August 2013 Archives

(Note: My Snowden/sociology piece has spawned a longer essay on the same subject area, in Foreign Policy.)

And I'm sorry, but I can't stay away from the clusterfuck of our security policy and the inane side-effects of the war on terror. Like a dog returning to its vomit, I've just got to circle back to middle-eastern politics.

Short version: proposals in the UK and USA to carry out bombing strikes against the Assad regime in Syria are not only criminal (in the absence of a firm UN Security Council ruling on the matter), they're stupid. One such imperial adventure might be an accident, two might be a coincidence, but embarking on a third one within a decade of the blood-spattered fiasco that was Iraq and the traumatic counter-insurgency occupation that was Afghanistan should be grounds for incarcerating any western politician proposing it in an institution for the criminally insane.

Just to head this off at the pass: I am not going to the worldcon this year. It's in San Antonio, Texas (not my favourite part of the United States) in early September (far too hot and unpleasant for me). Also, I am busy extruding fiction—I don't need the interruption.

(Yes, I am remiss at blogging. Yes, it's because I'm writing another novel. Another damn thick book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr Gibbon?)

We interrupt this blog to bring you an important message from our commercial sponsors ...

Orbit, my UK publisher, has cut the price on the ebook edition of my novel "The Atrocity Archives" to just £1.99 in the UK (and presumably the EU) until September 5th!

It's part of Amazon's Kindle Summer Reads promo, and they've cut the price on other ebook stores too: links to buy the book below.

[iTunes store] [Waterstones] [Kobo store] [Kindle store (UK)] [Kindle store (EU customers)] [Google Play store]

"You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

The NSA has always had a problem with the open internet. Now a convergence of interests with large corporations is offering them the tools to destroy it.

Security relies on the keeping of secrets, and the keeping of secrets in a bureaucracy relies on compartmentalization: the left hand remaining unaware of the right hand's activities. Unfortunately, secrecy is inimical to understanding, and the whole purpose of an intelligence agency is to make sense of, and to provide an understanding of, the environment in which the subjects of its surveillance exist. The function of a newspaper or wire service is similar (once you get past "make money by selling advertising and providing readers with sufficiently interesting content that they look at the ads": and as long as they're pursuing traditional substantive news reporting, rather than merely extruding news-shaped prose, as with USA Today or the Daily Mail).

But newspapers have some advantages over the spooks right now. Their requirement for secrecy is strictly time-limited; once their exclusive scoop is on the front page or the top of the website, they don't need it any more. And newspapers aren't limited to physical premises and employees in a specific location or of a specific nationality ...

(Before I begin: there are participants in the discourse who would say that we're supposed to natter on about Edward Snowden, and not the contents of his disclosures, because turning it into a personal issue rather than a political one is useful to the machineries of state. But the point I'm about to make here is different ...)

(UPDATE: An extended, reworked, more detailed essay along these lines can be found in Foreign Policy.)

In the 21st century, the NSA (and other espionage agencies) face a big system-wide problem that I haven't seen anybody talking about.

Nine Worlds went off surprisingly well for the first convention of its kind; I gather there'll be another one next year (irritatingly close to Loncon 3, the worldcon in London: as in, it's the weekend before — this risks overloading the convention-going SF/F professionals who make the panels, workshops, readings, signings and other events work).

I am now exhausted, in no small part because SF conventions are working weekends for me, and this one came right on top of my car catching fire on the drive south. (It now has a shiny new aircon compressor, but henceforth will be known as the Dreamliner. (Weirdly, I was not the only author attending Nine Worlds whose car caught fire on the way to the convention.))

Tomorrow is the start of the Great British Beer Festival, a visit to which which will be followed (after a sensible sobering-up period) by the drive back home. Normal blogging will be resumed no sooner than the weekend ...

This is a very brief note to say that I have updated the FAQ in the sidebar which tells you what I've written (FAQ: Who am I?). Now with added buy-the-book linky goodness, and books grouped by series and category.

(The old one has been growing like Topsy since 2003, and overhauling it was one of those "I really ought to do that ... nah, life's too short" jobs. The new one was a bit of a handful to create, with 84 hyperlinks and counting ...)

Yes, there is some CSS warpitude affecting the headers. We'll fix it in the next few weeks with an upgrade to the site-wide style sheet to make it support Markdown better. The long delay is due to the road trip we're going on this Wednesday.

I'm off on a long road trip next Wednesday (back the following Thursday), and will be appearing at Nine Worlds in London over the weekend. There will also probably be a signing at Forbidden Planet International in London the following Monday—I'll update this entry with details when I confirm it.

In the meantime ...



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