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Press release

I guess it's official now: Tor signs new Charles Stross trilogy.

(No, I can't tell you the titles, except that my working project folder is called "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation" and the opening sentence for accuracy reasons should, but for literary reasons should not, be "fifteen years later". Oh, and this is what all the work in 2012 towards re-drafting and re-releasing the first series was leading up to.)

Note: a trilogy is, in my view, a big-ass story that splits into three pieces, each of which is just about readable as a separate book, but which work best when read in sequence. It's going to run to about a third of a million words, or, in the unit of authorial bloat, about a thousand milli-Hamiltons. That's a lot of work, so it's unlikely to show up in print until 2015. Meanwhile, you get to chew on a new space opera and a new Laundry novel (both written).

However ...

There's been a lot of excited buzz about the size of the advance, so let me take this opportunity to puncture the bubble:

Publishers always like to big things up.

Consider what a "6 digit advance" really means:

1. It's in dollars, not sterling.

2. 15% of it goes to my agent.

3. "six digits" can be as low as $100,000.

4. So the author's cut could be as low as $85,000, or about £55,000.

5. For a trilogy.

6. That's less than £20,000 per book.

7. I normally write one to 1.5 books/year.

8. So that "major six digit deal" could be equivalent to "author is paid £30,000 a year for two years, or £20,000 a year for three years".

9. (Or it might be $999,999, in which case, author is eating fewer lentils and flying everywhere in business class.)

Now, the modifier "major" is a clue: I'm getting rather more than $100,000 for 2 years' work (phew!) ... but I'll give you another clue for free: I'm getting a lot less than half a million bucks. Or even a third of a million. In actual fact, I'm getting about the same level of income from this project that I've been getting from my other publishers for the past few years.

I have not suddenly struck it rich. It's a bit like a teacher getting hired by a school on a five year contract and the school putting out a publicity release announcing their third of a million dollar hire.

Here's another perspective:

You may remember a couple of years ago Gollancz made front-page news in the UK by handing a certain hard SF writer (not me) a —1M advance.

It sounds great, but when you break it down and look at the small print, it was £1M for ten books, delivered at a rate of one a year. Minus a 15% cut for his agent. With joint accounting and world English language rights (at least) thrown in. And payable in small pieces. Upshot: a £85,000 a year salary for ten years (and you can be damned sure Gollancz inserted some termination clauses in the contract in case things didn't go according to plan).

I'd be the last person to say that a £85,000 salary is undesirable — but we're talking the sort of salary a GP or senior professor or airline training captain might make, not a CEO or a business mogul. It's salaried senior-middle-class-professional comfortable, not millionaire territory.

But Gollancz sure bought a lot of free newspaper exposure by framing that ten year employment contract as a million pound deal, didn't they?

122 Comments

1:

Many congratulations.

I strongly doubt that I'm the only one looking forward to this. (And of course Tor's decision shows that they also think this will be anticipated by a lot of readers.)

6 figures (even in USD) should keep you in cat food for a while.

2:

So you're writing one Hamilton.

Of course, this means he'll have to up the ante, I'm sure. Good thing I'm trying to only buy ebooks these days. :)

3:

I think I'm having a unit-conversion problem. How many Hamiltons are there in a Joyce again? I vaguely remember that it has something to do with Planck's constant and the median weight of an uncooked lamb's kidney, but I've just moved and my copy of the CRC is still in a box in the living room.

4:

... and how many milli-Hamiltons are there in a milli-Martin?

5:

Put out more flags!

6:

A Martin is only a theoretical like a Pratchett.

7:

Publishers always like to big things up.

Consider what a "6 digit advance" really means:

1. It's in dollars, not sterling.

2. 15% of it goes to my agent.

3. "six digits" can be as low as $100,000.

4. So the author's cut could be as low as $85,000, or about £55,000.

5. For a trilogy.

6. That's less than £20,000 per book.

7. I normally write one to 1.5 books/year.

8. So that "major six digit deal" could be equivalent to "author is paid £30,000 a year for two years, or £20,000 a year for three years".

9. (Or it might be $999,999, in which case, author is eating fewer lentils and flying everywhere in business class.)

Now, the modifier "major" is a clue: I'm getting rather more than $100,000 for 2 years' work (phew!) ... but I'll give you another clue for free: I'm getting a lot less than half a million bucks. Or even a third of a million. In actual fact, I'm getting about the same level of income from this project that I've been getting from my other publishers for the past few years.

Here's another perspective:

You may remember a couple of years ago Gollancz made front-page news in the UK by handing a certain hard SF writer a £1M advance.

When you break it down and look at the small print, it was £1M for ten books. Minus a 15% cut for his agent. With joint accounting and world English language rights (at least) thrown in. And payable in small pieces. Upshot: a £85,000 a year salary for ten years (and you can be damned sure Gollancz inserted some termination clauses in the contract in case things didn't go according to plan).

I'd be the last person to say that a £85,000 salary is undesirable -- but we're talking the sort of salary a GP or senior professor or airline training captain might make, not a CEO or a business mogul. It's salaried senior-middle-class-professional comfortable, not millionaire territory.

But Gollancz sure bought a lot of free newspaper exposure by framing that ten year employment contract salary as a million pound deal, didn't they?

8:

Point taken Charlie. Still, not bad for a boy from the streets. And they are clearly going to the series hard when it's published. We'll done you, take a bow.

9:

Old news.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/forum/cd/discussion.html/ref=ntt_mus_ep_cd_tft_tp?ie=UTF8&cdForum=Fx3L8AFO21EZDV7&cdThread=Tx22U35O1NIGPU6

You can do ANYTHING with Merchant Princes. It could be a universal wrapper for any story you might want to tell. Like the TV show Sliders used the gimmick to talk about all kinds of hypothetical worlds, but in a way that allowed them to keep the same characters and an overarching story that transcended all the local ones. Or like Stephen King started retro-connecting all his material into his Dark Tower setting. Accelerando should be a Merchant Princes novel!

Ooh, I can't wait.

10:

Wretched incomplete! Here is what I meant to say:

Point taken Charlie. Still, not bad for a boy from the streets. And they are clearly going to push the series hard when it's published. Well done you, take a bow.

11:

The first MP series explored a bunch of economic issues, notably the development trap. A big theme of the new series will also be economic development ... but this time from a different angle.

Oh, and Miriam will still feature in it as a major character. But she isn't the main protagonist any more.

12:

But will it be as bleak?

13:

Will it be as bleak?

I don't know, I haven't written it yet!

14:

Since I read the six books of MPs as they were released in the States, is there any information I should know from your UK revisions/polishing before I continue with your story a couple of years from now?

15:

Congratulations - time to build more bookshelves.

16:

Congratulations! Even though we've known about them for a while here, it's good to see it out in public.

But please come up with something other than "The Next Generation"--sounds too much like a certain TV program we know you hate.

Even though I once swore to myself not to get into any long series, and started reading the MP books late because of that, I'm not going to wait a year for the mass-market editions of the new books.

17:

So will this trilogy have six books like the first Merchant Princes trilogy? [sic -- I've read your notes about how they developed]

18:

Nope.

a) The first series was meant to be three big fat books, but got split into six slim volumes.

b) These are being reassembled into three big fat books for the UK reissue this year. These omnibuses may show up in the USA subsequently (but not in 2013).

c) The new series will be written as three slim books -- or rather, a Stephenson-sized doorstep with cut-lines so that it falls naturally into three volumes.

19:

I don't think I'd be allowed to use "The Next Generation" on the finished books. Paramount might get a bit shirty with me.

20:

Degrassi got away with it. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrassi:_The_Next_Generation]

21:

The Merchant Warlords?

22:

Ah, that's good. Hopefully it won't wear you out as much as the first trilogy.

23:

Nope.

I invite you to consider the state of the universe(s), fifteen years after the end of "The Trade of Queens".

[potential spoilers deleted]

Let's just say I'm planning on turning in a Time Opera, in the key of The-Merchant-Princes-meet-Palimpsest.

24:

What, time travel?

I'd ask, a la some novel, but it would be a spoiler for said novel.

25:

Okay, make it a Paratime Opera. You know what I mean.

26:

My friend said to me "Cool, but I wish he'd write more Palimpsest" when I told him there were more MP in the offing. Suffice it to say, he's now very very excited.

27:

Charlie,

I'm sure the vast majority of an English language popular science fiction author's sales come from English language book sales but how much roughly comes from translated editions sold in foreign markets? Thanks. (I bet you probably answered this somewhere in your many treatises on publishing.)

28:

in which case, author is eating fewer lentils

And less catfood too.

(OK, OK, I'm sure catfood is only bought for the cats already. Nobody with your Apple habit would be subsisting on that.)

29:

Oooh looking forward to this. Starting with the reissue - I died after book 2 when I realized I was missing the rest... Also your coining of millihamiltons entertains me - a quick look indicates that GNR is only two or three bobbles short of the whole Uplift trilogy. Sigh;-)

I did look at the £1mio deal, divvy by ten, think about it and agree, although a large commitment like that hopefully with a chunk upfront could make credit facilities easier I'd imagine...

30:

I haven't yet caught up with the Merchant Prince series, but I'm looking to order the re-release when it's made available and the idea of a Palimpsest expansion is way more than enough to sell me on this upcoming trilogy.

Congratulations on the modest three-figure advance.

31:

This is me dancing a happy dance ...

Also, many thanks for the further in-depth view into the life of a working writer (dispelling of myths and so forth)

32:

I couldn't be bothered logging in just to say this, but can it be 2015 now? Please Dad?^3

33:

A friend of mine used to take emergency catfood on mountaineering trips.

He claimed the idea was that in an emergency he could take it out, look at it and discover the motivation to find something else to eat. Rocks, snow, his own feet. That sort of thing.

34:

The Merchant Dauphins? The Merchant Royalty-In-Exile? Anastasia With An Extra Serving Of Capitalism?

35:

Forget it. Their mercantile business model is broken; by 2018 they're doing something else.

36:

(to put things in perspective, average UK wage is about £26,500 p/y which will attract about 25% tax and provides a comfortable living even in the centre of a large city, depending on your idea of 'comfortable')

37:

Actually, the £26,500 wage will only attract 25% tax (plus national insurance) after the first £9000 (rising to £10,000 soon). So, assuming about 30% tax (including NI), you'd end up paying about £5000, for total in-pocket income of £21,500 a year.

