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Cover reveal! The Nightmare Stacks

I get new book covers! On the left is Orbit's design for the UK edition of "The Nightmare Stacks", the forthcoming seventh Laundry Files novel. To the right is Ace's cover for the US edition! (You're getting different covers on each side of the Atlantic because I have different publishers in different territories.)

The book is available for pre-order: In the USA, Amazon has it here, and in the UK you can find it here. They ship on June 28th and June 23rd respectively. (I'll be adding links, including to other bookstores, to the "Buy my books" section of the sidebar in due course.)

My publishers gave IO9 an exclusive on the cover reveal yesterday, but I thought I'd announce it here as well now the cats are out of the bag. They also ran a short interview, which you can find below the fold.

A Q&A about The Nightmare Stacks

Q: How has the Laundry Files series changed and evolved in the dozen years or so that you've been writing it? Are there elements that you're still surprised became so prominent?

A: I've been writing the Laundry Files series for 16 years at this point. When I began, I intended the short novel "The Atrocity Archive" (published with "The Concrete Jungle" in the book "The Atrocity Archives"—note the plural!) as a one-shot. It was only a few years later, when people began asking for more, that I had any idea of writing a sequel, and only with the third book, 8 years in, that I realized I needed a Plan. And because the book's narrator, Bob, had been aging in line with the real world as I wrote the first three books, the most obvious plan was: track Bob's career as he grows older, more senior, and more cynical.

This turned out to be a really fortuitous choice. It allowed me to fix some minor inconsistencies in the earlier books; because they're Bob's workplace memoir, he often gets the wrong end of the stick at first then learns better about some aspect of the job over time. It also allowed me to deepen him as a character, adding complexity to the narrative as he ages and possibly becomes more self-aware (although he doesn't really have to grow up until books 8 or 9).

What I really wasn't expecting was that Bob's life would take over—and that the most important events in it would end up taking place off-screen, so far off-screen that I needed to pick new narrative voices! His wife Mo, for example, exhibits a very unvarnished perspective on Bob's seemingly bottomless reserves of self-delusion in "The Annihilation Score", and demonstrates that the series is very much about the Laundry as an organization, rather than just being Tales of Bob. And in "The Nightmare Stacks" I had to leave Bob behind entirely in order to give a worm's eye view of the start of events that will give rise (eventually) to the climax of the series.

Q: This book features a new character, Alex, instead of Bob. What's the reason for switching focus?

A: In "The Atrocity Archives" Bob starts out as a twenty-something tech support guy who has blundered into a Len Deighton spy thriller (with added tentacles). By the start of "The Rhesus Chart", Bob has leveled up so far that he can wade into a nest of vampires -- admittedly rather inexperienced vampires—and escape with mildly damaged dignity and a stack of paperwork. Power-ups are a constant problem for any multi-book series that riffs off the Hero's Journey: how do you engage with the underdog when your protagonist has risen from Midshipman to Admiral of the Fleet?

Alex is in some ways not dissimilar to Bob in his early incarnation. There are drastic differences: Alex has powers of his own—although they come at a drastic price. But Alex takes us back to the guy who gets sent to fix the cabling rather than spending all his time in policy meetings. And he's got a young guy's problems and social anxieties, unlike Bob (who by this point is in his early forties).

Q: Also is a vampire protagonist harder to write in some ways? And what sort of vampire lore did you decide to stick with?

The Laundry has been a fun sandpit for playing with occult parasites ever since the second book ("The Jennifer Morgue"—if you look at it through the right lens, the cat is a parasite), and I developed this through side-stories like "Down on the Farm" and "Equoid". In "Down on the Farm" I examined the micro-scale parasites that chow down on the brains of ritual magicians (as opposed to the body-stealing mega-parasites they're usually attempting to summon); and then in "The Rhesus Chart" I took a look at how brain-chewing microparasites might form a continuum with symbiotes at the other end. The Laundry Files vampires are of this kind: they're parasites, but rather than killing their host, they use their host as a vehicle to bring them into contact with their food. I wanted to take a pick-axe to the more overt religious associations of the various trad vampire mythologies, so I basically rolled my own variety. And of course, having invented a fascinating but really ugly commensal organism that gives its host certain abilities in exchange for food, I figured I had to explore the psychological effects on the carriers.

Which are, of course, drastic: the cost of PHANG syndrome is high enough that most sane people who realize what they've become take a walk in the daylight immediately. The only reason Alex is able to exist is because a certain organization has a use for him and takes highly dubious steps to keep him alive.

