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Still working; wrote 40,000 words since November 1st, current novel around 90% of the way to a complete first draft. (Yes, the day that is Thanksgiving in the USA is just another workday in the UK.) You don't want to hear about my broken foot (healing), head cold (foul) or broken central heating system (engineer working on it), and I'm about out of small-talk right now due to work. Just popping in to say I'm not dead, basically, but aim to have my next book finished eight months ahead of schedule, thereby clearing the decks for 2013's mammoth Secret Project.



"mammoth Secret Project"?

Ho boy. Charlie is going to bring extinct critters back to life! This should be good.


That's actually a surprisingly accurate guess.


Out of all the extinct species, my money is on dimension hopping nobles, because I want to know more about that door into vacuum, damn it.


As being the latest and shortest entry I'll stick this here.

I can no longer access the 2512 entry. I suspect the issue is page size from the number, and length of some of, the comments, and the fact that this entry is generating a spurious (since I can reach any other entry) IE8 connectivity error.


Hmmm, I'd rather this was a "Dodo S Project" then. And yes I would be planning to call mine "Thursday".


A secret Laundry screenplay I hope.


How does finishing 8 months ahead of schedule fit into the publisher's pipeline you occasionally talk about? Will they just fit it in in the various intermediate stages when they have resources?

(Gosh, reminds me that the review I'm supposed to write is 3 weeks overdue, over the original 4. Ick!)


Hoping you feel better soon.

Some cold/flu survival tips: Ribena is very soothing for a sore throat but personally I prefer the premade version; Baileys on ice works well too; hot chocolate with brandy/whisky is good last thing at night; mint shower gel is really good for clearing your nose, I like the Original Source version but be warned, it affects parts that other shower gels do not; Ultrabalm type tissues are essential; never put Vicks onto your nose!


Works for me, I just left a comment. Try a different browser, or clear cache.. or it might've been a temporary issue.

Running daily has done wonders for my immune system. Maybe take up trotting as part of the rehab for the foot? It's supposed to be an exercise for all ages, see theories of human persistence hunting where all members of the tribe participate in various capacities, tarahumara indians, etc. Granted, windy Scotland is likely to be less appealing for outdoorsy stuff.


Then I won't wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, but I shall wish you a successfully finished draft, a healed foot and a banished cold.

For the last, here in Estonia we swear by fresh ginger & lemon in hot water - with or without vodka


How does finishing 8 months ahead of schedule fit into the publisher's pipeline you occasionally talk about? Will they just fit it in in the various intermediate stages when they have resources?

It gets to sit on a shelf for eight months.

What, you thought they might try to publish it early?


Thanks for the thought mate; if this wasn't a work machine I wouldn't be using Internet Exploder in the first place!


Sympathies on the failed heating- we are just getting over 2 weeks of no hot water/heating and the moving and instillation of a new boiler. Not fun at this time of year.


Let me guess - a frozen mammoth is dug up and taken for a scan because of its perfect preservation, is dated to around 50,000 years ago and then they discover it was shot.


Assuming that Secret Project is what Charlie mentioned in a comment yesterday, all I can say is "Yay!" Will be much anticipated, though I suppose it will be a while before we see anything of it. Meanwhile there will be plenty of new Stross to read.


im hoping for the time-jumping escaping dino civilisation from the KT uuurgh,- shrew-descentants!!


Sort of like this? Only, in that case it was dinos, not hairy elephants.


I want to hear about your broken cenral heating!

I suspect I'd have to ask the engineer to know what's wrong though. Which is its own oddity, is that term more lax in the UK, or did you hire a guy with an actual engineerign degree and certification to do what would be a non college job here in the US?


Reading the sample chapters now...


Here in the UK you can probably find people with engineering degrees working in McD


(I wrote a long explanation ... then the comment system logged me out and ate it.)

Short version: a motor-operated diversion valve had died, resulting in no circulation of hot water through the radiator circuit (as opposed to the hot water storage tank circuit). A friend helped me confirm the diagnosis by pointing out the manual override on the valve, so I was able to advise the certified central heating repair dude what the problem component was.

(If this is confusing: the central heating system uses pumped hot water through radiators to distribute heat. Like many British houses, this building pre-dates indoor plumbing and electricity, never mind central heating: it's easier to retrofit hot water pipes than hot air ducts for heating -- you can run pipes under the floorboards and drill holes through walls more easily for a half inch water pipe than for a hot air duct.)


Hm... commiserations on all your wee misfortunes and may they be few and far between from now on....

... If I think your project is what I think it is, then may your powers of creativity be so heightened to make you computer never idle!

This putty-cat is looking forward to her cream - sorry nee Stross publication!


Thats why I now copy the text before I hit submit


Water and steam radiators aren't unknown over here (US). My current and previous apartments both have steam radiators. Although, I think it is found mainly in older (1940s) apartment buildings.

Anyway, I hope coming months have you feeling better. I'll keep lurking even with sporadic updates.


I read that as "secret mammoth project" for a minute, and was wondering just how Bob came to be mixed up with supposedly-extinct critters…


"A surprisingly accurate guess…"

Rule 34 meets Mammoths?

As far as I can tell, there is nothing out there for Mastodon fanciers, and Google returns a curt 'no matching pages were found' for the abominable mammoth search term:

Shaved Mastodon Porn

Which means that this blog post will shortly have the #1 page rank, unless: (a) Our gracious host deletes my comment;

(b) We all start writing mastodon porn (shaved and au naturel) and frantically croos-link our work to each others' efforts so as to outrank this page; or…

(c) The stories about a Google 'black ops' team are true, and any search term that fails to bring up links to pornographic images or video us automatically forwarded to 4chan, who will immediately set to work to remedy this rare anomaly by some unspeakable and unimaginable work of Internet depravity.

Have I missed anything out? Other than apologies to our host, or a lengthy diversion into speculation about other things that could be reincarnated from ancient (or historically-extant) DNA?


He's taking "Trunk and Disorderly" & running with it.

All it needs is a healthy dose of vampires, unicorns, ninjas, pirates & zombies & the sales figures will be untouchable!


I read "door into vacuum" and immediately thought "door into summer" by Robert Heinlein and, well, it would have ended a lot differently...


Rule 34 meets Mammoths?

Oh, fine, if you want to be that way. Just so you know, not everything on the internet is a picture people want to see (be thankful I found that and not something awful).


What, you thought they might try to publish it early?
As the saying goes: "Hope springs eternal..."

Still, more Stross is always a Good Thing(tm) in my experience.


The answer is somewhere in between. You don't need a BEng to do HWS/CHS design, installation, diagnosis and repair, but there is a trade body that actually requires more stringent (and less paper-based) qualifications and training than the Engineering Council does for an award of Incorporated Engineer.


Emma & 8 Yes, but if you are a beer-drinker, “ribena” tastes utterly REVOLTING!

Charlie @ 21 And water-pumping is an OLD technology, well-understood, & actually a very efficient way to heat a house, compared to moving large air-volumes around. & murican_Jeff @ 24 …. NO: - HOT WATER, not “steam” !!

More to the personal point .. I do hope the foot is getting better rapidly, since I assume you are out of the “moonboot” by now? … and, will you be making London this December, or not? “Pig’s Ear” is in the Round Chapel in Hackney/Clapton, again.


Incorrect again, Greg. I am a beer drinker, and Ribena doesn't taste awful to me.

I guess you were speaking for yourself and generalising it over everyone.


Likewise on both counts in para 1.

No generalisation is true...


I agree. How does he know whether I drink beer or not? I drink local Breton beers and some Leffe and my preferences are for the darker beers. I'm definitely not a lager drinker although I do enjoy some Framboise or Pecheresse in the summer (don't like cherry flavoured things, so Kriek is out).

I also recommend 1 litre cartons of Ribena (if you can still get them) as a hangover cure. Rehydrates you, has sugar for an energy boost and a lot of vitamin C. Worked for me in my student days after a Stage Crew lock-in at the SU.

36: 32 to #35 inclusive - Ok, since we've proved that at least a minority of beer drinkers also like Ribena, can we call a close to that one? Please?

I'm just going to use my casting vote for (a) I like beer, and (b) I like Ribena as well. Subject is now closed!


Anyone in Scotland in November without working heating deseves every sympathy! I say that as someone who's moved several hundred miles south and who doesn't miss freezing her arse off in Aberdeenshire.

For what it's worth, when I've got a cold I like hot Ribena. I just make it up in a mug with water from the kettle. Very soothing.


For a second I read "secret mammoth project" and had the image of a trenchcoat wearing wooly pachyderm with a fedora and sunglasses, pretending to read a newspaper.



Shaved Mastodon Porn

not enough SciFi in this. What about Shaved Mastodon Porn filmed by the mastodon itself with giant google glasses ? would be a near future version of the opener of crooked little vein. charlie could develop this into mastodon shaped dyson spheres bumping into each other after exasecs of rising lust ?


Yes, the missing island has potential...


Could be an artefact of one of the databases Google bought in the early days.

In one of his Berserker stories, Fred Saberhagen used a fictitious encyclopedia entry to derail a Berserker incursion. The encyclopedia vendor had inserted fictitous factoids about places or politicians nobody would ever care about, so that if their products were copied by a competitor, they could prove it.

As a corporate database admin later in life, I used that idea myself.


What I don't understand about cloning an animal such as a Woolly Mammoth is what about the gut bacteria? Can you just populate it using the gut bacteria from like an African Elephant or say a Musk Ox (biggest northern fur covered creature I can think of that's also a herbivore).


People have been idly kicking around the idea of cloning a mammoth for a while now. It's almost certainly possible, and might even be fairly easy. But so far nobody's tried it, and probably won't in the near future. Who has the time and budget? To tackle the project would take money (and a commitment to funding this thing for many years), some biological expertise that isn't exactly on every street corner yet, and of course some partners who are already keeping elephants (you're not going to incubate this in a lab rat).

My guess is that the funding problems are harder to solve than the biological hurdles. Why do we need mammoths, anyway? But humans have done sillier things; if Russia and China got into an ego race over large or extinct animals, for example, we could see projects like this.


Why do we need mammoths, anyway?

Q: Why did they go extinct?

A: Because they were delicious!

Leaving aside the ethical issues of eating something that's at least as smart as a chimpanzee, this suggests at least one reason. Also: a species that's adapted to near-arctic conditions could be useful. Especially if domesticable (as elephants kinda-sorta are). And as for the munchie side of things, it'd probably be easier to get a vat-meat tissue culture going if we had a donor that hadn't been dead for 30,000 years.


Don't think like an ecologist, think like a businessman. Take a standard-issue elephant, throw in some long-hair genes, and call it a wooly mammoth. Relatively simple and cheap, but novel enough to sell to a zoo.


Wait, there's places where hot water radiators are not the default heating mechanism? You learn something every day.

Trying to heat with hot air in a cold climate would either require really hot air or a lot of air circulation, I guess. But I suspect the real reason is tradition. Construction design is more about tradition and less about applied physics than is readily apparent. And different places will have different traditions.


A: Because they were delicious!

I like that answer! (A quick google suggests elephant meat is gamey, a bit peculiar but not at all inedible, and has been compared to elk or moose.) Too bad they'd take so long to mature, but as you point out the calf would just be a stepping-stone to the carniculture vat.

Good idea about putting mammoths to work; I hadn't thought of that. Elephants are very useful in warm climates, and I'm sure there are poor people in colder regions who could use a gigantic and powerful animal. Particularly a smart one with a prehensile appendage.

If humanity had figured out animal domestication a few thousand years earlier we might still have mammoths.


Trying to heat with hot air in a cold climate would either require really hot air or a lot of air circulation, I guess.

Check out the hypocaust if you don't know it. (TL;DR - a fireplace vents smoke through floor passages, making the room warm.) It was the best area heating system the ancient world had, bar none. The same scheme was used with hot water, but a single pipe break would be a major problem and fixing it would involve tearing up the floor. So the low-intensity, low-cost hot air systems were preferred.


The trouble is, we haven't even figured out elephant breeding yet:

Besides, environmentalists and animal protectionists won't like seeding elephants in captivity at all ... no matter if they do subtract from the natural population or not.

Under present political circumstances domesticating any animal, especially big ones, is just about impossible. 10,000 years ago, western-style civilisation would be an abject failure.


