Charlie's Diary

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Sun, 29 Jan 2006

More shameless self-publicity

It has been drawn to my attention that "Accelerando" has been shortlisted for the 2006 Arthur C. Clarke award for science fiction. (Unlike the BSFA award, which is voted on by members of the British Science Fiction Association and the British Eastercon, the Clarke award is awarded by a small jury of writers and critics. The winner will be announced on April 26th in London.)

The shortlist for 2006 consists of:

  • Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • Learning The World - Ken MacLeod (Orbit)
  • Pushing Ice - Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz)
  • Air - Geoff Ryman (Gollancz)
  • Accelerando - Charles Stross (Orbit)
  • Banner Of Souls - Liz Williams (Tor)

[Discuss Writing (2)]

posted at: 11:45 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Fri, 27 Jan 2006

Here is the news

I swear, I'm not making this up.

In St Fillans, Perthshire (that's in Scotland, dammit), work on a residential development on the side of Loch Earn has been halted because of fears that it will offend the local fairies.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, Russia, President Vladimir Putin is refusing to expel British diplomats accused of spying (after their WiFi enabled rock malfunctioned) in case MI6 replaces them with somebody competent.

Scientists at the National Taiwan University have successfully created genetically modified pigs that glow green in the dark.

Meanwhile, detectives in Brittany have concluded a murder investigation unsuccessfully. The victim's skeleton was found in 2003 at low tide -- a female in her 30s, she was clearly murdered, but all attempts at identifying her failed until radiocarbon dating determined that she died between 1401 and 1453. "We think it was pirates", said a local police spokesman.

And I am reliably informed that H. M. Revenue and Customs have officially declared that, for purposes of calculation of import duty on goods being brought into the UK from outside the EU, edible snails are classified as "land-based fish". (No online citation for that one, I'm afraid, as the HMRC web portal is a masterpiece of obfuscatory prose that only tentacled horrors from beyond space-time could love.)

Finally, because it is Friday, here is a cat:

Mafdet, tarting


posted at: 16:10 | path: /weird | permanent link to this entry

Memo to spammer

(Please bear with me -- I promise I'll get off this hot-button soon.)

Dear spammer,

It has come to my attention that you may be labouring under some misapprehensions concerning my interests. In order to facilitate our harmonious communications in future, please make note of the following points:

  • Electronic mail is a written, hence literary, medium. The first (and probably only) part of your missive that I see is your name and the subject line. If the name and subject line are mis-spelled, ungrammatical, or otherwise unpleasing to the eye, why should I assume that the content might be otherwise? You are, I fear, destined to remain on the slushpile of life until you lern 2 spel.
  • Sadly, I do not speak or read Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Turkish, or German.
  • My genito-urinary system is in adequate working order, thanks.
  • I am grateful for your heart-felt proposal, but I'm already married. (See also, "do not speak language X, above.)
  • This may be an unfortunate cross-cultural mis-communication, but your kind offer to leave me "drowning in sperm" appears to fall foul of local anti-homicide laws.
  • I'd like to thank you for offering me the cheapest counterfeit pharmaceuticals on the market, but I already have a National Health Service annual pre-payment card that's good for everything I need.
  • When trying to convince me to log into PayPal via the link in your helpful email, you ought to bear in mind that PayPal's Chinese servers routinely remind me to do this every fifteen to twenty minutes. You're next in the queue.
  • The same goes for my Chase Manhattan online banking account, my Amazon account, my eBay account, my Halifax PLC account, and all the other online banking and retail merchant accounts that I don't have.
  • Dear Mr Berlusconi, thank you very much for your request for financial assistance in dealing with your current embarrassing situation. Alas, I regret to inform you that I wouldn't cross the road to piss on you if you were on fire. Next time you're feeling desperate, send the corporate jet. Then we'll talk.
  • If you've identified such a wonderful investment opportunity, why don't you invest in it instead of spending all your time blowing the secret by emailing the rest of the planet?
  • Your offer of cheap OEM software will be much more appealing to me if you specify whether it runs on OS/X, Linux, or PalmOS.
  • Underage donkey incest rape videos are a little recondite, don't you think? (Not to say recherche.)
  • Thank you,, for telling me that my account is about to expire and I need to change my password. As the system administrator who maintains the server, this came as quite a surprise to me.
  • Thank you for sending me your attachment. It would be easier for me to open it if it wasn't a Windows executable binary. (They don't run on powerbooks, you know.)
  • Dear Mr. Lee, I have no doubt that your factory in Shenzhou sells the cheapest and best brightly-coloured machine parts in all of China. Nevertheless, I have no current requirement for brightly-coloured machine parts. Perhaps you'd find it easier to make your quarterly sales quota if you visited a trade show instead of my inbox?
  • Thank you for reminding me of my recent lottery win. I'd be more willing to send you my bank account details if I recalled ever actually having entered the lottery in the first place.
  • I may have visited your website six years ago while researching a magazine article. However, you seem to have forgotten that I didn't buy your product, didn't check the box saying "spam me senseless" on your web information form, and my comments were so pungent that your lawyers threatened to sue me for violating the conventions on chemical warfare. It therefore should not come as a surprise to you to discover that I am not breathlessly waiting to hear about the latest upgrade to your product line.
  • Your attempts to convince me to help support your father's ailing mission in Nigeria would be more effective if I wasn't an atheist. (But I promise I'll pray for you.)


