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Brief commercal interlude

I have, in my hot sweaty hands, my first author copy of the British paperback edition of "The Atrocity Archives". It's taken its own sweet time coming — I wrote the short novel that's at the core of that book right after "Singularity Sky", in 1999-2000, and it first crept into public view as a serial in the now-defunct Scottish SF magazine Spectrum SF in 2002-03. Anyway. Just saying, it's finally come home, and it should be in the shops in another couple of weeks.

(Meanwhile, I've decided the "buy my books" links on the right are getting a bit gnarly and out of control. Not to say messy ... and that's without listing non-English language editions! I'm going to have to bite the bullet soon and set up a separate section of my website just to make access to information about where to buy the books easer. Just, not when I'm grappling with an uncooperative novel and a laptop whose letter "i" has decided to absent itself about 10% of the time ...)



Congratulations on receiving the dead-tree version. It's a fine piece of work.


I am hoping to get the green light to write books #3 and #4 in the series around the end of this year/beginning of next ... but first I have three other novels to plough through. Sigh.


"and a laptop whose letter "i" has decided to absent itself about 10% of the time"

Time for a lipogrammatic chapter or two, perhaps? Channel your inner Georges Perec! (But without the early-onset lung cancer, please . . .)


Sometimes those sorts of key problems can be solved by popping the cap off and reseating it. I had a flakey space bar on my Powerbook once, nearly drove me crazy before a tech showed me that. Since then I've done it to 4 or 5 other keys, and the 'book has lasted 7 years so far.


When does the movie come out?


Probably never... ;-) But Charlie, if it indeed did come out as a movie, who'd you want to direct it and who'd you want as Bob Howard? :-)


Bruce: it's a Vaio. Knowing what their support is like, I'm not going to risk it. (These are the bastards who can charge you $82 for a screw.) It's under warranty. Either the crumb will shake free, or I'll send it back to the department store I bought it from and let them do battle with Sony while I rely on the fallback machine.

Zoid: as a media illiterate, I'm not sure I have the background ... but how about Simon Pegg?


is one of the two books besides saturn's children you have to get through the accelerando sequel(if not is there going to be one besides glasshouse)


Oh, I saw a paperback of the Atrocity Archives in an Edinburgh bookshop the other day. It had a foreword by Ken MacLeod. Is this an import or something?


@Charlie(7) - Simon Pegg isn't geeky enough IMHO. He doesn't look like the kind of guy who would create a new kind of fractal just 'cos he could.

@Brian(9) - I bought that paperback in Waterstones in April. The footer of the title page reads "Ace Books, New York".


Ian @8: no sequel to "Accelerando" is currently planned. (Do you want my brain to melt?!?)

Brian @9: Waterstones have been importing the US trade paperback of "The Atrocity Archives" in some volume -- it's the one with a picture of a cubicle farm and a mushroom cloud, plus our hero, on the front cover. The Orbit edition is reddish in hue, styled like the UK paperback of "Glasshouse", and says "horror" more loudly than "humour".


"I am hoping to get the green light to write books #3 and #4 in the series around the end of this year/beginning of next ... but first I have three other novels to plough through. Sigh."

-- beats unemployment... 8-).

'tis a pity it's so much easier to come up with cool ideas for books than to actually write them... couldn't you IT guys automate that part?


Steve @12: I thought it was done in the 1950s, by that well-known AI programmer, Lionel Fanthorpe ...


The obvious clue being the IO and the FAN in Lionel Fanthorpe. More subtle is the linkage of "LION" and "THORPE" in this context:

"Fast spread the tidings from thorpe to thorpe and from castle to castle, that the old game was afoot once more, and the lions and lilies to be in the field with the early spring."

The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Edinburgh, you know...)

Of course, carrying tidings from castle to castle faster than by foot (or horseback) is part of the point of the Merchant Princes series, right?


Jeremy @ 10.

I think Simon Pegg would more than manage the role, he's geek enough in real life that I'd be suprised if he has sat watching fractals form...whilst hammered. Or 'otherwise inebriated'.

Of course you'd also have to find a bit part for Chris Frost.


I'm thinking Peter Cushing -- if he's still around -- would do Angleton nicely.


"Fast spread the tidings from thorpe to thorpe and from castle to castle, that the old game was afoot once more, and the lions and lilies to be in the field with the early spring."

The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of Edinburgh, you know...)

-- though oddly enough the area he seemed to be really in love with was Hampshire; that's where he set all his classic historicals. (Which I prefer to the Sherlock Holmes stories, wonderful though those are.)

Hmmm. Not all that surprising; it's a very pretty place and was more so in his day. Relatives of mine live nearby, in Wiltshire.


Cushing is no longer with us, alas. How About Christopher eccleston? Much too young, but with the right makeup he could certainly bring the required dark edged menace to the role.


Steven: yes, stick twenty years and an undertaker's suit on Ecclestone and he'd fit the bill. (Hopefully the next book in the series (as/when I write it) will explain just how scary Angleton truly is -- and why. Not all the monsters are on the outside of the Laundry ...)



I remember you writing once that your SFBC sales were miniscule. How miniscule? I bought a copy of the Laundry compilation "On Her Majesty's Occult Service" and am curious as to how much company I have in that purchase.


Steve: My SFBC print runs are typically around 30% of my hardcover print runs.

(French book club print runs are around 150-200% of my trade paperback print runs over there. Go figure. It's a different market ...)


Charlie: Eccleston is an excellent choice for Angleton. He has that look of barely constrained madness about him that threatens to erupt any second...

Simon Pegg would do a good Howard also. He seems to have mastered both drama/horror/sf (Shaun of the dead, Doctor Who) and comedy/action (Hot Fuzz)


will explain just how scary Angleton truly is -- and why.

Extant works indicate that Angelton is at minimum the equivalent of a well disguised lich; presumably the variant where you get that way through being a high-level bureaucrat, too. ("At fourteen level, the bureaucrat may cause Her Majesty's Regulations to take tangible form...")

Throw in the smart, the desk toys, the Serves a Cause, and Bob's palpable terror I'd wonder that anyone is missing the scary as things stand.

Not that I wouldn't expect to enjoy the next book, and all, but I would have thought Angelton has been an unholy terror since his introduction.


Graydon, the next book is going to be the Anthony Price one. In which Bob must investigate a historical conundrum left over from 1942 or thereabouts. That's the kind of revelation I'm thinking in terms of. (Must get round to reading the Dennis Wheatley autobiography about his time in SOE Deception Planning. It's in the queue behind the bios of Stuart Blacker and Oswald Moseley, and I really need to find a decent bio of J. F. C. Fuller to go with them.)

BTW, the civil service has, AIUI, far more than fourteen grades ...

... And did you really think Gruinard was off-limits for sixty years merely because they were testing weaponised anthrax there?


Of course the Civil Service has more than fourteen grades. I don't want to think about what a Deputy Minister can do.

I'd be amused -- I might be the only person so amused -- if you could manage to throw in some Operations Research while you were at it. They were, after all, trying to find analog solutions to chaotic problems round about that time.


Charlie, something's been bothering me about the plot of Jennifer Morgue, and here is as bad a place as any to ask:

If the US occult services can invoke narrative causality, and perform other destiny-binding effects on that level, why do they fool around with summoning succubi? I didn't see anything a succubus could do in the book that a simple sorceror/hacker couldn't ... other than the climax, which US intelligence wanted to prevent, and which it could have prevented by simply not summoning the possessor demons in the first place. What did I miss?


I'd be shocked if you remember me at all, but I was the overly-helpful, overly-loquacious fellow with the long hair at Philcon this past fall. (Who temporarily turned you into a butler so I could deliver a hug to a friend after dinner, if that helps)

Just read through the SFBC omnibus of the Laundry stories, and wanted to drop you a note telling you how very much I enjoyed it. Very different from SINGULARITY SKY--well, except for the geek-and-femme-fatale (or belle-dame-sans-merci, perhaps) meet-not-cute archetype that runs through the books--but just as great.

(And now that I've moved into more rarified levels of government bureaucracy as I do an ever-widening scope of duties as a full-time union steward in the federal government, much of it had a great deal more resonance than was perhaps entirely comfortable ...)

But semiotic hells ... you really WEREN'T kidding when you said how much fun you'd had writing THE JENNIFER MORGUE, were you?

More, please.

(and regarding the aptly-named Angleton [a ton of angles="many-sided"?]: "He may be a monster--but he's our monster.")


Michael @26: what you're missing is [plot spoiler for next six books in series deleted]. However, two points to chew on: (a) manipulating destiny is hard in the Laundryverse -- witness the Black Chamber's demo version being so small it only really affects two people -- and (b) if you set your plot engine going and you've overlooked something, you're going to end up in a world of hurt. (Like Billington, in the book.)

As for the Black Chamber: let's just say they're over-reliant on necromantic intelligence techniques in just the same way current US intel organizations are over-reliant on ELINT at the expense of HUMINT, with similar consequences, and leave it at that for now!


Hey, the real Jim Angleton was scary enough. And as far as we know he didn't have any tentacles. Well, unless you count metaphorical ones.


How about something on the Laundry's contribution to the late unpleasantness in Northern Ireland/North of Ireland/Occupied Six Counties (call it what you will)?


D. O'Kane: that's a bit close to the bone, hmm? (Although if I ever decide to mess with the underlying truth behind the faeries ...)


Hi to all from a Stross nube. Just started my first Stross read (Glasshouse) and thoroughly enjoying it.

It's great to have this Charlie Stross internet "presence" and to be able to interact with TMH. Another of my favourite writers, Iain (M) Banks, seems to be conspicuous on the Internet by his absence but I recently read a post here by Bruce Cohen which mentioned a Blog by Iain Banks. Is there one? Does anyone know where this blog might be?


Doktor Stross: I do beg your pardon. I forgot you're domiciled in Scotland, or 'East Ulster' as it could perhaps (and unfortunately) be renamed.

Back in the 90s a no-budget zombie movie was made in Portadown (really rough part of NI, for those who don't know). Some poor sod was coming down from a magic mushroom sod and looked out his window only to see a horde of zombies shambling up his street. . . Which is not really relevant to this thread, except that it does show that Northern Ireland's potential as a locale for the Unheimlich is perhaps under-exploited. . .


D. O'Kane: I live in Edinburgh, I'm not exactly deeply rooted here, though. (Go back two generations and you'll find my family tree in what is today Poland. Go a generation further and you'll find them in Belgium.)

It's not a personal objection to using NI as a setting so much as the point that I'm trying to do a humorous horror series, and plonking great big gobbets of still-bleeding and ideologically charged history in it will tend to spoil the souffle for some folks.

It's the same reason why the barking-mad terrorists in Santa Cruz in "The Atrocity Archive" aren't called Al Qaida. Because they were, in the first, pre-9/11 draft, when I was looking for an appropriately mad bunch of idiots to use. As Spectrum SF's editor put it while he was editing the first chunk for serialization, around November 2001, "you might want to pick someone less sensitive".


Thanks for the interesting response.

Some of your other work does seem to engage with 'still-bleeding and ideologically charged' pieces of history, though, doesn't it? I know 'Iron Sunrise' is a work of a different type to say the Atrocity Archive, but it could easily have been titled 'Space Nazis Must Die'.

But I do take your general point.


a horde of zombies shambling up his street.

In Portadown, I doubt he would have been noticeably perturbed by this vision. In Bradford, or for that matter London, the appearance of the Portadown LOL (definitely not Laugh Out Loud in this sense) would be indistinguishable from a zombie invasion.


D O'Keane - you think the Nazi party are 'still-bleeding and ideologically charged'?

I'm not saying that there are no more Nazis, or even Neo-Nazis and their moronic ilk. But they ain't Al Queda, or the IRA for example. Things that people can become somewhat more fraught over.

I don't believe Space Nazis have blown up any big buildings recently :)

And even then - The Atrocity Archives does have a group of psychotic terrorists. And Nazis. And Squibbous things from the nether realms (Not to be confused with nether regions; they're entirely different).

Charlie - you planning on any UK signing tours this/next year. Or are you still not suitably huge in stature to manage a full tour?


I'd say the enormity of the Nazis' crimes means that those are crimes are 'still bleeding', yes. Anyway, this stems from a silly quip, which I wasn't intending to turn into a detailed examination and critique of the historical consciousness of Charles Stross.

We'd have to dice his brain, Hitch-hiker's style, for a start.


...And did you really think Gruinard was off-limits for sixty years merely because they were testing weaponised anthrax there?

There's a lot of other stuff around that area. Loch Ewe was a major base for the convoy escorts in the Second World War, and there is still a fair amount of military activity going on there.

There was also that project up at Glengarry Forest. They said it was a geological ELF antenna; and they said it was axed; but who knows what they were really trying to contact?

Not to mention Operation DARK HARVEST in the 1970s. (What about it?) I thought I told you not to mention it!


Serraphin: the next signing tour I do will be my first, believe it or not. Signing tours cost $BIGNUM -- the publisher has to line up bookstores in a row, assign a publicist, book hotel accomodation and transport for author and publicist, and so on. I don't think they can reasonably account for it at less than £500 per day. To be worth doing, it therefore has to shift at least 250 extra paperbacks or 100 hardbacks per day on tour, and I'm sorry, I just don't have the following to do that yet.

On the other hand, I do occasionally sneak out and about. I'll be in Birmingham as guest of honour at Novacon this November, I'm also one of the GoH's at the Eastercon near London next April, and so on ... and I try to track down indie bookshops and sign stock when I'm in one town or another.

Where've you got in mind?


We'd have to dice his brain, Hitch-hiker's style, for a start.

I'll get the laser hold him down.

Charlie: I was thinking of one particularily good Waterstones in Manchester. They actually have a separate room for Q&A sessions, right next to a Costa coffee. Not sure if you feel it's to big (at the moment), but I saw the late David Gemmell there twice.

Alternately get your arse to Gencon in reading, and suck in the DnD geeks!


C.S.@ 11: "Do you want my brain to melt?" Well, that would make it easier to suck out with a straw, but no, we probably wouldn't want that to happen. Accelerando is a perfectly paced, very tight story--nothing more or less is required. It's perfect as a stand-alone.

Do you see your books going out of print, and then printing them on demand from orders taken from the net? POD sales must have some interest for those in niche markets. The self life of some books is so short, that POD seems like a nice option.



Jeff, none of my books have gone out of print, with the arguable exception of "The Web Architect's Handbook" (1996) which is still available in POD from Addison-Wesley, if anyone cares.

The nearest I've come to going out of print is to have some hardcovers remaindered, but the corresponding paperbacks remain in print (and are being reprinted).

I have better, more timely information about the UK editions than the US ones (mostly due to having had two meetings with Orbit so far this year). IIRC, the British paperback of "Singularity Sky" is in something like it's fifth printing, as is "Iron Sunrise". (Orbit like to do lots of short, cheap print runs and avoid warehousing costs.) "Accelerando" ... the UK paperback didn't sell as well as hoped for, but it should be in reprint soon, too. "Glasshouse" went into reprint after one month. The US reprint issue I'm less up-to-speed on, but everything's still paying royalties, and none of the paperbacks have been remaindered, so I'm not unhappy.

POD is clearly a niche, but my current thinking is that if -- when -- my books eventually begin going out of print and staying that way, with rights reverting to me, then rather than going for POD (and dribbling out a few dozen sales a year, competing with my own second-hand market) I'll probably release them under a non-restrictive Creative Commons license, and use it as a marketing activity to drive sales of new titles. But that's still many years off, I hope.


If it's only the lower-case "i" your computer is lacking, some on-the-fly rewriting might work -- starting with changing "insipid" to "tasteless". After all, if it worked for Walter Willis....


What about Christopher Lee as Angleton?


Don: it's not missing, it's just annoyingly nondeterministc. (sc.)

Brian: yes, Christopher Lee would do nicely. (It needs to be an actor who's (a) lowercase-British -- i.e. not remotely American, but doesn't make a big deal of it -- and (b) extremely scary in a chilly low-key way.)


Am I the only one who imagines Angelton as Chalky from Giles?


I've got a wierd Angleton for you - The guy from the old Nesc�fe adverts, that then went on to buffy and Little Britain et al.

He did a special guest star in docotor who - and whilst the episode was a bit meh - he did quite a chilling turn.

Maybe a bit younger than most imagine...but I think he'd manage it quite nicely.


Mr Stross, you had better be getting a move on with these books. You may recall that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is scheduled for September this very year, and I doubtme whether either the Laundry or even The Amazing Adventures Of Paris Hilton will be able to keep that out of the public conciousness.



C.S.@43, Good info. The second-hand book market is nice to take advantage of, but I would also think that it would be nice to have a supplier that could spit out a fresh hard or soft back made to order, and for an extra charge, signed. That cultish following will want the best and will pay for it. Do you plan a leather-bound issue, something on the line of a short, printed on velum? I think Crowley put out some very nice limited prints like that, although I'm not sure he made any money doing it. Still, a nice collectable, sure to go up in value as you become more widly read. I think your stuff is very marketable and I hope your agent is working the stiffs in L.A. The Jennifer Morgue is ready to be treated. If that project is to happen, I hope you get to write it.





That's Tony Head (he was in a strange, short-lived TV series called "VR-5" as well). He's not as young as he looks; early 50s. Might work well; I've seen him do Steely Psychopath pretty well.

I have another suggestion: Christopher Plummer. He's Canadian rather than British, but I think he'd fit that role perfectly. He does Bureaucratic Evil very well (see "Syriana" for instance).


I'm unfamiliar with all the actors and TV series' cited above because, basically, I don't watch TV drama shows.


Oh good, I was starting to think I was the only one. (I gave up on most TV years ago, after discovering this internet thing..)


I don't watch TV drama either, and sitcoms very rarely.

For me the shows I watch are Doctor Who, Heroes, Lost, and a couple reality shows like Hell's Kitchen. Also various documentaries on the more educational channels.


Andrew G., I categorize all of the shows you mention as TV drama. They involve fiction, they're series-oriented, and they run on TV. Right?


"... They involve fiction..."

Modulo the film and television world marketing their product, at times, with phrases such as "based on an actual event."

Yes, and Shakespeare's "Hamlet" was based on an actual prince, likewise there was an actual King Macbeth.

Some of your fiction could be marketed as "based on an actual Singularity" or "based on an actual Angleton."

Certain "newspapers" sold primarily in retail grocery outlets, have "factcheckers" on staff -- to ensure that no actual fact slips into certain stories, the better to avoid defamation lawsuits.

Andrew Crystall is not alone. Statistics show that many people, as they increase Web time, decrease TV time.

In the USA there are far more TVs than households. In fact, more residences with TVs than with bathtubs. That stinks!


Upthread, somebody asked if Simon Pegg was geeky enough to be Bob Howard.

It doesn't matter.

There is this Secret Mystery called "Acting".


Dwarf planet found to be heftier than Pluto

H. P. Lovecraft set eldritch events on Yuggoth, orbiting beyond Neptune. So, if you are channeling him, consider...

This actually belongs in your archives:

Published online: 14 June 2007; | doi:10.1038/news070611-10

Dwarf planet found to be heftier than Pluto

Eris is bigger and heavier than our Solar System's 'ninth planet'.

Katharine Sanderson

Eris is heavy — but that doesn't make it a planet. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Whether you call it a planet or not, Pluto has officially been overtaken by a more massive planetary object — Eris (previously nicknamed Xena).

Pluto, traditionally known as the ninth planet of our Solar System, sits in a giant zone called the Kuiper belt that is filled with asteroids and many other planetary bodies. The discovery of more and more objects in this zone — including Eris, in 2005, which was found to be bigger than Pluto — led astronomers to try to more strictly define what is and isn't a planet. In 2006, members of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) at a meeting in Prague, the Czech Republic, voted that Pluto be reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'. Eris, by these terms, sits in the same category.

Now the notion that Eris is a hefty competitor to Pluto has been backed up with a measurement of the object's mass. Michael Brown, who discovered the planet, and Emily Schaller, both from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, say that Eris weighs in at 16.6 billion trillion kilograms. That makes it the most massive dwarf planet seen yet, and 27% more massive than Pluto.

The figure, reported in Science1, was calculated using measurements taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory of Eris's moon Dysnomia circling the planet. From these, Brown and Schaller first worked out that the moon takes about 16 days to orbit Eris. Kepler's laws of planetary motion, and models detailing the gravitational pull between two objects, then reveal the planet's mass.

Wide load

The radius of Eris was measured previously by Frank Bertoldi, from the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany. He found it to be about 3,000 kilometres across — about a third wider than Pluto. But getting a value for the mass is much more crucial, he says. "It is the mass that shows how important an object is gravitationally, or from how many smaller things it has grown and how long that took," he says. "Knowing the size and the mass is even better since you get the density, which tells you about the maturity of the object, something about its history."

Brown and Schaller estimate Eris's density to be 2.3 grams per cubic centimetre, which compares well with that of Pluto and other large Kuiper belt objects.

The news that Eris is both bigger and heavier than Pluto is unlikely to help those wishing to see Pluto reinstated as a planet by the IAU. According to Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, the IAU definition of a planet is "silly". He would reinstate Pluto, and add Eris, plus two other dwarf planets — bringing our Solar System's total planet count to 12. "Pluto and Eris are more like the Earth than the Earth is like Jupiter," says Sykes.

The problematic clause in the IAU definition, he says, is the rule that a planet can only be classed as such if it has cleared its orbit — which means that there are no other similar-sized objects in the neighbourhood of the planet's orbit apart from its own satellites or other things under that planet's gravitational influence.

"Clearing the orbit tells you nothing about the nature of the planet," Sykes counters. And it basically makes it impossible for anything in the Kuiper belt to qualify. "If one accepts the IAU definition, then even if Eris was ten times as massive as Earth it would not be a planet," says Sykes.

But Bertoldi doesn't expect the debate about the planetary status of Pluto, and now the larger Eris, to be affected by the news that Pluto is the less weighty of the two. The dwarf planet definition is okay by him: "I think it is a very good compromise, a very natural way to divide up the system."


  • Brown M. E. & Schaller E. L. Science, 316 . 1585 (2007).
  • 59:

    Hey, I just ran across something of yours I didn't know unabridged audio CD version of "A Colder War." I'm enjoying the story very much, despite the rather uninspired narrator, Pat Bottino. The CD was published in a very no-frills way (comes in a slim, translucent case with no cover art or packaging of any kind) by AudioText, Inc., 2005, and I got it from Amazon US. Maybe the next time you update your online bibliography, you'll want to include this version of the story?


    Johathan V.P. @58: Interesting name for a planet--Eris, the Goddess of discord. The Goddess of Chaos. Not a bad place to focus on if you work for the Laundry, which I have to assume has its share of in-house chaos mages.



    Hey Mr Stross, did you hear that Marc Andreessen (yes, him) thinks you are pretty good? More at his blog.


    Jeff @ 60: The goddess of Strife actually -- that's literally her name. The Romans associated her with Discordia, the Goddess of Discord, but Discord and Strife are different concepts even if the order-loving Romans didn't think so.

    Hesiod described her thus: " So, after all, there was not one kind of Strife alone, but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are wholly different in nature.

    For one fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honour due. But the other is the elder daughter of dark Night (Nyx), and the son of Cronus who sits above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel. "

    I think I was getting my information from some source that usually uses Eris as the Goddess of Chaos, in some fashion. The name gets thrown around in chaos circles and is probably just modern short hand. You seem to know your mythology, so who would be the best god or goddess of chaos? Loki? Proteus? Tiamat or some crazy Myan god?




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