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Amazon.co.uk administrivia

To all the folks in the UK who've ordered copies of THE JENNIFER MORGUE and have just had their orders, at amazon.co.uk, canceled:

Sorry.

What happened is this:

Historically, the right to publish books in the English language are split into two lumps: the USA and Canada, and the UK and the rest of the English-speaking world (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, and other Commonwealth territories).

When a book is unpublished in the UK, Amazon.co.uk will usually import it, but if a British publisher announces that an edition is forthcoming, they stop doing that -- they don't want to piss the publishers off -- and cancel any outstanding orders.

A couple of months ago Orbit acquired UK rights to "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue", and indeed they're due to publish both books in paperback next year. Evidently they told Amazon, and Amazon pulled the plug.

Far be it from me to question the wisdom of Orbit defending their market rights, but I'm slightly surprised that Amazon canceled a bunch of outstanding orders for US first edition hardcovers — I suppose they must think people who order foreign first editions would prefer to wait twelve months for a British paperback. Or something.

Anyway. If you really want a first edition hardback, you can make an end-run around this marketing SNAFU by re-ordering "The Jennifer Morgue" directly from Amazon.com, not Amazon.co.uk. If you haven't done this before, there's no need to create a new account — your Amazon.co.uk existing login and password will work fine with Amazon.com. Amazon.com will ship books to the UK; it just takes longer for them to arrive by surface mail, and costs a lot more to ship them via air mail. Alternatively, you can sit tight and wait for the (doubtless excellent, and typo-fixed) Orbit editions.

59 Comments

1:

Allow me to point out, therefore, that a heap of copies of said US first-edition hardcover turned up at the London branch of Forbidden Planet today (and I happened to be there while they were unloading, went 'ooo!', and grabbed one).

So if you're in London or environs, you're not out of luck, if you're quick.

(I laughed out loud at the cover and the Laundry insignia. Inspired. When work is out I'll see if the contents are similarly inspired, although I don't have much doubt on that score. :) )

2:

And remember, children, the joy of arbitrage, as the quid approaches $2.

More interestingly, the division of the globe for booktrade purposes is another curious wiggle in the jugendstil doohickey we are pleased to entitle "the Special Relationship". There was actually an agreement to this effect between various publishers, signed at some point in the 1940s, like all good sinister transatlantic stitchups. (the US loan, UKUSA, Hyde Park Agreement, CAZAB, and much much more..)

3:

Mine arrived from Amazon.com this morning. I've taken to ordering books directly from the States as I've been bitten by this before.

Just need to remember where my copy of Glasshouses is so that I can finish it off after Jennifer.

4:

I've done the same thing, but in reverse -- ordering UK first editions from amazon.co.uk and having them shipped to the US. It's a little silly in this day and age to have the publishing world split like that.

I wonder what they'll do if downloading ebooks ever becomes common. Block foreign IP addresses? Sue each other for copyright infringement?

5:

Several times I've ordered books from Orbit for delivery in the States, because they haven't been published here. I got a copy of Rohan's "Maxie's Demon" about 4 years ago; it still hasn't been published here as far as I know. If the publishers decide to block that access we're likely to have a florishing bootleg trade.

6:

Charlie,
Mine arrived from Amazon yesterday- am currently on page 90 and a very happy reader. Only quibble- the author photo on the back. Do you remember Dave Lee Travis?

7:

I canceled my order from Amazon.co.uk because the delivery date kept moving back and ordered a copy from 'The Book Depository' on 17th November and it arrived on the 21st. Just short of a tenner too, not including postage.

8:

Does this mean my attempt to order it from Borders (which I did today after Amazon cancelled my order and I failed to make Golden Gryphon's website work) is not going to go through for the same reason, and do I therefore need to order via Amazon.com.

Thanks

9:

Benedict: I have no idea. Presumably Borders also have some sort of arrangement with British publishers, but they're not simply different heads sprouting off the same hydra; it might work, or it might not.

10:

I just finished reading TJM today, Charlie. Good stuff as usual. I wobble back and forth on whether the Bob Howard stories or _Glasshouse_ are my favorite.