Q: You've hinted on your blog that this book features a "worst case scenario" for a Code Nightmare Red, or alien invasion, involving elves. And that the events of this book cannot be covered up or dismissed as a mass hallucination. Is this book a turning point for the series? Is it all going public after this?

A: Yup, it's a turning point! It's also set explicitly in March/April of 2014. Up to this point, the Laundry Files have unfolded in step with the calendar, so that the first novel is set circa 2002-2003. But from here on, the history of this universe rapidly diverges from our own ...

Q: What's next for the Laundry Files series?

A: That's the novel currently titled "The Delirium Brief", book 8 in the series. It's set about a month later, and deals with the explosive repercussions of the Laundry coming to light in the middle of the biggest political and military crisis since the Second World War. The narrative viewpoint switches back to Bob again—and it opens with him being shoved into a TV studio in London to be roasted alive on Newsnight by a certain famous British news presenter ...




Finally, some notes on the covers up top:

0. It is traditional for authors to destroy their home town, usually in their first novel. In my case, I believe in delayed gratification. (I escaped from Leeds back in the 1980s.)

1. Yes, the building seen in both cover pictures is Quarry House in Leeds, known to locals as The Kremlin or The Ministry of Truth, for obvious reasons, and the designated site for Gestapo HQ England after the Nazi invasion (which luckily didn't happen).

2. Yes, the Kettenkrad Bob dragged home in "The Atrocity Archive" turns up in this story, and yes, its driver is wearing 17th century cavalry plate for a reason. Two thumbs up to the US cover art designer!

3. Unfortunately (according to the regular commenters) those are Challenger-1 MBTs, which was superseded by the Challenger-2 in the late 90s. (The turrets are somewhat different in profile.) And they masked a map of London into the design rather than Leeds. Possibly one thumb down for lack of totally pedantic attention to (foreign) detail; but at least they were trying, and in any case it's the same background design that they used for "The Annihilation Score"—let's mark it down to "series identity".

4. Yes, there appear to be a pair of dragons attacking Quarry House. No comment (you'll have to wait for the book)!

5. Finally: yes, it's the Elf novel. But Laundry universe elves bear about as much relation to typical high fantasy elves as PHANGs bear to typical urban fantasy vampires. Which is to say, myths and legends can be lethally misleading guides when you're dealing with them, and? It helps to flip Clarke's Third law on its head and bear in mind that any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

79 Comments

1:

Damn! Now I'm going to have to go back to buying US of American Hardback copies of Laundry Files books!

The Us of A cover is so much better than the British and anyway American Hardback book quality is usually better than that of British hardbacks.

Trouble is I had this, er..minor difference of opinion with Amazon a little while ago after they signed me up for their Amazon Prime service and debited my credit card. It took ages to sort it out and I swore that I'd never buy anything else from those walking turds!

Problems Problems ..where to get an American hardback copy of The Nightmare Stacks over here in the UK when Amazon has practicality cornered the market in convenient purchase of US of A books in the U.K.

May have to swallow my pride.

2:

I am told that if you phone Amazon to cancel your Prime subscription they're allowed to refund you for the unused months on your payment. And if it's within a month of the free period expiring and you getting dinged for payment, they can refund it in full (at least if you haven't used it and are phoning up to complain).

Because there's a UK publisher, most UK bookshops will decline to stock the US hardcover edition (they don't want to be shouted at by Orbit). However, because the First Sale doctrine is solid case law for overseas purchases of chunks of dead tree, if you can order it from a US bookshop they're allowed to ship it to you.

Note that I am going to be a special guest at next year's Westercon in Portland, and I am hoping to organize a launch event/reading/signing at Powell's City of Books. In which case signed copies of the US hardcover should be available from Powell's (although obviously none of this will be scheduled before next May).

3:

First impressions of the cover:

Someone's loony enough to be driving a Kettenrad - I offer no opinion on whether wearing late-mediaeval plate armour while doing that is more, or less sane - but they are sufficiently rational, or sufficiently terrified, to be riding away from...

...What? That's Leeds! You're using the Royal Armories as a props drawer! The definitive museum of weapons, everything from stone clubs to the V2.

This is going to be an interesting book.


Also: quick reader poll - who's got the scariest vampires? Having just read Echopraxia - the second Peter Watts I've read with vampires - I'm inclined to say it's him. But then again, I work in a bank, on a trading floor: familiarity breeds complacency and some things just aren't scary any more.

Nevertheless, a picture is an image with the viewer in it, just a little, rather than just looking at it: and I can picture myself, leaving work on a pandemoniacal trading day in a cloud of exhaust fumes and Kettenrad track-roller oil, wearing Banker-Proof motorcycle safety-compliant late mediaeval steel plate armour. Or just Leaving, on the day it all comes crashing down, suitably mounted and properly dressed for the occasion: so yes, I can see a little bit of myself in whatever story lies behind that cover.

