I really wanted to make it a trilogy, you know? I mean, what could be cooler than a trilogy of near-future Scottish police procedurals about crimes that don't exist yet, written in multi-viewpoint second person? (Elizabeth Bear has a term for that kind of thing: she calls it "stunt writing".)
Unfortunately the NSA have done it again:
To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs.At this point, I'm clutching my head. "Halting State" wasn't intended to be predictive when I started writing it in 2006. Trouble is, about the only parts that haven't happened yet are Scottish Independence and the use of actual quantum computers for cracking public key encryption (and there's a big fat question mark over the latter—what else are the NSA up to?).
Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users.
I'm throwing in the towel. I probably will write another near-future Scottish police procedural by and by, but it won't be a sequel to the first two except in the loosest sense. The science fictional universe of "Halting State" and "Rule 34" is teetering on the edge of turning into reality. Meanwhile, the financial crisis of 2007 forced me back to the drawing board for "Rule 34"; the Snowden revelations have systematically trashed all my ideas for the third book.
To make matters worse, Scotland is teetering on the edge of a political singularity. There is a Referendum on Scottish Independence coming up in September 2014. Then the UK (with or without Scotland) is expected to hold a referendum on whether or not to stay in the EU—a vote with consequences which are probably even more disruptive than the question of whether Scotland should separate from the Union. In just two years the map of the Scottish near future will have changed, unpredictably and drastically, from where it is now. I therefore conclude that there is simply no point in my starting to write a near-future politically astute crime thriller set in Scotland before I know the outcome of those votes (especially as it couldn't be published before mid-2016).
Sometimes I wish I'd stuck with the spaceships and bug-eyed monsters. Realism in fiction is over-rated.
If you're wondering what sort of near-future dystopian panopticon surveillance state/spy thriller I would be writing if I wasn't setting it in Scotland and writing in the second person, you'll get to see when I finish it. Ahem. Because that's the direction the trilogy provisionally titled "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation" is going in.
There will eventually be another near-future Scottish thriller, but I'm not going to start writing until after the votes are in. And it won't be in-series with the first two.