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Minor hiccup

I've been arm-wrestling with a story again, and it's running away from me; hence the lack of updates.

But as the story in question is set early-ish in the Laundry Files continuity (between "The Jennifer Morgue" and "The Fuller Memorandum"), I think it will make perfect sense if I blog about the gestation and germination of "The Atrocity Archive(s)" next. So that's on my to-do list — just as soon as I finish this novella (hopefully by the end of the week).

(If you have any questions about TAA, feel free to ask them here.)

128 Comments

1:

In a colder war you made the comparison to lovecraft more explicit, eg K-Thulu, etc. Why the change for the books?

2:

Sorry to be a silly fan but.. Do you have as much fun planting computer references and jokes as I do reading them?

As a programmer, I am often laughing as read any book from the Laundry File series. I think it might be my favorite series that you've done.

3:

I have the Ace edition of The Atrocity Archives which has The Concrete Jungle in it as well. Seeing as you are producing another novella set in this continuity is there any plans afoot to make these generally available (say via the book website that shall not be named)?
Obviously dedicated fans are going to pick up everything but more casual ones may miss these.

4:

1. "A Colder War" is a stand-alone. C'mon, I destroy the universe!.

2. It was so grim that I couldn't write at novel length in the same vein.

3. In the Laundryverse, H. P. Lovecraft is a character. (I'm finishing a novella about him right now.) He's also an even more unreliable narrator (and guide to the mythos) than Bob. The Laundryverse is, in other words, not strictly canonical in terms of the Mythos stories.

5:

Do you have as much fun planting computer references and jokes as I do reading them?

I hope so!

But I should note that I've been out of the industry for over a decade now. This means I'm getting increasingly out of date. So the emphasis in the series is likely to gradually change ...

6:

The Laundry Files short stories published on tor.com are available as low-cost ebook editions from Tor -- you can find them in Big River Co's archives.

I hope to eventually have enough material to bolt together a Laundry Files short story collection. But I don't write the short stories very fast.

7:


Have you decided yet if P=NP in Laundryverse ?

8:

Oh, that's quite fine. There's a bit of a meta aspect to that. Some kinds of jokes taper off as Bob moves up the company hierarchy. (Trying not to spoil things here) Completely appropriate. It's nice to have a series that evolves both in the writing and in the story.

I really do like the differences between the books. Each one has stuff to enjoy.

9:

Wasn't that in the first chapter of TAA?

10:

So how much of the non-Lovecraft Mythos have you read/are you inspired by? Ashton-Smith, Bloch, even Lumley or the Delta Green stuff?

11:

Isn't that mentioned in the first book? The math that proves P=NP and programs using those algorithms cause monsters to raise out of the cheap 60s-era carpeted floors. So P=NP if you are whiling to be eaten by a grue, or some other horrible monster. Unless I missed something. :)

12:

In the vein of obscure computer references, I always wanted to know if Bob's middle names -- Oliver Francis -- were chosen to give him the initials BOFH as a nod to "Bastard Operator From Hell" (which works on a number of levels, given his job early in the series)?

13:

Yup. It's been mentioned before that that was on purpose. Peter-Fred Young (Think I remember that correctly), Bob's intern, is also a reference to PFY.

14:

@11: I read that as _some_ universes where P=NP are close enough that you can enlist their help, I didn't read it true for Bobs universe.

Ohh dear, I guess I have another excuse to reread TAA now :-)

15:

It's possible for a writer to destroy the world, and leave room for a sequel. James Blish did it with the Spindizzy series, in the final novel.

16:

Ever since reading the Fuller Memorandum I wanted to ask you where from did you learn about Baron von Ungern-Sternberg? I am Russian, and I have read his fascinating biography "Tsar of the desert" /Самодержец пустыни/ since it was quite a non-fiction hit here, but I am sure that it was never translated into English. And I suppose that after reading this you would not use the Teapot character the way you did - the historical figure had just too much taste for rape...

17:

@ 16
Even madder (if possible) than Enver Pasha (Mentioned by J Buchan, amog others) ...
look him up, too ....

18:

I hope to eventually have enough material to bolt together a Laundry Files short story collection. But I don't write the short stories very fast.

I am delighted to read this. There are interesting moments in the Laundry that don't get into full-sized novels. For example, I've read the tale of Bob's Christmas Eve but not everyone has had the pleasure.

19:

The Bloody White Baron, by James Palmer.

The Baron wasn't exactly a nice person in TFM. I'm not sure what his motivation was exactly for surrounding the Dead God with his zombie sentries, but his methods weren't out of character for the real Baron.

20:

I hadn't heard of BOFH when I first read "The Atrocity Archive". When I came across the fact that Robert E. Howard was part of the Lovecraft Circle, I assumed that was where the name came from. Of course, both can be true.

One question I've had about hte book is whether or not the title was a nod to Ballard's "The Atrocity Exhibition"? I think I've asked before but don't recall an answer.

Charlie's stories from Tor.com are also available from Barnes & Noble online, if you prefer to avoid piranha. It's too bad that Tor no longer has the audio versions of the stories, I have Charlie reading 'Overtime' and 'Down on the Farm' on my ipod, among others.

21:

What's with the American hate? While Britain is about as moral as one can be in the Laundryverse, America is busy forcing people to become demons and other abominations with black magic ops that are horrific. Meanwhile in merchant Princes the Americans are worried about how their global hegemony is dependent on military force to keep oil cheap and tied to the dollar, and in Accelerando America is this bankrupt, broken down state (before torn apart by the AIs for spare parts).

Just an odd continuity among your works.

22:

So... two observations and a prediction. Where's the hate?

