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Business as usual

If you're wondering where I've gotten to since finishing the autobiography series, I'm back from a long weekend in London and getting back to grips with work: in this case, checking the copy-edits to the sixth Merchant Princes book, "The Trade of Queens" (due out next April in the US). (As an aside: if you're in the UK and waiting for #4, "The Merchants' War", to come out over here in paperback, I'm afraid I've got bad news: things seem to have vanished down a black hole. I don't know what's happening at PanMacmillan, but at a minimum there's going to be a big delay, and if you want to read the complete series some time before the next ice age you might want to consider importing US copies of the later books.)

Copies of my new short story collection "Wireless" should be showing up in book stores on both sides of the Atlantic by now. And it's summer. Which means, my schedule for the next couple of months consists essentially of: (a) going to Anticipation, the 67th World Science Fiction Convention (where I expect to learn that someone else has won the Hugo award for best novel), and (b) getting down to work on next year's big SF novel, which was going to be this year's big SF novel before Bernie Madoff stole my plot.

(NB: when I say "this" year I mean "the novel I'm working on this year", not "the novel that hits the book stores this year". By the time you see the paperback, it's at least two years since I handed the finished manuscript to my editor, and probably three years since I began writing it and four or five years since I had the idea for it in the first place. If you ever run into me at a public event and ask me about my latest paperback and I seem bored by the question, this is because I finished work on it years ago — wrung my brain dry, and moved on to obsess over new ideas. This is particularly problematic at SF conventions, where the programming committee almost invariably sticks me on a panel about the singularity; I finished writing "Accelerando" in early 2004 and haven't really been thinking about that stuff since then. But I digress ...)

The book I was supposed to hand in last month (and didn't) was, according to a schedule agreed to in late 2007, provisionally titled "419". A sequel to 2007's "Halting State, it was going to be the story of the biggest advance fee fraud (aka Nigerian Scam) in history; a couple of orders of magnitude bigger than the Banco Noroeste scam: a tale of augmented reality hijinks and a bunch of crooks creating an entire fake central Asian republic, to bilk the EU, the US, and the World Bank out of billions. Only I was about to get going in June 2008 when some odd news items began to crop up. Lehman Brothers were in trouble; the banking infrastructure of the western world was crumbling. And then this guy crawled out of the woodwork, with a scam so bare-faced and huge that my attempt at defining a biggest-possible-crime made me look like a piker.

Cue much grumbling on my part. Luckily I had a spare novel up my sleeve, "The Fuller Memorandum" (the third Laundry book, long-delayed), and it's now heading for publication in the summer of 2010. But it's now time to go back to work on "419". And what do you think happened?

I come up with a nefarious plot — this time about a bunch of scammers who are trying to get themselves an information channel with lower latency than anyone else has access to, in order to run the mother of all forex front-running scams. (It's the same fake-Asian-Republic scam, but in this remix it's a shell game; what they're after are the rights-of-way to the played-out trans-continental gas pipelines that terminate in the 'stan in question, through which they intend to run dark fibre that will allow them to front-run the big currency transfers that daily travel between Europe and the Pacific Rim by way of undersea cables, which add precious milliseconds of latency as they skirt the edges of continents.)

And then this shows up in my blog-hoovering. Goldman-Sachs, the FBI, and a gigantic can of worms. Possibly there's nothing to it, but some of the more alarming speculation is treading so close to my plot that it's looking like Madoff 2.0. (Specifically: Goldman-Sachs run large chunks of the network backbone for the NYSE. Goldman-Sachs have an automated low-latency trading system. If they were Very Naughty People, which of course they aren't, they could conceivably do deep packet inspection on traffic over the NYSE backbone, look for big trades, throttle the IP packets while the trade was in progress, and get their own trades in a few milliseconds in advance — front-running, in other words, but on an heroic scale. But they wouldn't do that because they are investment bankers and as we all know all investment bankers are utterly trustworthy models of law-abiding probity at all times, even when offered the opportunity to clean up $100M in profits per day with no come-back. NB: Sergei Aleynikov is not, to the best of my knowledge, an investment banker: but all I know about him is hearsay and should be discounted accordingly.)

Gaah.

I have now come up with a third, improved, hopefully banker-proof plot for the novel currently provisionally retitled Rule 34. The largest crime in it is comfortably small — small enough that you're unlikely to read about it in the Wall Street Journal, anyway. Which means I have a slightly greater chance of actually getting to finish the bloody thing without it being rendered obsolete by the creative accounting singularity ...

