As you might have noticed I haven't been updating this blog very often for the past six weeks. This situation is going to continue for at least another three weeks, and I think I owe you an explanation.
I spent the back end of June and the first three weeks of July on the road, which kind of explains the paucity of updates back then. But then I got home and ran straight into two huge jobs: one scheduled, and one completely unplanned. The scheduled job—checking the page proofs (final PDF images of the book, as it will be published) for Empire Games went smoothly and to plan. But the other was an emergency, and it's still ongoing, because ...
... BREXIT broke my next Laundry novel, and I'm having to rewrite it.
Obsessive readers of the Laundry series will have figured out that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN comes to a peak in 2014. "The Annihilation Score" was set in summer of 2013, culminating in the Last Last Night of the Proms in early August; "The Nightmare Stacks" is set in March/April of 2014, and the new novel, "The Delirium Brief" was set in April/May of 2014—a 2014 in which the stars have come right and the Lovecraftian horrors have finally come out to play. I wrote a first draft of "The Delirium Brief" in October '15 to January '16, and it was generally okay, for a first draft: it sagged in places, there were plot holes, and the ending was too abrupt (that's a common failing of mine), but this is basically stuff you fix in a subsequent round of polishing and redrafting before it even goes near an editor's desk. So I put it on a baking tray to cool while I worked on other projects (the "Empire Games" copy edit pass, starting work on "Ghost Engine", edits on "Dark State" ...) because it wasn't due in until September and there'd be plenty of time. Right?
Then the Brexit vote happened and over the next two weeks of utterly surreal political chaos it became apparent that I had a Problem.
No Laundry novel tells a single story. There's a bunch of stuff happening that fits between the covers of the book, but there are also continuous plot strands reaching back and forth to other books in the series—and shout-outs to reality to either side. And one of the key underpinnings of the series is that it deals with a department of the British civil service, with (presumably) some degree of accountability and a less-than-total disregard for law and administrative protocol.
The core story line for the first draft of "The Delirium Brief"—this is a spoiler, but it's a spoiler for a novel that will not now be published—followed the premise that after the catastrophic failure of containment at the end of "The Nightmare Stacks", the Laundry has come to the attention of the Cabinet Office, with a vengeful and affronted Prime Minister (whose career has been tarnished by the shit-storm thrown up in Leeds) who is all too eager to listen to anyone who can offer him a way to evade responsibility for an organization which, to be fair, he was unaware of. There follows a game of political musical chairs that will be familiar to fans of Yes, Minister as a new Ministry of Magic is established, a politician not totally dissimilar to Michael Gove is assigned to lead it, the Laundry is detatched from the Ministry of Defense and handed over kicking and screaming to the new Ministry, and then the usual privatisation and outsourcing ideology is applied. (And if you don't believe they'd privatise the Laundry, you haven't been paying attention to British politics for the past three decades.)
There is of course an action plot as well, and various other side-quests (you wanted to know what happened between Bob and Mo? I've got their relationship counseling transcripts in the can), and a markedly bloodthirsty climax, but the central plot armature of the novel was about how the Laundry handles politicians in full-blown panic mode in the wake of a crisis.
And then I got a ringside seat at a real political crisis and got to see how the people I was satirizing reacted and ... nope, nopety-nope, nopetopus:
I thought running in circles like headless chickens, squawking, and settling scores was as far as it would go. I didn't anticipate three simultaneous constitutional crises, the main Opposition going all Night of the Long Knives, the Prime Minister resigning and his principal adversary balking and then his principal supporter-turned-adversary being stabbed in the back and then ... but it gets worse: Boris Johnson, previously noted for winning The Spectator's competition for the most libelous poem about President Erdogan of Turkey is appointed Foreign Secretary and the first crisis he has to deal with, less than 48 hours after taking office, is a failed coup d'etat against Erdogan? And Boris is the great-grandson of Ali Kemal Bey? Who ordered that? I couldn't put something like that in a work of fiction: everyone would laugh at it, and for all the wrong reasons!
... The TL:DR is that I have had to trash an entire draft of the next Laundry novel because I tried to satirize British politics, and British politics is beyond satire.
So I'm currently not blogging much because I don't have time, because I am feverishly restructuring and rewriting a novel titled "The Delirium Brief" for a deadline that is all too close. Luckily most of the material in the book that didn't concern political shennanigans at the top table is recyclable with a little bit of elbow grease. I'm not writing an entirely new book: I'm just doing the equivalent of open heart surgery on an existing one, ripping out the damaged cardiovascular system and implanting a whole new primary plot—which I'm not going to spoiler by describing here—and suturing all the left-over bits together.