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Holding pattern (again)

Nothing to see here; I'm elbow-deep editing a novel right now, slogging through the mire. I should be back to normal blogging by Wednesday or Thursday (I hope), and then I intend to take a vacation for a few weeks, because since the first week of July I'll have ploughed my way through editing roughly 730,000 words of fiction. (To put that in perspective: "The Lord of the Rings" is around 480,000 words; "War and Peace" is about 620,000 words: "Cryptonomicon" is around 461,000 words.) Of this, 110,000 words is "Neptune's Brood", due out next July 7th; the rest is something I'm not at liberty to talk about yet.

73 Comments

1:

Three...quarters...of a million?? Wow a break is definitely in order!

2:

It is, indeed, the deadline crunch from hell (mutter, grumble): that "Neptune's Brood" is due in at exactly the same time as [BIG SECRET PROJECT]. Gaah.

Luckily I get a shortish vacation, then a worldcon, then a signing tour. So I have a good excuse for not spraining my headmeat any more until mid-September ... after I finish the last of these marathons.

3:

Just for your amusement. Today's Slashdot had this:

"1300 shell companies all tangled up in a maze of twisty little patent lawsuits sounds like a plot device from Charlie Stross's Accelerando."

4:

Enjoy your time off :) I can't help running over that number in my head and counting it at 30-40 degree level theses lol.

Needless to say this big secret project intrigues...

5:

It's a republication exercise, including bug fixes, scheduled for next year. If you look down the front page of the blog at recent entries, you should be able to guess from context -- it's not a big secret, but I'm awaiting the official announcement from the publisher before I talk about it.

6:

I'm pretty sure that the Merchant Princes series is the only part of your bibliography I haven't bought and read (other than some of the short fiction). I look forward to correcting that with the new editions.

7:

730,000-110,000 = 620,000. You're rewriting "War and Peace"!

8:

I'm working my way through the back catalog. I likewise haven't read Merchant Princes yet.

You wrote yourself into a corner with the Eschaton series, it's over. You said as much for the Saturn/Neptune setting as well. Laundry's still going strong but it sounds like you have the greater bulk of your output in Merchant Princes.

What made that setting so fertile for you?

9:

You said as much for the Saturn/Neptune setting as well.

Did I? I don't recall saying that.

As universes go it's a lot less broken than the Eschaton one. I did bend the hardcore Mundane SF property of that universe in "Neptune's Brood", but it's still internally consistent and potentially usable in future if I feel the need for more space opera.

But I'm increasingly tending towards near future/contemporary settings.

The MP series over-ran to some extent because they got salami-sliced, which meant that the original small number of big fat books got inflated (you need "what has gone before" infodumps in each volume, so ...).

The Laundry Files are currently up to 480,300 words. Add one more novelette (stalled on the drafting board due to the current workload) and a single novel and the corpus should pass 600,000 words, putting it within spitting distance of being my longest continuity yet.

The Edinburgh near-future crime novels are a lot harder to write, but "Halting State" and "Rule 34" currently total 210,000 words -- in other words, the length of "Dune" plus about 15%. And the next book I start will be #3 in the series ...

10:

The Laundry Files are currently up to 480,300 words. Add one more novelette (stalled on the drafting board due to the current workload) and a single novel and the corpus should pass 600,000 words, putting it within spitting distance of being my longest continuity yet.

Are you at liberty to say if it will be one more novel? For some reason I had the impression it was going to run to 6-7 books.

11:

Tease.

12:

Can't remember if it was here or the refuge. I'll search for it. You said Neptune would be the last book because you broke the universe hard. I took that more definitively than you meant then. It was along the same discussion about how the third Eschaton novel would be so snarly complicated with the potential for another e-class entity playing around in the historic light cone.

Halting State's next on the plate for me. Looking forward to it.

13:

More merchant princes and an Iron Sunrise sequel? (yeah, I know you said you'd never do the iron Sunrise sequel, but I'd rather dream than guess for real).