(Hey, didn't I write a novel about that once?)

73 Comments

1:

I dunno. Enough people are still not up on Madoff's Ponzi scheme, and the probable front-running on Wall Street, that those plots still might work. (Just don't give anyone any ideas for the next big financial crime!)

2:

Wireless was in the local Waterstones earlier.

And I guess part of the problem with the Merchant Princes may relate to the fact that every copy I've bought has been a US import - I presume that's affecting UK sales significantly if I'm a typical buyer.

3:

While I think your plot summaries sound different enough from the latest news that they would still be perfectly entertaining, perhaps you need to take a break from near future SF and do something a little further out so you don't have to worry about today's news?

4:

LeBleu: that might be practical if I wasn't under contract to write near-future thrillers for the next few books, for better money than I was earning for space opera.

5:

Interesting - I would have thought that space opera has more of a market than near-future stuff. Or is it just particular space opera writers (Banks, Hamilton) that grab the majority of the pie?

6:

I was waiting for Merchant's War in the UK. I may have to give in and buy the import, but I like the UK covers so much better! Much more stylish to my eyes.

Saw Wireless in my local Waterstones, but was disappointed not to find the Saturn's Children paperback. They're usually very good about stocking your releases.

7:

But for the time lag, it's almost as if you were causing the crimes :)

Just Kidding.

It is an interesting problem that I hadn't thought of before, though.

8:

Bernie, it's more a case that HALTING STATE was a runaway break-out book for me, but SATURN'S CHILDREN was already contracted and written when it came out. Publishing careers don't turn on a dime.

9:

Ooh! Ooh! How about, in an attempt to get completely circumvent the latency thing (now thoroughly tightened up after a fictionalized GS-type incident), a Madoff 2.0-type finances a black project into tachyon-based circuitry, thereby bringing about the Eschaton!

10:

No: I'm trying to write Mundane SF, as in: no magic wands.

11:

So is PanMacmillan dropping authors midlist? That's a bit scary for some people I imagine :(

Unless your UK sales were unusually bad? I have to admit that the copies of the Merchant Princes that I read were all bought in the US, or ordered from Amazon US. This is going to be an ever growing problem for UK publishers, assuming it isn't one already.

12:

The answer is obviously to think of some nefarious, but legal, financial scam - but then actually DO it and write up the story as non-fiction. If someone is going to trump your fiction is might as well be you.

On the Rule34/porn front, I'd suggest that someone, pretty soon, its going to realise you can take available computing power to stick celebrity faces on porn actresses in 'interesting' situations. If they can get away with "Nailin' Palin", just think of the opportunities.

13:

Why are you wasting your time writing fiction? Obviously you were meant to be the mastermind of an international criminal organization.

14:

You know, it occurs to me the details of the plotline are rather irrelevant. You could write a science-fictionalized potboiler about a Madoff-type figure, no problem. The point isn't whether it's bleeding edge, the point is are the characters compelling enought to care about, and does the book overall have something interesting to say about our culture and where it's headed.

Halting State, to me, wasn't good so much because of its RPG / startup subplot (although the verisimilitude helped make it entertaining). It was good because it had a sympathetic nerd as a hero -- a competent technician who could see through the egoism, pretense, incompetence and general cluelessness of his co-workers -- and the sense of pleasure and achievement when he finally hooked up with a partner who was equally competent and clear-sighted.

So that's a formula you could repeat ad infinitum and the plot details are really secondary. We live in a society that is mainly corrupt and decadent at its top levels, mainly hostile to long term survival of the planet, its ecosystems and cultures, and the humans who depend on them (all of us). Personally, I have an endless appetite for stories about hubris at the top come crashing down after greedily, pridefully, stupidly resisting necessary change. And likewise, for apathy at the bottom that can't be bothered to shake loose from religious/spiritual dreamtime fantasies about a big sky buddy who will save us from ourselves.

15:

Damn, they're really making a good class of criminal these days. Just can't get ahead of them.*

On the "Wireless" front, I just finished reading "Palimpsest", and I really like it. My vote, Charlie, is that you use some of your writing schedule in the next year or two and fill it out. I'll be putting a review on my blog //http://rumblingsfromthespeaker.blogspot.com/ in the next day or two, depending on how geeky I get in talking about the theory of time travel.