11:

I'm sure I remember reading somewhere (Lou Anders, I think) that UK readers importing US editions and vice versa is actually bad for the cross-pond propagation of writers in the long run (though the precise reasoning has escaped me). It's a tricky situation as a reader - you don't want to screw over your favourite authors and the industry that supports them, but the transAtlantic red tape means you may have to wait years to get a book if you play by the rules. I'd still never had read Marusek's 'Counting Heads' if I hadn't ordered it internationally, and that would *really* suck.

Still, your news today means that my ARC of The Jennifer Morgue has just become a little more precious ... :)

12:

The logic of the argument is that the US editions reduce the market for the UK editions.

My response to that has been "what UK editions?"

Yes, I can see it making a difference, but a lot of American books have never had a UK edition, and how many of the US edition ever got sold here? I suspect the actual figures, pre-Internet, were down in the statistical noise.

13:

For what it's worth on the importing argument, as an American I'd say about 90% of the titles I've read published in both venues have had a more interesting illustration on the cover of the UK edition. Terry Pratchett in particular, the American covers are always just bullshit clipart.

14:

I got mine from the Book Depository as well, and finished it a couple of days ago. Bloody good book too!

Now reading Dawkins' "The God Delusion"

15:

another way for UKians might be to order from amazon.de, which usually has 3 (at least) versions available (at least it does for the Pratchetts ..), german (ugh), UK and US. I've been bitten by this by getting somebody to buy me a Pratchett as a gift, and they accidentally bought the US version (because it was a bit cheaper). Now I have this one Pratchett with a horrid cover that doesn't fit between the others on my shelf. damn.

16:

(followup to myself, bad boy, bad!)

yep, just checked, both versions of "jennifer morgue" are available on amazon.de. Dunno if that might be better or worse than buying from the US, customs and tax-wise.

17:

Books are zero-rated for VAT in the UK. If you buy a book from the US and import it into the UK, you will not get hit for VAT and duty on the way in.

However, I believe books may be liable for VAT in Germany, and if so, it will probably be levied at source, so if you buy from Amazon.de it may end up costing you more in tax than you save in trans-Atlantic postage.

18:

Another piece of administrivia, for you Charlie. You seem to have changed your RSS feed URL, but didn't make a post advertising that on the old one. I though you'd gone on an extended silence...

19:

Yep, FP in London still has some in stock - picking one up this afternoon. Online commerce! Ha! I spit me of online commerce! Sounds like they were quite familiar with phone requests, though...

20:

Simon: I don't use, or support, RSS. Any RSS feed is a side-effect of running my blog on Movable Type and not explicity switching RSS off. It's nothing to do with me.

21:

What is your beef with RSS?

22:

Alex: What is your beef with RSS?

I don't use it. I don't see the need for it. But people keep moaning at me about it. Which irritates me.

I'm running a blog that gets updated about once a week, not a wire service!

23:

What someone said about amazon.de is really a problem. Not the VAT, that is handled by Amazon, but the availability of US and UK versions if one wants to read English originals. I do this, and I try to remember which version I buy, but -- not yet with Stross ;-) -- in my Banks and Reynolds collection now at least two different designs compete, respectivly. Why can't there be a unified English book market (with the nicer, that is mostly UK, covers, please)?

24:

Oops, didn't mean to irritate you, that wasn't really a moan, more a moanino.

I'll try to make it up by offering some authorial ego stroking - I'm really looking forward to being able to read the Jennifer Morgue, as the Atrocity Archives was one of my favourite books of the year, although maybe that's not so surprising, as being a British physicist twenty-something geek I seem to be well placed to get most of the jokes.

25:

Speaking of in-jokes and name games... OK, "Ellis Billington" for an IT billionaire is hardly even an in-joke. "TLA Industries" was a broad grin. But I did notice that Dominique O'Brien insists on being addressed as "Dr.", and if you combine that with her nickname you get: "Dr. Mo". Was that one authorial intent or happy accident?

26:

Clifton -- you didn't notice what Bob Howard's middle initials are?