Per a Society of Authors study in the mid-noughties, 80% of full-time authors in the UK earn less than the average wage.

(Per a more recent announcement by Gollancz, 47% of all earnings from SF and fantasy authors in the UK are earned by: J. R. R. Tolkein's estate, George R. R. Martin, and Terry Pratchett. The Gini coefficient for fiction writers is eye-poppingly high.)

38:

Those books about that wizard kid fall under young adult, I assume? I wonder how the Tolkien estate, Martin and Pratchett would rate compared to her income.

39:

The HP franchise passed its peak a few years ago -- the last movie was 2011, wasn't it? It's worth noting that the peak earning properties all have active TV or cinema franchises. Only Pratchett is weak in that area, and he's ... well, he's a two book a year institution, at least in the UK. This should tell you something about how heavily the film/TV industries punch compared to print literature.

40:

You may have missed what Terry is up to: Sir Terry Pratchett has launched an independent TV production company, Narrativia, with exclusive global multimedia rights to the author's bestselling works.

(And cooperating with Mr Gaiman on Good Oems is one of the first projects listed.)

41:

Good for you, Charlie.

Please can you summarise what books we can expect and when over the next two years. It would really cheer me up (after seeing the Tories go up 5 points in the opinion polls whilst threatening to allow the Uk to leave the EU) to think for a while about what I can look forward to reading!

I am very, very interested in alternative economics - would you care to talk a little about what the economic paradigms you are writing about in the new MP series?

42:

What you really need is one of those "lucrative" Hollywood deals. A we havent had a proper post-singularity movie since The Matrix. That would probably keep you in cat food for a week or three.

43:

Speaking as a "salaried middle-class-professional" I'd add that unlike Charlie we tend to get things like a reasonable pension, pay if we are unable to work for a while through sickness etc. These are things that cost rather a lot and mean people in other situations need to earn really quite a bit more than us to be in the same position.

Of course if you write a huge-seller that becomes something of a classic you'll get a pension - but that seems to be entirely in the lap of the gods, which is not where I want to put my financial future.

In other words - it's well deserved and there's no jealousy coming from this corner.

44:

What's the planned release schedule for the trilogy? All at once? Once every six months? Once every other year, interspersed with Laundry?

45:

When you say you can't tell us the titles, does that mean you are contractually sworn to secret? That you have working titles that you hope to improve? Or all that you have for now is a big BOOK ONE at the top of the outline?

46:

Or even that Charlie doesn't have final titles in mind himself yet, and even if he did it would be far from the first time that an editor decided that $author'title wasn't as commercial a choice for $book'title as $editor'title would be (source being various SF author (auto)biographies).

47:

I usually find it a bit worrisome that many people seem to stop thinking when they see big numbers in vicinity of currency signs. I believe your breakdown should help these people get the bigger picture.

I believe also that in vast majority of cases the number your income adds up to at the end of the year is quite proportional to the total cumulative input on your part - again many people miss that 'total cumulative input' part.

For professional jobs many people miss the years spent learning and polishing skills and the fact that there is in many cases a lot more responsibility involved (think about medical staff, or a bridge building engineers). For businesspeople there are usually years spent failing, and the fact that you are never really off the job - especially in SMEs, when you first have to pay all your liabilities and employees before you see any money for yourself - all is nice when everything works, it not so nice otherwise.

Press releases are about publicity nowadays, so framing a n-year contract in terms of a one-off deal shouldn't surprise anyone. And as far as contract-based creative work goes - I don't think it's easy, especially making the creativity + quality + deadlines working.

48:

What's coming out and when:

If you're in the USA, what you will see from me is:

July 2013: "Neptune's Brood" (a space opera about economics)

July 2014: "The Rhesus Chart" (Laundry Files #5)

... Possibly also the UK Merchant Princes omnibus editions showing up in US trade paperback dress ...

Some time in 2015: the first of the new trilogy.

(No publication schedule is set for anything beyond 2014 at this point.)

If you're in the UK, what you will see from me is:

April 2013: "The Rapture of the Nerds" (with Cory Doctorow)
April 2013: "The Bloodline Feud" (first MP omnibus)
May 2013: "The Traders War" (second MP omnibus)
June 2013: "The Revolution Trade" (third MP omnibus)
July 2013: "Neptune's Brood"

then a gap ...

July 2014: "The Rhesus Chart"

... and then, some time in 2015, the first of the new MP books.

Yes, I've got the equivalent of 8 novels (or a mere 5 if you go by the number of book-bindings) coming out in the UK this year.

49:

There is no release schedule for the trilogy because release schedules are only set about 12-18 months ahead of printing, going from a manuscript to print takes 12 months, and the first volume isn't even due on my editor's desk for 18 months.

Nor is there a title for any of these books, yet, other than the very provisional "Merchant Princes: the Next Generation" which will have to be changed prior to publication (lest those nice Star Trek folks' lawyers start sending us letters).

50:

Regarding the time it takes to get a book from author to customer, I just thought of that as being a selling point for ebooks. A company could get anticipated books out in ebook form earlier simply because of it being a smaller physically logistical task, and then sell the physical books once they could kill enough trees. A lot of people would even accept DRM if they wanted the book enough. They could even do like cable TV does for movies released too recently to just show for free, and charge a premium for early viewing.

You might suggest that so I can get these books sooner. Please.

51:

Oh dear. Is it really time for Charlie to repost the Common Myths About Publishing again?

52:

I think he should make it a regular policy to repost CMAP links, perhaps with every "Press Release" style announcement. It's quite a brilliant set of essays.

53:

Since that excellent essay was written

(1) Amazon changed its DRM for all new stuff and the hack (illegal)that somebody took years to get no longer works.

(2) Also it doesn't recognize the existence of Calibre (legal). Anything without DRM can be converted into any other format, so it's really just "Kindle" and everything else.

(3)Borders has gone out of business.

(4)This still hasn't been caught: "defined Amazon as being a publisher, who would license subsidiary rights from the original publisher and republic the books via Kindle."
Should be republish

Also, sure it says authors have no influence over ebooks. Wonder if that's still so.

Also, all that stuff about the advance doesn't take royalties into account. They have to matter cumulatively over an author's life, even if any given book isn't an exceptional bestseller.

54:

A company could get anticipated books out in ebook form earlier simply because of it being a smaller physically logistical task, and then sell the physical books once they could kill enough trees.

See: how books are made. Note that this goes for ebooks and pbooks; only about 4 out of 17 production steps are different between the two types.

I will note that Baen do indeed sell early access to manuscripts -- see their e-ARC program. But for marketing reasons I don't think that's viable outside a very narrowly targeted niche market that focuses on selling to the proverbial thousand true fans.

The rest of your suggestion ... falls foul of being a reader's view of what a publisher does. Publishers do not publish individual books. They run a production line that pumps out a set number of books per month; a manuscript comes in from a supplier, goes on the production line, and runs through a series of development stages where different workers do things to it. Much like manufacturing automobiles. The line can run no faster than the slowest stage on the production line will permit. And because of the nature of the biz (processing and polishing inputs supplied by eccentric freelancers, some of whom still live in caves and write using hand-carved quill pens -- and who you can't fire, because their fans want to read their quill scratchings, not my efficient word processings) the whole thing moves v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, in order to minimize the risk of pipeline stalls.

55:

But Charlie, you *still* haven't corrected that egregious spelling mistake! The whole thing is a tissue of lies, man!

(Sorry, 'tis that silly half-hour before knocking off for the day.)

56:

Amazon changed its DRM for all new stuff and the hack (illegal)that somebody took years to get no longer works.

They change their DRM regularly. The DRM hackers respond. If you're not able to crack Amazon's DRM any more, I suspect your tools are out of date and predate the January 19th release. (Ahem.)

As for the book advance/royalty question, it's usually calculated to be slightly less than the anticipated print-lifetime royalties of the book. Unless the book goes gold and massively out-sells expectations, you won't get much in the way of royalties. Hint: my annual back-list royalties, from around 15-18 previous novels, are generally less than half the advance for handing in a single new book. (And my following of dedicated readers is growing: most authors do worse.)

57:

Also, all that stuff about the advance doesn't take royalties into account. They have to matter cumulatively over an author's life, even if any given book isn't an exceptional bestseller.

Please tell me you don't think that once a book has been published, it will be re-printed for the rest of the authors life? There are plenty of books that never get a second printing. Authors only get royalties from new sales, once the new copies are gone, so are the royalties.

Now, I suppose ebooks are a different matter, assuming that they will also be available to buy in perpetuity, but if one doesn't sell well, I imagine that sellers might not bother listing it.

58:

Life. Is. Too. Short.

(The car just shat itself while my wife was driving up to Inverness; I am now waiting to learn whether it needs a new clutch, a new gearbox, or both. Fixing three year old typos in hard-to-track-down blog essays is right at the bottom of my to-do list ...)

59:

Commiserations on the car, and apologies for the mistimed attempt at humour! I do hope Féorag is not stranded at the roadside somewhere, and the repairs don't take too big a bite out of the latest advance!

60:

Luckily we have full-fat RAC cover (against just this eventuality) so she came home on the same truck as the car. Which is now in our local garage, a 15 minute walk from my front door. Nevertheless: just as a pile of work lands on my head, shit happens. It's the way of the world, isn't it ...

61:

Yes. Sadly it is. (Speaking as one who learnt the hard way about the relative advantages of stumping up for RAC cover -- stuck in a car with fractious children, stranded on a motorway shoulder on a cold wet April evening, while the cheery RAC woman on the phone apologises (cheerfully) for the extra eighty-some pounds they're about to fleece you for on top of the membership, is all in all a lesson that sticks).

62:

Just out of interest Charlie - for those of us who have already read the whole Merchant Princes series, are the new releases materially different to the "old" versions?

Notwithstanding the desire to sell more copies (reasonable reasons well understood) is it going to be worth our while buying them again?

PS Laundry #5? yes please. hurry hurry!

63:

The MP series were originally planned as big fat thrillerish doorsteps. Then marketed as slim fantasy novels. The revised omnibus editions reassemble them as big doorsteps, cut out connective tissue, fix bloopers, and generally tightened up the prose (shedding about 5-7% of the text as part of the job). I think they work a lot better in the new form, but if you've read the originals, you won't find anything substantially new here.

Laundry #5: I have some editing/polishing to do next week. Then it's off to production ... for a debut in summer 2014.

