Back to: "The Internet is for Porn": Blackmail in 2033 | Forward to: Random questions, mostly about US travel

Not a vacation

So, I've finished the editing death-march from hell (through-edits to seven novels, 730,000 words; 11,500 changes tracked, wall-clock time: six weeks) and now I'm taking about 72 hours of down-time. Then next Wednesday I'm flying out to the US.

This trip is not entirely a vacation. I'll be at the worldcon, Chicon 7, and then I've got a signing tour, with Cory Doctorow, for "The Rapture of the Nerds".

First, my worldcon itinerary; the tour schedule continues below it.


Title: Interstellar Trade in an STL Universe
Time: Thu Aug 30, 3:00pm
Venue: Crystal C
With: Charles Stross Chuck Walther Edward M. Lerner Joseph P. Martino W A (Bill) Thomasson

Assuming Einstein is right, we will still expand into the galaxy. What sort of trade is imaginable between star systems separated by travel times measured in years or decades?

Title: Writer Under Glass
Time: Fri Aug 31 11:00:am
Venue: Fan Lounge

This isn't actually a panel, but a stunt. Writers volunteer to sit in a certain place for 30-40 minutes each and write serially on a collaborative story. Each takes up where the previous left off throughout the run of the convention. The resulting manuscript will be printed out only once, signed by all the writers, and entered into the charity auction as a contribution from all the writers. Con attendees can watch the writers at work—this has to be done in public like Harlan Ellison's writing in shop windows—but may not harass them. The attendees can watch what's being written in real time on a remote monitor. The story is complete at the end of the con and no other copies will be made without consent of all the writers who participated.

Title: Autograph session
Time: Fri Aug 31 4:30:pm
Venue: Autograph Tables

Bring out yer un-defaced books!

Title: Moral Ambiguity in SF
Time: Sat Sep 1 1:30 pm
Venue: Buckingham
With: Bryan Thomas Schmidt Charles Stross Jay Lake Lissa Price Nancy Kress

Is there still room for moral structure in SF societies and worldbuilding? How does moral ambiguity represent or fail to capture the real world? What are its pitfalls

Title: Reading (probably from "Neptune's Brood")
Time: Sat Sep 1 4:00pm
Venue: Gold Coast

Your chance to hear my latest work, nearly a year before you can read it.

Title: Literary beer
Time: Sat Sep 1 9:30 pm
Venue: Literary Beer #1 (Toronto)

Do I really need to make an appointment to hang out and bloviate over a beer? (Seemingly, yes.) Note: there are a limited number of seats for literary beers, so sign up early.

Title: Collaborations
Time: Sun Sep 2 10:30 am
Venue: Columbus AB
With: Les Johnson, Jody Lynn Nye, Janny Wurts, Charles Stross, Eric Flint, Laura Resnick

Collaboration takes special skills. Our panelists talk about what it takes and how easy or difficult it is.

Signing tour

And then ...

(Note: All tour dates are provisional and subject to change/cancellation — check back here for updates)

Wednesday, September 5th

Lexington KY

7:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST

Reading, Talk, Signing
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
161 Lexington Green Circle
Lexington, KY 40503

Thursday, September 6

New York

NY noon-1pm

Reading, Talk, Signing
Google, Central Park office (Not open to the public, I'm afraid)

NY 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST
Reading, Talk Signing
Bot-Cave / MakerBot Industries
87 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Friday, September 7

Boston, MA

7:00 PM to 8:00 PM EST

Talk, Reading, Signing
Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446

Saturday, September 8th/Sunday 9th

Rochester, NY

IEEE - 4th IEEE International Games Innovation Conference

Sunday Keynote: 10:30 AM
Reading & Signing at RIT: 7:00 PM



I'll be at... Chicon 7...

Hello! May we Metafilterans buy you some really great pizza? Mr. Scalzi says he will also try to be there.


Is there still room for moral structure in SF societies and worldbuilding? How does moral ambiguity represent or fail to capture the real world? What are its pitfalls YES

Try reading Le Guin or Linebarger for the answers to that .... Or Stapledon, for that matter!


See comment on MeFi thread. OK?


I'm pretty sure you have, but just in case you haven't (and for generical all-purpose edification)... have people seen this seminal paper? 'On the theory of interstellar trade', Krugman, 1978. It discusses the economic effects of time dilation. (As the cargo ages less rapidly than the endpoints.) Contains maths!


