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Rule 34

"Rule 34" should be showing up in shops in 33-35 days (depending where you live). By kind consent of the publishers, I'm able to give you a sneak preview of the first few chapters. So I'm going to roll them out on consecutive Fridays. Here's the opening. (Note that this is carved out of the final manuscript; there will be some minor differences from the published text — typos fixed in the proof stage, mainly.)

1. LIZ: Red Pill, Blue Pill

It's a slow Tuesday afternoon, and you're coming to the end of your shift on the West End control desk when Sergeant McDougall IMs you: INSPECTOR WANTED ON FATACC SCENE.

"Jesus fucking Christ," you subvocalize, careful not to let it out aloud—the transcription software responds erratically to scatology, never mind eschatology—and wave two fingers at Mac's icon. You can't think of a reasonable excuse to dump it on D. I. Chu's shoulders when he comes on shift, so that's you on the spot: you with your shift-end paper-work looming, an evening's appointment with the hair salon, and your dodgy gastric reflux.

You push back your chair, stretch, and wait while Mac's icon pulses, then expands. "Jase. Talk to me."

"Aye, mam. I'm on Dean Park Mews, attendin' an accidental death, no witnesses. Constable Berman was first responder, an' she called me in." Jase pauses for a moment. There's something odd about his voice, and there's no video. "Victim's cleaner was first on the scene, she had a wee panic, then called 112. Berman's got her sittin' doon with a cuppa in the living room while I log the scene."

What he isn't saying is probably more important than what he is, but in these goldfish-bowl days, no cop in their right mind is going to say anything prejudicial over an evidence channel. "No ambulance?" You prod. "Have you opened an HSE ticket already?"

"Ye ken a goner when ye see wan." McDougall's Loanhead accent comes out to play when he's a tad stressed. "I didna want to spread this'un around, skipper, but it's a two-wetsuit job. I don' like to bug you, but I need a second opinion . . ."

Wow, that's something out of the ordinary. A two-wetsuit job means kinky beyond the call of duty. You look at the map and see his push-pin. It's easy walking distance, but you might as well bag a ride if there's one in the shed. "I was about to go off shift. If you can you hold it together for ten minutes, I'll be along."

"Aye, ma'am."

You glance sideways across the desk. Sergeant Elvis—not his name, but the duck's arse fits his hair-style—is either grooving to his iPod or he's really customized his haptic interface. You wave at him, and he looks up. "I've got to head out, got a call," you say, poking the red-glowing hover-fly case number across the desktop in his direction. He nods, catches it, and drags it down to his dock. "I'm off duty in ten, so you're holding the fort. Ping me if anything comes up."

Elvis bobs his head, then does something complex with his hands. "Yessir, ma'am. I'll take care of things, you watch me." Then he drops back into his cocoon of augmented reality. You can see him muttering under his breath, crooning lyrics to a musically themed interface. You sigh, then reach up, tear down the control room, wad it up into a ball of imaginary paper, and shove it across to sit in his dock. There's a whole lot more to shift-end handover than that, but something tells you that McDougall's case is going to take priority. And it's down to the front desk to cadge a ride.

It's an accident of fate that put you on the spot when Mac's call came in; fate and personnel allocation policy, actually: all that, and politics beside.

You don't usually sit in on the West End control centre, directing constables to shoplifting scenes and chasing hit-and-run cyclists. Nominally you're in charge of the Rule 34 Squad: the booby-prize they gave you for backing the wrong side in a political bun-fight five years ago.

But policing is just as prone to management fads as any other profession, and it's Policy this decade that all officers below the rank of chief inspector must put in a certain number of Core Community Policing hours on an annual basis, just to keep them in touch with Social Standards (whatever they are) and Mission-Oriented Focus Retention (whatever that is). Detective inspector is, as far as Policy is concerned, still a line rank rather than management.

And so you have to drag yourself away from your office for eight hours a month to supervise the kicking of litter-lout ass from the air-conditioned comfort of a control room on the third floor of Fettes Avenue Police HQ. It could be worse: At least they don't expect you to pound the pavement in person. Except Jason McDougall has called you out to do some rare on-site supervision on—

A two-wetsuit job.

Back in the naughty noughties a fifty-one-year-old Baptist minister was found dead in his Alabama home wearing not one but two wet suits and sundry bits of exotic rubber underwear, with a dildo up his arse. (The cover-up of the doubly-covered-up deceased finally fell before a Freedom of Information Act request.)

It's not as if it's like isnae well-known in Edinburgh, city of grey stone propriety and ministers stern and saturnine (with the most surprising personal habits). But propriety—and the exigencies of service under the mob of puritanical arseholes currently in the ascendant in Holyrood—dictates discretion. If Jase is calling it openly, it's got to be pretty blatant. Excessively blatant. Tabloid grade, even.

Which means

Enough of that. Let's see if we can blag a ride, shall we?

"Afternoon, Inspector. What can I do for ye?"

You smile stiffly at the auxiliary behind the transport desk: "I'm looking for a ride. What have you got?"

He thinks for a moment. "Two wheels, or four?"

"Two will do. Not a bike, though." You're wearing a charcoal grey skirt suit and the police bikes are all standard hybrids, no step-through frames. It's not dignified, and in these straitened times, your career needs all the dignity it can get. "Any segways?"

"Oh aye, mam, I can certainly do one of those for ye!" His face clears, and he beckons you round the counter and into the shed.

A couple of minutes later you're standing on top of a Lothian and Borders Police segway, the breeze blowing your hair back as you dodge the decaying speed pillows on the driveway leading past the stables to the main road. You'd prefer a car, but your team's carbon quota is low, and you'd rather save it for real emergencies. Meanwhile, you take the path at a walk, trying not to lean forward too far.

Police segways come with blues and twos, Taser racks and overdrive: But if you go above walking pace, they invariably lean forward until you resemble a character in an old Roadrunner cartoon. Looking like Wile E. Coyote is undignified, which is not a good way to impress the senior management whether or not you're angling for promotion, especially in the current political climate. (Not that you are angling for promotion, but . . . politics.) So you ride sedately towards Comely Bank Road, and the twitching curtains and discreet perversions of Stockbridge.

Crime and architecture are intimately related. In the case of the red stone tenements and Victorian villas of Morningside, it's mostly theft from cars and burglary from the aforementioned posh digs. You're still logged in as you ride past the permanent log-jam of residents' Chelsea Tractors—those such as live here can afford to fill up their hybrid SUVs, despite the ongoing fuel crunch—and the eccentric and colourful boutique shops. You roll round a tight corner and up an avenue of big stone houses with tiny wee gardens fronting the road until you reach the address Sergeant McDougall gave you.

Here's your first surprise: It's not a tenement or a villa—it's a whole town house, three stories high and not split for multiple occupancy. It's got to be worth something north of half a million, which in these deflationary times is more than you'll likely earn in the rest of your working life. And then there's your next surprise: When you glance at it in CopSpace, there's a big twirling red flag over it, and you recognize the name of the owner. Shit.

CopSpace—the augmented-reality interface to all the accumulated policing and intelligence databases around which your job revolves—rots the brain, corroding the ability to rote-memorize every villain's face and back story. But you know this guy of old: He's one of the rare memorable cases.

You ride up to the front door-step and park. The door is standing ajar—Jase is clearly expecting company. "Police," you call inside, scanning the scene. High hall ceiling, solid oak doors to either side, traditional whitewashed walls and cornice-work and maroon ceiling. Someone's restored this town house to its early-nineteenth-century splendour, leaving only a handful of recessed LED spots and covered mains sockets to remind you which century you're standing in.

A constable sticks her head around the door at the end of the hall. "Ma'am?" CopSpace overlays her with a name and number: berman, margaret, pc1022. Medium build, blond highlights, and hazel-nut eyes behind her specs. "Sergeant McDougall's in the bathroom upstairs: I'm taking a statement from the witness. Are you here to take over?" She sounds anxious, which is never a good sign in Lothian and Borders' finest.

You do a three-sixty as Sergeant McDougall comes to the top of the stairs: "Aye, skipper?" He leans over the banister. "You'll be wanting to see what's up here . . ."

"Wait one," you tell Berman. Then you take the stairs as fast as you can.

Little details stick in your mind. The picture rails in the hall (from which hang boringly framed prints depicting the city as it might once have looked), the discreet motion detectors and camera nodes in the corners of the hall ceiling. The house smells clean, sterile, as if it's been mothballed and bubble-wrapped. Jase takes a step back and gestures across the landing at an open door through which enough afternoon daylight filters that you can see his expression. You whip your specs off, and after a momentary pause, he follows suit. "Give me just the executive summary," you tell him.