64:

FWIW, at least here in the USA, senior professors do rather a bit better. At least at big schools in disciplines like the professional schools, engineering, or science. Liberals arts types probably do a bit worse.

BTW, did you ever fix the blooper about Rothschild being a sparkling wine?

65:

The Gini coefficient! One thing I like about this site is the high flux new things to learn.

66:

Yep. That was on my change list.

67:

Commiserations on the wounded Volvo... our V70s have always been utterly reliable, they just get replaced because My Beloved (who buys and drives them) does somewhere north of 25,000 miles a year on business, and tends to sell them at the 60,000 mile mark...

If the last two letters of the registration are "RD", then it might even be one of the wife's old motors :(

The last time I had to call on the Automobile Association (avoiding using AA there) was nearly twenty years ago, when the engine on my hire car had seized short of Carlisle. Luckily I managed to persuade the man with the truck to deliver me back to Edinburgh near midnight, not "Glasgow because the hire firm's nearest office there is two miles closer, and the hire firm has recover-to-nearest-office, not recover-to-destination".

68:

Most modern cars are pretty reliable. Excluding a flat battery or an actual crash, I reckon I've called out recovery twice in the last 250K+ miles. Once when I could not get a wheel off to change it (alloys can cold weld to the hub - there's a technique to break that weld that I was told by the recovery guy) and once when the engine control electronics turned out to have a dry joint on the main circuit board. (New car, and of the 600 miles on the clock, I'd just driven 300 of them across England into Ireland. Once the engine had fully cooled after its first long run, it was rather unhappy.)

I do however keep up full recovery service membership, though that's mostly down to it coming free from the dealer so long as I do all my servicing with them.

69:

Happy fun update; "something in the gearbox is broken". Tomorrow the garage are going to pull the gearbox and open it up to find out what ....

I foresee bg bills in my near future.

70:

Hmmm - I strongly suspect that something in the gearbox has a casting or machining defect in it.

71:

Did the mechanic make that reverse-whistle-intake-of-breath-this-is-going-to-COST-A-LOT noise before saying that something in the gear box is broken; or is he saving that for tomorrow?

Unfortunately gear boxes tend to the expensive no matter what is wrong, since there's usually no inconsiderable amount of labour required just to get at the darn things.

72:

I think that's most likely to happen in a new one, and I'm under the impression Charlie's car is pre-owned.

(Otherwise, it'd still be under warranty. If it's been bought through a dealer, it's possible there's something like a six month warranty anyway, which might ameliorate all this, but that should have covered the previous fault too ...)

73:

Congrats. I have to admit I prefer the Laundry to the Merchant Princes series, but I am glad to hear you have a job for a while and that there is another Laundry book coming. Any news on a sequel for Saturn's Children, while we're at it :P

74:

So they didn't carbonate it to make it more palatable?

75:

Never caught the Merchant Princes the first time around. Looking forward to reading the doorstop editions.

76:

Just caught up with this thread …
Car/gearbox. Oh dear – largish Volvo, isn’t it?
Cost of new “box” ~ £700-1000 + labour. Um. (?)
Shouldn’t happen with a well (i.e. regularly) maintained machine, but if the previous owner(s) only changed the oil once every (say) 50 000 miles, rather than every 10 thou, it will break the box, eventually. One reason Land-Rovers last (apart from being built like tanks) is the insistence on following scheduled maintenance - & the freaks like me who run them, know this – it’s a LOT cheaper in the long run.
…paws @ 70 – not necessarily. See my comment about regular maintenance. Also, cheap oils can wreck a machine, too!

Googling for “Volvo V70 gearbox” gets you a world of woes – looks like it is a known, not uncommon & potentially very expensive fault. Apparently down to poor design-&-build (?)

My sympathies.

P.S. This is whre the Web has made a huge difference.
There are usegroups & discussion-boards and humungous amounts of info on h=just about any make or model of car out there.
Which, in turn, lakes it much easier for the dedicated types to run their favourite toys (like me!) and for jope public to find out about common problems - like CHarlie, in this particular case.

77:

Since OGH is otherwise occupied: the follow-on to Saturn's Children (not quite a direct sequel) is Neptune's Brood, out July 2013 in US and UK, per the schedule he posted up-thread.

78:

In military staff work parlance Gollancz's effort would be called 'situating the appreciation'. Great news about the new Laundry novel, looking forward to it.

79:

What is this gearbox you speak of? The clutch? The transmission? I remember you saying that you preferred to drive a stick. If that's the case, rebuilt manual four-speeds are fairly cheap.

80:

#72 - I'd say "more likely" rather than "most likely". Some place in my "murky past" I did some metallurgy and know that some shaft cracks or treatment issues will take 0s of thousands of miles to show up.

#76 - Cite needed for requirement to change transmission oil every 10k in a vehicle only used on road. The closest I can come is a ZF Transmissions recommendation that AFT in their auto boxes be changed every 50_000.

#79 - There is no such thing as a 4 speed manual for a Volvo the sort of age Charlie's is,

81:

Erratum - Para 1 line 3 should read "...take 10s of thousands..."

82:

In British English, the term 'transmission' includes the clutch and the gearbox and the drive shafts - basically everything that transmits the power from the engine to the axles.

The 'gearbox' is where the main collection of gears is.