Yes, I saw it. (I read it and concluded it had nothing useful to say for the universe of "Neptune's Brood", where interstellar travel speed maxes out at 1% of c ...)


Is trade limited to the exchange of physical goods, or could information goods be sent by radio using encryption?

Xor shares / encryption keys - this can be useful for establishing identity, whereas someone radioing you from another star system could be anyone.

exchange of scientific papers (but that may occur for free and not be trade)

news / cultural products might all qualify as trade - I think that a specific company type would come into existence to promote interstellar sales of cultural goods in the receiving solar system.

physical goods: Better object printers cpu cores, better-than-silicon chips, possibly quantum / optical chips, memory / flash cores. seeds, which is not quite the same as information

information by starwisp.

scientific samples in general, which could be taken back to a more suitable lab (especially from a poorly developed world or world in the early phases of settlement)

replacement parts for machines not fabricateable there.

really, this trade seems to split into "early colony world to mother world" and "advanced world to advanced world", with some trades only suitable to one of those.

I've always found this subject fun.


I presume the issue isn't "are there goods produced in society A that would be useful/could be sold at a profit to society B?" It's "Given that societies A and B are many light-years apart, can there be meaningful trade if B won't see a return on investment until at least 2d years later (where d is the distance between A and B in light-years)?" Even if the typical distance is only 10 light-years, which seems above a bit optimistic, that's a 20 year wait for the payoff.

I think the answer may well be "yes, but only via middlemen". Instead of direct trade between A and B, you have independent merchants/ship-owners who buy goods off A on the assumption that they will be able to sell them at a profit to B (or, if not B, then C, D, etc.). I don't pretend to be an economist, but I suspect this model works best of the ships are large enough that the merchant societies actually live on ship rather than having a planetary base - like Cherryh's Merchanters (who do have FTL travel, but the model would work without it).

In order to make a profit (which you need to replace non-recyclable items of your ship ecology, expand your fleet, etc.), you need to be able to anticipate, not what society B needs now, but what it's going to need in N rest-frame years later when you get back. (Note that if the technology involves ships that travel close to c, the time lapse is much less than N years for you.) This will be easier if trading with early-stage colonies, whose development is probably easier to predict than advanced societies (where fashion trends will be a key issue: you might invest in a cargo of, say, exotic intoxicants, only to find when you get back that some charismatic religious leader has convinced the population to eschew all such substances). To spread the risk, you probably have a route involving more than two trading societies - if your vintage wine is no longer saleable to the Holy Theocracy of B, you can probably still make money on it in the People's Democracy of C.

There may be a model for this in ancient Polynesia - I seem to remember reading once about a system whereby material traded on from island to island, way out of the range of any individual peer-to-peer direct contact. Similarly, items are found in archaeological sites in the UK that have come from sufficiently great distances that direct one-to-one trade seems unlikely.


Hey! What happened to the makerbots visit in Brooklyn?

(I'm afraid I ruined things by pointing out that there was little likelihood of beer :() Any other possibilities in the NYC area?


I'm checking ...


No Seattle this time? That's too bad.


The most economically useful trade is in information, but the optimal way to organize that is communism - point gigantic com lasers at each other, beam a copy of everything of value/potential interest. This is likely to be a very loopsided trade, but as long as all parties derive more economic benefit than the cost of keeping the laser array running, it is stable, and delivers maximum value to everyone concerned. - This does mean you will be getting a copy of what everyone is producing for local consumption, rather than anything tailored to your preferences, but the time delays make this the only practical solution.

Other things worth sending between the stars...

The initial seedship?.. and thats it, I think. Everything else is better sent as information. This does assume the capability to do nano assembly, but this seems fairly reasonable for any civilization capable of reaching the stars without "cheating" Einstein.


Please check my Native Guide – Chicon Edition. I think I've succinctly covered what people might want/need to know/find while at Worldcon.


Charlie has been thinking about these problems, and they're part of the plot and background of Neptune's Brood.

Which he has finished writing.

So there are interesting questions, but he's going to the Worldcon, and you might not get much of a response. But I reckon he's way ahead of you.


Bobh: see Makerbot fixture (I was looking at an early draft of the schedule that didn't have this).


Thanks See you there. And hopefully with lots of others.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 19, 2012 9:54 AM.

"The Internet is for Porn": Blackmail in 2033 was the previous entry in this blog.

Random questions, mostly about US travel is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog