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Sitrep

I have not been blogging much lately because I have been a bit busy. "The Annihilation Score" (Laundry Files book 6) has been copy edited and is on course for publication in the first week of July, and I'm now about a quarter of the way into writing "The Nightmare Stacks" (Laundry Files book 7). This is a priority right now, because on January 28th I'm off to New York and Boston for my annual winter trip (and expect to come back with a bunch of edits to process on the new Merchant Princes trilogy). As my literary agent and my US publishers are all based in New York, and there's an SF convention—Boskone—in Boston, it's really a work thing, but I'm going to find time to send up the bat-signal for a brewpub evening in both cities: watch the skies, or this blog entry, for details.

Read below the cut for my itinerary and Boskone program items.

(Oh yes, one other thing. This is the time of year for Hugo nominations. 2014 was a bit of an odd year for me, insofar as I published just one piece of Hugo eligible fiction. It's a novel, an earlier work in the same series won a Hugo last year, and that's all I'm going to say. I am going to try to get off my arse and write a bit more short fiction over the next year or two, though, so things will be more interesting next year.)

My schedule:

Pub evening, New York: venue and date TBA, but some time from February 1st to 6th inclusive.

Pub evening, Boston: venue and date TBA, but some time from February 8th to 12th inclusive, or February 17th.

Boskone 52 schedule:

You can find the entire convention program here. My items are as follows (Everything takes place in the Westin Waterfront, the convention venue; Harbor II, Griffin, and so on are meeting rooms):

Reading

Friday 16:00 - 16:25, Griffin (Westin)

(NOTE: I am open to requests. Want some of "The Annihilation Score" (Laundry Files book 6), "The Nightmare Stacks" (Laundry Files book 7), "Dark State" (Merchant Princes book 7), or something else? Vote here!)

Panel: Angels, Demons, and Saints

Friday 19:00 - 19:50, Harbor II (Westin)

Panel: Finding Diverse Fiction

Saturday 12:00 - 12:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

(I'm moderating this panel rather than having opinions of my own)

Kaffeeklatsch: Charles Stross

Saturday 13:00 - 13:50, Galleria-Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin) (NOTE: based on previous years, if you want to attend you'd better sign up early to avoid disappointment: there are a limited number of places)

Panel: The Alien

Saturday 16:00 - 16:50, Burroughs (Westin)

Panel: Nifty Narrative Tricks

Sunday 11:00 - 11:50, Harbor I (Westin)

Autographing:

Sunday 13:00 - 13:50, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

NESFA Book Club: Neptune's Brood

Sunday 14:00 - 14:50, Harbor II (Westin)

56 Comments

1:

Charlie, on the subject of the Laundry novels, I noticed that numbers 1-4 of the Orbit editions were subtitled "Book %NUMBER in The Laundry Files", whereas The Rhesus Chart is subtitled "A Laundry Files novel", and also the pre-order version of The Annihilation Score on Amazon appears so.

Why this change? And does it originate from you, or from the publisher?

2:

I have no idea why the change happened; it's not up to me. (Even "the Laundry Files" series monicker wasn't my idea; it was down to Ace, who require all series with 3 or more books to have a series title now, for marketing/online search purposes.)

3:


Can't wait for 'The Annihilation Score'. The Rhesus Chart was your best yet, in my opinion, and Gideon Emery is a great narrator. Keep 'em coming.

4:

I wouldn't know; I don't listen to audiobooks.

And I'm hopeful there'll be a year-long break in the Laundry novels after "The Nightmare Stacks", before I write "The Delirium Library". At least, I'd like to take a year to write something different. The series started out at 3-5 year intervals: by the time "The Nightmare Stacks" comes out I'll have been rolling them annually for three years, and it's getting to the point where I haven't written anything wholly new and original since 2007! Don't want to go stale ...

5:

"Aliens"? That's a pretty broad topic ... could be very interesting or very boring. In case it gets boring, suggest you have a bull*hit bingo card of old 'alien' tropes.

I'll start ...

BEM - bug eyed monsters
LGM - little green/grey men
SV - sparkly vampires
AI(H) - artificial intelligence (human-made)
AI(S) - artificial intelligence (self-made/spontaneously generated)

6:

Our Dear (and MOST generous) overlord:

Any chance you might venture farther afield than the city that shares it's name with our fair province?