McDougall nods tiredly. Thirtyish, sandy-haired, and built like a rugby prop, he could be your classic recruiter's model for community policing. "Off the record," he says—on the record, in the event one of your head cams is still snooping, or the householder's ambient lifelogging, or a passing newsrag surveillance drone, or God: But at least it serves notice of intent to invoke the Privacy Act—"This'n's a stoater, boss. But it looks like 'e did it to 'isself, to a first approximation."

You take a deep breath and nod. "Okay, let's take a look." You clip your specs back on and follow Jase into the bathroom of the late Michael Blair, esq., also known as Prisoner 972284.

The first thing you clock is that the bathroom's about the size of an aircraft hangar. Slate tile floor, chrome fittings and fixtures, expensively curved-glass shower with a bar-stool and some kind of funky robot arm to scoosh the water-jet right up your fanny—like an expensive private surgery rather than a temple of hygiene. About the stainless steel manacles bolted to the wall and floor inside the shower cubicle we'll say no more. It is apparent that for every euro the late Michael Blair, esq. spent on his front hall, he spent ten on the bathroom. But that's just the beginning, because beyond the shower and the imported Japanese toilet seat with the control panel and heated bumrest, there stands a splendid ceramic pedestal of a sink—one could reasonably accuse the late Mr. Blair of mistaking overblown excess for good taste—and then a steep descent into lunacy.

Mikey, as you knew him before he became (the former) Prisoner 972284, is lying foetal on the floor in front of some kind of antique machine the size of a washer/dryer. It's clearly a plumbing appliance of some kind, enamelled in pale green trimmed with chrome, sprouting pipes capped with metal gauges and thumb-wheels that are tarnished down to their brass cores, the metal flowers of a modernist ecosystem. The letters CCCP and a red enamel star feature prominently on what passes for a control panel. Mikey is connected to the aforementioned plumbing appliance by a sinuous, braided-metal pipe leading to a chromed tube, which is plugged straight into his—

Jesus. It is a two-wetsuit job.

You glance at Jase. "Tell me you haven't touched anything?"

He nods, then adds, "I canna speak for the cleaner, ma'am."

"Okay, logged."

You walk around the corpse carefully, scanning with your specs and muttering a continuous commentary of voice tags for the scene stream. Michael Blair, esq.—age 49, weight 98 kilos, height 182 centimetres, brown hair (thinning on top, number two cut rather than comb-over)—has clearly been dead for a few hours, going by his body temperature. Middle-aged man, dead on bathroom floor: face bluish, eyes bulging like he's had an aortic aneurysm. That stuff's modal for Morningside. It's the other circumstances that are the issue.

Mikey is mostly naked. You suppose "mostly" is the most appropriate term, because he is wearing certain items that could pass for "clothed" in an SM club with a really strict dress code: black bondage tape around wrists and ankles, suspender belt and fishnets, and a ball gag. His veined cock is purple and engorged, as hard as a truncheon. That, and the hose up his arse and the puddle of ming he's leaking, tell you all you need to know. Which is this: You're going to miss your after-work hairdresser's appointment.

"Call SOC, I want a full scene work-up. I want that thing—"you gesture at the Cold-War-era bathroom nightmare—"taken in as evidence. The fluid, whatever, get it to forensics for a full report: Ten to one there's something dodgy in it." You look him in the eye. "Sorry, Jase, but we're gannae be working late on this."

"Aw shite, Liz."

Aw shite indeed: With a sinking feeling, you realize what's up. Jase was hoping you'd take it off his plate, eager-beaver ready to grab an opportunity to prove your chops in front of head office so he can go home to his end-of-shift paper-work and wind down. Well, it's not going to happen quite like that. You are going to take it off his plate—as duty DI, it's your job. But that's not the end of the game.

"You've got to ask where all this"—your gesture takes in the town house around you—"came from? And I find the circumstances of his death highly suggestive. Until we can rule out foul play, I'm tagging this as probable culpable homicide, and until CID move in and take over, you're on the team. At least one other person was involved—unless you think he trussed himself up then slipped and fell on that thing—and I want to ask them some questions."

"Reet, reet." He takes your point. Sighing lugubriously, he pulls out his phone and prepares to take notes. "You said he's got form?"

You nod. "The conviction's spent: You won't see it in CopSpace without criminal intelligence permissions. He did five years in Bar-L and forfeiture of proceeds of crime to the tune of 2 million euros, if I remember the facts correctly. Illegal online advertising and sale of unlicensed pharmaceuticals. That was about six years ago, and he went down for non-violent, and I don't think he's currently a person of interest." You pause. "The housekeeper found him, right? And the security contractors—"

"'E's with Group Four. I served 'em a disclosure notice, and they coughed to one visitor in the past two hours—the cleaner."

"Two hours?"

"Aye, they was swithering on aboot privacy and confidentiality an' swore blind they couldna give me oot more'n that." He looks at you hopefully. "Unless you want to escalate . . . ?"

"You bet I will." Getting data out of sources like home-monitoring services gets easier with seniority: The quid pro quo is that you need to show reasonable cause. Luckily cause doesn't get much more reasonable than a culpable homicide investigation. You glance at Mikey again. Poor bastard. Well, maybe not. He went down as a non-violent offender but did his time under Rule 45, like he was a kiddie-fiddler or a snitch or something similar. For good reason: Something similar is exactly what he was.

You walk towards the door, talking. "Let's seal the room. Jase, I want you to call Sergeant"—Elvis, your memory prompts—"Sorensen, and tell him we've got a probable culpable homicide I want to hand off to the X Division duty officer. Next, call SOC, and tell them we've got a job. I'm going downstairs to talk to Mags and the witness. If you get any serious pushback or queries from up the greasy pole, point them at me, but for the next fifteen minutes, I want you to run interference."

The next fifteen minutes is likely to be your entire quota of face time with the witness before a blizzard of virtual paper-work descends on your head—that's why you're leaning on Jase. And you really want a chance to get your head around what's going on here, before the regulars from X Division—the Criminal Investigation Department, as opposed to your own toytown fiefdom (which is laughably a subsidiary of theirs, hence the "D" in front of your "I")—take the stiff with the stiffy off your plate.

It's a dead certainty that when the shit hits the fan, this case is going to go political. You're going to have Press Relations and Health and Safety crawling all over you simply because it happened on your watch, and you were the up-and-coming officer who put Mikey in pokey back when you had a career ladder to climb. Not to mention the fact that something has twitched your non-legally-admissible sixth sense about this whole scene: You've got a nasty feeling that this might go beyond a mere manslaughter charge.

Mikey was a spammer with a specialty in off-licence medication. And right now you'd bet your cold overdue dinner that, when Forensics return that work-up on the enema fluid from the colonic irrigation machine, it'll turn out to be laced with something like Viagra.

Shock, disgust, and depression.

You are indeed late home for your tea, as it happens—and never mind the other appointment. Michael Blair, esq., has shafted you from beyond the—well, not the grave, at least not yet: But you don't need to mix the metaphor to drink the cocktail, however bitter. So you're having a bad hair day at the office tomorrow, and never mind the overtime.

Doubtless Jase is going home to his wife and the bairns, muttering under his breath about yet another overtime claim thanks to the ball-breaking politically oriented inspector who disnae ken her career's over yet; or maybe not. (He's still young: born to a couple of ravers after the summer of love, come of age just in time to meet Depression 2.0 head-on. They're a very different breed from the old-timers.) And on second thoughts, maybe he's a wee bit smug as well—being first on scene at a job like this will probably keep him in free drinks for years to come.

But in the final analysis your hair-do and his dinner don't signify. They're unimportant compared to the business at hand, a suspicious death that's going to make newsfeeds all over the blogosphere. Your job right now is to nail down the scene ready for CID to take over. There's a lot to do, starting with initializing the various databases and expert systems that will track and guide the investigation—HOLMES for evidence and case management, BOOTS for personnel assignment, VICTOR for intelligence oversight—calling in the support units, preventing further contamination of the evidence, and acting as first-response supervisor. And so you do that.

You go down to the kitchen—sterile, ultra-modern, overflowing with gizmos from the very expensive bread-maker (beeping forlornly for attention) to the cultured meat extruder (currently manufacturing chicken sans egg)—where you listen to the housekeeper; Mrs. Sameena Begum, middle-aged and plump and very upset, wringing her hands in the well-appointed kitchen: In all my years I have never seen anything like it. You nod sympathetically and try to draw out useful observations, but alas, she isn't exactly CID material.

After ten minutes and fifty seconds, Jase can no longer draw off the incoming flak and begins forwarding incoming calls. You make your excuses, send PC Berman to sit with her, then go outside and start processing a seemingly endless series of sitrep requests from up and down the food-chain.

