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Apropos Nothing ...

For those of you who care about such things, ten minutes ago I emailed the finished manuscript of "Rule 34" to my editors at Ace and Orbit. If they like it, it should be published in hardcover around the beginning of July next year. (If they don't like it, I've got a huge headache coming ...)

For those of you who care but who've lost track of such things, "Rule 34" is the kinda-sorta sequel to "Halting State". It's set five years later, is not about MMOs or virtual reality, and none of Jack, Elaine, or Sue appear in it (although Sue's boss, DI Kavanaugh, is one of the major characters). It's a crime novel — or, more accurately, a criminology novel, insofar as it looks at the future of crime and policing in the post-internet age.

According to my notes I started writing on March 2nd, 2009 and didn't get it nailed down until August 6th, 2010. Which is to say, don't expect me to squirt books like this out every year.

When you were eight, your dad taught you the correct way to peel a live frog.

And when you were fifteen, you took Jesus for an alibi &mdash lest the other girls at school realize what you were.

As for you? You're not gay, you insist: it's just that you like to fuck other men.

You all have secrets. But the net knows them all. And if it doesn't, it holds the gaps in the graph of all your interpersonal transactions — and can therefore discern the shape of the shadows that fit the implied spaces. Nothing escapes the net.

Net? Internet?

No. This is not that net. This is the other net. The one that features in your nightmares. The net that knows your secret sins. The net of blind justice; the net that holds the sea of shame. The net that binds you softly, the better to lift the onerous burden of free will.

Knowing all, forgiving nothing. This is your story, as the net sees it.

Your story.

Crime story.



Oh wow. I loved Halting State. I'd have loved to have seen the same characters but this sounds absolutely awesome.

I'd forgotten you'd written HS in the second person. Such a risk but it really worked for me. Evil Editor had it as book chat book in June and everyone loved it. It's the first time we've all had so much to say about a book that everyone loved.


Of course they'll all love Rule 34! You're the best, Charles.


So, we should be able to get it in 6-8 months?


Chalk me up for a big "me too". HS was cool, though the second person style felt a bit icky to me.


No; more like 11 months.

(Publishing runs on schedules determined years in advance.)


Which way is the queue? I've got the Charlie Stross's in the "to be read pile" down to 2 volumes out of 110 (with a Merchant Princes still in HC, and neither cash nor physical space allow me to buy HC fiction, sorry).


I see that Amazon UK already have the PB up (Jul 2011) - you wouldn't (yet?) know whether your US publisher will be doing a HB ?

I did like the US edition of Halting State - bought before the UK edition was out.


I just liked the setup you gave at the pub . . . "Big gay crime novel".

Reading "The Atrocity Archives" for the first time now, at a time when I can really use the destress, and really appreciate it. Even if there are a few bobbles I get caught on here and there.


Alastair: I expect Ace will do a hardcover release, yes. I suspect the Amazon UK listing reflects the fact that with one exception my last four or five books from Orbit have all gone out in paperback -- but I suspect they'll do a hardcover of this one, or at least a big-ass trade paperback.


Mr. Stross,

How deliberate is the soon to ensue title-based mayhem?

Bob, Stross fan: "I love Rule 34! You want to borrow mine?"

Nelly, not Stross fan: "Get away from me you pervert!"

Carla, also not Stross fan, but fond of odd pr0n: "Sure, send me your archive, you naughty naughty boy!"

Bob: (facepalms)


I just handed my wife a copy of Halting State after shepherding her through the entire Laundry oeuvre. She's become a big fan (me, too).

I've become a voracious reader of "near term" sci-fi. Stories set thousands of years in the future are leaving me cold; probably because current events have me wondering if humanity (or our current civilization) will survive the next couple of centuries.

But then again, I'm from the US and our political system is crashing and burning.


As you probably guessed, the novel is indeed named after that Rule 34.

(I so want to see if I can wheedle one of my publishers into producing the promotional goatsedance website -- imagine the Hamsterdance meets Goatse (work-safe URL) ...)


I'm sorry not to see more of Sue; I liked her a lot. But Kavanaugh was kind of cool too.


Long as we're apropos, I'm going to go off topic for two sentences.

I think we can all agree that this is clearly Laundry propaganda.


Heh. So much for trying a dictionary link from Ork:

Reason: This Websense category is filtered: Racism and Hate.


FTR, I /do/ know about Rule 34.



"imagine the Hamsterdance meets Goatse"

If you insist...Ow!

You are a bad bad man, and I have a bad bad imagination.


Chris, you might want the worksafe ED article then.



Good tip about it being on Amazon - I've added this to my "Books coming in 2011" Listmania list.


Charlie, would you please consider releasing your manuscript for the first Rule 34 story, the one Bernie Madoff appropriated, when the real Rule 34 hits the bookstores?

(a) it's undoubtedly a good story, even if real life overtook it.

(b) it'll be a perfect example to point at whenever you want to tell people how much refinement a draft manuscript needs after it leaves your hands.

Thank you.


I have a Memorandum-related question -- perhaps this is not the right comment thread to ask, but the memorandum thread itself seems dead for a month or so.

Now, the question (tiptoeing around the spoiler mines): Is a recursively possessed undead actor mortal? Or does it exist in a state of undeadness similar to a teapot?

I conjecture the latter, reaching a fixpoint of some sorts; alas I do not want to risk a formal derivation, as reductions in the said calculi are known to be dangerous for neural computers.


Hey Charlie,

May I make a suggestion? Wrap the whole "Toast" page, from beginning to end, in <blockquote> and </blockquote> tags. That way there will be a margin for those who are reading the page on their browsers.


I was Drinking Black Coffee as I linked to your link and came upon " Note: If this picture doesn't make sense, try reading the skirt, retard. "

My computers LCD screen thanks you for that Charlie ! .. Well it's been a while since it demanded to be cleaned.

My copy of 'Halting State ' is still on it's way from ... 'Today Atlanta Book Company shipped item(s) in your order, placed on July 30, 2010.'

How Wonderful the Internet - and how Deadly it has been to any Second Hand Book dealer that is outside of Tourist Territory in the U.K. I am as Guilty as any for the Death of the Independent Book Dealer but, ' What can You Do ' I say as I spread my hands in a Mafiosi Type Gesture ... Nothing Personal .. Just Business.


I would, if I'd, er, actually written it.

(Bernie Madoff broke before I started writing, then there was a period of pronounced global financial instability. I think when you read the finished "Rule 34" you'll be able to figure out why I went "oh shit" and downed tools for a year while things calmed down.)


I can't answer that without dropping in a huge honking spoiler for "The Apocalypse Codex", aka Laundry #4 (which I am about 25% of the way through writing).


Alex R:

1) When posting here, use HTML entities if you want to use < or > symbols -- works ever so much better!

2) The raw HTML of TOAST is there for folks who want to whack it and feed it to Calibre or similar to produce an ebook. If you want to read it in-browser you can roll your own CSS to override the default margins, surely?


The second-person narrative surprised me at first, but it's obviously the Right Thing: text adventure games are almost always written in the second person.


i know this is not the veneue but when i try to email you it thinks im giving you spam and it wont go through so 1) how do i fix that and 2) in the email i basically just wanted you to give me a few authors i may enjoy, if you do stuff like that. My favorites are You< Frank Herbert> Neal Steaphenson, Vernor Vinge, George Orwell< and Robert Charles wilson. Sorry to the rest of the bloggers with my unrelated post, wont happen again. Thanks John Minnesota USA


i forgot the most important part, even if you dont reply< thank you>


dear john;

I echo your fandom of Strossian literature, and the only writings I have found vaguely in the same genre are most of the guys you mentioned, as well as William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.

though I share your curiosity in what other authors may be on that list, and particularly our-gracious-hosts thoughts on said subject matter....

at the same time, I can't blame the man for using his web-page to promote his own fine work as opposed to the work of writers he personally enjoys and/or recommends...


I have to admit I hadn't heard of Rule 34 until you'd changed the title, which made me more curious (or nervous) about it than the original, which I had only heard in reference to the Police Code for "Dead Body Found" and not referring to scams. So, I'm definitely wondering where the final version is going.

Started "The Fuller Memorandum" this morning. Starting off with a plane museum, and a Woody Guthrie reference. Some of my favorite things. Fantastic!


The US political system has been in worse shape and survived. Neither major party is close to death; none of the states are doing more than talking about armed rebellion.

The economic system may be another matter. But I don't think we'll end up any worse off than Argentina (for example).

33: 28 and #30 - It's Charlie's place so his rules, even if I don't wholeheartedly agree with them. For example (chosen deliberately), the fact that I've just bought the new Iain (M) Banks may or may not delay my purchase of the new Charlie Stross, but if it does it will most likely mean I buy it this month rather than next. What it will not mean is that I just plain don't buy the Charlie Stross at some point.

Ok Charlie? If not, at least please note that I'm acknowledging you have the right to set rules on/for a website you pay for!


I don't mind chatting about books by other authors; but I'm a bit leery about writing book reviews because, well ... I don't think it's appropriate to do so unless you can say negative things as well as positive, but I've got such a high profile that if I pass negative comment it may have a disproportional effect. And so, because I feel constrained against commenting negatively, I tend not to comment at all.

(I have a lot of readers and they seem to take my opinions seriously; if I trash a book It could conceivably harm the author's sales, which would really suck insofar as (a) my opinions on matters of literature are no more authoritative than anyone elses, and (b) a dent in their sales means a dent in their earnings. As you might have noticed from my comments on TV and media SF, sharp criticism comes easily to me. Star Trek or BSG are big enough to look after themselves, but I could easily hurt J. Random First Time Novelist. And I don't hurt people for kicks.)


The mail form takes violent exception to high-bit characters, including smart quotes and accented characters. It does this to spare me the deluge of Chinese gold farmer spam I was getting through it.

Stross-like authors?

You want to read (or at least sample):

Wil McCarthy, especially his Queendom of Sol books (start with "The Collapsium")

Karl Schroeder, especially the brilliant "Lady of Mazes")

Hannu Rajaniemi ("The Quantum Thief", his first novel, comes out in UK hardback this November from from Tor in the US next year)

Anything by John Meaney (but note that he mostly writes in trilogies and I don't think he's published in the US)

Ted Chiang (no novels, only short stories, alas)

Greg Egan, (notably "Diaspora")

Ken MacLeod

A chunk of Elizabeth Bear's stuff, notably the SF (start with "Dust")

... alas, I'm a lousy guide to the field; when I'm writing I'm mostly not reading for pleasure, and I'm writing most of the time right now -- I have very little idea who the hot new writers are because I haven't had time to read the magazines for the past few years.


I'd add Ian McDonald and eventually Alastair Reynolds and Paolo Bacigalupi to the genre of "literature which fans of Stross might enjoy". And maybe the M-series of Iain Banks. And maybe, maybe, for the fans of Glasshouse, somewhere between C.J. Cherryh and Marge Piercy intelligent entertainment can be found.


Ursula K. le Guin


I'll add Chris Beckett to the list of people who Charlie-fans should probably try.


That's fair and reasonable; I wasn't about to ask you (or anyone else) for "proper" reviews. The closest I intended to come was the sort of "ok I like the Laundry stuff; other than the obvious inspirations, what else do people think I might enjoy?" type question that's already pretty much answered.

Oh and I know I got the "this month and next month" backwards, but my point was that buying books by one author won't stop me buying books by another beyond time-shifting one of the purchases back a month.

I'd heartily endorse your recommendation of trying Ken McLeod (whom I'd read before I read any of yours) and Till's of maybe Alistair Reynolds (whom I only came to in the last year or so). I've not tried any of the other authors you suggest though, but I might try some of them once I get my "to be read" pile down under 50 volumes!

@ Till, 2 good picks, but IMO more because they're both good writers in their own right than anything else.


Some interesting recommendations from our most-excellent host and others, I read 'Zendegi' by Egan last month and it was most thought-provoking (long time fan of his as well).

On the subject of other authors, and 'mmm... tentacles', I just finished China Miéville's 'Kraken' - not sure if he's read the Laundry novels, but a reference to an 'iScry' and other magic/techno crossovers did make me wonder. As wonderfully bizarre as his other works, and with some nice genre blending going on.


Argh... multibyte character sets strike again. It's China Mieville with an accent (acute I think) over the first 'e'.


I'm on holiday on Lundy island at the moment and the pub has a copy of The Fuller Memorandum. It's been passed around a few people uniquely placed to enjoy the real-world elements (including my dad, who heads Chichely Hall and chairs DSAC) - and they found it very enjoyable indeed. You have a bunch of new fans. I'll be buying them a set of Laundry novels when we return to the mainland.


The closest I intended to come was the sort of "ok I like the Laundry stuff; other than the obvious inspirations, what else do people think I might enjoy?" type question that's already pretty much answered.

The obvious one here is Tim Powers; I bought "Declare" based on its mention in the afterword of "The Atrocity Archive", and if you like this sort of thing, then it is the sort of thing you will like, though it's considerably less light-hearted than the Laundry. The only problem with "Declare" is that it's better than anything else Powers has written, so it will turn you into a Powers fan and then doom you to a period of slight disappointment as you seek out all his other books and find they're good, but not quite as good as "Declare". You might be better off starting with "The Drawing of the Dark" and working your way through "The Anubis Gates" and then the Fault Lines trilogy before getting to "Declare".

Also, if you like the Laundry books, there's probably a lot of non-SF stuff you'd like. The novels of Len Deighton - his cookery book isn't bad either - and of Anthony Price, and the Smiley novels of John Le Carre. Classic derring-do memoirs like "Eastern Approaches" and "Private Army" and stuff by Peter Hopkirk.

And if you've been reading Laundry books without a good foundation of gibbering horror under your belt, then you've been doing it wrong. Get hold of the Necronomicon edition of HP Lovecraft's stories.


If you want to read it in-browser you can roll your own CSS to override the default margins, surely?

I don't wanna work that hard, Charlie. But wrapping something in blockquotes is a thing I do whenever I throw raw-ish HTML into the world. It's fast and easy and it gives the reader a margin.

Good stories, BTW. I got sucked into "A Colder War" again, despite my firm resolve to not read it for the Nth time, and I loved Antibodies.

While on the subject, I've got to say this. "A Colder War" is not good. It is not great. It is simply perfect. Not a word out of place, scary as hell, and completely true, at least in spirit. (Obviously I know Shoggoths aren't real, but Admiral Poindexter would happily have boinked one if it got the Contras an extra machine gun.)


Finished the Fuller Memo in one sitting Charlie. . . and I now have a small question for you. That question is - it's all real, isn't it?

As for Stross-esque novelists, well he's not sci-fi but Stross fans might also enjoy the work of Christopher Brookmyre.

Brookmyre's semi-comic adventure thrillers are best described as being like 'early Iain Banks, but with jokes' (like IB he's also a kilt-wearer) and the alert among you will have noticed the shameless plug he gets in our esteemed host's very own Halting State.


Brookmyre's heading for SF territory in his latest, "Pandemonium"; and earlier stuff like "Not the end of the world" and "One fine day in the middle of the night" are at least technothrillers (hard SF with existing technology). I think he's making his way over to the dark side...


I'm a big Brookmyre fan. Weirdly, I've never met him -- turns out he's on at the Edinburgh Book Festival the day after I fly out to worldcon, dammit.


The only indication that it's AU is that the clothes store under Bob's office no longer trades in the UK. I think that this is just inverse sympathetic magic on Charlie's part.


Yes, but it could -- they're still in business in mainland Europe.

In the first draft of "The Fuller Memorandum" the New Annexe was above a Woolworths'. Woolies went bust midway between the first draft and my pre-submission edits and I kind of forgot that C&A had pulled out -- M&S was another option, but seemed a bit too glam.


And Ken MacLeod's "The Restoration Game" features a Woolworths. I read the two one after the other and wondered if the two of you were being clever...


Remember it typically takes 3-12 months to write a novel? Then another 12 months as it proceeds through the various production stages in the publisher, then 12 months on sale in hardcover followed by an indefinite period on sale in paperback.

That freshly published new paperback in your hands could well have been written 3 years ago.


To me the fact that some things mentioned in the book no longer exist, or are no longer doing business in the UK, just goes along with the whole "names have been changed to protect whoever" aspect, which would also apply to 'secret' locales. After all Bob is not Bob's true name.


What I was trying to suggest is that you can take the shop existence as an indication that it's 'real' or not as you will. if A≠a:B≠b. No C&A/ woolies: No Bob. What I had more difficult with was the geography of the Necropolis Line being quiet familiar with Brookwood St and the late lamented Waterloo taxi entrance to EuroStar. But I guess that's because I've done it by feel and not read the history. I imaging bob works at Elephant and Castle now that is a fifth circle of Hell (wrath and sullenness)


well they came out as not-equals in the preview so I thought they'd pass



I got started reading Charlie's books with "Singularity Sky", and then "Accelerando", so I had developed a taste for his sense of humor when I got to the short stories and was stopped hard by "A Colder War". It was really nasty, and I really didn't want to like it because of that, but it was so perfectly done I really didn't have any choice. It didn't help that Charlie and I have somewhat parallel histories: children of Eastern European Jewish left-wing families who grew up during the real Cold War, and had enough imagination to be able to visualize what those bombs could and might some day do. So that story sneaked right into the closet where I've shoved those old skeletons and rattled them like mad.

Since then I haven't been able to decide whether I like Charlie better when he's joking or when he's deadly serious, but either way will do.


You probably want to stay away from Peter Watts, then. ("A Colder War" is about as bleak as the average Watts novel.)


I find that accented letters and such show up in preview, but you have to re-do (I usually copy and paste) them in the comment box before hitting submit. At least it's worked for me so far.

As for the rest; I'm not a Brit, so not familiar with London geography, I'll take it for granted that it's the way it is in the book--more or less. Though I have been to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and could find my way through "Halting State" fairly well.


thanks alot for the suggestions everyone really appreciated them. For anyone who hasnt read them, I recently finished the Hyperion series by Dan Simmons and thought it was good. And on another note Mr. Stross, I noticed you have referred to Vernor Vinge's work in some essays, and correct me if I'm wrong, but may have also wrote a blurb for rainbow's end. Upon reading your essay on Space Cadets, does Vinge fit the bill for you. The Deepness and the sky and Fire on the Deep seem to feature pretty libertarian protagonists? Or perhaps its just there for entertainment value?


they are even in business in SHanghai!


As it happens, I'd just finished reading 'Pandaemonium' and thought it more than a little influenced by the 'Laundry' series. Albeit only if the laundry was a criminally incompetent joint venture between the US military and the Vatican.

Good fun, although if you go picking for plot holes, it falls apart pretty quickly, it would make a very entertaining film.


@ 45 NO Because Charlie seems to get his railway geography wrong ..... IIRC, in Atrocity Archive - you can't get to Luton from Euston ..... "Beeching" (actually the crook Marples) cuts in S. London railways? No, certainly not in inner London. Come to that slam-door stock and wooden partitions? Last ones, other than specially preserved items, went out of service at least 5, if not 10 years back .....

@ 49 You could have picked "Lidl", Charlie!

@ 53 No, there, Charlie is entirely correct. The Necropolis railway really existed, there's at least one detective story based on it, and the London terminus was destroyed by bombs during the blitz. More information here , here and here

62: 43 - I'd agree, at least in part. I'd read Lovecraft before reading any of Charlie's work, and the 'le Carre' "Smiley" influences in the Laundryverse are highly obvious surely? 45 thro #47 - Christopher Brookmyre's mother was one of my primary school teachers. Just one for anybody who wants to play "6 Degrees of Separation". I've never met the guy either, but yes he's a similar age to Charlie (and to myself).

My first of Charlie's books was Glasshouse, picked up at (semi)-random in the Eastercon 2008 dealers' room after having had a short chat with Charlie there, and deciding to read one of his books as a result. Glasshouse read The Atocity Archive, and then the books read me (Pop quiz question - which novel did I adapt that idea from?)


the 'le Carre' "Smiley" influences in the Laundryverse are highly obvious surely?

As I have made a point of not reading the George Smiley books that is a bit of a peculiar assertion. (Other le Carre I will cop to.)

It's more a case of a certain institutional culture emerging when you start reading histories of the British secret services in the 20th century, or talk to people with chunks of their previous career they can't discuss. Not to mention the other authors of thrillers who had, like le Carre, worked with or in intelligence in some capacity.


And on that subject, anyone who has enjoyed the Laundry series should get their hands on Operation Mincemeat, which tells for the first time the fully story of 'the man who never was', i.e. the deception operation intended to confuse Berlin as to where the invasion of southern Europe would come. There's plenty of stuff in there that deals with the institutional culture of Brit intelligence services in the twentieth century.


Ah, no: that's the wartime culture! For a shot at that (and specifically the culture of SOE), I'd highly recommend "Between Silk and Cyanide" by Leo Marks.

Post-1945, when the amateurs all demobbed, a very different organizational culture reasserted itself.


Fair enough Charlie; perhaps I should have said that Bob's relationship with Alderton (sp) seems highly influenced by George Smiley's relationships with agents when he became the spymaster. That said, I've never read the novels either, and am working more from the BBC series.


I always knew it existed - I commuted past Brookwood cemetery for four years - fascinating journeys along with the reactions from rookie squadies on their first journey to Perbright Camp. what laughs… (Hopefully Aldershot was informed something was going down during the denouement of the book and didn't get twitchy when an area next their big firing ranges lit up.)

My mistake was thinking that the entrance to the line was at the 'front end' of Waterloo station with the tracks underlying the original Eurostar terminal was/is and the lane beside it - I couldn't imaging that it had branch lines that are now closed as track space around Clapham / Vauxhall/ Brixton is pretty congested.


I notice that Mike Carey hasn't been name-dropped yet a chapter of his is in the back of FM! I hate it when publishers do this; at least include a chapter from another work of the same author if you must. I wish we could have had Overtime instead, i know you didn't have time to write one of your essays, which would have been even more preferable.


Ah, no: that's the wartime culture!

You win this round, Charlie Stross - but we shall meet again.


"Overtime" was under exclusive lock-in at Tor at the time -- they bought exclusive rights to the story for 12 months, which wouldn't expire until 5 months or so after the book was in print.

I attempted to bolt together an essay to go with "The Fuller Memorandum", but it didn't gel. (Some day I'll try and pull it together again, at which point I'll probably post it here.)

As TFM was somewhat longer than the earlier Laundry novels, we decided to go with it as-is in this book. Hopefully there'll be an extra or two ready in time for "The Apocalypse Codex" ...


Putting the first chapter or 3 of a similar style work by another author in back of a book is actually an effective marketting technique, as long as you actually can and do select an author and title that readers of a specific work are likely to appreciate.

OTOH putting the start of book N+1 in long running series, or something that wildly unlikely to sell to readers of the current work is just annoying.


So, your first ReST manuscript shipped. Was it a worthwhile experiment, and are you going to stock with it in the future?


Nope, it ended up being mostly written in (roll of drums) Microsoft Word for Mac.



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