Hi! This week, for a change, I'm handing over the soapbox to a new guest blogger—one who's been publishing books almost since I was in high school: Judith Tarr.

Her first fantasy novel, The Isle of Glass, appeared in 1985, and went on to win the Crawford Award. Her space opera, Forgotten Suns, has just been published by Book view Café. In between, she has written historicals and historical fantasies--including World Fantasy Award nominee Lord of the Two Lands—and epic fantasies, some of which have been reborn as ebooks from Book View Café. A short story, "Fool's Errand," a prequel to Forgotten Suns, appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of Analog. She lives in Arizona with three cats, two dogs, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.

OK, here's an idle thought (and a question) for you ...

A couple of weeks ago at the British Eastercon I found myself on a panel discussion about vampires. (Hey, I've been trying to get the hell away from being Mr Singularity Guy for years now; what's your problem?)

Anyway, there I was sitting with Freda Warrington and Jim Butcher, and our moderator opens up by asking, "what makes vampires sexy?"

And I suddenly realized I had come to the right place for an argument. Because ...

Vampires are not sexy. At least, not in the real world.

So IO9 ran a piece by George Dvorsky on ways we could wreck the solar system. And then Anders Sandberg responded in depth on the subject of existential risks, asking what conceivable threats have big enough spatial reach to threaten an interplanetary or star-faring civilization.

This, as you know, is basically catnip for a certain species of SF author. And while I've been trying to detox in recent years, the temptation to fall off the wagon is overwhelming.

(Warning: some links lead to to triggery ranting. As James D. Nicoll warns: "memetic prophylactic recommended".)

By now, everybody who cares knows that the nominations for the 2015 Hugo Awards reflect the preferences of a bloc-voting slate with an agenda—and their culture wars allies. But, interestingly, a new Hugo-related record has been set: for a Finnish publisher few people have ever heard of is responsible for no fewer than nine nominated works.

The Clean Reader debacle got me fucking thinking.

I am fundamentally opposed to blue-nosed bowdlerizing gobshites, puritanical prudes, and nattering slobberdonkeys who advocate censorship. And piss on you if you want to conscript my books into fighting your culture war.

And it seems to me that there's too little goddamn swearing in the world. Hell, even in my books.

So I am pleased to announce that I have negotiated an exclusive ebook distribution deal for all of my titles. Henceforth my titles will only be available for purchase through the new ebook reader app Dirty Reader:

dirty fucking reader, yeah!

Dirty Reader uses advanced NaughtyWords™ artificial intelligence technology to scan a corpus of text and detect the optimum location in which to insert a metric fuckton of cuntybollockspoofacefucknuggets to enliven your reading experience and bring it closer into line with the author's state of mind after spending 180 consecutive working days alone in the office except for a sullen, intermittently incontinent cat, wrestling with a buggy word processor while fending off dumb-ass editorial emails and bloody inane suggestions from Marketing. It's enough to drive anyone to drink, and indeed, "novelist" is right up there with "farmer" and "quality assurance engineer" in the alcohol consumption career stakes.

Dirty Reader debuts today, April the toad-felching first, 2015.

On Wednesday I'm heading off on the long road trek to Heathrow (what, you think I'd fly into that sucking vortex of despair?) for Dysprosium, the 66th British eastercon.

A piece of ebook-reader software called Clean Reader has been generating headlines and causing indignation among authors recently:

A new app that allows readers to swap swear words in their novels with sanitised versions is facing a backlash from furious authors, who have accused it of setting a dangerous precedent of censorship.The app, entitled Clean Reader, has been designed to take explicit words out of any book printed in electronic format - with or without permission from its author - to swap them with child-friendly versions.

(I'm not linking to Clean Reader directly—don't want to give them any free inbound Google mojo.)

The US (not UK, alas) ebook edition of "The Atrocity Archives", Laundry Files book 1, is on a special promotion. It's $1.99 for the rest of March! you can find the Amazon.com Kindle edition here, or the Barnes and Noble Nook edition here, Google Play store version here, and Apple iBooks store version here.

If you're reading this on my blog you're probably already aware of my Laundry Files series; in case you came here from elsewhere, "The Atrocity Archives" is book #1 in the sequence, and the latest novel, "The Annihilation Score" (book 6) comes out in the first week of July. In fact, I just finished checking the page proofs now, so it's heading back to the typesetter agency and then on to the printers next month ...

I've been quiet due to (a) recovering from delivering the hopefully-final draft of "Dark State" (the first book in the "Empire Games" trilogy, due from Tor next April), (b) visiting relatives, (c) having a nasty head-cold, and (d) having the page proofs of "The Annihilation Score" (July's Laundry Files novel) land on my desk. Normal service will, as they say, resume as soon as possible.

My current plan is to tackle the aforementioned page proofs, work on the next book, then head for Dysprosium, the British eastercon, over the Easter bank holiday weekend. And before I go I really ought to fit in time to catch up with the last Jim Butcher book that I haven't read yet, because he's one of the two guests of honour at Dysprosium and I'm on program to interview him. (If you've been reading the Laundry Files you might have noticed a tip of the hat in his general direction.)

Finally, here is an extremely dangerous toy (probably illegal in all sane jurisdictions).

Friendship is context-sensitive.

I wouldn't describe Terry as a friend, but as someone I'd been on a first-name acquaintanceship with since the mid-1980s. If you go to SF conventions (or partake of any subculture which has regular gatherings) you'll know the way it works: there are these people who don't really see outside of this particular social context, but you're never surprised to see them in it, and you know each other's names, and when you meet you chat about stuff and maybe sink a pint together.

I haven't seen Terry since the Glasgow worldcon in 2005. The diagnosis of his illness came in 2007; I'd been spending a chunk of 05-07 out of the country, and after the bad news hit I didn't feel like being part of the throng pestering him (for reasons I'll get to later on in this piece.)

Some of you may be aware that there's a tabletop role-playing game set in the Laundry Files universe, sold by Cubicle 7 Games.

It's available on paper, and as PDF downloads via the usual folks (such as DriveThruRPG).

Anyway, there's a special promo for the next couple of weeks; Bundle of Holding, who do humble bundle style sales of RPG materials, are doing a special Bundle of Laundry offer. For $8.95 or more, you get the core rule book and the player's handbook as PDFs; if you pay more than their median price (currently $24.32) you get a whole bunch of extra supplements—basically the entire RPG for under $25 (or about £16.50 in real money). Oh, and this stuff? Is all DRM-free.

So if you've had a vague yen to dust off a tabletop RPG for an evening's fun with friends, why not see if you, too, can survive your training as a Laundry operative without losing your mind?

I have a new book coming out in the first week of July: it's The Annihilation Score (UK ebook link), and here's the cover Orbit have done for the British edition!

Annihilation Score cover

And in case that's not enough, because it's published on both sides of the pond, here's the US ebook edition, and the American cover art:

Annihilation Score cover

If you detect a certain violin-theme running through both covers, you'd be perfectly right. Because this may be the sixth Laundry Files novel, but there's a new twist: this one isn't about Bob, it's about Mo. And superheroes. And a certain bone-white instrument ...

I am still suspended head-down in a vat of boiling edits. The deadline is next Friday, so don't expect normal blogging to resume before then.

(The book in question, "Dark State", is tentatively due out from Tor in April 2016—assuming I can hit that deadline.)

Harry Connolly posting again, while Charlie hammers away at his work.

I'll confess that I was startled when I saw Elizabeth Bear's earlier Obligatory Author Shilling post. Sadly, my first thought was "Is that even allowed?"

As in: Are we allowed to confidently tell readers about our books? Are we allowed to talk about our books as though they're good things that readers would enjoy, without a whole shitload of fancy footwork first?

What can I say? The Imposter Syndrome is strong with me. But I'm going to follow Bear's excellent example and write a straight up post about my new book, which drops today.

It's an urban fantasy called A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark and it's the last fiction stretch goal for my Kickstarter.

Here's the cover:

Key/Egg cover
Art and design by Duncan Eagleson

Readers familiar with my Twenty Palaces novels be warned: this isn't that. Key/Egg is a pacifist urban fantasy. In a genre where protagonists routinely behave as though they live in a lawless frontier where every problem must be solved with a bullet from an enchanted Glock, this is a book where problems are solved through diplomacy and trickery.

Also, in a genre filled with 20-something ass-kickers, the protagonist is a woman in her mid-sixties who's a cross between Auntie Mame and Gandalf. Why should older characters be constantly relegated to expository roles? Why not let them strut their stuff a little?

The story is set in modern-day Seattle, and involves one of those murders that Leads to a Larger Scheme. If you're a long time reader of James Nicoll's LiveJournal and you read to the end, you'll know why I thanked him in the acknowledgements.

Anyway, after the bleakness of the Twenty Palaces novels, I wanted something light and fun. This is it; a thriller without violence.

Check out some sample chapters here. Thanks.

Right now, I'm chewing over the final edits on a rather political book. And I think, as it's a near future setting, I should jot down some axioms about politics ...

  1. We're living in an era of increasing automation. And it's trivially clear that the adoption of automation privileges capital over labour (because capital can be substituted for labour, and the profit from its deployment thereby accrues to capital rather than being shared evenly across society).

  2. A side-effect of the rise of capital is the financialization of everything—capital flows towards profit centres and if there aren't enough of them profits accrue to whoever can invent some more (even if the products or the items they're guaranteed against are essentially imaginary: futures, derivatives, CDOs, student loans).

  3. Since the collapse of the USSR and the rise of post-Tiananmen China it has become glaringly obvious that capitalism does not require democracy. Or even benefit from it. Capitalism as a system may well work best in the absence of democracy.

  4. The iron law of bureaucracy states that for all organizations, most of their activity will be devoted to the perpetuation of the organization, not to the pursuit of its ostensible objective. (This emerges organically from the needs of the organization's employees.)

  5. Governments are organizations.

  6. We observe the increasing militarization of police forces and the priviliging of intelligence agencies all around the world. And in the media, a permanent drumbeat of fear, doubt and paranoia directed at "terrorists" (a paper tiger threat that kills fewer than 0.1% of the number who die in road traffic accidents).

  7. Money can buy you cooperation from people in government, even when it's not supposed to.

  8. The internet disintermediates supply chains.

  9. Political legitimacy in a democracy is a finite resource, so supplies are constrained.

  10. The purpose of democracy is to provide a formal mechanism for transfer of power without violence, when the faction in power has lost legitimacy.

  11. Our mechanisms for democratic power transfer date to the 18th century. They are inherently slower to respond to change than the internet and our contemporary news media.

  12. A side-effect of (7) is the financialization of government services (2).

  13. Security services are obeying the iron law of bureaucracy (4) when they metastasize, citing terrorism (6) as a justification for their expansion.

  14. The expansion of the security state is seen as desirable by the government not because of the terrorist threat (which is largely manufactured) but because of (11): the legitimacy of government (9) is becoming increasingly hard to assert in the context of (2), (12) is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but (3) means that the interests of the public (labour) are ignored by states increasingly dominated by capital (because of (1)) unless there's a threat of civil disorder. So states are tooling up for large-scale civil unrest.

  15. The term "failed state" carries a freight of implicit baggage: failed at what, exactly? The unspoken implication is, "failed to conform to the requirements of global capital" (not democracy—see (3)) by failing to adequately facilitate (2).

  16. I submit that a real failed state is one that does not serve the best interests of its citizens (insofar as those best interests do not lead to direct conflict with other states).

  17. In future, inter-state pressure may be brought to bear on states that fail to meet the criteria in (15) even when they are not failed states by the standard of point (16). See also: Greece.

  18. As human beings, our role in this picture is as units of Labour (unless we're eye-wateringly rich, and thereby rare).

  19. So, going by (17) and (18), we're on the receiving end of a war fought for control of our societies by opposing forces that are increasingly more powerful than we are.

Have a nice century!

Afternotes:

a) Student loans are loans against an imaginary product—something that may or may not exist inside someone's head and which may or may not enable them to accumulate more capital if they are able to use it in the expected manner and it remains useful for a 20-30 year period. I have a CS degree from 1990. It's about as much use as an aerospace engineering degree from 1927 ...

b) Some folks (especially Americans) seem to think that their AR-15s are a guarantor that they can resist tyranny. But guns are an 18th century response to 18th century threats to democracy. Capital doesn't need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don't plead guilty.

c) (sethg reminded me of this): A very important piece of the puzzle is that while capital can move freely between the developed and underdeveloped world, labour cannot. So capital migrates to seek the cheapest labour, thereby reaping greater profits. Remember this next time you hear someone complaining about "immigrants coming here and taking our jobs". Or go google for "investors visa" if you can cope with a sudden attack of rage.

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