're probably also familiar with the Simulation Argument, originally proposed by philosopher Nick Bostrom and most recently discussed in public by Elon Musk; that in a future-unbounded cosmos there can only be one first time for everything, including intelligence, but subsequently any number of intelligent civilizations might want to introspect about their origins by running simulations of their predecessors, and so we are almost certainly trapped inside a giant game of Minecraft.

The Nightmare Stacks

There are only 30 days to go until the UK release of The Nightmare Stacks, and to celebrate, my UK publisher Orbit are giving one lucky and inventive reader the chance to win a Laundry Files pack, including signed copies of The Nightmare Stacks, plus a Magic Circle of Safety mug and a Laundry Files tshirt. All you have to do is come up with your own Laundry Files gadget, app, or piece of tech - for good or evil. Give us a name, a classification and a brief explanation of how it works/what it does.

Five runners up will win a signed copy of The Nightmare Stacks.

Here are some examples of gadgets you might run into, or might run into you, if you work for the Laundry. (Terms and conditions apply: continued below the fold.)

Just a warning: the blog (and this server) will be offline for about ten minutes between the hours of 5am and 8am on Thursday the 19th (tomorrow)—that's 1am to 4am Eastern Seaboard Time—while technicians hook it up to a new power distribution board in the data center.

Hopefully this will go without a hitch. In event of hitches, yr. hmbl. crspndnt. will shoot trouble when he's out of bed.

Comments on the blog will be disabled until the server is up and tested tomorrow morning (so I can take a clean database backup without worrying about missing stuff, Just In Case things don't go smoothly).

Update: comments are now back

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