Back on topic, more or less: we know the US, UK, and former USSR have Laundry type agencies and AA hinted at some Middle Eastern affiliations. What about India, China, and the Asian nations? Are there yet-to-be-told tales related to their agencies?

23:


So... two observations and a prediction. Where's the hate?


Back on topic, more or less: we know the US, UK, and former USSR have Laundry type agencies and AA hinted at some Middle Eastern affiliations. What about India, China, and the Asian nations? Are there yet-to-be-told tales related to their agencies?


Well the Merchant Princes one is right on the money, but as far as the Laundry is concerned, I think charlie is looking at the UK through rose tinted glasses.There's nothing in its history to indicate that they would be less willing to e.g. press demons into service. If they haven't been up to nearly as much douchebaggery as the US over the last 60 years, it's because of inferior resources.
24:

I don't really see the Laundry or Merchant Princes as anti-American, more as anti-authoritarian/secretive government agencies/fundamentalists--or something like that. The Merchant Princes was very much a reaction to the Bush 'War on Terror' & Halliburton era. It was a pretty good reflection of how I was feeling about the government at the time. One thing though I'm not sure of; Who exactly WARBUCKS was? At first I was sure it was Cheney, but in the later books, perhaps Rumsfeld. But I guess I ought to save that question for later.

25:

as for "the atrocity exhibition", there is also a song by joy division. afair inspired by ballard.

geesh, i'm growing old, and i'm only in my mid-thirties...

26:

Well, Charlie is British, so on the principle of write-what-you-know, if he writes in depth about anywhere real, it's going to be the UK. And as Bob Howard is the heroic protagonist, the organisation he works for isn't going to be too corrupt. Though, you know, binding TEAPOT could easily have been a seriously bad move.

As for the US Black Chamber being ruthless, well, why not? They know what the stakes are — survival of the human race — and I'm sure that there would be enough hard men willing to do hard things in pursuit of that goal.

Personally I favour the idea that the US OCCINTEL community is as fractured as the regular spooks, with a dozen different agencies all squabbling for that blacker-than-black budget (including two agents in an FBI back office, maybe), of which the BC is simply the most ruthless, and hence biggest.

27:

I've always been struck by Bob's very Enlightenment-era mindset (he even mentions it himself at one point), when Lovecraft's writings were informed by the collapse of the Enlightenment worldview thanks to Darwin, Hubble, and their ilk. Bob is a rational, humane man and Lovecraft's milieu is neither rational nor humane. Are you going to heighten those contradictions in future novels?

28:

The audio versions are still available from tor.com. The "Listen" links are on the left, between the "Print" & "Buy" links.

29:

Are the British really that squeaky clean and moral in the books? Given what Angleton is and that scene where it's implied he murdered a bunch of staff and turned them into shrunken heads I'm not seeing them as much different to the Americans. Both agencies are resorting to extreme measure that could be viewed as totalitarian in order to cope with the coming storm?

30:

"If they [the UK] haven't been up to nearly as much douchebaggery as the US over the last 60 years, it's because of inferior resources."
And in the books!

It took me several years to realise what Bob's initials spelled out...

31:

Yeah; the fact that 2 of the threats have been US based is a comment on size of pool of possible threat generators rather than morality of the respective agencies.

32:

So how much of the non-Lovecraft Mythos have you read/are you inspired by?

Bits'n'pieces. The Laundryverse isn't intended to be canonical Mythos because in my opinion, the Mythos badly needs some spring-cleaning.

33:

I first heard about him circa 1988 from a fellow author who'd stumbled across him while researching background for a werewolf story set during the Russian Civil War. Subsequently, there's a biography of him in print in the UK -- The Bloody White Baron by James Palmer (reviewed here by The Guardian).

34:

I am one of those immigrants in the UK, and I found your insights into the British Public Service very entertaining, working with the DECC and its tentacles and educating myself through the House of Cards otherwise. Where did you get the insights on that side of things? I find them quite horrific in their own right.

35:

What's with the American hate?

Don't worry: I have an equal opportunity hate on for all imperial superpowers, because they all suck massively. I just haven't had a chance to write anything set in the USSR or the [historical] British Empire, which was at least as nasty as if not worse than the current US hegemony.

And if you think the current US hegemony are the good guys, you obviously need to read up on Operation Condor, the Phoenix Program, Abu Ghraib, etcetera -- this is all part of a general pattern of imperial behaviour. Empire corrupts.

Having said that, the US intelligence bureaucracy is so recondite and bizarrely reticulated that it's highly likely that the Black Chamber aren't the only US occult agency in the Laundryverse. And -- who knows? -- maybe there's a small embattled cell somewhere who really are wearing white hats.

36:

There's nothing in its history to indicate that they would be less willing to e.g. press demons into service.

And indeed this is a subtext of book #6 (planned), and the setup is in book #5 (written, due out in July 2014).

37:

It is worth noting that Bob is a very unreliable narrator.

(Tentative plan is for book #6 to be written from Mo's point of view. But that's some years out.)

38:

Sorry, I cant seem to find the audio. Do you have a link?

39:

It helps to have watched "Yes, Minister" throughout its original TV run, while reading "Private Eye" every fortnight, scrutinizing Chomsky for clues about how to deconstruct the (highly politicized) mass media, and also having worked in the NHS and as a contractor for local government IT. And to go drinking with disillusioned/cynical civil servants from time to time.

Does that help ...?

40:

We only know about the Laundry - it's possible that there are other UK organisations that Bob isn't aware of that are just as bad as the Black Chamber. Just because Bob thinks he knows the score doesn't prove that he does. Angleton and possibly others on Mahogany Row may be the only ones to know what's really going on. It's notable that Bob seems to learn more in each book - maybe if he ever makes it to Mahogany Row he'll learn that the Laundry is just a minor facet of a much bigger picture.

41:

I've always taken it as being the truth, with the Mythos per se being a distorted reflection filtered through a layer of unreliable narration tainted by misinformation and outright insanity, and then reassembled by a bunch of conspiracy theorists trying to make sense of a bunch of data fragments.

42:

Sort-of.

(The novella I'm trying to finish right now puts a proper frame around it and explains exactly how unreliable a guide old H. P. Lovecraft is to the internal workings of the Laundryverse.)

43:

Will the new novella be appearing on the Tor site?

44:

What Werewolf story set during the Russian Civil War? Was it ever written?

45:

I haven't finished it yet. I can't try to sell it to anyone until it's finished -- this is short fiction, not a novel written on commission.

46:

You are looking for a couple of shared-universe anthologies published in the UK in the late 1980s/early 1990s titled "The Weerde". Have fun! They were published direct to paperback, predate ebooks, and have been out of print for over 20 years.

47:

They are available via Amazon used and new at low prices

48:

"Used and new" in this context almost certainly means remaindered stock that's been sitting in a warehouse for decades ...

49:

And so my crippling werewolf addiction continues.

50:

Wow, just got sucked into a Google whirlpool looking up the Weerde. Looks like it was the work of a writers collective containing some seriously big names; Neil Gaiman, Kim Newman, David Langford and some guy called Charles Stross. Here's the Wiki link to anyone interested;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_Rose

The page directs you to some free fiction posted online by some of the authors. There goes my afternoon.

51:

Here are the links to the Laundry stories at Tor.com:
http://www.tor.com/stories/2009/12/overtime
http://www.tor.com/stories/2008/07/down-on-the-farm

Soon-Lee @28: I hadn't noticed that the audio versions were still there--haven't looked since they first came out. Just knew that Tor had stopped including audio versions of new stories when they added the buy option.

52:

Tentative plan is for book #6 to be written from Mo's point of view. But that's some years out.

I have worries for Mo. If you consider music to be mathematical, is she at risk for Krantzfeld's by having those melodies in her head, or is the power from the violin itself, and not the music?

53:

Mo has worse problems -- as does Bob -- but I don't want to discuss any of the content of "The Rhesus Chart" that might spoiler it this far ahead of publication!

54:

I hesitated to ask about anything that might come up in the future--but couldn't help myself.


While I'm at it, here's Star Ship Sofa's version of 'Down on the Farm':
http://www.starshipsofa.com/2009/09/29/aural-delights-no-102-charles-stross/

55:
"Mo has worse problems -- as does Bob

I really hope my prediction is wrong coz I really quite like them.

It's a good thing you don't have a history of doing horrible things to characters I care about.

Oh. Wait...

56:

So the question is, what has become of Bob's ex-gf (and no, not the one with the gills)? Has she found the man with the career prospects of her dreams?

57:

Both this question and Adrian Howard's one (immediately preceeding it) are answered in "The Rhesus Chart".

58:

Don’t forget that the Laundry and Mahogany Row had the luxury of developing over several hundred years of lower threat levels and being able to fly under the radar as the UK tends to keep a lot more things secret.

Whereas the Black Chamber is a fairly modern organisation that had to face stronger threats early in its life so it’s not that unrealistic that it more likely to have been subverted in some way.

In addition, as wacky very heterodox cults are major attack surface for the many angled ones it makes sense that the USA with its large number of out there takes on Christianity would be a fertile ground for antagonists.

Though if I ever manage to persuade our group to run a laundry files game I want to put the Johanna Southcott society in – after all if your home town is supposedly the site of the garden of eaden and where Jesus is supposed to return how could I not use this - And Nadine Dorries (aka Mad Nad) could come to a sticky end :-)

I do like the idea of other OCINTEL agencies in the USA as well as the two agents in the FBI I could certainly an ONI team I can totally see Abby from NCIS bonding with Pinky and Brains. With very little hand waving you could fit the person of interest team in as well I could see an earth based AI being a behind the scenes player in the great game.

59:

Harold Russell (aka. Kim Philby) was used as a character in one of Tm Power's books. Like any real spy he very careful. But it looks like he spent some time in the Afghanistan mountains. Who knows? Maybe he was in other high places and like in Powers book make some deals? >p The English helped set up an American spy agency. They sent Kim Philby who was later to found by the CIA to a KGB spy from the 1920's. President Harry Truman disbanded the OSS for saving war criminals after he ordered them to stop. He said were needed Ant-Communist experts. After the fall of the OSS he helped the CIA and did the same thing. And did a of of harm to America and the West.

60:

Is the laundryverse for me?
I'm not big on paranormal horror. I read one or two stories of Lovecraft and found them boring. I kinda liked the short stories of Jeffrey Thomas, that are said to be heavily influenced by Lovecraft. I also did like 'A Colder War' - that was actually the reason I downloaded a bunch of Lovecraft and read 'At the Mountains of Madness'

I enjoyed most of what I read of Charlie so far. I like stories about spies, but I don't like conspiracy theories - I rather believe in the stupidity of an organization than in a succesful conspiracy (though that's sometimes hard to uphold looking at the stuff that came to light in the last years in germany ...) So the question to othe rreaders - do you think the Laundry books are fun for me to read?

61:

The Laundry novels owe much more to spy fiction than to Lovecraft. It's sort of Harry Dresden meets James Bond with a computational coat of paint.

A different franchise called Delta Green does more or less the same thing, but owing more to Lovecraft than to spy fiction. It's an interesting contrast.