There are even wonderful beverage options about 3 hours away from said metropolis...

7:

While there's a certain attractiveness to the idea, we won't be hiring a car on this trip (not when we're spending 90-90% of it in Manhattan and downtown Boston!), and even if we were, the most likely designated driver is also the beer monster. (And three hours each way by road is not exactly local: remember you're talking to a Brit here: to an American a hundred years is a long time, and to a Brit a hundred miles is a long distance ...)

8:

Pub ? Beer ? New York ? count me in if I can ! I'll be the french minority.

9:

Wait... have I missed the other locations where you used The Delirium Library before just now?

Dig it, works with The Nightmare Stacks well, but I gotta say I'm totally ok if your staleness is of such an Eldritch flavor, sorry.

Pratchett wrote other stuff, but he'll always be the Discworld guy, Baxter and his Xeelee (though I'm looking forward to The Long Mars from both the aforementioned authors), and though you have a wonderful collection of worlds produced... if I want to make sure someone knows who you are I am gonna bring up the Laundry. Least it's a kickass series to have your name hung off of.

10:

Wait... have I missed the other locations where you used The Delirium Library before just now?

Not sold yet; it's the provisional (working, subject to change) title for Laundry Files book 8, in which Bob gets to deal with the fallout from the unexpected and catastrophic arrival of CASE NIGHTMARE RED in Yorkshire. To say more about which would be a spoiler for "The Nightmare Stacks".

11:

From the schedule:
"Panel: Angels, Demons, and Saints"

Err ... remember that at least 95% (better 99%) of all christian "saints" are/were arrogant, overweening, superior murderous lying bastards of the first water, & how you distinguish them from the popular idea of a demon is difficult to say.
[ Favourite examples: Dominic & Cyril of Alexandria ]
Of course "Angel" just means "messenger" (of truth) & "Devil" means "slanderer" ( i.e. = liar ) & thus it gets to be even more fun doesn't it?

12:

Hmmm, I wonder if you're ticklish or have any embarrassing photos I can dig up to blackmail you into getting more out of ya...

13:

Is "Diverse Fiction" a new genre I'm not aware of, or is it simply shorthand for "fiction not written by heterosexual white men of non-leftist inclination"? I'm also wondering at what point the John C. Wrights of the world will represent "the Other", and be the subject of "Diverse Fiction" panels, at the rate the leftist cultural conquest project is proceeding with with respect to science fiction....

14:

Ahem: Diverse fiction is shorthand for "stuff you can't easily find in a commercial publishing industry that is still dismayingly by middle-class middle-aged anglophone persons of right-wing inclination".

And the likes of John C. Wright are not an endangered species, alas. (I have nothing against him personally, but his choice of ideologies -- plural: he underwent a radical conversion about a decade ago, from one highly unpleasant creed to the most obnoxious possible interpretation of another, usually somewhat less unpleasant one -- is regrettable.[*] And he tends to spray it around in front of the impressionable.)

[*] He went from Objectivism -- the most morally reprehensible expression of libertarian selfishness -- by way of a non-fatal heart attack to Catholicism. Of such a reactionary, misogynistic variety that his interpretation is pretty much on a par with the worst excesses of Salafi Islam. I can only consider the current Pope to be his perfect come-uppance, and am awaiting his next choice of ideology with morbid curiosity.

15:

"...catastrophic arrival of CASE NIGHTMARE RED in Yorkshire."

Ooooh.. Please tell me there's a Shoggoth going down a hill in a bathtub in it? Does Mo get to wear wrinkly stockings and hair curlers?

16:

a Shoggoth going down a hill in a bathtub in it?

Oh dear ghod. Please don't, that'd be an unholy mix with the previously mentioned Elf-alikes.

(Though a Kettenkrad looks suspiciously like a halftrack bathtub.)

17:

'At the rate the leftist cultural conquest project is proceeding with with respect to science fiction....'

Drawing a line between Left Hand of Darkness and Ancillary Justice, I'm tempted to compare the rate by which the leftist cultural conquest of science fiction has occurred with the pitch drop experiment. (Cherry picking, I know, but I couldn't help myself.)

18:

Ok, I now have an image of three Volkssturm privates talking with Yorkshire accents...

