One of the problems with what I do is that I look for patterns in human behaviour, and once I see them I have difficulty un-seeing them. And there's a set of patterns I keep seeing that are implicit in our news reportage—specifically, the reporting of legal cases. Patterns which seem to me to have a very simple underlying cause but which we take so much for granted that we don't recognize them explicitly.
The 20th century spanned the collapse of the Monarchical System, the rise and fall of Actually Existing Socialism, a bunch of unpleasant failed experiments in pyramid building using human skulls, and the ascent to supremacy of Neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus. In 2007/08, the system malfunctioned spectacularly: it's clearly unstable and has huge problems, but what's going to replace it?
(No, not unicorns.)
H. P. Lovecraft was born in August 1890 and died in March 1937. (And I have just experienced a queasy moment of realization: that I am now older than he was when he died.) He's remembered to this day mostly as an author of disturbing and fantastic fiction, and as the spark that ignited an entire sub-genre of horror, in which many other authors work (myself included).
But what exactly was it that fuelled his deep sense of paranoia and dread at the scale of the cosmos, and made his work so memorable?
I have a hypothesis.
Here (long overdue for an outing on this blog) is a NYMag piece about the women who write dinosaur erotica:
Alara Branwen and Christie Sims met in the dorms at Texas A&M. Alara worked at a supermarket and Christie worked as a tutor -- until they discovered how lucrative erotic fiction about women having sex with dinosaurs could be. After e-book titles like Taken By the T-Rex and Ravished by the Triceratops drew attention from Jezebel, E!, and the Daily Mail, we e-mailed the duo to ask how they're holding up, and how two Texan girls in their early twenties got into dinosaur porn.Go on, hop over there and see if you think A Bird in Hand belongs in the same genre bucket, I dare you!
Because it is Friday and I am bored, here is a short story of mine that you probably haven't read (although it was first published in 2011). It's called A Bird in Hand, and it's in the style of one of Arthur C. Clarke's "White Hart" stories—an account of a barely plausible scientific research project recounted among friends who hang out at a pub.
There is a reason for this, and below the fold I'll discuss the origins of this story in some detail (with spoilers). So go read the story first, before you continue below ...
(Another in the irregular "Common Misconceptions about Publishing" series of essays ...)
You already know I hate Microsoft Word. But it takes actual exposure to generate such a volume of bile, and you probably won't be surprised to learn that there's a copy of Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac on this laptop. Even though I don't use it for writing books, or even business correspondence (I've got Scrivener for the former task and Pages or LibreOffice for the latter) I can't get away from it.
Every so often a news item grabs my eyeballs and reminds me that I'm supposed to be an amateur futurologist, because of course SF is all about predicting the future (just like astronomy is all about building really big telescopes, and computer science is all about building really fast computers, and, and [insert ironic metaphor here]).
Via MetaFilter, I stumble across the latest development in 3D printing (now that 3D printed handguns have gone mainstream). Mad props go to another printing startup, although that's not what they're marketing themselves as: Fabrican ...
If you want to talk to me via email, and send me mail via the feedback form (link captioned "Talk to me" on the right), please ensure that your mail server doesn't reject everything coming from gmail.com. Also, please don't provide an email address at a service that requires me to jump through flaming hoops to prove that I'm a real person. Also, please provide an email address that works.
(I'm now back at home. Normal blogging will resume shortly.)
(Yes, I am still on a road trip. Should be home Friday; meanwhile, I find it hard to blog (and write fiction) while on the move and living out of a suitcase.)
In other news: I'm shocked but unsurprised by the idiocy of Prime Minister David Cameron in saying that, for the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war, he wanted to see a "commemoration that, like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, says something about who we are as a people". I never had a particularly high opinion of Call me Dave, but in this instance he's clearly intent on digging himself a new pit in my esteem.
David Cameron is an Old Etonian, a child of privilege who was schooled at Eton College: he therefore has no excuse for not knowing better. Eton College made a grim contribution to the British Army officer corps during that war—a contribution paid in blood, many times over. Call Me Dave spent his teen years surrounded by the charnel memorabilia of that war, but it seems to have skidded past his cranium as effortlessly as he himself swarmed up the greasy pole to the top of politics. So some remedial schooling in the history of his own school is in order ...
When was the oldest building you have ever slept in built?
(And what is the oldest building you've ever been in?)
Behold: the cover of the Orbit (UK/Aus/NZ) edition of "The Rhesus Chart", Laundry Files #5. It's due out in the first week of July next year, and you can pre-order it now (here's the Amazon Kindle edition link). I'm pleased to say that this is the first Laundry Files novel to debut in hardcover in the UK—a sign of great expectations by my publisher!
(If you're on the other side of the Atlantic, do not worry: there will be a US hardcover and ebook from my usual publisher Ace: I've even got the final cover art. They just want me to sit on it until November 12th for some reason. As Ace is an imprint of Berkeley Publishing Group, which in turn was part of Penguin, who merged with Random House to form
Random Penguin Penguin Random House a couple of months ago, I suspect they're still getting their internal product release procedures straightened out.)
Here's the first sentence:
"Don't be silly, Bob," said Mo, "everybody knows vampires don't exist!"
(In other news: blogging is quiet right now because I am in Brighton for WFC 2013. After which I will be proceeding cross-country to Oxford for an evening with the Oxford University SF Society, and thence to Nottingham, for Novacon, before driving home. And then it will be time to start work on the next book, and acquire a pair of kittens, in no particular order ...)
Gratuitous link of the day: SpyMeSat is an iOS app that lets you know which satellites are looking at you. (No, it probably doesn't have the Evolved Enhanced CRYSTAL or Zirconic spysats, but these days your typical Indian or South Korean earth resources satellite probably has peepers on a par with the NRO's Keyhole series—we've come a long way, baby!—and that's before we get into the private sector.)
But none of this should surprise anyone.
I've been quiet lately because I'm between trips and between books; aside from deliberating over copy edit changes to "The Rhesus Chart" I'm not actually working right now. (The next novel-shaped death march is scheduled for mid-November.) On the other hand, I can't stay idle for long. So it's computer neepery time!
We have verified that the Queen is not, in fact, a Reptoid. Neither is Prince Philip.
Reptoids cannot interbreed with humans. The idea that the Royal Family are Reptoids is alarmist nonsense.