Back to: On the lack of cultural estrangement in SF | Forward to: Things I would make if I had a 3D printer ...

Ask the Author

So Goodreads are trolling for author content. And they're trying to get authors with goodreads listings to make themselves available for Ask the Author events!

Shocking. I'd never have thought of doing that.

Anyway: here I am, I haven't done it for a while, so consider this your invitation to an open mike Q&A with me.

Note that I will be spending a good chunk of this week visiting relatives, so on a train/using an iPad/not responding promptly. I may decline to answer any question for any reason at all. I may even lie to you. (I am not a performing monkey: I will not dance if you shoot at my feet.)

What do you want to know?

431 Comments

1:

Well, next week's lottery numbers would be nice...

...hey, it was worth a shot.

Failing that, how much of the competence displayed by the Scottish cops in the Rule 34/Halting State universe is wishful thinking?

2:

It's a work of fiction: it's all wishful thinking.

(You know what the biggest fantasy element of the Laundry novels is? It's the idea that there could possibly be a secret government agency as efficient and successful as the Laundry. At anything!)

3:

If you earned ( inherited / won ...) enough money to retire, would you? Or do you have a compulsion to tell lies^Wstories?

Basically, I'm wondering if you enjoy your work, or if it's just a means to an end ("living").

4:

Charlie,
Is it true that all things not Scottish are crap?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjYHvAly_IE


And (if another question is allowed) , how do you feel about Vikings in cartoons usually being portrayed with a Scottish Accent?

Dave

5:

I'd keep on writing, even if I had "fuck off" money.

What I wrote might change, after a year or two. And how I published might also change. (Although going through a Big Five publisher and receiving these popularity votes called "royalties" is a convenient way of keeping track of how well I'm playing the game, even if I didn't need those things for paying the bills.)

6:

When scope of your series get rows, do you worry about the story getting too big? How big is too big? When will Bob be too powerful to make a good character? When will The Family get alternate world alien tech and become gods?

Will we ever, straight up meet Crhulhu?

7:

You killed off Angleton. So my question is: how dare you? I actually cried. I was in public. It was very embarrassing.

8:

If you ask me a question that requires me to watch a YouTube video before I can answer it, it will go unanswered because Life Is Too Short. (And my default browser config is set to block video and flash formats.)

9:

Do you speak and/or write Hebrew?
Assuming you had the time and energy, what is the next language you'd like to learn and why?

10:

Ahahaha. You're asking me a sly question about declining middle-aged cognitive abilities, aren't you?

Seriously, keeping track of a million word fiction corpus in your head is just brutal -- especially as I'm not the sort of obsessively introspective nerd who starts by writing themselves a World Book. I use Scrivener as a crutch, but I confess to missing stuff sometimes.

The Laundry Files: yes, Bob has levelled up too far to be a good protag, at least until Shit Gets Real again (and the threats also level up). So book 6, "The Annihilation Score", is told by Mo, and book 7, "The Nightmare Stacks" (currently under construction) is told by Alex, who is roughly where Bob was in "The Atrocity Archive" (except juiced up a bit in order to survive the world of Case Nightmare Rainbow).

The new Merchant Princes series ... is so different it's probably getting a different series title. (It's my big fat post-Edward Snowden near future parallel universes technothriller. Okay?)

11:

You killed off Angleton.

Did I? I'm not sure.

BTW, as George R. R. Martin puts it, you have to kill off a few favourite characters every so often -- otherwise your readers stop worrying about them.

12:

I'm monolingual and utterly shit at learning languages. I can't even do crosswords in my own single native language.

13:

Frankly the only thing I can think of is: Any advice for writing query letters to agents? But I'm not sure that's appropriate--worth a shot though (have read other advice online, but often seems dated). Most of my questions here have been asked and answered over the years

14:

You're not sure? You're leaving us in suspense over this? You magnificent monster. Don't go changing.

15:

Any chance we can get you collaborating with Chris Brookmyre? BTW, thanks for turning me on to him.

16:

Oh god, that would be amazing.

17:

Any chance we can get you collaborating with Chris Brookmyre?

Unlikely, alas! He lives in Glasgow, I live in Edinburgh: we're talking Montagues and Capulets here.

18:

Are you going to be at WorldCon in the lovely city of Spokane, WA next August?

19:

I read it as Angleton being pulled into and stuck another dimension (or whatever), with the possibility that The Eater of Souls could be brought back and bound into another body. Hopefully not Bob's.

20:

Very probably. (Can't guarantee it, but I've bought an attending membership ...)

21:

If I recall correctly, you wrote Accelerando in the 1990's
and early 2000's. In the book there was a big financial meltdown that happened at just about the same time it actually happened in 2008. What made you make this prediction and its date ? Assuming that was not luck, when do you predict the next crash ?

22:

Which will come first, mind uploading or true AI?

23:

Do you have a good home remedy against the Chills?

24:

Great! Eastern Washington is very different from the Seattle area and most of us people that live out here are eager to show it off. Hopefully you get some time to do some sight-seeing.

25:

Hi Charlie,
First time post from a long-time lurker so firstly want to thank you for running such an excellent community!

Has there ever been any overtures to adapting any of your work for the big or small screen? How would you be inclined to that?

26:

Random chance. Also, it was glaringly obvious that the circa-1998-2004 system couldn't go on -- it was clearly a bubble and bubbles always burst.

27:

Ha ha. Stop shooting at the monkey's feet: not only will I not dance in response, if you anger me enough I'll fling my faeces at you. Ook!

29:

Yes, but I can't really talk about it unless/until something actually gets contracted for production.

Let's just say the ball is not in my court -- the amounts of money involved in any TV or film production are eye-wateringly huge, so it's not really up to me.

30:

Don't you think that the existence of Case Nightmare Green allows you too easily to justify a lot of really nasty stuff, e.g. total surveillance?

All that magic mumbo-jumbo, apart from being cool in itself, also functions most of the time as metaphor for real world issues and this is what makes urban fantasy more interesting to read than a lot escapist sci-fi. But I really fail to find anything in the real world that could justify things like total surveillance. Definitely not terrorism, and probably not even nuclear annihilation.

31:

I do seem to recall a conversation between Angleton and Mo regarding life, mortality and how Angleton fits into those sorts of things which may give a slight clue to how these sorts of things work.

It actually all depends on the nature of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

If this phenomenon is local to our universe, in that just our universe becomes more permeable to the ancient dead gods, then merely getting out from under (if he can) is Angleton's best option.

If the phenomenon is general throughout the multiverse, or even just to this general region of it, then there is no hiding from scrounging elder gods. In this case, Angleton is best off holing up with similarly motivated local intelligences and assisting with repelling incursions.

We also do not know how tied to this universe Angleton is. We know that the Fuller Memorandum bindings aren't much cop, but this does not explain why the TEAPOT entity was so easily summonned previously; this suggests a much stronger, pre-existing binding.

We also do not know how much of a free agent Angleton is as an entity. His sort may well be constructs, tethered in this general area as a way of culling incautious idiot civilisations before they blunder into inactive but far nastier, and more insanely evil entities and giving them a free meal. Keeping ancient evils inactive by preventing food sources wandering too close may well be the Angleton entity's main raison d'etre; we do not know.

I personally reckon it would take more than just a minor parasite/symbiote pairing to do Angleton down, especially as he undoubtedly knows all about vampires and undoubtedly has a few nasty little surprises ready and primed for them (likely starting with something to interfere with the human-parasite link).

Questions? I am not sure I have any questions for OGH, to be honest, and I'm not sure I want answers, either.

32:

Pie in the sky time, you know you can write a book and it will do well, even if said book consisted of the output of your kitten having a nip fit on the keyboard.

Any particular genres or ideas you would like to play around with?

Corollary - do you write to market and if so to what degree?

33:

Just dipped into a bit of "Classical" history agai .. which reminded me.
Up until approx 80BCE, Rome was a republic, priding itself on its' citizens "liberty" (Fuck the slsves, but never mind ... )
Then came Marius, Sulla civil wars, Juilis Ceasar & the principate.
As far as I can see, their liuberties were thrown away, because certain groups divided the state & would not relinquish ANY part of that control to the other faction(s)
Especially, after the last Punic War, the equivalent of today's super-rich took over & impoverished the citizenry.
Marius & then Ceasar became "people's dictators" (In theory at least) - meanwhile keeping all the real power for themseleves - what a surprise....
You can probably see where this is going.
Is the USA heading down a similar parallel path - what are the similarities (if any) & differences - & do the latter matter?

34:

Actually, I began writing the Laundry stories before the War On Terror kicked off. (I was aware of MI6, GCHQ et al shopping for a new mission post-1991, but Osama bin Laden was sufficiently obscure that he was my go-to choice for bad guy in the scene in Santa Cruz at the beginning of "The Atrocity Archive". That got changed in a hurry in late 2001!) As it is, we're living in an uneasy alternate future in which all this security shit is frankly a bad joke, administered rectally by inadequately trained murderous clowns presided over by Dick Cheney as ringmaster.

I can think of some potential threats that would justify total surveillance, but nothing we're up against in the real world unless you get insanely cynical, for Leo Strauss levels of cynicism, and postulate that the task of the Security Services is to find suitable plausible excuses for maintaining in being the tools that will be needed to repress any popular uprisings against the Owners, should such uprisings take place.

35:

Well, there's the on-the-back-burner-pending-contractual-obligations novel. But I'm not sure I can tell you what genre it wants to be, frankly: there doesn't seem to be a genre category for technologically-informed gothic horror crime fantasies set in the near future.

36:

Hrm, it was a genuine question, but okay. Let's try again.

What's the best story idea you have had that you didn't (and most likely won't) write?

37:

Do you have any appearance planned in France ?
Do you even go there for work (as a long time reader of this blog, I know that you regularly use Charles de Gaulle as departure hub, but no event has been announced) ?

Maybe one day, at the utopiales of Nantes ?

Yes, I'm envious of the pub meets in Berlin :P

38:

The big difference between Classical Rome and the 21st century United States is that the USA today is only about 15-20% of the global economy and 5% of the population. I'm pretty sure the Roman empire and its penumbra were 5-10% of the population and a rather bigger chunk of the global economy.

I'm hoping that by the time the United States collapses, it'll be too small to affect much outside its own borders. (Cf. Bruce Sterling's novel "Distraction".) Or that it doesn't collapse, of course, but right now reform from within doesn't look too likely ... it'd take a revolution, and the machinery of repression is already installed and in place to prevent one.

39:

Is post-privacy inevitable? If so, how far off is it?

40:

After Communism gave up and the Russians started importing Coca Cola MI5 was seriously looking around for something to do. Two potential targets were the Extreme Right (and still are, for different reasons) and (strangely) Occult Groups of various description. The latter being popular with MI5 beginners on the grounds that being "outed" would not get you executed or even beaten up a bit (curses notwithstanding). Plus, there was and is a strange crossover between intelligence services and the occult, of which you are probably aware.

Now, to add my question to the list: What do you think of the writings of Philip Dick?

41:

In your Merchant Princes series, you had two (three if you count the Dead Paris Hilton line) alternate histories. Both the Gruinmarket and New Britain were less advanced technologically than OTL.

Can you think offhand of any events in the past 200 years or so that, had they gone differently, would have produced a world that was technologically superior to our own?

42:

Nothing planned: I've heard of Utopiales, never been. (As mentioned up-thread, I have only one language ...)

43:

Post-privacy is inevitable; indeed, privacy is the anomaly -- it covers a period of around 2-3 centuries at most. Prior to that time, you will note that palaces, castles, and mansions didn't have corridors: the corridor was an invention to allow servants to move past rooms occupied by their employers without infringing their employers' privacy. (Previously, servants were considered as worthy of attention as any other domestic appliance. I blame the printing press, which allowed gossip to spread beyond word-of-mouth range.)

Surveillance-wise we've all been in the post-privacy era since the early 90s; anyone with any political connections/activism whatsoever was in the post-privacy era a long time before that.

44:

I haven't read Dick in decades.

45:

I can't do that because if I could, almost by definition we'd be living in that higher-tech time line.

However ...

* The articulated tractor/trailer truck dates to around 1918.

* The punched card tabulator dates to the 1890s and is in turn descended from Jacquard Loom technology from the early 19th/late 18th century.

* The wooden pallet dates in its modern form to world war 2, but could have been invented a lot earlier (late middle ages, if anyone had seen a need for it). The fork-lift truck coevolved with it ...

* The multimodal 20-foot shipping container developed in the 1950s; the first container ship set sail around 1958.

There is no good reason I can see why modern logistics based on the 20-foot TEU, multimodal transport (by truck, train, and ship), palletized goods loaded on and off via fork lift truck, and punched cards for tracking everything (as was done in the 1950s and 1960s) couldn't have evolved up to a century earlier, with incalculable consequences for global trade (and more clearly, military logistics during mobilization -- imagine the Schlieffen Plan with that sort of technology behind its supply lines).

46:

Did the origin of the Wow signal in the teapot constellation has any relevance to the Fuller Memorandum or CNG? Supplementary: are you psychic?

48:

Oh well, coincidences happen, but not to me particularly with respect to lottery numbers...Thanks, I was curious about the Teapot thing and am an intuitive believer that correlation indicates causation. Should the head rule the heart, do you think?

49:

(This is mostly from reading the Laundry files prior to The Rhesus Chart)

Do you defer to the sensitivities of your audience? I notice that Local Conservative Associations have so far been uniformly evil, but, in contrast to some truly appalling evangelistic nutcases, Bob has acquired connections to a minister of religion who is sane and sensible. Was that a BBC-like notion of balance, or a mollifying gesture of any kind?

Do you feel that there are a significant number of readers whose politics would be in broad agreement with yours, or do you feel like a prophet crying in the wilderness?

50:

I read him briefly in my teens/20s and his writing seemed like fluffy NewAge BS of the type I hated. Then I read him in my 50s and saw a new world of meaning there. He wasn't writing SF, he was just using that as a wrapper.

51:

In 50 years, what impact do you expect your writing to have left?

52:

Thank you, I'd quibble that we're not quite yet as post-privacy as you say (I could be a prominent political figure posting this without anyone knowing - you have my IP address, but only because I'm not, for once, using TOR just now). We don't yet have miniaturised drones that can get into every home and record people at whatever act. Anonymity (to a certain degree) is still possible.

But given that you think it PP inevitable, do you think it is completely futile to hold onto the old vestiges of privacy? Should we always wear data recording devices and publish information about ourselves and others with total impunity? In other words, is it time to embrace the loss of privacy and learn how to deal with the resultant social problems as quickly as possible?


53:

Simplifying assumption: everyone is the hero of their own narrative, nobody is consciously evil. They may do evil things, but there's always a justification (at least in their own mind).

I may believe that certain policies are wrong, misguided, or based on fallacious mis-understandings of reality, but on the other hand, I'm not always right, either. So I try to cut my protagonists and antagonists (at least, the human ones) a little slack.

Oh, another thing? Where you stand always looks like the centre ground of politics if you judge it subjectively. So the only real way to judge where you actually stand -- whether you're on the center ground or out on the fringe -- is to look to where you stand in relation to others. But then we run into the problem of systematic media bias. Upshot: it's really hard to get a handle on what "the public" believes. For example, US politics is mostly portrayed as a choice between the Republican and Democrat parties, each of which have a bundle of policy platforms that they assert are common-sense and agreed on by all. But actual opinion polling of US voters on specific policy items discovers that they're actually almost all way to the left/liberal end of the spectrum compared to the representatives they vote for. It's just that what they'd ideally vote for isn't even on the ballot, so they vote for traditional tribal alliances because the other guys are clearly worse. So ... I have no idea where I stand politically, really, in relation to what other people want (as opposed to what they vote for, and what we're told they want by mass media owned by rich oligarchs with their own propaganda agenda).

54:

Realistically, little or none.

55:

Psychic powers as applied to the prediction of trivial events even a few minutes in the future either do not exist, or are vanishingly rare. I say this as a former bookmakers' clerk; we used to have a saying regarding punters who won money; we used to joke that we'd lent them some money.

Most times, we were correct; the average racecourse punter (a derivation from the Irish Punt currency, I believe) does not win in the long term. Indeed the only reason I'm not still in that game is the UK National Lottery; when that got going, a lot of what we termed the Mug Money vanished overnight, and it was much harder to balance a book without people daft enough to bet on complete donkeys.

56:

In the Apocalypse Codex, it's strongly implied that the parasite that has infected Raymond Schiller has eaten/replaced his penis rather than his tongue. I don't think it's ever explicitly stated, and it's not expanded on much. It this me imagining things or was it edited out for reasons of taste/decency/plot streamlining?

57:

Nope; derived from the French ponter, via Faro.

58:

Heh, no. Unless my own middle-aged mental facilities caused me to not remember that I did that. :-)

I am totally cool with stories starring Mo and Andy.

Follow up question because I also play a lot of video games:
Have developers approached you about setting a game in any of your fictional universes, and did you consider allowing it?

Also, previous post was typed on iPhone, sorry for the spelling and extra comma. Or the missing comma. Those little suckers are tricky.

59:

Dumb(?) question: do I need to read the revised, re-released Trade families series before I read the new series?

Btw, thank you - you're one author I follow, becuase you *care* about your people (or should I say, you let them live their lives as they see fit, which may not be the way you'd wanted it to... sort of like a cat). Also, I *care* about the protagonists, unlike what little I've read in the last 25 years of lit-fic, where there's no there, there.

mark

60:

Have you read Thomas Pikettys "Capital in the 21st century" ?

Did it change your perception of the future ?

61:

Mug Money.


I thought odds were determined by how people are betting, as opposed to who the bookmaker thinks will win. but then there's starting odds... Reminds me of my days in MM&FX, as a lowly programmer...

But yes if psychic powers existed, evolution would have seen them everywhere, I presume. My personal pet theory is big data analysis may reveal multiple lottery winners are in fact time-travelers!!

62:

We don't yet have miniaturised drones that can get into every home and record people at whatever act.

You have a phone, don't you? And it's no use to you if you don't leave it switched on, in the vicinity of your person. So basically you're carrying an infinity bug around with you most of the time.

You may be able to turn it off. But (a) lots of phones (hello, Apple, I'm looking at you) don't have removable batteries, and of those that do, how do you know that "off" is really off? Indeed, the baseband processor in any phone runs a proprietary blob of code: merely looking at the back end of Android or iOS won't tell you jack shit about what's running on the radio stage, with access to the microphones and positioning sensors and GPS. If I was the Five Eyes I wouldn't target iOS or Android for back doors; I'd target the baseband firmware blobs that most folks don't even know exist.