14:

Remember, if you don't die working, you lose.

15:

I was kinda hoping you were ghost-writing for GRRM. Oh gawd, I'm joking! I'm joking!

16:

But I'm increasingly tending towards near future/contemporary settings.

And after saying the near future stuff is hard because reality keeps catching up with you.

17:

I wish you an excellent vacation.

And boggle at how prolific you are. I mean, MULTIPLE GOOD BOOKS A YEAR. And appearances. eeg. Not sure how you keep up that pace.

18:

You're just trying to get all the ideas out before CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN arrives and you (as one of the brighter lights) get Wub burble grlph... Oops.

19:

I can't find it at the moment, but I think our esteemed host said somewhere on this blog that we will see a number of books in the Laundry series. At least we will have to get to NIGHTMARE CASE GREEN after all...

20:

I've just re-checked the "fantastic fiction" web-site.
Odd.
"Neptune's Brood" is not listed as forthcoming, and waht's "Scratch Monkey"?
Just noticed I don't seem to have "Toast" on my shelves, unless, of course, it's hiding somewhere else, and I'm sure I've read it.
Usual trouble, over 6000 books in this house ......

21:

Random provacative question:

Orbit's most of your UK publisher, right?

Did they (Hachette) sniff a bunch of dimethyl mercury and LSD yesterday???

22:

Er, no. I've got a core story arc for the Laundry series in mind that runs to nine books, with side-branches (the next will probably be book 4.5, i.e. a novel that doesn't advance the CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN plotline but in which significant things happen anyway).

Note that ambitious series story arcs are entirely at the mercy of (a) publisher's profitability concerns and (b) the author living to finish the series. If you want a guaranteed end to the Laundry series, then I'll need to fire up a kickstarter project with a $2M target, to keep me going for the decade-plus it'll take me to write it. (Note that 40% of that $2M will go in tax, right up front, and then there are other overheads, like paying the editors and proofreaders ...)

23:

GRRM writes and publishes more words per year than I do. He's a machine.

...

It's just that his books are so big. If he stuck to 100-120K word novels like me, he'd be pushing out a new one every nine months. (But he wouldn't have a novel on the NY Times bestseller list for 52 consecutive weeks ...)

24:

What did Hachette do yesterday? I'm curious.

(They're my main UK publisher -- SF and Laundry fic -- but I have a relationship with Macmillan, aka Tor UK, as well.)

25:

The DRM required or else on all e-book editions - even other publishers in other markets - letter (see Cory's post at BoingBoing....)

26:

Oh dear.

Hachette is my UK SF publisher. Ace, aka Penguin, publish me in the USA, and they, too, currently require DRM on ebooks. However, Ace are nothing like as dogmatic as this.

This doesn't affect me for another year -- the contracts for my current and next novel are long since finalized -- but if Hachette offer me a contract with this boilerplate in it next autumn, they may not like the answer.

27:

Ah, I was thinking it was this bit in The Bookseller about them continuing the agency model despite the US DoJ agreement(s):

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/hely-hutchinson-hachette-uk-agency-deals-continue.html

28:

It does tend to betray both a spectacular lack of understanding of the changes happening in the market, coupled with breathtaking arrogance. So much for the publisher understanding the position of a service provider.

Is there a sweepstake on how long Hatchett UK's CEO will remain in post?

29:

I'm fine with the agency model. Mandatory DRM on everything, not so much. Demanding that authors demand DRM on their books with other publishers? Where did I leave the garlic and holy water?

30:

I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on people I do business with.

(I'm willing to comment on my personal view of the wisdom -- or lack of it -- of their public actions, in my personal capacity as a member of the public.)

I would like to note that Hachette is a French corporation, with values and attitudes that differ subtly from British or American corporations -- sometimes in manners that are clearly better (as well as worse).