4:

Nope, I'm using as a props drawer the semi-secret underground facility attached to the Royal Armouries. Hint: the artist missed out the Dillon Aerospace M-134 on a pintle mount that Pinky welded to the Kettenkrad's trailer hitch. Second hint: the Enfield Pattern Room ...

5:

Would it be fair to say that your elves have some resemblance to Pratchett's elves?

6:

Only in the general sense that they're terrible people.

7:

I'm sure there will be something about Elven magick that will be, erm, iron-ic. Can't wait to read it.

Since I'm incorrigably lazy, when is Westercon 2016? I need an excuse to visit Portland again and some lead time to arrange for the trip.

8:

Westercon is held over Good Riddance Independence Day weekend. If I get the Powell's launch sorted out, it'll probably happen on publication day, June 28th in the US.

(Actually, as the UK launches a few days earlier there's probably time for me to do a launch event at Blackwell's in Edinburgh first before I fly out. Hmm, must look into that.)

9:

First Rule of the Laundry: If there is a Kettenkrad involved, Pinky and Brains are not very far away.

And it looks like being another real humdinger of a book.

(I also prefer the US cover to the UK one.)

The Enfield Pattern Room moved to Leeds when BAE asset-stripped Royal Ordnance and sold RSAF Enfield off for housing development. (I suspect it cost them rather more than they thought to clean the site up - 172 years of armament manufacture and testing would have caused a remarkable amount of heavy metal contamination.)

I've been around the original pattern room, back in the day, and it really was a "one of _everything_" research collection. Gatling guns from the 7.62 minigun to the brass and steel Naval deck guns of about 37mm bore. The sledge-mounted Lahti 20mm antitank cannon, and similar amazing stuff. I must visit Leeds sometime. (Grin)

10:

Mildly surprised to see two peeps immediately chime in on the side of the US cover, as my immediate response was the reverse.

Although in any case I've been schooled (by Charlie, mainly) on why covers do not necessarily tell you anything except, perhaps, what the publishers think of their target readership.

11:

SFF books and covers ...
I must say, I find the tradition in most litfic - to have covers that don try to illustrate what's happening in the book at all - a blessing. Moste of the times, the books look better, at least to my taste.
In our living room you could tell the SFF shelf from the others without reading any title. The only SF books I have that don't fall into this tap are the ones that get a pass as litfic - Strugatzky, Lem, Gibson. Litifc covers: Look nice but don't get in the way.

Do most readers in SF expect their book to look like this? Do you (all you publishing people) actually know this, or is this an assumption?

12:

" I am told that if you phone Amazon to cancel your Prime subscription they're allowed to refund you for the unused months on your payment."

Yes, that's pretty close to what I did and it did produce a refund,but, I resent having had to do it and wonder whether or not there may be yet another Financial Scandal lurking their in the sheer Mega Colossal Corporate Greed that is Amazon.

In the mean time Technology can be wonderful albeit with tinges of sadness.

Fellow readers here in the U.K will be altogether too aware of what internet buying has done to the good old UK high street bookshops. In Newcastle Upon Tyne Bookshops that had been trading for over a hundred years have closed down whilst even high street chain stores that specialized in book sales - like W.H.Smiths - have culled their store chains.

So ..a quick, highlight and then Duck Duck Go search, and ..Bloody Hell! Portland isn't all that Big, and surely isn't on the Tourist Circuit. How is this POSSIBLE! ...

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Powell%27s+City+of+Books&t=ffcm&iax=1&ia=images

13:

When I canceled an unused Amazon Prime account, it was fully refunded, even though it was over the 30-day limit. I think the key term there is unused, as with most sales. If it's something you don't want, it's much easier to make a case for a full refund.

14:

Apropos of nothing, I wonder if cavalry plate is more useful for its high SPF or for its antithaumic properties. Guess we'll find out.

15:

It's noticeable that the UK tradition in covers tends to be either more landscape oriented with a lot going on or very stylised with a solid theme running through a series.

US covers frequently depict a single character or object - they really really like putting a person on the front.

I have to say I generally prefer the UK variants, if only because cover artists never get my mental image of the character right.

Plus they so often do terrible covers for British fantasy - the US Pratchett ones are awful compared with the chaotic delight of the originals.

I'm not entirely sold on the silhouette here, it seems a bit too big, but the finished product does go nicely with the others.