62:

Alan Moore once tried to write a book on conspiracies, but during his research he came to the conclusion that no one is in full enough control to be able to organise a global conspiracy. Having said that, he did go one to think that DC comics/Time Warner were conspiring against him over his Watchmen work, so I guess he believes they are capable of what the US government are not. Bless his beard.

63:

"Is the laundryverse for me?
I'm not big on paranormal horror."

Neither am I, but I really like the Laundry books.

64:

Off-topic: Are you ever going to take on the reverse trope? The one where humans are the most evil species in the universe/multiverse?

65:

Off topic question too!
I wonder about the influence of non-english language classical SF(F) - "Wayside Picnic" (Or whatever the english name is) by the Strugatskys features some truly alien aliens - more so than Lovecraft, I'd think - as does Lem's "Fiasco". And at least one of Ijon Tichy's travels can be read as a history of the singularity and practical posthumanism, as told by religious monks.

66:

Off-topic: Are you ever going to take on the reverse trope? The one where humans are the most evil species in the universe/multiverse?

Isn't that called "reality"?

(NB: I might reconsider this stance if you can show me another species that understands the concept "evil". Lions, piranhas, Yersinia Pestis bacteria and tapeworms aren't "evil", they just do what comes naturally. On the other hand, we have this concept and some of us knowingly do stuff we consider to be "evil", so ...)

67:

The trouble with non-English classics is that I'm monolingual, so I'm entirely dependent on good translations existing. I've read a chunk of the Strugatsky brothers and Lem in translation, but some of those versions weren't terribly good. Yes, "Roadside Picnic", yes "Fiasco". I'm sure there's more good stuff that's inaccessible to me; trouble is, Google Translate isn't up to fiction and may never be. (If it is, then my job is in danger ... translating fiction is, IMO, an AI-complete task!)

68:

...as the UK tends to keep a lot more things secret...

Does it? This might be one of those cultural things. "Secret" in UK terms normally means that people don't talk about it; yes, there are the occasional attention-seeking "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you" types, but the majority are like the Bletchley Park types who just... didn't tell, and avoided the subject.

It's interesting that in US fiction, the recurring theme is armed guards and polished underground bunkers, whereas the British equivalent (less Bond, more Ipcress) is a non-description office block. Granted, Fort Meade, the Cheltenham doughnut, and Vauxhall Cross have a high profile, but Century House survived for years of relative anonymity. No-one's going to play the "Get Smart" opening sequence straight in the UK.

69:

It may also be down to budget issues. Non-descript office blocks are cheaper than Evil Overlord bunkers. People who just don't talk are cheaper security than lots of goons with guns. And so on.

70:

Like you, I'm a convinced long-time reader of Private Eye. I suspect I'm not entirely unquestioning of its emphasis - it varies by contributor (note to the Transatlantic types - regular columnists operate under pseudonyms, although some of these are well known).

Some are damn good (MD is very good), some are mostly very good (Squarebasher is interesting), but some are just a bit too conspiracy-minded (when alive, Foot covered things I had knowledge of, and he got it wrong). That's all part of journalism, what I like is the willingness to admit fault.

I've ended up convinced that the root of most evil is the combination of incompetence and disinterest... I'll tend to the belief that the real hollowed volcano, boiler-suited minion, and white cat conspiracies are nearly non-existent, and it's mostly just straightforward greedy thieving by like-minded types, with a side note of bullying and insecurity (see NHS Scotland waiting list manipulation). Maybe that's the Keyser Soze effect :)

71:

I used to have a couple of shared world anthologies called, I think, "Temps" and "Eurotemps" (sort of Wild Cards things on a much smaller scale). When I read the Laundry stories the depiction (Somewhat accurate. I used to work at Sunningdale, so you've had me wincing)of the civil service reminded me of them. Did you contribute to, or have you read, either of them?

72:

I thought that was MilSF?


(i'll get me coat)

73:

I was going to write a story for temps #3, but that fell foul of Penguin pulling the plug on the Midnight Rose anthologies. I had stories in both Weerde anthologies and in Mary Gentle's Villains.

74:

Two questions:

1) I love to ask dumb roman à clef questions. Thus, how much of Bob & Mo is made up of you and the missus? Ignore this if it seems impertinent.

2) Green, luminous worms: Not so much a "making of" question as a bit of continuity puzzlement. The worms are a sign of possession, right? But they seem to show up in situations where using a possessed body doesn't make sense. (Especially given the limitations of coordination that the possessed are described as having.) Why would Panin in The Fuller Memorandum have bodyguards with Spetznaz physiques and glowing green eyes when it would be just as easy (or easier!) for him to have Spetsnaz bodyguards?

75:

Given that Mo is, IIRC, Irish (and thus likely to have a certain amount of ... skepticism, shall we say, about the innocence of the British state) the next book could have a very different slant on the Laundry.

Eagerly waiting ...

76:

I still think that real history is what we get after real conspiracies trip over each others plans.

77:

@67 >>>is that I'm monolingual,

ha, another sign of the demise of the anglo saxian cultural imperialism. I guess I'm not the first one to recommend (ahem) german scifi to you ? We excel especially in the description of advanced weaponery...

78:

There's also the serious possibility that you're seeing the civilian occult intelligence agency, a'la the CIA in the Real World vs. the military organizations (i.e. DIA/NSA) that are slightly more ethical.

Or, (and this is the possibility that I was writing up when I had to come up with a "good guy" US OCCINT agency for a Laundry RPG game) is that the Black Chamber as it is built cannot work. It's insane-you're creating situations where the employees are potentially directly wanting to work with anybody that will cause the organization to burn. It's like it was built to have cultists...infiltrate...it...hm...

So, what if the Black Chamber and the madness of it was to be a honey trap for cultists? Dumb cultists get nailed. Smart cultists get recruited. Really smart cultists try to infiltrate the Black Chamber and get caught in the system. And, while the Black Chamber handles the "street" level occult affairs that the Laundry handles in the UK, the organization behind it (Mahogany Row in the UK, The Lost Agency in the US) handles the major disasters. I think the short version of the notes I had was this-

"Croatan", The Founding Fathers, the real purpose of the Culper Ring, Hamilton/Burr Duel, "Bloody Kansas" and John Brown's attempts to build something akin to the Wall of Pain via a uprising in the South of the slaves, the Culper Ring's end, what actually happened at a number of Civil War atrocity sites, why John Wilkes Booth wasn't captured alive, why Grant's administration was so corrupt, the first Black Chamber and it's successors, certain...people that were close to President Roosevelt during the '30s, the Office of Special Affairs in the OSS, VERONA, Joseph McCarthy and the real reason behind the Red Scare of the '50s, the steady clueless efforts of the CIA (and the inward-following nature of American military intelligence), the creation of ARPANET and Aleph, what the erased time on the Nixon Tapes was about, the reason why Andropov's health declined very rapidly in the '80s (Regan didn't have Alzheimer's Disease-it was Kransberg Syndrome-and Maggie seemed to have lucked out in some ways.), certain post-Cold War actions by the United States, why Clinton seemed to have survived every political effort to bring him down, 9/11, the real reason for the invasion of Iraq (certain...things were removed from museums to very secure sites. VERY secure sites. With nuclear dead-man bombs), and finally ending with the present day and our little nameless group ramping up for when the Stars Come Right.

79:

As others, I'm not big on paranormal horror (I do like original Lovecraft, but viewed objectively Lovecraft was a b100dy awful writer; liking him is down to letting your imagination run riot on what's not actually in the stories) but love the Laundry.

Of course, I have a bit in common with Bob (computing background; knowledge of Snivell (sic) service...), and think that the stories are as much "spy stories" as paranormal anything (I'd also suggest they owe something to Dave Langford's "The Leaky Establishment", but more in their view of the "Scientific Civil Service" than any real or imagined attempt to copy from Dave L.).

80:

Bob & Mo bear no resemblance to myself and my wife. (Seriously, what is it with readers thinking authors only ever write about themselves?)

Well, okay: Bob has some of my interests. But then, Bob is a geek. So am I. The whole starting point of the Laundry Files was to take a late 1990s slashdot-reading geek and to drop him into a mid-1960s British government secret agency. (Sort of like "Bill and Ted go back in time and join the CIA in the 1950s", only British.) Certain types of humour arise through incongruity, and that's the whole idea.

81:

Bear in mind that "Irish" covers a gigantic range of characteristics, from "American, one of whose great-great-grandparents came from County Cork" to "lives in Dublin, commutes to work on the Luas, holds an Irish passport, and has non-white skin because their parents came from Nigeria". And, politically wrt. the British state, "Irish" runs the gamut from "wouldn't cross the road to piss on the Queen if she was on fire" through total apathy and disinterest to "unionist fanatic".

It's far more complex than most people who aren't on the inside imagine.

82:

NOTE

I am still working on the novella that refuses to lie down and die so that I can write "THE END".

When I've written "THE END" I shall be free to start composing a reminiscence about the germination of "The Atrocity Archives".

83:

With the vast majority if native-Irish landing squarely in the "apathy" category with regards to the British (contrary to whatever you may see in the media).

84:

Here's my query for Mr. Stross:

I was wondering how much of the background to the Laundry-verse you had already had in mind when you wrote TAA.

After reading the later books, especially The Jennifer Morgue, I couldn't help but wonder, why didn't the Blue Hades and/or the Cthonians in the alternate dimension didn't put a stop the the alternate-Nazis before things got out of hand and the Nazis there destroyed the whole universe?

Also makes me wonder why they hadn't already exterminated the mischief-making primates long ago in the "real" universe...

85:

With the exception of the US, what are the other nation's Laundry-equivalents, if they even exist, up to in the Laundry-verse? Do the Commonwealth nations have any sorts of special arrangements with the Laundry?

86:

@60:
I don't like conspiracy theories - I rather believe in the stupidity of an organization than in a succesful conspiracy
---
In one of his lesser-known works, Gordon R. Dickson had a character say something along the lines of, "a bureacracy is like a bunch of spiders sharing a web. When there's a problem, the spiders don't necessarily have to communicate. The spiders individually deal with the damage as they are able."

(I've horribly mangled the quote, but I think that gives the basic meaning...)

One of my minor interests is the JFK assassination. It doesn't take much reading, even of official sources, before the WTF? exceeds the bounds of believability. It has the appearance of a uber-conspiracy; like one of those Russian matroshka dolls. With so freaking *many* pieces that don't fit... the more you read, the less sense it makes.

Viewing it all through the Dickson lens, though... thousands of politicians, fearing the oncoming investigation might turn into a political wood chipper, all burying evidence of their petty and not-so-petty infractions, spreading confusion... well, it's no crazier than the Warren Commission report.

87:

I was wondering how much of the background to the Laundry-verse you had already had in mind when you wrote TAA.

That's easy: none of it!

I started writing at the beginning and stopped at the end. New ideas occurred to me and got woven into the short novel as I went along. I initially had no plans for sequels or world-building -- not even "The Concrete Jungle".