Oh, here's another neat idea. You know we can make GSM (2G digital phone) circuitry really small and really cheap? With an insanely low current draw? If I was running the NSA I'd encourage big cellphone manufacturers to put anti-tamper tags/holographic stickers on their spare removable batteries and bleat loudly about the problem of defective phone batteries catching fire. Then I'd hit the manufacturers up to install a small circuit in each battery: a microphone and GSM transmitter stage. Powering off the phone with battery capacity >10%, or removing the battery, would switch the built-in infinity transmitter on, and leave it running for an hour or until it receives an incoming SMS saying "keep listening, we're agog". Then funnel all the calls from snitching batteries through a system that associates batteries with the phones of persons of interest, and listen in on them. In other words, if you're a POI, the very act of powering off your smartphone and/or removing the battery flags you as engaging in suspicious activity and switches on a bugging device.

Obligatory countermeasure: your friendly Furby. (Think about it ...)

I'm not paranoid, I'm just living in a world written by a ghastly studio collaboration between Aldous Huxley, Philip K. Dick, John Brunner, and Bruce Sterling.

63:

Sometimes, in fiction, the implicit is much more gruesome and unpleasant than the explicit. Less is more, in other words.

(If we get far enough on, Schiller will return. Probably in book 8 or 9.)

64:

What kind of Cat should I get next? I was thinking of either a Norwegian Forest cat or a Bengal. If I get both pretty soon I'll have a Leopard, maybe.

65:

Wow, if Schiller can return, that's probably really bad news for Bob & his universe.

66:

Rescue cat. (As long as you pay attention to its pre-existing medical conditions and it isn't totally deranged or feral.)

67:

Something big and vicious

68:

If we had a universal basic income — would you still be working on the new Laundry/Merchant books now, or would you have let one of the attack novels win?

69:

If you read "The Apocalypse Codex" you'd have noticed that GOD GAME BLACK was part of a portfolio of woe collectively codenamed GOD GAME RAINBOW.

As I mentioned up-thread, and as is mentioned in "The Annihilation Score" (this isn't a spoiler ... yet), CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is just one part of ... CASE NIGHTMARE RAINBOW. Which is (still not a spoiler) the set of all the existential anthropic threats that the Laundry is tasked with addressing.

CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN isn't the end of the world. It's one of the many ways the world ends.

70:

But the deranged feral ones are so much more entertaining!

(One of our cats we had when I was a kid lived with us for six years before it would let anybody touch it. Apart from the dog. She was fine with the dog. It was just humans she considered dangerously insane.)

71:

Purely hypothetically ... I'd finish the Laundry novel I'm working on right now because folks are expecting it. And the revisions to the Merchant Princes thingy (which probably won't be marketed as an MP trilogy because it's too different). But the attack novel would then be allowed to escape before I did anything else. Then "anything else" would probably be Laundry Files #8, assuming anyone wanted it. (Books #6 and #7 are rather different. Ahem. They're not by, or about, Bob.)

72:
Something big and vicious

Ripley's cat (Jones)could have taken out the Alien, but it just didn't feel like it.

73:

Ok, this makes me feel a bit silly asking, but I'm guessing I'm not the only one... how should your wife's name be pronounced?

74:

Since your first novel, what're the biggest lessons you've learnt in how to tell stories?

75:
She was fine with the dog. It was just humans she considered dangerously insane.

Fair comment.

76:

"There's more than one way to do it". (Per Larry Wall, talking about something entirely different. But I already knew that.)

77:

Hi! I am interested what's your take on bioengineering and its consequences on our life in the next 100 years (I admit my mind is too weak to extrapolate more).

From the previous post, I got that you do think that de Grey might have a chance to start a path towards immortality. Am I wrong?

Thanks!

78:

You've been writing for several decades now. It's well known that over that period of time you've had to deal with increasingly severe health issue issues -- close family members as well as your own. Maybe I'm just projecting, but: to what degree has this affected your writing, and has it been responsible for any shift I. The subjects you choose to write about? From one aging gaffer to another ;-)

79:

Not a question, but I just finished Glasshouse and was quite impressed. I know you have mentioned that it has slow U.S. sales. Perhaps a nicely bound "Senate Torture Report Commemorative Edition" would give your numbers a nice bounce.

Also, I think it should be assigned reading in high school. I realize that neither of these possibilities are likely to occur, but keep up the good work.

80:


Ah, an opportunity to revive a thread that ran on sci.space.[?] back in the 1990s.

Assuming that it occurred to the people of the time to want to do it, what's the earliest you think an artificial satellite, just a simple 10 kg cannon ball, could have been put into earth orbit? Assume OTL up to the event.

What if the satellite were a rudimentary film-return spysat?

81:

Just finished reading William Gibson’s “The Peripheral”, a novel dealing with time travel and alternate continuum. Enjoyed it immensely. Gibson uses a nifty quote from H.G Wells before the beginning of the novel:

“I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes with time traveling.”

Your Merchant Princes novels take place in alternate universes or continuum. Enjoyed them immensely and can’t wait to read the revised versions. What is your take on time travel as a vehicle in SF?

82:

Do I want to know your immediate reaction to my contest entry riffing on this? (Obviously too reliant on D&D humour to've been in the running)

Badly-designed software libraries/embedded languages in the Laundryverse: soon to become a capital offence?

83:

So we all know the general plot points behind the MP:TNG - its 20 years, the US is a panopticon that is still hunting the Clan, but is afraid of them and of other worlds learning that their first response to encountering another world civ was carpet nukes. They find the late, little lamented doctors records, and send those kids after the Clan. Meanwhile the Clan has been boostrapping the (implied to be going fascist) World 3 in defense of the fact America is coming.

What additional tidbits, hints, plots threads, themes, etc are you able to bait us with?

Follow up, what will the release schedule for the next books probably look like? 3 over 3 years, 3 over the course of a year, 1 big ass omnibus, 6 over 6 years because we have to keep the tradition of hacking MP books apart for mystical publishing reasons, etc?

84:

Yes, a number of companies I work with / have worked with make a point of putting all phones into a metal biscuit tin during meetings.

Me, I prefer the idea of using SIP / WebRTC (lumicall is your friend) etc. and redirecting calls and texts to my laptop during work, etc. and turning off the mobile. It'll be effectively off during meetings anyway.

85:

My last question: can I buy you a pint?

86:

Hi! I am interested what's your take on bioengineering and its consequences on our life in the next 100 years

That's not a question that has a reasonable answer. Might as well go back to 1880 and ask "what's your take on the internal combustion engine and its consequences on our life in the next 100 years?" -- Except the bioengineering version is even broader.

87:

Yes, but I'm not going to discuss other folks' health issues in a public forum.

I will note that novelists tend to be older, with careers starting in their 30s; which means publishers are aware that delivery schedules can be disrupted by death or serious chronic illnesses (relatives or authors).

In my case I reckon I've lost the equivalent of 2-3 novels worth of work since 2006 by getting the cocktail I take to control my blood pressure and diabetes nailed down. Flip side: since then I've published about 12-15 books and if I hadn't focussed on getting the meds sorted out I wouldn't have lived long enough to do that. So you take what you can while the taking's good.

88:

Doesn't spring from the barrel of a gun? How large of a gun would be required to get you to dance?

89:

Doesn't *power* spring...

90:

You've suddenly found for yourself a few spare hours to utilize for pleasure reading, what's the title of the work?

91:

A 10Kg cannon ball? Might have been possible as early as 1945-50 if Von Braun was given the green light and an unlimited budget circa 1941, instead of the A4 (V2) project.

Earlier ... not so much. Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation wasn't published until 1903 (Moore's earlier derivation languished in obscurity). It'd be next to impossible without liquid fuels or the high-grade solid fuels Jack Parsons invented during the 1940s. If Robert Goddard had an unlimited budget he might have beaten the Von Braun timetable by a couple of years ... or not. And if Sergei Korolev was given launching orders by Stalin's men in 1938, instead of a beating and a ticket to Siberia? Nope, it's still going to take a few years.

A film return capsule: we got that circa 1959 via Project Corona -- early US spysat program). Note what it says in that essay on the subject of the film stock used in the spysat -- it was three times higher resolution than the best camera film available as recently as the end of the second world war. And the first few film capsule retrieval attempts using mid-air retrieval weren't exactly successful, either.

Nope.

Without some major changes in the road-not-taken dimension before the turn of the 20th century, nobody was going to put anything into orbit prior to 1950.

92:

What is your take on time travel as a vehicle in SF?

See "Palimpsest". (And someday I plan to finish the rest of the novel of which it is the first third ...)

93:

Nope, you don't want to know the answer to that one. (Anyway, it's a Bob question. And Bob doesn't feature much in the next two Laundry novels.)

94:

Yes, but bioengineering is ANCIENT - half our food crops, most
of our domestic animals, and so on. A systematic understanding
is more recent (e.g. post-Mendel), but people were using solid
heuristics for many millenia before that. So why should the
new technologies be more than a difference in degree?

To put it in context, electricity as such hasn't made more than
a difference in degree, but it HAS enabled electronics (and
some other technologies), which is a difference in kind from
anything that was feasible before.

95:

What additional tidbits, hints, plots threads, themes, etc are you able to bait us with?

Sure: let's just say that one of the main viewpoint characters is the 70-something ringleader of the last Stasi spy ring left behind on US soil when the Berlin Wall crumbled ...

(Too early to tell how it'll be published, but most likely it'll be as three volumes at 2-3 month intervals. Best read as a single whole because it's really a single 1000 page novel.)

96:

Nitrous oxide and asphalt. ISP = 200s
It might have been technically possible to do it in the 1920s - if they had the knowledge.

97:

"For example, US politics is mostly portrayed as a choice between the Republican and Democrat parties, each of which have a bundle of policy platforms that they assert are common-sense and agreed on by all. But actual opinion polling of US voters on specific policy items discovers that they're actually almost all way to the left/liberal end of the spectrum compared to the representatives they vote for. It's just that what they'd ideally vote for isn't even on the ballot, so they vote for traditional tribal alliances because the other guys are clearly worse. "

Adding to that, I've seen a poll where people in the USA were asked to state (a) what they thought the current income distribution was and (b) what they thought the ideal distribution should be.

What they thought it was was way, was less extreme than it actually was, and they wanted it to be less extreme than thy thought it to be.

98:

If I said yes to everyone who asked that question, my liver would die.

But I'll say "yes, if we're ever in a pub at the same time". OK?

99:

So, as a perpetrator of near future fiction, and as someone who makes his crust off writing, what changes/developments do you expect to see in the telling of lies for money (novelists, screenwriters, marketeers, journlists, politicians), in the foreseeable?

100:

"everyone is the hero of their own narrative"

This reminds me of the Aubrey-Maturin series. Have you read a Patrick O'Brian novel?

Do you read non-sci-fi novels presently? If not: Have you read any in the last decade? Which one? If not: why?

When will you visit a pub in Switzerland? (I think I can guess that one: when you will be invited there)

101:

Barcode scanning wasn't invented until the late '40s, using plain light bulbs and five seconds or more to hold codes in place for recognition, so it wasn't practical before laser development in the '60s. To get real continental drift size movement of goods required automated code recognition to match the physical logistics of containerization; so Hollerith's punchcards might have handled database management okay in the 1890s, but data entry would have been almost as big a bottleneck as pilferage was, and delays in freight rerouting, before shipping containers. To say nothing of holdups from paper based invoicing and payments prior to web based communications. Even the CIA was still using a little 1,500 character burst transmitter codenamed BUSTER to run agents in Moscow in 1980, better than dead drop communications but it sounded like a Timex-Sinclair hitting the market only a year later. So all the advanced freight handling ability in the world would have been wasted before the '80s, which is around when globalization really kicked in anyway. Slower turnover of goods delays capital accumulation, thereby slowing the pervasive buyout of political influence, and reducing the hundred trillion worth of inheritances to change hands as boomers die off, and so affecting expectations and behavior for decades yet to come. My question to you is, given your familiarity with computer networks and data mining, how likely do you think would be the success of Piketty's recommended 1 or 2% annual wealth tax on large estates, when asset hiders command the same technology as governments? And if your first hunch is "not too likely", then what does that say about privacy concerns when state surveillance can be evaded?

102:

Ahahahaha!

Who the fuck knows?

(NB: I'm not really a perpetrator of near-future fiction: right now I'm planning on doing fantasy for the next few years. The real world is getting so weird and strange that I can't keep up.)

103:

Yes, I've read more than one Patrick O'Brien novel. Stalled around book 4; need to go back and re-start the entire series.

I am mostly reading urban fantasy at present: I find it hard to read fiction that's too close to the interior of my own skull.

And I think I was last in Switzerland over 30 years ago. Not that I'm averse to going back, but it's a big world ...

104:

NOTE: I have answered a buttload of questions and I'm going to bed now. I will not be answering any more until tomorrow ... and I may be doing so from a train, with erratic/intermittent connectivity.

So I am disabling comments until I'm ready to answer more questions.

...Reopened.

105:

Why is Alex, of all people, the protagonist for book 7? Why not someone who's even more different than Bob used to be?

Following up on Vanzetti's question in 51: what impact would you want your books to have had in 50 years?

What book(s), other than your own, would you like to see adapted for film/TV?

106:

One of the rules seems to be that those closest to a subject, and who might be expect to have the best understanding of the key drivers, seem to be incapable of applying that domain knowledge to seeing where they are going. 'Can't see the wood for the trees' scenario. You almost need "pair prognosticating" - someone with deep domain knowledge, and system guy who can see the interactions at work from a wider, higher, viewpoint.

And you have perpetrated near-future fiction in the recent past, so you're tagged (and it's of more interest to me than urban fantasy).

107:

Why is Alex, of all people, the protagonist for book 7? Why not someone who's even more different than Bob used to be?

Because book 6 is by Mo, who is about as different from Bob as it's possible to be. Book 7 needs to be by someone who's not too different from Bob ... as he started out. Book 8 should loop back to Bob again, as he's become, making the contrast glaringly clear.

What book(s), other than your own, would you like to see adapted for film/TV?

I don't really care about film/TV enough to comment.

108:

"Can't see the wood for the trees" is very true.

Also: perspectives change as we age. I'm now more interested in the uses human beings put technologies to than in the new technologies in and of themselves. (I think we're most of the way along the sigmoid curve of Moore's law; many of the technological implications are now clear, as well as the limits, and the stuff coming out of our corporate R&D is increasingly boring and predictable, much as civil aviation by the mid-1960s began to settle down into predictably throwing out big-ass subsonic jet airliners from a couple of cookie-cutter molds, rather than wild-ass weird stuff like the Fairey Rotodyne or Concorde. There are still innovations to come, but far fewer, and rolling out on a huge industrial scale that small start-ups probably can't have much influence over.)

109:

Having been an avid reader of Derek Robinsons RAF books, will we be seeing any more of 666 squadron?

110:

Mr. Stross,

You've incorporated and expanded upon Lovecraft's mythos to great effect in your works. What other works of fiction would you (have) like(d) to splice, dice and recombine into your work, if they were unencumbered by copyright?

112:

Yes, that's a gigantic gun on the mantelpiece. Originally I intended to pull the trigger in book 7, but there may not be room, so, book 8 or 9.

(Yes, there's enough room in the Laundryverse that I'm putting guns on mantelpieces for future books. And bazookas, and H-bombs ...)

113:

I had a yen, some years back, to do a satirical sequel to 1984. And it's going to be out of copyright as a book soon enough. The trouble is the movie franchise that stitched it up in the 1950s and re-copyrighted the whole shooting match in my biggest market (the USA) for another 95 years. My agent and I have discussed it and it's simply not worth the risk of litigation.

114:

would you like to do another collaborative book when the current workload has been cleared. I wouldn't put you in an invidious position by asking for suggested collaberators but would you consider working with a non-fiction writer (e.g Paul Krugman), if you could sketch out a scenerio?

115:

Woohoo! BTW I know one of the curators at the RAF Cosford museum, apparently he has some authority over a TSR2...

116:

Ooo, now that sounds very like a "we've invented everything, and I'm getting to be a grumpy old man, so nothing can change".

Got to say I disagree, in a major way. Moore's law, and other developments, have put a bunch of tools on the table, and a few artisans have bashed out a few pastiches of older technologies (phones, really?) - but the scope for massive new technologies in systems is only just beginning. And given the way things work, most of those will get developed by small startups - since it's policy now for the big boys to snap up winners, rather than inventing it themselves.

Sooner or later, someone will start shooting the bankers - and the lawyers won't be far behind. Things will fragment under the forces heaped upon them.

The pace of change isn't going to be slowing down - quite the reverse. And one of the drivers will be info glut - which has implications for novel writing.

117:
Because book 6 is by Mo, who is about as different from Bob as it's possible to be. Book 7 needs to be by someone who's not too different from Bob ... as he started out. Book 8 should loop back to Bob again, as he's become, making the contrast glaringly clear.

Alex also strikes me as considerably brighter and more self-aware than Bob (if, currently, with less field experience…)

Am I reading too much into what little we've seen of him?

118:

Nope. Especially not with a non-fiction-author.

119:

"Brighter and more aware" maybe, but aware of the way the Laundry works? Definitely not. Also, rather different personality-wise.

120:

Do you put in a lot of research time to include things like "Acoustic Kitty" in your books? I've told you before, but one of the things I love about your stories is stopping to find out all of this new information. Do you have an eidetic memory?
Will Angleton ever show up again (and not in a flashback)?
Thank you for your time.

121:

A few years ago, around the same time, both Gibson & Stephenson released books that were basically just collections of essays they had written for other sources. Since your various blogposts on non-fiction subjects are, in my opinion, on average of better quality -- is there any chance that you might collect ~300 pages of your favorites and throw them at a publisher? Alternately, are there other science fiction authors who have done this whose essays are worth reading (or other science fiction authors you wish had done this because their essays are excellent)?

122:

Hey, I was born in a house with no running water, not a barn! Please accept my apologies for the poor phrasing; I am most specifically not asking about your personal life. What I'm curious about is how these experiences have found their way into your writing: do intimations of mortality make you go easy on unsympathetic characters, or make you concentrate on the here-and-now (or at least the near future instead of airy-fairy far-future galactic empire fantasy-land)? Have you tilted towards making hay while the sun shines, or are you concentrating on craft? I really liked what you did with Rule 34, BTW. It is, IMHO far and away some of the best writing you've ever done.

I ask because as I've gotten older, my own tastes have been influenced by events that -- shall we say -- make one sadder and wiser. You get older. Shit happens. You realize that, contrary to your younger self's notion of pathos, it's not a tragedy to make the angels weep when you get cock-blocked at the pub, or are unfairly downgraded by a professor. And where once I bounced off stories with more adult themes, well, the action-adventure stuff is still fun as a comfort read. But, it's the slower, sadder more mundane stuff I appreciate now. Anyhoo, my too-long explanation and apology for my poorly-phrased question.