27:

I read Glasshouse while travelling through Mexico, and scarfed down The Jennifer Morgue in one sitting after I returned home. Both were great! Thanks!

28:

Robert, I just about snarfed.

29:

I've also noticed (yesterday) that in a certain fantasy series I'm reading (the first three books are UK paperback editions, the remaining three are US trade paperback) the UK covers are incredibly good, and the US ones suck. To be honest, it's enough to make me purchase exclusively UK editions, assuming the author isn't published first in the US.

30:

Different artists, and a lot of cultural baggage which the publisher's art department has to carry around if they want to actually sell books.

Here in the UK, with the TV-movie version of Pratchett's Hogfather looming, there's a tie-in edition. Which means the cover is a publicity still from the movie. But what makes it good to sell the movie doesn't work well as a book cover. There isn't really room for the title, and the composition and lighting don't seem to work well. At best, it's a picture of the movie-character.

Now, the classic Pratchett covers tend to be a bit fussy, a bit cluttered, but they are a brand image. And the recent ones—Thud for instance—have the room for the title, and lead the eye into the image.

It does depend on the artist. It does depend on the art department. And neither of us may be the sort of people who they think they want the image to appeal to.

(Naked hairdresser in a temple with a hair-dryer. Well, would you want to try to sell a Cohen the Barbarian cover to an American publisher?)

31:

Picked up TJM and Glasshouse from Forbidden Planet yesterday, and will probably succumb to buying the Atrocity Archives from the book depository. I already have the serialised copy, but the GG editions are quite nice. I'll have to get them signed at picocon...

32:

Anyone wondering why we are having this discussion? I mean, I know the reasons, but they seem to me to be reminiscent of having a man with a red flag walking in front of a car. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time . . .

I love browsing in bookshops, only the stairs down to the book section in my local FP make me think I'm going to bump into a friend of Edgar Allen Poe down there, and I don't meet many of my friends in either of my local Waterstones.

It will all seem so quaint in 10 years time, but that's skiffy for you.

33:

If POD ever becomes mainstream, it would be nice to be able to select the cover art you want for the book, from, say, three pieces of "authorised" art. (Although, I admit, it would be even nicer for the *author* to be able to do that, even now, which from what I've heard doesn't happen; but Charlie would know more).

34:

Robert, I missed where Bob's initials are mentioned, but now that you've brought it up I think I can safely assume that his middle names are on the order of Oliver Frederick.

35:

It's on page 229. `Oliver Francis' indeed.

36:

Like the retcon on page 32.

37:

Re: Bob's middle initials -- the short story, "Pimpf" at the end of the book has Bob acquiring an intern by the name of Peter-Fred Young...

38:

Argh! Too many geeky in jokes- can anyone provide a translation?

(I have a science degree, but am not a computer geek)

39:

Guthrie: These stories are pretty dense with in-jokes and allusions.

I'll try to explain a bit and hope nothing here is a spoiler for readers.

To simplify the initials thing a bit, a fellow named Simon Travaglia posted a series of stories on Usenet eons ago called "The Bastard Operator From Hell", about the exploits of a sadistic system administrator. (If you Google the phrase, you'll find approximately 60 million copies of the stories archived.) BOFH became the canonical term for how system administrators at least wish they could act towards their users - and how some actually do at least occasionally. It spawned BOFH IRC channels and IRC networks, a Usenet hierarchy, and innumerable follow-up stories - Simon was being paid to write them for an IT mag for a while. It also spawned a whole style of sysadmin storytelling, which became one of the major inputs to Charlie's twisted mind along with HPL and spy novels, resulting in the tales you're reading. Bob's bitching about the administration, creative ways with equipment requisition, etc. are pure BOFH characteristics.

In some of the BOFH canon stories, the BOFH acquired an intern, referred to as the Pimply-Faced Youth, or PFY. I had been puzzling where the "pimpf" title came from until I made that connection.

As to the allusions I made upthread: TLA is a three letter acronym for "Three Letter Acronym", endemic to the industry since the '70s. (One prominent computer scientist, when asked for the biggest challenge facing the industry, replied: "There are only 17,576 distinct three letter acronyms.") Finally, the two biggest reclusive IT multibillionaires are named Bill Gates and Larry Ellington. If they were somehow fused in a freak electron-beam accelerator accident - need I say more?

Speaking of the name Guthrie, that sticker reading "This violin..." had been naggingly familiar. The penny finally dropped as I was lying awake last night: Woody Guthrie, by way of Billy Bragg, of course. (For those who didn't get it, Google "This guitar kills" +Guthrie)

(Charlie - if you think I'm giving too much away, feel free to delete this post.)

40:

Larry Ellison, not Ellington. Dang, there go my dinner invitations.

Also featured in Pimpf: "Scary Devil Monastery" is an acronym of and the preferred name for the newsgroup alt.sysadmin.recovery, which has had some pretty scary devils hanging out in it. Often shortened to "the monastery".

41:

Thanks Clifton- I get the spy stories (Read all the bond books) and the Lovecraft (Only read for the first time last year) but its the IT related in jokes that I havn't got a clue about.
(And my name is because it was my great great grandmothers maiden name and it ended up in me and my dads names)

42:

Given Bob's previous experience with space nazis, I thought that 'pimpf' might be a reference to the Hitler-Jugend - it was what they called the 10-14-year-olds. On the other hand, given Peter-Fred's winning personality, it might be...

43:

I was somewhat amused by the reference in Jennifer Morgue to Woody Guthrie's guitar (famously emblazoned "this machine kills fascists" --- and Woody did it without any chi-chi Dee-Hamilton circuit in the soundboard). But that's probably just a throwaway; I was more intrigued by some rather odd references to Angleton. On p. 168, Billington refers to him (apparently) in an oddly pointed way as "James", and earlier on p. 25, we have:

"Jesus, Angleton"
"That is my name."

The James Jesus Angleton I know of had just been forced out of running counterintelligence for the CIA at the time of the failed Glomar Explorer grab, so it would be odd to find him acting as an observer of anything for the British. (Most of his career was straight out of a Le Carre novel, but by the '70s, by most accounts, he'd done a lateral transfer into Stanislaw Lem's "Memoirs found in a Bathtub"). Nevertheless, he was educated in part in England (as an American ex-pat born in Idaho), and the sidewise swipes at his name seem a bit much to be coincidence...

44:

Indeed, Mr Dodgson, the issue of True Names will be somewhat pivotal in a future Laundry novel. (Let's just say for now, "Bob Howard" is an alias, "Ramona Random" is almost certainly an alias, and the person known as "James Jesus Angleton" only does it to annoy his opposite number in the Black Chamber.)

45:
the person known as "James Jesus Angleton" only does it to annoy
"because he knows it teases", as Mr. Dodgson knows very well.

Clifton - thanks for the gloss. I must have missed the whole BOFH thing while being an embedded programmer with no network connection. At least, it felt like I was embedded in something...

But surely Bob Howard's middle name is "Ervin"?

46:

Mr. Dodgson, I had initially taken the reference to "James" in the backstory to mean that as the British agent on-scene he was using "James Bond" as his cover name, as that would also fit with the later plot development. Either way, it was made clear it was purely to piss off the Americans.

I just skimmed the Wikipedia article on James Jesus Angleton. A bit clumsy in the usual Wikipedia way, but fascinating. I'll have to hunt for some more about him.

47:

Suffice to say, both Bob and Angleton have a major role in the multi-book story arc I'm planning.

Even if I end up, discworld style, diverting into exploring other character POVs in some books. (There's only so much I can do with Bob without him going a bit stale. See also Rincewind.)

48:

re James Jesus Angleton: also has a nice entry in Robert Anton Wilsons "Everything is under Control" (sortof an encyclopedia of conspiracy theories).

Note re different markets for english books: I (living in Germany) just ordered the Jennifer Morgue from amazon.de, as the US Hardcover version. So .. in the statistical roundup that publishers probably look at when they want to know where what kind of literature sells well: where would that turn up? Under "US" or under "those people in the not-english speaking world who nevertheless read english versions of books". Does that category even _exist_ in the brains of publishers? I have no data to back it up but I kindof wonder whether e.g. sales of Pratchett in english in Germany aren't maybe bigger than the sales of the translations (which, IMO, as almost all translations, are horrible).

