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Another commercial ...

While "Neptune's Brood" comes out officially on Tuesday, you might have missed the fact that The Apocalypse Codex came out in cheap paperback in the USA last week. So if you've been waiting for it, now is the time to buy it.

Oh, and it just won the 2013 Locus Award for best fantasy novel!



Congratulations on winning another sausage-voucher!

Also, it is all useful free publicity, isn't it?


Congratulations on your award. I just hate it when I realize how much you have suckered me into reading fantasy instead of hard sf ;)


Congratulations! More leverage with my local mega book chain in terms of getting more of your titles on their shelves. (As in: What do you mean you don't carry award winning titles!?)


Congratulations! That's a good list of winners, and nominees (admittedly haven't read most of them, yet). Particularly good to see Cadigan (an old favorite), E. Bear, de Bodard, Ahmed, and others. de Bodard's "Obsidian and Blood" was going to be read next-ish, but will have to wait a little, till after "Neptune's Brood" once I get a copy next week.


Congratulations, Charlie.

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Software, Pharmacy, great blogging... how long until you have a hit play on the London stage and on Broadway simultaneously? ;)






He used to be such a good boy... all the physics worked out to the last decimal place, only legitimate astrophysics and chemistry for him. Why he even once threw away a perfectly good universe because of a paradox that displeased him!

Then he started to dabble in fantasy... just a short story here and there. "Only to unwind" he said. "It's just a hobby".

Look at him now.


Not even once.


Wait 'till you read the next Laundry novella.

It has unicorns. Sparkly unicorns.

And next year's novel, "The Rhesus Chart", is about vampires.


Hey, add some werewolves and surly teenage girls, then call it the "Crepuscular Saga" and you'll have yourself an absolute smash on your hands.

It has unicorns. Sparkly unicorns.

You hate us. It's the only reasonable explanation.


I brainstormed their life cycle with Peter Watts ...


I brainstormed their life cycle with Peter Watts ...

Seriously?!? Then it's a double-must-read…


are they the Cerenkov unicorns?

16:, Sparkly, PONY like Unicorns whose life cycle indicates that they Attrack Nubile Young - Female? -hosts? - by their employment of sheer Cuteness?

Thewell Ponies? But with a Nasty...even nastier than Thewell! Edge?


I DID Warn you!


Is it okay if I sit and just quietly gibber in the corner...?


Yeah, but he also suckers us into reading SF instead of Fantasy.

cough Merchant Princes cough


Fantastic! I love the Laundry Files novels. If only you could write them faster...


Just a note to let you know that Neptune's Brood was available in the dealers room this weekend at DucKon in Chicagoland.


oh man, if you're brainstorming with Peter Watts, then that's the hands down coolest thing i've heard all day. that's like a r/whowouldwin thread waiting to happen. (say...Blampires vs. The OPA's Nazgul)

now i'm dreaming of a whole Laundryverse short story by Watts, Scalzi, Haldeman, Rajaniemi, or Tregillis. you have such a lovely garden, i wonder what it would look like with guest caretakers...



Sparkly unicorns in the Laundry setting sound scary enough but having Peter Watts involved makes them sound terrifying.


Sparkly Unicorns...

We're going to have to nuke Charlie to save him, aren't we?

Congratulations on the award.

Now I'm confused, though, I thought I was reading SF, not Fantasy...??


The SF/Fantasy divide is narrower than many folks think, because a lot of soi-disant SF is fantasy, insofar as your anthropomorphic alien in an FTL starship is semiotically interchangeable with, and no more plausible than, an elven wizard riding a dragon.


Most Sci-fi is fantasy. The fact Star Wars has space ships and lasers makes it no more scientific than LOTR, and don't get me started on Star Trek; 300 people to run a space ship when they have AI so advanced they can create realistic worls using holographic technology? And transporters? they can literally take something apart at the molecular level and transport ot hundreds of kilometers before reassembling it perfectly yet they still have doctors to treat patients. If we had that technology to day it would be the only thing we needed. Have cancer? lets just take that out. Degenerative desiese? I'll make you a new body. I could go on. Anyway, really looking forward to the new Laundry files book and short story. Any idea where we will be seeing the short story, a small Ebook download by any chance?


The Laundry novella isn't a done deal yet. I'll announce it when it's confirmed.

As for SF/F ...

My "Hard" SF would be the Mundane stuff -- maximum of one questionable tech development assumption per book. These are:

Saturn's Children Halting State Rule 34

My "slightly less hard SF" take more liberties than the truly rigorous stuff (i.e. may contain questionable shit, like a mature wormhole manipulation technology or mind uploading or a time machine -- but generally only contain one such McGuffin, and try to work through the implications logically):

Neptune's Brood The Merchant Princes Accelerando Palimpsest Glasshouse

My "set plausibility constraint to OFF" we-still-call-this-SF-but-it's-really-fantasy books are:

Singularity Sky Iron Sunrise Scratch Monkey The Laundry Files The Rapture of the Nerds

So, as you can see, the marketing/book covers/genre pigeonhole bears virtually no resemblance to the actual plausibility or rigourous tech extrapolation in a book.