An eternity later, Chief Inspector MacLeish from CID turns up. Dickie's followed by a vanload of blue-overalled SOCOs and a couple of freelance video bloggers. After another half-hour of debriefing, you finally get to dump your lifelog to the evidence servers, hand over the first-responder baton, finish your end-of-shift wiki updates and hand-offs, and head for home. (The segway, released from duty, will trundle back to the station on its own.)

The pavement smells of feral honeysuckle, grass, and illegal dog shit. You notice cracked concrete slabs underfoot, stone walls to either side. Traffic is light this evening, but you have to step aside a couple of times to dodge kamikaze Edinburgh cyclists on the pavement—no lights, helmets, or heed for pedestrians. It's almost enough to make you pull your specs on and tag them for Traffic—almost. But you're off duty, and there's a rule for that: a sanity clause they added to Best Practice guidelines some years ago that says you're encouraged to stop being a cop the moment you log out.

They brought that particular guide-line in to try and do something about the alarming rise in burn-out cases that came with CopSpace and the other reality-augmentation initiatives of the Revolution in Policing Affairs that they declared a decade ago. It doesn't always work—didn't save your civil partnership in the end—but you've seen what happens to your colleagues who fail to ring-fence their professional lives. That way lies madness.

(Besides, it's one of the ticky-boxes they grade you on in Learning and Development/Personal Welfare/Information Trauma Avoidance. How well you let go and connect back with what the folks writing the exams laughably call the real world. And if you fail, they'll downgrade you on Emotional Intelligence or some other bullshit non-performance metric, and make you jump through some more training hoops. The beatings will continue until morale improves.)

It hasn't always been thus. Back before the 1990s, policing used to be an art, not a science, floundering around in the opaque darkness of the pre-networked world. Police officers were a breed apart—the few, the proud, defenders of law and order fighting vainly to hold back a sea of filth lapping at the feet of a blind society. Or so the consensus ran in the cosy after-hours pub lock-in, as the old guard reinforced their paranoid outlook with a pie and a pint and stories of the good old days. As often as not a career on the beat was the postscript to a career in the army, numbing the old combat nerves . . . them and us with a vengeance, and devil take the hindmost.

It all changed around the time you were in secondary school; a deluge of new legislation, public enquiries, overturned convictions, and ugly miscarriages of justice exposed the inadequacies of the old system. A new government and then a new culture of intelligence-driven policing, health and safety guide-lines, and process quality assurance arrived, promising to turn the police into a shiny new engine of social cohesion. That was the police force you'd studied for and then signed up to join—modern, rational, planned, there to provide benign oversight of an informed and enabled citizenry rather than a pasture for old war-horses.

And then the Internet happened: and the panopticon society, cameras everywhere and augmented-reality tools gobbling up your peripheral vision and greedily indexing your every spoken word on duty. Globalization and EU harmonization and Depression 2.0 and Policing 3.0 and another huge change of government; then semi-independence and another change of government, slogans like Reality-Based Policing gaining traction, and then Standards-Based Autonomous Policing—back to the few, the proud, doing it their own way (with permanent surveillance to log their actions, just in case some jakey on the receiving end of an informal gubbing is also lifelogging on his mobie, and runs screeching about police brutality to the nearest ambulance chaser).

Sometime in the past few years you learned a dirty little secret about yourself: that the too-tight spring that powered your climb through the ranks has broken, and you just don't care anymore.

Let's have a look at you, shall we? Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh, age 38. Born in Newcastle, went to a decent state grammar school: university for a BSc in Crime and Criminology in Portsmouth, then graduate entry into Lothian and Borders Police on Accelerated Promotion Scheme for Graduates, aged 22. Passed your Diploma in Police Service Leadership and Management, aged 25. Passed sergeant's exam, aged 27. MSc in Policing, Policy, and Leadership, aged 29. Moved sideways into X Division, Criminal Investigations, as detective sergeant, aged 29. Aged 31: passed inspector's exam, promotion to Detective Inspector. Clearly a high-flyer! And then . . .

If it had all gone according to your career plan—the Gantt chart you drew by hand and taped to your bedroom wall back when you were nineteen and burning to escape—you'd be a chief inspector by now, raising your game to aim for the heady heights of superintendent and the sunlit uplands of deputy chief constable beyond. But no plan of battle survives contact with the enemy, and time is the ultimate opponent. In the case of your career, two decades have conducted as efficient a demolition of your youthful goals as any artillery barrage.

It turns out you left something rather important off your career plan: for example, there's no ticky-box on the diagram for HAVING A LIFE—TASK COMPLETED. And so you kept putting it off, and de-prioritized it, and put it off again until the law of conservation of shit-stirring dragged it front and centre and lamped you upside yer heid, as your clients might put it.

Which is why you're walking to the main road where you will bid for a microbus to carry you to the wee flat in Clermiston which you and Babs bought on your Key Worker Mortgage . . . where you can hole up for the evening, eat a microwave meal, and stare at the walls until you fall asleep. And tomorrow you'll do it all over again.

Keep taking the happy pills, Liz. It's better than the alternative.

Where to preorder:

Amazon US: [ Hardcover edition ][ Kindle edition ]

Powell's US: [ Hardcover edition ]

Amazon UK: [ Trade paperback edition ][ Kindle edition TBA ]

Signed copies: Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh will have signed copies of "Rule 34" and can ship them internationally. For details, email Transreal Fiction. (Note: signed copies may be back-ordered between July 20 and August 20 because I'll be traveling overseas and stocks may be low.)



I've just seen the results of a head-on collision between Ian Rankin and William Gibson!! :-D Yes, that is a compliment; well at least 2 of them actually.


I must actually get round to reading some Rankin (Ian as opposed to Robert) one of these days. I think we have some in the house.

Mind you, I'm currently ploughing through the Hugo nominees (greatly enjoying The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin), and then I've the second half of a whole stack of Lindsay Davis's Falco novels, and then a bunch of Kage Baker Company novels, and then there's an Iain Banks book and ...

Oh, so much to read, so little time! No wonder I've not played WoW in months.


My comments in other threads about "to be read bookcase" are not hyperbole; if anything they understate the number of books I own and haven't read yet.


Nope. It's no use trying to trick us with little sweetings Charlie, we're stronger than that.

I'm waiting for this to appear in a bookshop so that I can read it all at once!


Oh, you should have done what we did — burgle his flat while he was away at Eastercon to get the final mss. Waiting for publication? Pfui!

(OK, I will concede that it's pre-ordered at $LARGEONLINEBOOKSELLER.)


Mission accomplished; I'll definitely want to read the whole thing and tell my friends.

(Well, accomplished in this one case anyway...)


I was going to wait for the mass paperback until I read this entry.


I read too many police detection/procedurals. My brain automatically shifts into mystery read mode because of the expectations caused by the novel's mimicing of that genre's tropes, then the next filter comes up: clunky prose (c.f. 2nd person narrative) and starts to shut down my interest. I know that when the SF elements kick in, they will probably make this worth reading. (And I know the reasons why Charlie selected 2nd person; I am simply describing my brain's automatic first response which is mostly beyond my conscious control.)

As technology interweaves more with our daily lives, more "standard" mysteries are dealing with themes that would have been exclusively SF 10-20 years ago; so the curves between a novel like this and mainstream police fic are definitely fast approaching each other. For example, Ian Rankin has written Rebus novels about computer quest games (The Falls) and web cam exhibitionism/voyeurism (Question of Blood), as well as a non-series novel (The Complaints) which dealt with both online gaming and international internet based rings for the exploitation of children.

I also saw a comment on Inspector Gadget's blog which indicates some officers are already taping/videocamming themselves for cya purposes. The commenters on that site (who appear to be mainly in The Job) also had a lively debate about the Data Protection Act and the implications of a "customer" taping a confrontation with the police and then posting it on You Tube. (I discovered IG from Charlie's site; so no coincidence there. Charlie has obviously been looking at how things actually stand at the wedge in real life.)



Just curious: did you (or an editor) select a different word for bun-fight for the US edition? That was one of the ones I had a bit of trouble with when I moved to the UK. (My favourite is "nesh".)

Anyway, thanks for the preview. My pre-order should be waiting when I get back from hols!


That name - CopSpace - dates it, no? 2006, it was still just about credible to care about MySpace. If it had rolled out in the near-future of 2006, it would have ended up being called Casebook. Ain't hindsight great?


We are in continuity with a novel I began work on in 2005 here. And anyway, "Halting State" was about augmented reality -- talking in terms of [foo]-space works better if you think AR rather than social networking.


You got me the first time when you put up samples of "Halting State". You've got me again. Can't wait for the next sample, can't wait to read the whole thing. Many thanks.


Of course regardless of what is was officially called, I suspect it would pretty quickly get some nicknames.

The Plodosphere Rozzervision The Sweeniverse.