88:

There's only one JFK conspiracy I've heard of that makes sense to me: that he died of an epic cock-up, and the conspiracy that ensued was a cover-up to ensure that no blame could be attached to the people who should have prevented it.

I've seen the limo in question (it's on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit). Interestingly, it has running boards at the back for secret service bodyguards to stand on. Armed bodyguards.

Per this conspiracy theory, Oswald got off a shot or two at the car, injuring the occupants. The driver did what a driver should do, and floored the accelerator. The bodyguards on the running boards clung on for dear life -- and one of them fumbled his gun, resulting in an accidental discharge that took the back of JFK's head off.

Up to that point, there was no conspiracy: just a random lone nut-job. But from that point on, nobody wanted to admit that the president had been accidentally shot and killed by his own bodyguards. For starters, nobody would believe it, and for seconds, it would wreak havoc with the secret service, and probably various other police-related organizations (consider the internal political easter egg this dumps in J. Edgar Hoover's lap, for example).

Yes, this is probably just another random conspiracy theory rather than the actual truth. But it's not only plausible; it doesn't require supernatural powers of secrecy and forward planning on the part of the conspirators. It just takes an unlucky slip of the trigger finger, then the monstrous juggernaut of bureaucratic embarrassment trying to sweep everything under the rug (and making it all look a lot worse than it was, in the process).

89:

Except, as can be seen in the photos here
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_assassination
there were no agents on the back of the car. Probably should have been, might have blocked the shot.

I usually stay away from conspiracy theory nonsense, but I didn't remember seeing any agents on the car in the films I've seen.

Though I tend to agree that the only conspiracy is the cover-up of possible incompetence or lax security.

90:

Actually, the conspiracy is probably much simpler than that: Oswald had showed up on CIA radar well before the assassination, and probably was on the FBI radar as well. After all, the dude had gone to the Soviets and (AFAIK) tried to defect, then showed up back in the US.

He was obviously a potential troublemaker, and he was also an ex-Marine, which meant he had the means of acting on his issues.

The conspiracy, if one existed, consisted of getting rid of all evidence that showed they knew Oswald was a threat, so that they wouldn't be blamed for failing to stop him well before he got to Dallas.

If you notice, in the 51 years since Kennedy's assassination, the CIA and FBI haven't gotten much better at putting the dots together, nor have they gotten much better at dealing with rogues the US has trained. What they've gotten worse at (at least in the US, and thank goodness) is covering up the screwups.

91:

There have been rumours over the years that Huey Long was really killed by a bullet fired by his own bodyguards. The assassin was apparently struck by 62 bullets, Long by 1 bullet.

That was 1936. Guns didn't generally fire a lot of shots before they needed reloading. 6 or 7 rounds for a pistol, 5 rounds for most rifles. That sounds like a lot of bodyguards even if there were no misses. Even if everyone had the then-new Browning GP-35, at 13 rounds per gun it's a lot of people shooting.

If those numbers are correct, things must have been pretty chaotic, and it's a miracle that nobody else was hit. Wikipedia has the line "Historians do not accept the strong speculation that Long actually died after accidentally being struck by a bullet fired by one of his own bodyguards as they fired at Weiss."

It could all very easily be the same sort of cover-up. From photographs, the bodyguards could easily be uniformed state police, and if the rumours were true, you have all the motive you need.


92:

Charlie @ 81
Ah, you've given the foreigners the SIMPLE version, just for starters!

93:

Interesting! So for you, how do stories that start as one-offs transition into something more, beyond what you've already alluded to above ("New ideas occurred to me and got woven into the short novel as I went along")?

Did any of your other series begin as originally stand-alone stories?

What's the tipping factor that convinces you to explore a subject with further works? Maybe especially in regards to the Laundry stories after TAA? Is it the quantiy and/or quality of interesting ideas that come up while working on a story? Or something else?

94:

For what its worth I have looked out of Oswald's window. Its just not that hard a shot. The pictures make it look a lot longer than it was. I think it was 60 minutes TV show that did a full reenactment. Their shooters hit.

95:

It needn't be current imperial superpowers, either. France is still involved with skullduggery, mostly covered up except in the case of a monumental balls-up such as its operatives being caught after sinking the Rainbow Warrior. Locally it's well known the DGSE get away with what the CIA doesn't, and a friend of the family hinted a while ago they continue to have their fingers up to the wrist in various African pies.

96:

Did any of your other series begin as originally stand-alone stories?

Yes: most of them.

The only pre-planned series were the Eschaton books (aborted after #2) and the Merchant Princes (parked after #6, in the process of being revived for #7-9).

What happens is simply that, having developed a universe, I realize I have a new story I can set in it.

The Laundry and "The Atrocity Archive" was a one-off until Marty Halpern at Golden Gryphon said "we'd like to publish this as a book but we need an extra novella to bring it up to length". So "The Concrete Jungle" happened, and a year later I realized there was a Bond Movie Novel to set in the same universe.

"Lobsters" was a stand-alone until I realized I had to write the story of Manfred and Pamela's divorce settlement, midway through which I realized I was writing a sequence of 9 novelettes.

"Saturn's Children" was a one-shot. But then Jonathan Strahan asked me for a short story for a hard-SF anthology, and I thought, "cannibal robot zombies IN SPAAACE!" and realized there was more room in that universe. So I wrote "Bit Rot", and in due course "Neptune's Brood".

Some of my stories don't have room for sequels. For example, there's no way to write a sequel to "A Colder War" or "Missile Gap".

Others were designed for sequels that never got written. "Glasshouse" has a sketchy road map for a sequel, but as it's my slowest-selling SF title in the US the advance would be small, so it's not going to get written. "Trunk and Disorderly" was meant to be a series, but doing Wodehouse v. The Singularity is hard.