83:

paws @ 80
My Land-Rover 300Tdi LWB
Service interval is 6000 miles - & I changed all three gearboxes' oils + the front & rear diffs' ditto, during October! (Because mine had a fully reconditioned engine, the engine service is 1000 miles later ....)
But I have no idea what the supposed service intervals are on Volvos

84:

I have no idea what the service intervals on Volvos are either Greg, but I wouldn't start from a default position that they would be same as those on Land Rovers!

85:

I'd assume they'd be somewhere in the same vicinity as mine - 15,000 miles.

Since I actually do ~5,000 miles a year, that gets subsumed into the annual one. I don't know what mileage Charlie does, but I get the impression it's pretty low too - a few long trips, and not used on most days.

This doesn't tell us what the previous owner did, of course, and that's almost certainly more relevant here.

86:

Nothing empirical, but on the anecdotal side again, my experience has been that a car seldom used and then only for long trips can often need a more thorough (though not necessarily more frequent) servicing than one that is used every day.

87:

One thing I can think of is condensation. The oil in the gearbox and engine picks up traces of water from this source, and it needs longer runs to get the engine warm enough for long enough to drive off the moisture.

88:

This is going to make me sound really dumb, but I don't learn stuff if I don't ask.

"Milli hamilton"? ...which Hamilton are we talking about?

89:

Peter Hamilton, a man who lives in the county of Rutland and who writes books barely small enough to fit within that county.

90:

Yes the car is pre-owned, yes there was a six month dealer warranty, unfortunately I bought it nearly ten months ago ...

91:

Any news on a sequel for Saturn's Children, while we're at it :P

You are waiting for "Neptune's Brood". Due to drop in the first week of July ...

92:

It's not a cheap 4-speed -- it's a 6-speed, and for a turbo diesel so it has a fancy clutch mechanism with a complex flywheel arrangement. So I gather. Car's done 92,000 miles, but prior to me buying it had been serviced regularly by a Volvo main dealer (I have the logbook). It is probably just a case of "shit happens". (I should learn more next week -- my phone remained ominously silent today -- but as I don't need the car for day-to-day life I'm fine with that.)

93:

But ..but ..it's a Volvo ..how can it be that " something in the gearbox is broken " in a Volvo?

Just saying, as a non-driving person, whose Lady-friend once insisted that He come along and Help buy the " New " second hand/pre-loved car and who paused in the Appointed Task of just Being There - " Just Stand There and look Threatening in a Knowledgeable sort of Way ..you'll be GOOD at that ! " - to glare at the Volvo that I discovered had one of those towing thingies at the back, which discovery was treated to a scowl that indicated a certain doubt about my competence to offer an opinion. So, back to making the car selling person fell UN-comfortable and causing him want to be rid of me/us even at cost of cost. I've refused to do it again since I dislike being employed as a weapon of mess destruction, but, since I'm now ever so expert in this, in an ever so masculine non driving sort of way, then it does seem to me that I can at last redeem my karmic debt and declare that it just cant be " something in the gearbox is broken " but rather that it is almost certainly either the Wot Not or the Thingamigumi that is causing the Problem.


There! Fixed it for you Charlie. Now to sort out the publishing problem that is causing the interminable delay in delivering to its Vast Reader Base the Latest " Laundry Files " novel.


Yes Yes I know all about the Rational Explanation but I have a Cosmic Mind that can encompass Wonders ...as have so many of your Readership .. and if I don't want to believe in Publishers explanations of Reality as They See it then I don't have to and can instead,say, think of lengths of lead pipe and tanks seething with Sharks.

Is it Sharks or Publishers that are the Endangered Species? So easy to become confused in these matters and I'm almost certain that my infallible source for knowledge of UN-natural history, Sir David Frederick Attenborough OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FZS, FSA hasn't said much about the need to preserve the stock of Publishers or establish breeding programs for the same.

Problems, Problems.

94:

Eh? Nope ..far less than that given the tax free allowance and " a comfortable living even in the centre of a large city, depending on your idea of 'comfortable' " ...which Large City?

http://www.zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/


The other day I discovered - via the agency of " Home and Property " delivered to my e mail address -that a modest property in Fulham would cost ...

5 bedroom terraced house for sale

£1,349,995
Fabian Road, London SW6"

Average ?


A similar house in, say, Sunderland would cost rather less than that.

The average wage stats for the UK are very deceptive. What is certain is that there is a vast gulf between the Bottom and the Top of the Earnings curve and that " Average " means less than you might suppose.

95:

"... THERE IS NO SPOON..." For a given Value of 'Spoon ' that is.

96:

Its a little different here in the U.K.Briefly ...

University teachers are called "lecturers " and are at various different pay grades with " Professor " being a title for an Academic rank at a Prestige level that used to imply holding a " Chair"and having a certain recogniton as being an able academic in a given field. But that that situation has now been thoroughly subverted into having little meaning unless it is a title given by, say, a "Russell Group " University.

http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/our-universities.aspx


In a University that I used to work for back in the 1990s the Executive level of Academic Administration- that then called itself " The Directorate " - unilaterally awarded themselves the title " Professor "and a suitable new pay grade to match their new status. They had to deliver an "Address " but that was it in the way of academic attainment. Of course the REAL Academics Laughed at them ...and Of Course they didn't care.