123:

Yes, it existed before but on the mild and slow scale. They couldn't mix and match animals and plants. Not to mention invention of new nucleotides or making the whole genome from scratch.

124:

What do you do for amusement when you have absolutely no desire to look at a screen or printed page? Or, has that ever happened?

Cheers

125:

Disclaimer - the previous question was in no way meant to be snide or demeaning.

126:

What is your opinion on the subject of fan fiction? In general, and in the area of your own work? Some professional authors are against the stuff, others freely admit they got started that way. I'm curious as to where you are on the spectrum of opinions.

127:

What is the best short story you have ever read?

128:

I'm not Charlie, I'm not in any way associated with him other than as a happy consumer, and I absolutely don't pretend to speak for him, but...

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/05/faq-fanfic.html

...might cover at least some of the ground. :-)

129:

What urban fantasy do you recommend, besides Jim Butcher?

And was Accelerando a reaction in part to Schismatrix?

130:

ever hear anything back from Cheney or his lawyer squad?

131:

You have the opportunity to time travel back to the 19th century but the shuttle is leaving soon and you can't take more than a carry on luggage. You can drop by any store though and put stuff on the credit card. What do you grab to make sure you're more likely to be able to survive comfortably and be able to make the most signicant change?

Change of plans, you've got a couple months to prepare and you've managed to obtain a €1 million line of credit against your next book (no big deal, you'll have a century or two to write it now!). On top of that you've been able to secure a standard container worth of fret. How do you fill that up?

132:

Does Case Nightmare Green involve large-scale war between human actors? It certainly seems like there would be compelling, not-entirely-evil reasons to wage war upon another state, if one believed:

a). That the other state, with its military and (former) human resources, was likely to fall under the control of tentacled horrors, or;

b). That the government of the other state believes that *you* are likely to fall under the control of tentacled horrors, and the government of the other state is therefore contemplating military action against you.

The underlying strategic logic here isn't dissimilar to that of the British attack on Mers-el-Kébir - your countrymen had (at the moment) no great quarrel with the French, but took great exception to the French fleet becoming a de facto German fleet. Result: Boom.

In short, it seems that Case Nightmare Green would make relations between even normally-friendly nations very, very fraught. Everyone would have good reason to shoot at lots of other people, either because they believed they'd fallen to tentacled horrors, or because they believed the other guy believed they'd fallen to tentacled horrors. Easy to imagine a scenario in which most Case Nightmare Green deaths stem from war (nuclear or otherwise), rather than eldritch abominations.

133:

In short: Case Nightmare Green is hideously destabilizing. (Who knew?)

134:

At the risk of somewhat derailing this thread towards one of the strange attractors, e.g. our feline overlords:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/04/cat_intelligence_and_cognition_are_cats_smarter_than_dogs.html

Sorry, just back from an day long odyssee to the intersection of Fulda Gap and North German Plain, I'm getting better...

135:

'Post-privacy is inevitable' ... 'all this security shit is frankly a bad joke'. Not totally contradictory, but.

There's a John D. MacDonald riff on this, I think in The Quick Red Fox. Travis McGee expresses his dislike for all this modern (1980) data on him. His wise old Milton Friedmanesque friend tells him to spam the system. Bury what you want private behind giant piles of meaningless crap. Aren't lots of us doing this anyway?

136:

Bulletin:

How I spent my afternoon instead of answering your questions:

1. Buy off-peak anytime return ticket from Edinburgh to Leeds. (Valid outbound on day of purchase, return within 28 days, only on services departing after 9:30am. Price: half a left kidney.)

2. Hop on the 1408 Cross-Country service from Edinburgh to Plymouth (calling everywhere en route, including Leeds).

3. At 4pm, arrive in Newcastle, where an announcement is heard: "this service is terminating here due to a fatality on the line between Newcastle and Darlington". Oops.

4. Look across platform and see the 1400 Edinburgh to King's Cross ECML train similarly standing stationary. (The ECML doesn't go via Leeds, I'd have to change in York: otherwise I could have taken it instead.) It, too, has been cancelled due to the fatal incident. The platform is rapidly filling up ...

5. Realize that the fatal incident happened on the only stretch of track between Edinburgh and parts south that doesn't involve going all the way across to Glasgow and down the West Coast instead. Realize, furthermore, that the line will be shut for at least an hour (more likely 2-3 hours), that it is early rush-hour in the week before Christmas, and all the north/south traffic between Eastern Scotland and Englandshire is about to back up like an overflowing toilet. (Think in terms of 2-8 trains per hour, 200-500 passengers/train. Now divide by the number of coaches available ...) Notice the absence of railway staff directing folks to the replacement bus service (what replacement bus service?) and realize which way the wind is blowing.

6. Hastily board the [empty, because nobody's coming in from down south] East Coast train, which is about to head back to Edinburgh.

7. Get the ticket inspector to endorse my return ticket, then take it to the ticket office and fill out forms in triplicate. A refund is, as they say, in the works.

8. Get home. Total elapsed time: 5h30m. Total distance travelled: around 300 miles. Futility: maximized.

Ah well. I suppose someone else had a much worse day and I should be happy enough not to have shared it any more closely ...

137:

(Books of essays)

I looked into it, discussed it with a couple of publishers. It could be done. Sales would be so marginal, however, that it'd be a vanity project -- I could earn three times more money spending the same amount of time writing fiction instead.

Note that William Gibson and Neal Stephenson are bestsellers. (I am not: I hope to be, one day.)

138:

Currently concentrating on literary craft, because that's what I perceive as my main weak area, while trying not to backslide on the stuff I'm strong on (ideas). Trying to be humane towards my characters. (Not introducing red shirts just so I can kill them off to make a cheap point. (Expensive points only.))

Yes, it's part of the ageing process: our perceptions of what's important change.

140:

"Ah well. I suppose someone else had a much worse day and I should be happy enough not to have shared it any more closely ..."

There seems to be a weird British thing where, to cheer you up, someone reminds you there are people worse off than yourself.

"I saw some guy on fire earlier - cheered me up no end!"

141:

What is your opinion on the subject of fan fiction?

I have a FAQ for that.

142:

I mostly gave up short fiction over a decade ago.

143:

And was Accelerando a reaction in part to Schismatrix?

Nope: that had already been assimilated by the genre in the form of much of Al Reynolds' work (the Revelation Space sequence). Note: I view Schismatrix as being the type specimen for the new space opera -- some folks think it was Consider Phlebas, but Schismatrix was so insanely revolutionary in both style and substance that it went virtually unrecognized for what it was at the time: it took a decade for most of us to understand what Sterling had done.

145:

What do you grab to make sure you're more likely to be able to survive comfortably and be able to make the most signicant change?

I don't board that time shuttle. (Without my meds I'd be dead within 3 months.)

Also, you're assuming that I want to up-end the 19th century and re-write history. Maybe it hasn't occurred to you that that's a young guy's game? Even with a supply of necessary medicines, I wouldn't live to see the consequences of any deep-rooted changes: I'd be condemned to live out my life in a mostly pre-electricity crapsack world where even being fabulously rich doesn't banish the stench of horseshit or make travel easy.

146:

Does Case Nightmare Green involve large-scale war between human actors?

See book 7 onwards. (I'm not going to spoiler stuff I haven't even begun writing yet.)

Note that wrt. your point (b), the government most likely to fall under the influence of tentacled eldritch horrors would appear to be the US government, via the Black Chamber (if their other occult agencies can't rein them in). And the nation most able to defend against the sort of attack you're talking about is ... the USA! So that logic doesn't work terribly well.

147:

There seems to be a weird British thing where, to cheer you up, someone reminds you there are people worse off than yourself.

It goes back a long way.

Supporting evidence: go read the opening of New Grub Street by George Gissing. (Which is not mentioned in the wikipedia entry, but is an example of this same tendency ...)

148:

Too good to miss:

our feline overlords

This need not be a strange attractor. You merely need to acknowledge the Truth... and all will be well.

149:

All right, I got a couple questions for you. I understand you have answered them before, but it's best to get up to date info from the author's mouth.

1. Would you expand on Missile Gap some day? Whether another short or a full blown novel?

2. Is the Eschaton "NO" a "100% no chance in hell, ever, so stop bothering me for more novels in that series NO" or is there a 0.00001% chance still?

3. Don't get me wrong, I love your current work, but I am a sucker for old school and newer, but still more or less fitting the old mould space opera. Foundation, Revelation Space, Commonwealth/Void, The Expanse, etc. Will we ever get a space opera from you? Saturn's children doesn't count for me, something more... canonical.

3.1 If you don't agree with the above then I'll rephrase - Will we ever get another space opera?

Thanks for all your work, I have enjoyed your novels greatly, greetings from Bulgaria.

150:

Not essays ..agreed with all consulted that that would be a bit too specialist and maybe Small Press ..But,perhaps, a Volume of Short Stories Plus Novela/s in the Laundry Files Series?

I appreciate that Novellas are almost as demanding of an Authors time as Novels, but, you've done most of the Work so a little more in the way of Stuff that even the most entusiastic of readers of The Laundry Files wont have read yet and you would have the equivilent of, say ...

" The first short story collection in the #1 New York Times bestselling series-including a brand-new Harry Dresden novella! "

http://www.jim-butcher.com/books/dresden/side-jobs


Just one more novella, plus a modest amount of background to the series ..." The Truth About Cluthu ..My Part In His/Her Downfall !!" .. and away you go to the, ' #1 New York Times bestselling series '

151:

Shame, I think your near-future work, especially Rule 34, is really, really good.

152:

Several questions!

1) Of the diverse utopian societies depicted in SF, is there one where'd you think "a society like this just might work (without magical tech)" and "I wanna live there?"

2) My feeling is that you write fantasy the way one would typically write hard SF. A while back you wrote a blog post about why you write mostly fantasy by now. But I wonder, why not write SF like a fairy tale - from the perspective of someone who does'nt understand what's going on and consequently applies magial thinking? (for example one of the natives from the planet the Carnivcal visits first in Singularity sky)

3) In light of the post a few years back about Tannenbaums law and SETI, do you think Fermis paradox is that paradox?

153:

1. Would you expand on Missile Gap some day? Whether another short or a full blown novel?

Nope.

2. Is the Eschaton "NO" a "100% no chance in hell, ever, so stop bothering me for more novels in that series NO" or is there a 0.00001% chance still?

"I've given you a new multi-Hugo-nominated space opera series, what more do you want?" (i.e. not only is there no chance in hell, that train has already left the station.)

3.1 If you don't agree with the above then I'll rephrase - Will we ever get another space opera?

Coming in 2015: a Laundry Files novel.

Coming in late 2015/2016: a near-future parallel universes technothriller (call it a Merchant Princes universe spin-off).

Coming in 2016: a Laundry Files novel.

Coming in 2017 (probably): a Laundry Files novel. Maybe a fantasy novel as well.

Do you detect a pattern here?

154:

Not essays ... But,perhaps, a Volume of Short Stories Plus Novela/s in the Laundry Files Series?

Not impossible. If I need to take a year out from writing Laundry Files novels, a short story collection may now be possible. It'd include "Equoid", "Overtime", "Down on the Farm", and at least the same length again in not-yet-written/published Laundry short fiction (I've got a planned but not-written-due-to-no-time novella to do some time).

But note that short story collections don't sell as many copies as novels (so I get a smaller book advance) and writing an original novella isn't much less effort than writing a whole damn novel.

155:

I probably didn't emphasize this, but when I mention a gothic haunted house fantasy novel, it's also a work of near-future extrapolative SF. Because we have both kinds of music in this here juke joint -- we do country and western!

156:

That's three times NO to three questions. Must not be my lucky day.

I have a theory that if we bother you for another 15 or 20 years you will eventually cave in and write another Eschaton novel.

Thanks for answering my questions.

157:

Another one!

4) Sometimes around Rule 34, you said something to the effect that you don't believe in free will. Can you elaborate which concept(s) of free will you don't believe make sense, and which ones might?
And what does this imply if one wants a democracy deserving of the name?

158:

Any chance of what John le Carré did in The Secret Pilgrim? Find a narrative device that allows an assembly of short stories and vignettes that include a number of characters (some new) and based in different parts of the Laundry's timeline. There must be all sorts of cock-ups in Bob's early career, and stories from the pre-Bob period that did not make it to the files.

159:

1) Of the diverse utopian societies depicted in SF, is there one where'd you think "a society like this just might work (without magical tech)" and "I wanna live there?"

Hahaha. "diverse utopian societies" [without magical tech] in SF ... there are virtually none of those, AIUI. Unless you count crankish libertarian universes populated by perfectly spherical frictionless humans of uniform density and perfect rationality.

why not write SF like a fairy tale - from the perspective of someone who does'nt understand what's going on and consequently applies magical thinking?

You've read Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" I take it? (The first tetralogy, before the ongoing series dived into high Catholic woo.) Because that's how I read Severian's romansbildung.

3) In light of the post a few years back about Tannenbaums law and SETI, do you think Fermis paradox is that paradox?

Maybe. I tend to think, currently, that the great filter still lies in our future -- and indeed, we may be the trigger for it, via massive anthropogenic climate change and mass extinction. (If we don't fix the damage we won't last long enough to explore our own solar system, much less colonize the cosmos.)

But ... I assume you read "Accelerando". A thought occurs to me, which is that if you can build a Matrioshka Brain, then by definition not only does your civilization want to stick within at most 1-2AU of its central star (because: bandwidth is highest if you can beam packets back and forth across the interior of the shell of orbiting computronium nuggets), but you probably don't need to go exploring. You have an almost-any-wavelength interferometer in the shape of a sphere of internal radius equal to your MB. Indeed, given that the MB consists of concentric shells of tiny freely orbiting units, you can best think of it as roughly equivalent to a telescope with a light-gathering surface 100-300 million km in radius(!) that works at all wavelengths from gamma rays through to radio with a wavelength on the order of 2-8AU (under a couple of billion km or so, in other words).

Forget worrying about being able to detect exoplanets directly: an MB a few thousand light years away from us could probably read the small print in a newspaper. (Well, I exaggerate. But it's got to be pretty close to the limits of what you can achieve with an optical interferometer of ~infinite size.)

More to the point: an MB ought to be able to "see" any other MB in this galaxy -- or any other galaxy within hailing range (a billion light years or so?).

So: postulate that MBs are the logical end-state of smart-matter-making intelligent life made out of condensed matter. They could be chatting away behind our metaphorical backs, and we'd never notice, any more than the ants under your kitchen floor can read this blog. We're beneath their notice, other than as a matter of abstract curiosity (see also: ants). And if we get uppity, there's always a Nicoll-Dyson beam to put us back in our place.

160:

Can you elaborate which concept(s) of free will you don't believe make sense, and which ones might?

"Free will" seems to me to be a concept elaborated by Christianity (with roots in Judaism) to deal with the idea of Original Sin and to make sense of the nonsensical existential paradoxes set up by what is basically an iron-age desert tribe's creation mythos. If you have free will, you have choice, and if you have choice, you can make the wrong choice, and if you make the wrong choice, you can be guilty, and if you are guilty, punishment (as a corrective, or retribution) makes sense. See also wikipedia. As I reject "an omnipotent, omniscient divinity that raises certain injunctions or moral obligations for man" as being nonsensical (not to mention lacking in supporting evidence), and neuroscience casts some doubt on the concept of free will as a conscious phenomenon, I find it to be a rather less than useful concept for evaluating human behaviour.

161:

Find a narrative device that allows an assembly of short stories and vignettes that include a number of characters (some new) and based in different parts of the Laundry's timeline.

Not impossible. We'll see.

162:

" But note that short story collections don't sell as many copies as novels (so I get a smaller book advance) and writing an original novella isn't much less effort than writing a whole damn novel."

Yes, I appreciate that. My own thought is that the S.Story Plus Collection will fit into a pattern in which something occurs to you that wont quite fit into a Novel...like "Equoid" ? ..And then is commissioned into an Anthology ### “Cluthu ...My Part In His/Her Downfall!!" ## And, then, maybe, the Laundry Files takes off in the US of S and beyond as a Best Seller Series.

Surely Someone...OR SOMETHING!! ..can be compelled to be interested in " Cluthu ..My Part In His/Her Downfall !!"

163:

What sources do you consult, reference, and/or learn from with regard to the tradecraft of intelligence work so you can accurately write about it in your various novels?

164:

Is Bob's real name Simon? (Why limit the BOFH parallel to just one of his identities, after all? A more complete symmetry is always - well okay, often - the more aesthetically pleasing...)

- Strangely, an at least semi-serious question, actually. I have no idea why I care about this random and utterly inconsequential a bit of an author's backstory for one of their characters, but somehow I am curious about this. Huh. Maybe it's the names-have-power thing. ;-)

Extra question: If the above should happen to be the case: are there people in "Bob"'s life (Mo? Pinky & Brains?) who've ever called him Simon the Sorcerer?

And another names question: why in the world would anyone shorten "Dominique" to "Mo"?

Yes, all my questions are trivial. The lateness of the hour etc.

165:

If you'll take another one from me, can you suggest anything to read? Fiction, or non-fiction. Oddly, our tastes seem to overlap...

166:

What sources do you consult, reference, and/or learn from with regard to the tradecraft of intelligence work so you can accurately write about it in your various novels?

I could tell you, but then they'd make me kill you.

167:

What did you get out of all those discussions about starship design a few years back? I assume some of the ideas showed up in Neptune's Brood, but I'm curious if you found it useful.

As a side note, I'm not sure the US would be the first government taken over by eldritch horrors. Silly as our politicians are, there seem to be a bunch of superstitious dictators out there who could have been coopted years ago without most of the world noticing. As for the major powers, I'd throw Russia and China through the pentacle before the US got its act together and dove after. If anything, I think the US government has gotten so anglophilic that we're hypnotized ourselves into replaying the decline and fall of the British Empire, even when it makes little sense for us.

168:

What did you get out of all those discussions about starship design a few years back? I assume some of the ideas showed up in Neptune's Brood, but I'm curious if you found it useful.

It got me a trip to the DARPA Hundred Year Starship symposium in Orlando that year ...

Also, it helped enormously in Neptune's Brood by, as much as anything else, shining a spotlight on all the misconceptions and fallacious assumptions that surround starships and the idea of space colonies. It reminded me of what people think about when you say "generation starship", and dragged up a whole lot of nit-picky critiques that made it easier to see the weaknesses in the whole idea.