I'm kind of out of touch with current scottish slang for cops but I expect the folks in Glasgow would come up with something suitable scabrous.


And some more subtle, like, say, DanishSpace. (real comment from a very working class mate of mine, on seeing an easily made Drugs Squad "stakeout" [I spotted it, so it must have been obvious], "They might as well put a sign on the roof saying 'prime Danish bacon' ").


Great start, ready for more!

Also, glad to hear Charlie is enjoying The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin as well. I read both than and The Broken Kingdoms a month or so ago, and am eagerly awaiting the release of the third in the trilogy.


TBH, I think what dates it is the idea that we could have a future with self-driving segways but not gay marriage...


Dibble Vision, or Huckle Head?


It was me above that mentioned 'The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms'. I'm not aware that Charlie has mentioned it, though I assume that he'll either have read it already, or have it on his stack, it being a Hugo contender (and IMO better than at least one of last year's crop).

On the subject of the Hugos, it's going to be interesting to see how the voting figures reflect the new ease of getting to read the nominees.



It's 2023 and her civil partnership ended in divorce some years ago.

Legislating to facilitate gay marriage doesn't automatically invalidate (or change the status of) earlier arrangements.


Watching Copenhagen Suborbital's first attempt at a sub-orbital launch now ...


"Five, four, three, two, one ... ... ... dammit!"

It looks like the Something Awful space program has had a last-minute launch abort.


They're restarting the countdown at T minus 20 minutes.

If you want to follow the Danish open source space program, there's live video here.

(We now return you to "Rule 34".)


Ahem: after a last-minute launch hold, Copenhagen Suborbital's open source sea-launched rocket had a successful flight and payload separation over the Baltic.

Yes: a meme on Something Awful has turned into a space program.

I'm going to call this a "Rule 34" moment and tip-toe rapidly away ...


Ooo, one never wants to see parachutes do that.


Charlie, you're a darn tease some days. Still my preorder is in so I'll wait patiently.


Ah ha. Good point, well made. Apologies.


Love the second person narrative. It's just great, feels very unique. Can't wait to read the whole thing.

And sorry for the presumptuousness, but this sentence jumped out to me like a sore thumb: "Jase takes a step back and gestures across the landing at an open door through which enough afternoon daylight filters that you can see his expression."

Surely it would flow better if it read "through which enough afternoon daylight filters to illuminate his expression." Or is there some stylistic consideration that I'm missing?


Dunno: it's possible that got smoothed out in the page proofs (which required rather more tweaks than normal).


Nice, Charlie...I'm SO looking forward to this; I really enjoyed "Halting State". The story, the setting, the near-future projections; all marvelous.

One question: I google-translated (to confirm my inference from context) Jase's "You said he's got form?" comment into "He's got previous convictions, you say?". But I don't see where Liz had already told him that, between the time she saw the CopSpace flags that identified the victim to her, and when they had that conversation.

It's possible I'm missing something due to further translation error, though.


Ah...perhaps mentioned in the "continuous commentary of voice tags for the scene stream".


I like the idea of Halting State but found the 2nd person perspective and for some reason the sentence structure didn't flow. I find this chapter to be flowing better then Halting State and the subject matter more tantalizing. Looking forward to the release


2nd-person is a bit jarring, but I plan to get the Kindle version nonetheless.


So, does this one have all the Scottishisms edited out for us ignurant 'mericans, like the US edition of "Halting State"? I hope not. I'll have to try and find a UK copy of that one.

I was going of wait for the mass-market pb, but don't want to wait a year.


three-sixty? (Not a native speaker, my mathematics may be rusted :-)


There are 360 degrees in a circle. So to do a three-sixty is to look around in a complete circle.


Fascinating! I'm definitely going to have to pick this up. The second-person perspective makes for an interesting and unique read.

I have a bit of an odd question: Do you think there are certain types of science fiction that publishers will accept more than others? For example, singularity-fiction over space opera (or vice versa?)


It occurs to me to ask whether or not pre-orders influence print runs.

Of course it is true that those of us who favor a particular authors work copy of ' Rule 34 ' has been on order since February last .. will pre order but such of us who do so are surely more likely to recommend by word of mouth and thus increase the demand.

What size is a reasonable first imprint run of Hard or Paperback these days?

Oh the temptation of trying to deduce what you are up to in 'Rule 34 ' ... Can you resist the temptation to have the Detective Call together all of the suspects and then DENOUNCE the Culprit?

As of the moment, and given the CLUES I can't even work out what the REAL Crime is likely to be ...over and above Murder that is ...and what is Murder in this instance?


I have a to-be-read bookcase, plus about 20 to-be-read books on top of each bookcase.


My bookgroup is reading Halting State this month and discussing it the 18th. I dunno how they'll feel about Rule 34.


You tease!

Gotta stay strong and not read that. Gotta stay strong... I am not gonna read that chapter, otherwise I might want more, ...

Waiting for my preorder, so I can (most likely) one-session the whole book.

It's there to start reading, but ... GRRR!!!


Has your publisher given a schedule for when the paperback will be out?


Archae, Ima go out on a limb here and say the death by Soviet milking machine was indeed accidental, but his milking software caught a nasty virus from the internets and went to "suck" instead of "blow." The virus makers are up to other sketchy stuff (spamming, scamming, and blackmail), but Liz is gonna stop 'em.


I'm reminded of the old joke about masturbation by milking machine. The punch line is "it expects to get five liters, and five liters it's going to get."


You've got a lower case "inspector" in Detective Inspector in there - not sure if it's too late to fix? Probably.

Nice, sounds interesting so far.


...standing on top of a Lothian and Borders Police segway, the breeze blowing your hair back

I loved this sentence - treating the Segway like a sports car - the wind in her hair, the freedom of the open road... beautiful.


The Scottishisms in "Halting State" are largely edited out, period -- the UK copy is the same as the US text.

"Rule 34" made it past the dialect police intact.


Do you think there are certain types of science fiction that publishers will accept more than others? For example, singularity-fiction over space opera (or vice versa?)

SF/F publishing is as fashion-driven as any other entertainment biz. In the 1970s Tolkeinesque high fantasy was popular enough to make Tolkeinesque a recognizable adjective. In the 1990s there was a gigantic decade-long boom in paranormal romance/urban fantasy, and we now appear to be in the early stages of a gigantic Steampunk retromania bubble.

However, just because a particular sub-genre is madly popular, it does not follow that other sub-genres are hard to sell; if anything, the popular sub-genre draws a lot of attention from writers, so there's more elbow room for those of us who like to work away at the unpopular. Like me. I'm currently attacking near future SF because (a) it's hard and (b) very few other people are doing so. Which means (c) it's an easy way to stand out from the crowd.


It occurs to me to ask whether or not pre-orders influence print runs.

You jest.

Pre-orders are EVERYTHING.

Not customer-level pre-orders, but retail-chain pre-orders, dictate the size of the print run and thereby the first-month success of the book, its chance of hitting the bestseller list, and a whole bunch more.


Has your publisher given a schedule for when the paperback will be out?

Yes -- the usual one.

Which is to say, the Orbit edition in the UK is a trade paperback, the Ace edition in the USA is a hardcover, then 12 months after initial publication both publishers will run an A-format (compact) paperback at a lower price.



Being an airheaded idiot, I forgot to include links to places where you can buy the bloody book when I posted this extract.

Links now added, between the chapter and the start of comments.

I'm looking to confirm (in the very near future) that my local SF bookstore in Edinburgh, Transreal Books, is happy to take orders for signed copies. (Mike is in the process of moving the shop to new and improved premises, hence the delay in confirmation.)


I was going to patiently wait for the paperback version or grab a UK version, but after reading this I can see a hardback or Kindle version in my near future.

It is good to read your response that many of the local vernacular has stayed in. The few snippets of it that remained in Halting State were a speed bump at first, but did a great job of shifting my perspective to localize on Edinburgh.


Well, you don't have to worry bout losing many sales from libraries over here. The R/W and Think of the The Children are watching them. People have lost work over the "League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen."


Oh well, that'll save me a little money then. Obviously I thought it was only the US edition that got the cuts.


Oh, alright , I should have stated my terms and I did indeed mean Power And Influence by we Single Spy's rather than by the Armies of Retail.

Still .. it does occur to me that, say, an influential Executive of Retail were to be discovered to have produced a ' Rule 34 ' movie that implicated him in buggering a Giraffe ... an Underage and non-consenting Giraffe ... then leverage might be employed that would convince him that the Pre-orders for ' Rule 34 ' " Pre-orders are EVERYTHING. " should be greatly increased .... not that this could happen of course ..just saying.


Okay ...