Once upon a time I was invited by an academic colleague to represent him at a disciplinary hearing. It would take more time than I have here - as I strain our hosts patience - to explain just why I had a ferocious reputation for success in these things but I began my reassuring preamble to my colleague with " You have to understand that these Bastards really Despise all those that they left behind in Teaching Posts as they concentrated on Networking and Committee Work and we can use their contempt against them."

I retired from Tech Support in a major UK University some years ago and I have a modest - index linked - pension that is, I'm assured roughly equivalent to that which an average grade teacher in a secondary school might get if the wheels came off his/her health around about now -which is to say about £10,000 a year. This is changing as the present Ever So Right Wing by our standards - but near Raving Socialist by Us of A standards as I understand them - seeks to drive public services salary's down to USA 'middle class ' three jobs to survive levels.

But then I'm currently reading " As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda" by Gail Collins and I keep having to stop to do the ... ' no, that just CANT be true can it ?That is just completely INsane! ' thing

97:

Once when I could not get a wheel off to change it (alloys can cold weld to the hub - there's a technique to break that weld that I was told by the recovery guy)

Is this a state secret or can you share?

Says he who has had to use a torch, wheel pullers, and big hammers at various times in the past to deal with similar things.

98:

Thanks, that's more evidence for my hypothesis that UK universities are in a bad way in part because they've been taken over by MANAGERS, whose aims, objectives and ideas diverge markedly from those of actual academics.
The managers want more salary, perks, underlings and power. This has nothing to do with the main aim of a university as understood by most people, which is education and research. The academics generally want to be left alone to do their own research into new wonderful things, teach and enslave students/ train up the next generation of academics.
It should be obvious that the latter will lead to a better outcome for students and society.

99:

Way back in the last century ..around about 1996 I think it was ..I attended a Really Huge Event at a Huge U.K. University in which the Vice Chancellor addressed The Multitudes and said ..well I'll spare you the bulk of it and it was but the tip of the usual workshops and such like stuff that made up a Two Day Conference and anyway I don't want your brain to explode all over our hosts blog .. so .. And Spake Saying that In Future Academics and front line student contact people - that is to say people like me - would have to STOP thinking of themselves as being " Teachers " and instead think of themselves as being " Learning Facilitators. "

Just before the turn of the century I was obliged to attend a Departmental/School Conference in which the Head Of School stood up to announce that he had just done the figures on the Schools Budget and regretted to announce that the only way that he could balance the books was to cut staff student contact hours in half and this he would do unilaterally from the start of the following term.


The Department/School actually made a substantial profit - lots of juicy foreign students paying substantial fees - but was the cash cow for the entire University and of course someone had to pay for the Directorate whose main product was ..well I still have the documentation for that aforementioned Really Huge Event and you could have stunned an attacking rhinoceros with the damn thing.

Only three people spoke up against the cuts and for maintaining academic standards. Guess who one of them was? The truth was that people were just weary of fighting and of course people also had their careers to think of and hostages to fortune in the form of families and such like as dependents.Shortly afterwards I succumbed to clinical depression and eventually took early retirement.

100:

It's pretty hard to make the brain of your average reader of Charlie's blog explode. I don't think there's a prize in it though.

Other data points include the UCL pharmacology department; the profitable philosophy department that was still earmarked for closure at a certain English university, and various other things I've heard about over the years.

One of the biggest threat to the British way of life isn't foreign terrorists, it's managerialism and people who Manage.

101:

Charlie @ 92
If it is the “complex flywheel arrangement” then it is probably going to cost – from what little I could gather in the time (a careful web-search will get you LOTS more than you ever wanted to know) available, this is common to both the manual & auto versions & is known shite ….

Guthrie @ 98
Enslaving students? Oooerr missus!
OTOH, some total idiot, about 10 years back wanted to try to make any sexual relations at all between University Staff & students an instant-dismissal with disgrace offence (everyone is well over 18 , of course) What got me was the shrieking from the females … the classic coming from one woman who said (paraphrase) … “I’m not having with this, when I first saw my $Subject lecturer, I was determined to get him into my bed (she was 19 at the time, he was 27) and it took several months of hard work!”
Ahem.

Guthrie @ 100
PLEASE, please, beg nicely, grovel on floor, lick your boots sir? Don’t get me started on British “management skills” (not) – the horror stories.
Quite frankly, the Laundry is sane & normal compared to what Brit “management” can & does do.

102:

British management skills?
I bought "The naked manager" by some chap called Heller after an interview around 11 years ago.
Published in 1973 or so, the author detailed a number of management failings which he'd seen in British industry over the previous 20 years.

Oddly enough I was to see many of them over the next 7 years of my abortive industrial career. Add to that my managemen modules from university and I have a healthy disrespect for it as a way of thinking. Obviously some useful tools can be taught, but managerialism is a curse.

103:

In fact I'm sure there's a book in it somewhere - tales of Great British managers.
After a few chapters you should be feeling suicidal. Or very angry.

104:

Loosen the wheel nuts, enough that the wheel could move, but not so much that it could come off the hub. Then drive a few yards. With the bolts not holding the wheel firmly onto the hub, the natural flexing should be enough to crack the seal.

If that doesn't work, well, you're back to where you were before, but knowing it's going to be tough.

