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Seems I bought a case of con crud home with me from Dublin; the first server software upgrade went off okay, but then I spent the rest of the week dying of Ebola man flu rather than working. This puts me behind schedule and means that I'm going to be busy for the next few weeks playing catch-up—I have a novel to redraft and deliver by mid-month (the sixth Laundry Files book, "The Annihilation Score"), and another novel to redraft and submit in final form before the end of the year (ideally before the end of November: "Dark State", book 1 of a trilogy that really needs a better title than "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation").

I am hoping to lay on some guest bloggers in the next couple of weeks (all being well we should have visits from Nicola Griffith and Kameron Hurley). And I'm still going to see if I can frame my thoughts on Scottish independence coherently. However, that last one is going to have to wait until after I finally exorcize the shoggoth that's currently haunting my nasal sinuses.



Sorry to hear about the illness. Very much looking forward to your analysis of Scottish independence. Given there is so much slanted opinion out there I'd like to hear yours. I expect you to take a side, but I also expect it to be well reasoned and make good sense.

PS: Feynman is God. And God's Words are now free online -


No more wordpress sign-ins? Sigh.

Anyway, if you're sinuses are still wailing tekeli-li when you exhale, I hope you get better soon.


Hope the banishing rituals work well.


Well, let's just crowdsource your title problem. I'll throw these out there to start:

Merchant Princes: A New Beginning Merchant Princes: The Final Chapter Merchant Princes: This Time It's Personal Merchant Princes: The Undiscovered Country Merchant Princes: The Phantom Menace Merchant Princes: The Quest For Peace Merchant Princes 2 Merchant Princes II Merchant Princes^2 Merchant Princes Too Merchant Princes 2: The Quickening Merchant Princes 2: Die Harder Merchant Princes 2: Electric Bugaloo Return of the Merchant Princes Son of Merchant Princes Return to the Planet of Merchant Princes More Merchants, More Princes Harry Potter and the Merchant Princes A Song of Merchants and Princes Crouching Merchants, Hidden Princes Merchant Princes in Space A Very Special Merchant Princes Merchant Princes Forever

You're welcome!


Merchant Princes: Hostile Takeover Merchant Princes: Inversion Merchant Princes: The Final Audit


The Novel Formally Known As Merchant Princes.


A'propos the upgrade... what happened to the Google sign-in? I had to conjure this fake TypePad profile just to say I'd rather login with my Google identity.

(This got long:)

Also a technical concern/crap: I assume you use Movable Type because: you do, you paid, it's Perl, some more subtle reason(s) I'm unaware of. Having said that, have you looked around the blogging-and-such-platforms landscape? This site is barely bearable on mobile devices (no font scaling being the major atrocity). You're planning upgrades anyway, and if you're paying for what I'm seeing, then I do suggest you look for a more modern platform. Or, as I'm not the evangelist kind, maybe just update the CSS with some @media rules here-and-there?

...Now I've noticed I have this site on permanent 125% scaling on my desktop, so it's not really readable on either desktop or mobile...

Given that I come here for the content, and the surprisingly high-quality comment threads, I feel like I'm well, bitching a bit here about the form, but... it's not 2006 any more :)

Also, late congrats for Hugo for Equoid. Weird stuff, good read. As much as I'm not the fun of the franchise (please venture into Accelerando and/or Halting State-style ficition, thank you).


Reasons I use Movable Type:

  • Perl

  • Not PHP. I refuse to allow PHP on any computer I own; it's a security hole.

  • Your CSS issues are not my problem; if you don't like it, roll your own override. (I quit tracking updates to HTML specs in the 90s, before CSS came in, anyway, and I can't be arsed learning how to fix it or paying hard money to someone else to do so.) Content is king.

  • Continuing on the same platform beats migrating every decade. And anyway, a new release of Movable Type is due within the next couple of months. Then I might upgrade.

  • 9:

    Public notice: The problem with "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation" is that there are no "merchant princes" in the new trilogy; it's set 17 years after the Gruinmarkt was nuked, and is a near-future SF thriller about cross-paratime espionage between two paranoid superpowers. Or a meditation on the failure modes of security states. Or something like that. So the remit for a new series title is "no merchant princes, but make it clear to existing readers that it's a continuation of the earlier series". Clear?