(Only then I went and hit Graeber's monumental Debt and realized I was approaching everything wrong and needed to focus on the economic impetus ...)

I think the US government has gotten so anglophilic that we're hypnotized ourselves into replaying the decline and fall of the British Empire, even when it makes little sense for us.

Nope. What happened is that the US government inherited the British empire -- or rather, the bits that made most of the money (cough, the Middle East: oil) and strategic leverage. So of course it's recapitulating the earlier failure modes of the very same empire. I suspect in a thousand years time the historians (if there are any) will talk about the British and American empires in exactly the same way our own historians talk about the western and eastern Roman empires.

169:

(I think part of the reason why I'm interested in this small random bit of character background is actually that I'm sort of all about the... alienation of characters, which is something that has been happening with Bob in a big way of course, and somehow, any small human detail throws it into sharper relief, emotionally? Kind of like how you're going to contrast Now-Bob with Alex - in my mind I'm contrasting Now-Bob with pre-Laundry-Bob, i.e. a Bob who didn't even have a code name. Hm.)

170:

What's weird about our time? Aside from little things like fiction categories as specialized as vegan werewolf romances; Canada legalizing same-sex marriage; the Soviet Union collapsing with relatively little violence; the Netherlands making it less legal to smoke tobacco than marijuana in public....

171:

We'll agree to disagree on the US. Personally, I suspect that the Canadian branch of the former British Empire will hang on as the metaphorical eastern Roman Empire to Britannia long after the US has done whatever we're going to do once the eastern US gets too humid for even Washington or the Old South to endure.

172:

"Forget worrying about being able to detect exoplanets directly: an MB a few thousand light years away from us could probably read the small print in a newspaper."

Not quite. The resolution of a telescope a few AU across at 1000 light-years would be on the order of 10 metres.

(Signed, another tragic victim of drive-by nerd-sniping.)

173:

Charlie,

What are your opinions regarding the psychedelic experience? Any favorite stories(3rd person of coarse...)?

174:

If offered Honours (if some fan of yours attained a position of influence on the relevant committee, say) would you accept them? Or are you a committed enough Republican that you'd refuse?

175:

In your blog entry "How I got here in the end" you mention that you knew you wanted to be an SF writer from the age of 12 (and taught yourself to type at the same age - presumably in preparation for such a career). You obviously had developed considerable writing skills during secondary school because you also mention that the head of your school's English department described your failure to go for an "A" level in the subject as a "grave loss" to the department.
My question (if it's not too intrusive) is - what led up to that point where, at 12, you knew what your chosen career was? I suppose I'm asking about your earliest reading and writing habits.

176:

Oh the heck with all this. If I want to know what you're writing I WILL READ IT AS IT COMES OUT.
(And I do, so I will)

What I really want to know is: How Spectacularly awesome are you? Tell the truth. Pretty darn awesome, eh?

177:

And another: you've stated Diet Coke is your preferred writing beverage for its stimulant and mild psychotropic effects. How did you figure out aspartame had that effect on you?

178:

In the first Merchant Prince trilogy, is it possible to deduce who MYRIAD is, or is that a teaser left for a future book?

179:

Do you have a favourite Harry Harrison novel?

180:

Do you take any comfort knowing that most of the doomsday predictions of near-future climate-astrophes are built on flawed assumptions tested with flawed models tuned to said flawed assumptions which aren't doing a very good job replicating the real world? I don't know how long the IPCC folks can keep putting out reports proclaiming imminent doom when the doom keeps neglecting to stop by for tea, but I remain dubious that the temperature of the planet is so finely tuned as to be thrown out of whack and into a "we're all screwed" scenario by tweaking the concentration of a trace gas... particularly since the mass of a column of gas suspended in a gravity field must be included in any such energy budgets, and is not in any of the (now 5) IPCC reports I've read.

181:

Good morning, Charlie,
Not sure if you're still running this AMA, but...
I really appreciate reading suggestions from authors whose work I enjoy. You've mentioned many SF writers and books you admire, as well as having writers as guests on your blog - and I've been led to quite a few good reads as a result. Now that you're working in urban fantasy, do you have any recommendations in that direction? Its a very variable-quality genre... I'm pretty sure I remember you advising aspiring writers to read widely in their target genres, so I guess you've probably read a fair whack. But if you've mentioned anything you like, I think I must have missed it!

182:

What would you consider to be the most important but humble inventions of the last 150 years?
I would suggest, the Washing Machine(I can remember clothes being washed in a Copper and extracting water with a mangle) and the Vacuum Cleaner. Other possibilities are Gas/Electric cookers and central heating

183:

Do your read Professor Krugman's Blog/Column?

Are their any (online) UK news sources you read regularly>

What news sources do you prefer?

184:

What made you decide to write Halting state and Rule 34 in second person? I've never come across it before, took some getting used to but worth the effort.

I've been reading several series (Your Laundry and Merchant Princes, Mike Carey's Felix Castor and the Dresden books spring to mind.) where everything ramps up. Characters start as beginners and level up, situations get more complex/darker/weirder, baddies get badder. What are your thoughts on a series that goes the other way, describing the winding down of a catastrophe? Would it work? Would you try it?

Have you considered parodying Enid Blyton in the Laundry Series? I'd love to read Five go raising the Dead or Shock for the Shoggoth Seven

185:

Almost
Actually, the "Brits" were giving up their Empire - in fits & starts & with many mistakes.
India should have had independance about 2-3 years later & as a single state, f'rinstance.
~The US was determined to destroy said empire, even though it was dissolving ...
Then suddenly changed tack, sometime about 1960 (ish) & have taken over the bits they consider short-term profitable.
Not a clever move, actually.

186:

"You killed off Angleton.
Did I? I'm not sure."

Thank you for this glimmer of hope.

187:

All dependant upon "piped" electricity, actually, are they not?
Which cahnges the most imprtant invention to "Dynamos" (so to speak) & electric motors.
The rest follows.

188:

Suggest Laundry Book 11 "At Worlds' Ends".

189:
"What made you decide to write Halting state and Rule 34 in second person? "
You may find the answer to that in the crib sheets for the two books:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/06/crib-sheet-halting-state.html

and

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/07/crib-sheet-419rule-34.html

Both worth a read (as are all the crib sheets).

190:

Addition: You'll also find that the reasons for the second person narration in Halting State and Rule 34 are entirely different.

191:

In the past you've spilt the beans on books you've had ideas for but will never write. Any chance you're willing to do so in this case too?

192:

I'm sure Charlie won't mind me jumping in here...

Firstly, the IPCC reports aren't the doomsday ones, they are the middle of the road made as rosy as possible for consumption by politicians.
So that's the first strike against you.
Secondly, you don't mention any models or have any indication that you even know what the models are for and why we have them.
Thirdly, the heat accumulated by the earth is increasing nicely, and the 'pause' you are talking about isn't even statistically significant. Thus you're talking pure mince.

Fourthly, trace gas, well, you try breathing Cl2 at concentrations of 300ppm and see how you get on. Chemistry denial is at least amusing to the rest of us.
Fifthly, temperature is not a result of the pressure of the air above it. So that's physics denial.

Are you a troll a poe or just.....?

193:

Death of government bureaucracy ... have you considered this is a possibility thanks to constant government surveillance? No need to ask the populace to fill out forms in triplicate if all of your activity is already being monitored and recorded. After a while, people forget that they used to be asked for information, and sometimes even asked about their opinions.

However, what is the likely next step in this evolution? Will the machine/govt intervene by (say) allowing some intermittent technical 'glitches' to exist regardless of how expensive the system is, or how many upgrades installed? (I would accept AI baby steps ... I'm most interested in what you think the practicalities/mundane aspects of this type of evolution are.)

194:

A fine and worthy avocation!

195:

The new Star Wars trailer: any comments?

My comments: Diversity is fine, and clones are fine, but when clones are diverse I have questions. Also, that lightsaber seems designed for chopping off your own hand.

196:

What is your position on/opinion of the Long Now project & that associated community?

197:

Charlie has said that he hates Star Wars&Trek, so hopefully he won't mind me taking this one.

First off, I think it's safe to assume that the first person shown isn't a Stormtrooper, but a Rebel agent, as in "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?"
Second, I'm indifferent about the lightsaber, but see REAL SWORDSMEN WEIGH IN ON STAR WARS'S WEIRD...

I'll admit to growing up a SW nerdboy; saw the first movie when it came out at age 6, in a drive-in theater.

198:

In the past you've spilt the beans on books you've had ideas for but will never write. Any chance you're willing to do so in this case too?

I'd be interested in hearing about an alt history idea he's mentioned in the past about FBI agents Bill Burroughs and his partner Phil Dick. But mostly for selfish reasons, since I once had a story idea about OSS/CIA agent Julia McWilliams being partnered with new agent Ali Sheldon.

199:

But I'm not sure I can tell you what genre it wants to be, frankly: there doesn't seem to be a genre category for technologically-informed gothic horror crime fantasies set in the near future.

Yes there is, it's called "Black Mirror" :)

200:

(admittedly the genre appears to be limited to Charlie Brooker writing for Channel 4...)

201:

@guthrie.... don't let this derail the thread. Please! "Max™" is trolling, and its No Fun At All.

202:

I'm pretty sure I'd refuse. Caveat: this is me, now. People change their opinions over time. I refuse to bind my future self's hands unconditionally.

204:

MYRIAD? I've forgotten all about that one ...!

205:

Max: You are a crank. Kindly take your trolling elsewhere and piss off.

ADMINISTRATIVE WARNING: further comments attempting to derail this discussion in the direction of anthropogenic climate change will be deleted without notice.

206:

NOTICE: I'm feeling under the weather today (translation: flu-like virus) so I'm not going to answer any more questions.

I left off reading at #184. Anything after that, I'll get to some time later (possibly not this week).

Signing off.

208:

Petrol powered washing machines, eh? My water softener caught fire once, but that's as maybe once you realise that vacuum cleaners prevent the black death, at least from fleas.

209:

You get hired in as an expert to help Gooplesoft prototype the ideal hardware/software/device/app thingy for authors.

Sky's the limit.

What would it look like?

210:

Re: Star Wars Trailer.

This is an easy one, pardon my butting in.
Now then (adjusts nerd goggles), Clone Troopers are used by the Empire in the Clone Wars. Storm Troopers (and arctic trooper, and scout troopers) are not clone troopers. They're conscripts and enlisted, not clones.

On light-cross guards: lightsabers take many forms in the canon. There's even a whip. Jedi used the classic saber almost exclusively as a stylistic thing. They are apparently difficult to use due to the weightlessness and "gyroscopic motion" aspect. One would assume that, while dangerous, someone skilled in the use of a lightsaber could account for the burny-bits by the hand. There is real world precedent for exotic, unwieldy weapons to be used, even though classic configurations tend to dominate.

211:

further comments attempting to derail this discussion in the direction of anthropogenic climate change will be deleted without notice.

But Max does inadvertently raise the issue of why people (dis)believe things. Naturally, everything I believe is well authenticated by experience and evidence and that I could in principle produce and analyse myself, if I chose to, but with fuzzy realities like politics etc it's more difficult. Though possibly not as difficult as building your own LHC from scratch.

This is to say that while evidence and experience are important in belief formation, they're probably not everything, and prior beliefs probably play a role.

Good luck with the 'flu. Trad remidy: place a hat on the left bedpost. Drink until you see it on the right.

212:

INdeed, I was only putting that one post up for Max, who seems to have had a fairly blameless posting history on here previously.

As for the lightsaber longsword, it has provoked exactly the sorts of reactions expected. However, as a historical fencer, I can safely say that who the fuck cares. It's a film, set in another galaxy with screwed up laws of reality and people are getting all het up about a fancy sword????

213:

Stormbringer could stuff a light saber! I have it on good authority from John Dyker, Jerry Cornell, Elric of Melniboné and infinitely many others.

Probably including Rimmer. imo.

214:

What exactly was insanely revolutionary about "Schismatrix"? The concept of humans splitting into what is effectively different (yet interacting) species?

215:

Magic swords and magic go great together. Magic and superscience go great together. Getting out of your spaceship to fight with cutlery fails badly.
Prediction: If the next Star Wars uses lightsabers as magic swords, the scenes will work. I'd like to see a lightsaber drawing the Force-Pattern of Space-Amber. I'd hate to see more huffing and puffing and CGI tennis-match stuff like the last three movies.

216:
Getting out of your spaceship to fight with cutlery fails badly.

Would Granny Weatherwax agree? Or Mrs Ogg?

Besides, if you accelerate your Ikea fork to 99% of light speed, it'd be quite effective as a kinetic. Not good for close-in combat though, I imagine, though you might marginally survive your target...

Not that I'm a sad enough git to cosider this kind of thing.....

217:

As you tell lies for money, how can we be certain your answers in this AMA are truthful, even though there is no money involved?

218:

I'll just note that conscript stormtroopers and various lightweapons are from the SW Expanded Universe, which Disney has apparently declared to be non-canon.
But that's all going off-topic.

219:

Just stopping by briefly to say: Star Wars is juvenile garbage lacking in any artistic merit, and further discussion of it will be deleted. (Same goes for Star Trek, too, with the exception of the original 1960s series.)

220:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hippolyte_Pixii_dynamo.png

check this image of the 1832 dynamo by Belgian engineer Hippolyte Pixii, looks like the hand crank from an old fashioned egg beater spinning a horseshoe magnet under two coils the size of toilet paper rolls. Renowned as the first true generator, it was supposedly a huge improvement on the copper disc Faraday twirled under a magnet.

221:

You can't! He even said he might lie, all the way up the top. The trick is probably just to ask question that aren't worth lying for.

222:

I want to read at least excerpts from James Bond's novels about Ian Fleming.

223:

imagine the Schlieffen Plan with that sort of technology behind its supply lines

It did - but on the other side. Consider the "Last Hundred Days" of 1918; Allied progress rates across Northern France were comparable to those in 1944.

The way it was achieved was with railways - "normal" gauges where they existed, quickly-assembled and reusable narrow gauge railways where they didn't. Look up "trench railway" on wiki...

So here's a question - which of your Great-Uncle's Regiments is more your style, given good health? Machine-Gun Corps, or Royal Flying Corps?

224:

Apologies, RFC or RFA.

225:

In retrospect, is there anything in the various "Laundry" books that you wished you could spend more time on? Maybe a book 3.5 or 4.5 where "damn, this was a neat idea and I wish I could do more with it"?

And, the inverse question-which things in the "Laundry" novels do you wish you never brought up or in retrospect were Bad Ideas(TM)?

226:

I had the impression that what did in the Schleifen Plan (van Creveld?) was the limitations of Non-Mechanized (Horse Drawn) transport. The Infantry, by sheer exertion, out marched their supply line, and the railheads were NOT advancing at the same rate. The turn around from the forward units to the forward supply points exceeded the one day planned for.

During the advance, the Infantry largely subsisted by impressing rations from the countryside. But there was not enough fodder immediately available to keep the transport moving at the same pace.

227:

R.M.Meluch's Merrimack/Romans in Spaaaaace series is great fun, and has hordes of spacegoing monsters with unknown/magic technology suppression fields who have the decency to be vulnerable to swords. The first novel tells us that the Roman Empire never fell, just went underground, and includes a time-travel based reboot about three quarters of the way through - if there was an award for getting away with barefaced effrontery, this novel would have won it hands down.

228:

Martin @ #223 & Sasquatch @ #226
Err, strange attractor - Schlieffen plan.
One (the main?) reason it failed is very little-known.
Not only did the Belgians resist, which slowed things down, but the SNCB (Belgian railways) staff were deliberately told to trash their own system as their Army retreated. "The plan" assumed a seamless take-over.
This was so effective that some lines were not-re-operational again until November/December 1914.
Just-opening a big swing-bridge & then driving a large locomotive & empty goods train into it, really screws up the line, for instance! { And ripping up the tracks & smashing the signalling & .... )
That's another reason why something about 5-6000 Belgian Railway staff + some of their families, came across to Dover in August/September - to avoid being shot by the Germans.

229:

If you had to spend the rest of your life in one of your fictional universes, which would you choose?

I think I'd go for either those of "Rogue Farm" or "Dechlorinating the Moderator". Both seemed relatively benign. I'm fairly sure that I'd not want to live in the Laundryverse, or for that matter, anywhere overseen by the Eschaton.

230:

I want to read at least excerpts from James Bond's novels about Ian Fleming.

Heh. I keep imagining the timeline in which Travis McGee wrote about the various adventures of SF author John D. McDonald.

231:

I'm fairly sure that I'd not want to live in the Laundryverse, or for that matter, anywhere overseen by the Eschaton.

The joke, of course, is on you: we're in one of the simulations exploring the question, "What if Charles Stross hadn't become a bestseller with the freakishly prescient Eschaton novels, and instead went on to write other things?"

232:

What would you consider to be the most important but humble inventions of the last 150 years?

Not interested in this type of question; laundry lists are not my thing.

(Recent reading in books, blogs I follow, news sources, how I structure my day, etc.)

233:

Suggest Laundry Book 11 "At Worlds' Ends".

Nope.

The Laundry Files books have a standard naming structure:

[Definite article]
[adjective]
[document related noun]

For example, "The Jennifer Morgue" referred to a morgue in the sense of a newspaper/magazine archive, and the CIA's Operation JENNIFER. "The Rhesus Chart" is about blood-sucking fiends. And so on.

234:

I'll answer that one then. The bicycle.

235:

In the past you've spilt the beans on books you've had ideas for but will never write. Any chance you're willing to do so in this case too?

Go find a copy of "Toast" and read the final novella, "Big Brother Iron". Then add 25 years of experience and a novel-length plot/statement.

236:

Yes there is, it's called "Black Mirror" :)

Googles

Ah, it's a TV thing. That'd be why I've never heard of it.

237:

You get hired in as an expert to help Gooplesoft prototype the ideal hardware/software/device/app thingy for authors. Sky's the limit. What would it look like?

Scrivener. Only with syntax colourization for Markdown text, and Macvim as an editor plugin, and possibly git as a back-end storage architecture. Throw a web UI in as a fallback, and provide iOS and Android ports, and that's about it on the software side.

Hardware: oh, I'll settle for an iPad Air 2 with Logitech ultra-thin keyboard cover running Scrivener for iOS (which is allegedly due to ship any year now).

238:

In retrospect, is there anything in the various "Laundry" books that you wished you could spend more time on? Maybe a book 3.5 or 4.5 where "damn, this was a neat idea and I wish I could do more with it"?

Um ...

