Charlie's Diary

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Fri, 31 Dec 2004

Happy Hogmanay!

And another draft bites the dust (complete at a sniffle under 125,000 words). Which means I'm off to see the usual year-end fireworks, and then to the pub just in time for Hogmanay. And I'm not going to start work on another novel for at least a week.

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 21:42 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 28 Dec 2004

Today's work quota

Stopping at 117,500 words. Probably another 5-6000 go to. Maybe I will be finished by Hogmanay ...

posted at: 18:22 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Tsunami news

For news and information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer work, the best source is The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami weblog, an impromptu short-notice clearinghouse. Spread it around.

(Shameless googlebombing in a good cause.)

posted at: 17:57 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry


I'm at 115,000 words and it looks like I'm going to overrun the target (of under 120,000 words). Oh well, that just means I'll have to cut some fat on the final edit pass.

(Otherwise, I've been having a jolly boring time of it, with absolutely no tsunamis or Richter 9.0 earthquakes or terrorist suicide bombings. For all of which I am fervently grateful. How about you?)

Incidentally, the supreme boring-ness of this blog is a classic example of what happens when I go into what Feorag refers to as "write mode". All of a sudden life consists of eating, sleeping, bathroom, and book. Until it's over, of course ...

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 00:56 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 25 Dec 2004

Work report

Right, I just hit 110,000 words and I'm clearly on the down-slope towards the climax. So it's time to go to bed, secure in the knowledge that I've done my bit to further the cause of International Grinchdom.

posted at: 02:06 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 24 Dec 2004

Merry Newtonmass

Today (well, in about fifty minutes) is the anniversary of the birth of our great teacher, Sir Isaac Newton. Speaking as a scion of the enlightenment, and a non-Christian to boot, I find that a perfectly acceptable excuse for celebration. So, happy Newtonmass, everyone!

I will, of course, celebrate in standard mode by continuing to work. I'm self-employed, in a job where I can basically take a vacation any time I feel like it (read: and can manage the insecurity of not working). This kind of devalues the idea of public holidays. So for the past couple of years I've been in the habit of always making sure I do some work over December 25th, and this year is no different. I just passed 108,000 words on GLASSHOUSE, and it should be wrapped up no later than 120,000 words. At this rate, I should finish it just before Hogmanay.

Have a good time, and try not to over-indulge!

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 23:10 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 21 Dec 2004

Scritch, scritch

I hate it when this happens. Another six thousand words in, and I'm comfortably passed 101,000 words. So I take time out from writing for a day while I hone the outline of the climactic sequence (and do the seasonal humongous supermarket shopping run). And what happens? I dead-end on the very last scene. I've got the setup sorted, and the character development, and the build-up to a climax, and I even know what the characters have to achieve in order to send off for plot closure and an epic ending ... except the last scene stubbornly refuses to come into focus. Except that it ought to backreference the Milgram obedience-to-authority experiments and/or "The Prisoner" and/or a game of Russian Roulette, and it needs to be shocking.

Huh. Back to the drawing board.

(Meanwhile, elsewhere in webbyland, Ken MacLeod is saying nice things about me, and specifically about Accelerando, and attributing mythical qualities of hyperefficiency to me. If only it was as easy as it looks from the outside.)

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 21:13 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 20 Dec 2004

Books I want for Christmas

Harry Potter and the Call of Cthulhu

(From somethingawful, of course. Why do you ask?)

posted at: 18:04 | path: /toys | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 18 Dec 2004

Scribble, scribble

3500 words today.

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 21:48 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 17 Dec 2004

My head hurts

Work progresses slowly, but the current draft of GLASSHOUSE is now longer than the last draft was before I lopped off the last 10% and began rewriting it.

I must remember in future to avoid first-person interior monologues by a character who comes from a society where memory editing is a fine art, and who consequently doesn't know whether she's a small-town librarian, a spy pretending to be a small-town librarian, a decomissioned Main Battle Tank, a recovering-from- addiction gamer who thinks he's [sic] a decommissioned Main Battle Tank (modulo gender reassignment surgery), an inmate in a psychiatric institution, or some combination of the above.

Oww ... (this is by way of explaining the lack of profundities and wit in my blog this week.)

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 18:41 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Tue, 14 Dec 2004

I'm back ...

And I'm behind schedule, so I'm going to get down to work for a bit.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the intuhweb Teresa Nielsen Hayden demonstrates why it's a bad idea to argue with editors, Alfredo Pinochet gets about 1/3100 of what he deserves (and about time too), and Wendy Grossman meets a psychic named Shirley. It's a weird world out there ...


posted at: 18:36 | path: /excuses | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 10 Dec 2004

The horror, the horror ...