And some are teetering on the edge. "Halting State" and "Rule 34" work okay, but it's hard to do near future SF. And the third in the trilogy may never get written, because that future -- originally designed in 2005-06 -- has been overrun by reality: "Halting State" was only set in 2017, and "Rule 34" in 2022. A third novel probably wouldn't come out before 2017!

97:

Aaand ...

The story I've been working on is nailed down so I can go back to work on the Merchant Princes and on the series of informative blog entries.

However, I just wrote over 10,000 words in three days so my hands need some down time first. OK?

98:

>For example, there's no way to write a sequel to "A Colder War" or "Missile Gap".

Regarding this, how much supplies did the remnants of the US government who crossed to the dead world have? Were they doomed to languish and die over there? They seemed to have enough resources to have regular patrol flights so it seems they had a lot squirreled away.

And as for Missile gap, I was under the impression the alderson disk was covered in copies of 1980s earth. Do the bugs always win? I got the impression they weren't the creators of the disk either so maybe in some areas of the disk Sagan doesn't get assasinated because Yuri Gagarin manages to get the word out in his trusty ekranoplan...

99:

Regarding this, how much supplies did the remnants of the US government who crossed to the dead world have? Were they doomed to languish and die over there?

They're already dead.

They survive only in Cthulhu's mind. As toys, to be driven mad and destroyed, time and again.

Are we clear, yet?

As for Missile Gap, it's about the Ancestor Simulation hypothesis, pointing out that the hole in it is our weakness for anthropic reasoning: humanity is a doomed dead-end -- the future belongs to eusocial clades.

(I suspect you misapprehend just how bleak those two stories are.)

100:

OK...and in the Mean Time? This has been a very, VERY, long and challenging story hasn't it? " just wrote over 10,000 words in three days " and - if I have read the Chain of Evidence correctly? - This story has been underway for several YEARS!

This begs the obvious question of why has it taken so long to achieve completion and, well...Why didn’t it become a Novel?

101:

You do realise that WE are using the Royal “WE " again don’t You/We? Probably post Completion of Story Hysteria. I prescribe BEER!

102:

It's not big enough to be a novel. It's too big to be a short story. And ... short stories don't make lots of money and they're hard work to write -- harder per word than novels, and for less reward. So it kept going on the back-burner.

103:

And non-classic Russian SF just never gets translated. Which is a shame, because it means that you never will be able to read the book "Look into the Monsters' Eyes", by Lazarchuk and Uspensky, which is basically a story set in Lovecraftian-style universe not unlike the Laundry one. However, in this world poetry, and not math, provides direct access to magic. And since the 1910-30 years have been an unprecedented time for Russian poetry, known in the schoolbooks as The Silver Age, the authors had a big pool of excellent poets as potential story participants. Almost nobody of the historical Silver Age poets survived even to see the World War II, and most of them died/disappeared young.

Lazarchuk and Uspensky chose Nikolai Gumilev as their protagonist: the founder of Acmeism movement and by coincidence my favorite Silver Age poet, executed in 1921...

The extremely kitsch title of the book is actually a line from his poem "The Magic Violin". It even has a relatively decent translation:
http://gumilev.ru/languages/313/

The authors of "Look into the Monsters' Eyes" chose a different subset of Nazi-related myths as their plot device, and the book has events as baroque as a shipment of philosophers' stone to the USA during the Great Depression, but some Lovecraftian ideas are common to their world and the Laundryverse. And of course "The Magic Violin" (especially its original, Russian version) applies equally well to high art and high science.

104:

WRT 'A Colder War', I think I was under the impression that they were all going to die of radiation poisoning, so their escape was an exercise in futility. And, of course, we all know how things ended at Masada.

105:

One question for Our Generous Host - how did parts from the Kettenkrad end up in Bob's apartment?

Also, I'd like to chime in with how depressingly well your portrayal of a civil service IT shop maps to this side of the pond. I got chills reading the beginning of The Jennifer Morgue, because a few weeks previously I had been in an afternoon-long meeting about ITIL and developing a service catalog. Very close to eyesockets full of luminescent worms.

106:

So what's with the toothpaste in TAA, besides apparently being an idea that was never pursued?

107:

ieronim @ 103
Almost nobody of the historical Silver Age poets survived even to see the World War II, and most of them died/disappeared young.
VERY illuminating.

Makes (especially the classic film of) "Doctor Zhivago" so much more understandable.
Thanks for that.
The one weak point there, in fact is that Yevgraf/Alec Guiness actually survives ... as an "old bolshevik" he'd have been high up the list to be disappeared, especially in the second (great) purge under Yezhov .....

108:

How did parts from the Kettenkrad end up in Bob's apartment?

It seemed obvious to me that they were brought back from the dead world by someone who (a) had access to that world, (b) had access to Bob's house, and (c) was not Bob himself. Who's that?

What I wondered was what she'd do with it.

109:
And, of course, we all know how things ended at Masada.

Sure we ended up with the sole survivor, prophet and upwardly mobile historian, Josephus...

110:

However, in this world poetry, and not math, provides direct access to magic. And since the 1910-30 years have been an unprecedented time for Russian poetry, known in the schoolbooks as The Silver Age, the authors had a big pool of excellent poets as potential story participants. Almost nobody of the historical Silver Age poets survived even to see the World War II, and most of them died/disappeared young.

Sounds like a terribly appropriate grace note to the Laundry tales. Some of them would have died or disappeared at the hands of the government, others at the tentacles of other powers...

