I'm still being attacked by that novel, which is intensely frustrating because I'm forcing myself to ration keyboard time to 2000 words per day due to the repetitive strain injury. (If you're down with Rule 1, "don't die", then Rule 2, "don't damage yourself", should also be obeyed.) This is in turn having a knock-on effect on blogging.
I think I can confess at this point, however, that the novel in question, "The Rhesus Chart", is the fifth Laundry novel. And it looks set to debut in July 2014, in place of "The Lambda Functionary", the third volume in the "Halting State" trilogy. I'm chicken; "Halting State" took me 15 months to write, "Rule 34" took me 18 months, and at the point where I realized I had 8 months of writing time to deliver "Lambda Functionary" I did some hard thinking then started talking to my agent and editors. Because if there's one thing guaranteed to annoy everyone, it's embarking on a project that is bound to be at least a year late ...
What's the problem? Well, I only get one slot per 12 months with my main publishers, and they're nailed down years in advance. And the 2013 slot is currently occupied by "Neptune's Brood", which I finished writing in July this year, about six months later than originally expected. "Neptune's Brood" is notionally a space opera, but I prefer to think of it as a parable about the banking liquidity crisis of 2008; the setting is recycled from "Saturn's Children", albeit 5000 years later and without the overt Heinlein homage (and the characters). Unfortunately I'm a slow learner. A chunk of the action takes place on (or rather in) an aquatic super-earth with no land masses: consequently, the early cover art treatments rely on the theory that the book will sell best if, rather than somehow conveying the message that it's about fractional-reserve banking fraud in a slower than light universe, the cover promises MERMAID BOOBIES!!!1!!
(I wonder if there's a secondary market for fake dust-jackets for the easily-embarrassed reader, bearing the correct name and title but a different illustration? Signed by the author, even ...!)
Incidentally, if you're wondering about the one slot per 12 months thing, this is because the year is the standard period in publishing. It's a nice round number for forward planning. It also gives you time to marshall a stream of books through all the stages of production, bearing in mind that from the publisher's point of view they're running a constant-speed production line, and that stuff gets in the way and causes pipeline stalls. (This author is on a 3-month trek through the Andes with no internet connectivity when the copy edits are lovingly couriered to their doorstep; that author is dealing with an unexpected bereavement during the page proof-checking stage: and maybe the publisher has a flood. Or something.)
Back to "The Lambda Functionary": it's a hugely ambitious near-future SF novel about the future of politics in a world with truly ubiquitous networking and where the demographic transition and third-world development curves have both run to completion. It's going to be my Stand on Zanzibar. It's going to top "Halting State" and "Rule 34". But unfortunately I don't think I can write it in less than 12 months, even if you break my ankles and chain me to a hot word processor. It'll get written before too long; I just need to do a bunch more development work first, and then try and get ahead of my regular production cycle.
Going in the opposite direction, it would in principle be possible for me to have more than one publication slot per 12 months, but the key obstacle would be ensuring that the supply of manuscripts didn't dry up along the way; there are few things worse in any business than promising something you can't deliver, and authors are non-substitutable—you wouldn't thank my publisher if they promised you a Charles Stross novel and delivered one written by John Ringo instead. So it's much safer to only deliver one novel every 12 months.
... Which is why I have at least four books coming out next year, in the UK. (Maybe five.)
This is what happens when a publisher (in this case Macmillan, not Orbit) decides to reboot your career. Years ago, Macmillan tried to publish my Merchant Princes series in the UK; for a variety of reasons they didn't do very well, and books 4-6 never came out. Well, next spring they're reissuing the series in big fat omnibus editions: three paperbacks titled "The Bloodline Trade", "The Merchants' War" and "The Revolution Trade" are hitting the shelves in April, May, and June (with DRM-free ebook editions to accompany them, naturally). Then in July Orbit are issuing "Neptune's Brood" for the first time. And I'm really hoping to have something to announce by way of a British publication for "The Rapture of the Nerds", too!
But please don't get the idea that I can write five books in a year, even if that's what you see hitting the shelves. Hell, just editing the Merchant Princes series for republication (fixing bugs and making them work as big fat books rather than two-thin-books-in-one-cover) nearly broke me: it's a good bit longer than "War and Peace", and because Macmillan and Ace don't share diaries I had to do the edits while working on the final draft of "Neptune's Brood".
My US track next year is going to be a lot more boring: "Neptune's Brood" comes out in July, period. (It's not impossible that the revised Merchant Princes omnibuses will show up eventually, but Tor's publishing track for 2013 was already fixed before they were available. And anyway, if you're in the US, you can already read them: it's the UK where half of them are going to be available for the first time.)
As for the long term, all I can say is: I intend to continue to obey Rule One ("don't die") for as long as possible, and while doing so, I intend to write more books. Because I don't like to disappoint people, I try not to discuss books I haven't at least begun to write. But hopefully the future holds more Laundry novels, more Merchant Princes books, the odd space opera (I really want to finish "Palimpsest" one of these years), and ... who knows? Maybe "The Lambda Functionary" will get written, too.
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