"Equoid" is essentially Laundry Files book 2.5; it sets up some minor stuff for books 3 and 7. "Down on the Farm" deserves to be more prominent -- again, it's probably something like 2.6 in the sequence (or 2.4?) and it introduces K-syndrome. "The Concrete Jungle" introduces SCORPION STARE, which features (disastrously) in book 7 as well. "The Fuller Memorandum" introduced RAF Squadron 666 and the Black Concorde, which was originally going to fly in book 7 but which is being pushed back a book or two.

But the novella format combined with Bob's unreliability gives me the scope to go back and backfill stuff where I need to, which is really useful. (Memo to self: after finishing "The Nightmare Stacks", put bum in chair and write the novella "A Conventional Boy", which is circa Laundry 4.5 and introduces a new major character who features in passing in book 7 but in a big way in book 8.)

239:

If you had to spend the rest of your life in one of your fictional universes, which would you choose?

"Rule 34". It's very safe and it's got decent modern medicine. Also, no explosive outbursts of human-like AI with its own motivations. It probably sucks mightily if you're a spammer, cybercriminal, investment banker, or some other species of miscreant, but ...

240:

Who leaked the club diary to you, and did they also leak the relationship between closed time like curves and coffee production?

Our internal investigations have still not revealed the culprit.

241:

It's well known that if you make instant coffee using a microwave oven you travel backwards in time. Thiotimoline is not believed to be involved in this effect.

242:

Given that James Bond was a real person who Ian Fleming picked as having the most boring name he could think of ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond_(ornithologist) ), it is indeed possible that James Bond could have written about Ian Fleming. They probably wouldn't have been books you want to read, though.

243:

Yeah, I'm a Bond nerd, too. One of the first movies I remember seeing was "From Russia With Love" at the drive-in theater. Hooked at the age of five.

244:

Death of government bureaucracy ... have you considered this is a possibility thanks to constant government surveillance? No need to ask the populace to fill out forms in triplicate if all of your activity is already being monitored and recorded. After a while, people forget that they used to be asked for information, and sometimes even asked about their opinions.

You seem to miss the point that much of government bureaucracy has other purposes than what is on the the title of the form or door or whatever. Having people fill out forms and then said forms needing to be filed keeps people employed is one of them.

There was an interesting interview I heard/read of someone who was in Roosevelt's administration when Social Security was enacted in the US. He asked the President why all of this calling it "insurance" and account tracking since it was never really to be used as benefits were tied to law, not how much someone put into the system. Roosevelt told him that if people THOUGHT they had "money" in an account, no future administration would ever be able to "take it away."

245:

Funny, I had a similar response to that comment: the real Bond writing about the adventures of rogue ornithologist Ian Fleming.
Though, if the fiction Bond were to write, it might be about Agent Fleming and a plan to dress a donated corpse in a RAF uniform and drop it off the coast of Spain with false intel in the pockets.
Maybe I should add that I've seen most of the movies, but have never had any interest in reading the books.

246:

Should have gone over my link better. It was a Navy uniform, but it's alt history, so that's okay.

247:

Ahem! It was an army uniform (specifically: Royal Marines) because Navy uniforms were tailored to fit and they had a horrible vision of what Gieves' "cutter" would think if they asked him to fit a uniform to the available corpse.

248:

Try telling the guys down in Lympstone that they are in the army - I dare you.

249:

If you could anyone any question, and get a truthful answer what and who would ask?

250:

Why is your typing slurred? And grammatically challenged?

251:

Mr. Stross, do you have any desire to write a screen play or be the head writer for a TV series?

What books of yours or any other writer (SF or otherwise) would you like to see on the big/little screen?

What author (PK Dick?) or genre (superheroes?) has been overdone by the movies?

P.S. Anyone know what happened to the mini-series of PKD's "Man in the High Castle"?

252:

This is WAY off topic - but is there any nation where the marines are organised as a part of the army and either independent or part of the navy? And, therefore, where telling a marine he's in the army is not a rapid invitation to a fight?

253:

Isn't America more like the Mongol Empire instead of the Roman Empire?

In war we have always emphasized air power (the medieval equivalent being the Mongol horse archer) with its speed and firepower over the heavy tank (medieveal knight). Our fire bombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Berlin, Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were essentially no different than what Tamerlane did to Samarkand.

We haven't created a territorial empire of provinces directly governed by appointed proconsuls. Instead, the American hegemony is more like the the various self governing Mongol Khanates stretching across Eurasia which owed allegiance to the Great Khan. In fact the Mopngols created the world first trans-national system of miltiary alliances not that much different in principle than NATO.

And the Mongols created the world first free trade zone strching from Poland to Korea. Accordin to "Genghiz Khan and the Making of the Modern World" the Mongols:

"They spread throughout it technologies like paper, gunpowder, paper money, or the compass . They revolutionised warfare. More lastingly, they also created the nucleus of a universal culture and world system. (...) With the emphasis on free commerce, open communication, shared knowledge, secular politics, religious coexistence, international law, and diplomatic immunity. (...) The Mongols implemented pragmatic rather than ideological solutions. They searched for what worked best; and when they found it, they spread it to other countries.'"

Its only our Western cultural chauvanism that causes us to equate America and Rome. We're actually the new Mongolia.

254:

Mr. Stross, do you have any desire to write a screen play or be the head writer for a TV series?

Nope. If I wanted to be in TV/film I'd be writing scripts,not novels.

It's just not my thing.

255:

We have a 12 hour transfer in Paris in February. Can you think of anywhere for an afternoon gathering?

256:

The relevant law on derivative works in the U.S. (17 USC Sec. 103(b)) appears to protect new derivative works when the copyright on the original has expired. Pre-existing derivative works are only protected to the extent of their new contributions. There is no "re-copyright" of original works by authorship of derivative works. This was an explicit concern of Congress when the law was originally written.
As a practical matter, a sufficiently deep-pocketed and litigious plaintiff can often force a settlement, mooting the U.S. legal rights of a defendant who has no interest in (and/or resources for) a fight. But is the pool of likely current owners (e.g., Atlantic Entertainment Group, which appears to own the 1984 movie released in 1984) known for being so bloodthirsty? A brief Wikipedia survey suggests that even Disney is reasonable about not interfering with other people's new works based on the public domain stories that it adapted into movies.
I suppose the rate of return on your time expended requires aggressive minimization of certain types of risk. Too bad, and I'll take Big Brother Iron as a fun consolation prize.

257:

is the pool of likely current owners (e.g., Atlantic Entertainment Group, which appears to own the 1984 movie released in 1984) known for being so bloodthirsty?

I believe a new 1984 movie is in production. If so, the answer will automatically be "yes". (30 year old work is probably fair game -- residual income only -- but a new property will be fiercely defended for years to come.)

258:

pretty hate machine or psalm 69?

259:

Have you looked at succession politics in the Mongol Empire? It's not a good match for the US, although I'd say that colonial capitalism was inspired by Mongol tactics.

As for what the US is, we've got to sort out two kinds of empire.

One is that if you define an empire as a composite entity that treats different subject peoples differently, then the US is technically an empire. The subject peoples are the Indian tribes, native Hawaiians, native Alaskans, and others. AFAIK, the laws governing each are different, but they're not worth going into here (Hawaiians don't have a reservation, for instance, while Alaskans have mineral interests in Alaskan Oil).

Note that there's an interesting imperial issue here: back about 100 years ago, there was a concerted push to mainstream the Indians, make them full American citizens, and destroy their tribal identities. That effort, had it succeeded, would have made the US a republic, but it would have also been a human rights crime. Being an empire isn't all about being evil. Sometimes (as with gambling on the reservations), the subject people may prefer their special status.

Then there's the issue of US' overseas hegemonies. That's a different kind of empire. AFAIK, it doesn't have any close parallels with classical empires. The whole idea of the armed entrepot (aka a US overseas military base) dates back to the early days of capitalism, but I seriously doubt that the US will ever go on a spree of overseas colonization, as happened 500 years ago. As with capitalism recycling Mongolian conquest ideas and using ships, the US is using the old trading post idea to project power without controlling territory.

As for the end of the Roman Empire, we're into the Grandfather's Axe paradox here (this is the same axe that belonged to grandpa. We've replaced the head twice and the handle three times, but it's the same axe). See, the western Roman empire fell, by convention, in 476 AD (although things are weird about Odoacer, the "barbarian" king who was a Roman soldier, first name of Flavius). In any case, the Eastern Roman Empire continued on to 1453, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

I'd suggest that, for everyone who thinks the US is Rome 2.0, in it's corrupt late republic phase before Julius Caesar took over (48 BC, or a few decades before), you might want to consider that, if the US precisely paralleled the Roman history, the United States would finally be extinguished when Anchorage fell to the Sino-Russian Empire in about 3569 AD, give or take a bit. That's with a spot of global warming, of course.

260:

Apologies!
First, blame faulty memory for saying RAF, second searching the wrong word (uniform) in the wikipedia entry.
Honestly, the only British uniforms I have any familiarity with are 18th century infantry uniforms, only because my father was an American Revolution reenactor when I was young. I didn't quite grow up thinking the 'Red Coats' were the good guys, but now whenever some member of the royal family comes to America (and the media goes nuts), I think "Didn't we have a little war so that we could ignore these people?"

261:

I should add that, should the US split into the northern and southern empires, the southern empire would probably be trashed by global warming (the east may get too hot and humid for cities, west too dry for them), The northern Empire (following the Byzantine/Rome dichotomy) would likely have a corporate-style bureaucracy, a leadership structure inherited in part from narcotrafficantes, in part from academic science (this parallels the aristocracy of dukes, counts, and vicars in Byzantium). And the northern empire would use Spanish as its lingua franca.

I'd also add that the Sino-Siberian empire might not be as problematic as the Yukon-Nunavut Empire to the east. It would be fun to see Canada decide to use its tar sands to raise the Maple Leaf and try establishing an overseas empire, once the lower 48 falters due to climate change and lets loose the Moose to conquer the world politely. The current Canada and Russia (and Alaska) are among the very few places that should do better under climate change.

See what fun we can have with the US is Rome meme? Too bad the AK-47 family is a better analog for the Roman gladius than the M-16 family is.

262:

pretty hate machine or psalm 69?

Neither: it'd be either "The Land of Rape and Honey" or "Happiness in Slavery".

263:

it can only be "happiness in slavery"

but that is only my personal taste. On that note though I am really looking forward to seeing Mo's point of view.

264:

Interesting answer - thanks!

Then again --- no longer having to show any detectable interface with the tax-paying/voting public could free up all sorts of funds. And, if ever challenged regarding budgets, it'd be very easy to pull up a representative sample that completely agreed with whatever that particular policy direction was.

In short, jobs might be the first items on the chopping block, not because of better AI efficiency but because humans would question the 'facts'.

265:

Charlie: Any ideas of where Russia/Putin might be heading considering low oil and EU cold shoulder?

266:

Have you ever thought of writing a story with non-godlike AI? Or is more-or-less human level intelligence with AI sufficiently unlikely that you'd need to write fantasy to explore a change from device to person (sort of like Pratchett's _Feet of Clay_)?

267:

Saturn's Children and Neptune's Brood.

268:

I was thinking more of AI that surprised its makers by its existence and non-human- focused goals, Eschaton style, but couldn't just do as it pleased, so now what? Because, selfishly, that's something I'd like to see OGH's take on. Though the background of Saturn's Children could certainly imply that the humans never figured out that the robots were anything other than very cleverly programmed imitations.

269:

Charlie,

In the future MP:TNG series do we find out what happened to futuristic dome planet with an opening portal to some kind of vacuum?

Not the powers and capabilities involved in its construction, I mean I still worry about that specific planet and its fate since the vacuum door was left open.

Thanks

270:

I hate to tell you this, but: Didn't we have a little war so that we could ignore these people? is almost entirely wrong.
Actaully, the really rich "owners" in the pre-USA could see the long-term effects of a very important court judgement in England, which were (to the long-sighted) going to affect policy in the coming years.
That was the famous Mansfield decision
Among the very rich slave-owners was a certain Geo Washington.

271:

I really don't understand either the first question, nor Charlie's answer ....
Could someone explain, please?

Oh & this should really be on the previous thread ... but why do people keep on making the same mistakes, or repeating already-known-to-be-wrong ( Not to say evil ) acts?
I was thinking of THIS specifically which I find quite sickening, but there's plenty of other examples around, too .... such as Putin using the "Sudetenland" playbook doesn't enliven my optimism, for instance.
[ Though, given economic woes, he may, very slowly, so as not to lose "face", start to back off, carefully. ]

272:

Remind me... how did Kosovo become independent of the Serbs? Something to do with unilateral action and NATO bombing perhaps? No hypocrisy here...

273:

This is a question I ask every SFF writer I meet -mostly french ones- :
The year is 2050, you are is as good a helth as you ever been due to constant progress in medecine and universal health care... and Poul Anderson was right : there are time machines and a time patrol.
As a life achievement in SFF writing, you've been offerded a one month trip to the era you want. Where do you decide to go ? with whom ? and is there someone, or something you really want to meet/see ?
ans second question : Am I allowed to translate your nswer in my SFF french blog ? thanks.

274:

Look up Alexandr Gelyevich Dugin -- apparently he's Putin's favorite political scientist.

The objective is to re-form the Eurasian Alliance. Dugin has no desire/sees no merit in becoming Westernized. In fact his preferred political model seems to be based on literally an 'old school' Russian version of Greek Orthodoxy called ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Believers

Think: Russia is the Third Rome (Constantinople was the Second Rome).

From the bits I've read about Old Believers (1600-1700 Russian history), they'd fit into Charlie's Laundry series without any revision. Just that weird!

275:

Right now he is out of favor with Putin due to his criticism. Last I heard, he was kicked out of his job as a reminder as to who is boss.

276:

Thanks for the update ... Dugin is more than a little scary.

277:

but why do people keep on making the same mistakes, or repeating already-known-to-be-wrong ( Not to say evil ) acts?

Because the new folks become convinced that the previous folks didn't implement things correctly. Just do that and all will work out. See Charlie's comments about people as perfect spheres.

278:

Charlie: Any ideas of where Russia/Putin might be heading considering low oil and EU cold shoulder?

I'd have said he'd have to be considering the option of "a short, victorious war" by this point in proceedings, except he already played that card and it ended in the MH17 shootdown, sanctions, and the current mess. He doesn't strike me as stupid enough to double-down on the crazy when he's holding a weak hand (i.e. a trashed economy and a run on the currency and banks), but nationalistic rhetoric always plays well at home, so look for some loud, scary noises in the Russian press about how NATO are out to get them, and some more annoying fly-bys/submarine incursions in foreign airspace/waters.

Beyond that ... I don't know. I don't think Putin's clique are working to any kind of master plan, other than "use resource extraction to fund getting a grip on power, then rebuild the military", and it just backfired spectacularly. Unlike the Communists, there's no overriding ideological framework. So your guess is as good as mine.

279:

I was thinking more of AI that surprised its makers by its existence and non-human- focused goals, Eschaton style, but couldn't just do as it pleased, so now what?

Sounds like you missed "Rule 34"?

280:

In the future MP:TNG series do we find out what happened to futuristic dome planet with an opening portal to some kind of vacuum?

Yes: it's a major plot-point.

281:

I really don't understand either the first question, nor Charlie's answer .... Could someone explain, please?

It's a "Ministry or Nine Inch Nails" question. Industrial music. You know, the stuff all the cool kids were listening to 20 years ago.

282:

My bet is that the Ukraine government will up the ante using the new weapons and armour they have just received from NATO. Whether the Western "advisors" who are only supposed to be there in a training role get involved is hard to tell.

283:

I think I'd want to visit the Final Library (from Palimpsest).

Although I probably know a bit more about where that's going than most people who've only read the novella. (It'll be a full novel one of these years ...)

284:

From the bits I've read about Old Believers (1600-1700 Russian history), they'd fit into Charlie's Laundry series without any revision. Just that weird!

(Does some quick wikifiddling) ... Good grief, you're right.

285:

Because "X cannot fail! X can only be failed!" Insert your favorite ideology to mock for X. I'm fond of using conservatism and neo-conservatism myself.

286:

Drat. You're awful quick on the draw Charlie.

KarenK - if you're curious about that sort of AI, check out Karl Schroeder's Virga series, especially the Ashes of Candesce.

287:

The reason I'm not writing any new Singularity SF or stuff about AI or space opera is because I don't have anything new to say on those subjects -- I said everything I had to say years ago. If I come up with something new to say, I'll write about it: until then, have something different.

288:

Yeah, that was a joke, and you missed the point.
That may be one reason, but there were plenty of others for the revolution--this Wikipedia page doesn't mention that one.

And again going off topic, sorry 'bout that.

289:

It's a "Ministry or Nine Inch Nails" question. Industrial music. You know, the stuff all the cool kids were listening to 20 years ago.

Gee, I always thought we were being intentionally un-cool when my friends and I listened to them back then.

290:

<aside>

The original headline to this story was "Millions deleted in Instagram purge" — which reminded me of the old language of alienation thread. It's now the much more pedestrian "Instagram deletes millions of accounts in spam purge".

</aside>

291:

He lives in Glasgow, I live in Edinburgh: we're talking Montagues and Capulets here.
Are you kidding me? The Capulets and Montagues were best friends compared with Embra and Glesca!!

292:

I agree with Charlie's suggestion (#66) of a rescue cat, or more exactly going to your local Cat Rescue and letting one (or two) of their resident felines pick you as their next staff!

293:

That truly sucks, but I'd suggest that having your car suddenly jump into a ditch at 0Dark:30 when you're on the way to a ferry on a similar length journey is a close second?

294:

Very well.

I shall go to the local blue cross, and see who takes my arm off...

295:

Mr. Stross, how would you go about writing a galactic space opera without breaking the laws of physics (no worm holes, no hyperspace, no warp drive, no FTL period)?

296:

It's been a dreadful week, with a complete disaster yesterday, and recovery today. So, for absolutely no particular reason, a silly question: do you, as a Good Scot, own/wear a kilt?

For extra credit, do you like single malt, and if so, what preferences?

mark "the Balvenie doublewood"

297:

Mr. Stross, how would you go about writing a galactic space opera without breaking the laws of physics (no worm holes, no hyperspace, no warp drive, no FTL period)?

I did that a couple of years ago, in "Neptune's Brood"!

298:

So, for absolutely no particular reason, a silly question: do you, as a Good Scot, own/wear a kilt?

For extra credit, do you like single malt, and if so, what preferences?

Yes, I own a kilt. In goth tartan (i.e. black as my soul at midnight). I wear it at Hugo award ceremonies and the very rare other formal events where I need to dress up a bit.

I'm not a single malt expert (membership of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society discounted) but I'm partial to a good Talisker ... or Yamazaki.