16:

I'm afraid I was never right keen on the Josh Kirby Pratchett covers - not only did he never get my mental image of any of the characters right (apparently Pratchett thought so too, but didn't mind), but he didn't get my mental image of anything else right either. The costumes, the artefacts, the style of decorations, the surroundings - all way off. Not to mention the way every character on the cover was staring in stark incredulous horror at something on the front of my shirt; I know it's covered in weld spatter holes (blim burns for Men) but it's surely not as bad as that.

Of Charlie's covers above, I must say I prefer the US version. The silhouettes of the men on the UK cover are far too large compared to the silhouettes of the buildings and it just doesn't look right. The US cover is to scale, as it were, and has military vehicles and a rather good (if small) dragon on it. And I like the ground-level view from a distance perspective, and the whole grey misty thing.

17:

I got the impression from the Josh Kirby covers that they were illustrating lead figures rather than human anatomy. I found it odd; not especially off-putting, but distinctly odd.

The Paul Kidby for The Night Watch struck me as an improvement. (And I did think the choice was clever; being the new cover artist on Discworld can't be an easy place to find one's self, so by all means, let's make people argue with Rembrandt.)

18:

The Night Watch was the first Discworld novel I read and it is still my favorite. It was brand new at the time, and I was aware of the reading order guides floating around, but I (seem to recall that I) wanted to start with a relatively recent work. I went deep chronological after that, appreciating the arcs as they happened, albeit a few years late.

19:

the various trad vampire mythologies, so I basically rolled my own variety.
Like Geo R R Martin in "Fevre Dream" do you mean?
Incidentally, agree re Josh Kirby - the post-Kirby covers for Pterry's works are so much better...

20:

Oops I mean to add ....
It is traditional for authors to destroy their home town
And kill off friends & associates too, sniff .....
[ "Equoid" ] - which I note does not currently appear in your UK list on this web-site (?)

21:

The Paul Kidby ones are definitely an improvement in technique, but Kirby had a consistent style. It wasn't accurate, but it had style.

No one will ever convince me that this style is an improvement though, even if it is more accurate. It just doesn't have the right feel at all.

Anyway, enough derailment. As a better example, perhaps Saturn's Children showcases the figure on the front ideal best.

22:

Anyway, enough derailment. As a better example, perhaps Saturn's Children showcases the figure on the front ideal best.

You mean the US cover, huh? The British one was anodyne but inoffensive.

23:

"Equoid" isn't AFAIK published stand-alone in the UK at all.

(One of these days I need to hork up an uncollected novella as the centerpiece for a Laundry Files short story collection, in which case "Equoid" will be included.)

24:

Yep. I even understand the homage behind it though it took a while - the version of Friday I own has the woman on a police vehicle cover.

I just find US covers tend to be heavily weighted towards a single object or people displayed prominently, whereas UK and european covers seem to be more varied and tolerant of oddness, and often more abstract.

In fantasy it tends to express itself as Generic Hooded Guy Waving A Sword a lot.

Since it obviously sells there it can't be a bad thing, but I usually prefer the UK ones in general.

25:

Charlie: Do you have any of your books' original cover art to keep?

27:

To amplify Charlie's reply.

It is my understanding that what a publisher is usually doing when they commission an artist to do a cover picture is that they are buying particular reproduction rights for the picture that will be used, but that ownership of the picture, and other rights, remain with the artist. As an example, Jim Burns did a cover picture for Pat Cadigan's book Mindplayers, Fools, Tea From an Empty Cup. That omnibus uses a part of the full picture.

Should you go to the website that illustrates Burns' work, you can see the full image.

If you attend a convention that Burns is also attending, you might well find that he has a print of that work for sale, at a quite reasonable price (I think we bought an unnumbered and unframed artist's proof for about £50).

The original he would sell for more, usually an impressive multiplier more.

(My wife so wants an original Burns painting. We've got a fine pencil work, and a lot of prints.)

Were the publisher to pay for the original, it would add considerably to their production budget. And while there are some authors who do manage to get hold of the originals of their cover art, usually it's a luxury they've paid for themself. (I think John Meaney, sometime poster on this blog, has the Burns original for one of his covers.) What I have seen in an author's house is the framed cover - an extra hardback dust cover or paperback cover extracted from the production line before it is actually wrapped round a physical book is a much cheaper artefact.

So, unless you're someone really special, and you've managed to get it into your contract, no you don't normally expect the original of the cover art.

And oh yes, this also illustrates why foreign editions will usually have different cover art — even if a publisher has world rights to a novel that they sell on, they won't necessarily have world rights to the cover art, and thus not be able to sell that on.

As always there will be exceptions. But back on the subject of Josh Kirby and his covers for the Pratchett Discworld novels — he was known for never selling the originals if he could possible help it, and I understand that when he died all those painting were part of his estate.