19:

Shoggoth? Bloody luxury! When we were young we were so poor we 'ad t' sacrfice a pitcher o' a goat owt a magazine we found in t' 'edge, just t' raise a level one abomination. Kids these days don't know they're bloody born

20:

Of course that's exactly the downside of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, that the bloody things now appear when you merely speak of them.

21:

I think we've had that problem with the Elves who drink Safe Tea[1] for quite some time now. I hadn't realised it was due to the imminence of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. (I'd better be more careful of mentioning stuff in future to avoid causing another outbreak.)

Chris.
[1] Because Elfin Safe Tea is very important in these litigious times.

22:

Chris, can you drop me an email? (I've lost your address.)

23:

Just gotta note what a wonderful time we live in this is, I get to casually discuss random topics with one of my favorite authors, and be amused at things like using a discussion forum (which is like a persistent public form of e-mail, isn't it?) to discuss lost e-mail addresses with him.

24:

I recall the John C. Wright conversion. We had a brief chat about it via email/Usenet. Anyway, converts often make the most fanatical followers. The Transcendence trilogy is pretty good though.

25:

Quite a few of them were local spirits or gods that were given a pension in the new faith.

26:

I'd say this is off-topic, but since there really isn't much of one, and I'm not on twitter, I'll add my unasked for 2¢ here wrt replacing Lovecraft as the fantasy award. They should definitely replace him, for lots of reasons*. Charlie's suggestion of Mary Shelley is decent. I have nothing against Butler, but I don't think she's mainly known for fantasy, and neither is Atwood (and as Charlie points out, still alive). So, off the top of my head, my suggestion is C.L. Moore who wrote various types of fantasy, and SF. Maybe she's a little obscure now, but is due for a revival?

*and to the guy who says "But he could write!"--No, he couldn't.

27:

The Transcendence trilogy is pretty good though.

I enjoyed reading it on the whole. It was a sometimes-jarring mix of Space Opera Science and Comic Book Science though. Space Opera Science: they've built giant antimatter factories in space that can fuel a starship. I can suspend disbelief for that. Comic Book Science: this super-metal has such a high melting point, it can protect a human inside a star. Wait, no, that's not how it works! Super-metal suits won't protect a human inside a star any more than iron suits will protect a human inside an ordinary bonfire. The problem is interior overheating, not the suit melting.

There was a point in the trilogy where the protagonist is wrongly convicted and punished in a way that makes one doubt in the entire surface appearance of a benign, fair, individualist system narrated so far. Both the wrongly-punished protagonist and authorial voice seem to be in agreement that this rather implausible and strikingly evil system of punishment (enforced collective shunning so as to make you materially deprived and victimized in an otherwise nonviolent post-scarcity society) is necessary for the greater good, no matter how badly it has gone awry in this case. I don't know if that's Objectivist-brand evil or Catholic-brand evil at work, or some novel invention, but I remember it more vividly than just about anything else in the setting. They reasoned like the pro-Hell faction in Matter.

28:

At least it's not the Proper Tea drunk by Capitalists [2]

[2] because as we know, all Proper Tea is Theft...

29:

I believe that trilogy dates to Wright's Objectivist period.

His hardline Catholic turn happened subsequently.

It's always illuminating to read the copyright date on a novel, subtract two years (one year to cover post-submission production at the publisher; another year to cover the time it took them to write the book) and see what they were saying on their blog.

30:

Which is why Proudhon only drank herbal tea.

31:

I thought Mary Shelly wrote science fiction, not fantasy. And I would not object to replacing Hugo with her. The statuette could be the New Prometheus and the retros could feature the Old Prometheus.

You could go to one of the pre-Tolkiens, or you could just bite the bullet and acknowledge the J to the R squared to the T. Or maybe the Lieber-Howards, that rolls off the tongue.

32:

Shelley also wrote some fantasy, not sure where you'd class "The Last Man" though, other than as a long slog to get through.

I think someone (Gaiman?) suggested naming it after Hope Mirlees when talk of changing it started a while ago. Seems to me they should stick with a pre-Tolkien writer, since there are plenty (the Cabell perhaps?). And maybe have the Tolkien Award for Epic Fantasy?
Well, whatever, just thinking 'aloud'.