* Although the classic SF description of a front-running scam is Simak's "Cosmic Engineers", from sometime in the 1950's. Our heroes create an FTL communications system and use it to suck a few billions out of the villain's corporations by buying in the Jovian system market and selling on Earth (or 'tother way 'round, I forget), using their time advantage over everyone else's ticker. Interesting how it was the good guys who snookered the system then.

16:

Charlie --

The Aleynikov arrest is just a little aperture into a really big can of worms, and that bigger context is something else -- much bigger than the Daily Kos angle, whether that's just naive tin-foil hat conspiracy stuff (notice that they don't understand the relevant networking technology) or they've got it essentially right.

One vital point is, Goldman Sachs is an SPL (Supplementary Liquidity Provider) and would therefore likely be part of the supposedly mythical Plunge Protection team (PPT). Now look at the bigger context and realize we are in uncharted teritory. Because here's what all the traders I know have been talking about most of the year. Note that legit traders are now even talking about this stuff on Bloomberg.

http://zerohedge.blogspot.com/2009/04/incredibly-shrinking-market-liquidity.html

http://www.senseoncents.com/2009/07/is-uncle-sam-manipulating-the-equity-markets/

http://seekingalpha.com/article/146450-market-manipulation-by-the-big-boys

http://zerohedge.blogspot.com/2009/07/themis-trading-principal-program.html

http://seekingalpha.com/article/147260-goldman-sachs-thoughts-on-the-developing-stolen-trade-secrets-scandal

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0U1vMUa2sc

17:

About strange things going on in the financial world, in case you've missed it, I want to point to this strange event that happened last month in Italy:
http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=15456&size=A
(here link in italian to "Guardia di Finanza" communicate:
http://www.gdf.it/GdF__Informa/Notizie_Stampa/AdnKronos/Adnkronos_2009/Adnkronos_Giugno_2009/info-1518911049.html)
Summing up, last month a couple of middle aged japanese men where stopped in my country while trying to smuggle in Switzerland the astounding sum of US$ 134.5 billion (not a mistake, 134.5x10^9 dollars) in US treasury bonds.
Almost no news appeared about this. Even if they were counterfeited, the size of this sum is quite staggering. One wonder who's missing them...

18:

Wireless sighted at local Barnes & Noble, acquired. (Prominently displayed in the new SF&F section. I also noticed they had seemed to have all your PBs currently in print in the main shelves.)

19:

Sounds like Economics 2.0 to me...

20:

If Goldman Sachs were running a new twist on front-running, it wouldn't surprise me. This has been an endemic problem in the industry and the rewards for success are immense. Hitherto is was all rather simple, just know what trades were being made and get your own trades done first. The other big scam related to this done by market makers is to cross settle trades internally at slightly different prices and skim the difference (very much in the mold of taking the crumbs from each slice of cake). Now being able to front run trades by holding up packets after inspection strikes me as quite cute and difficult to detect, if done correctly.

But given that it is so easy to game the system, especially for market makers, I'm surprised Goldman felt they needed to go to such lengths.

Think of other ways to cheat:

1. Front running client trades
2. Skimming client trades directly
3. Skimming by allocating winning/losing trades to clients vs internal funds
4. Manipulating market making prices
5. Manipulating prices between derivatives and underlying securities.

The list just goes on an on...

21:

I see Robert Sawyer was also angsting on being obsolesced by events with near future SF.

http://bordersblog.com/scifi/2009/07/06/near-future-science-fiction-a-cop-out-or-cutting-edge/

As Matte says above, just write really good engaging stories.

22:

One of the reasons Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs (the ones I know about for certain) were interested in putting so much venture capital behind physicists and mathematicians who claimed to be able to predict the short term behavior of chaotic systems was just so they could get that slight time-edge on everyone else by predicting market and currency fluctuations.

Some colleagues of mine were involved in one of the startups, and the last I heard, maybe 10 years ago, Morgan Stanley was just pleased as punch at getting 15 seconds of 1 sigma accurate predictions on the NYSE.

23:

The only way to avoid front running is to build in a randomised time delta so that each trade is executed with a minimum level of uncertainty. We had to engineer in a similar effect to avoid quant grey goo front running the Big Bang. It does cause causality issues but in practise no one notices.

24:

Isn't this traffic encrypted?

OK, any encryption might be weakened by a very standardised message format. Time-stamp, stock identifier, number of items, and price, might be the only unknowns. And milliseconds count. Did the NYSE decide it could trust its members?