28:

My understanding is that a Jim Burns original typically sells for more than the author's UK publishers advance against royalties for the book it was used as the cover art for. (We are talking single-digit thousands of pounds here.)

Repro rights to such paintings are often resold to overseas publishers -- it's as much a commercial business as writing books.

(I do have one piece of cover artwork: the original Pete Lyon painting to the issue of Interzone that my first published story, "The Boys", appeared in. It's a painting from that story, too. It cost me approximately what I got paid for the story in 1986 ... but an order of magnitude less than a typical book cover piece would be.)

29:

And oh yes, this also illustrates why foreign editions will usually have different cover art

Which I guess also explains why you sometimes see the same art on very different books.
Such as this 70s UK "Dune" paperback (which I have), and this US P.K. Dick cover a few years later (which I came across a couple weeks ago).
A couple more examples I've seen, for no reason: Venus Equilateral & Mutiny in Space
Ten Thousand Light Years From Home & The View From The Stars
I've also seen the cover of Sterling's Holy Fire use on another book but can't remember what.
Okay, done with that now.

My problem with the Kirby Pratchett covers is that they tend to be too busy. That's not to say that the American covers are all that great.

And more on topic, "The Nightmare Stacks" covers are both decent. I do think the UK one is a little weaker than the previous ones, with the silhouettes a bit large, but I like the color. Both make me curious about the story, which is the point of cover art, like are they on the roofs for a reason and what's with the tentacles? Also Tanks & Dragons!

Meanwhile I'm getting over the local (Colorado Springs) News Fatigue.

30:

Which I guess also explains why you sometimes see the same art on very different books.

Oh yeah, that used to confuse the hell out of me. But once you note that the rights to use an image on a book cover are something publishers pay for, and then that contracts in the publishing industry have all sorts of odd variations, you realise that sometimes an image they've used on one book will sort of work on a different one. Or perhaps the artist sells the repro rights a second time (presumably for a lower amount, but it's all gravy).

I know from chatting to Jim Burns that for him these day covers are barely worth doing — the amount of effort that goes into one of his paintings is far more than the payment. But the original artwork goes for a decent amount and he makes a decent margin on the prints, so he'll do some covers. But he also does original pictures, things that appeal to him and that don't require that oddly empty area where the author's name and title expect to go.

Why yes, we're fans. He's had a few hundred quid from us this year. Why yes, we're now out of wall space.

31:

But once you note that the rights to use an image on a book cover are something publishers pay for, and then that contracts in the publishing industry have all sorts of odd variations, you realise that ...

Parenthetic aside:

About once every month or two I get a breathless email from some guy in the tech sector who wants me to kick the tires on his new business idea. Said business being one that will utterly DISRUPT!!!1!!ELEVENTY!!! the publishing industry as we know it.

It usually revolves around a mobile app.

This is a bit like trying to DISRUPT!!!1!!ELEVENTY!!! the field of astrophysics by inventing an entirely new kind of telescope that works by getting rid of those boring old-fashioned mirrors and replacing them with ground glass lenses instead.

(Waits for the non-astronomy nerds to go away and google this idea and work out just how broken it is.)

If I was going to disrupt publishing -- at least in my corner of it: trade fiction -- I would break it down into three stages:

1. Production. (Authors, word processors and document creation/management tools like Scrivener). This is basically already done: it was disrupted circa 1976-2010 by the arrival of multiple generations of vastly better tools that drove the typewriter to extinction and the head room for improvement is minimal unless you can figure out a way to do away with that pesky writing/dictating process that gets between imagination and screen.

2. Distribution. This was disrupted circa 1995-2015 by a small start-up called Amazon (you might have heard of it). AMZN might not be the end of it but right now they're about where Microsoft were with respect to desktop software in 1996.

3. Between Production and Distribution there is a thin wedge called "publishing" and the thing all these app-merchants fail to get about publishing is that it is ossified -- locked in shape by an endoskeleton -- and the endoskeleton consists of legal contracts and the accounting systems which mirror the contractual obligations.

Invent a better book contract and then and only then (and even then, only if you can convince everyone involved that it's a genuine improvement) you can disrupt publishing.

This is why I am not trying to run my own start-up and "disrupt publishing"; I'm 51 and life's too short to drop everything and study for the equivalent of a PhD in commercial contract law as a prerequisite to getting started.