For example, in November 2008, most of the Big Six panicked at the first whiff of an adverse market and fired up to 15% of their permanent staff. Hachette responded by imposing a hiring and pay freeze for 12 months, explaining that publishing is a long-term business and they were willing to take a hit on the bottom line (via payroll expenditure) in order to maintain their capabilities until the market recovered.

I just wish they'd display the same level of enlightened foresight to their customers that they exercise with respect to their employees.

31:

Finally bit the bullet, sold out and knocked together that slashfic rewrite of Twilight? :p

32:

I'm thinking that your response may be along the lines of "Go forth and multiply. 4,3"?

33:

Charlie,

Not surprised you don't want to publicly point up things - but I for one could take a stereotypical view of french reaction in the face of unpalatable truth; that they will ignore the reality of the world changing around them and attempt to persist with self-destructive behaviours for far too long.

As such you may well find yourself facing an intransigent publisher two years down the line, with multiple authors already jumping ship and DRM already effectively dead in the water. Time to plan and prepare is now.

I'd suggest that you assume a $5-£5 price point and a collapse of many of the main publishers as a base case and work out your way to survive and thrive in that environment. The more I look at what's happening, the more I see the pointers that that is where we are headed.

34:

I would be happy to pledge $50 for the next four books in a kickstarter. I have bought every one of your others and paid an average o more than $15 each. You probably have a better idea of how many readers you have, but 10,000 @ the same rate and you have $0.5M at least

35:

Ian, Hachette is one of four English language publishers I deal with. From where I'm standing, they are replaceable. (Monitoring the state of publishing is, shall we say, part of my job: I think I'm some distance ahead of you on this. If I haven't been paying attention to this week's news in BoingBoing it's because, well, I'm coming to the end of the editorial death-march I mentioned above, and I'm so low on spoons I'm having to run on plastic sporks.)

36:

Well, I hope you have the Laundry series well outlined. And do not keep it in a safe deposit box that the rest of the family doesn't know about. Like a certain Mr. Herbert. I suppose the modern version would be an encrypted file, and no one else knowing the key.

37:

Considering the drivel that was published by said family as prequels I can't see the idea of someone taking up the task of an author after death as a good thing.

38:

I hated dune
It was like a spoon
Pointless

39:

Yeah, I got fed up with all the prequels (read the first trilogy, didn't bother with the rest) putting off 'Dune 7' which I still haven't gotten around to. Seemed like they were milking it too long.

40:

"But I'm increasingly tending towards near future/contemporary settings. "

Oh no, please don't do that ! Gibson, Stephenson, that was hard. Not another one.

the scifi gap is closing

stefan

41:

Yeah I've deliberately not read 7, apparently it tries to tie in all the prequels *shudder*

42:

Personally I find myself liking near-future more and more as I grow older. I'm tired of reading about things that most likely wont happen long after I'm dead, I'd much rather be reading about things that might happen in not too long.

43:

"The DRM required or else on all e-book editions - even other publishers in other markets - letter (see Cory's post at BoingBoing....)"

Link, please?

45:

I'm in for $50, as well.

46:

"Well, I hope you have the Laundry series well outlined. And do not keep it in a safe deposit box that the rest of the family doesn't know about. Like a certain Mr. Herbert. I suppose the modern version would be an encrypted file, and no one else knowing the key."

Of course these days that'd mean it'd take *weeks* for cracking technology to find a way to crack it :)

47:

I've spent at least $50 in the last 2 weeks alone on stross books so I'd happily pony up another 50 to guarantee the pipeline.

Merchant princes is the book equivalent of crack...

48:

But how far can the 'near future' go? I hate to read in a novel from 2009 about stylus operated PDAs. Most near future stories are dated when in print. And for contemporary literature, well, except for action (romance)who needs that? That compared to scifi is like a picture from your cellphone versus a painting.

49:

Not so much directed at Charlie, but an interesting breakdown of how Kickstarter funding works assuming your project raises a cool million.