In general, in the US books are sent to the printer 8-10 weeks prior to the official publication date. It takes 1-3 weeks to print and bind them -- longer for hardcovers (more production steps to go through, e.g. folding the dust jackets) -- then they're sent to a warehouse. From which cartons are shipped to either wholesalers or book chains and stores who order direct. They usually arrive at the retail end of the pipeline 1-2 weeks before the publication date, which can lead to some early leakage -- this is more likely to be discouraged for potential bestsellers, as if there's any prospect of hitting the bestseller charts at all it helps to arrange a sharp sales spike in week #1.

In the UK, I believe the logistics chain is a wee bit shorter -- as I understand it, books are printed 4-8 weeks prior to the publication date. The principle is the same, though.

The advance orders that affect the print run are therefore the wholesale advance orders, which come in 3-6 months ahead of publication. Waterstones or Barnes & Noble order by the [multiple] thousand copies, and publishers know from experience to add an extra multiplier for the small indie stores.

This is also why good reviews in the likes of Kirkus, Publishers' Weekly, and (don't laugh) Romantic Times are important: their reviewers publish early, because they're trade press and their audience are book buyers in shops (and librarians). A good PW/Kirkus review can generate hundreds if not thousands of extra orders on sale-or-return, just in case the much-hyped book goes bestseller.

Unfortunately your fascinating movie proposal fails when it comes to getting rid of the books. Trade books are sold ... or returned within 120 days to the publisher's warehouse for credit. I'm fairly sure that if an executive ordered 20,000 extra copies of the hardcover of "Rule 34" and ended up at 110 days with 19,995 unsold copies in the warehouse, several things would happen: (a) the exec in question would be sectioned under the Mental Health Act, (b) the books would be returned to the publisher for credit, and (c) the publisher would suddenly discover they had a shipping container full of unsaleable returns, which means (d) the book gets remaindered and (e) I don't get any money and the publisher makes a loss, thus (f) causing my subsequent career to crater. All die! Oh, the embarrassment.


I don't understand how step d leads to e and f.


A remaindered book is one sent back to the publisher. Who has spent a not-insignificant amount of money editing it, formatting it, printing it, binding it, and shipping it. When the books go back to the publisher, they're out all that money. And if you're talking about just under 20,000 books, that's a fairly significant amount of money. (See Charlie's earlier articles about the publishing industry, and how much the costs are.) Having already spent that money, that means it's a loss. And Charlie gets paid based on how many books are sold. (He may or may not be willing to answer whether or not the publisher would demand its advance back in this case.)

So that's step (e).

Step (f) happens because books are generally high-cost to do, so if he has an utterly disastrous book happen, then the publisher is going to be very, very nervous about having that happen again. And every other publisher will also be aware that this happened, and so they're going to be worried about buying a book from him as well.

This has happened in the past with other authors, and will undoubtedly happen again in the future. Just hopefully not with Charlie.

The last bit, find a copy of "A !Tangled Web" by Joe Haldeman.


More or less.

Books that sit unsold in the warehouse after being returned are occupying valuable real estate. So they get sold for cost-of-manufacturing, and the author and publisher make zero profit off them. Or for less money, if the market won't pay break-even.

Incidentally: I am due approximately 10% of the gross revenue from one of my books. Because it takes years for a book to be written and published, and publishers don't like seeing authors starve to death before they can produce more books for them, publishers typically work out roughly what they expect the book to sell and, on that basis, hand over an "advance" -- a non-returnable loan equal to a conservative estimate of the royalty payments. Hopefully the book goes on to "earn out", i.e. the royalties due exceed the size of the advance, and I get some more money by-and-by -- and the publisher makes a bigger than anticipated profit. But if the book doesn't earn out, it means that the publisher may not have broken even on the production costs and they're out of pocket because they gave the author too big an advance.

So a metric shitload of returns from bookstores comes out of the publisher's hide twice over. And will make them very wary about buying more novels from the author in question.


I pre-ordered from SFBC (emailed them and asked why the search didn't work).


I know you don't have any control over it, but it seems /odd/ that the Kindle version of Fuller Memorandum was released here for $1 less than what Rule 34's going for.


looking at the timeline.. Liz must have met and married her (ex)wife in her early twenties? either at, or shortly after Uni. Hmm. yhea, that fits with her characterization, anyway.


"When the books go back to the publisher, they're out all that money. And if you're talking about just under 20,000 books, that's a fairly significant amount of money. (See Charlie's earlier articles about the publishing industry, and how much the costs are.) Having already spent that money, that means it's a loss. And Charlie gets paid based on how many books are sold."

Okay, I definitely see how we get to f. But if one book store overorders by 20,000 books, that doesn't affect the other sales and royalties, right? If the publisher overprints, it doesn't necessarily follow that he is out royalties, does it?

And is 20,000 books that much? What is the usual number to be put on remainder?


Out of interest, how does the 33-35 day timeline apply to other countries[1]? Here in Aus, my impression is that we tend to lag quite badly, as well as being more expensive than the UK. I'd like to buy Rule 34 from a bookshop, as I understand Charlie gets more money that way, but if that requires a 12 month wait then I'm going through Amazon (assuming they'll ship it here).

[1] English-speaking countries - I understand that translating it into other language could take quite a while.


I think print-run sizes have been mentioned a time or two here, and 20,000 is a huge percentage of the figures I've seen.

That would be a killer, I think.

If one major retailer doubled their usual order, and the excess came back, it would maybe be different enough that a wary publisher would notice that, and react differently to the case when the total returns increase is spread across all sales. But their reaction would likely still include a cut in the advance for the next boot. It wouldn't be good for the author.


I've dug it out.

In this blog entry, Charlie gives a figure of 25,000 hardback sales for top-20 status on the NYT Best-Seller list.

Order 20,000 copies, even for Amazon, and that would be a big enough jump to prompt queries. Looks like a keyboard error.


it seems /odd/ that the Kindle version of Fuller Memorandum was released here for $1 less than what Rule 34's going for.

Why? It's an older title.

Books are sold by reverse auction; expensive when they're first published, cheaper as time goes on. Only the limited number of bindings available, and the logistics pipeline, have limited this to maybe 2-3 editions in the past -- so people mistake the physical binding for a commodity they're paying for, rather than the contents.

(Some day I'd love to publish a novel for $20 as an ebook ... with the price pre-announced to drop by $1 every four weeks until it hits a floor of $4. The sales graph would be very interesting.)


If the publisher overprints, it doesn't necessarily follow that he is out royalties, does it?

It probably does. Unless other bookshops soak up the over-order within 12 months, the surplus is going out the back door one way or the other. And there's some interesting small print in any book contract that holds back a chunk of royalty payments for up to 12 months specifically as a reserve against returns.

And is 20,000 books that much? What is the usual number to be put on remainder?

In the USA, 20,000 copies is an entire midlist mass-market paperback print run. That many hardback sales in a single month will put you in the New York Times bestseller list -- possibly in the top 10 in a slow month, although the top 10 can be an exponential distribution, with the #1 title selling multiple tens of thousands of copies per day.


It Depends.

My understanding is that my sales in Australia and NZ aren't high enough to justify Orbit (who have an Australia/NZ arm, and who hold the rights to publish my books in those territories) printing them locally. So what happens is a bunch of cartons of the book go in a shipping container and get freighted to Aus and NZ for local distribution. This probably leaves the warehouse weeks before the books go on sale in the UK ... but books are heavy and low-value cargo, so they go by sea, via Suez and Singapore, which takes up to 2-3 months.

Then we get into the whole can of worms that is book pricing in Australia (I assume NZ is similar) and which is, in my view, pretty unforgivable -- even with intercontinental shipping thrown in as an excuse for a mark-up.


Re: Australia

Note Charlie, various bookstores (Borders/A&R) in Oz have gone tits up in the recent past. Couple that with the protectionist overpricing and most in Australia will get their books via Amazon or Book Depository - there just aren't sensible physical bookstore options.


Re books in Oz:

I managed to pick up TFM about a week after the official release date, so the freighting situation is not as bad as you'd think.


Shipping can be odd.

I used to get ASF by subscription, surface mail.

The delivery delay varied a lot. A couple of times I got Issue n+1 a few days before Issue n

For all I knew, they'd come on the same ship, and the last item to be loaded was the first to be unloaded. But it doesn't seem plausible that there was only one consignment a month.

Notoriously, surface mail between England and Jamaica was faster during the Napoleonic Wars.


Back in the day, an English author said old SF magazes were shipped as ball...?(what ever added weight to a ship). And nobody had any idea as to what, where or when they would show up. Or in what shape.
Things are better it sounds like, just not good.


Thanks for the preview. Is the placing of Dean Park Mews in Morningside meant to signal an alternate history, a Depression 2.0 reconfiguration of the city, or a seriously advanced rig on that segway?