32:

I know from chatting to Jim Burns that for him these day covers are barely worth doing — the amount of effort that goes into one of his paintings is far more than the payment. But the original artwork goes for a decent amount and he makes a decent margin on the prints, so he'll do some covers. But he also does original pictures, things that appeal to him and that don't require that oddly empty area where the author's name and title expect to go.
I can confirm this from independent (of Bellinghman) conversations with Jim, and through a friend who commissioned a Jim Burns original.

34:

When practiced as a business model piracy tends to get squished by the others. See: contracts (and contemplate the existence of courts).

35:

Out of curiosity, will you ever be touching on, referring to, or drawing inspiration from Antoni Gaudi for the Laundry? A deeply religious man who designed a cathedral (set to be complete in coming years) whose designs were heavily influenced by nature - specifically lots of tentacles and bones, crustaceans and reptiles, and warlike neo-Gothic and abstracted depictions of warriors and murder.

he was basically a real life case of a Lovecraft cultist slipping worship of the cosmic horrors into houses, parks, and churches.

36:

Re: '... legal contracts and the accounting systems which mirror the contractual obligations.'

While the above was probably developed to reflect the variety and value of inputs, how accurate is it in the present day? If someone knew the profitability by process step for AMZN, they'd at least know what to target for improvement. Or, the human labor cost component - warehouse order processing, packing and shipping.

Cover art ... how about we vote on which cover is 'better' after we've read The Nightmare Stacks? BTW, both covers look as though they're going after the male war games segment.

Personally, I think that Kirby's covers accurately depicted Pratchett's Discworld. Lumps, warts and the occasional skimpy costume are part of the human condition (Nobby included). You can't tell whether someone's good or bad based on whether they've got warts, you've got to read the inside. Ditto if they happen to prefer to dress up in curlicues, pointy hats and/or garish colors. Life is cluttered, so when you step into a new situation, it can be hard to tell which story is the true story.

37:
the cost of PHANG syndrome is high enough that most sane people who realize what they've become take a walk in the daylight immediately.

??

Am I completely and utterly misremembering The Rhesus Chart? Becuase I seem to recall that the people with PHANG syndrome can subsist perfectly well on animal blood so long as they don't actually kill the animal in question; the parasites that cause Krantzberg syndrome are as perfectly happy to chow down on sheep and cow brains as they are to do so on human brains. That doesn't seem like a high cost at all.

Or is that not the case, and only subjecting humans to horrifying brain damage will do?

38:

I'm probably visiting[*] Barcelona next year, so that's a maybe -- the cathedral is on my to-visit list.

[*] I've been before, but not since I was 12 years old.

39:

people with PHANG syndrome can subsist perfectly well on animal blood so long as they don't actually kill the animal in question

You misremember. It has to be human blood, and the donor dies as a result.

(The Laundry has a working arrangement with a hospice; plenty of patients with < 1 week to live means they can keep PHANGs alive without anything much worse than speeding the patients' demise by a few hours. But for reasons emerging from the plot of THE NIGHTMARE STACKS this arrangement is going to go bad by THE DELIRIUM BRIEF ...)

40:

Or is that not the case, and only subjecting humans to horrifying brain damage will do?

That is not the case; it takes humans. (I would be unsurprised if other sophonts were also acceptable; I really don't suggest anyone with PHANG try to bite a BLUE HADES. Biting a DEEP SEVEN seems even less well-advised.)

It's just about impossible to square "obligate anthropophage" and "ethical existence". Ignoring that is a trope of vampire fiction.

41:

Yeesh. That's pretty horrifying. I mean, I should have expected it, this is the Laundry, but still.

I wonder where I got the idea it could be animal blood. I know that the PHANG's tried consuming that and it utterly wasn't doing it for them, but I somehow got it into my head that that was solely because they were drinking the blood of dead animals, as opposed to live ones they could quantum-entangle with. Hand to god, I recall a passage in the book talking about that, although I guess it was in the context of "nope, that won't actually work."

Poor Mhari is in for bad times. (I've never liked Mhari but she really doesn't deserve what happened to her.)

42:

Since I'm incorrigably lazy, when is Westercon 2016? I need an excuse to visit Portland again and some lead time to arrange for the trip.

Charlie is way ahead of me, but since I've got the URL right here I'll repeat that Westercon 69 will be held July 1-4 of 2016 in Portland Oregon. Since you're coming in from out of town I'll also note that the same light rail line that brings you from the airport to right across the street from the convention hotel will, if taken further that same direction, let you get off about 200 meters south of Powell's books. (There are also other routes, that's just the easiest to explain.) There are a surprising number of Portland residents active on this, a Scottish blog.

43:

I recommend going to the Gaudi House tour at night; the lighting and show really emphasize the otherworldliness of his architecture.