33:

That's some unpleasant blogging, from the oldest entries to the newest. His fiction, in that light, endorses a lot more freedom than he wants people to have in the real world. But it also makes sense that such an author would write an emergency mechanism to stop there being too much freedom even in a space opera fantasy.

34:

One issue is the "Dead While [Anglophone] Male" problem. There are a lot of awards in the field but the folks they're named after mostly come from this one category. It's not exactly encouraging to non-DWAM authors.

(The current issue about the symbolic divisiveness of the Howies was highighted when N. K. Jemisin was awarded one. Handing a bust of a white male racist's head to a non-white feminist is in questionable taste to say the least ...)

35:

There's a big difference between "freedom" as an ideological touchstone in American folk-politics, and actual freedom (which must paradoxically involve the right to reject it).

36:

Ah yes, freedom:

Freedom means you're free to do
Just whatever pleases you.
If of course, that is to say
What you will is what you may.

-

Now that we're wandering a bit OT, does anybody have any thoughts about the Oxfam report issued a few days ago? Oxfram estimated that by the end of 2016, 50% of the world's wealth would be owned by less than 100 people.

The (radio) news report I heard this on mentioned that Oxfam released this report to coincide with the Davos meeting. When I heard that, I told the radio: 'but that kind of income inequality suits the Davos crowd right down to the ground.' At least it seems as though it would from my point of view.

37:

It's not exactly encouraging to non-DWAM authors.

Nope. I read Jemisin's blog post about that, and some of the responses (yeesh, some people...)
Another suggestion, The Sheherazade? Not an actual person, but certainly not a DWAM. And make the award non-figural to conform with not showing the human form--though Persian culture didn't have much problem with that. (and it might drive conservative/islamophobes nuts.)
But like I said, just thinking--probably too much.

38:

There's an interesting trend, when you consider the occasional reluctance to marry out of class, the .01% could be headed for an inbreeding crisis. Well, a worse one.
As far as fantasy awards, if DWAMs are out, I'd like to see Butler, her "Blood Child" was aggressively weird.

39:
The Sheherazade

I like that!

40:

Another option is, if not naming it for a pre-eminent writer of fantasy, howsabout naming it after a major fantasy character?

The Bilbo, perhaps? It would bookend well with the rocket ship.

41:
It's always illuminating to read the copyright date on a novel

Good point. Like when Pratchett started assigning joint copyright to Lyn.

42:

Moirai or Moira (Fates) -- loosely defined as 'universal principles of natural order' would work for fantasy through to hard SF.

43:

I like it at least. Then the nickname could be the Sheri.

44:

Only if you make mine a good Fino!

45:

Silly thought: If Laundry goes quantum, title suggestion: The Gyffs' Lexome. [Relevant background and technical references: An Introduction to Fundamental Magyk Particles and Forces: Lexemes and Lexomes Explained.]

46:

UPDATE: And I have just checked the copy-edits on THE ANNIHILATION SCORE, seen that they are looking good, and returned the CEM to the managing editor for production.

(Then checked my calendar and realized I've worked at least 12 consecutive days without any time off. So: weekend off work, coming up!

47:

Well, I haven't read anything by Wright, but as being both an agnostic cultural Catholic and a fan of TOS, I found his

"If Vulcans had a church, they'd be Catholics."

quite apt, for a variety of reasons. For starters, there is the sometimes convoluted logic (I look your way, Thomas of Aquinas), but then, anybody who has delved somewhat into trekdom knew even before the reboot what dickhead assholes Vulcans could be. ;)

As for what would happen if he becomes disappointed with the RCC, well, one could always catch up with Mencius Moldbug by becoming a Monarchist Lefebvrist

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

but I don't want to give ideas to anyone.

BTW, concerning Pope Francis I., I'd put him down not so much as "liberal" but as pro-Vaticanum II "conservative". Having a soft spot for C.K. Chesterton myself, well, it could be worse...

48:

As for a replacement for the Howie, well, to keep the cast and put in some (arguably consensual) heterosexual sex in the missionary position, what about the "Howard and Sonia Haft Greene Lovecraft" award?

49:

'but that kind of income inequality suits the Davos crowd right down to the ground.'

"Roughly 1,700 private jets are arriving in Davos..."