Whatever happens in the plot, you already had me at the hilariously bleak description of the civil service post-Big Society. I assume CopSpace and the Revolution in Policing Affairs are inheritances from US concepts like "battlespace" and Donald Rumsfeld's wildly successful Revolution in Military Affairs?

I'm glad the Scottishisms and police jargon got left in. "The Wire" was full of references to CIs (Confidential Informants), CMEs (County Medical Examiners, i.e., coroners) and one eventually picked them up without losing track of the plot.


Just noticed the ' Falco ' Reference. Take my advice and start at the start of the series far as you've got that is.

Davis has undergone horrific changes in her life .. her partner died a while ago .. and the later 'Falco ' novels are nowhere near as cheerful, and FUN filled as the earlier books in the series.

Indeed Davis has lately written a rather grim English Civil War novel - which I'd judge to be a tentative first of a series - and is ....well she has a web site ...

" Next Book … will be Master and God, a substantial novel set in the reign of Domitian, for new publisher Hodder and Stoughton and for St Martin’s Press. At the moment I have no further plans regarding Falcocheerfully (or, indeed, any other ideas) so it is no use asking! I felt very strongly that I needed a break from Falcocheerfulearliertentative and I amearlier still not ready to reconsider that; there are also other issues that may affect what is not just a personal but a commercial decision.

Master and God has been handed over for editing and I am currently in limbo. "

We sometimes forget that writers are people too ... and Davis has had a truly dreadful several years past.

The Latest 'Falco ' isn't Bad's just rather more serious and grim than are the earlier books in the series.


I did indeed start at the beginning and am working my way through. Certainly Two Lions was somewhat darker than the previous ones.


Oh alright ..I will admit that my own Er ..speculative .. hazard at increasing a particular authors sales was based upon my own thoughts on just how easy it would be to game the New York Times Best Seller listings. Success breeds success ..look at the Harry Potter phenomena .. and since the US of A is the main chance at Best Sellerdom there must be a tipping point past which - Jim Butcher/Dresden files like - writer does become an 'Overnight Success '

Incidentally Charlie had you noticed that Jim Butcher is recommending ....

" Ghost Story is just a few months away, but for many of us the wait’s just unbearable. What’s a superfan to do?

Read something else, of course. I like my stuff pretty dark; so here’s what I’d recommend to fellow Jim fans looking in that direction, both by authors who I fully believe deserve a wider audience.

Harry Connolly’s Child of Fire: This is dark stuff (Changes dark, and maybe darker still), but so worth it. If you’re wondering what Harry’s adventures would look like in a more horror-inflected series where magic is an even surer route to pain, this is it. Jim Butcher has said that the writing here tells him he’s got to up his game, and you can see why. The plot is propulsive, the twists and turns are sharp, and the hero’s got some serious stuff darkening his door. This is part of the “Twenty Palaces” series, followed by Game of Cages and the upcoming Circle of Enemies. "

My copy of 'Circle of Enemies ' has been on order since you recommended the “Twenty Palaces” series.


Oh that one is no where near as grim as the latest in the series and indeed 'Ode to a Banker ' ....

" Undeterred by his previous disasters, Falco gives a poetry reading: an illustrious audience, a spectacular locale - and a tedious patron of the arts who subsequently becomes the Body in the Library. Brought in by Petronius, Falco tangles with unscrupulous bankers, publishers and authors (actual and would-be), despising all of them and trusting none. Once again the vigiles watch and wait for him to fail."

... is great Fun ... just don't make the mistake of skipping to the latest, and last for some time " Nemesis " which isn't bad .. just rather Grim in tone.


How does copspace work without a near-universal id system? Something to identify the criminals, not the police.


There might be a bit of a hand-wave in there, but a Copspace based on reliable universal ID might make interesting plots too difficult. I can see stuff such as mobile phones, no-contact bank cards (already appearing and being advertised on TV), and the like, giving a good ID, if the guy carrying them is honest. And it might flag up pickpockets, who are suddenly carrying two distinct IDs.

You could write a crime story in a world with universal ID, but the result would be way over on the SF side of the line. Think of some elements of The Day of the Jackal, describing how false documents could be acquired, and consider how you would handle that in a world such as in Rule 34. Can you convince the reader with invented details?

Even if the system was supposed to be universal, the history of large government computer projects suggests it would be anything but reliable, even without any attempts at subversion.


I shall wander down to my local Waterstone's ASAP, about - erm - 12 July ??


How does copspace work without a near-universal id system? Something to identify the criminals, not the police.

The same way the various police database systems work today. Duh.

(Incidentally, the NIR may have been scrapped and the NDNAD hacked back massively, but the IPS is still issuing passports, 80% of the population have them -- voluntarily -- and they include biometric authenticators and an identity verification chain before you can get one. There's your near-universal ID system in a nutshell.)


I'm not sure; is that "insufficient bookcases" or "about enough books"? In my case, stacking books on bookcases tends to be unworkable since I've already stacked other bookcases on the lower tier ones, and the tops are therefore about 7 feet from floor level and hence almost unreachable!


Ballast is the word. As for "where they would show up", that would depend on when the vessel required to discharge some ballast before the next voyage.


As matters stand, the passport biometrics would stop you and I personating each other (actually, we don't look a whole lot alike so olde-fashioned passport photos would have done that anyway), but wouldn't prove things like "where I live", do I hold a driver's licence...


The thing is, how does it interact with the cops. How do they make the connection between the person on the street and the database to give that augmented-reality view?

That's where the system becomes unreliable, and has interesting stories.

And real-world politics sneaking in, I've used my passport more as an employment document than as a travel document. It makes me uncomfortable.


Not to mention drivers licenses, work ID, university ID, rail cards or (going a bit more F than S here) facial recognition software designed to take a picture of an unidentified person and run a visual search engine through facebook/myspace/youtube etc.


I don't, at all, get the sense that police officers in this future walk down the street and get names tagged to every face they see: instead they walk down the street and get historic crime reports (sorted by newest first), data streams from other on-duty officers, maybe a couple of photos of currently injuncted or ASBOed people at the boundary of any exclusion areas, Land Registry and Companies House information for offices and buildings. For identifying members of the public, it looks to me like officers use the fine old-fashioned method of asking them.


Many thanks for this information! (I promise not to quote you if it all blows up in my face. ^_^ )

I have ordered Rule 34, and am looking forward to reading it!


There's more than one social component in the near future.

Here in the U.K. we have been experimenting with ASBO s ... Google, ' Anti Social Behavior Orders '.

Now, up until the present in the U.K. ASBOS have been locked down by a combination of ..Wot Now? All right you've tagged us ... OH VERY HIGH TECH OF YOU !! Like this virtual world of yours do you? Shinney! ..and NOW? ..and a reluctence that our government feels to consider paying for an effective solution to the problem

WE as a society have yet to discover a trully sucessful What Next? for the tagged and sneered at Underclass of the 21st Century ... what if they, the Feral Young of the underclass, Dont Care, and we aren't prepared to pay the true cost in adult attention and training for a better an more fullfilling life for the poor sods?

I'm given the cold horrors by the thought that the latest reported designer Drugs are not only horrible addictive, and not only induce Amazing Highs ..but also kill the addict in a year or so.

Our host is far better qualified than most to comment on what happens when this sort of thing hits the deprived areas of Scotland ...

What happens when ' WE Know Where You Live ! Through the Might of our High Tech.' Brings the response ' Err do we ... and this without this instant identification beyond Facebook and the social media.And Now? What do you intend to do about US?

It's John Brunner Country isn't it?


Over here sometimes you read that a book was a pre-sold a best seller. From what I can tell it means the publisher worked a deal with big buyers and they ordered so many books that it would be a best seller from the start. That news gets people to buy the book till it is a real best seller. The books not sold are taken off taxes. I think the big corporations that took over the music and then took the moves. Now they are in publishing and have that even more messed up that it always was.
None of you can believe how much I hate to say this but Donald Rumsfeld was right about what was needed in America's Military. What we had was a set up to fight the USSR in Germany. He was not the only one who said we could keep paying for it and it was not what was needed. The Pentagon and Military did not want to change and made it a mess. But the fact is what we had was wrong and he tried to fix it. A old time stopped clock is right sometimes.
Say, not a word about German E. coli. American farms had nothing to do with it! I am not saying this is what's happening, but trucks full Mexican veges stopped short of the border and are filled with ice. The only ice plant at one big border crossing at one time did drew its water from a big road side ditch. The water dripping from the Mexican food trucks checked were full of very bad things.


My pre-order is still counting down at the Bookdepository..

" Rule 34 (Hardback) By (author) Charles Stross

Free worldwide delivery

£11.87 Save £3.95 (24%) RRP £15.82 Free delivery worldwide (to United Kingdom and all these other countries) 29 days to go "

I see that ..

isn't on the " Where to preorder: " listing.