    So I take it that 'The Great Game in Paratime" is out too? As is The Tournament of Crosstime Shadows? The Gruinmarkt File might work, I suppose. One can always play with Legacy of Ashes (a rather good history of the CIA). Too bad titles have to be short these days.


    Hostile Takeover? or Takeover Bid? The Price of Everything, or just Prices? Capital? (all right, that one's not serious! it's been used.) All That the Traffic Will Bear? Traders?

    Do you need the word "merchant" in the title, or the word "prince," or do you just need something in the same conceptual domain?


    Darker States? The Spy Wormholes? Crossover Endings? Something(s) like that, anyway.

    Nasty about the presumably viral bug - these things happen as you get older. I've just discovered, ridiculously fit though I am for my age, that if I sit down in stuffy conditions (Crowded pub, tube train) that getting up & walking off "normally" at my usual brisk pace might be a bad move - temporary Oxygen depletion, dizziness & double vision. Not good. Take care


    Some random thoughts that I hope might be useful:

    Prince of Spies or maybe Princely Spies?

    Merchants of Death has almost certainly been taken

    The Price of Safety

    Paranoia and Empire (Or Empires of Paranoia)

    Merchants of Paranoia ? or Merchants of Fear

    Merchants and Empire (shades of Asimov's Foundation)


    Did you have a good time in the Republic? Accosted you on the street in Dublin, apologies for the apparent alarm caused. Keep up the good work.


    (Tongue firmly in cheek)

    The New British Empire vs The United States of Terror


    What about: An Appropriate Title for the Novel A Merchant Princes Tale

    Or the like.


    Carrying on in the vein of appropriating other people's names:

    (When) Two Tribes Go To War Multiverse Wars: A New Hope Revenge of the Family Eve of the War

    I'd try and do a pun on The Fourth Protocol, but the core item in that was pretty much the casus belli in the last set.


    Get well soon (there was about to be some stuff on meds in here until it occurred to me that you know more on the subject than I do).

    Titles - Clearly "9 Merchant Princes in Gruinmarkt" isn't going to work.

    How about "Merchant Princes: The New Albion Chronicles" as an arc title?


    Nine Merchant Princes in Gruinmarkt? The Guns of America? Sign of the World Jumper? The Hand of Miriam? The Courts of Cheney?



    Paws4thot and I seem to have caught the same inspiration particle; #18 was not on the page when I first loaded it.


    "Twilight: The Merchant Princes" fits with the titles of the individual shelf-ready product^W^W^W books, "Dark State", "Invisible Sun" and theotheroneI'veforgotten.

    What, "Twilight" is taken?


    Cheers mate; have a virtual drink on me.


    Gloaming isn't, but what are the odds of anyone except the Scots understanding it?


    Yes, I was just kind of startled. (Being ID'd in an SF convention is normal. Being ID'd inside a bookstore is rare but not unprecedented. Being ID'd at random on the street is ... eek!)


    Twilight of the Merchant Princes?


    On Her Majesty's Crosstime Service? Miriam's People? Tinker, Tailor, Crosstime Spy? the Sins of the Princes?

    I'll keep thinking ...


    I'd understand gloaming and I'm not Scottish. Mind you, I never claim to fit within most definitions of normal...


    You folks aren't getting the point of a series subtitle.

    In the post-ebook world, it's basically a bunch of keywords that allow readers to find other books in the series. For example, if you read Jim Butcher and hear he has a new book out, even if Amazon's rec's system fails, you can find it if you know everything in the series is subtitled with "the Dresden Files". You just search on "Dresden Files" and up it comes. Ditto "Laundry Files" (which is mildly embarrassing, but hey, thank Marketing at Random Penguin). It's basically all about search engine optimization for book publishing.

    At least one of my US publishers now insist on any books that tie in with earlier books having some sort of common subtitle for exactly this reason.

    The problem with using "Merchant Princes" is two-fold.