Also, Sant Josep La Boqueria on La Rambla is a large open farmers market with a bunch of little stands serving local dishes; quite a good place to graze for lunch, best paella I've had was at a stall in there.

44:

Actually, I've got friends and relatives in town, so I've been visiting Powells for decades now. We'll see what I can arrange.

45:

That was how i read it too! or at least that they tried the blood of an animal, thought it was horrible and didn't work, and then a little later found that blood from a dead human didn't work either, and never seemed to retest if blood from a live animal worked.

46:

See this was a question I was about to bring up. I'm perfectly fine with it requiring blood from a live human, but live animal was missed in the testing process. I also wonder if dolphin, whale, chimp, etc. would work; as well as how alive and how formed (eg would stem cells work if there was no living donor?).

Also re: Elves: I wonder what parts work. Are they a true parasite like we've being seeing lately (like unicorns and vampires) or more like the deep ones? Let alone what the folklore round up will prove. Are there divides between courts to exploit? Are they a hive structure with their queens? Are they only able to exist for long in periods of high magic? Is it easier to pass in regions of certain rock formations?

47:

The impression I got was that what they were really after was nice & complex brains, and if they didn't get them they would eat the hosts.

Given that, the food on offer has to be at least as tasty as the easily available host brain or they would reject it.

48:

Dead aninals. Yukk

Dead people. Bleurrrgghhhhhh.

49:

Sentient plants: Vampires get a taste for salad.

50:

When practiced as a business model piracy tends to get squished by the others.

Well, unless you're in cahoots with a friendly government, although there your Pirate is shading into Privateering.

Although I do wonder who issues modern Letters of Marque — do corporations get them from governments, or do governments get them from corporations? I can see arguments for interpreting it either way…

(Not serious — I'm inclined towards regulatory capture, greed, and cheating as explanations for large-scale bad behaviour, but a legal Letter of Marque is a cooler explanation.)

51:

Bunnicula?

It's too bad that we couldn't turn PHANGs into Chupacabras, but it's OGH's world, he can make them suck it up however they want.

52:

And Charlie @ 35, too.
But "Piracy" is simply a form of one of Charlie's favourite subjects: Parasitism.
Isn't it?

But, in this case, it doesn't seem to work, any more than, long-term, any form of Piracy works. There might be very short-term gains, but sooner or later, governments, & lawyers & navies & air forces come after you & it can get very messy & unpleasant

53:

GRRM got around that in "Fevre Dream" IIRC

54:

Dead aninals. Yukk
WRONG
Very tasty - hint - look at your Omnivore's teeth in a mirror.
( As in slow-roast pork neck with Turnip slices & Shallotts, sprinkled with chopped Garlic & Ginger & tiny bit of chili flakes + dribble of soy sauce & 2 capfuls vermouth.
4 hours @ Gas mark 1 - 1.5, eaten with roast "Epicure" potatoes, & stir-fried Brussels Sprouts & Romanesco "Cauliflower".
BURP

55:

In my experience describing meaty recipes is an ineffective way of convincing vegetarians to change their minds.

Apart from that it looks promising. Can you suggest a substitute for the vermouth? Even the best recipe can't justify having the horrible stuff in the house.

57:

That tangentially reminds me of Eponia. And also of the trans-European railway run as an (inconveniently in the way) independent state in Dave Hutchinson's Europe in Autumn.

58:

but live animal was missed in the testing process

Live animal was missed from the novel because it'd slow the story down.

(Voice Of God Speaks, as TVTropes would put it.)

Other highly unwelcome shoes continue to drop WRT. the PHANGs in "The Nightmare Stacks" and "The Delirium Brief".

As for the elves, you'll have to wait until the last week of June to find out.

59:

Greg, piracy of books exists somewhere on a continuum with authorized publication at the other end, and libraries and second-hand bookshops somewhere in the middle. (Hint: second-hand bookshops don't pay authors a bent penny. Libraries do so only in certain jurisdictions where PLR applies -- not the USA, for example. Nevertheless, we generally see these as being good for authors because they're part of the established book lifecycle ecosystem, and they don't generally print unauthorized extra copies of books and trouser the profits.)

60:

I'm guessing there's got to be at least ten thousand U.S. library copies for most of your titles. That would be an appreciable fraction of a print run, wouldn't it? Unsure what web links could back up this speculation.

61:

I keep the dry vermouth ONLY for cooking with, as a substitute for white wine.
The usual - the alcohol steams up, acts as a solvent & speeds/improves the cooking process.
The taste vanishes in the cooking, I assure you!

62:

I'm guessing there's got to be at least ten thousand U.S. library copies for most of your titles.