299:

No, I don't know.
Sounds a bit like bad Wagner written by a demented follower of Olivier Messian - i.e. total trash & not worth even one nanosecond of anyone's time .....
or was there more to it than that?
Sorry, makes about as much sesne to me as "the olympic games" or "football" actually, or even less, now I come to think of it.

300:

I was afraid of that, in spite of myself ....
As in "Perfect" communism,/christianity/islam/lunacy-of-choice.

301:

What other SF(/F) authors besides yourself and Peter Watts have really delved into the idea of consciousness-as-recursive theory of mind, the implications thereof, and AI/aliens using that idea? (Anyone else can feel free to answer this; basically I'm looking for stuff thematically similar to Rule 34 and Blindsight)

302:
Anyone else can feel free to answer this; basically I'm looking for stuff thematically similar to Rule 34 and Blindsight

You might like some of Greg Egan's stuff. Permutation City, Diaspora and many of the stories in Axiomatic explore some of those themes.

You might also enjoy reading The Mind's I which is a series of stories and essays about theories of mind and self, with commentaries by Dan Dennett & Doug Hofstadter. A bunch of the stories are [Science|Speculative] Fiction — including a several from Stanislav Lem.

303:

I'm pretty sure you won't regret it: most of the cats I've known have been rescue and/or "domestic housecat" and they've all had their own kind of awesome.
The filigree Asian purebreds are pretty dull though.

304:

Look, if you're going to start talking finishes rather than just distilleries, we are still going to be here next year (by which I mean Dec 2015, not just in 2 weeks time).

305:

Do you mean the Broken EP [Halo 5] from which 'Happiness in Slevery' comes from?

Best thing NIN ever did!

In a similar vein [just to annoy Greg ;-)]

Front 242 or KMFDM?

306:

As entertaining as it would be to see Timmy eaten by a shoggoth, surely the best fit for a Blyton/Laundry crossover would be the Magic Faraway Tree books?

Somewhere in an English woodland, at the top of an ...unusually tall tree, there is a class 4 gate leading to a series of horrific alien dimensions... Some of the denizens of these twisted realities have taken up residence in the tree and surrounding woodland, and have "befriended" local children... Can Bob Howard stop the infestation before it goes any further?

Serial numbers would have to be filed off, presumably.

307:

Tabitha was an informal rescue, abandoned on the farm, who gradually moved from the yard to the house. We think somebody thought a cat would be happy on a farm, and they didn't realise that it's not the same on the modern all-arable farm.

Tabitha was officially recorded as a very well-behaved cat by Social Services, when my mother started getting home-care support. I think we were lucky. But there is something more than luck to it. I have photographs of me, as a toddler, around herds of cows. I think I learned to pay attention to animals, to stay aware of them. Looking back over my life, I seem to have a knack of surprising pet-owners with how their pet reacts to me.

Looking back, it took a while for Tabitha to be comfortable in the house. She could set the pace. I hear plenty of awkward-cat stories, but I wonder if they are forced by the modern urban experience. Tabitha could always get away from us. And she alawys came back.

308:

Yeah, that's pretty much exactly my point about letting the cat choose you rather than deciding that you want one with specific markings.

309:

In the pre-CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN universe of the Laundry, what happened to minors who stumbled across the truth about reality? Were they whisked off to a boarding school in a castle in Scotland where a kindly old wizard taught them important life lessons along with the joy and wonder of magic?

310:

You recently expressed distaste for authors who assume the future will be too much like the present. Might not the emergence of ever-higher-fidelity recording mechanisms might act to "freeze" cultural evolution?

311:

In your books, you include references to popular culture, including TV, not often, but sometimes. (There was a reference to a meerkat ad.)

However, in these pages, I have detected a disdain for television on your part. Correct me if you think I am wrong, otherwise, could you speak to the apparent dissonance?

Thanks for your books. I'm too broke to buy books now, but I borrow them through public libraries, so I think you still get some money that way.

312:

Okay, a lot of SF/fantasy talks about life ... how miraculous it is, the 'spark of life', etc. ... in a universe where 'life' (everlasting, of some/any sort) is the default condition, how would you explain 'death'?

313:

The filigree Asian purebreds are pretty dull though.
Oh dear - you've obviously never been owned by a Birman, then.
The current incumbent, Ratatosk is UNSPEAKABLY CUTE ... but his rodent-count is impressive (5 squirrels that I know of, 2 rats, several mice & I really, really don't ever want to find out where he got the Gerbil from!)

314:

Squirrels and rabbits are normal enough for most can species (but don't tell Rocket Raccoon that!) (I've seen one domestic house cat stalking a sheep) but I've watched a filigree Burmese have a total FAIL by trying to walk on a privet hedge to catch a bird. That, and lying there being unentertaining, are the sort of things I mean by "dull".

315:

Front 242 or KMFDM? Mm, it depends. KMFDM did a lot of dire crap in their time, but also some works that were sublime -- I'm particularly fond of the "Money" and "Symbols" albums, which probably tells you something about my taste. Front 242 ... variable, again: Front by Front was pretty good, though. (As for Ministry, they had a run of three brilliant albums and the rest are mostly turds, in my wholly subjective opinion.)

316:

In the pre-CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN universe of the Laundry, what happened to minors who stumbled across the truth about reality? Were they whisked off to a boarding school in a castle in Scotland where a kindly old wizard taught them important life lessons along with the joy and wonder of magic?

I may have muttered about needing to write a novella titled "A Conventional Boy" -- like "Equoid", the Laundry spin-off novellas seem to have gestational periods measured in multiple years. No, the Laundry owns no castles in Scotland and there are no kindly old wizards teaching important life lessons along with the joy and wonder of magic. There is, however, an incredibly traditional British institution of a different kind. And sponge pudding with lumpy institutional keg custard.

317:

Might not the emergence of ever-higher-fidelity recording mechanisms might act to "freeze" cultural evolution?

As the development of ever-higher-fidelity recording mechanisms has historically acted to accelerate fashion changes (we have over a century of this stuff to look back on, now) I tend to disagree.

318:

However, in these pages, I have detected a disdain for television on your part. Correct me if you think I am wrong, otherwise, could you speak to the apparent dissonance?

Simples: I try to write characters who are not simplistic reflections of my own identity. I don't really like classical music, but Mo in the Laundry Files is an enthusiast, for example.

319:
There is, however, an incredibly traditional British institution of a different kind. And sponge pudding with lumpy institutional keg custard.

Oh my.
When I read that I laughed out loud and I'm grinning like a shark. If that goes the direction I think, I'll be grinning and chortling through the novella.

320:

That seems to be untrue when it comes to language. It has tended towards greater homogeneity on all levels, from local to global.

321:

Homogeneity across space perhaps, but definitely not time. Try eavesdropping on some teenagers - or read Tumblr.

322:

I do both, and you will find that youthful slang fades away for the most part in all eras. What is new with mass communications and recording is that differences in both space and time are being minimized. I can watch movies from both Britain and the USA from the 1920s without any difficulty with language at all. OTOH I suspect that if I could listen in to dialects from the 1820 I would miss a lot more. This is history:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScELaXMCVis and it's only from the 1960s IIRC

323:

Haha, good point, I'd forgot those books. Even so, the five are pretty fertile: You've got Uncle Quentin doing "secret government work" (maybe he's Laundry?), George's family own their own island, complete with castle and shipwreck, there's a dog with unnatural intelligence...plus any fan of Lovecraft knows seaside country folk tend to be a bit...odd. There have been parodies of the five in the past, look up five go mad in Dorset.

324:

How big do you imagine the Laundry to be? I think you've already said it will expand for Case Nightmare Green, but how big did it start? Are capers like Bobs fairly commonplace, or is he just highly unlucky? What about regional offices, I'm guessing Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff have a presence?

325:

'Headhunter'/'Welcome to Paradise' is probably my all-time favourite 12", I still have it somewhere. As you say "Front by Front" is probably 242's peak, though "Official Version" is pretty good too - and KMDFM work is patchy in in the extreme.

In tends to be the case I find that industrial albums have one or two stormers and a lot of filler, and this appears to be true of Ministry, Frontline Assembly, Skinny Puppy et al, and the futurepop acts like VNV Nation that they inspired.

The only exception to that rule seems to be Assemblage 23.

Do you listen to music while writing? If yes, are the playlists for writing say Laundry Files or Merchant Princes works markedly different?

326:

I would not have thought breed would make much of a difference, particularly for cats, but contrary to my belief and popular culture's brainwashing, every Siamese cat I have had or met was way better than the average domestic shorthair. They are the dog of cats and in a good way.

I do endorse rescuing cats (of any type) for humanitarian and cost reasons. But there is no reason to bash one subset of cats to enbiggen the others.

327:

“Anyway: here I am, I haven't done it for a while, so consider this your invitation to an open mike Q&A with me."

Really...are you sure that you ment that?

So, here as of todays 'Graniad ‘...


" Alex Salmond calls for ‘peasants’ revolt’ vote to abolish House of Lords "

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/dec/20/alex-salmond-peasants-revolt-type-referendum-abolish-house-of-lords

Just how can we - in Practical Terms! - reform the U.Ks political system to something rather more democratic...without destroying the E.E.C. Since it may well be said that, in its current form, it is very far from being a Democracy.

Anyway, what form should a Democracy take in these, electronically interconnected, days ... and in future Days and within our Sphere of Influence? ..

Well, you did ask for difficult Questions didn't you?

329:

Oh dear.
You do relise that the "hereditaries" are currently a tiny minority in the "Lords" don't you - & are due to vanish anyway?
Effectively the Lords is an entirely APPOINTED chamber - appointed by "the Establishment".
As for Salmond calling for democracy, excuse me while I fall about in cynical laughter.
Given his party's desire to have the state actively spy on every citizen as they are already starting with the children & their parents, somehow I don't believe a word of it.

NOTE: How does one go about getting a better, representative second chamber? Because direct election will only replicate the Commons, with narrow party whipping & existing factional interests, to the detriment of all - more of the "remote unaccountable Westminster" that the hypocrite Salmond was going on about, only earlier this year, oops.
I'm entirely in favour of an improved system, provided it really is improved.

330:

Who, besides yourself, would you recommend as an author who is writing good SF without violating, or probably violating, the laws of physics and other science as we know them today?

331:

Does the thriller section of the bookstore count for this, or not?

332:

Maybe. Some of Daniel Suarez stuff counts.
My biggest problem in the thrillers are failures of plot and character. Though that may get into violating sociology, psychology and maybe neurology .... ;-)
I kid, but a lot of the characterization falls flat. And don't even start on the Bechdel test.

333:

If you had to spend the rest of your life in one of your fictional universes, which would you choose?

"Rule 34". It's very safe and it's got decent modern medicine. Also, no explosive outbursts of human-like AI with its own motivations. It probably sucks mightily if you're a spammer, cybercriminal, investment banker, or some other species of miscreant, but ...

Ah, I'd forgotten about "Rule 34". I'd want modern medicine too. As for the safety, I've just been rereading your Rule 34: The SPOILER thread, Three arguments against the singularity, and your point about AI's who "perceive our needs as being their needs, with no internal sense of self to compete with our requirements".

334:

Sorry, but I'm not going to apologise for failing to put YMMV at the end of my last. I'll happily accept that yours does.

335:

If you had to spend the rest of your life in one of your fictional universes, which would you choose?

"Rule 34". It's very safe and it's got decent modern medicine...

Does the fact that at least some of your fans would also happily move into the Cavanaughverse with you (and for much the same reasons as you state) have any influence on that choice?

336:

What would your 8 desert island discs (and luxury) be?

337:

Oh, it's visibly expanding throughout books 5-8. (Book 7 centers around a particular regional office in Yorkshire ...)

338:

Do you listen to music while writing? If yes, are the playlists for writing say Laundry Files or Merchant Princes works markedly different?

Yes, but alas, it tends to be musical wallpaper: Nouvelle Vague and the like. Maybe Suzanne Vega if I'm feeling adventurous.

339:

I'm not currently reading much SF. Can't recommend stuff due to not having a broad enough range of inputs.

340:

My biggest problem in the thrillers are failures of plot and character. Though that may get into violating sociology, psychology and maybe neurology

The underlying ideology of the modern technothriller is a highly reactionary, hawkish diplomatic/political conservativism that tends to carry social conservativism along as an unexamined payload. It doesn't have to, but it's like Campbell-era SF: the mainstream of thrillers are written for an audience who approve of Dick Cheney.

341:

One of my problems with thrillers (and some SF) is the inclusion of Gigantic Global Conspiracies as necessary plot points. As one example, Zven Tenag'f Arjfsrrq gevybtl required a huge conspiracy to keep pumping out the new nastiness every few months / years.

That was a huge brick wall I smashed into when I was reading that series. I thought: and in the time this conspiracy is in place, nobody did an Edward Snowden? Redford and Hoffman (sorry, Bernstein and Woodward) didn't show up investigating? Ri-i-ight.

342:

Arnold, you DO understand that democracies invariably commit suicide, don't you?

Once 51% of the electorate realizes that they can vote to loot the rest of the population, it is all over but the screaming.

This is why the US was originally explicitly NOT constituted as a democracy. It is also why the US is currently going down the tubes. When the Supreme Court changed the Senate election rules, decades ago, they reconstituted the country as a democracy.

343:

Once 51% of the electorate realizes that they can vote to loot the rest of the population, it is all over but the screaming.

I keep hearing that line from American libertarians. It's a pile of bullcrap. (Worked example, if you're of a neoliberal political bent: the UK -- from socialist system to selling off the roads and the air traffic control system in a generation.)

This is why the US was originally explicitly NOT constituted as a democracy.

Also bullshit. The US was set up along its current lines in order to preserve the "rights" of slave-owning criminal oligarchs. It took a civil war to partially fix the damage; since then it's been dangerously close to reverting to prior form from time to time (although the current model of transnational "free trade" exports the labour market, thereby making actual slaves as such somewhat redundant).

344:

> SF author John D. McDonald.

Erm, McDonald actually did write at least two SF novels - "Wine of the Dreamers" and "Ballroom of the Skies".

345:

I'm pretty sure that David Brin has had a standing challenge on his blog for what, 8 years by now? for libertarian/ conservative types to name a country which went down the spout by the method of the voters voting in people who then gave them all the money.
Nobody has answered it yet.

346:

Actually, the evidence so far from a century of democracies is that they die by strong dictators siezing power during a period of financial instability; get killed by invasion by another country; or the politicians get taken over and the country looted by oligarchs and finance types, for instance Russia and the USA.

347:

Replace "51% of the electorate" with "the 1%" and you might have a workable theory, though.

I remember in Apocalypse Codex that Johnny Prince refers to somebody's equipment as very "Tactical Ted", which seemed like a nice phrase for the sort of person who has matte-black tactical everything and six attachments on his gun but doesn't know enough to get down when the shooting starts. Was that original to you, or some bit of British slang, or a mix?

348:

Replace "51% of the electorate" with "the 1%" and you might have a workable theory, though.

Make that the 0.1% and it certainly looks plausible, doesn't it?

"Tactical Ted" ... just google the phrase, okay? These people are real. They're also a menace to the public, but hey ...

349:

This is why the US was originally explicitly NOT constituted as a democracy.
Total and complete male bovine faeces. The USA was constituted as a republican representative democracy and still is. The terms of who may:-
1) Participate in the plebicite.
2) Stand for election.

Have changed down the years (normally in an increasingly inclusive manner) but the method of government has remained the same.

350:

Here's my plan for a more democratic House of Lords.

New peers are chosen at random from the adult citizens.

Each peerage is potentially for life. But:

You can lose your peerage for chronic truancy, and:

Every ten years they play a game of Kingmaker (modified rules). Every peer plays a noble, and if your character dies you lose the peerage.

The obvious virtue is that, like the early 20th century House of Lords, you don't select for people that want to wield power, like the House of Commons. It's thoroughly representative rule, because anyone can be chosen.

But there is a historically authentic mechanism for weeding out jerks who do not inspire the confidence of their peers. And unlike the medieval version, nobody actually dies.

351:

Around here Tactical Teds pretty much are the public. People watch movies and TV and think that's how real gunfights work.

Back when I lived near DC, I remember hearing shots fired from maybe a block away. Five shots over a two second interval, so fast that by the time you process "that's a real gun", it's been over for a couple of seconds.

352:

(long-time lurker, first-time poster)

"What do you want to know?"

What is the nature of the "soul" that an Eater of Souls consumes?

In most traditions I'm familiar, a soul is some individualized aspect of the Deity/God, which has a unique relationship with/is attached to an individual. However, in the Laundryverse, the traditional Abrahamic Deity is stated to be non-existent.

So, what does the Eater of Souls eat? Identity? Some kind of life-energy? Consciousness? Something else? And what happens to the soul after the Eater of Souls consumes it?

353:

It might be less than that: "The Network of Global Corporate Control"
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0025995#pone-0025995-g001
And thumbs up for adopting rescue cats, adds happier endings to sad little stories.

354:

Hi hi,

Got no questions as such but thanks for blowing my mind again & again. Even if you're not making bestsellers at the present time, more & more people seem to be recognizing your name (at least in my circles of friends)... which is good for you & also good for the culture. Thanks tons for doing what you do.

~5

355:

I did not say YMMV. I said SIAMESE RULE! without being obvious about it.

356:

Erm, McDonald actually did write at least two SF novels - "Wine of the Dreamers" and "Ballroom of the Skies".

I've read both of them. Are you aware he also wrote The Girl, the Gold Watch, and Everything? If you haven't read that it's worth a look as an amusing adventure tale, though there's some of-its-time stuff that hasn't aged perfectly; there's also a movie which I remember enjoying at the time but which I haven't seen in many years.

357:

How big do you imagine the Laundry to be? ... What about regional offices, I'm guessing Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff have a presence?

Nah, the Cardiff gang are morons. You're better off working with the reporter, her gang of teenagers, and her tin dog.

358:

QUESTION
[ And for anyone else, especially from the US(S)A on the same subject. ]
Why do US citizens hate & distrust each pther?
The underlying assumption in "Specialist's" post is that everyone will automatically want to steal everything & also that no-one can be trusted.
[ Note: That last, of course, is a standard device for governments, as well, especially those of an authoritarian bent. ]
If you try to run a "society" like that, then you won't have a society at all, but a collection of lone individuals, each & all at the mercy of the richest & most powerful.
So, why do you want it?

Subsidiary question on the same theme:
Why the opposition to universal health care?
Every other developed & civilised country on the planet has one, including such well-known supporters of "commonism" as Singapore or the Bundesrepublik Deutschland ( *cough* )
Why is such an idea so apprently evil & repulsive to US politicians ( or a lot of them )
Why do you actively want fellow-Americans to suffer?