    Firstly, if we simply call these "Merchant Princes #7-9" it will confuse the hell out of people who have read them in the revised, re-issued, shiny new omnibus version (that came out as three books). It will also flag them for bookshops to pre-order in the sort of quantity that they'd pre-order more Merchant Princes books in, rather than treating it as an entirely new and exciting breakout series (which is what it is) because bookstore inventory computers don't understand "series reboot". And it will tell newcomers "don't start here; this is the middle of a long series".

    Secondly, there are no merchants and precious few princes in this trilogy. (Well, there's a princess who breaks down a door while bearing an FN P90 and wearing mirrorshades and a biker jacket, but hey, this is a Charlie Stross technothrillerish near-future SF novel, not a Disney movie.) So calling them "Merchant Princes" books will baffle and confuse the thundering horde of new readers my publishers and I hope to attract.

    The problem is how to signal to existing readers that this is a continuation of the series while flagging it as an entrypoint for newbies. It's all a bit baffling, isn't it?


    "Time Patterns" might have something of the right idea for a subtitle, but it maybe suggests time travel a bit too much.

    "The Time Spiral" might work. It gets across a sense of repetition.

    And it might work if it's retconned into the Merchant Princes titles, though I expect that would depend on there being another edition. Can publishers change the catalogue entries at such as Amazon to use something like that?

    But I suppose SEO depends on some tagline that isn't already being used.


    It is a bit late to re-brand the whole series.

    Following Mc Auley's suggestions @17, I nearly made some based on your music preferences (I think). But what I found was either a bit long; "The Wild, The Beautiful and the Damned" (you've mentioned Ultravox* enough times), or short 'n' sweet: N.W.O. (Ministry). But didn't look too hard for song titles**, and see my first sentence.

    *I'm not too familiar with their music--I'm sure I've heard them, but don't know what. Ministry I know, but haven't heard anything by them since "Filth Pig".

    **WRT using other's titles; a reminder this morning that they aren't copyrightable: Author Charles Cumming's new novel A Colder War.


    So you're after things like:

    Some Title: The Braided Empires Vol. 1


    Some Title: The Knot Wars Vol. 1



    On Her Majesty's Crosstime Service?

    Well Charlie already has On Her Majesty's Occult Service. Not his title I assume.


    The only title that springs to mind is "The Merchant Paupers" - which, although it implies a degree of continuity and new beginning (or at least a discontinuous change), has a fair few other problems. Like the inclusion of "Merchant"


    I suggest that something like "Gruinmarkt Saga" has the right combination of recognizability for fans of the series and independence for the newbies. Any distinctive, recognizable proper noun from the first series should do as the first word, since Gruinmarkt isn't still around.


    I suspect it's most startling when you're recognised by a stranger, as you and I (and our respective partners) have randomly encountered each other more than once on the streets of Dublin in past years.

    Streets leading towards the Burlington were rather prone to have con guests on them, and I suspect that any touristy areas such as Temple Bar also contained a few.


    Another thought/question: What are you calling the subtitle? Are going Book Title: Series Title or the other way 'round? Which is what I was thinking.


    My thought was "The Space Merchants", given that you already used "The Merchants' War" :-)

    Any similarity with titles of books by Frederik Pohl is of course completely coincidental.


    You might have to suck it up & include "Merchant Princes" in the description if you don't want to lose a potential pool of readers. How about "Merchant Princes: 20 years later"? It would signal that some time has passed so readers are less likely to expect more of the same. Also, that you write in a range of (sub)genres should help mitigate any surprises at the change in direction.

    [Administrivia: signing-in choices now reduced & fiddly.

    • Movable type: tried to sign up for it but the account confirmation email link seems to come pre-expired i.e. when I click on the account confirmation link provided in the email it returns an error message that the link is expired despite it being fewer than five minutes since I initiated the sign-up process... Do I need a time machine?

    • Typepad: signing in via Twitter doesn't work for me, Google+ works though...]


    My Daughter the Spy - Book one of the Quantum Pattern War

    Hopefully longtime readers will make some sense of the series name (better than "Cryptology, Topology, and the Search for Freedom", with or without an extra "Quantum" inserted ;-)

    NB: Trying to suggest Hard SF with characters in a short title... NP-Complete or not?


    Hope your bug moves along soon, and you don't cough up anything that winks at you. Perhaps "_,an adventure in the worlds of the merchant princes"? I suspect that between you and your publisher something will be found to establish the linkage between the old series and the new, and less awkwardly than my suggestion.


    How about…

    • Dark State: The Paratime Panopticon Vol 1
    • Dark State: The Braided States Vol 1

    Also — in the new $SeriesTitle are we going to get an answer to the cross-paratime version of the Fermi paradox? We know that there are a lot of universes out there. We know that there is crossing technology in several of them. We know that it's not stupidly hard to reverse engineer to some extent (Miriam's foster-timeline hacked something together pretty darn quick, even if they did use bits of folks brains).

    So — given all that — where is everybody? I can imagine the Rumsfeldverse is going to be asking itself what other risks they face, and rapidly producing an exploratory force. Which they can probably automate. A nice factory in a geologically stable bit of the Nevada desert that's throwing out a cheap dimension-hopping drone every ten minutes that pops up to a hundred feet and tries a random knot pattern, and another, and another…

    (I've not read the new Merchant Princes editions yet — so apologies if you've addressed the problem there.)


    Or "the Time Merchants", since it's more about alternate timelines.

    The problem is that it looks as if not many named entities survive the events of the last MP book, and I don't remember any concise name for "world shifting".

    Maybe "Miriam's legacy" ?

    Or "The Meta-Princes" ?


    Revisiting this, it has more relevance than I first thought.

    Roger Zelazny's overall Amber series is now divided into two pentologies (Is that a word?) - The Corwin Chronicles and the Merlin Chronicles. The Corwin Chronicles are further sub-divided into the 5 titles that Scott and I satirised.


    Looking forward to the next "Merchant Princes" series. I've been rereading the e-book revisions which I assume is what you originally planned to do instead of the 6 volumes as dictated by economic forces. I like both versions.

    I'm not going to suggest any titles since, from experience, I am not very good at that excluding one Eric Frank Russell anthology that I edited. My titles tend to be very pedestrian.

    Hope you are feeling better. Worldcon and Eurocon is a lot to handle in such a little time.


    How about The Merchants' Children? It doesn't really convey the spy/thriller/espionage aspect, but it does link to the previous series and make clear the generational relationship.


    "Trader-Prince: Sovereign Wars" - could work on a couple of levels.


    I'm no web developer, but I think this should be all the CSS you need:

    @media screen and (max-width: 1000px) {
    #beta { display: none; }
    #alpha { width: 100%; }
    #header-inner { width: 100% }

    If the browser is less than 1000px wide, the grey sidebar disappears and the rest autoscales. You can add it to /blog-static/styles.css after the MT CSS declarations.

    I appreciate this is unsolicited advice, though - please delete this comment if you aren't interested!


    What's your tablet/phone problem with tap-zooming on the text column? (I'd prefer to keep the sidebar available because it's got lots of useful stuff in it.)


    Apparently, politicians on the campaign trail swear by those antibacterial hand gels, to cut down the incidence of man flu. Try it, next time you're going to be stuck in a metal container with unhealthy people.

    Those of a certain age will recall "The Parallax View" - a suitably paranoid name to riff...

    ...or you could play on Cold War codenames: The US, with "The Able Archer", "I Have Blue", "A Tacit Rainbow"; or the UK, "The Violet Club", "A Blue Danube".

    As an aside, UK exercise names are two words: SNOW QUEEN, ARCADE FUSION. UK operation names are one word: CORPORATE, GRANBY, TELIC.


    Some mobile browsers, in particular the Android WebView, don't support text reflow, so the text can be very small on phones in portrait.

    If you want to keep the sidebar visible, that would involve more reworking - unless you'd be happy with it appearing at the bottom of the page, below the "leave a comment" bar? That would just require replacing:

    { display: none; }
    { width: 100%; }

    "(I'd prefer to keep the sidebar available because it's got lots of useful stuff in it.)"

