Back to: Missile Gap | Forward to: Shaping the future

Hunting the feral typo

I love checking galley proofs for typos. No, really. It beats whacking myself on the big toe with a hammer any time. And it beats the sense of mortification that steals over you when you open your latest first edition and realize you've mis-spelled the main protagonist's name in the first paragraph, and your editor, copy editor, and the external proofreader have all missed it. (This hasn't happened to me, yet, but it's happened to other authors I know.) It is, basically, a necessary evil, and part of the job of being a writer.

As Linus Torvalds pointed out in another context, "many eyes make bugs transparent". The more pairs of eyeballs that scan a page, the greater the probability that one pair will stumble over a glitch in the prose. And these days, paperback proofs are prepared by simply re-running the Quark or InDesign files for the hardcover edition, using a different paper size (and tweaking the front matter, and correcting any typos that have been unearthed by the several thousand readers to date).

This is the season of proofreading, and I need to know: if you've spotted any glitches in the hardcover of THE CLAN CORPORATE (Tor, March 2006) you can do your bit to help preserve my sanity (and tidy up the mass-market paperback) by mentioning it in the comment section of this blog entry. And while I'm on the subject, if you spot anything problematic in the hardcover of THE JENNIFER MORGUE, I could do with a heads-up. (GLASSHOUSE is too far on in production — the paperbacks are being printed Real Soon Now.)

Thanks in advance!



Darn. I thought when I saw the "many eyes" comment that you were about to say: here is a web-readable version of The Jennifer Morgue for you to proofread. Remember, don't actually read it, just proofread it for typos and then forget everything and go buy the paperback instead.

No such luck :)

I'll have a look at the hardback when I get my hands on it.


well, there certainly is a copy of the The Jennifer Morgue somewhere out on the web, if you were to look for it. But I'm quite sure it contains a number of additional errors ..

Damn .. lent my copy of the Jennifer Morgue to a friend .. ISTR there was something that bugged me in it, but I can't think of it right now. Will have to get the book back from said friend to check again.


Michael: there's an e-book version? I thought that the publisher weren't going for e-books? Where can I buy?

(goes off to search)


Stuart: the hardcovers of "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue" are published exclusively by Golden Gryphon, who don't do ebooks.

The paperbacks are [being] published by Ace (US) and Orbit (UK), who do ebook versions (albeit with DRM).

But only "The Atrocity Archives" is out in paperback so far; if you want an ebook of "The Jennifer Morgue" you will need to wait until November.


I think your books have stood up fairly well to my casual scrutiny: typos usually leap off the page at me in a way that never seems to happen for professional signwriters. (I haven't started the Clan series yet, as I don't do linked series until they're all done: I've been badly bitten too many times by authors with writer's block or wandering attention.)

Sadly, John C. Wright's Golden Age trilogy was the most typo-riddled set of books I've ever encountered. I can't believe any eyes ever looked over those galleys.


Mike: if you want for the whole series, you've got a long wait ahead of you. On the other hand, the first two books form a more-or-less standalone narrative with a natural end-point, and the subsequent story-line should be completed in book 6; thereafter (if the series continues) it'll be a Next Generation kind of enterprise.

So you might be okay reading #1 and #2 now, then waiting for #3 to #6 inclusive.


What do you mean the paperbacks of Glasshouse are being printed Real Soon Now? I saw them on the shelves at Blackwell's weeks ago (a search on the website shows paperbacks, UK rather than imports, in stock now).


Brian: you're British, aren't you?

GLASSHOUSE came out in hardcover in the US last July; the US paperback is due out Real Soon Now. Orbit, for some reason, decided not to do a hardcover but to go straight to paperback back in March.

... And if you think that's headache-worthy, just wait for the Merchant Princes books; #1 should be coming out in paperback in the UK this November, just as #3 shows up in paperback in the USA and #3 debuts in US hardcover.


Please let the fans know when a signed hardcover of any Stross book is available.



Jeff: the Easton Press did a signed edition of GLASSHOUSE last August. And Subterranean did a signed limited run of MISSILE GAP in December. Both runs are sold out.

There may be a limited edition signed run of TOAST within the next 12 months (but the contents won't be changed in any other way); that's that until the next short story collection (probably in 2009).


I know it's too late to be any use to you, but to put your mind at rest I didn't spot any glaring typos in either the hardback or UK paperback versions of Glasshouse. Mind you, I was reading it for fun and not wearing my editor's head...


to Stuart: sorry if I misled you, of course I meant "pirate" ebooks .. (hmm, now I'm imagining a book with an eyepatch .. ) anyway, interestingly enough, a casual search didn't turn one up! so I wonder whether there's some many-betentacled, non-euclidean DRM included in the print version .. (scan this book and Horrors From Beyond Will Eat Your Soul!)


Michael: I suspect the lack of pirate copies of certain of my books more a case of most potential scan-and-post folks not being too keen on carving up a lovely hardcover first edition in order to accomplish the task, than any lack of demand. (I've seen cracked mobipocket versions of certain of my novels floating around.)

NB: I can't (and won't) endorse unauthorized copying of my -- or any other authors' -- works (with the possible exception of "orphan" works, ones where the author has died and the book has gone out of print with no prospect of a reissue taking place). However, I'd like to note that ebook editions of the Laundry novels will be forthcoming, and the ebook editions of the Merchant Princes novels were available briefly last year, before internal publishing company politics spiked them, and I hope they'll be available again soon.


It's OK, I can wait. I have Stephen Donaldson's new chronicles on hold for the next 5-10years it will take him to complete it. My current backlog of books will take up the slack easily, noting that I just got around to reading a Lem novel that I've had for 20 years. If it's any consolation, I am almost up to date on all the other published Stross, with the exception of the (possibly 2 copies of) Missile Gap that I have waiting for me in Australia, whenever I get back there to read them.

I just went looking for a review I saw of the Wright series which also bemoaned typos. Instead I found a review of his newer Everness series complaining about the same problem. Something is going wrong at Rot :-) books.

I was reading another blog commentary recently where a poster complained about all the "typo's [sic]".


As Roc is a sister imprint to Ace at Penguin, and Ace are my US publisher, I couldn't possibly comment ... but you might be unsurprised to learn that galleys I get from Ace get an extra-special going over.

Remember, if there are typos in a book, 95% of the time the reason is that the author didn't proof-read it properly. And nobody else has the time to do it (or the ability to say "what I meant to write was ...").


Remember that "Robot" story by Isaac Asimov, where human proofreaders try to stop a robot proofreader from "stealing their jobs"... knowing full well that the robot proofs manuscripts with 100% efficiency?

When I was a kid, I thought the story exaggerated a bit. Surely robots were not THAT superior to a human proofreader! Nowadays I wish I had such a machine to help me out... ;-P


I'd help but I'm rubbish at spotting typos, my brain seems to autocorrect them without me even realizing it. It used to get me in trouble at school, I was always told to proofread my work. The thing is, my work was always correct the way I read it.

Actually, I'm not sure I read much of anything exactly as it's written...


Charlie: aha, I thought I'd seen you say something about Golden Gryphon not doing e-books.

A question: if these pirate e-books exist, how do you feel about people who have already bought the book getting them? It'd be quite convenient to read them on my phone, which is where I do a lot of reading (tech books and the wonders of Project Gutenberg, mainly, as well as things like Doctorow's books). I suspect that it'd be better to deny that sort of thing because you can't tell whether I actually own the book, but if you've got a lax opinion on that sort of thing then it might be worth looking at?


Do American characters speaking in Britishisms count? (I enjoy your books terribly, but those errors grate like nails on a blackboard!) The Clan Corporate had both "sacked" (Amer: "fired") and "on side" (which I thought was a typo for "on your side" until I searched Google.)

So now you've met my pet, Peeve. Thanks for writing such wonderful stories.


I've heard the term "sacked" used in the US, at least in the northeast. Usually in the past tense, though sometimes as a verb. Never as a noun though, you wouldn't say someone was going to "get the sack" but you could say they were going to "get sacked" or that you were going "sack them". Fired is more common though. Also "canned", "axed", "laid off". More recently "downsized" or "outsourced".

I've never heard "on side" though.


In my experience, the usage of "sacked" in the U.S. is uncommon, typically only by U.K. expatriots and the sorry bastards who've been forced to spend too much time around them. I haven't read Mr. Stross's books yet (no damned time), so I can't say whether I agree with Mr. Clark's assessment.


I believe that Charlie has an 'out' on the Britishisms in that series, as the 'modern' world is not actually identical to ours. Therefore minor language differences are OK.


Use of Anglicisms in the Merchant Princes books: my out is that I try to keep 'em out in the first place, then rely on my editors to spot the rest ... and they don't always succeed.

Stuart @18: no comment. I sold the exclusive rights to publish those books as ebooks to my publishers (not doing so would have been a deal-breaker), so they get to decide how the ebooks should be handled. I can nudge them to do things in my preferred way (hint: Webscriptions for most, CC editions some) but that's as far as it goes.


NB: I'm off traveling for 10 of the next 14 days, and on this first trip I'm leaving my laptop at home. So I won't be answering any questions for a while.

Meanwhile, if you find any typos (especially in THE CLAN CORPORATE), please post 'em here?


Charlie @8:- Yes, an Edinburgher, in fact. I didn't realise the UK would have a paperback before the US (I got my hardback thanks to the wonders of the internet).

Richard @19:- I've always thought of "on side" as an Annoying Americanism.


The Jennifer Morgue: discussing what to do about Billington if It All Goes Wrong, one character says that they could use a destroyer to "drop a brace of Storm Shadows on his ass".

  • He's a British character. Surely "arse"?

  • Storm Shadow is an air-launched weapon. A RN destroyer would use Harpoon missiles. (though there is a similar weapon, SCALP Naval, in the pipeline for sealaunch, i) it's not finished yet and ii) the RN hasn't committed to buying it as far as I know and iii) it would only be fitted to the type 45s, which haven't been launched yet either and iv) it's sufficiently different from Storm Shadow that it would almost certainly have a different name).

  • 27:

    Charlie: fair play, and thanks for the answer. I'll just carry on biting my nails until TJM comes out in paperback, then. :)


    They could, of course, use a Eurofighter Typhoon to drop the Storm Shadows on his arse.

    I think I'll reread the other project this weekend.


    Charlie, as an interesting note at least two major continuity errors (that I know of, sure there have been more...) have been caught on Baen books via webscriptions and people commenting on them. One related to a Honourverse ship size, the other to ages of some of the characters in Crown of Slaves :)


    I'm not sure if this is a spelling error, or simply an unusual usage that I'm not aware of, but shouldn't the "Manhattan island" on page 40 be "Manhattan Island" instead?


    Similarly, I can't tell if "nay-one" on page 41 was supposed to read "anyone", or not.


    I believe it was in this book that you had "stationary" instead of "stationery." Some of the Britishisms glared a tad ("lift" instead of "elevator" was one, as was "flat" instead of "apartment") but in the long run those were easy to step over.



    You've got less than just about anybody nowadays. But I'll give a close look to the new ones when they come out since I'm not gonna re-read the others, at least not right away.


    Actually I believe it's "many eyes make bugs shallow", and it was Eric Raymond, not Linus .... Sorry.


    I agree with Phiilip Barnett -- it was Eric S. Raymond, who had an earlier career as a science fiction reviewer. My codirector Bill Drury at Brave New World (later acquired by VA Linux) and I bought him lunch at the San Jose Worldcon, and this was something we talked about -- many eyes, and science fiction both, I mean.

    By the way, from before you switched careers, what was your Abel number?

    Nature News Published online: 4 May 2007; | doi:10.1038/news070430-12 Six degrees of pharmacology Game ranks researchers by proximity to field's founder.

    Jill U. Adams

    "What's your Abel number?" was the big question being asked by pharmacologists this week at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, DC.

    Members of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) were swept up in a game, akin to playing six degrees of separation, in which researchers compete to be the most closely related to the man regarded as the field's founder: John J. Abel.

    Thanks to a project initiated by David Bylund of the University of Nebraska in Omaha, attendees were wearing large pins proclaiming their pedigree. "How did you get to be a 3?" and "I got myself down to a 5," became the hot conversation starters at society mixers.

    Abel pioneered the discipline of pharmacology in the late nineteenth century, forming departments at the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University, and founding ASPET. Most famous for his work isolating adrenaline, an important stress hormone, Abel published almost 100 papers during his career. These papers are shared with a total of 27 co-authors, who, in the new game, are assigned an 'Abel number' of 1. Those 27 scientists co-published with at least 278 individuals (who get an Abel number of 2), who in turn published with at least 3,000 more (Abel number 3s).... [truncated]


    I think it was in JM that you expand "FPGA" as "Fully Programmable". The FPGAs available outside occult spook shops are merely Field Programmable. I was hoping for some kind of explanation of the difference between the two, but without it, your expansion just read as a braino.

    I'm guessing there were more people who noticed this than noticed the full name of the protagonist. (I dropped the book and laughed for about three minutes at the latter.)


    If you enjoy rereading your own work, it's usually a sign that you did a good job that time. I just finished proofing the galleys of THE SUNRISE LANDS (out in September) and had that experience.


    I use "sack" and "on side" myself.

    Of course, I'm sort of mid-Atlantic; born Canadian, three English-born grandparents, spent some time in schools with British staff and a lot of British students.


    OK, error for Jennifer Morgue coming up:

    or maybe not an error, just a major pet-peeve of mine ..

    page 52 of the hardcover. Sophie, the german woman from "Faust Force" is speaking two sentences of rather strange english that are probably intended to signify that a) she is German b) her english isn't very good (except for her pre-rehearsed presentation)

    Which is all very well and good except that her english doesn't contain real germanisms. At least not ones I've encountered before, and since most people around me speak rather bad english .. well.

    the specific cases are: "If you will with me bear" and "the contractors a presentation have prepared". Even people who get almost everything wrong don't do that.

    I'm trying to think of an alternative way to convey what I think you wanted to convey. As soon as I come up with one (i.e. by listening to my coworkers tomorrow) I'll post it.


    THE CLAN CORPORATE: I recall it was pretty much typo-free except for: Page 302: ... with the look of a man who'd born -> borne


    Uh, that was p302, seventh line.


    Thank you! At last, a typo!

    (Am off to Munich tomorrow, so probably no more blog entries until I get home at the weekend -- whereupon I'm considering posting the text of my talk there.)


    Personally, I'd love to read the text of your talk on Cthulhu at Penguicon.


    tanks, we be jammin! safe travels amigo.



    p228 para4 line2: ... based on the premise that you buy cheap, off-the shelf

    Whereas the glossary's COTS is commercial-off-the-shelf. Intentional?


    thought some more about my comment re english by german speakers and how those sentences jumped out at me. easy fix: "the contractors a presentation have prepared" --> "the contractors have a presentation prepared" that would be an authentic germanism in that it follows exactly the german sentence-structure, whilst the above doesn't.

    as for "if you will with me bear" .. I still have to think about that one.


    pg35 para3 line2: Another instance of ", off-the-shelf"

    pg60 para1 line3: "... our consumables budget, totaling" -> totalling


    Charlie @ 36:

    Aw, blowing an acronym expansion doesn't count as a typo? Where's my Knuthian exponential cash?

    Next thing you know Stephenson is going to be claiming that cli() is a back-formation from the Hole Hawg.

    OK, enough. But out here in the enterprisey trenches something has been bothering me. Vinge claims in Deepness that we're basically doomed to optimize our efficiency ever upwards until we get within epsilon and live hedonistic lives until something unexpected happens; then all of those optimizations turn out to be too fragile to survive the perturbation.

    Well, that kind of optimization sounds a lot like the ideology behind the various silly Web Services groups: the world can be modelled by smart people and divided into appropriate component parts, which can then be understood.

    What I'd love to read is a clash between that kind of civilization (which we like to think we live in) and what we're actually building. The most influential things out there on the web have the feel of these giant brutes that just do not care about underlying elegant semantics and optimization but just happen to provide a really simple and broken interface. Think of it as Worse Is Better as space opera.

    Sagan guessed that sometime about now we'd build machines that could answer any question answerable in the scope of human knowledge. Does he get the credit for that one?


    Jay, the problem is extrapolating the right trends. I write RPG settings for fun, and looking back six years at one of the "straight line extrapolation" societies I have to wince.

    (Of course, that was only one of the two major societies in that picture, but I've pretty much retooled the Technocrat Union as straight, if dark, cyberpunk to avoid the issue)


    Bought the paperback edition of Glasshouse last week (from Borders in Canberra, Australia). Devoured it whole. Alas, I am an inveterate proof-reader, so I will report two errors on page 202: 'zombies' misspelled as 'zimboes', and 'Curious Yellow' (is there a Curious Blue?) appearing as 'Curibus Yellow'.

    Shoot the editor.


    Yeah, I saw the Curibus Yellow too. Kudos for the Jeff Noon reference, by the way. "Vurt" and "Pollen" would have to be among the strangest and most memorable books I've ever read.


    BTW, @47 was for TJM.

    TJM: pg90 para1 line2: "hands away as if they're covered in chili oil" -> chilli


    Chris @51: what Jeff Noon reference? (I've never read any of his books.)



    pg181 para8 line1: I open the door. On the other side of is a large, exquisitely paneled -> panelled?

    pg185 5th to last line: ment conjuration, on a bigger scale. James Bond, channeling -> channelling

    ASS/ARSE:Inconsistent usage. It's a book written by a British writer in a (mainly) British setting but published by an American Publisher.

    'Ass' isn't exactly the same meaning as 'arse' but...