I'm off to visit relatives tomorrow, back Monday night. GLASSHOUSE is progressing slowly, but progressing.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd leave you with a parting shot, dredged from the depths of the New York Post by way of various places in the blogosphere: Oliver Stone is threatening to make a new movie. The NYP original article is hard to locate, but I feel this extract from King of Zembia's blog needs reposting by way of underscoring the flee for the hills message:

From Page Six of the NY Post, courtesy of Zemblan patriot J.D.:

"Oliver Stone plans to explore the possibility of an affair between former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan in his next movie. Stone has apparently always been enamored of Baroness Thatcher, now 79, and wants to cast Meryl Streep in the role in an upcoming biopic, reports the London Sun. An insider told the paper Stone decided to turn his lens on a famous woman after his string of movies about famous men, including Richard Nixon, JFK, Jim Morrison and Fidel Castro."

We're told that Stone is contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated theatrical cut, alas, but the eventual DVD release is sure to contain a treasure trove of Reagan-Thatcher love scenes that were too steamy to make it past the MPAA. Studio executives are already bracing for controversy over one sequence in the script, in which the Iron Lady asks the Great Communicator what he would do to "liberate the Falklands," and he shows her. At length.

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in a steamy affair with -- no, let's not go there, okay? Let's not. (Exit an Author, Stage Left, Whimpering faintly.)

[link] [Discuss The horror! The horror!]

posted at: 18:46 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry

Wed, 08 Dec 2004

Today's Muzak

It probably won't surprise you to know that I listen to music while I'm writing. I keep iTunes playing in the background, and what I hear is generally geared to the feel of what I'm working on.

Right now I'm working on GLASSHOUSE (today's elevator pitch: "the Milgram obedience experiment meets the Zimbardo prison study in a simulated Stepford/The Village hybrid aboard a starship captained by Number Two, as narrated by Number Six, who is Confused") and here's my playlist.

Take the following albums:

Clock DVA
Bitstream, Contemporary '91, Sign, The Hacker, Transitional Voices
Cabaret Voltaire
Voice of America
The Future Sound of London
Accelerator, Dead Cities, ISDN, Papua New Guinea
Keith LeBlanc
Invisible Spike
Light and Magic
A Secret Wish, (also: "Snobbery and Decay" by ACT, which I'd classify as a Propaganda spin-off)
VNV Nation
1998 Praise the Fallen, Empires, Futureperfect, Solitary EP
Kapital, WAT

Put them on random play -- it's about an 18 hour playlist.

(Having now convinced everyone who's familiar with these bands that I'm crazy, I can now go back to work with a clear conscience.)


posted at: 14:58 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 06 Dec 2004

Red state, Blue state

I may be a British writer, but my biggest single market is the United States. Thus, the demographics and distribution of my readers is a matter of no small interest to me.

Earlier today, Warren Ellis -- the enfant terrible of the graphics novel scene -- posed an interesting question on his Bad Signal mailing list:

A few weeks ago, I threw out the playful notion that original comics don't actually sell in the Red states of America -- that the political borderlines there are also cultural borderlines. Just as there are isolated political Blue islands in Red America, there are also island comics stores, to be certain -- but that the audiences for progressive comics are largely contained in the coasts and those few Blue states in the north. The broader sweep of Jesusland is a dead zone, to massively generalise.

So after that I got an email from a publisher I know. Telling me that he and his staff had been discussing the same thing. They looked at their sales documentation. And, in fact, it looks to them that they do the vast majority of their business in the Blue states.

So they're talking about changing their PR campaigns. Focussing on Blue America and those handful of island stores. They figure that if Red America isn't listening, then fuck Red America. And if you're in Jesusland and you can't get their books anymore, then frankly you should have tried harder to make your store order you the stuff you wanted to read. (And, for God's sake, I've been telling you that for years, so this shouldn't come as a surprise.)

No company has an endless marketing budget, and they need to put those dollars where they'll do the most good. So why not try to maximise their market in the areas where people don't freak out at the idea of a comic that wasn't invented forty years ago?

The idea lends itself to all kinds of interesting secondary concepts, like coastal tours -- for a reasonable amount of money you could send a creator, or a group of them, the length of California, or up the East Coast. (Something Vertigo should have done five years ago.)

Anyway. Interesting development, I thought.

Like me, Warren is a Brit selling into the American market. He's in a different field -- comics and graphic novels -- but he's trying to do innovative stuff rather than merely re-hashing the same tired old Pervert Suit capers that have been the staple of superhero comics since the year dot. And his question got me thinking: who buys SF and fantasy in the United States? And where do they live?

I can make a couple of crude guesses: I suspect the market for mil-SF (staple product at Baen Books) is probably red state heavy. And I suspect the sort of literary work you expect from the likes of John Kessel or Michael Swanwick is more of an urban latte-swilling cafe culture blue state thing. But I must confess I've got no idea whether high fantasy is a localized sales phenomenon, or indeed whether the market for SF in general (excluding those narrow categories I mentioned) is geographically stratified.