That's insufficient bookcases. There's six that are six feet and those have books I've already read on the shelves plus about 20 on top of each (and yes, I worry about them falling on my head when I'm getting them down) that are to be read. There's another bookcase that's four feet that has the newest to-be-reads.


Going slightly off topic, but since passports were mentioned, I recently arrived at the notion of acquiring triple nationality, on the basis that it would be cool to have 3 passports. I currently have Irish nationality and could request Spanish nationality through my mother, and I believe I have a shot at British due to having been born there (And my father being technically a British subject).

Actually, to tie it to the novel discussion, what form would Scottish nationality take after a peaceful separation from the rest of the UK? I assume something along the lines of the Irish independence? Irish people retained British subject status for decades until the dust settled, and I think my dad is still technically one.

And can anyone think why having triple nationality could be a bad idea?


Apart from that giving them three places they could deport you too, probably none. Oh, and you'd better check the tax laws too. Don't want to be paying out to three different revenue agencies of you can avoid it...


Speaking of Rule 34 itself ...

I have a slight concussion at the moment, which may cause logic faults in this, but I thought a bit ago whether Paul Krugman, a long-time Stross fan, would go as far as plugging Rule 34 in his NYTimes blog. Which made me wonder if it would pass the NYT editors muster without flustering someone.

Which made me briefly wonder if Rule 34 applied to Krugman. And damn it all but I can't find any actual Krugman porn.

Maybe I'm just not looking hard enough - there are plenty of "Geek porn" topics he's started with various economics related graphs and statistics content things, but I can't find the actual Rule 34 material.

[Does this post constitute a meta-challenge, to attempt to correct the issue before the book comes out? I didn't mean so initially, but somehow I now fear for a flood of demand-curve oriented fanfic...]


I'm just interested to see if OGH has the trams running in 2023 or whenever.

Or if he thought that was sailing a bit to far from near future fiction and into the realms of fantasy.


I'm given the cold horrors by the thought that the latest reported designer Drugs are not only horrible addictive, and not only induce Amazing Highs ..but also kill the addict in a year or so.

That's a regular mantra of the drug warriors; they trot it out every 5-10 years or so, especially whenever there's a threatened outbreak of sanity --such as yet another commission staffed by impeccably respectable figures concluding in public that the war on drugs is pointless.

(The WoD is not pointless: it generates immense profits for drug cartels, keeps lots of police in business, and puts bread on the table for hundreds of thousands if not millions of prison officers. If someone were to come up with a magic wand they could wave to win the war on drugs, the inventor of the winning strategy would suddenly find themselves wondering why all their anti-drug-user friends were pointing guns at them ...)


what form would Scottish nationality take after a peaceful separation from the rest of the UK? I assume something along the lines of the Irish independence?

That's almost certainly how it would work, with anyone in Scotland at the time of separation, or born in Scotland previously, being eligible for a Scottish passport, and in all probability the same arrangement with the remaining UK as Ireland has.

Mind you, if you've got an Irish passport you don't need a British passport -- you can just move to the UK and register to vote in general elections. And vice versa. For a Brit, moving to Ireland, the only formality is that if you want to naturalize and acquire an Irish passport you have to wait 3 years before applying. I believe it's a similar arrangement in the other direction.


Current time line is for a partial tram service -- from the Airport to the Haymarket end of Princes Street -- by 2013. I think that's probably going to happen: too much political egg-on-face if it doesn't.

The rest of the network then gets filled in incrementally, but much more slowly than originally planned. I suspect the repeated oil spikes of the next decade will add some urgency to giving Edinburgh a 19th century transport infrastructure. Also, the number of SNP MSPs returned at the last election might tend to reduce the SNPs' systemic bias against the capital city.

But, writing in 2009-2010, I carefully avoided making the trams a centerpiece of this particular novel ...


Probably. Although I do easily envision public AR specs displaying things such as this. A form of digital social networking for real life, perhaps with funny features such as telling you how many degrees of separation you are from passing people. Though only for other people with social networking interfaced with their specs.


A few years ago I was looking forward to getting the tram to work. Leith Walk to Crewe Toll. The branch loop round from Roseburn down to Granton would have been finished in or about 2015

I retire (at the present time) in 2020, what do you reckon my chances are?


but also kill the addict in a year or so.

Now why would they be that stupid? You want your customers to keep around, so they keep giving you money. Kill off your customer base that way, and you're bankrupt pretty damn fast.

(Which is not to say that the intermediate parts of the chain don't do stupid stuff, but the producers will will actually want to produce the perfect high - high addictiveness, yes, but as little damage to the user as possible.)


Whether having 3 passports would be a good idea or not probably depends on how much travelling you do - I've read about people who when visiting various unsettled destinations make use of having 2 or 3 passports so that when some numpty with a gun demands to see it, and there's a possibility of violence, they hand over the passport which is most likely to gain sympathy or be relevant to the person with gun.

So Irish, Spanish and British might be a nice spread of possibilities, if you will be travelling a lot.


As I said -- I reckon getting trams up and running in all of Scotland's cities and towns may become a higher priority once we really hit the oil crunch. I'll note that it was in the late 1970s/very early 1980s that Manchester and other British cities with new-build tram networks really got them up and running -- presumably due to the boot-up-arse effects of the 1973-74 oil crisis.

What might derail (heh) trams could be some disruptive new form of public transport: self-driving low-occupant taxis, for example, or a minibus system tied into location services and phones so that you use an app to tell the bus company where you are and where you want to go to, and they dynamically update their routing to pick you up and get you there (if necessary transferring between vehicles). (Yes, there's some hideous multi-salesman reworking of the traveling salesman problem implicit in that, but we have good enough non-deterministic algorithms for a bus service ...)

The trouble with trams is that they're big infrastructure projects that require an airline terminal's worth of people to be going from A to B. That's actually quite sensible for carrying passengers between the centre of town and the airport, but I don't think we're realistically going to see tram routes going out to all the suburbs any time soon: our road network wasn't designed to accommodate them, so build-out would be slow and expensive.


(Which is not to say that the intermediate parts of the chain don't do stupid stuff, but the producers will will actually want to produce the perfect high - high addictiveness, yes, but as little damage to the user as possible.)

We've already got that: the tobacco industry. Only kills around 30% of the users, takes an average of 30-40 years to do so, incredibly addictive. (You have to really work at alcohol to become an alcoholic, but there's no such thing as a casual tobacco user who can just stop cold at any time.)


I know that this is off topic, but Syrian blogger Amina Ashraf has been kidnapped:

Her blog is being updated by friends, but it isn't clear where she is:

I think she was mentioned in comments before in the blog - she's a fan of the Merchant Princes series:


And with tobacco, for centuries no-one (well, except that King James who obviously had to do something in the evening when not hunting across our garden) realised how harmful it was. By then, it was so deeply embedded into society that banishing it was unthinkable.

(It's a question for elsewhere as to what proportion of its users were killed by it back in the day, when there was so much other pollution of various forms - it's only when you remove all those other forms of death that you finally reveal how harmful some things are.)

As for the addictiveness - yes, I was a 20 a day man for years.


Thank god that we have intelligent and well-informed legislators such as conservative MP Nadine Dorries on Question time, saying things like

"the 'cut' of cannabis that teenagers are smoking now... is actually 50 times more potent than it was even a year ago, because of the different drugs that are coming in and being put into it and it only takes the teenager one 'spliff' or one 'joint' or whatever they refer to it now to smoke and they will never reach their full academic potential, because it is so dangerous..."

I wonder if she was briefed by Chris Morris?


I'm given the cold horrors by the thought that the latest reported designer Drugs are not only horrible addictive, and not only induce Amazing Highs ..but also kill the addict in a year or so.

Bah, most of the designer drugs available (or "research drugs" as the little advertising leaflet that got pushed through my door a few weeks back insisted on calling them - yes this was in Glasgow, how'd you guess?) are all Amphetamine derivatives (specifically MDA) with various numbers of carbons between the benzene ring and the amine group (because the process of creating amphetamines involves adding the amine group, and it's fairly chemically trivial to intercut arbitrary lengths of carbon chains in between that and the benzene ring, and the thinking is that the drug is totally legal if it's not got exactly the same chemical formula as the banned drug, which I doubt would hold up in court any more than the "NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION" thing on the leaflet) – most user experiences I've seen tend to report that the biggest difference this causes is generally a trade off between the psychadelic experience caused by drugs and the "emphatic" or "luvvey" effect or a general mild dulling/increase of the effect in general.

None of them are addictive as of yet, and shouldn't be, fortunately the thing with orally consumed drugs is that there are damn few chemicals that are addictive AND able to survive the human digestive tract AND pass through the blood brain barrier, of which alchohol is the rare exception.