...and some would have vanished into groups that Do Not Exist, defending Mother Russia against invaders much worse than Germans. Even more than most, they'd have political masters who couldn't admit that they or the problems exist, and have to struggle along with the usual problems of Russian supply and engineering. (You need a high-voltage power supply, a silver pentagram, and a white goat. You've been issued an extension cord, a pair of boots, and a grey rabbit. Also, the boots are held up in shipping and the rabbit has escaped.) Interestingly, they might well have some magic violins. Mo's is from a set of twelve, and the Laundry only has three...

111:

You tweeted a couple of weeks ago that you were experimenting with Swype and voice dictation.

How did that go?

112:

Slightly on topic, someone has been poking the unknown with a stick

http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/05/british-atlantis-is-mapped-in-detail/

113:

You missed out Pinky and Brains and the fact that people sometimes talk to one another, including colleagues in other departments.

(Also: there's an after-market in Kettenkrads. AIUI a good roadworthy one is worth something in the range £25,000-50,000. If I ever see a blockbuster movie made of one of my novels ...)

114:

Apparently I need to read The Atrocity Archives again! Bob's more gadget-obsessed roomies are the obvious ones to want such a souvenir, of course. (Why? Because it's there!) It had not occurred to me that the collector and the tinkerer might be different people. Duh.

115:

The fish & chips there are not bad, if they're open. Called "the Flora Tearooms" or "Captain Dagon's House of Fish" or something.

If on the beach, look right. If you see a glow it's probably too late.

116:

Sure we ended up with the sole survivor, prophet and upwardly mobile historian, Josephus...

Nope. He wasn't there, he wrote about it later. Josephus was captured several years earlier at a similar seige.

However there were two women and five children that survived at Masada, which I had forgotten about.

117:

However, in this world poetry, and not math, provides direct access to magic.

That would make Bob's job so much harder. I imagine Angleton saying "We have class-2 rapper in Wolverhampton developing a rhyme for 'money'. If he picks 'honey' or 'sunny' there's no problem, but if he picks 'funny' the British isles will be overrun with werecamels."

118:

That could also put a whole 'nother spin on the Night of Murdered Poets, other than Stalin's anti-semitism.

119:

Speaking as an American, the "odd continuity" merely indicates you are paying attention. Keep it up.

120:
Nope. He wasn't there, he wrote about it later. Josephus was captured several years earlier at a similar seige.

Oops. Quite right. Just goes to show that memory isn't to be trusted! I blame the lesser form of K syndrome. Still I Wonder if OGH could work the josephus problem into the maths of the Laundry.

121:

Oddly enough I found that quite jarring, even although I worked out quickly enough that it was Pinky and the BRains doing. I think because of the way time seemed to move on, the thingy appearing in bits in the kitchen appeared sudden and inexplicable and I found it disturbing.

122:

>(I suspect you misapprehend just how bleak those two stories are.)

Nnnoo, it's more an unwillingness to part with such wonderful settings. The adventures of Yuri Gagarin sailing the endless seas with his trusted crew of Spetsnaz is just too awesome to let go so easily. At least we get the laundry which is similar enjough to "A colder war"'s setting to satisfy that itch.

I didn't realize the colder war narrator also had fallen into K-tulu's brain*, he did mention that was the likely fate of his family and all who remained on earth. Unreliable narrators, I always fall for them.

Speaking of which, If I understand correctly, at the end of Glasshouse, Robin/Reeve is exactly where he should be, the whole situation having been engineered to keep dangerous war criminals/veterans like hir away from civilian society.

* Being bloody minded, one could argue the question is still valid since the simulation he exists in has to be accurate enough to reflect extant supplies in the US government's extradimensional bolthole, but never mind.

123:

'I didn't realize the colder war narrator also had fallen into K-tulu's brain'

If it's any consolation, I had a slight problem with that, took me out of the story a bit. I had the impression, Cthulu wasn't, like, a bad guy. Just he wakes up and kills us all.

124:

Nnnoo, it's more an unwillingness to part with such wonderful settings. The adventures of Yuri Gagarin sailing the endless seas with his trusted crew of Spetsnaz is just too awesome to let go so easily.

You know where it came from, right?

Yuri Gagarin bore a striking resemblance to the young William Shatner, and his behaviour was a dead-ringer for James T. Kirk (charismatic, impulsive, womanizing, hard-drinking: not in actual fact what you'd want in the captain of a nuclear powered ekranoplan, but I'm giving him credit for being able to grow up a bit if he lived another decade). And a plausible case can be made that Star Trek is propaganda made by Space Communists. Yes? If I recall correctly, at one point a certain first officer actually says, "Captain, that is not politically correct". Bear in mind that in the USSR, politics (at least in theory) arose from a logical dialectic based on economics and class theory ...

125:

I had the impression, Cthulu wasn't, like, a bad guy. Just he wakes up and kills us all.

In much the same way bulldozers aren't evil. This may be little condolence when one is bearing down on you, your anthill, and every ant you've ever met.

There are other entities in the Lovecraft universe that do stoop to torturing souls like small children pulling wings off of flies.

126:

Oh, struth, I'd totally missed that. I wonder if I want to go back and try to find the clue....

127:

"and a friend of the family hinted a while ago they continue to have their fingers up to the wrist in various African pies."

Somebody once listed the French interventions in Africa for the past few decades (many!). They had a theory that the Us-assigned role for France was to 'take care of' Africa.

128:

A little while back I thought, 'Charlie will end the series killing Bob off, and I'll know the moment Mo becomes the narrator.' I could easily be wrong about that, and am probably over-influenced by a shift in narrative focus in Macleod's "The Star Fraction"...involving a character known as 'Moh'....

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on May 15, 2013 5:00 PM.

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