26:

@ 12: They already do that. go to one of the local YouPorn or RedTube and type up celebrities.

Sorry if I appear like an advertising troll, just pointing out that the near-future celebrity-porn isn't near-future, it's now.

27:

Matt B: I'm with you. (By 2023, when "Rule 34" is set, I figure that many police forces will be monitoring the net for new and exotic porn, not because they're interested in porn per se -- that battle will have been lost some time before then -- but because they're interested in knowing if the activities being depicted are taking place on their turf. Like, oh, (#include <red_herring.h>;) kidnapping celebs and porn stars and transplanting their heads :)

28:

Rule 34 or Rule 43?

(Rule 43: the section of the British prison regulations that provides for putting sex offenders, or in fact anyone likely to be murdered by the other cons, in segregation either on the governor's orders or at their request.)

Further, I disagree that Madoff has caught up with you; what struck me about him was just how archaic his scam was, and indeed how old-fashioned his style was in general. Hitting up old rich Jews at country clubs and Miami hotels with a pitch about getting in on a sweet wholesale brokerage deal? So Kennedy administration, if not Eisenhower. A minority-community affinity fraud is as American and as traditional as hypocrisy, hell, that's why we remember Charles Ponzi.

Also, colour me sceptical about Teh Sekrit Codez of Goldman Sachs. Who else remembers "computer genius" Jerome Kerviel, whose genius skills turned out to include knowing enough VBAScript to change things in the Excel spreadsheet that controlled SocGen's risk reporting? (He's still on the out, and I wonder how his lawsuit against the bank for unfair dismissal is getting on...)

29:

@26: Sergey Aleynikov seems to be a real programmer. He contributes to open source Erlang projects http://code.google.com/u/saleyn/ and is a CPAN author http://search.cpan.org/~randir/

30:

Why are you wasting your time writing fiction? Obviously you were meant to be the mastermind of an international criminal organization.

Cover Story.

How far does the sea have to rise to turn Edinburgh into a volcanic archipelago?

31:

@29, @14: this way I get to profit from my crime capers but I'm much less likely to end up doing time as an involuntary guest in one of Her Majesty's bed and breakfast institutions. Besides, have you tried recruiting jumpsuited minions lately? Or equipping an island base? These things are expensive!

32:

"'Science fiction,' said the robot, 'has become science fact!'" (Ken MacLeod, The Night Sessions)

Wasn't it thinking about this problem that put Vernor Vinge onto the Singularity in the first place?

33:

As a wise-ish person once said:

"Fiction has to be plausible and is limited by reality.
Reality is under no such constraints."

34:

Apropos @32, just when you think you've seen it all ... Wells Fargo bank sues itself.

No, this is not The Onion, and no, I am not making this up.

35:

MattB @25 I bow to your greater expertise on such matters. Seemed obvious that someone would get there eventually. Of course the extension of the idea takes it into augmented reality and X-Ray specs that actually DO work. Has anyone progressed things THAT far yet?

36:

Ian @34: a camcorder with something not unlike the cartoon version of X-Ray vision was marketed by Sony in the late 90s. All you need is a near infrared CCD and appropriate optics ...

37:

22:
Well played. Time for me to reread some Egan...

38:

Over at Baseline Scenario, they are asking "who is the Upton Sinclair" for the financial meltdown. Interesting premise -- who will write "The Jungle" for this mess and get everyone mad enough to fix things. I nominate you, Charlie, since you already wrote the book and scrapped it.

http://baselinescenario.com/2009/07/12/who-is-upton-sinclair-weekend-comment-competition/

I understand the publishing leadtime involved from Charlie's post above, but I don't think we'll be out of this mess by the time such a book hits print.

39:

Marc, I didn't write the book and then scrap it -- I was working on an outline for something rather different, and scrapped the outline.

I know far too little about high finance to talk the talk convinceingly. Hell, I haven't even seen "Wall Street"!

40:

"Copies of my new short story collection "Wireless" should be showing up in book stores on both sides of the Atlantic by now."

My copy arrived from Amazon on the 2nd and has been thoroughly devoured. I'd already read 5 of the 9 stories (half the page count), mainly thanks to Charlie's generosity in making things available online, but I'm quite happy to pay for a hard copy so he keeps on writing.

@29 "How far does the sea have to rise to turn Edinburgh into a volcanic archipelago?"