Written SF doesn't necessarily follow the same market rules as other media. But if it's a geographically distributed market, I need to know it, and to know how it's distributed, as well. For example, if 80% of my sales can be found in one half of the country, then obviously that has implications for any marketing I do. Again: (while I don't go out of my way to deliberately offend peoples' sensibilities in what I write) if folks in some areas aren't reading my work, then I don't need to tailor my work to meet their cultural requirements. (I hasten to add that this isn't a political thing: if I'm writing for an audience of small town or rural readers, they may well need different degrees of emphasis and explanation in my work than an audience of city dwellers.)

Writing is a form of communication, after all. And my own ignorance about who I am communicating with is something I should be addressing.

So, does anyone have any information they'd be willing to share?

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 18:44 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 05 Dec 2004

Head, meet brick wall. Brick wall, meet head

So in between dying of bronchitis, going to too many SF cons, and having to wade through a sea of copy edits, I've been grappling with the second draft of GLASSHOUSE. GLASSHOUSE is the SF novel due for publication after ACCELERANDO, i.e. in July 2006. I've got until July '05 to knock it into shape before my editors pick up the cudgels and come looking for me. As I wrote the entire first draft of it back in March-April '03 -- since which time it's been sitting on the shelf -- you might conclude that I've got plenty of time. And in principle, you'd be right.

Here's the problem: GLASSHOUSE was a neat little ideas-novel, written in a blinding hurry. I ran out of energy towards the end and the ending sucks, so I knew all along that I needed to go back, hack off the last chapter, and re-write it. The problem is, now that I've polished my way through all of it except the last chapter (which I'm not polishing if I'm about to take an axe to it) I'm not so sure. It's not that the last chapter doesn't need chopping off and re-doing; it's that the book then seems to be demanding an extra 50% bolting on the end. And this is in turn raising the worrisome realization that I'm not quite sure what the book is trying to say.

Not that there isn't a plot, or gazillions of ideas, or action, or characterization, or anything like that ... but at a certain point in a novel, you need to be able to say "it's about X", where X isn't a simplistic description of the contents but a thematic description. (For example, Lord of the Flies would be summed up as: "an illustration of the fragility of human societies", not as "a bunch of schoolboys are stranded on a desert island and have lots of increasingly violent adventures ...") And, funnily enough, the overall story arc of a novel tends to contribute to the novel's theme. Which is where I'm having a problem with GLASSHOUSE. Frankly, it's got half a dozen different candidates for the role of thematic core, and I can't choose which possible ending to write until I've forced myself to decide what the book's going to say.

Without giving too much away, I shovelled in a kitchen sink's fill of ideas into this story; it's the novel after ACCELERANDO, and when I was writing it I had a horrible feeling it was going to get characterised as a mere warm-up exercise by the reviewers if I didn't make it dense. Now it's so pregnant with signifiers that working out which is the most important message is proving unexpectedly difficult.


(I'll get there in the end ... it's just looking as if the polishing will take four times as long as the first draft.)

[Discuss writing]

posted at: 22:08 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

End of an era

Just over 22 years ago, IBM invented the personal computer as we know it. Yes, business microcomputers (not to mention home computers) predated IBM's belated entry into the sector, but the IBM PC did more than just grab a huge share of the market and establish a de-facto hardware standard; it legitimized those small beige buzzing machines in the eyes of businesses and institutions that had hitherto considered personal computing to be unworthy of interest.

Well, it looks like the era is over. IBM is selling its PC division according to various reports.

Here's the rub; IBM is, and has for almost eighty years, been a service company. They make money by solving problems, not by selling tools. The diversion into the PC making business was a weird aberation in IBM's corporate history, symptomatic of a paradigm shift in the way computing technology was developing: while making PCs was seen as an irritating side-line (IBM originally only expected to sell 50,000 or so of the things -- they sold more than a thousand times that number), by 1982 it was so clearly the coming thing that IBM couldn't afford not to at least look as if they were interested in the idea.

I think the significance of IBM selling its PC business is hard to underestimate. It means that the revolution has run its course; the PC has become commodified, certainly, and the profit margins have been shaved razor-thin, but more fundamentally the whole process of managing data in business has become smeared out in such a way that computers are only part of the picture. IBM doesn't manufacture filing cabinets, desk lamps, and other office equipment: IBM getting out of the PC business implies that PCs are now no longer part of the IT services sector but something that can be taken for granted, like the availability of electricity and photocopiers, in any office environment.

The revolution has run its course. Whatever happens next (and this by no means implies that personal computers will stop evolving), it won't be driven by the same inexorable shift towards office automation that turned the 80's and 90's into a red queen's race for so many businesses.

[Link] [Discuss geekery]

posted at: 00:02 | path: /misc | 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
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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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