Due to a combination of jet lag and the untimely death of Steve Jobs, I forgot to mention another piece of work-related news: Cory Doctorow and I have just handed in our novel, The Rapture of the Nerds, to Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor. And if all goes to plan, it'll be published next September.
It's been an odd project. Writers of fiction, by their nature, tend to be solitary; you have to be somewhat introspective if not introverted, and have a strong creative vision. But because the conditions of the job (holed up for hours each day in an office with no human companionship) are not exactly stimulating, sometimes you have to look for a way to vary your routine. Some successful writers hold down part-time jobs just for the human contact (as opposed to the money; many more writers have day jobs because the pay for fiction typically sucks). Others travel a lot. We tend to spend a lot of time on email and social networks. And sometimes we look at someone else's work and think, "hmm, I wonder what it'd be like to work with them?"
Back around 2003 or thereabouts one of us — I can't remember whether it was me or Cory — said to the other, "wanna collaborate on something short?" I had an unfinished story beginning kicking around; a guy wakes up in someone else's bathtub after a riotous party, and discovers there's a biohazard trefoil on his arm. I chucked it at Cory, who went "hmm," and added a thousand words to it before throwing it back at me. We continued in that vein for a few weeks, and somehow this monstrous hybrid thing emerged: a tall post-singularity tale about a curmudgeonly welsh environmentalist called Huw (who doesn't trust any technology more sophisticated than his bicycle), who somehow ends up in Libya on a very peculiar jury empanelled to pass judgement on a downloaded something that has arrived from the transcended cloud, high above. And we sold the story to SciFi.com, back when they published fiction. Then we wrote a sequel for the short-lived reboot of Argosy magazine.
Now, we'd had it in mind to write a third chunk, turning the two novellas into a book-length story. But Cory Doctorow is a busy guy, and I spent most of the noughties pushing out two books a year, and one of the truisms of collaboration is that if you've got two writers, they each get to do 75% of the work. (Three writers? No problem, they all get to do 75% of the work. Some weird creative sector variation on Brooks's Law applies: adding authors to a book in progress increases the amount of work without increasing productivity.) So, despite learning that no less a fellow than Tom Doherty had thundered at his editors, "buy the Doctorow/Stross collaboration!" we left it at an annual email exchange: "you got any free time this year?" "Nope, how about you?" "Nope, I was just checking."
Locus magazine is the trade rag for the written SF and fantasy field. And every year they run some April Fool news items. Their 2010 piece was a bit special, though: Doctorow and Stross to Write Authorized Sequel to Atlas Shrugged.
Today the estate of Ayn Rand announced that they had authorized science fiction writers Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow to write an official sequel to Rand's bestselling novel Atlas Shrugged.As you can imagine, this set me to thinking. And as it happened, I had a light schedule planned for 2011. So I poked Cory: "have you got time for that collaboration this year?" And to my amazement, he replied, "sure! I'm free from September ..."
"Given that the original novel features an amazing new metal alloy, a secret valley protected by force field, and an unlimited new energy source, we felt that a science fiction perspective was key to carrying forward Ayn Rand's ideas," said Rand estate spokesman Perry Leikoff. "And what better science fiction writers to chose than two collaborators who were also past winners of the Prometheus Award given out by the Libertarian Futurist Society?"
Stross, author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel Glasshouse, said that he and Doctorow (author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel Little Brother) were hesitant at first. "But then we realized that both of us shared one important trait with Ayn Rand: all three of us really, really like money. That made it much easier for Cory and I to cash the seven figure check."
Let me reassure you that "The Rapture of the Nerds" is not an authorized sequel to "Atlas Shrugged" (although the uploaded AI ghost of Ayn Rand makes a cameo appearance). Nor is it entirely like a Doctorow novel or a Stross novel — it's got a bizarre kind of double-headed Borg mind all of its own, and quite a twisted one at that. It could be read as a kind of comic coda to "Accelerando", or maybe "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom", but it takes a drastically different view of the singularity from either of those novels.
And we hope you'll like it.