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In the pulp

boxes of books in my hall

This just arrived, courtesy of UPS. It's one of two boxes; just visible, top left, is one corner of the carton of American mass market paperbacks of "The Apocalypse Codex". Front and centre, of course, are the American "Neptune's Brood" hardcovers — or as I prefer to think of it, the mermaid boobies edition. (Because nothing says "high-concept financial caper novel" or "allegory about banking corruption and the 2007-2008 financial crisis" like mermaid boobies on the dust jacket ... oh well, at least Kirkus gave it a starred review ...)

They exist, they've been printed, and if I got my author copies, it means they're even now winging their way to warehouses and distribution hubs. Launch date is July 2nd, and if you order the ebook or buy from a big box supplier that's when you'll get your copy, but they might begin showing up a few days earlier in smaller stores.

It's an increasingly rare sight, by the way. The industry hasn't yet come up with a satisfactory model for sending complementary ebook copies for authors to hand out to their friends. So I'm wondering how much longer this is going to be part of my working life ...

(If you want to pre-order your own MERMAID BOOBIES dust jacket, with a book thrown in for free—or even some of my other books—you can follow the links here.)

And in other news (from my editor at Orbit) ...



The industry hasn't yet come up with a satisfactory model for sending complementary ebook copies for authors to hand out to their friends.

LOL. Can't they just send you some more money to buy ebooks for your friends?


Welp; just snapped up the three Merchant Princes Kindle reissues (a fiver for each twofer compilation is a damn good deal) and then I see Neptune's Brood is on preorder; click :o

Ebooks should have all the alternate covers included, I'm missing out on sweet sweet undersea mammaries here by buying British! :)


Be warned, you're in for a famine now: "Neptune's Brood" is the last new Stross content you're going to see until July 2014, when "The Rhesus Chart" comes out. Well, aside from a new Laundry novella (which may or may not come out before then).


Looking forward to my pre-order showing up. I was conveniently rereading Saturn's Children. Noticing the Heinlein references so much more this time around.

Like #2, also ordered the Merchant Princes kindle reissues, will be interesting to compare to the original.


NB: Once I get my ass back together and my eyes stop watering I hope to post a short extract from "Neptune's Brood" on this 'ere blog. Not to mention a different stand-alone story from the same universe ("Bit Rot", originally published in "Engineering Infinity").


How splendid.

I’ll be looking forward to reading that on my summer holiday.

What do you do with the author copies?

I mean I assume you gift them to friends and family and folk who have helped out in some why. Do you have some criteria you use? Is there an industry standard on what authors do with their copies?


Also, someone a few blog posts back recommended Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson. It might well have been Charlie.

Whomever it was – thanks – I’m really, really enjoying. I’ve laughed out loud and annoyed my wife by staying up late with the side light on reading “just one more chapter.”


Nope, no industry standard.

Parents love 'em. Siblings ... maybe. Friends, including the folks I chew these over with when they're just ideas, not even a formal book proposal, frequently get copies. And of course there's clutter. I really ought to offload a lot of author copies -- I've got bookcases and crates full of them -- but that's a lot of work (signing, packing, hauling to the post office on foot).


Even while I know that we live in the future, I'm amazed that after I've preordered a book, I can get a picture of the desk of the editor of that book when the first copies arrive.


So, a year between this next novel and the following one? And that's a famine? It's just as well you don't get a litfic workload imposed on you, like Harper Lee or JD Salinger.


"I really ought to offload a lot of author copies"

Ooo, ooo! Competition/auction/similar covering packaging/postage costs and supporting your favourite charity! Random pick from the pile, perhaps, or some more elaborate (maths/probability based?) game-like competition.


Went to look on Amazon UK and they have the Euro-cover, which IMHO hits a few Freudian buttons of its own. Is there a link to it that gives you any additional kickback?


Is there a link to it that gives you any additional kickback?

Yes: please use the links here.



I live in a fourth-floor apartment with no elevator. The nearest post office is half a mile away, uphill, on foot -- not accessible by vehicle -- and if I want to mail books I have to queue. A typical hardcover, in a padded mailer, weighs 750 grams; 20 of them weigh around 15Kg -- or enough to put my back out hauling them up to the post office in one go. (Yes, my back isn't terribly good. Middle-aged problem.)