  • When you ask, CAN YOU BE SINCERE? the answer is, of course, no.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Stross

[Discuss spam]

posted at: 12:32 | path: /spam | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 23 Jan 2006

Shameless self-publicity

Accelerando (the novel, not the separate stories it grew from) has been shortlisted for the 2006 BSFA Award for best novel of 2005. (BSFA is the British Science Fiction Association.) The awards are voted on by BSFA members and members of the British Eastercon, and will be announced in Glasgow at the aforementioned Eastercon (Concussion) on April 16th.

[Link] [Discuss Writing (2)]

posted at: 13:44 | path: /writing | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 14 Jan 2006

On the attention economy

Irritable? Easily distracted? Have difficulty focussing on written text for long enough to read more than a sentence? Welcome to the club.

According to some researchers, we are exposed to up to 3500 advertisements per day by way of television, internet, radio, shop windows, buses, and other pervasive display media. (And somehow I don't think they're counting the 400-600 spam emails that end up in my Junk folder every day, either.) This cognitive overload is the end product of an arms race between advertisers (who want to buy a share of our attention) and their target audience (those of us with attention to spare). Advertisements are distracting nuisances most of the time, unless you're specifically looking for something -- say, you want to buy a camcorder so you buy a camcorder magazine and comb through the reviews and ads. We therefore screen them out. Advertisers in turn resort to more and more eye-catching methods in an attempt to get our attention.

Personally, I don't like advertisements. I don't like it when someone tries to sell me something I don't need by hinting that I am socially inadequate if I don't own it. I don't like it when insurance companies or lenders try to sell me insurance or loans by playing on fears of financial insecurity. I really hate telesales: telesales calls are like someone standing outside your front door and ringing the bell until you go to the door to find out what's causing the racket, then exhorting you through a megaphone. Spam is even worse, mostly because the content is either incomprehensible, revolting, or fraudulent. And as the spam and telesales problem gets worse I'm gradually finding that my attitudes are hardening -- not just against spammers and telesales firms, but against all advertisers, because they merely represent different points on the same slippery slope.

They all nag for my attention -- attention which is not freely given except when I deliberately go looking for a particular product or type of product. And it occurs to me to wonder where it's all going to end. Spam filtering tools block the most obviously mechanized mass-mailings, so spammers resort to more complex tools that try to personalize their pitch; ultimately the job of separating spam from real communication is Turing-complete -- you'd need a human-equivalent AI to do it properly, and by the time we get there the spammers will probably be using AIs of their own to outwit our personal secretary bots.

You can try to get away from ads on TV by switching to watching only DVDs or downloads, but this stops working when the media conglomerates realize that the DVD purchasers are a captive audience for secondary content on their disks. You can render yourself less vulnerable to telesales by using the Telephone Preference Service statutory list, or by using an answering machine, but the former only weeds out the better-socialized telesales outfits (scammers don't bother with it) while the latter reduces the usefulness of the communications device. Usenet got overrun by spam so lots of us switched to weblogs; which was fine until the blog spammers arrived. Instant messaging? SMS texting? Hello IM spambots and spimmers. Try to escape by playing a computer game and some asshole in marketing is going to realize that there's prize real estate in their MMORPG and start selling advertising billboards in Middle Earth. Even going for a walk in the country is no guarantee of safety, from the posters gummed to the walls of rotting trailers parked in fields, to the skywriting on the clouds overhead.

In the short term we may be able to build advertising censorware into our glasses. But it's still only a partial solution to the blight.

About the only really advertising-proof entertainment media are the 19th century hold-overs: theatre, opera, novels. (And maybe live music events at venues too small and primitive to have been nobbled by the likes of ClearChannel.) Get rid of electricity and most of the tools the advertisers rely on stop working. Maybe that's the way forward.

Meanwhile, we have a terminally fragmenting society, self-medicating through alcohol and other drugs, that is losing the ability to discriminate between trivia and important issues -- largely because of the way news has becoming a marketing vehicle for advertising eyeballs, the consumer society is driven by fear and insecurity rather than the meeting of actual needs, and we're growing so used to receiving information in ten second long compressed bursts that we can't read books any more.

Ban the advertising industry. Ban it now, before it's too late.

(This rant brought to you on the back of nearly 500 spams and just two meaningful messages in a 24 hour period, to a primary mail address I've maintained for just 5 months short of a decade and which I may have to abandon shortly because, unfortunately, it's no good being bloody minded: the bastards have won.)

[Discuss spam]

posted at: 15:39 | path: /politics | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 02 Jan 2006

Hacking Matter by Wil McCarthy

Two years ago, my friend and fellow SF author Wil McCarthy wrote a non-fiction book on the weird and wonderful new technological gold-rush surrounding quantum dots and the materials you can make with them.

He's now released a freely downloadable hyperlinked edition of the book, Hacking Matter available as a PDF (Acrobat) file. And if you're having difficulty downloading a copy from his own web site (which has been stomped into the ground by the thundering hordes of matter-hacking readers) you can grab a copy here, too.

I've read it. It blew my mind: it makes nanotechnology looks so, so 20th century.


posted at: 18:33 | path: /promo | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 01 Jan 2006

Happy Hogmanay

Welcome to 2006. Let's hope it's better than 2005 was!

2005 felt like a bad thriller series where the story arc got handed over from George Orwell to Philip K. Dick. It felt like the time line the hero with the time machine is supposed to go back and rescue us from (presumably by setting the controls for some time prior to November 1999). And that's just the year in the large.

In the small, it was a good year for me professionally — and a crap one medically. A series of health problems soaked up three to six months of my working year. If you've been wondering why this blog hasn't been updated much lately, it's because I haven't had the surplus energy for it. Hopefully everything's under control now and I can begin to claw back the headway I'd built up in 2004, but for the time being I'm having to run just to stay in place.

On the plus side, if you like my books I've got some good news for you. The schedule starts tomorrow with the first trade paperback publication of "The Atrocity Archives". "The Atrocity Archives" nearly didn't see the light of day; after its brief serialization in a small Scottish SF magazine it would have sunk without trace if Marty Halpern and Gary Turner of Golden Gryphon hadn't picked it up. Subsequently, the sequel novella "The Concrete Jungle" that I wrote to bring the book up to length went on to win the 2005 Hugo award for best novella: and tomorrow the book is being republished with wider distribution by Ace books, a division of Penguin, which should make it a lot easier for you to find.

My 2001 SF short story collection, "Toast", should also be a lot easier to find in the new year, thanks to a distribution deal worked out by publisher Cosmos Books. There's been a change to the contents, and a new afterword: if you haven't read it already, you might want to keep an eye open for it.

April should see the publication of "The Clan Corporate", the third book in the Merchant Princes series. I'm currently working on the fourth novel, title still to be nailed down, and it should come out a year hence — and there will be at least two more after that one. Writing it is turning out to be fun, as I'm now able to broaden the scope of the series and take it in directions which should keep it fresh and surprising.

July will see the publication of my next SF novel from Ace and Orbit, "Glasshouse", a psychological thriller among the posthuman survivors of a vicious civil war within the human civilization that emerges from the setting of "Accelerando", hundreds of years hence.

I can now announce that I've completed the copy edits on "The Jennifer Morgue", which is due for publication by Golden Gryphon in hardcover this November. TJM is the sequel to "The Atrocity Archives", and follows Bob ("I am not James Bond") Howard on a very fishy spy caper in the Carribean. (I'm hoping to find the time to write more Laundry books, although I don't expect to be able to do so before 2007 — I'm not as prolific as my publication schedule makes me look, and I'm currently booked up a couple of years ahead.)

Looking forward to 2007 and beyond, I've got a two book contract with Ace, for two more SF novels (to be delivered at annual intervals). I haven't written them yet, but the current plans are for them to be a near-future crime thriller set in Edinburgh in the year 2015 — dealing with a crime that doesn't exist yet — and then the long-delayed sequel to "Iron Sunrise", in which Rachel Mansour gets to deal with Space Pyrates. (You can't go wrong with Space Pyrates, right? Arr!)

Finally, there's going to be other stuff. I'm discussing with Cory Doctorow (who has just quit his day job to become a full-time writer) the possibility of turning our "Rapture of the Nerds" novellas into a full-sized novel. I'm getting close to the point at which I'll have enough new short stories to put together a new collection. And, energy and health permitting, I'm going to try to surprise you with some stuff not mentioned here.

Anyway, it's now 1:30pm on New Year's Day. I'm sitting at the keyboard, contemplating the copy edits to "Glasshouse", and thinking that I ought to give myself at least one day off. So I'm out of the office for a few hours. Here's to a happy and productive 2006!

[Discuss Writing (2)]

posted at: 13:31 | path: /admin | 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

Quick links:

RSS Feed (Moved!)

Who am I?

Contact me

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)
Via (UK PB)
Free download

The Hidden Family
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

The Family Trade
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

Iron Sunrise
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)

The Atrocity Archives
Via (Trade PB)
Via (Trade PB)
Via Golden Gryphon (HC)
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Singularity Sky
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (US ebook)
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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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