"and wait, fuck….i forgot. kickstarter also takes 5%. and so does Amazon (who handle the credit card processing fees, turning pledges into actual moneys). so we have to lop off $75-100k for them."

51:

Of course these days that'd mean it'd take *weeks* for cracking technology to find a way to crack it :)

Eh, what do I know?
These days sure, but in ten years?

Charlie Stross, you should be healthy and live to 120!

52:
Charlie Stross, you should be healthy and live to 120!
Whilst that is acceptable, I will say Charlie-you must out live me! (I am 62)
53:

I think it's rare for a story to be obsolete when it comes to print. Mainly because near-future SF doesn't involve that many changes at all, one would have to be unlucky if something came out to obsolete a plot device inbetween writing and printing.

Longevity is an issue in near-future SF but its the same in far-future. I can think of novels written both recently and further back whose far-future plot devices and setting clashed with something that has happened since writting e.g. a novel from 1980 set in centuries hence with no internet.

At the end of the day it is rare for any fiction to stand the test of time. If you get a lot from it at the time then anything else is a bonus.

54:

620,000 word novels....hmm.... sound like Tad William's going for a new triology.

55:

Does anyone mind if we turn this into a "what to read while waiting for next Laundry" thread? I feel it's on-topic, given that the topic is "Charles Stross is busy." :D

Just read Bitter Seeds and will likely get the sequel (DRM free!) pretty soon. Summary of book in list form: World War 2, magic, secret British agency, Nazis. My main gripe is that I prefer the moral ambiguity of Laundry. The US agency in particular is often up to no-good in Laundry, but in the context of reality as know it teetering on the edge it's not such a clear evil. It's gray. Well maybe they're clearly evil, but you aren't exactly rooting against them. :) OTOH Bitter Seeds makes you wonder if maybe Hitler marching on London would've been for the best. That's not pleasant, I guess the issue is specific to it being an alternate history.

Anyways, any other suggestions for supernatural espionage?

56:

Charlie:
If I haven't been paying attention to this week's news in BoingBoing it's because, well, I'm coming to the end of the editorial death-march I mentioned above, and I'm so low on spoons I'm having to run on plastic sporks.

For what it's worth - that popped up on BoingBoing not very long before I noticed it (maybe an hour or two), and it took less than an hour of authors-I-know checking before I realized you were an Orbit author, after which I posted here immediately.

You can judge how out of touch you are this week (sporks? my god, man, what will you hold the zombies off with if you run out of sporks...). But this was new news...

57:

Barry asks for the link for the BB piece... Here it is:

http://boingboing.net/2012/08/13/hachette-to-tor-authors-you-m.html

58:

Not espionage, but Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant novels (start with "Rivers of London", aka "Midnight Riot" in the USA) have a similar feel to the Laundry -- only they're London Metropolitan Police noves (the organization headquartered at New Scotland Yard).

59:

No wonder you looked like you were about to turn into goo after the Gaiman/Palmer concert. But thanks for the pic

60:

Ask William Gibson about Pattern Recognitiion and Youtube; he only got away with that one for two years.

61:

Heh, just this second downloaded Rivers of London from Waterstones for £1.99. They are having an ebook sale - but I noticed some smart cookie in marketing made sure they were all first books in series......

Baen do much the same thing with their free library - so far their "free" library has cost me more than I like to think about!

It's worth adding I'll only buy ebooks that are DRM free or that can be easily cracked (actually, that's most of them), since I'd like to be able to read books again on my next ereading device.

I'm also starting to get into modifying the book css files since some of the layouts are horrid (huge margins and the like). Oddly enough the titles that fall into that last category all seem to come from the same publisher.

All in all DRM has so many layers of stupid that for most people it's holding back what the technology can do. Ironically it's the less tech savvy people I know who are downloading pirated material, since they can't crack the legitimate stuff for themselves. They'd like to get copies that they can use on multiple devices, but it's far, far easier to download a pirated copy.