Coincidentally, one of the stories in Wireless (Snowball's Chance) mentions Arthur's Seat being a coastal headland due to sea level rises.

41:

Five years time-to-market? You actually pass the same point on the earth's orbit FIVE WHOLE TIMES between flash and bang, to the extent you have evicted it from every level of cache by the time you come to revisit it in public, and you consider this sane?

42:

Julian: the publishing industry is set up to deal with the lowest common denominator -- taking ink on paper and turning it into something you can feed into a retail supply chain. It takes 12 months to take a manuscript and produce a hardback not because that's the amount of work that goes into the job, but because a publisher is typically moving 50-300 other manuscripts along the same production line in lock-step, and some of the authors still write long-hand. The 12 months it then takes to go paperback is governed by the same production pipeline: at each publisher I typically get one hardcover and one mass-market paperback slot per year, allocated a year or more in advance.

Sanity doesn't come into it; the publishing industry is the intersection of the set of all business practices that have not resulted in some other publisher going bust at some point in the preceding 150 years, rather than being something that anyone actually designed.

43:

Madoff's got nothing, have you read any of this yet?

44:

Steve@42: with that CSS, I doubt anyone's been able to read it yet!

45:

Sounds nuts. Where is the coupling between books such that they have to move in lockstep? Each book ought to have its own "thread" with a mandatory fixed-format structured input, and output available immediately after sign-off via a printer-binder in the back of each high street bookstore.

If publishers working the way you describe aren't utterly cannibalized by PDF, they are going to get their lunch eaten by somebody who can make books happen in months.

46:

Where is the coupling between books such that they have to move in lockstep?

It's not about the books; it's about the publishing companies' workflow.

Fixed-format structured input won't work when you're dealing with folks who write longhand or on a typewriter or using an obsolete DOS-based word processor. Giving each book a variable-time "thread" won't work when you're dealing at the other end with a sales force who have to physically pound pavement and visit buyers in their offices in individual retail stores, pushing a list of books that fit in a once-every-three-months sales brochure. PDF ain't going to eat their lunch as long as the amortization and running costs of print-on-demand hardware make POD books printed in the back of the shop cost an order of magnitude more than books printed on an old-fashioned offset press.

There's a lot more to publishing than meets the outsider's eye. Something probably will upset the apple cart, and upset it soon -- but it's not going to be a change in internal workflow.

47:

Charlie@45: I always thought people like me, who actually like to possess books-as-atoms would keep the publishing business going for quite some time. Then I talked to some folks at Offbeat Guides, a publisher of customized travel guides. The customer going to say, Paris, gets a web page all about Paris. He selects those parts of the guide he is interested, and the week before the trip a 200 page customized guide arrives, complete with weather forecasts. The economics may not be there for a book store, and $24.95 is expensive for a paperback, but the seeds for a destructive change are there.

48:

I just got my copy of "Wireless". Went to Borders, straight to the SF section, conveniently near the entrance, and found an empty space where it should have been. Disappointment. Before trying to find an employee, I decided to take a thorough look in case someone had misplaced it, and there it was right at the end of the SF anthologies. Satisfaction. Nice picture of "Badass Charlie".

Is MacLeod having the opposite trouble? His US publisher not picking up "The Night Sessions"?

@38 They're planning to make a sequel to "Wall Street". Haven't seen it either.

49:

Feòrag @ 43:

They seem to have problems using all these new technologies:
"No, no, you have to scrub the vellum completely first before you can start inscribing the new text."

Charlie:

My comment on "Wireless" seems to have gotten stuck in moderation, so:

Just read "Palimpsest", and I love it, and would make my third wish that you get some time in your writing schedule to put the full novel together. Book review on my blog Real Soon Now.

50:

Yeah, I'll second Bruce's comments on Palimpsest...I loved Trunk & Disorderly as I devoured the Wodehouse canon with great enjoyment as a teen but Palimpsest is one massive canvas.

You aced Time Patrol, End of Eternity, the Change War and Gerrold's The Man who folded Himself...in one
freaking novella.

Get to it man!

-- Andrew

51:

Huh, Rule 34, I'm surprised it's so far down the list.

At this point of my www weariness I wouldn't be surprised to find that www.daleksex.com is a fully functioning site with girls with long multi-coloured scarves caressing obscenely armed omni-breasted alien robot/spacecraft/android/things shouting Ejaculate, Ejaculate in a distorted voice.