Crazy alt-hist question: Could the USSR have survived if their Siberian colonists had had ... Mammoth power?

what about the gut bacteria?

I would imagine the colonizers from the surrogate mother would be functionally equivalent. If it turns out not to be the case, we have mummified remains that are likely to provide spores. Cloning a mammoth's gut bacteria is likely to be a doddle compared to cloning the mammoth itself


Hmmm, I'd rather this was a "Dodo S Project" then. And yes I would be planning to call mine "Thursday".

--And if it was housebroken, you could call its litterbox "The Pickwick Papers". Plock!


Good idea about putting mammoths to work; I hadn't thought of that. Elephants are very useful in warm climates, and I'm sure there are poor people in colder regions who could use a gigantic and powerful animal. Particularly a smart one with a prehensile appendage.

--Actually, there is a gentleman in Alaska who raised a moose from a calf and trained him to harness (save for two weeks in the summer when the moose is um...busy!).


I should pop up here and throw one of my favorite unprovable theories about the Megafaunal overkill hypothesis (aka: why mammoths and most of the big animals in the Americas and Australia died off, but the same didn't happen in Africa, Asia, or southern Europe).

I call it the Homo erectus line. If you look at the approximate range of Homo erectus and its close kin (China to Indonesia to Africa to southern Europe), it appears to match closely with the area where megafauna survived, at least until historic times. Outside that line, the megafauna died.

Since Homo erectus was around for ca. 2 million years, the hypothesis is that animals within its range adapted to human-style hunting, and so were able to survive near modern humans until industrial hunting of some sort or other was instituted. Animals outside the range of Homo erectus first encountered hominids at the Homo sapiens level, and couldn't adapt fast enough to survive, given everything else they were going through.

Now, the critical factor limiting Homo erectus' range? Clothes. They were apparently smart enough to build boats and get to Flores and possibly Crete, but they never figured out how to make clothes good enough to survive a Siberian winter.

If you want to go deep alt-history, here are a couple of ideas: --Let some group of Homo erectus figure out how to make clothes and conquer the world. More large animals would be left alive, since they'd have that two years of evolving with Hominid hunting. Homo erectus then evolves into separate Homo modern species in the new and old world. --Alternatively, posit a altithermal event some time during H. erectus' tenure that allows them to cross Beringia without clothes. Harry Turtledove already played with this one back in the 80s I think, but you get the same effect.

Either way, the mammoths survive. Who knows? Perhaps some of them get tamed in the New World too...

The real trick is writing this alt-history without coming off as a racist.


What you're really looking for isn't alt-history, but alt-geography. This also dispenses with the need for some imaginary and necessarily unrealistic scenario in which homo erectus could have walked into America naked.


Maybe erectus with clothes would have such an enhanced range and active time per day boost to make them just as lethal to the megafauna.

"clothes" is a fairly major invention. Foot covering, weather protection, armour. Camouflage?



Crazy alt-hist question: Could the USSR have survived if their Siberian colonists had had ... Mammoth power?"

Even more relevant: Could Scotland have survived as an independent country, thanks to the help of warmammoths?

From what I can read Scotland could get pretty cold (or was so previously) with the absence of the Gulf Stream.


Scotland, minus the Gulf Stream, would be around 10 degrees celsius colder overall. We're talking Scandinavian temperatures here, and not the southern cities like Oslo or Copenhagen at that.

Seriously, I'm sitting in an office in Edinburgh in late November, nearly a hundred kilometres north of Moscow, and there's no snow on the ground!


In my terms you're actually North of Waskaganish:

And boy, that place is way colder than any part of Scotland, or even Uppsala, the Northernmost Swedish town which I have had the opportunity to visit.


Might the Russian Empire have developed differently if mammoths had been available to them? How might the course of the Crimean war differed?

64: 60 Para 2 - I'm not sure how war mammals would have helped against economic warfare.

Sidebar - This means that economic warfare was invented before economics!


Alas for the AH romanticists, I suspect war mammoths would have done about as much to save Scotland (or the Russian Empire and/or USSR) as their African cousins did to save Carthage.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 22, 2012 9:29 AM.

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