    ASS: pg3 line2: ... been sitting on their collective ass pg4 line2: Duke is a tight-ass. pg33 para4 line2: around behind me and turns the fat-assed recliner pg76 line8: ... to use us as a staging post for their crazy-ass pg91 para8 line1: anyone ever tell you you're an asshole pg93 line2: than Angleton's ass. pg111 para4 line2: the sea, bare-ass naked. pg135 last para line1: Hanging my ass out... pg147 line2: gun in it but some ass-hat pg176 last line: I'm going to kick his ass. pg188 para6 line18: stabby on my ass pg189 para2 line last: crawling as a way of kicking black beret ass. p199 line4: drags her tired ass pg201 last para line2: strictly one-way - but I can try to cover her ass pg223 para3 line2:I'm sitting on my ass in a gilded cage pg227 last line: to kick ass and set off explosions pg253 second last para line3: we'll just pop a brace of Storm Shadows on his ass pg257 line2: but then he decided to get all human on my ass. pg260 para8 line4: it was. Or do you think I turned up there on your ass by accident?" pg262 para6 line3: turns out to have been Jack. Last of the public school assholes.

    ARSE: pg55 para7 second last line: body and I roll again, drop arse-first onto the floor pg98 second last para second last line: couldn't find their arse with a map pg148 para2 line12: zombies shoot at me. "Arse", I mutter

    PIMF: pg271 line8: other inmates in this goddamn loony bin could be arsed p281 last line: "Oh you stupid, stupid arse!" pg284 para2 last line: got a plan. Ready to kick ass?

    Minor nit about the untidyness of Pale Grace surveillance: pg171: Billington says that: ..anything the wearer can see or hear, my monitors can pick up. pg193:Bob: "So you've got access to the eyeballs of anyone who's wearing Pale Grace eye shadow?" pg198: Mo accepts a sample of eyeliner & & rubs a smear of in on her wrist. pg221/222: Billington's goons have to wear eyeliner.

    It implied (to me) that given it's sympathetic/similarity magic the makeup has to be worn around the eyes to work but Mo only had it on her wrist. I also found it somewhat jarring when the bits of Bob looking through Mo's eyes were written as 3rd person perspective. I was expecting first person.

    Also in the epilogue (pg263: We used Pale Grace for the finishing touch; it might be bugged, but we made sure I didn't see anything until I was aboard the ship):

    There was no indication that Mo et al. had cottoned on to Pale Grace as the surveillance vector, but I guess that by then Bob had already screwed up the monitoring servers so it didn't matter anymore.


    Guise @50: "Zimbo" is the correct spelling for the term -- for further illumination you might find this essay/review useful. (Hint: I tend to side with Dennett.)


    JM: Not really a typo, but I found the repeated use of the phrase "the moon pool at the heart of the ship" on the first two pages a bit jarring.


    Thank you for the clarification, Charlie (I'm more and more convinced that there are at least three people writing under that name, but we'll stick with the singular referent for now). Having read the linked essay I can confirm the existence of zimboes, simply by looking around the office ... BTW - Curious Yellow a Jeff Noon reference? I should hope not!


    'chili' is correct.


    Charlie, you should definitely read Vurt. And possibly Pollen (a sequel that doesn't depend on the original). Curious Yellow is important in Vurt, and you'll have to read it to see why. It's much too strange to explain in a blog comment :)

    Or are you both referencing some Scottish pop-culture thing I've missed out on?


    We're actually referencing something else; he's referencing the original movie directly, while I'm referencing this (which is named after the film reference).


    nex @60: I'm showing my origins here; 'chilli' is the correct spelling in 'British' English.


    I note that on your list of works to the right of this post there is one named "The Hidden Hamily." Is that a British spelling, too?


    RE-post 43. Steven: I don't think the transcript would do justice to the talk at Penguicon. For one thing, the talk was used up mostly by another writer sitting on the pannel. I don't even know her name (I'm too lazy to look it up at the moment), but she didn't have much to say that interested me (she did like talking about herself, though). It would have been MUCH better if the talk had just been with CS. But, one thing I did get out of the event was a nice picture of CS with a plushy green Cthulhu on his head. You gotta love cell phone cameras.



    Not a typo, but in the first book of the Hidden Family series, you have a black American character saying 'get your self sorted'. This is the sort of thing that causes mental whiplash. If ever there's a second edition, perhaps you could replace that with 'get organized' or something of that kind.


    Actually, I like sorted. "You'd pick me up and you'd Sort me out..."-- Keane (the British band). Granted, it's probably more British to say that, but that's just fine.




    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 30, 2007 1:22 PM.

    Missile Gap was the previous entry in this blog.

    Shaping the future is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

    Search this blog