Driving to a more distant post office isn't an option because it's virtually impossible to park my car within a quarter mile of my front door -- central Edinburgh parking makes Manhattan look friendly.

To do a mail-out competition I basically need to find a locally-based minion with a good back and willingness to do beast of burden services.

This is why I don't use my author copies for promo competitions.


Happy to help with that if that is, um,helpful.


Isn't MERMAID BOOBIES a top secret Laundry classification for Deep One activity?


Seeing as I'll be in London later in July I may pick up the non-Mermaid Boobies edition to read while we travel. :)



There are a number of alternatives to using the Post Office. My sister runs a mail order business and has had to find alternative delivery services since the Royal Mail significantly increased their charges for large but light parcels. The services that she uses instead will collect from her door and are cheaper than the Royal Mail for her parcels.

If you're interested, I can find out which companies she uses and let you know.


Do we need to read Saturn's Children first or does Neptune's Brood stand alone?


My sister runs a mail order business

One question is, do they expect/require regular custom? Were Charlie to want to do this, he'd be likely to want to send out a smallish batch of packages once, maybe twice, in a year.


They're in the same universe, but that's about as meaningful as Fanny Hill and Les Miserables being in the same universe.

The connection is weak enough that there is no need to read both, but I am sure that the owner of the blog would like you to hunt down copies of every book he has written which is still in print, and buy copies for all your friends and family.


Do we need to read Saturn's Children first or does Neptune's Brood stand alone?

"Neptune's Brood" is set in the same universe as "Saturn's Children" ... just 5000 years later, in a different solar system, with no recurring character continuity.

Reading "Saturn's Children" first will give the universe a bit more depth, but is non-essential.


"Neptune's Brood" pre-ordered and in the chute. I ordered Douglas Hofstadter's new book about analogical thinking along with it. The two of you and Stuart Kaufmann are the only authors whose books I routinely buy in hard cover at first release, so you're in good company.


Many thanks - now ordered!


Isn't MERMAID BOOBIES a top secret Laundry classification for Deep One activity?

Bob is cleared for MERMAID BOOBIES, but you should be careful asking for access.

After the question of the two cover art pieces came up earlier, I'm not going to complain about the mermaid boobies if it lets me unsee the other thing.


Completely OT, but have you read "Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale" by Leonid Korogodsky? The edition I read is hardbound, beuatifully produced on what looks like 80 lb. hotpress paper with full page illustrations. It's novella length, but the book is filled out with appendices, index, and bibliography. I figure it has to be a vanity project; I can't believe any publisher would throw that kind of money at a first-time writer of a subgenre novel with a heavy hard-science background.


"This is my fifth version of this painting. It's like... an allegory, right? The monster represents the temptation of evil thoughts. The girl represents the basic wickedness of humanity, and her breasts falling out of her dress represent the dilemma facing the individual. I sold the first four versions to a monastery."

"In this painting, the girl chained to the wall represents the repressed nature of the orthodox Tarimite's mind. Here the breasts represent the inner conflict between lust and abstinence. Consequently, they are a good deal larger than the breasts in the other painting. I've sold around fifty of these."

"This one is for a treasury executive in Palnu. Here the breasts represent the conflict between short-term profit gouging and nest-egg mercantile banking. Unfortunately, I didn't leave room for the girl's head. He told me not to worry about it."

"You can't beat breasts when it comes to universal symbols...."

--- The Funny Artist Chap With All the Hair, Cerebus #25, pages 8-9

The industry hasn't yet come up with a satisfactory model for sending complementary ebook copies for authors to hand out to their friends.

What seems to happen with with two non-fiction publishers I know of is that the author gives a list of email addresses to the publisher, who then sends the books out to the folk on the list.

(Insert obligatory "Yay. New books. Preordered" here ;)


-- not accessible by vehicle --

I hate to ask the stupid question, but doesn't this cause problems for the postal service?


I live in a city where the new town was gridded out in the 1750s. The old town is mediaeval.

(We have extremely fit posties who run up and down stairwells.)


Well Really?! HA! And also Phooey! I was Christened, early in 1949, here...

Not that I've been there much since...well would you if a Bloke in a Frock had poured Cold Water on your head at such an impressionable age?

" new town was gridded out in the 1750s. The old town is mediaeval. “As OLD as that Eh?

Also, I am named Arnold ...Who was - I was assured by Michael Jackson, a couple of whose books I have signed - was The Patron Saint of Beer! And so I Forgive you your Sins Young Charlie ..." "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more. ... "


Pre-ordered - from a US company, since I live in the US.


Son of a gun, now I really have to get off my butt and finish 2312.


Is Pink Noise any good?


"To do a mail-out competition I basically need to find a locally-based minion with a good back and willingness to do beast of burden services."

That's the BEST PART. What you describe there is the FIRST PRIZE! Brilliant!


To do a mail-out competition I basically need to find a locally-based minion with a good back and willingness to do beast of burden services.

Well, if it's only occasional ;)


I hate that I love your books so much that I can't wait for paperback.


I had most of a long reply typed in on my tablet when I must have touched the wrong thing because the server tossed me out of login & I lost the whole comment. It's late, and I'm tired, so I'll just say that, yes, the story isn't bad, if heavy on infodump, but I have some disagreements with the technical appendices.


MERMAID BOOBIES is the official Black Chamber code name for the Jennifer Morgue incident. The Americans do things differently, you see.


Clearly no-one explained the rules properly: 1. If you invoke the god of the oceans in the title, the cover must have an undersea theme 2. The default undersea icon for any adventure yarn is the mermaid 3. The classical mermaid doesn't encumber herself with a dress, blouse, teeshirt or jumper (how'd they get the fabric: a secret trading network with the land or processed seaweed or...?) 4. Obviously, none of this applies in the UK, where the classical education is a thing of distant memory.

It's a shame that Pluto is no longer a planet: I'm sure your publishers would be up for some busty demonettes in tight fitting leather, with extra whips and chains... or, in the UK, a pixelated cartoon mutt.


The first impression I had of the cover was that actually it was a picture of a strange, somewhat organic shaped spacecraft with a space base behind it. I had to find mention of mermaids before my brain re-programmed itself.

On Edinburgh being an old city, I'm sure that lots of developers and financiers would be entirely happy were a fire to raze large areas of it to the ground so they could 'invest' in building big modern buildings that have no connection to the history of the area. Although they had a good attempt in the 60's, things are a bit more stable now.


Let's be honest, if you were a book illustrator, would you rather be painting mermaid boobies; or trying to work out how to represent corrupt (presumably robotic) bankers?

And if the US book cover is mermaid boobies, I presume the Georgia O'Keeffe inspired UK cover is mermaid c.......?

Thinking back to the ideas on eBooks and dynamically changing 'covers' to improve sales, how would automated AB testing evolve these covers to optimise sales? What factors would you identify as the 'genes' to be tweaked?


>-- not accessible by vehicle --

I hate to ask the stupid question, but doesn't this cause problems for the postal service?

For the Royal Mail, Post Office != Sorting Office in many cases. A Post Office is mostly retail counter or counters, selling stamps, car tax discs and that sort of thing and will be located near people. The Sorting Office which is also where delivery routes go out from will be a warehouse somewhere on the outskirts of town with much better access for vehicles.


It occurs to me that of all your series, this is the one that could most plausibly be sharecropped. You've got a hard-sf universe (no ftl and plausible post-humans that can take the environmental stress that space travel implies), yet the characters aren't Greg Egan alien.

Yes, I know, just because a robot looks vaguely human doesn't necessarily mean it will behave like one, the neural architecture notwithstanding. But that wouldn't stop a stable of young writers taking this universe and running with it. Uploads, right ;-)


UNESCO world heritage site and gigantic tourism industry -- Edinburgh's the second tourist destination in the UK after London, which has fifteen times the population -- mean that it ain't gonna happen; the property developers are going to have to be happy with the out of town developments like the Gyle and Kinnaird Park.


Weeelll, yes and no, insofar as it's their own checks libel laws incompetence, hubris and stupidity that has left the city with two gaping holes in its fabric for, in one case, 10 years now and the other, about 8. That's how useless they are- the 8 year old empty site developers went bankrupt with the recession, after coming up with a mad bad and ugly idea which was condemned by the majority of locals. The 10 year old site is, I think, finally being built on, but if anything indicates how useless the developers are, it's the fact it has taken so long to do so.

Mind you I'm having a bit of trouble finding out exactly what % of Edinburgh's income tourism is.

I've temp-ed at the main Edinburgh sorting warehouse, at Sighthill, oddly enough by a main road junction... I think they did some at a place behind Leith walk too.

Is there at least mention of humanoid mermaids somewhere inside the book?


Yes, there are humanoid mermaids in the book. Whether they look anything like the cover mermaid is open to argument.

It is one of those covers which bears some relation to the book content. And that content is some justification for the title.

I'm just glad it wasn't titled Uranus Or Bust! I've seen too many comic-books which use a weird standard pose that would fit all too well.


I'm trying to think about which ones you mean. The fire that took out the AI department archives about a decade ago is growing like topsy; bit modernist, but South Bridge is hardly a paragon of beauty. In the meanwhile, they renovated the old Tailor's Hall quite well, made a decent job of the Court building, replaced a 1950 Primary school with a 00s style block, tidied up around the Pleasance...

The gap site on the High Street that became the Scandic Crown (now Radisson) blends OK, and the Opera House that wasn't became Saltire Court IIRC.

We notice the failures; but IMHO there's been a fair bit of successful development too...


I think he's referring to the previous Caltongate development plan by Mountgrange Capital, which flopped due to the property crash/recession. There's a new plan this year which, to my eyes, looks a little less dire.


You mean the fire's still alight after all this time? ;)

It is possible to do some decent development in Edinburgh, although I forgot another one - the idea of a massive tall office block on the car park near the Haymarket station.

The Scandic crown stands out like a sore thumb because it doesn't blend in with the other buildings nearby, but given that the Victorians demolished most of the old town anyway (Well that which didn't burn down first), it isn't as if there's much really old stuff to contrast badly with. It fits with the pseudo-Scots stuff that was in fashion back in the 30's or 50's? See also down in the Canongate.
I note too that it and the Sheriff court are previous century works, not part of the fevered property bubble of the 00's, which surely makes a difference in how insane the plans are likely to be.

The central post office development maintained the outside of the building, but I have read that the interior is a mess.

The interesting example is the replacement of the old concrete council office on the George IV bridge and high street junction with just another modern steel frame and stone clad dull building, so actually it's alright. Nothing to get excited about, but done well enough that it doesn't cause any problems, unlike that massive ugly tall hotel in the grassmarket.


The Mermaid Boobs cover is definitely, well, Mermaid Boobs. But the structure on the Orbit edition cover looks suspiciously like an SFnal Georgia O'Keeffe painting...


I think Edinburgh is doing OK at the moment, from the development PoV... Developers like the boring non-central bread-and-butter stuff, not just the city centre gap sites.

Yes, the Missoni is boring, but as you say the old council building was fairly dire. As for "ugly hotel in Grassmarket" - when I was a student, the Mountbatten Building was Heriot-Watt University's Electrical Engineering home. 1960s sacrilege includes Appleton Tower (where I spent much of first year), and the Potterrow. There's only so much you can do to them - without the kind of solution that breaks lots of windows. Port Hamilton used to be a dive, either derelict or run down factories - now it's fairly inoffensive office blocks; lots of curves, glass, and sandstone cladding. They're getting better at it; the EICC looks a bit clumsy by comparison with its newer neighbours.

My first flat and home for a decade was above the Holyrood Tavern (close enough that the windows shook when Guthrie Street went bang), so the Ben-Lines office block (now Travelodge) was nearby, as was Dumbiedykes. Again, concrete monstrosity. They did better with Dynamic Earth and the Holyrood Road developments, and I actually quite like the Parliament building. Granted, the architect appears to have had fun with the "political power grows from the barrel of a gun" theme - pistols as a repeating pattern on the outside, targets as a repeating pattern in the main chamber... Southward along the Pleasance isn't too bad (St Leonard's saw a lot of development in the late 80s / early 90s). If you go through Craigmillar, you'll be impressed - a classmate stayed in Niddrie in the 80s (lucky white heather), and it was dire. I went through Pilton last summer, lots of development there and in Silverknowes, all looking quite smart; even Broomhouse and Wester Hailes are coming along.

All this is, of course, distraction from the bad news. And the fact that Mrs.G is off on a business trip for the next few days, and my brain is fried after trying to reason with a stubborn 8-year-old without losing my calm... I may go for the mermaids on the new book, I've got the plunging neckline hardback of the first one :)


Well, just done my first bit to keep Charlie in beer for a day or two - went out & bought the revised "Traders War" series ... with Mermaid boobies to look forward (down?) to next month ....



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on June 7, 2013 10:49 AM.

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