It basically requires a unique combination of small size (to pass the blood brain barrier), an affinity for "fun" surface receptor proteins (to have a selling point), affinity for "addictive" surface receptor proteins (to hook the user), AND an incredible degree of chemical stability (to survive the digestive tract). Of those four qualities you're generally VERY lucky to get three of them in a single drug, and will continue to do so while neuroscience remains in the primitive stages it currently is going through.

The real trouble in the near term is someone developing a strictly addictive chemical that can be "designer-ed" like MDA currently is to get around drug bans and added to the pills, or the invention of a hypospray type thing that can directly, easily and safely insert drugs into the blood stream that allows low quantities of heroine to be used in the "casual" way that pill based drugs currently are.

Of course while theoretically "Making the drug addictive" is nice, generally if the drug is fun that's enough of a selling point, and designer drugs in particular feed off of the combination of more money than sense and the nomadic nature of students (who are very likely to move onto a new area in a few years, after which addictiveness aids someone other than the local drug dealers), so addictiveness isn't a major selling point or much sought after for the particular market designer drugs go to, so it's not that big a worry really.

Of course national drug policy is not a rationally arrived at thing so "OMG DESIGNER DRUGS WE'RE ALL GONNA BE DEADED BY THOSE CHINESE* AMPHETAMINES!!eleven!!!!" is the primary official government response to the bloody things.


One way to cut the cost of tram systems is to get rid of the rails. Systems like the Nottingham one involve embedding rails into existing roadway. All they do is to steer the thing. It's presumably difficult to make a very long multi-coach trolleybus and also get the rear coaches to behave nicely (follow the front one). This could now be accomplished by replacing the rails with computer-controlled steering. Down goes the capital spend.


I've had Rule 34 preordered from Amazon since it first became available. Reading chapter one here sent me back to my archives to reread Halting State. Now, I'm REALLY looking forward to reading Rule 34.


I don't think we're realistically going to see tram routes going out to all the suburbs any time soon: our road network wasn't designed to accommodate them, so build-out would be slow and expensive.

Ironically, Edinburgh had a suburban railway within living memory; it included a circular route around the city.

In the 1980s, the route was covered in tarmac, in order to be used as a cycle route; the routes and the bridges are still there. If it weren't for the fact that the Western Approach Road was built over part of it, you could get it up and running comparatively cheaply.

(For instance: reopen the Scotland Street tunnel, and you have a tram route that goes non-stop from Muirhouse and Blackhall to Waverley station, via Crewe Toll and Trinity. There's a loop that runs from Crewe Toll over Ravelston Dykes to Murrayfield.

You could even reopen the railway stations at Morningside, Cameron Toll, and Minto Street - there's a southern loop around Edinburgh still used by goods trains when they want to avoid Haymarket and Waverley. There also used to be a station at Turnhouse (the back of the Airport; the railway still goes past it).


Trolleybuses require more complex overhead catenaries and pantographs to provide both sides of the power feed than steel-rail trams do, one reason they're not as popular nowadays.

I'd like to see research done on battery-electric buses designed to work with non-contact quick-charge points at bus stops. This kind of system has all the benefits of a bus system (less disruptive, quieter, simpler to introduce and maintain, easier to alter routes when traffic patterns change etc.) along with lower emissions of air pollutants in built-up areas. It could also be able to use irregular renewable sources of electricity -- if power is not available for a few minutes then a battery-electric bus can miss one or two charging points and keep going, unlike a tram which needs continuous power to move at all.

if you've got an Irish passport you don't need a British passport -- you can just move to the UK and register to vote in general elections.

That I wasn't aware of. Ireland and the UK are in many ways still very closely integrated.

Having a European nationality already mostly overrides specific country allegiances for most practical purposes so it's mostly a "cool factor" thing, though for traveling it might be handy simply due to the backup of multiple documents, losing a passport on the other side of the planet is less of a problem if you have a backup, and embassies don't tend to hand out a spare before you lose the first one.


Also, trams don't just run on shared roads - they typically go on exclusive track for quite long distances, as well. So there's a strong argument for the much lower rolling resistance of steel wheel/steel rail.


I think you're brilliant. But I really can't stand the 2nd person narrative. I find it awkward and distracting. I guess since this is part of Halting State, it makes sense. But I just wish the kindle had an AI powered perspective conversion app. Then I'd be able to recommend the series to friends.


You are thinking in terms of a marketable product and the profit by money motive aren't you?

Not nasty enough. My original source was ...

though there are other news items that are related to that report - relate to what I'd call the drugs of Desperation; cheap, off the peg,designer drugged bliss for those of the underclass who no longer care if they live or die.

And my immediate thought was .. Brazil ? ... Death Squads ..and the profit? You eliminate large numbers of the troublesome underclass without all the that tedious business of employing people to actually shoot them ..they do it to themselves with really cheap designer drugs. Where's the downside if you are rich and really resent the very existence of the poor?

Of course this couldn't possibly happen in, say, the US of A ..bound to halt before it hits the border, eh wot?

I must resolve to be more cheery and optimistic ... things can only get better.


I started Halting State last night (for bookclub on the 18th) and the second person seemed very natural. What I had a lot of fun with was looking at the cover -- there are a lot of bits that are changed vertically and/or horizontally from other bits and there are a few places where bits are missing, even though there's no word there.


the super rich need the poor, who else works for em and keeps em rich?


Oxi, also known as Paco in Argentina, is a not a designer drug but a residual by-product left over after processing cocaine in makeshift labs. As such, the ones selling them don't care much about their customers dying: their real customers are the ones buying the cocaine, the ones buying the leftovers are disposable.

Unfortunately, this is clearly a side effect of the war on drugs. should cocaine be legal and manufactured through proper industrial facilities, there would be no residual by-product to sell as there would be an incentive to invest in an efficient extraction process. However, I highly doubt this will ever convince the morally righteous.

As for the article, I'm afraid it isn't scaremongering at all. Both where I live and where I work this stuff is widespread and its consequences are just as they're described. The beggars that use to ask for coins in the traffic light by my workplace rarely last more than 6 months before dying and being replaced by new ones. No one seems to care much as long as they don't cause trouble.


i just tried to order the kindle version from amazon and they won't let me, they say that it's not allowed because i'm in australia :(


Does list it? Or There should be a UK/Commonwealth ebook edition listed soon -- Orbit shoved it into the Amazon publishing pipeline for those territories, but it's taking a while to show up.


The Luas ("speed" in Irish) has gone through several versions before being actually built - early proposals included a link to Dublin Airport (later dropped). When built there were two lines: Red - linking Connolly Station (city centre) to Tallaght (southwestern suburb), Green - linking St. Stephens' Green (southern city centre) to Sandyford (southern suburb).

There's a fifteen minute walk between the two lines, which would have been linked by the BX line, but that's been dropped.

What has happened is the expansion of the two lines: Green - beyond Sandyford, Red - extension east to the O2 (formerly Point Depot) and a branch line near Tallaght.

Both the railway and Luas have (incompatible) smartcards, though there are plans to introduce one card for both. (Railway is government owned, Luas is run by Veolia, which may be why they didn't agree.)

Some old infrastructure was rebuilt/reused for the Green line - that runs roughly along the old Harcourt Street railway line.

(One bit of advice for anyone travelling on the Luas - make sure it stops before dis/embarking - sometimes acceleration can be rather.. sudden.)

Dublin used to have a rather extensive tram system until the 1940s. Many of these routes became bus routes.

What forms of transport would compete with these in the near future, I'm not sure. Dublin Bus is introducing signs that indicate when buses are due, there's a rent-a-bike scheme being bankrolled by JCDecaux. I'm not sure what can compete on congested Dublin streets, though.


Back in the 60s, I think, some Scandinavian country had buses that ran on big honking flywheels. Ever so many bus stops they would plug in and run up the flywheel, then draw on its power going down the road. there have been major improvements in flywheels .


I've heard something of the sort I think, but can't find any references on Wikipedia. That said, I don't see how flywheels (unless spun-up by external motors) could ever be more than regenerative braking systems.


The flywheels were spun-up by external power. It's so long ago I don't remember what kind. There was a pic of a big cable. maybe it was a flex cable. Heck I was about 13 or 15 at the time.
I don't worship Wikipedia and even Google misses things I remember from the 60's. And things I read about from the 50's.


I'm not arguing with you; quite the reverse. The statement about not finding any other details is just that, a statement that I can't find anything to support our memory, and fill in blanks.

Note that I normally use Wikipedia like that; to confirm and support memory, and get a collection of refernces together, rather than saying "if it's not in Wikipedia it didn't happen".


Rule 34-If it exists, there is a pr0nz of it.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 2, 2011 8:52 PM.

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