Or is that just me hoping forlornly. ;-)


Disclaimer: this post is a work of satire and humour. I have never visited the url in question, and never intend to!

52:

Hey charlie, would there be any equivalent of the CCCA in Rule 34, that are trying to bust some porn-maestro's for using a copyrighted image of a celebrity icon in a porn-site, or would celebrities be suing porn-maestros for lost royalties? Also if dead or out of copyright stars become available to the public, would we be seeing "Hump-evry Bone-gut" in Assablanca, or new fanfic porn using 3D graphics and now realistic skin and hair rendering?

Oh and Ian @ 35, what about people downloading security footage from airports using the new x-ray-like radar that produces nude hairless images of passengers? Mix that with cgi modelling, then using face-recognition and ordinary footage, the everyday joe, politician or scanned celebrity would soon be there for the porn-mogul's manipulation. Also what about scams based on realistic porn-manipulation of said images to blackmail people into them making them have public embarassment, or politicians, or then using said images for media manipulation, using the more realistic virtual worlds. Wag the Dog II? anyone?

PS Charlie, feel free to use these ideas if you want, as long as I get a thanks in the Aknowldgements section ;)

53:

@51:

www.daleksex.com may not exist, but Dalek porn certainly does, and, needless to say, it is horrifying.

I'm mildly surprised no one's rule 34'd Charlie yet (yes, I checked). Perhaps this will change once the book is released.

54:

Charlie@46: Or in TeX (or LATeX), which gives publishers an entirely different set of nightmares and horror stories.

55:

Matt @52 The idea was more to analyse the scene in real time, do object extraction and size determination (taking into account the cloth envelope), and then overlay a representative 3D model (nude) onto the image, animated to movement and lit to match the scene.

I'm fairly certain the processing horsepower doesn't exist to do that day and fit into glasses, but given another few orders of magnitude doubling in processing power...

56:

If you're looking for a paper on high volume trading and its recent impact you could try this :
http://www.themistrading.com/article_files/0000/0348/Toxic_Equity_Trading_on_Wall_Street_12-17-08.pdf

As seen on John Mauldin's Frontline weekly newsletter.

57:

Grabbed Wireless off of B&N's eReader.com site. Good book for traveling!

It's worth noting that the people doing eReader/Fictionwise seem to know nothing at all about web design, but they scare me a lot less than the Kindle people.

59:

Cutting the heads off celebrities and photoshopping them into porno vids is so 2001. Who's photoshopping the heads of celebrities into takfiri execution vids? Surely someone would pay to see Toby Young's decapitation by the Taliban?

60:

Charlie. I was disappointed not to find you in the 'space opera and far future (golden era uk sf… yada yada )' side bar of G2's Alastair Reynolds puff. Then I thought about it some more and decided, poor Ken, with his 'rapture of the nerds' albatross and all.

Keep up the good work, and don't fret yourself waiting up for the rest of the world. M

61:

Maggie, Al is getting headlines right now because Gollancz decided to make a HUGE PUBLICITY FUSS, by contracting him for $BIGNUM books up front in order to announce that they'd be paying him ONE MILLION POUNDS (cue Dr. Evil laugh) ... over the course of a decade, they hope. And now they're milking the press coverage for all it's worth, in the hope that Al will stick in the public eye sufficiently well that the books will earn out. Good luck to Al, and Gollancz. (I like Al, and I hope he succeeds.)

I'm perhaps less well-known in the UK because I sell in the US first -- or did, until about 2006/07 -- due to an historic accident in my sales track. (First sale was to a small publisher, who went bust before publication; Orbit picked up the pieces, but by that time I was a couple of books ahead in the US and it took them a while to catch up.)

I'm not terribly space-opera-y, all told, and I'm going to be even less so for the next couple of years. (Ace want me to write edgy near-future thrillers, and they're the folks signing the big cheques; as I'm going through a pessimistic phase w.r.t. our radiant extraterrestrial galactic-colonial future, this is fine by me.)