Far, far fewer than that -- I'd be surprised if there were more than 1000 library copies of any of them in the US, and possibly fewer than 500. (They account for considerably more readers; library copies are hard-used and get replaced after 20-50 loans, AIUI.) But in general libraries only buy in trade fiction titles if they're popular with readers (read: they get lots of requests) or get excellent reviews in Kirkus.

63:

"as a substitute for white wine."

Red wine, rich in reservatrols, it's part of a heart healthy diet. Five litre Carlo Rossi Burgundy now only $15.99 at Walmart, buy a jug today!

65:

Err ... I live in London ....
My wife is violently allergic to the dark red/purple dye in red wine & blackberries & elderberries etc, so I/we tend to drink "nice" whites ....
And Belgian beer & "Black" porters ( We are both life members of CAMRA ) & Whisky & Schnapps, though you can't get the last in England.....

66:

I'd be surprised if there were more than 1000 library copies of any of them in the US, and possibly fewer than 500...

A quick spot-check of my county library[1] suggests that they like buying six copies of a title to serve a moderate sized metropolitan area; that number is constant across several titles. Granted that we have a good library system here - but 1% of all the Charles Stross library books in the US? I don't think we're that good!

But you see a very different side of the process than the end users down here spot checking our local scene.

67:

Hey Charlie, if you can, visit Casa Milà while in Barcelona. It's amazing and much more accessible (and less crowded) than the cathedral. (Which is also admittedly stunning.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Milà

68:

Thanks. I'm still a bit suspicious of the vermouth but the whole is promising enough to give it a try.

69:

Extra-dry vermouth, not the sweet muck, remember.
( I use Sainsbury's, oddly enough .... )
Other advantage of V over vino, is the higher alcohol content, & it's the cooking properties of the alcohol that you are looking for.
I often put a dash in when I'm stir-frying things, to give a tiny bit of lubrication & a steam flash, about a minute before serving

70:

Resident of a large city here. Most of OGH's books only have one or two copies in the library system. One of the Merchant Princes books has 9 copies, and there are a couple of others with 6 or so copies.

71:

Delighted to see that Ilsa the Kettenkrad has made at least one of the covers! I'd hoped she'd feature ever since getting wind of her appearance in the book.

I've now acquired a 1/35 Kettenkrad (plus detailing kit) and, yes, a 1/35 Minigun. So, if I'm to recreate Ilsa, any thoughts on colour scheme?

72:

Interesting project, which will go nicely with my 1:144 scale photo-recce Concorde (anti-flash white, and most markings nicked from an Airfix TSR2 that's being built as the Stratos II Anime version).

No thoughts on colours, but I'd leave the cartridge dump pipe off (reasoning being owning a photo of 2 aircraftsmen shovelling minigun cases out of the back of an AC-130 post sortie).

73:

erratum - that should of course be "...the Stratos 4 Anime..."

74:

Yes, it was the only 1/35 Minigun I could readily obtain. The cartridge chute is to ensure that the spent cases go well clear of the engine intakes. It can join my box of odd little bits that might be useful one day.

Also, if anyone knows of a good source of plastic (not metal) 1/35 or 1/32 - it's close enough - figures in plate armour, I'd like to hear of it.

75:

A quick spot check of WorldCat suggests 883 libraries own "Rapture of the Nerds", 834 for "Glasshouse", 812 for "Halting State", 749 for "Accelerando", and 744 for "Rule 34. That's the top five, there's 253 for "The Annihilation Score". (These numbers do not all agree with the public version on WorldCat.org.) I think this includes various UK/AUS/NZ editions too, although sometimes this search interface separates those out since they're from a different publisher. Clicking through the results for 'Rapture' makes it look like around ~600 or so US libraries have it. That's not including any not connected to WorldCat, which is a pretty hefty share - I know my library had at least three copies when it came out but we're not on the system. Ten thousand library copies for a single book would be off by an order of magnitude, but a thousand isn't that unreasonable.

76:

Incidentally, we currently have 27 Stross books, not including ones that have been discarded or lost. Two copies of Equiod, oddly enough - I suspect our fiction selector didn't realize they were novellas rather than full books.

77:

But cosmic horrors are supposed to be, you know, horrible, while Gaudi's creations are beautiful.

78:

Yeah, that's where I was coming from; the cartridge dump is an unusual feature.

Regarding 54mm figures in full plate, I presume you've tried Hannants (based on your links). Back in the day, the main makers were Britains, Timpo and Airfix, so the other places to try would be the better (family owned, not "super"store) toy shops and/or second hand or collectable toy shops.

79:

i need this book in the stores asap. waiting is hard work.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 28, 2015 11:04 AM.

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