Charlie's Diary

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Tue, 21 Mar 2006

I love the sound of deadlines whizzing past my head ...


Ah well. I think that's it — the first draft of a book provisionally titled "The Merchants' War", #4 in the Merchant Princes series, sputtered to a halt yesterday evening. Normally I expect to know damn well when I've finished a book, but this one is the middle of a three book story within an ongoing series: it's there to recomplicate a pre-existing plot, add character development, ramp up the tension, and end on a high note of anticipation. I think. (Doubtless my editor and I will have lots to say on the subjectwhen he gets his hands on the MS, but I'll jump that fence when I come to it ...)

Incidentally, that's not the only reason I've been quiet lately — I've done two SF conventions in the past four weeks, and have another two to go to in the next four weeks, plus the Clarke Award ceremony ("Accelerando" is on the shortlist this year). And today I started writing the next novel. Both books are due on their respective editor's desks in September. They're very different: this next one, "Halting State", is going to be a near-future thriller set in Edinburgh about ten years from now, in the hazy zone where contemporary crime novels cross over with science fiction. In fact, it's going to be so close to the moment that I'm in danger of perpetrating a work of mundane SF.

Being inclined towards crazy stunt performances, I'm planning on writing "Halting State" on my mobile phone. This is technologically feasible because the phone in question has more memory and online storage than every mainframe in North America in 1972 (and about the same amount of raw processing power as a 1977-vintage Cray-1 supercomputer). It's a zeitgeist thing: I need to get into the right frame of mind, and I need to use a mobile phone for the same reason Neal Stephenson used a fountain pen when he wrote the Baroque cycle. Afters all, I want to stick my head ten years into the future. Personal computers are already passé; sales are declining, performance is stagnating, the real action is all in the interstitial networked devices that keep washing up on the beaches of our bandwidth ocean, crazy-weird things like 3G phones and battery-powered network attached storage boxes and bluetooth-controlled vibrators. (It's getting weird out there in embedded intelligence land; the net is alive to the sound of pinging toasters, RFID chips are the latest virus target, and people are making business deals inside computer games.) The internet's old hat too, even with a second dot com boom (and bust) looking: in ten years' time we'll be up to Web 3.1415926535 and counting. Gibsonian cyberspace fits the picture about the way the US interstate highway system fits in a 1960s road movie. It's time to move on.

As part of the research for "Halting State" I've been wallowing around in a whole bunch of blogs. You can get the official line on a community or culture by reading its publications, things like "RFID World" magazine or The Job (the London Metropolitan Police's newspaper), but the view at worm's eye level is very different and I suspect more likely to give you an idea of where things are really going. Strange communities are popping up everywhere on the web as it integrates ever more closely with our ordinary society. On the one hand, there are the academic and technical specialists: I'm inclined to wonder what Jaron Lanier or Michael Benedikt would have made of Terra Nova if you'd waved a dot matrix printout of it at them back in 1990? And then there's the furtively anonymous subculture of the blogging cops — Cough the Lot, A year in the life of a Police dispatcher, The Policeman's Blog, and so on. (Why focus on these two? Well, among other things I'm interested in seeing what happens when you mash the two cultures together, the VR eggheads seeing the 1980s skiffy idea of cyberspace turn into a 2000s commercial phenomenon and a 2010s social scene, and the police who're going to end up with a whole lot of new headaches as the physical world acquires a virtual mapping.)

But that's enough for now.

[Discuss Writing (3)]

posted at: 16:58 | 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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Missile Gap
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The Jennifer Morgue
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The Clan Corporate
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The Hidden Family
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Iron Sunrise
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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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