62:

I understand. It was just the company the side bar was keeping is all. p, hamilton, a, asher, L, williams, I. M. Banks (in order of appearance) Other heroes of uk sf golden age (the latest one obviously) included ken and p. McAuley, s baxter. then n, gaiman and c. mieville were mentioned as 'sci-fi is a porous genre' so by the end of the story we had strayed hither and yon

or maybe [ miss quote ] , your work is set like American's in 'soft (i.e. scientifically unsupported) near futures' with out the 'increasingly assured literary sensibility and concern for characterisation' that British SF writers apparently have (para 1) [ / miss quote ] and that's why you didn't get didn't get a heads up

make a list of far- future set, space-operatic, hard sci- fi American authors and totally over turn the journo's argument
- or not

63:

I'm imagining a mountain with a huge inscription:

"THERE SHALL BE NO ESCHATON PR0N. NO EXCEPTIONS."

64:

Re the CGI celebrity porn comments... probably more work than you realize goes into body part modeling for the mainstream blockbusters and action pics. Some years back, a one-time acquaintance ended up with the Nerd Dream Job: on the strength of his computer graphic programming skills, he was hired to do the digital 3D modeling of Trinity's tits for the Matrix movies.

65:

@63: you forgot "OR ELSE..."

66:

CGI porn does exist. Little of it is technically competent. The base CGI models are not the right shape for a naked woman. Few bother to change the shape of a face. It all costs money.

Some of the stuff is horrific. Being obviously fake is hardly going to be a defense, the way our politicians are thinking.

God save Doug Winger!

67:

RE: Celebrity heads on other's bodies, Alyssa Milano was an early (mid-90s, I think) victim of this and successfully sued the perpetrators. (the WikiP page doesn't mention this, so didn't bother with a link. And I am embarrassed to know this.)

As for CGI pron; there's plenty of Japanese video games that would qualify. (I've only heard about them, and I'm embarrassed to know this too.)

68:

As regards Goldman Sachs how's that for a rip-off?

However, it is interesting to contemplate, that IF the allegations above are true, it would be interesting to see if any of the skimming/pre-operational "trading" as mentioned occurred inside UK jurisdiction; as it would certainly qualify as "Insider Trading" - which means: jail FIRST, THEN we discuss bail terms for your trial ....

The Wells Fargo fiasco could not happen here, because the judge would knock heads together VERY sharply, plus fining BOTH parties for Contempt of Court.

69:

Hold up, wait a minute.

Didn't I tell you about Rule 34?

(Kidding -- I'm sure you knew about it, before. But I remain nonetheless amused and utterly excited for this book. I wrote a story a long time ago about dead girls whose video memorials were EULA-lated by the freelance editor employed by the funeral home, thus making them vulnerable to pornographic "re-animation". I could never sell it, though, probably for the reasons outlined above re: timing, and also in-general fail. You're making me want to try again, though. Yay foolish hope!)

Actually I'm more excited to see your depiction of police. Police have so much semiotic baggage hanging off them that there must be a lot to comment on or invert or just plain make fun of, when writing. Plus, a future where nothing is pornographic (so everything is) sounds like loads of fun to read about.

70:

Madeline: I'm handicapped by not knowing more than a handful of police/police-support folks personally, much less being one -- but on a recent tour of Edinburgh's main police station organized by the Society of Authors, I got a moment of insight when someone asked our guide (a sergeant in the training unit) what he thought of Ian Rankin's Inspector Morse. At which point he just about groaned and held his head in his hands: "people watch that stuff and think it's how we work, and it causes so much trouble ..." Think of it as part of the semiotic baggage.

Depictions of the Police in popular fiction -- at least in the UK -- are at least a decade behind the times (and if you read their anonymous blogs, this becomes glaringly obvious). And there's been so much change in the past decade that extrapolating forward another decade just about gives me a clean slate.

71:

Yup, Policework has changed a fair bit even since my dad retired 7 years ago.
Removal of intiative changes what a policeman can do, narrowing their options. And there is paperwork etc. Ok, paperwork isn't a new complaint, I recall reading about it in police magazine 15 or more years ago, but it never seems to get better. Add to that a promotional fast track for graduates and people who kiss arse and tick boxes and you end up with the upper echelons of the police completely full of people who don't know what what policing is actually about at the sharp end.

Not to mention a control freak gvt and mad laws, but hey, what do I know, I'm just an ordnary Mop.

72:

Greg. Tingey @68

The day after Goldman Sachs announced big profits, J P Morgan Chase also announced big profits. This indicates that Goldman Sachs profits weren't due to abusing their position running the infrastructure. Rather that the situation is volatile with high trading volumes which creates opportunities for investment bankers.

73:

Feòrag@44 It only works for me if I disable Noscript. The site is a little over-engineered (badly).

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