50:

While Lovecraft was influential, I don't see that he compared
with Poe or Dunsany in that respect (or in being able to write).
And, with regard to Mary Shelley, you have to distinguish fantasy
from science fiction according to the knowledge of the time;
Frankenstein was on the boundary then, even if it is fantasy by
modern lights.

However, I would favour the Swift award for barbed satire, well
hidden by a covering of imaginary worlds. And, heaven help us,
we may well be returning to a state where it is needed :-(

51:

If you called it the (Robert) Howard Poe Lieber award, you could make everyone happy.

TrotteIreiner: I don't get the rationale for adding "arguably consensual" and thus I probably don't get the point of the statement at all. Unless you think that HPL was so gynophobic, that his wife was sort of forcing him. I have not read much of her testamentary essays on her marriage; so was the "missionary" thing another hang up of his? She is known to have opined that he was a reasonably excellent lover or some such thing.

I guess if he did do something famously creepy to her, you don't need to give the details, just say "famously creepy" in your reply. Thanks.

Elderly Cynic: I would say Frankenstein is still SF, unless we are reclassifying every story in the genre as it ages. What if a better Galvanism reanimated frogs completely? Discuss the personal/social effects. That's SF by my mushy definition by way of Asimov and several other literary theorists.

52:

In case it was not completely obvious, that was not a serious suggestion, as I am aware they would all still be white, male and anglophonic. I think for the sake of propriety/tradition, "dead" should continue to be a necessary qualification. The Scheherazade suggestion is actually quite good, in my opinion, though some might argue that a women who is known to have existed historically might make a better statement on equality. I could go either way.

53:

Err, "Heterosexual Sex in the Missionary Position between a consenting married couple with the purpose of bonding and procreation" is a meme on 4chan:

http://1d4chan.org/wiki/Heterosexual_Sex_in_the_Missionary_Position

(Note, though pegged unter "NSFW", the page is quite safe; which might not be the case with some other pages on 1d4chan. Don't say I didn't warn you)

As for the "arguably consenting" angle, Sonia Greene described HPL as an "adequately excellent lover", which seems to have baffled even Joshi somewhat:

http://www.contrasoma.com/writing/lovecraft.html

My reading of this and similar issues is that HPL was maybe asexual

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

but in any case he was not that likely to initiate sexual contact, see

http://www.hplovecraft.com/study/articles/hpl-sex.aspx

This inhibition was clarified when I spoke with Sonia and tape-recorded our conversation—HPL never once made any sexual overtures to his wife—she, Sonia, always had to make the overtures for their sexual relations, however, as she stated to me, HPL had read up on his husbandly duty, and he was more than adequate in his performance.

Depending on your background, this might come over more as cute as creepy(err, I could tell you stories, both about myself and other, err, nerds...), but it was the reason I used the "arguably consenting". And could somebody please keep this mix-up of HPL's sex life and "Married with Children" out of my head, though I guess Katey Sagal would make a superb Sonia...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=di4qCwWkTlU

54:

Roughly 1,700 private jets are arriving in Davos...

Hmmm. That certainly beats the annual Keeneland Sales gathering at the Lexington, KY airport. Which is quite impressive if you go by the airport during the sales. Small to middling sized. Appears to have 13 gates now. Had 4 when I was last there in the 80s.

Lots of rich people, with a large concentration of middle east oil wealth, fly in for a few days of spending millions to buy horses.

55:

Well, maybe - but, by then, scientists knew that simplistic
approaches like that would not work. Anyway, the terms
always have been pretty fair nonsense for a lot of works
(e.g. why aren't Utopia and Gulliver's Travels called science
fiction?)

There would be no difficulty in removing the anglophone
element, though a lot of the early works are anonymous;
but, for some reason, fantastical and philosophical romances
were mainly a male province before Shelley even when the
wider field of fiction was more open). I have no idea why,
or whether that also applied in the Far East.

56:

New to the site, so apologies if this has already been suggested...

I would love to see a reference / riff on the hugely overused term 'Internet of Things' in some future Laundry Files book. Clearly, the term 'Things' has all sorts of interesting bump-in-the-night unintended connotations with which you could have lots of fun. For that matter, 'In the Cloud' could also be mercilessly skewered.

Thanks for the wonderfully entertaining books. I can't wait for the next chapter in Bob Howard's story.

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