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Academic group blog Crooked Timber kindly asked me last year if they minded me participating in a seminar on my writing.

The results are now up on the web. Here's the intro. Here's Maria Farrell on why she thinks you should read my work. Paul Krugman (yes, that Paul Krugman) discusses the Merchant Princes books. John Quiggin discusses finance and the singularity; Ken MacLeod explores Saturn's Children: Brad DeLong riffs off Asimov's three laws, corporate personhood, and slavery; John Holbo says something I didn't quite catch; and Henry Farrell gives "Halting State" a going over. Finally, I got a chance to respond (Part 1, Part 2).

Lots of stuff here, especially if you want to see what other people make of my work.



Impressive... most impressive.

But you are not a Jedi yet!


Gratz on this man! hopefully it will shed more light on what the rest of us already know, that you are an amazing author with a depth not touched by many.


Ouch. I've just read the John Holbo piece. Now my head is like .. 3 meters to the left of my brain, or something.


Hey Charlie, your Maria Farrell link is borked. Here's the correct one:



Your link to Maria Farrell is broken, presumably because you copied it from the intro before they fixed it there.



Link fixed ....


grats on the props, man. I just got pointed there by a mention in the Krooogs (as he is known by... uh... me) blog.


Well, if Krugman has good things to say about the Merchant Princes books, I'll have to give them another try. I read the first two and they just didn't click with me like your other works. Probably, I just wasn't in the right mood when I tried them the first time.


I just read the whole lot on my iPod, for that "all future interaction will be on your phone" atmosphere, ya know. There's some good analysis there, and some insights I didn't get on reading the books in question, and maybe a few ideas about the books that seem just a little skewed to me, but it's an interesting read. The one thing that seriously bothers me is that nobody saw fit to write about either Glasshouse or the Laundry books. I guess I'm in a minority, but I still think Glasshouse slightly edges out Halting State as Charlie's best book so far, just because of how much in awe I am of the way he pulled off getting the reader into the setting of an almost post-Singularity world; one which is not past the Singularity only because of the war which serves as a backdrop and motivator of all the action in the book.

And the Laundry books tickle my funny bone and my irony bone, and the little nerve cluster under my clavicle that responds to Lovecraft pastiches. He's taken Magic, Inc. and Operation {Afreet,Salamandar,Incubus,Chaos}, put them on a government stipend with expense reports in triplicate, and given them action that just won't quit. I once described C. J. Cherryh's action novels as "falling downstairs and never hitting the bottom"; twisting that metaphor a little I'd describe the Laundry series as "falling down an elevator shaft into a wormhole to somewhere really strange".

I agree about the John Holbo post. It seems to make a sort of sense, but what that sense is is just out of my reach a good part of the time. Although I never knew that Kierkegaard had a sense of humor.


It is good to see that Charlie's peers(authors)appreciate him as much as his readers do. For me, Charles Stross is on a select list of authors whose every book I will read. He has the skill and talent to engage me in his plots and characters to the point where I don't want to put the book down until I have finished. It's a shame that the Laundry books didn't get more of a mention- They are hard to beat for pure fun and enjoyment.


I agree with Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) that I'm disappointed no one looked at Glasshouse. If I can get my brain together later today I'll go back over and try and explain why an essay on it would have improved this event. (Not that the book doesn't have flaws, but they're as interesting as where it succeeds)

Charlie himself has done a fair amount of analysis of his Laundry books in the essays in the back so maybe no one could come up with anything new to say.


I suspect that the reason the Laundry books are my favorites is that I've read H.P. Lovecraft (Captain Obvious strikes again!). Most people haven't, therefore the point of the stories whizzes right past. I suspect that most science fiction readers have at least a passing acquaintance with HPL but most "normal" people don't. Everyone has firsthand knowledge of being stuck in a faceless bureaucracy which is why other books like "Halting State" are more popular among the general population.


EDIT: In my previous post replace "a faceless bureaucracy" with "incomprehensible modern life" please.


"John Holbo says something I didn't quite catch"

This is as good a one-line description of Holbo as we are likely to ever see.


re: why the 80s on economic growth in developing nations - check out what the savings : GDP ratio did in India and China during that period.