49:

By the way, I need a book about CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. I NEED IT. PLEASE.

50:
By the way, I need a book about CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. I NEED IT. PLEASE
Calm down, man! Surely you know there are some things that Man was never meant to know?
51:

Well, IIRC it was going to happen in 2012, according to "The Concrete Jungle". But in "TJM" there's a reference to the real horrors only arriving a year or two later, because it takes them time to wake.

Like all other software products, indescribable horrors from beyond space clearly suffer from schedule slippage.

Either that, or Mr Stross, like so many people who make money from predicting an impending apocalypse, is coming to grips with the question: what am I going to make money off after the predicted date, if it doesn't happen? and the slippage is a bit of pre-emptive retcon to allow him to keep writing Bob Howard novels well into the next decade cheers cheers.

52:

The dirty truth about CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is that it's a movable feast. I won't be able to write book #3 until 2008, meaning it won't be in print before 2009, and even if I hit a one-Laundry-novel-per-two-years schedule thereafter, I'd like to be able to write more than four of them, please?

So the retconned "truth" is that the stars don't come right abruptly: they take a few years. While the window begins to open in 2012 it's not fully open for a while longer -- so only little stuff leaks through at first. But it stays open for many years, and the consequences will be ... fun to explore!

53:

Ah - restricted interdimensional bandwidth?

54:
Like all other software products, indescribable horrors from beyond space clearly suffer from schedule slippage.
Or perhaps, like all other software implementers, they suffer from slowness of thought before they're finished their morning coffee. Clearly a problem for long values of "morning".
55:

The Howard-Hughes cosponsored "Glomar Explorer grab" did NOT fail. That was the cover story under the cover story (which itself was undersea mineral collection alpha-test).

The Glomar got the two main prizes: the Soviet nuclear submarine's warheads, and encryption system.

Either "Charles Dodgson" was fooled by the disinformation, or is part of the disinformation, or I am, or Litvinenko was, or some combination of those.

As to the key device in "The Jennifer Morgue" -- have you seen the page on the last person jailed in the UK under the witchcraft law, and how she was visited by Winston Churchill, who threw out the law. Surely a writer of genius such as Charles Stross can tell us what REALLY happened there.

Fraudulent medium or powerful psychic: the trial of a Scottish witch
CRAIG HOWIE
, The Scotsman.

BBC - History - Scottish History
The defendants were now accused of a different kind of conspiracy: that of contravening the Witchcraft Act of 1735. In particular, the medium and her three ...

Finally, the official web page:
HELEN DUNCAN
Medium Martyr
Nov. 25 1897
to Dec. 6 1956

56:

Bruce Cohen said:
"But surely Bob Howard's middle name is "Ervin"?"

I thought the same thing until I asked Charlie myself & was told the conicidence was, uh, coincidental. Until then I'd been thinking how cool Charlie was, doing two in-jokes with one name.

57:

No, Mr. vos Post, the Glomar Explorer mission was a complete failure, due to the interference of BLUE HADES defensive systems with the gear while Billington attempted to operate the Gravedust communication system, and "Angleton" observed on the surface. I mean, really. Haven't you read the !@%#!%#@ book?!

58:

Or it's like the Y2K bug. Come 2012, the problem will have been solved, nothing squamous will have come out of the woodshed, and everyone's going to be standing around going "Well, where are they, then? You got us all worked up for nothing!"

Or perhaps, like all other software implementers, they suffer from slowness of thought before they're finished their morning coffee. Clearly a problem for long values of "morning".

Or they're here already; the incantations have already been uttered. It's just that it takes a long time for the computational substructure of the universe to compile the incantations' source code into the object code of the entities themselves. Summoning's a misnomer - it's more like creation, following the template already in existence in the Platonic overspace. We can only wait, and hope that the original spells were buggy...

59:

BUM

That means, that unless I get to "Forbidden" REALLY QUICKLY, I've had it until the pbk publication, later ....

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