359:

Sortition with the possibility of re-election/de-selection? Interesting; not sure I've seen that wrinkle. How do you stop the incumbents forming a cartel to ensure they remain incumbents?

360:

I meant "YM Clearly Does V" wrt mine. Beyond understanding that, I'd suggest that further discussion would be actively disruptive.

361:

Have you ever played Kingmaker? Random events in the game include "A plague on $place" in which case all characters and NPCs in that location die. I've actually seen games decided on that event.

362:

Following on from that, I'm curious why religious belief is high in the USA; also and just in passing, the USA as publicized in the news here idea of "socialist" and "left wing" does seem to lack a certain rigor.

363:

so consider this your invitation to an open mike Q&A with me.

OK. English language question. I'm in the USA and saw something that just irritated my language trip wire.

Assembled something yesterday from China. Inside the packing was a box labeled Hardwares. Is this a valid label in the UK (it's not in the USA) or just another bad Chinese to English translation.

364:

I've always thought that having the World War(s) on your soil with all it's carnage tended to bring out a lot of pessimism towards religion. We've never had anything like that over here except for the Civil War and it was geographically limited in destruction to areas where most people didn't live. Nothing like how the WW(s) turned Eastern Europe / Western Asia into a huge death trap for millions.

As to the terms socialist and "left wing", we all are products of our upbringing. Even in modern times that pond is still pretty wide. So ideas germinate differently.

365:

Being a USAn, I have no more right to comment on these matters than anyone else, but here it is anyway: all of these things are part and parcel of the same syndrome.

The USA is geographically big and demographically diverse. The population is mobile. Approximately nobody has family history in the same location going back more than three centuries, and very few have roots going back more than one.

In the absence of tradition, humans create them. In the absence of a government, humans create them. While the USA superficially resembles a country, it culturally-politically resembles an alliance of a hundred or so states that have given up on real sovereignty but are still grumbling about it.

So the answer to why the USA doesn't have a unified anything -- education, healthcare, internal policy of any kind -- is because various internal groups are playing local political games and will not concede their authority without another few centuries of fighting. Many problems are real, widespread, and not officially acknowledged (racism, sexism, classism...) because that would involve giving up local control.

Religious belief is part of that: low educational standards under local control. Anti-(socialism, communism) is also part of that because they are convenient boogey-men. If you asked a hundred Americans to define socialism, you would get eight or nine recognizably correct answers and most of the rest would be indistinguishable from "totalitarian dictatorship".

366:

You can lose your peerage for chronic truancy, and:

What about corruption in office? Or bank robbery and murder? (As with the Commons, you need a mechanism to suspend/sack incumbents who commit crimes -- crimes that may affect their ability to do their job, not parking tickets or being caught smoking a joint.)

What minima are you going to set on who serves? What if you accidentally pick someone who is suffering from severe schizophrenia, severe enough they've been sectioned? Or people who are, in the current usage, suffering from some degree of educational impairment (e.g. IQ of under 60)? What happens if you pick people who at age 18 reject the system and refuse to serve but at age 38 have changed their mind and want to reform the system from within?

Now remember that the designers of such a revised representative upper house are going to emerge from the current political elite and will therefore try and design it for malleability (as witness the way the Scottish Parliament was shamelessly gerrymandered by the Labour government in Westminster to make it almost a mathematical impossibility for the SNP to achieve an outright majority[*]).

[*] Oops.

367:

I'm British, and that looks wrong to me as well.

I'm not ready to say it is invalid without checking, as language has lots of edge cases that nobody uses, but it's certainly not common.

368:

Greg: If you try to run a "society" like that, then you won't have a society at all, but a collection of lone individuals, each & all at the mercy of the richest & most powerful.

You're familiar with Hobbes' Leviathan? Because that's his description of a state in the absence of a monarch, and the founding mythology of the USA is that it was created ab initio by a rebellion of brave free wealthy slaveowners men against an absolute despot. Leviathan provided a convenient crutch for the statecraft of those revolutionaries who were informed by a pre-enlightenment ideology: and Leviathan in turn can be seen as a reaction to the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a lethal convulsion on a scale that dwarfed the later Slaveowners Treasonous Rebellion -- it's not surprising that authoritarian Americans have subsequently conducted a masturbatory affair with Leviathan centuries after everyone else began to say "yes, but ..."

As for "why do you want it" the answer is obvious: the people at the top of the pile want it, because it's good for them, and they put a lot of effort into selling it to everyone else. As the old joke goes, there are no poor people in the United States -- just temporarily distressed millionaires.

369:

Hmmm...

Is discussing how USA is like the worst and going to collapse like totally for sure is another Strange Attractor of this blog?

370:

Healthcare in the US - as far as I can see from the other side of the world, the US health-care industry is very successful at charging twice the going rate for a slightly sub-standard service. About an extra trillion dollars a year is being charged,

Rationally, the industry should be willing to spend up to (just under) a trillion dollars a year to keep the status quo. In practice the money doesn't go into one coordinated place, but there will still be enough to buy quite large quantities of political hot air.

It also means that any real attempt to reform it involves slashing health spending by half; not the easiest platform for any politician.

371:

Following on from that, I'm curious why religious belief is high in the USA;

The best explanation I've seen is: (a) founded by religious fanatics, then (b) adopted a constitution that kept the state from establishing a religion, led to (c) massive competition between internal religious sects. See also Darwinism (religious).

The younger generation is showing the same drift away from religiosity as is happening elsewhere in the developed world. I do not see this as being a bad thing.

also and just in passing, the USA as publicized in the news here idea of "socialist" and "left wing" does seem to lack a certain rigor.

Yes well, ever since the 1880s the Owners™ have been deathly scared of anarchists and leftists rebelling in the fields, slaughtering them in their beds, and raping their white women organizing labour for a minimum wage and decent working conditions -- once you start extracting value from slavery, every work productivity unit you manage begins to look like a slave (ever wonder where the term "wage slavery" comes from?) -- and have campaigned against it. If you think this is new google on the Palmer Raids, Eugene V. Debs, the John Birch Society, and so on. It's a crazy rabbit hole descent ...

372:

Nope, that's not valid UK English either.

373:

I've always thought that having the World War(s) on your soil with all it's carnage tended to bring out a lot of pessimism towards religion. We've never had anything like that over here except for the Civil War

I disagree, conditionally. (And will note that the Civil War wasn't even on the map compared to the carnage in many other conflicts -- see below.)

The world wars weren't that bad in absolute devastation terms. With the exception of specific targeted peoples, they killed roughly 10-20% of the population. Compare to Cambodia in the 1970s, where around 30% died, or to the Thirty Years' War (where the death toll was over 30% and in some principalities hit 90%), or the War of the Triple Alliance, which killed 70% of the population of Paraguay (and 90% of the adult males). None of these lethal conflicts correlate with a major downswing in religiosity, except possibly the 30 Years War (insofar as the Treaty of Westphalia brought an end to the use of suppression of religious dissent as an excuse for invasion, that was used a driver for empire-building in Europe since the reformation).

Something else triggered the drop in religiosity in Europe, and I think it goes back a long way before 1945. I suspect the Scottish Enlightenment is implicated, although that in turn may have been a side-effect of events elsewhere: but the view of modern atheism as a protestant heresy is worth considering, although in turn it's also hard to disentangle the origins of protestantism from 14th century European continental power politics ...

374:

Is discussing how USA is like the worst and going to collapse like totally for sure is another Strange Attractor of this blog?

Quite possibly. Although it may be a side-effect of the US (a) being my biggest market, and (b) being full of people who have an infuriatingly complacent "not invented here" attitude. When you see a friend persistently punching themselves in the face ...

375:

Something else triggered the drop in religiosity in Europe, and I think it goes back a long way before 1945.

Niven's law № 9. Ethics change with technology.

376:

Rationally, the industry should be willing to spend up to (just under) a trillion dollars a year to keep the status quo. In practice the money doesn't go into one coordinated place, but there will still be enough to buy quite large quantities of political hot air.

Or, as seems to be happening, rather than trying to defend their turf in the USA -- where the private sector's pricing monopoly is under assault via insurance regulation (aka Obamacare: it's not healthcare reform, it's insurance regulation) -- is to try to export their broken system to the rest of the bloody planet. Starting with the NHS in England and Wales. Gah.

377:

Quite possibly. Although it may be a side-effect of the US (a) being my biggest market, and (b) being full of people who have an infuriatingly complacent "not invented here" attitude. When you see a friend persistently punching themselves in the face ...

You know, I have a suspicion now that your main market is not quite the US, but rather the sub-population of the US which is also the population of Reddit (like, seriously to the left of the US median and complaining all the time).

It's still a huge population, I guess.

Hmm... Do you have US market statistics of your books by state/city?

378:

Hmm... Do you have US market statistics of your books by state/city?

Alas, no. Nearest I can get is Amazon's author central bookscan digest, and bookscan these days only logs about 20-30% of sales -- it's EPOS based, but only sales over shop counters via participating retailers are captured. I will note that there are hotspots for my readership in obvious places, like, oh, the west coast cities, the east coast cities, and so on :)

379:

>"The best explanation I've seen is: (a) founded by religious fanatics, then (b) adopted a constitution that kept the state from establishing a religion, led to (c) massive competition between internal religious sects. See also Darwinism (religious)."

Exactly!

Let me refer you to an article entitled "Oh, Gods" by Toby Lester in the 2002 February Atlantic Monthly. The article deals with religious demographics and especially New Religious Movements (NRMs) and the introduction sums up the article's main theme nicely:

"Religion didn't begin to wither away during the twentieth century, as some academic experts had prophesied. Far from it. And the new century will probably see religion explode-in both intensity and variety. New religions are springing up everywhere. Old ones are mutating with Darwinian restlessness. And the big "problem religion" of the twenty-first century may not be the one you think."

And from the article:

"The essence of the idea is this: People act rationally in choosing their religion. If they are believers, they make a constant cost-benefit analysis, consciously or unconsciously, about what form of religion to practice.

This is a rather interesting idea: that religious belief should be categorized like any other consumer market. Believers make rational "purchases" of religious "products and services" which meet their current emotional and psychic "needs and wants". This implies that the traditional state supported religions (e.g. the Church of England) are essentially no different than the old state run economies of the former Warsaw Pact — and just as lacking in choices and products to meet consumer needs. Perhaps this explains why Western Europe (especially compared to the US) is spiritually moribund. Apparently Westminister and Chartres are as bad at meeting the spiritual needs of their "consumers" as the old GUM department store in Moscow. Like the former East Block, Western Europe also has its religious equivalent of the black market — newly arrived religious movements like Mormonism and Islam or locally derived non-Abrahamic religions like neo-paganism and druidism.

Assuming that state supported religion is (ironically) the last bastion of old style socialism (with all of its gray stagnation and lack of creativity), what would be the effect on the religious and spiritual "market" of Western Europe if state support for religion were completely discredited and ended? I believe it provides a neat explanation for the apparent paradox that America, while being more religious in belief than secular Europe, has not state support for its religion.

It's hard for Europeans to get spiritually interested in what is essentially just another government department.

380:

And it may also be due to the "wish fulfillment" you mention above.

So long as the US remains successful, it negates your world view.

Hence your wish fulfillment for its demise (or at least being taken down a peg or two).

381:

My (UK) brain immediately says that "hardware" is either a plural noun or an adjective, depending on context. The "bag of screws, dowels etc" with a piece of flat-pack furniture would be a good example.

382:

Let me refer you to an article entitled "Oh, Gods" by Toby Lester in the 2002 February Atlantic Monthly.

I read it ages ago, and I part ways with it when the author trots out the usual tired old market dogma: "People act rationally in choosing their religion. If they are believers, they make a constant cost-benefit analysis, consciously or unconsciously". Simply put, this is a grossly false view of how human beings behave: we are not rational actors in a free market, nor do we operate efficiently when provided with full information -- rather than making better decisions, we tend to overload and shut down. Nor does it accurately model how religiosity is trending over time -- there's been a precipitous drop in faith among generation Y/the millennials in the USA since it was written, with close to 50% now being willing to admit to "no faith".

383:

...the US health-care industry is very successful at charging twice the going rate for a slightly sub-standard service. About an extra trillion dollars a year is being charged...

Yes, that's the only rational root cause for the resistance to change. In terms of product delivered the US is comparable to most other developed nations; Americans just pay about twice as much for the same services. There's an extra trillion dollars going somewhere, and I can tell you I'm not getting it.

There's one other major factor as well, though it's temporary. The current attempt to limit how much money corporations can vacuum from the wallets of sick people has been led by a Democratic president who is deeply unpopular with a small but vocal group of Republicans. It doesn't matter what he's doing, they're against it and he's doing it wrong. If he's not doing something they'll either blame him for not doing it, claim they would have done it better, or get seen blocking him from doing it. (For bonus face-palming, sometimes all three at once on the same issue.) This will go away in two years when his term of office expires. If Hillary Clinton runs we can expect American far right racists to become far right sexists, and for the faux outrage machine to keep running through 2020.

As pointed out, the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") isn't health care reform as any reasonable person would understand it. It's just a limit on how crappy a policy health insurance companies are allowed to offer, combined with incentives for citizens to actually get health insurance. Actual universal health care wasn't a political possibility, due to what I mentioned above.

384:

I was thinking that, too. They've obviously taken an already plural noun and added an 's' to pluralise it.

The box probably contained screws, brackets, or a stand to mount something on.

For other amusing mistranslations, just search for "engrish" - I particularly liked the fire extinguisher with a plaque bearing a couple of ideograms and the words "Hand Grenade".

385:

So long as the US remains successful, it negates your world view.

The US isn't remaining successful -- except in the short term. It peaked (in relative advantage) circa 1945-1960, at 40-50% of planetary GDP, largely because the competitors had spent the preceding 55 years bludgeoning each other to death. Now they've mostly stopped doing that, the relative advantage is evaporating and the USA is on 22.4% of planetary GDP, behind the EU on 23.7% (albeit with a larger population).

In the long term, as we head back towards a notional equilibrium condition in which things average out[*], the USA's state should tend towards a baseline of 3% of planetary productivity, reflecting its proportion of planetary population, with a bonus weighting for its share of natural resources (just as Russia punches way above its demographic weight -- around 100 million people and a crap economy -- due to huge natural resources). I can't guess at that weighting but I'd expect it to at least double that 3% baseline share if only because it's a big land mass, it's been well-explored, and there's good infrastructure in place for extraction/utilization. So call it 6% of world GDP.

There's a long way to go before this happens, of course: and it won't happen due to US income crashing by 75% -- not unless you hold another civil war. Rather, it'll require the rest of the world to experience economic growth of 300-400% while the US stagnates, or considerably higher growth (500-700%?) while the US experiences moderate growth (50-100%). Both of these are long-term prospects, so pencil it in at a 30-100 year time frame. (Which puts us beyond the demographic event horizon, not to mention the technological and environmental one, so it's just projecting a dotted line off the end of the graph.)

So the USA isn't going to become impoverished or marginalized. But what it is going to do is wake up one morning and realize it's not the centre of the universe any more, like the UK in 1947. And the amount of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the loss of something that was only really imaginary in the first place (unless you were a member of the top tier of the ruling elite) will be epic, because people are trained to identify with their leaders.

[*] Note that I am explicitly assuming that American Exceptionalism -- the doctrine that Americans are special sparkly eagles to whom normal constraints of economics, sociology, and reality do not apply because AMURICA!!! -- is pants. Americans are human beings, like everyone else. Well, like the rest of the WEIRD demographic, but us WEIRDs are a rapidly growing global minority and, more importantly, aspirational targets for the other folks.

386:

Actually the downswing of religion in the US is more of a cyclical thing. America's religious community has two phases, an active phase where they are heavily involved in politics (called a Great Awakening if you're inclined to Wiki) and then there's a phase where they withdraw from worldly politics. The rise of the Moral Majority was the Fourth Awakening, and like the others it seems to have run its course.

I subscribe to Strauss-Howe Generational theory about the US, which makes me mildly optimistic about the future, once the Baby Boomers die off.

387:

Charlie, you're right in the general sense and even more so in the specific case of religion.

This was looked at some years back by Fr. Andrew Greeley, who looked at what the Catholic church might do to attract more people and observed that the very first thing to learn was that most people simply weren't in the market for a new religion. (The Mac versus PC wars have remained metaphorical; not so religious schisms!) It really doesn't matter what the church down the street is doing; most parishioners will stay where they're used to going. At no time is more than a small fraction of the population even considering the possibility of changing denomination.

Never mind religions, which are important to many people. It's damn hard to get people to try something new in unimportant things like their brands of beer or cigarettes!

388:

For other amusing mistranslations, just search for "engrish"...

There is of course a site for that.

390:

I'm inclined to disagree with that explanation, or at least the social Darwinism aspect of it. I think the USian individual world view is essentially sick. The American dream is about the Alpha male in essence - leader of the pack and so forth - even if it's not actually expressed that way. While that may be fine for a small number of people most people actually aren't natural born leaders (think of why institutions like armies search for them and have small numbers of officers) and any leader of the pack needs a pack to lead.

For those for whom alpha male status is unachievable, belonging to the pack is the next best thing. In the US, being founded by religious fanatics made being in the church the pack to belong to. Religiosity in the UK certainly, and I suspect the rest of Europe was in decline - there are laws fining people for not going to church on the statue books for quite a while before the Mayflower set sail (quite a while being measured in centuries IIRC).

As a general thing we in Europe don't have that societal drive to be the alpha male - that's not saying there aren't individuals with that drive but it's not our main cultural ambition. Equally for those that realise they aren't going to make it the fall back to membership of the pack isn't as vital. I'm not saying we don't need our own social mechanisms, humans are social creatures (in general anyway) and so mostly they join social groups but there's an acceptance of a much more diverse array of social groups.

It strikes me that the decline in religiosity in the US is tied to the rise of easy communication. People under 40 are no longer constrained, once they start to realise they aren't going to become the alpha male (as most of them aren't) to look briefly for a social group, fail to find one, and join the only group in town - the church. They look for a social group and however weird they are somewhere on the internet there's a group out there for them.

This model rather neatly also explains the US's weirdly high serial criminal rate. The 'betrayed' alpha that can't make it has another option besides returning to the pack. They can become a loner and predate on the pack. It gives them an extra tranche on top of those created in all the other ways we normal create serial criminals.

391:

/me rolls eyes

This is awesome. Gross generalization and comparing humans to animals. Could at least go for chimpanzees for that little bit of credibility, but no, it has to be wolves...