I haven't read Lovecraft and like the Laundry novels best of Charlie's work.

If I had to guess, that might because it's only a half-twist on "write what you know", and has better resonance as a result. (Which is why books like Halting State are managing a close second.) Anything that involves deep extrapolation is unlikely to work as well for me because large parts of my brain are devoted to picking holes in the world building.


Papapete @ 13:

"a faceless bureaucracy" with "incomprehensible modern life" please.
Or perhaps, "in a nightmare of waking up in the form of a cockroach"?


I'm just blown away that Krugman reads your work. I knew DeLong does, but Krugman? Awesome.


Maybe I'll try "Merchant Princes" again.

I bought the first one, got about 1/2-way through, thought: "it SAYS Charles Stross on the cover and copyright, but, it doesn't READ like his stuff - this is a boring pale-fantasy potboiler ... "

And gave the book away.

Needless to say I've read all the stuff Charlie REALLY wrote ......

Or is that just me, or was volume one not up to the standards of the rest?


The Krugman link also appears to be broken.


Links fixed.

Greg: the first Merchant Princes book was chopped in half, so you got less than a quarter of the way into it. Suffice to say, it's doing different stuff from my other fiction -- and for a different audience -- but there's some extrapolation going on in there that isn't obvious in the first, or even the second or third, books.


Quite a meeting of the minds. Congratulations on well deserved recognition/discussion of your work.


I'm surprised that some of the comments are pretty hostile to the MP series and to the rest of CS's work. I guess I can't stop being surprised by the position that SF is not about the future and is not about ideas, but about reflecting some kind of eternal human condition. Can't really say I buy much into eternal human condition myself.

Then again, CS has sort of written an anti-technocratic manifesto ;-) so maybe he's more in agreement with those comments than I am. (I'm referring to comments to Stross's response, not comments here on this weblog.)


Yes, was surprised that no one wrote about "Missile Gap" which to me would also make a great movie. Any chances of that happening ?


@24 Great Idea! Unfortunately, Stanley died a year or two back .......


Greg @19, what made you think Merchant Princes was fantasy (other than the misleading word on the cover)?


Now now Marilee @26 - don't ruin the later books for the newcomers :P


"Magical" (conveniently inherited) abilty to world-walk .... IIRC, that is .....

Leads to special caste of magicians, and we're off into standard fantasy. Not that I've any objection to such, but ... I think fantasy is even more difficult to write well than SF. See U. K. le Guin's essay on authentic voices in her collection of criticism "The Language of the Night" - can't find it right now ....

E.G. Early Eddings is quite good, but his more recent stuff is trash, IMHO.


Read more carefully, Greg. (I inherited chicken skin from my mother, but it's not nearly as interesting.)


@ 29 I consider that rude ... "Read more carefully": forsooth!

Incidentally (I STILL can't find my copy) do read the U. K. le G. book I named - if you can find a copy ..... ( And almost anything else she has wriiten, for that matter, but hat is another story )


I'm serious. You've endowed some events with fantasy standards that don't belong there. For example, there are no magicians or magic in the book.

As to Le Guin, I refer you to the ISFDB. Here's the page on the book you mentioned.


Charlie, what's your reaction to the comment on Paul Krugman's post, that cites "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" by Mark Twain? There's actually quite a lot of [satire on] development economics in that book -- he believes he's going to destroy the feudal system by establishing a patent office, but he ends up just provoking a counter-revolution from the Church... Plus, Bing Crosby sings "Busy Doin' Nothing".


Good point, Ian.

"Connecticut Yankee" is one of Twain's works that reads quite fresh today, even though it was written a century and a quarter ago -- depressingly so.

Twain's hero, Sir Boss, believes that exposure to the benefits of modern American technology and business practices will turn medieval England into a happy, modern-day country, very quickly. The people will greet us as liberators, he says. They will throw flowers in our path, he says. Then the entrenched power structure fights back, and everything turns to crap.


Charlie, thank you for writing.

It's been a pleasure to see people take a whack at your work. And by the by, you could have fooled me (and did so) with what you call a lack of economic-knowledge. I continue to be happily surprised and thoroughly pleased by your work.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 27, 2009 8:41 PM.

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