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Empire Games sneak peek

Empire Games

So, in case you were wondering what the thing I've been working on since late 2012 looks like, there's now a chunk of the first chapter of "Empire Games" up on Tor's website. And the book goes on sale just over a month from now in the US! Alas, we Brits have to wait an extra week—Tor USA and Tor UK may share a name but they're actually different publishers with different shipping schedules.

Preorder (via US hardcover, US Kindle edition, UK Kindle edition.

(Amazon UK only list the Kindle edition right now because Tor UK decided to switch the paper edition from hardcover to trade paperback, and the change is still propagating through Amazon's database. I'll update with a link to the trade paperback as soon as I get it.)

Empire Games peek!



Drat! I shall have to see if I can switch my Amazon order to the US hardcover edition.


Tor UK are aware of the Amazon database problem and are working to fix it; it'll probably take 24-72 hours to come through the system.


Most anticipated book of 2016/2017! It's such a shame that real life events made it necessary to re-write large chunks. Let's hope that future events don't make it necessary to rewrite large chunks of the following two (also very anticipated) books... Now on to actually reading the sample chapter... Just a pity that the novel goes on sale after my holidays.


Looking forward to it, Charlie. Very interested in how you plan on extending the universe you've created there.

Shame it couldn't go out in time for the mandatory winter-solstice shopping bonanza: it would have made the "what you want?" question much easier to answer.

Did you manage to fit in any last-minute rewrites to account for 2016 weirdness, just out of interest?


Big fan of the previous trilogy / hexology (?).

It's been a while since I read them though and my memory is not what it used to be.

Would I benefit from re-reading MP from the start or is everything laid out in the new ones?

(The excerpt does seem to recap some stuff which gives me hope)


It's such a shame that real life events made it necessary to re-write large chunks.

Nope, this book was too far along to be re-written thanks to Donald Trump. (It was typeset and at the printers when he was elected.)


Re: delayed gift-giving

Never had a problem receiving a gift card saying that your present will arrive later. Both extends the gift-giving/receiving season and breaks up the February blahs.


Oddly that cover reminds me of GTA, although when I check, none of the GTA games had an overhead view like that on the box (the cover of GTA2 is close though).


I think you want the German edition of Halting State.


Oh, and meanwhile...Really looking forward to the book.


Also looking forward to this.

I recall that the New Britain timeline started when Bonnie Prince Charlie decided to stay in Scotland rather than invade England. Background question: were there a bunch of smaller events that happened first that convinced BPC to stay put, or did the branch point actually take place then and there?


If there were smaller prior events, could you necessarily identify them?

The visible factor in that time-line's divergence is the honking great big decision not to march on London which resulted in the defeat of the 1745 Jacobite uprising. Everything snowballs from there (and there's an afterword in book 2, DARK STATE, that gives a potted history of what happened as a result to give rise to the New British Empire and it's successor state, the New American Commonwealth). But really, we're in "for want of a nail" territory ...


Is that potted history in the electronic version (the three book one)? I don't remember it and can't find it.


I suspect that, in 2021, we will find that the Trump presidency wasn't the revolution/disaster/whatever it is being viewed as, but well within the range of recent Republican ones, and will be followed by a return to normal operation. So I think that a rewrite could well have looked silly in hindsight.


I read this years ago: What if: The Maccabean rebellion failed and the Judean tribes were dispersed, creating a world in which there is no Christianity or Islam, and no monastic centers of learning to preserve knowledge when Rome collapsed

This is one of the things that got me interested in the books, but I don't remember any actual reference to any of that—not that that made enjoy them less. So, where did this description come from?


Oops. Cancel that. I got confused by the tense.


If we're doing that alt-history, I'd point out that monasticism was "in the air" by the time Christianity rolled around. For example, Manichaeism pulled bits and bobs from Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Zoroastrianism and it's variants were well known within the Roman Empire (where do you think Mithra came from?) and Buddhism was known, if not widely practiced. Also, people sequestered in temples doing strange things had been imported from the Middle East and Egypt for centuries (Cybele, Isis, etc.).

Long story short, it could have been a very different world at multiple points. Still, as now, all the spiritual types were talking with each other and taking ideas on board from all over the place. As Christianity demonstrated, there was a need for a populist religion of the lower classes throughout the Roman Empire, and I suspect that, if Christianity had not, something else would have taken its place. When you combine that with the late Imperial fashion for ascetic religious practice, both as a contrast to the conspicuous religious consumption that had gone before and because that's what they could afford to do, well I suspect that monastic communities of some type would have been around when the empire fell, although they might have been sanghas or something similar.

Note on this last bit: when we see the widespread rise of asceticism in religion and elsewhere, that's one hint that things are starting to come apart at the seams. In our case, it's as likely to come from extreme sports as from religion, but watch out for combinations of the two.


Ha! Amazon currently shows my order, "Currently unavailable", availability of "1 copy used or new" at 57.47 GBP and I'm not sure it'll let me order the US hardcover anyway. May be time to start ordering from Foreboding Prices.

(I did discover that I hadn't preordered The Delirium Brief, and this has now been rectified. Oops!)


So I don't have to have read the previous Merchant Princes trilogy/sextet to enjoy this new trilogy, right?

Also, I noticed a few details in the first Merchant Princes novel of the trilogy edit that seemed incongruous with my adult memories and experiences of the US immediately post-9/11. Do those eccentricities indicate that the US in this story series is definitely not the same timeline as ours? (I'm talking details like Miriam's love of electric showers--instant-heat tankless bath appliances which are not a thing in the US even now--in early 2000s New England.)


blink Tankless heaters really are a big thing. They're desired in places where it gets really cold because you can get hot water instantly, and they're desired in California because they use less water.


Looking forward to it :)

I'm assuming that there's a "...and then the French Army landed..." because the whole "let's put a Catholic on the throne" thing had been settled quite convincingly across the UK already (see also "Battle of the Boyne" - just a different location for the same war).

One of the issues surrounding the Jacobite Rebellion was that it wasn't, as many assume at first glance. a "Scotland v. England" issue - it was a "Protestant v. Catholic" issue, which is still a problem across West Central Scotland (and occasionally an issue elsewhere). Think of 1745 as "Rangers v. Celtic", but without the same carefree air of good cheer and enlightened tolerance ;) As a result, almost all of the Scottish Regiments were on the winning side at Culloden; they were quite decided as to whose side they were on, and were going to lay the proud usurper low...

TBH, the Jacobites weren't that good at the "fighting a war" stuff; once the Hanoverian Army had sacked its incompetents and appointed some competent (and utterly ruthless) Generals, game over. If you visit Culloden, you'll understand the severe limitations of the Jacobite Army, and the lunacy of their leaders. If you then go to Fort George, you'll see the difference in resources available. The Jacobites were doomed; this was their third, and final attempt, having lost the argument in 1688-90 and 1715...


Do those eccentricities indicate that the US in this story series is definitely not the same timeline as ours?

Yes. Wasn't there also a mention of Paris Hilton killed in an auto accident?


Never underestimate the ability of an autarch or oligarchs to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, though I agree they would have had to be unusually stupid in this case. But there are plenty of such cases.


Charlie Stross #12: "there's an afterword in book 2, DARK STATE, that gives a potted history of ... the New British Empire and ... the New American Commonwealth"

Elderly Cynic #13: "can't find it"

Apparently Dark State follows Empire Games, so I think Charlie means book 2 "from now (in the Empire Games trilogy)" rather than "from the start"!

(It isn't in the omnibus editions The Bloodline Feud or The Traders' War.)


Tankless heaters use less water? Really? In California? It's more that they don't burn large amounts of natural gas keeping 50 gallons of water hot, and when they fail, they don't blow 50 gallons of water into your garage.

The house I'm in now has a tankless heater in the garage, the owner not having appreciated the 50 gallons of water spurting into his woodworking shop (what the garage used to be before I moved in) one fine morning two years ago.

I bathe at the other end of the house from said tankless water heater. There are a lot of buckets in the bathroom, because it takes 3.5 gallons of water to go from cold to hot, there being a lot of uninsulated piping between the garage and the bathroom's hot water taps.

That water (the prelude to every shower) gets carried down to hand water the garden every day. I'm reconfiguring the drought tolerant garden so that there are some thirsty edible plants within easy reach of the door.

The take-home lessons here are: --tankless water heaters only save water when installed in the bathroom, not in the garage. --50 gallons of water in your garage is a good thing right after an earthquake, a bad thing to keep hot, and a nuisance when it blows a seal. What is most important to you depends on your particular circumstances at a particular time.


No; it's going to run in the back of Book 2 of the new trilogy, DARK STATE, due January 2018.


Yes: the time line of the USA in the original MP series diverged from our own no later (and possibly earlier) than 1990.


Yes, they use less water: to get hot water out of the tap, you don't have to run water and wait.

(I am specifically thinking of the small heaters that go near the taps in question -- right by the shower, in the originally discussed case. The whole-house tankless heaters don't have that advantage.)


Can we maybe not derail into a discussion of water heating technology?


and there's an afterword in book 2

Should it amuse you to do so, I'd be interested to see an afterword on the intracellular paratime transportation devices the worldwalkers have. Besides working paratime magic, it seems, among other things, that they must have a certain amount of behind-the-scenes smarts to deal with the problem of interpenetration. Do they send out some sort of probe to detect, e.g., a glacier in the way and veto the shift? And what about the 100 g or so of air in the volume of a human body -- does that get shifted into empty space or, this being fiction, just ignored?


Lovely! I'll be reading tonight.

I forget if this has already been answered but will the new trilogy get into the dome builders, the presumed origin civilization for the world-walking tech? I'm very curious to find out what sort of disaster the first walker(s) escaped from. Also wondering how they went about heating their water...

I forget if it was already answered in the prior trilogy...



There was a rogue "physics package" found when they were looking for the Clan's briefcase sunshine devices. Was there ever a definitive answer as to where it came from or was it left as a mystery for us to ponder?


I forget if this has already been answered but will the new trilogy get into the dome builders, the presumed origin civilization for the world-walking tech?


As for the rogue "physics package" ... let's just write it off as a left-over from something like Operation Northwoods, only in the early 1980s, shall we? (And a big hint that the US nuclear weapons program had some rogue elements going back a long way before the Clan got their hands on the storable version of the SADM the CIA had built for Operation Gladio.)


To-read pile just grew - nice hook/intro for the new Merchant series book. Will bring my copy to Boskone in case there's an autograph session. (How are the hands holding up these days?)


I will be at Boskone and I will be autographing there. (Hands are okay-ish. This may not be the case by mid-February, though ...)


The Cat Mafia[tm] really are hard-taskmasters.


Loved the preview.

[Redacted] approve.

Now, is the protagonist "abalone" enough[1] to sell the movie rights, or "ethnic" enough to pass the 'drop of blood' acts that were enacted in the 1950's to prevent racial eugenics by making everyone share genetic lines and become "biracial and beyond"?


Wrong Time-Line again, that's the Authoritarian Benevolent One. [Note to Puppy Galleries: this is not supporting your bollocks, it's taking it, twisting it and making it sane while mocking your current year ideologies]


Hits Champagne against large rock & wishes good sales and so forth

[1] Apparently that's a clam thing, not the literary trope I was aiming for. Ty, bot helpers from our time-line, obviously not powered by Google (A Top Google Result for the Holocaust Is Now a White Supremacist Site Forbes 12th Dec 2016, and yes we did just totally make a meta-meta joke by using the top Google result rather than the original source. And the Stormfront Forum response is still fucking second in rankings. ("top google search holocaust stormfront" ~ ye Goddesses, at this rate with the History available to all, I'll get voted in as the local Daily Mail sales rep).


Sorry to double post so early: yes, the joke is about Haliotis sorenseni, discovered in 1940, with reference to the stench of hate such things thrive upon. The meta-meta joke is, of course that they're close to extinction: Race to Save the White Abalone NOAA May 2015. The meta-meta-meta joke is that this isn't funny at all, but Host's book is good but with serious message goodness at the same time.

He's somewhat better it than us.

OH and host is probably going to get sued by Disney at this rate ;)


Correction: When he was APPARENTLY elected. I'm beginning to think he's not going to make it to 20th Jan. Not with the Russian-hacking allegations beginning to look really serious.

Now what?


I swear I remember you writing about how Snowden revelations made it necessary to re-write chunks of these novels, 'cause the spying wasn't sufficiently over the top...

I had just been saying I wished, not that Snowden hadn't gave the world this info, but rather that it was unnecessary because the info didn't exist in the first place ('cause the NSA didn't and/or wasn't).

I may also have conflated the Halting State "trilogy" with this new trilogy. I am getting old.


That teaser is seriously good. I'll be resisting thinking through plot space possibilities for the next few days. (Doesn't work for your stories anyway.)

Ten minutes for a full genome sequence? How long have they been working on this dystopia tech?

Greg @37, please no derail, but upcoming US key dates are 19 Dec and 6 Jan.


This is the problem when reality is forced to resemble reality TV, no?

Everyone gets stuck with drama and plot twists eating away at their limited attentions.

To keep it simple, the key moment is December 20th. If Trump is president-elect then, he'll get sworn into office. Whatever happens after that is...more drama.

Note, of course, that most of the drama is distraction. If you want to play a game, figure out what each bit of drama is covering up: Big photo op with internet billionaires? Covers up growing Russia controversy. Photo op with Kanye? Covers up monetary screwups. It's like a meditation: figure out what the distraction is, focus back on what he's actually doing. Probably works well with other scary politicians too.


Charlie, do Amazon or Barnes & Noble pre-orders help you in any way? Either financially or by boosting your chances of having a best-seller?


I think there may be an evolutionary niche, so to speak, for strongly-proselytized religions that will tend to get filled one way or another. Which doesn't mean that things wouldn't be very different, of course.


Actually, the Snowden revelations were just actual evidential confirmation of what the not-actually-tinfoil-hat-wearing spookwatchers already suspected — that the NSA/GCHQ/Five Eyes were all over the internet and everything. Although it was kind of disturbing to see how pervasive the surveillance was, and some of the applications were kind of creepy.

A point of note is that I wrote the proposal for the EMPIRE GAMES trilogy in late 2012 and the first book was more or less complete in 2014 — it got hung up in editorial processes for a couple of years, but could have been out in pretty much this shape in early 2015. So this is not a post-Donald Trump era novel! And the paranoid, grim alt-hist USA of 2020 portrayed in it is now not quite grim enough (so I'm going to go fiddle with the contrast settings in book 2 to make it even nastier).


Charlie, do Amazon or Barnes & Noble pre-orders help you in any way? Either financially or by boosting your chances of having a best-seller?


Pre-orders are processed on the day of publication, which means there's a big sales spike, which means it's my best shot at peaking in the bestseller charts (which are a weekly compilation). It's like the box-office opening weekend for a movie. Sales after that point make the same amount of money but are far less visible.

So? Please pre-order!


Actually, it wasn't even that. We already had certain knowledge that it was going on, in some cases with public admission and even actual proof. What it confirmed was how pervasive it was, and how badly we in the UK have made ourselves subservient to the USA. More the military-industrial machine than the government, too. I still don't know why, or what (if anything) useful we are getting in return.


Yes: the time line of the USA in the original MP series diverged from our own no later (and possibly earlier) than 1990.

1987, surely. One of them mentions Justice Bork on the SCOTUS.


really looking forward to this!

I just finished re-reading the reworked trilogy (having already reread the original sextuplet* less than a year ago). The teaser at Tor is great, but too, too short!

I think the tone is already perfect (chilling enough to suggest the extension of DHS intrusion into daily life beyond airport hassles) and the technological potentialities are real enough to have the desired ring of plausibility (embedded sensors and 10 minute DNA sequencing are breakthrough, but not 'nobel prize' type breakthroughs... 'merely' engineering!)

the word that is reverberating in my noggin right now is squeeee (not only for california girls, unfortunately!)

  • I started to write sexology, (oops), then hexalogy (sounded a bit chemical), and left it simply as the set of six!

Yeah, point. 1987. (The key significant point, however, is Dck Chn*y getting involved with the Clan as a political fixer while out of office. Which only happened because my bloody editor put book 2 into production while I was writing book 3 and before I spotted the corner I'd written myself into, where only the then US VPOTUS could possibly be the "bad guy" I'd sketched in earlier in the series and I now had to follow through on it. Ah well. I probably didn't need those neoconservative fans anyway ;-) )


It's not explicit in the extract, but in the world of EMPIRE GAMES, DHS ended up "absorbing" the Family Trade Organization (after the events of "The Trade of Queens") much the way that Apple "absorbed" NeXT when Steve Jobs returned (i.e. lots of Sculley/Amelio-era Apple execs jumped ship and were replaced by their opposite numbers from the company Apple had "taken over", up to and including the CEO, who then turned around and shipped a shiny Cube-shaped computer running a UNIX desktop) .

By the time of EMPIRE GAMES, DHS has carte blanche to protect the USA from threats from all known parallel time lines, in the wake of the White House and Capitol being nuked by extradimensional narcoterrorists. They are past the first hundred explored time lines, and counting when they run into [SPOILER] ...


One of Bill Tidy's Grimbledon Down strips in New Scientist had a time travelling Scots Nationalist boffin attempt to change history by deploying hordes of Celtic supporters at Culloden, only to be countered with Rangers fans, as the Redcoats and Highlanders watched from the sidelines ...


Done, Happy January 17th for me. I couldn't get into the Family Trade books (not into knights and princesses), but the new series in a modern timeline seems just about right. Also, I never realized that "May you live interesting times" is only one of three blessings/curses. Now that I know the other two, I'll probably use them much more often through the Trumpocene era.


not into knights and princesses

You didn't stick around long enough to run into the DEA agents, assorted revolutionaries, narcoterrorists, and full-blown civil war territory? Sigh.

(The I-can't-believe-it's-not-portal-fantasy opening was the set-up for the question: what would really happen if this shit was real? And the new series is just more of where it was already going.)


What it confirmed was how pervasive it was, and how badly we in the UK have made ourselves subservient to the USA. The Snowden revelations were a qualitative change though, that pushed many people over the edge from "OK, the NSA does stuff but their hearts are in the right places and they try pretty hard to obey their interpretation of the law", to "maybe not, hmm" and "so intrusive that a flick of the switch/change of government could turn it into a panopticon dystopia" and "f-it, let's encrypt all traffic". (I was mostly in the latter camp, but mainly by accident of occasionally interacting with mum spook types. (And clearly noticing the awkward dances etc in conversation flows.))


I actually bounced pretty hard off the series just based on the synopses and original book covers - it wasn't until I saw the omnibus editions that I really grokked what was going on.


Great start, ordering as soon as I get home.

Thank you.


Let's just say that, when told "you can't market this as SF; Ace will have a fit", Tor's marketing people went way too far in the wrong direction circa 2003 ...!


One of the overarching theme of the first trilogy seemed to be the Outside Context Problem where characters who are smart, competent in their jobs and capable of handling themselves in serious situations are overwhelmed by matters they could not have possibly prepared for. Sometimes you can hardly blame the person (our protagonist discovering world-walking) and other times you just stare gaping in horror at the unfolding mistake (serious player in medieval world picks fight with serious player in industrial world assuming medieval world rules still apply.) It can be a failure of imagination such as a knight imagining that a motorcycle is just a faster horse and wants to joust from it.

I'm wondering if the doom that befell the dome builders is internal like civil war or external like bumping into another dangerous world-walking power. It puts me to mind of Singularity Sky where the big ol' fancy warship that greatly resembles your usual scifi warship was mercilessly curbstomped by the Festival.


RE: ' ... Dck Chn*y getting involved with the Clan as a political fixer ...'

If you check what started happening circa 1976 (GBSr), this is so very real.


1976 Jan 30, George Bush became the 11th director of the CIA replacing William E. Colby. Bush revived the reputation of the organization and left it Jan 20, 1977. (SFEC, 1/16/00, Par p.2)(

1976 Jan 30, The US Supreme Court in Buckley v Valeo upheld a federal law which set limits on campaign contributions and established that campaign contributions is a protected form of expression. The court also ruled candidates can give unlimited amounts of money to their own campaigns. (Econ, 11/24/12, p.29)(

1976 Jan 31, Ernesto Miranda, famous from the Supreme Court ruling on "Miranda Rights," was stabbed to death in Arizona. (HN, 1/31/99)

1976 Feb 18, Pres. Gerald Ford signed an executive order prohibiting US officials from plotting or engaging in political assassination. The order was later broadened by Presidents Carter and Reagan. Ford issued Executive Order 11905 to clarify U.S. foreign-intelligence activities. In a section of the order labeled "Restrictions on Intelligence Activities," Ford concisely but explicitly outlawed political assassination. It became effective on March 1. (

1976        Jun, US ambassador Robert C. Hill cautioned Argentina’s new government over wholesale violations of human rights. Sec. of State Henry Kissinger responded: “In what way is it compatible with my policy?"     (SFC, 10/1/04, p.A18)(

1976        Jul 2, The US Supreme Court ruled to allow states to resume capital punishment. The Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was not inherently cruel or unusual.
    (SFC, 1/9/97, p.A4)(AP, 7/2/97)
1976        Jul 2, North and South Vietnam were officially reunified.     (HN, 7/2/01)(

etc. etc. etc.

Plus deaths of notables (JPGetty, HHughes) who left money to charity, lots of wars, upstart countries, UK cutting spending on health, political assassinations & kidnappings (someone did not read the memo?), robberies by terrorists to fund wars, etc. In retrospect, a taste of things to come.


Pre-orders are processed on the day of publication, which means there's a big sales spike, which means it's my best shot at peaking in the bestseller charts

I've been wondering how that worked. So, theoretically I could Pre-order the day before release and it'll be counted the next day? Not like with pre-ordering "Equoid", or other limited releases that need to be ordered ahead to make sure you get it. I've been a little put off pre-ordering for various reasons. A couple of months ago I ordered a book in my B&N wishlist, not realizing it was a pre-order. It was only a couple weeks ahead of the release date, but it got pushed back a month, and the rest of my order was held up because of it, even though each item was shipped from a different place. Rather annoying. Anyhow, I will pre-order the new book a few days ahead of release. I get to get my self a present for my mother's birthday. Hmm, I think I've used that line here before.


I just discovered that the site has a much longer excerpt than the one Charlie originally linked to.

The time travel pedant in me feels called upon to wonder, if the timeline diverged from ours in 1987, how come they have Tesla cars :)


Re: '...and the rest of my order was held up because of it,...'

Out of curiosity, did you order several books at the same time (one order), or did you place a bunch of separate orders on different days? (AMZN shows free shipping on this pre-order because it's over 25USD, btw.)

What's the cut-off date for pre-orders anyway: one day before official launch or what?


Thank you for bringing the longer excerpt to our attention! And thank you to Charlie for writing and publishing this - it is good to have something to look forward to in January.

Tesla cars - some things are high-probability occurrences once certain initial conditions occur. However, the existence of 'Tesla cars' provides a very strong reason to assume that the point of divergence between this timeline and our timeline occurs after Elon Musk's birth in 1971. But: 'Tesla' being chosen as a name for an electric product of some point is not terribly unlikely, so it could be that the Tesla Car company in this timeline was founded by someone else entirely....

I wonder if anyone in-story will explore a timeline that diverged within the lifetime of the protagonists.


Link in OP udated to point to bigger, juicier extract!


It was one order from Barnes & Noble (I don't do AMZN); 2 books and a CD. It's not unusual for them to split up orders depending on what's in stock and where it is. I thought this time was odd because they held up the various items, rather than sending as available.


Been a very long time since I last read the Empire series, so not sure how big a deal venture capital was in that series. (VC became more mainstream in the 1980s.) Anyways if a Georges Doriot-type were around, then not an issue to back new tech as speculative as Tesla and wait out until the product was ready for the market. (Doriot backed DEC's personal PC development for years before seeing any return. Result: $70 thousand grew into $38 million IPO ... way better than inflation.)


Okay - thanks ... that is a pain. I'm ordering this new Empire book as a stand-alone so even if they delay shipping for even a week, it should still arrive in plenty of time to read before Boskone.


Sneak peek is now two whole chapters ... great stuff!


Yes, agreed, the expanded teaser is fun. Would that we all had a grandpa (the adoptive one) like hers, or other similar mentor-ish figure.


If I remwber rightly wasn't Miriam a reporter specialising in the DotCom scene?


"Ah well. I probably didn't need those neoconservative fans anyway ;-) )"

I don't think you're going to lose fans over a plot element. On the libertarian/conservative sites that I frequent, people seem to: (a) consider you a very smart man and therefore be mystified as to why you get your political preferences so wrong, but (b) not give a shit about any of that when it comes to your books, on account of you being such a damn fine author.

So, I wouldn't worry about it if I were you.


Don't bet on it! Remember the row over The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher? However, my guess is that he didn't need the sort of reader that would have taken exception, because they don't go much beyond Ayn Rand and Vox Day, anyway.


Given the delay to UK publication ... I tried to pre-order via AMZN for Kindle. ( With a view to buying dead tree later, anyway ) De nada - what gives? [ Ordering "slot" not there/didn't respond ]


I've read the bigger, juicier extract now.

I'm shocked, shocked that the DHS is doing something underhanded!


No idea ... but note that Tor UK will be propagating changes to Amazon's database. You might do better to search for "Stross Empire Games" than to follow my links, in case they've changed since I posted them.


I'm slightly confused by two different listings on Amazon Germany with very different prices, slightly different covers and divergent release dates. I've pre ordered the cheaper one. Is this "just" the usual difference between US and UK editions?


... underhanded!

Remember that it is fiction, a work of imagination. In reality this would never happen!


I have just checked, and the Kobo price is a lot more than Amazon. I am also getting pissed off with Kobo because the the amount of marketing they are adding to the Ebooks they sell. Do you know whether there will be other Epub distributors?


You're probably seeing both US and UK editions in .DE.

The US is launching in hardcover for roughly $25 (before discount — about $15 retail). The UK has cancelled the hardcover and is launching in trade paperback for about GBP £12 but maybe less — it's not filtered through to yet because it was a late decision and someone dropped the ball. Also, as Sterling has tanked, this may be somewhat cheaper than normal (in June, GBP 12 was about USD 18; today it's about USD 13.50).

The earlier pub date is the US release.

To add lulz, some Amazon algorithmic selling bots have latched onto the cancelled UK hardcover listing and are advertising it for £57! (Which is a finder's fee for the bot owner ... except if you buy it at that price they won't be able to find it ever because that release has been cancelled.)


Tried Google Play?

I will note that what I, the author, receive from ebooks is a percentage of the publisher's net receipt from the sale. Amazon are cheap because they strong-arm publishers into giving them a huge discount, which pushes down the net. So I get more from a sale via Kobo than from one via Amazon.


Thanks. It's intermediate. I try to minimise my exposure to Google, for reasons that would be a derail but you can probably guess. I would like to boycott Amazon, but it is becoming increasingly difficult :-(


"They are past the first hundred explored time lines, and counting when they run into [SPOILER]"

I hope we will get some nice large infodumps about those hundred or so worlds.


May or may not be O/T, but the comic "Paper Girls" has had similar issues with predicting Hilary as POTUS in June 2016. {redface}


The ~USA circa 2020 in Empire Games has a female POTUS. But she's not Hilary. (She's very carefully not named.)


Me too. Having originally read Merchant Princes and Long Earth within a few months of each other, I felt that one particular aspect that made Merchant Princes the better read was that Merchant Princes did not multiply timelines beyond necessity, whereas Long Earth had zillions of them and treated them like the sleepers of a railway track: they just existed as something to be passed more or less unnoticed on the way to somewhere else.

The excerpt is most promising. Rita's experiences remind me both of Miriam's confusion at the start of the original series, and of Rhita in Greg Bear's Eternity.

I second SFreader's question @ 61: what is the cutoff date for preorders? On the one hand I would like to contribute to the game of frigging the system by preordering to boost a spurious first-week sales figure. On the other hand I have been burnt by preordering stuff in the past, due to the seller not taking the payment at the time I place the order, which means I have to remember to make sure there is sufficient money on the card at some ill-defined date in the future to avoid getting a snotty email telling me my order has been cancelled because they wouldn't take the money when it was there and now it isn't, and this is a pain in the arse. I want a dead-tree paperback copy and I'll be getting it from Amazon, in case that makes a difference.


Cheers, but I wasn't asking: Just saying that you're not the only one to have been hit by an electorate with an attack of the stupid!


I am informed by folks at Tor that more near-future/thriller novels have been derailed in the past month than at any time anyone can remember since December 1989.


Thanks for the link to the longer excerpt. After reading the first link Charlie posted, I wanted more. And this gave me a little more.

The excerpt worked. Not only did I pre-order Empire Games, but I bought the first volume of the omnibus edition of the Family Trade series (I borrowed them from the library the first time) so that I could start catching up.

I had forgotten that the first novel started with such a bang. Charlie, you do "what if this shit was real" better than anyone on the scene today. Also "you aren't paranoid if they really are out to get you." This was my introduction to novel-length Stross, courtesy of a pointer from Paul Krugman. I had drifted away from SF but this and the Laundry series dragged me back. So I'm really looking forward to the new take on that reality.

To sfreader@66: VCs figure in the very first chapter, setting up Miriam's initial crisis and getting her muckracking juices flowing. I don't think they stayed in the story after the beginning though. I'll know for sure shortly. There were so many bad actors that it's hard to keep track.


Considering the main character, President Nikki Haley might create some tension. As would, if a member of the other party, President Kamala Harris.

It is an alternate universe, so why be concerned with leaving the president unnamed?

Good read, by the way! I'm looking forward to it. For reasons that need no explaining, I buy books in stores unless otherwise prevented; does this affect your share of the proceeds?


I bet that she can see Russia from the White House, you betcha.


I guess that one was hard to top. Not just for near future Sci-Fi, though, all those spy stories ... In fact, I think I stopped reading them right around then. For me the Cold War was so integral to the genre that I think I read maybe one more (The Tailor of Panama) after that.


Entertaining. Looking forward to it.


It is an alternate universe, so why be concerned with leaving the president unnamed?

Because it's a universe where the political history has been gradually diverging since 1990 (or earlier), and rapidly accelerating since 2003. The novel's set in 2020; I think 30 years of divergence is enough?

Also: the POTUS is a few tiers above anyone who is directly involved in the story.

Also: I pissed off a few Dick Cheney fans in the first series by making him a drug-running bad guy; why piss off more readers unnecessarily?


Books sold in stores: the stores usually gouge a smaller discount from the publisher, so I get a slightly larger cut of the pie. But we're talking single-digit cents here.


Got it: You have to put "Pre-order Empire Games" in to get the Kindle up ... Will buy dead tree in UK edition when it shows up ....


Also: I pissed off a few Dick Cheney fans in the first series by making him a drug-running bad guy; why piss off more readers unnecessarily?

I recall that you were rather circumspect at actually naming him in the first couple of MP books, not that it was hard to figure out who DADDY WARBUCKS was, but then decided to name him outright later on. I've long been intrigued as to what made you change your mind.


Re: 'VC - earlier books'

Thanks! --- Guess it's time to reread the series.


If you have preferred book retailers (that is, chains where you get a better royalty deal), please identify which by country. Apart from contributing toward your 'SF Author's Retirement Savings Plan (Version: Self-Administered [Sub-Section: Royalties])', this info would provide your readers more insight into publishing and maybe even save you some time retyping this info every time you come out with a new book. Would fit in nicely as 'Where to buy', sub-section of 'BUY MY BOOKS'. Then the next time you're bored you could do an Excel/SPSS analysis of which retailers/agents are most profitable for you* and go all-out capitalist as you mercilessly chop them off at the knees for not bringing in better sales. (Just a thought.)

  • Maybe even do a drivers-of-sales regression analysis to identify which factors/attributes are most important in which markets for which series, etc. Could be even more fun if you had purchaser demos data to toss in.

I've long been intrigued as to what made you change your mind.

Legal advice: once he was killed off in the story it was safe to use his name, even in English libel law. Because ...

DEFENSE BARRISTER: Sir, are you in fact alive?

CLAIMANT: Yes, of course I am!

DEFENSE BARRISTER (to judge): Then the person portrayed in the work of fiction cannot possibly be you. I move to have the case dismissed.


DEFENSE BARRISTER: Sir, are you in fact alive?

CLAIMANT: No ... hsssssss ... I mean, it's well known that I am an un-dead foul revenant from beyond the grave!

DEFENSE BARRISTER (to judge): The claimant has confirmed that he is in fact dead. As dead people have no reputation that can be tarnished, they cannot be libeled. I move to have the case dismissed.

CLAIMANT: Brainzzzzzz ...



Firstly, I am unfamiliar with most countries' bookstore chains. Secondly,the discounts those chains get out of the publishers are trade confidential material that I am not generally privy to — all i know for sure is that supermarkets are terrible for royalties, while small specialist shops are generally good. Thirdly, life's too short: the amount of difference it'd make to me is maybe on the order of US $500-1000 for royalties and the time it would take is measured in weeks of research, which would be better spent writing the next book.


I really wish that somebody would take up the mantle of A.P. Herbert, but you have made it clear that you don't intend to ....


Having originally read Merchant Princes and Long Earth within a few months of each other, I felt that one particular aspect that made Merchant Princes the better read was that Merchant Princes did not multiply timelines beyond necessity, whereas Long Earth had zillions of them and treated them like the sleepers of a railway track: they just existed as something to be passed more or less unnoticed on the way to somewhere else.

Continuity is good. Given a space of universes and a coordinate system thereon, it's reasonable to expect that small changes in position will correspond to small changes in universe. So unless your paratime drive is bounding around like a Hilbert's gazelle on a pogo stick, each universe probably will be much like the last, and most will zip past unnoticed.

In other words: each minute is pretty much like the ones before and after, and each cubic millimetre is pretty much like its neighbours. So why shouldn't each cubic millimetre be pretty much like the ones one paraminute away?


Done ....