62:

Yup, I've been buying and reading those very happily. See also the Dresden Files - an interesting blend of magic and detective story, eminently enjoyable.

Apart from that, I'm filling the time between each new Stross and Pratchett novel (yes, Charlie, as far as I'm concerned, you're well and truly up there with pterry) with random purchases from Baen. My credit card hates me; it isn't seeing new places, because it's constantly being dragged over there. Hey, fifteen bucks for a set of six books, three of them of definite interest, and the other three possibly being good? Sold! (too many times to count offhand ...)

63:

Ebooks are at least getting me in the habit of buying books again. I'd amassed a truly ridiculous amount of old school media over the years -- books, movies, etc, and much of it was never something I'd revisit. I had to downsize much of it. Piracy was about saving space and wow, look what I can carry in my pocket! It's easier to cart around a pda than a giant tome.

What I really like, especially with the online interaction with various authors, is each purchase feels more like putting money in the tip jar. My contribution has some meaning.

I also have to say that I really love the audiobook experience. I don't have as much time for sit-and-read but there's plenty of dead time through the day for do-something-while-listening. I can ride my bike while reading, truly we are in the future! (Well, I tried that as a kid with a paperback. Didn't work out as well.)

64:

Fair enough Charlie, and I'm not about to teach grandma, but you recognise the common failure mode?

Still think setting up then sub-licensing the universe has legs, as a model ... particularly if combined with cutting out the middle man.

65:

what will you hold the zombies off with if you run out of sporks?

Dire Straights LPs, of course!

66:

So Rivers of London is now on my to-read list, thanks. :)

Does the Saturn's Children & Neptune's Brood series have a series name?

67:

No, they don't have a series name. There's actually no connection between the two novels other than the setting/history/time-line; one is set in our solar system circa 2500AD, the other is set about forty light years away circa 7500AD. The protagonist of one is a frustrated sex robot who came off the production line the year the human species was declared extinct; the protagonist of the other is a sex-phobic scholar -- a historiographer of accountancy practices -- who is having a series of extremely unwelcome adventures because she lost contact with a pen pal. And so on.

(However, in "Neptune's Brood" I can promise you a space battle. With communist space squids, and pirate space bats, and mermaids.)

68:

I just got a paper copy of Codex, partly because I can sell it onto a second hand bookshop at later date. Having 10,000 ebooks in my pocket doesn't really appeal to me since I rarely if ever read the same fiction book twice. Five years from now I hope my walls will be bare of everything except technical reference books.

69:

In case anyone is still interested in figuring out what I've been up to, consider this:

1. The Merchant Princes were originally going to be Big Fat Books with a technothrillerish bent, not thin fantasy novels.

2. Only the first half of the series ever appeared in the UK.

3. I have been calling for typos in all six books, and doing so two at a time.

No, I cannot confirm or deny anything -- not until $PUBLISHER makes the official announcement. But do I really need to draw you a diagram?

70:

I'm just wondering what the covers are going to look like.

71:

I think it's rare for a story to be obsolete when it comes to print.

Larry Niven managed that, when the current thinking about very small black holes advanced in the weeks it took him to bang out a short story and throw it at the nearest SF magazine. Inspired by the latest physics ideas and killed by even newer models, in the time it took to get from notebook to newsstand.

72:

Very, very different.

(One thing everyone agrees on is that marketing the Merchant Princes series as fantasy was a bad idea ...)

73:

Speaking purely hypothetically, if the merchant princes series were to come out in Big Fat Book format, I would be delighted to read them again, sans the irritating recapping. Stil going to read the last three in dead tree though. Those covers are terrible though, especially for what is actually a very sharp, adult thriller novel. Still not as well written as singularity sky, though, which is like Cloud Atlas crossed with Friday - wonderful magical realism.

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