Note that I've never needed to try this since, so while I have actually seen someone do it, I do not warrant it to third parties.

105:

"5 bedroom terraced house for sale"

Seems like a fairly expansive definition of modest.

106:

guthrie @ 102
There's a US equivalent, with all the same failings listed - & no-one seems to take any notice & make all the same mistakes, again & again & ...
Oh, the book: Further up the Organisation
Written back in the 70's and still horribly true.

107:


In December 2007, Pratchett announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. So, I wonder whether it was he or his family that decided to get into the TV business at this point ...

108:

SPAM?

On 107, 108, 109?

109:

Loosen the wheel nuts, enough that the wheel could move, but not so much that it could come off the hub. Then drive a few yards.

Makes sense. But I'd stop at about 1/16 of an inch. 1 or 2 mm.

110:

Yup, spammer now banned, comments will be unpublished in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

111:

The nature of PTerry's illness is that it affects his motor/coordination ability first, rather than higher cognitive functioning and memory. (It's not normal Alzheimer's, it's a weird variant.)

112:

Charlie @ 111
Still really horrible, though.
Another thing that makes me really snarl, when the xtians come around with their lurving gahd. Euw.

113:

Firstly, Charlie, thank you for the publishing schedule. I will therefore nag the local good bookshop (run by the University) at the requisite date or go to a UK net retailer, as it seems that the books will be out in the commonwealth first.

For those of us who are antipodeans, has the standard commonwealth promotion system for academics been broken (for the yanks Lecturer --> Senior Lecturer --> Associate Prof --> Prof is the same as Assistant Prof --> Associate Prof -->Prof --> Chair and Head of Department). It's diffucult enough dealing with Canadians and Americans who follow academic trends with evangelical fervor, let alone the Managerialist corruption of the accepted "red brick" University Grades.

Finally, Charlie, no snarks about the advance. It sounds about right -- and given that the average house in Edinburgh is going for over 270K you will need all the shekels you can keep.

114:

...or go to a UK net retailer, as it seems that the books will be out in the commonwealth first.

It depends.

My primary publishers are American, and handle copyediting and typesetting (both outsourced). My UK publishers try to keep publication in lock-step, buying in the typeset DTP files and printing as close to simultaneously as possible, but this requires experienced editors who are on the ball -- we had a bit of an oopsie with "The Apocalypse Codex" because there'd been a change of personnel at Orbit the previous year that lost the institutional knowledge of how to do this, but things should work better with "Neptune's Brood".

The six Merchant Princes books were published in the USA between 2003 and 2009; the "director's cut" omnibus editions are an edit-and-polish on those books, so you could in principle just buy the US paperbacks right now -- but I think the omnibus versions read better. And they'll be out in the UK/commonwealth at least a year before they show up in the USA (because the series is already in print there in the original format, and what sane publisher would pull a six-book series that's in print and replace it with a three-book block of omnibus editions that sell for less?).

115:

Does Ireland still do that tax break for writers thing? Have you ever considered moving there?

116:

Do you expect the trilogy to be published annually for three years, or will there be a shorter gap? Or do you expect to intermix them with future installments in Laundry or Rule 34?

117:

#92 (for now anyway) - I'm guessing, but it may be a failed "dual mass flywheel". In this case, the bill is probably "only" high end 3 figures including labour and Osborne's balloon! It is sort of "one of those things", but you can probably preven a recurrance by keeping the revs in the 1600 to 2600 range for normal acceleration, and using more when hard acceleration is needed.

#97, 104 and 107 - I've heard of the technique too. I'd agree with David L about how much to loosen the nuts, and stop driving as soon as you hear a "rumble" from that corner!"

118:

Do you expect the trilogy to be published annually for three years, or will there be a shorter gap?

No idea. I don't think Tor know, either, at this stage.

119:

The garage -- who are gearbox/clutch specialists -- have removed the gearbox and are stripping it down today/tomorrow to figure out what broke. (They established that the problem was internal to the gearbox last Friday.)

I'm just hoping the cost of the repair is less than the value of the car, at this stage ...

120:

A failed DMF is pretty obvious once you've got the gearbox out, which is pretty much essential to both a clutch change and a gearbox strip.

121:

Having spent a happy five days rereading the Laundry Books - with a first read of The Apocalypse Codex, which I'd been saving for my hols - to finish, I have to confess I am most excited about the 5th volume of the Laundry Files. I have spent some time collating a complete set of the Merchant Princes, but haven't eaten them yet. Ahh work, that pesky time suck that gets in between me and my 'to read' heap. Well, heaps. Well, book shelf. Well...book shelves...but please note Mr Stross...however crammed it gets...there is always room for a new work by yourself. And before anyone says anything: when they produce a kindle/ereader/ipad that smells like a book, then I will sign up....

122:

Post-mortem verdict: the sixth gear disintegrated at speed.

The gearbox would be repairable, if Volvo sold the parts separately. They don't: they only sell entire gearboxes.

Luckily $GARAGE located a Volvo that had been written off in a crash and arranged a transplant organ. They replaced the clutch (with a new one) at the same time. Total cost including labour and tax was about half the price of a new gearbox from Volvo, but still mildly eye-watering -- it's the most expensive auto repair I've ever paid for.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 28, 2013 4:24 PM.

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