    As a reader - and infrequent poster - I'd prefer to keep the sidebar for that very reason and I consider that any prospective new poster would prefer this option.

    If there is a Vote then here is one vote for the Usefully Stuffed Sidebar.

    Well, I can't vote in favour of Scots Independence - since, though I am part Scot by descent from my Mother I am ever so English - so I might as well see if I can vote for the " Charlie's Diary " sidebar.

    Oh, and by the way this is a first post after having signed up for the new -ish Movable Type thingy, thus ...

    " Thank you registering for an account to Charlie's Diary.

    For your own security and to prevent fraud, we ask that you please confirm your account and email address before continuing. Once confirmed you will immediately be allowed to sign in to Charlie's Diary.

    To confirm your account, please click on or cut and paste the following URL into a web browser: .."

    It took less than 30 seconds, inc recieving the e mail .. assuming that this post works that is? Now to Tap the Send Key and see if anything 'orrible 'appens.



    One very big question: do I need to read the revised version of the first five books before I read book 6, or will that not make a difference to 6?

    mark, who was in the UK for Loncon, and didn't have time for Edinborough or Glasgow, even though we were at Hadrian's Wall....

    PS: Feynman is God. And God's Words are now free online

    Long ago I decided, if I ever got rich enough to be able to buy art, I'd want one of Winston Churchill's landscapes, one of Adolf Hitler's WWI battle scenes, and one of Richard Feynman's charcoal nudes. Charles Manson also paints, but his stuff is so bad, it's a wonder he hasn't received a Federal grant...


    For Feynman fans, here's a large collection of videos including the BBC doc's:


    Eh? The first six books were revised and reissued as three. The new ones are 7-9 inclusive (or 4-6, depending how you count them.)


    All of the numbering changes to this series, the alternate/parallel universes backdrop, elements of economics and government structure in your plots, your computing and pharmacology background suggest 'The Rule of Three' might be an apt name for a branch series. There's even a rule of three in lit/writing.


    'The Rule of Three' might be an apt name for a branch series. There's even a rule of three in lit/writing.

    That's "Rule of Five", as of the C++11 standard, thankyou :)


    Maybe something like Merchants' Shadow or Merchants' Legacy? The Shadow Merchants? (tip of the hat to Zelazny there :) )

    From what you've let slip about the plot, it sounds like The Shock Doctrine would actually be a pretty good series title, except of course that it doesn't suggest any connection with the original series.

    Princes of the Universes? ... ok, probably not :)


    The Death Merchant Princess' The Assassin Princess'

    The Capitalist Princess' The Capitalist Kings The Capitalist Presidents

    The Paranoid Generals The Paranoid Kings The Paranoid Presidents


    I'd like to second the "Merchant's Legacy" subtitle, although I was thinking of "Legacy of the Merchants" as having a better rhythm.

    Though possibly not relevant, US exercises and operations have a taxonomy as well. Exercises have a first name specific to a command followed by a second name of choice (i.e., EUCOM has AUSTERE CHALLENGE and FLEXIBLE LEADER, NORAD has AMALGAM ARCHER and VIGILANT OVERVIEW), followed by the two-digit budget year, for example AUSTERE CHALLENGE 12, abbreviated to AC12. Operations have two names somewhat more flexibly titled (Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM), normally shortened to a TLA - OIF and OEF, respectively.


    Legacy of the Merchants isn't bad, although I have a weird preference for something like "The Gruinmarkt Cinders" or "Ashes of the Gruinmarkt" as a subtitle.

    As for The Shock Doctrine (per a previous comment), that's already been used as a book title by Naomi Klein, unfortunately. If you wanted to use something a little older and equally problematic, you could use "Structural Adjustment Program." Ol' BigMuddyRiver doesn't show any thriller novels with that title. Yet.


    Merchant Legacy does sound like a good series name so I decided to goggle it ... and turned up Merchant Legacy (University of North Iowa). A brief reading of the Merchant family history turned up a few family members that could be characters in this series, e.g., bankers, merchants, newspaper owner (Republican), journalist, classics professor, etc.


    I'm less amazed that you came back from Eurocon with a bug and more amazed that people exist who didn't come back from the Worldcon with one. The ExCel Centre is basically a petri dish for disease, even when it's empty.


    Imagine a reboot stamping on a human face . . . forever.


    So Merchant Princes: Left Behind wouldn't work either?


    Perhaps crosstime travel attracts time travelers -- including, for example, ones whose favorite sport is aborting intelligent species.

    Or ones whose intent is to help intelligent species advance much faster. Unfortunately, for some reason giving Homo habilis atomic tech (not to mention really advanced technology) seems to have deadly side effects.


    (Administrative note: logging in with Livejournal via Typepad does not work. I get an error message "An error occurred / This weblog requires commenters to pass an email address. If you would like to do so you may log in again, and give the authentication service permission to pass your email address. " Even when the page you get after that purport to arrange to give that permission, you get that same error again. Probably because it isn't a livejournal page but a typepad page.

    It's a pity there is no generic OpenID login any more. Can there be at least Dreamwidth, which is Livejournal Done Right?)


    Adrian Howard inspired this: "Braided Worlds"?


    I like the various "Legacy of the Merchant Princes" suggestions. But if you want something that signals more strongly a break with the first six/three volumes, how about "Fall of the Merchant Princes" or "Merchant Princes: After the Fall".

    "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation" is a less-that-optimum title because even twenty years later "The Next Generation" raises very strong connotations of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and thus signals a happy, optimistic series. Which seems about as far from post-nuclear "meditation on the failure modes of security states" as you can get while staying in the same genre.

    Also, someone made a joke upthread about "Twilight: Merchant Princes". But turn it around into "Twilight of the Merchant Princes" and you get something that fits the mood I think you are going for better.


    I second Ian McKenzie's suggestion of "Merchants and Empire", assuming that at least some of this takes place in the pseudo-steampunk of world 3. It serves three roles, at least: 'Merchants' ties it back to the first series, 'Empire' ties it back to the British empire (and thus to steampunk, by way of the strong association in media between the idea of empire and the heyday of the british one) -- attracting new readers who like that kind of thing, and the general form will indicate to at least some new readers that this is primarily science fiction rather than fantasy (a nuance that was lost in the american marketing, at least).

    I don't suppose the publishers will be willing to market this as a completely new series with a footnote in the back about the previous related six books? The mismatch between the content and the cover style in the US editions of the original books is extreme in the wrong ways -- had I not been familiar with your other books, I'd probably have avoided them because they look like the whole class of mediocre fantasy potboiler stuff at first glance, and while that was at least somewhat appropriate in the first book, it became more misleading as the series went on. A clean break might improve sales, even if it was just to make cover designs look a bit more like the British editions, and by extension connect less strongly with a genre they are less and less strongly associated with.

    (I realize you have no control over cover designs. But, I'd expect that a good argument about the bottom line might actually come through.)


    I second Ian McKenzie's suggestion of "Merchants and Empire", assuming that at least some of this takes place in the pseudo-steampunk of world 3.

    Remember one of the themes of the series is economic development traps?

    They weren't terribly steampunk to start with: they had heavier-than-air aircraft, electromechanical computers, and an early-stages nuclear weapons program. And now they've had 17 years, a paratime espionage service, and an even stronger incentive to play catch-up than the Meiji Restoration (which was, crudely, "develop fast or the folks with the Black Ships will invade and subjugate you").

    Nope, no steampunk here. Atompunk, maybe ...


    Hmm, Atompunk. I like it! I'm picturing the 1950s of the sci-fi films of the time combined with the weird enthusiasm for all things "atomic" and "space" (especially vehicles with big fins).


    Atompunk puts me in mind of some Golden Age and so onto "The Gruinmarkt Continuum" as a new series sub that could even have sub-subs like "Gruinmarkt Continuum: Merchant Princes" "Gruinmarkt Continuum: Cheney's Children" etc.


    I'm startign to wonder if the real reason that "Miriam" was fired from the magazine back in book 1 was that she wasn't actually very good at her job? ;)


    The Trenchant Princes



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