I see two confounding traits of the SF/F split.

a) Set dressing. For example, spaceships started out in SF, so anything with a spaceship in must therefore be SF.

b) Attitude. There's a science-fictional rationalist world-view that ends up with Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle being classified more as SF than Historical. A story in which something appears totally inexplicable and yet the protagonists nevertheless undertake to understand it is, in my book, more SF than Fantasy.

A lot of readers are after one of other of those, and for them the current pigeon-holes may be more useful than a purist appeal to plausibility.

There's always the problem of ageing - what may have seemed plausible when written turns into fantasy, or vice versa. But it's probable fairest to categorise a work as once SF, always SF, if categorisation is defensible at all (and personally, I think it is, if only as a filter in the nozzle of the firehose).


I heard somewhere that genre, as in sci-fi/fantasy/horror etc was all a result of commercial publishing and is just a way to market their books and find an audience. Ray Bradbury said that despite being viewed as a sci-fi author, he only ever wrote one Sci-fi book, Farenheit 451. He said that was the only book that plausibly could have happened.


Yes. Genre is a handy way for dead-tree bookstores to point readers towards what they want, i.e. something similar to (but not the same as) whatever they last read and enjoyed. We then alphabetize authors by name within their genre shelves so that if you liked book #1 of a series by Phineas Q. Tankhead, you can look under T and hopefully find book #2 (thereby giving the bookstore owner some money to recycle in the direction of stocking book #3 -- and covering their payroll and rent).

Prediction: in the long term, genre (and length format) will become massively less important in book marketing as we move towards ebooks and online purchasing. It will linger until the last bricks'n'mortar bookstore or library closes its doors (if this ever comes to pass), but once everything is internet-mediated genre-based pigeon-holing becomes a lot less useful than tag clouds.


I don't see genres as dissapearing due to epubbing, in fact I think the reverse will happen, with books being classified into multiple genres and sub genres. The sheer number of available books is going to make this the only way of finding anything except for authours you are already tracking. Amazon are sort of doing this (of course, being Amazon they are currently f*g it up) by listing books in multiple 'best 100' of a subgenre. The biggest problem I find in buying online is the poor search and sort facilities in the estores.


I don't see genres as dissapearing due to epubbing, in fact I think the reverse will happen, with books being classified into multiple genres and sub genres.

What part of "tag clouds" didn't you understand?


Buy many cheap copies of Apocalypse Codex, give them to your friends, especially the right-wing christian ones. Get them to think about who is pulling their strings (or tongues). Not that many readers of this would have many right-wing christian friends. Maybe just family members.


Tag clouds I'll believe in when they start working usefully. Indeed, Amazon actually removed their tagging from ebooks..(OK, not the same thing)

There needs to be some way of solving what the problem is going to be, but I don't think anyones found it yet. When someone does, I suspect it will be different from anything we have on the radar now.


Some of use share our houses with bibliophile 8 and 10 year old daughters. Keeping the libraries separate used to be straightforward. There was the Sparkly Unicorn shelf, the Charlie Stross shelf, ...

But somehow I suspect these Sparkly Unicorns will be Not Safe for Little Girls.


I've seen Steve Montiglio's roughs for the cover of the Subterranean hardcover edition.

I do not believe your Little Girls will mistake it for their kind of reading matter.


Well the Culture another post scarcity society has much bigger ships that have human crews.


I think the reverse will happen, with books being classified into multiple genres and sub genres

I'm not certain that this is a good thing, actually. Whether it's tagging or multiple sub-genres, I've pretty well given up on both Amazon and Apple for actually finding books (and other media), because items show up in multiple incorrect categories.

For example, children's cartoons when looking for documentaries, fairy tales and novels when looking for books on science, etc…

I don't know how Amazon and Apple work behind-the-scenes, but it reminds me of some of the users on Flickr, who tag their pictures with all the most popular tags so that people are more likely to click on them and so raise their view count. Maybe Amazon and Apple are relying on book/media publishers to tag their products without verifying the tags?


I was going to say that the Enterprise of ST:TNG was a bit like a General Contact Unit or perhaps a Tiny Systems Vehicle of Culture ilk, what with its families and counsellors and whatnot.


The problem with the Transporter is that copying something is not the same as understanding it, but yeah, there are so many things about Star Trek which don't quite make sense when you think them through. On the other hand, there is so much science it inspired. Smartphones are a communicator/tricorder combination, though the sensors are still limited.


Culture ships don't have crews, they have pets.


What I find particularly fun about this genre labelling is that some of your called-Fantasy-but-really-SF was (from what you've said previously) started so as not to interfere with your SF contract, much of which falls under called-SF-but-really-Fantasy.

Hey, whatever will reel us in, once we're here we tend to stay.


If the ST:TNG Enterprise is anything like a Culture GSV, it's deliberately playing dumb. On the other hand, if Federation humans (& other bioforms) are toys of their technosphere generally, a whole lot of puzzling features of Federation culture suddenly get much easier to explain...


Congratulations! I don't know if it has been mentioned before, but you have also won another "award", at least among the software and computer people: Volume 4B of The Art of Computer Programming - the current draft of pre-fascicle 5a (look at the preface).


The problem is Amazon (I dont pub on Apple). Their own idea of what category a book should be in overrides what you suggest - Amazon knows best :P

And their robots tend to put books in some ODD categories.


...don't get me started on Star Trek; 300 people to run a space ship when they have AI so advanced...

That's not a new observation; the thought came up in the 1960s when the show was still in the pre-pilot stage. The ship's size isn't because anyone thought Kirk and Spock needed another 428 people to push buttons, it's there to provide a pool of background characters. ("We've found an outcropping of radioactive fleemish quartz! Call Doctor Blotz the geologist, who's totally been on board the last two seasons without being mentioned before today!") Sure, you can plausibly run an spacecraft with only a few people - Lost in Space did, as do all real man-in-a-can missions. But you don't get as many supporting characters, nor can you easily introduce new crew members.

As a model for the future it has obvious shortcomings - but that wasn't Star Trek's primary purpose. First it had to tell entertaining stories. It was groundbreaking science fiction for its time and form, and we do ourselves a disservice if we forget that it truly was revolutionary...or that the state of the art has moved on.


And that's the problem with being a scientific pedant about entertainment shows I suppose. It wouldn't be quite as entertaining as if it was an empty ship run by an AI transmitting information back to earth. Robots wouldn't get into fist fights or fasion crude weapons out of bamboo, gun powder and diamonds in order to kill lizard men. The transporter will always be a problem for me however, it just breaks stories in my opinion. Look at Start Trek: Into Darkness. Kahn has a transporter that can take him from Earth to Chronos, why did the Enterprise crew even bother going there by ship. And as I'm on that subject, why did Peter Weller need to build that Dreadnought for a war with the Klingons? He could have just teleported a bomb onto their home planet. Also, after you have been disasembled and reasembled on a molecular level, are you still you? Whats to stop them from making multiple versions of a person?


What's to stop them using the molecular disassembler to disassemble and store the 428 background characters for use in special situations, meaning day-to-day crew numbers of tens rather than hundreds? We know it can be done (see Scotty's appearance in TNG).


It was done once, by Scotty, and even he only had a 50% success rate.


They tried that once. It turns out that Federation Navy recruitment dropped through the floor.

(Ingrates. What's not to like about only being aware for red shirt missions?)



The transporter breaks things worse than that, imho.

(From ST:TNG - don't remember exact episodes)

You can transport antimatter - Wesley Crusher does it as a school project and it gets to (briefly) fuel another starship.

Baryon (and Lepton) numbers are not conserved. There's an episode where they are filtering pathogens out of an away team (and can't do it for one of them...)

Put this together, and you can eg transport 25kg of antimatter onto a starship / enemy base (can you spell gigaton, kiddies?), or 25kg matter + 25kg antimatter just outside your opponent's shields, or...

Oh, and momemtum is not going to be conserved if you are editing particles out of the result, so eg transport ball of dust motes moving radially out at c minus one millimetre per second.

Not to mention that what the Federation knows about cryptography could be written on the head of a pin in 500 point caps...



The transporter will always be a problem for me however, it just breaks stories in my opinion.

This was another thing that was thought of even before the first pilot started filming. Yes, a teleportation gimmick can make storytelling difficult - but they didn't have the time or the budget to show people moving around in shuttles, so they invented transporters as a plot accelerator.

In retrospect it would have been better to explain them as a side effect of the warp drive, something that would 'wormhole' a landing party down in one piece - but we're looking at this with the advantage of 45 years of hindsight, thinking about the question, and accumulated ass-pulled stories from many different TV series. They had to think up some scientific sounding babble on the spur of the moment and make deadline.

God, I know way too much about Star Trek. Didn't I have a life as a teenager?


God, I know way too much about Star Trek. Didn't I have a life as a teenager?

If your mind is anything like mine, you tend to at least sort of remember anything you're interested in and have seen once.


Yes, and it's a cohort thing; I'm about Charlie's age and grew up the US, so anyone interested in science fiction would get a heavy dose of Star Trek growing up. It's been years since I read Whitfield's The Making of Star Trek, but it's still on my bookshelf - and still in my brain.


Keep in mind that almost all audiences in 1967 would accept that a person's "soul" is unique, and transports along with the body. The problem of copies simply would not occur to them. By the time TNG rolled out, that was no longer the case, but franchise was stuck with the transporters.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 29, 2013 11:08 PM.

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