392:

Not only that: the whole "alpha male/pack hierarchy" model of lupine behaviour turns out to be wrong, based on observations of random individuals thrown together in captivity. (Wolf pack hierarchy dominated by an alpha and beta in the wild tends to make more sense if you realize that the alpha and beta are the male and female parents of the younger wolves, and a chunk of the "pack dominance" behaviour is driving young adults away from the family to meet up with potential mates and form new families. The Schenkel model of wolf pack behaviour is about as accurate as observing human interactions among inmates inside a maximum security prison and using that as a model for human society.)

393:

Add to this mix the higher propensity of Americans to sue ...

http://www.epmonthly.com/departments/subspecialties/medico-legal/the-medical-malpractice-rundown-a-state-by-state-report-card/

(EP Monthly is a U.S. based emergency physicians website.)

394:

...and to award "lottery win" damages when you win your suit.

395:

Only too familiar with: "... and in that sate of natire, no ..." indeed.
But, like all political prescriptions it is not, & never will be a perfect "solution".
A modern interpreation, might be a state without a government of laws - & the US is heading that way real fast, because of the internecine infighting, that lets no-one really benefit, except the powerful.
The irony is that, in following "Leviathan" they have become that which they feared.
So, the peole at the top want it & no-one has noticed? Really?
um.

396:

It also means that any real attempt to reform it involves slashing health spending by half; not the easiest platform for any politician.

Err, no - spending the same amount of money, but actually spending it on, you know real, actual healthcare ....

Almost the opposite of the probelem here, where the NHS is crippled by appaliing-to-non-existent administration at the most basic (ward) level, which must cost £billions wehn added up.
Meanwhile, at the upre levels we have "consultants" & "administrators" running around, producing nothing at all.
This is from presonal observation of a certain emergency case earlier this year - where the actual medical staff were 150% brilliant - like spotting that actually it wan't a bad gall-bladder, but an appendix in the WRONG PLACE & about to go "pop" - so 01.00hrs emergency appendectomy, problem solved.....

397:

...which are needed to pay for the medical care you have/will need due to the injury. As already mentioned, this is expensive.

398:

[T]he whole "alpha male/pack hierarchy" model of lupine behaviour turns out to be wrong

Also, I recently saw a picture on the internets which displayed the software engineer side of the alpha male.

That is, the alpha male is the buggy first version, not for release.

399:

I'd agree. If you want a partial explanation for American behavior (and it appears to generalize throughout a good chunk of the world), I'd suggest reading Bob Altemeyer's The Authoritarians (link). Since he's a soon-to-be emeritus professor (or is emeritus already), he did the curmudgeonly thing and published his research as a pdf book for everyone, which is both good and bad, in that this is also the classic wing-nut publishing strategy. I personally don't think this is a wing-nut book, but I think the caveats are warranted.

Another thing to realize is that US politics are being driven by environmental and economic pressures, just as they are where ISIL is currently trying to set up that stupid Caliphate. In Syria and western Iraq, they've basically run out of water, and I'd suggest those fights with ISIL taking over dams are less about flooding downstream cities and more about controlling who gets to drink. The reason I'd say their Caliphate is stupid isn't any fundamental dislike of Islam, but because I intensely dislike ISIL's actions.

Anyway, there's something similar happening in the US. A lot of the conservative screaming is coming from places like the Ogalalla aquifer, which is down below 300 feet in some places now, the southeast US, which was pounded by droughts, and similar places. These are also places where a few large agribusinesses are taking over, forcing farmers off the land and into cities, much as is happening all over the world.

Everywhere these kinds of things happen, they seem to make a breeding ground for authoritarian, often violent movements. So I'd simply say that the US is having the same problems many other places are. The only thing that makes the US different is the amount of money that demagogues and authoritarian leaders are willing to pour in to fan the flames.

Now if you want to have fun with politics, why don't you look at Canada's hard swing to the right. There is something about oil that corrupts, isn't there? That's probably a topic for another post, come to think of it.

400:

People act rationally in choosing their religion
Total non sequteur ...
I mean raligion is, by definition irrational mumbo-jumbo, so you use REASON to pick one?
Aslo, religion is usually forced on you by your surrounding society & parents.
See also Dawkins on "There is no such thing as a christian/muslim/jewish child. Just a child".

Western Eurpoe is NOT "spiritually moribund" either, just utterly fucked-off-to-the back teeth with the lies & blackmail put out by religions & their crooked lying leaders.
It's hard for Europeans to get spiritually interested in what is essentially just another government department.
Also false.
France - a devoutly secular state. Germany, no not there either, or Denmark or or .....
If you are referring to the "CofE" can I fall about in hysterical luaghter, right now?
Or contrariwaise Ireland, where the RC church has a "special place" - & much good that has done it, now the Magdalene Laundries scandal & others have come home to roost.

401:

Nope - suggest you visit that epmonthly link - well-researched/written article. The cost of medicine/pharmaceutical drugs/medical devices is actually higher in some countries than in the U.S. - yet those countries' per patient health care costs are lower, and patient outcomes better.

402:

That's me in the corner. That's me on the god site, choosing my religion...

Sorry.

403:

I was thinking more of http://www.engrish.com which has some truly strange translations.

404:

Anyway, there's something similar happening in the US. A lot of the conservative screaming is coming from places like the Ogalalla aquifer, which is down below 300 feet in some places now, the southeast US, which was pounded by droughts, and similar places. These are also places where a few large agribusinesses are taking over, forcing farmers off the land and into cities, much as is happening all over the world.

Everywhere these kinds of things happen, they seem to make a breeding ground for authoritarian, often violent movements.

I think you have it backwards. Most of these areas out west (USA) have gone from hard core take no prisoners conservative 50 to 100 years ago to mostly conservative now. And trending less and less conservative.

405:

" ..This is from presonal observation of a certain emergency case earlier this year - where the actual medical staff were 150% brilliant - like spotting that actually it wan't a bad gall-bladder, but an appendix in the WRONG PLACE & about to go "pop" - so 01.00hrs emergency appendectomy, problem solved....."


Been there - on the receiving end of there - back in 1967 when I was still a foolish teenager who had better things to do than waste valuable time on this weird case of indigestion that I appeared to have developed. Anyway after passing out with the pain and waking briefly in an ambulance...the wretched appendix had burst... I was moved rapidly onwards to surgery thereby bypassing a waiting list of patients whose Hernia operations were delayed a bit. The bloke whose place in the op list I had taken was very good about it and, when I awake from my op, forgave me on the grounds that I ' looked to be three parts dead and someone made a book on your survival' Ha! Though, all these years later, I do have an amazing scar that was much admired by a young NHS surgeon.

When my surgeon assessed me for rather rapid Day Surgery, over 15 years ago. This after I started to pee neat blood on account of having a lump where no lump had any business to be.

So, the Surgeon prodded me in an authoritive manner and assured me that, " Way back then They had believed in ‘Getting their Elbows In “and that I wouldn't be able to find his incision a few weeks after the op ...oh and that the Lump probably wasn’t malignant but was just pressing on blood vessels in an unlikely - albeit Terrifying - manner. And that’s the way it proved to be.Some things do improve.

No-one asked me about ' my ' insurance company way back then or at any time since for we in the U.K. all have National Insurance Company and that Company is us.

British Small Business Persons who are Professional Writers who tell lies for money have a HUGE advantage as compared to their US of American brethren in not having to worry about Medical bills...though I don't doubt that Over There are lots of People who Eagerly Pay to support Insurance Companies since this is the Right thing to do and pandering to vile Godless Communism, in the form of Socialised Medicine, drains the Vital Bodily Fluids.

406:

Hey, I actually managed to think of a proper question (hopefully this thing here isn't already over...):

Bob tried, and failed, to eat a vampire's soul when he first met the Scrum. Later on in the book, though, he thinks that Mhari is "the sort of thing I eat". Is it because of Angleton's recent discorporation that vampires are suddenly starting to look yummy to Bob? (Also, what about humans - do they now look appetising, too?)

407:

Also, is Bob technically a zombie? Just one that, instead of being animated by one of the feeders, is being animated by Bob's own soul (entangled with variable amounts of Hungry Ghost)? Or should we assume that his body and soul were joined together again properly, after the events of TFM?


408:

Haha, and another: Bob's previous experience of cats changes, over the course of TRC, from occasional visits with an old, somewhat distantly related aunt who had a cat, to "mum's old cat" who'd "sneak into the bedroom and sleep on my pillow". Did he forget about his mum's cat, early in the book when he writes that his only cat-related experience is from those visits with that aunt? Or is there method to this madness - do cats, perhaps, work some sort of memory-scrambling magic much like vampires do?

409:

(Strong sense of déjà vue. I suspect I've asked most of these in the Rhesus Chart discussion chart at some point...)

410:


"Sortition with the possibility of re-election/de-selection? Interesting; not sure I've seen that wrinkle. How do you stop the incumbents forming a cartel to ensure they remain incumbents?"

One option would be to have a periodic culling. Every ten years the House of Lords can elect 40% of their current number to continue to serve for another ten years, and the rest go home with the thanks of a grateful nation. You can't vote for yourself. You preserve a cadre of old hands with institutional memory, but the rest are replaced by sortition.

So the incumbents are never a majority in the new House, and the 40% who earn another term need to convince the whole House that they are the best choices.

411:

Hi David,

Since we disagree, perhaps we should double check. I'm talking about the great plains down to north Texas (the Ogalalla aquifer country) and the southeast.

I agree about the southwest, to some extent: the cities are indeed more liberal (and bigger), but the dryer hinterlands seem to be getting more conservative (and smaller) too. We seem to be short of rural places that are staying centrist to liberal.

412:

As for the inevitable decay of the United States, as some one culturally British, who has been living in the USA for the best part of the last two decades. I am beginning to seriously
Question my decision to move back here. For all that the UK is imperfect, their system of democracy does seem to have the ability to address long term issues in a way the USA seems incapable of.
I admittedly get to see Municipal and State issues from the inside here, which I do not in the UK, but it's not a pretty picture. The complete absence of willingness in the USA to compare themselves to other developed nations as a a metric is unusual. The extraordinary costs of healthcare are well documented but curiously ignored by the body politic, but seem to be accepted. The extraordinary costs of infrastructure construction are available on corners of the web, but seem to be totally ignored. the secondavenuesagas blog does a great job pointing out that NYC subways cost about ten times more than those in Spain ( if you think nearly 4 billion dollars for the new PATH station in the WTC is a reasonable cost, read no further)
I worry that as the world becomes more global more and more people will realise that third world infrastructure is a negative.
Could go on about pension obligations, state indebtedness and many other things, but the USA seems convinced they are superior to other nations, and i worry the rest of the globe will start to notice this isn't true.

413:

What's your timeframe, Charlie?

Because absent some sort of technological revolution, it is far from a sure thing that the rest of the world is going to converge on the United States over the rest of this century.

There are really only three big convergence episodes since the industrial revolution. The first is when the North Atlantic converged on Great Britain in the 19th century. The second is when most of Western Europe converged on the United States in the thirty years after WW2. The third is currently driven by China and (to a lesser extent) India.

The current episode is not guaranteed to end like the previous two. The gap between Latin America and the United States has been almost constant for over a century. The Chinese and Indian polities resemble those societies more than they resemble the countries inside the European Union. Similarly, African countries are growing quickly now, but a lot of that growth is based on a raw materials boom that might not last. And even if African growth does last for a while (which is, for various reasons, how I am betting) it is one thing to say that African countries will catch up to, say, the Andean nations ... it is quite another to say that they will catch up to the United States.

That is, of course, a simplistic reading of history. But there are more serious reasons to believe that the current North Atlantic core will retain its advantage over the rest of the world. Those countries have tried and tested institutions and much stronger rule of law. The United States, moreover, has some demographic advantages of its own. Those advantages are shared with some European states, but scale does matter. (Scale is the general explanation for the persistent income gap between Canada and the United States.)

This is not to say that convergence won't happen. I do not know! And the United States has some serious institutional problems which could cause its growth the slow. Moreover, new technology could make this all moot.

But it is to say that a blithe assurance that convergence will erode American dominance --- and will erode it soon --- is not really justified. Because it is not really justified, it can come across as knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

Of course, a millennial view would be different. But that's not what your comments imply.

(The Economist had a good overview of recent convergence: http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21616891-ten-years-ago-developing-economies-were-catching-up-developed-ones-remarkably-quickly-it. A recent chart of world GDP shares can be found at http://econobrasil.blogspot.com/2012/10/crise-financeira-mundial-o-que-se-pode.html.)

414:

I am completely with you that these projections are beyond the technological and environmental event horizons. Especially the first. My crystal ball about what technology will look like in 2060 or 2100 went cloudy a long time ago.

It's too bad that you're going to stop looking into yours.

415:

I'm not going to stop looking; it's just that I don't have the same interests (or energy level) that I did 1-2 decades ago. Bear in mind that the body of my writing you're familiar with is all stuff written more than two years ago, with a median age of about a decade? That's when I finished "Accelerando"; "Singularity Sky" dates to 1996-1999. So you're looking at the world of a 30-40 year old as an indicator of who I am, and I'm now a 50 year old looking forward to being 60 and the world is a different place from here.

416:

Question: if a genie would offer to a high-budget movie based on one of your books, which book would you choose?

417:

Question: if a genie would offer to a high-budget movie based on one of your books, which book would you choose?

I'd run away, very fast.

1. I'm not a movie person. (If I was, I'd be writing film scripts, not novels.)

2. "High budget" means "managed by a production studio, oversight by accountants, marketing directed by focus group". What do you think a focus group of random cinema-goers picked from a mall multiplex somewhere in the mid-western USA would make of any of my novels? And what changes would the studio then demand?

418:

I'd run away, very fast.

Just assume the genie is faster.

2. "High budget" means "managed by a production studio, oversight by accountants, marketing directed by focus group".

OK, lets tweak the question. The genie offers you a budget of 100 million US dollars. It doesn't care about profitability. You have the final word on everything related to the movie. It has to be a single movie, though, no longer than 3 hours.

419:

David Brin has had a standing challenge on his blog for what, 8 years by now? for libertarian/ conservative types to name a country which went down the spout by the method of the voters voting in people who then gave them all the money.

I would say Greece came pretty close.

420:

I agree about the southwest, to some extent: the cities are indeed more liberal (and bigger), but the dryer hinterlands seem to be getting more conservative (and smaller) too.

I guess I'm going with modern media/news makes these areas look more conservative to the rest of the nation but I don't see it. And yes I'm going on scant "boots on the ground" knowledge but I do have some contacts with the hard right wing via marriage and blood lines. They are yelling louder these days due to the ability to do so via cable news and the internet but I see them becoming more and more of a minority in all parts of the country where I touch them.

I have some friends who write a blog on problems with the evangelical church in the US. And they would be considered hard core conservative Christians by most of the folks here. But they are accepting that gay marriage and other "left wing" issues will be come main stream and law in the near future in the entire country.

The hard core right is shrinking and yelling loud as they shrink.

I mean I knew Obama was going to be elected back in August of 12 when a 0.01% told me that Romney was going to win because the voters would obviously not re-elected the idiot who got elected back in 08. Total denial of how the majority of people around them really felt.

421:

"the population of Reddit (like, seriously to the left of the US median and complaining all the time)"

Uhm... I think you misread Reddit's majority political orientation.

Look up "Red Pill" and let your eyes glaze over.

422:

Look up "Red Pill" and let your eyes glaze over.

Meh, r/ShitRedditSays cancels it out.

But really I judged by the population of large sub-reddits, such as WorldNews, Technology etc.

423:

The hard core right is shrinking and yelling loud as they shrink.

May not matter (to them) if they succeed, as they are supposed to be doing, in rigging the voter-lists & excluding significant numbers of people from the electoral registers.

Of course, over here, it is alleged that we have the opposite problem in one or two areas .....

424:

When did a large group of nerds representative of the sum total of that label coming together to discuss global events or technology ever drift to the left?

425:

When did a large group of nerds representative of the sum total of that label coming together to discuss global events or technology ever drift to the left?

The idea of Basic Income is extremely popular on Reddit. Universal healthcare, ditto. War on Drugs and War on Terror are extremely unpopular. Oil companies are extremely popular.

426:

"Basic Income" + (?) The "Corn Dole" handed out to all Roman Citizens?
Discuss.

Is it such a good idea, or not?
Um.
[ I've been reading R L Fox's history of classical Rome, which is really, really nasty - the brutality of internal politics in Rome was vile. The corn dole was uses as a weapon, usually by "populist" leaders, but not always - the proto-fascist Sulla also did this. ]

427:

Using the history of Rome as an argument for or against ANYTHING in the 21st century is stupid.

428:

Hah! It didn't stop the Fascists last century, why would you expect anything different now?

429:

When 95% of the population are unemployed or in make-work schemes, Basic Income is going to be the only alternative to some real horrors.

430:

Bellinghman said it .... or in my version:
"What can the ancient Greeks teach us anything about phiolosophy of politics?"
Yes, well - "history is bunk"
Except when it isn't .....

431:

Re: the ongoing meme of slave-holding as a motivation in the American Revolution.

The British believed that Loyalism was strongest in the South. Whether that was true or not, they believed it and then perversely started to try freeing slaves to fight for them as well.

Large numbers of Northern slaves were manumitted by service in the Colonial Army. Vermont became a quasi-state at the time and started completely free. A small majority of Americans began turning away from slavery as a practice consistent with modern civilization as well as democracy at about the same time and pace as their British counterparts. (British and American abolitionists continued to be racists; they just thought slavery was a) barbaric in itself and b) encouraged contact with "lower" races.)

It is depressing (or encouraging, take your pick) how close so many of the votes on allowing slavery were, both on the state and national level. It often came down to one man. Someone above said that oil corrupts; well, it's got nothing on slavery. As soon as pro-slavery interests got a state on their side, the money involved made it almost impossible to ever go back.

As to British idealism, small numbers of rebel slaves were given to Loyalists by HMG in gratitude for their service, but it was not a common practice. To put it in context, the British were still enslaving or conscripting white people at the time. After the Seven Years War, French Canadians were sold down south. Polish supporters of the Haitian Revolution who were picked up by the British were conscripted into naval service. And so on.

The British continued heavy direct and indirect investment in American slave-holding industries, as well as in other places. They also supported America remaining a resource colony dominated by the South as opposed to an industrial rival led by the North.

In short, merchants in Rhode Island did not rebel in order to keep slaves they barely even bothered having. The slavery that profited them took place in the West Indies after all.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on December 15, 2014 3:13 PM.

On the lack of cultural estrangement in SF was the previous entry in this blog.

Things I would make if I had a 3D printer ... is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda