Charlie's Diary

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Fri, 13 Jun 2003

Scribble, scribble ...

I am informed, via my agent, that my editor at Ace likes "The Iron Sunrise" enough that the cheque is in the post. And if all goes well, it should emerge in hardcover from Ace in July or August 2004, around the time that "Singularity Sky" (to which it is the sequel) hits the shelves in paperback.

It's the first sequel I've sold, the first time I've completed on a multi-book contract, and the first time I've sold more than one book to the same editor. If this goes on I could even get to make a habit of it ...

I'd like to add, lest this sound overly self-congratulatory, that I was extremely worried about this book to the point where, at one stage, I asked if I could have a couple of months extension on the deadline -- I didn't need it, as things turned out, and handed it in two weeks ahead of the due date, but it's a sign of how uncertain I was that I'd gotten it right. Part of my problem was that I wrote the first half of it in 1998 ... and when I picked it up again in 2002, that material was simply not up to scratch. Another part was that I had to lever open the world I'd invented for the first novel and make it bigger and more interestingly intricate, without contradicting myself. And the third part? I've discovered a horrible truth: writing novels is so similar (as a subjective experience, for me) to writing software that I tend to suffer from Second System Effect.

Second System Effect is a term coined by Ted Brooks of IBM back in the 1960's to explain why even-numbered versions of software universally suck. Ted was project lead on OS/360, IBM's first interactive timesharing mainframe operating system. The first release worked, did the job, and was generally cool (for its day). But the second release went off the rails. It came out overdue, bloated, bug-ridden, slow, and prone to all sorts of disastrous hiccups. Brooks analysed the failures of the project in his book, "The Mythical Man-Month", which I would quote at length here except that some kind soul has borrowed my copy and not returned it. His point isn't that hard to summarize, though. Bluntly: if you succeed at a large project, and undertake a sequel, the temptation is to load it with all the bells, whistles and curlicues that you didn't dare integrate into the first implementation because you weren't sure you could make it work. Second systems are typified by huge lists of new features, vague requirements for extra functionality that have complex implications that nobody understands until it's too late, and are often approached with a dangerous degree of complacency ("we've done this before so it much be easy").

Yes, "The Iron Sunrise" is a more complex and ambitious novel than "Singularity Sky". But it's still less complex than the gnarly nightmare I blithely set out to write! And I was halfway through writing it before the sirens and alarm bells began going off around me. It's a lesson I'm going to take a long time to forget -- less is more. (Especially as I'm back writing a sequel to yet another novel, for the rest of the year.)

posted at: 23:13 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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Buy my books: (FAQ)

Missile Gap
Via Subterranean Press (US HC -- due Jan, 2007)

The Jennifer Morgue
Via Golden Gryphon (US HC -- due Nov, 2006)

Via (US HC -- due June 30, 2006)

The Clan Corporate
Via (US HC -- out now)

Via (US HC)
Via (US PB -- due June 27, 2006)
Via (UK HC)
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Free download

The Hidden Family
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The Family Trade
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Iron Sunrise
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The Atrocity Archives
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Singularity Sky
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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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