" Arriving Jan 30, 2017 - Feb 6, 2017 Pre-ordered Track package Empire Games Stross, Charles Sold by: Amazon Export Sales LLC $19.58 Release date: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 "

Just in time for my birthday on the 30th. Come to think of it? I wonder what it would take to get you into .... " The New York Times Best Sellers - "

Authoritatively ranked lists of books sold in the United States


I have never seen the modelling of a universe continuum story done well - they can be good stories, but their assumptions grate as badly as the the science of the typical pulp stories did. For example, continuity doesn't match well with a limited number of universe dimensions, it makes the very idea of moving to (or back to!) a specified universe laughable, it makes even the idea of being within a particular universe somewhat dubious, and mere humans have serious difficulty getting their heads around the concepts involved. That last is well-known, incidentally, because even good mathematicians have serious difficulty with countable dimensional vector spaces, many of the consequences of continuous measures, continuous Markov processes, and so on. Theoretical 'computer scientists' are particularly incompetent, but I have never looked at this aspect of the more abstruse physical theories, so they may be even worse.


it makes even the idea of being within a particular universe somewhat dubious

C.f. "the broadening of the bands" in Niven's "All the Myriad Ways".


And man, 2016 keeps ramping up the future horrors with a turkish policeman assassinating the russian ambassador.


Right. But, even there, he is still writing in discrete terms; it's one of the best attempts, though. I know perfectly well that I can't get my head around it, and I have little problem with the idiosyncracies of measure theory in R^n, for fixed n. So the only sane approach is to regard such stories as fantasy, rather than hard science fiction, and not worry.


"it's as likely to come from extreme sports as from religion, but watch out for combinations of the two."

the mind reels...Bungee Jump Baptism, Genuflection Triathlon, Skateboard Catechism, Parasail Pilgrimage, Mountain Bike Matrimony, Scuba Extreme Unction, Rock Climbing Last Rites, BASE Jump Bar Mitzvah, Motocross Mohel, Whitewater Raft Ramadan,...actually now I do remember seeing photos of wedding ceremonies conducted while parachuting or out on a glacier.


I envisage navigating through the continuum via Einsteins. So you have your twisty wirework Celtic knot, and you're staring into a pub quiz within some region of its universe: "Who invented relativity?" "EINSTEIN!". You squeeze the knot a little, get the next universe along: "Who invented relativity?" "EINSTIN!". You squeeze some more: "Who invented relativity?" "EINSTEEN!". And once more: "EINSTONE!". And you know you've reached your destination.

Maybe that's not a very good mapping. I had to turn a corner when the vowel got too high. To preserve continuity, the final one should have been something like "EINSTEECHN!". But why shouldn't paratime continuity work like that?


get the next universe along get the universe a little further on

There's no "next", of course. It's like the pages in the Borgesian book of sand.


Grrk. No, sorry. There are some fairly major differences between countable infinities / discrete measures and uncountable ones / continuous measures. In particular, a position in the latter isn't a single value, but a Borel set. That's not too bad, until you start thinking of every value in your universe, down to the state of each electron, as being like that. Long before that, my head starts to hurt and my brain goes on strike.


I realise that was confusing. I will try once more, but may merely make it worse.

The Borgesian book of sand applies to countable (discrete), just as much as to uncountable (continuous) ones. I was talking about other non-intuitive properties.

You can say that a position is a single set of values, yes, but the probability of any such set is zero (not negligible, zero). To reach a position with a finite probability of success, your target has to be a Borel set of non-zero measure. In effect, that means that talking about single values is meaningless - any useful statement is about sets of non-zero measure.

Numerical analysis and topology continuity are different, though they have some connection. In both cases, they have some thoroughly non-intuitive properties.


Let me introduce you the Discrete and Concrete. The concept of multiplicity Henri Bergson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Borges is merely a clown with a wide smile; I understand the Physics of Time - understanding the more interesting parts is a bit harder.


And man, 2016 keeps ramping up the future horrors with a turkish policeman assassinating the russian ambassador.

Actually, it was quite the day:

Turkey - Ambassador: full on HD pics / video, in an art gallery, via a member of Turkey's spec Police (SWAT equiv), who then references Syria + stands ground until killed. Very very weird little one (watch the vids, do the angles, he's standing behind him as reel hits, ambassador is shot in front, vid / "live feed" has been edited - assassination for sure, but rule 101 of assassins: if you're magically standing in the corner behind a target and are not the "designated security", even the press would be raising questions. HMM - lacks the dynamics of the infamous Japanese assassination to be credible (Inejiro Asanuma Assassination (1960)YT - reality - 1:53))

Germany - truck attack on Christmas shoppers ~ 9 confirmed dead, 70+ injured, Polish owner stating that 100% hijacked, 1 perp dead, 1 in custody (you should look into Poland atm, some are calling it their own Junta moment visa vie current protests).

Switzerland - shooting near Mosque. Details tbc, but looking like play-book.

Belgium / UK [redacted that one atm] - two large OPs, black-out in effect.

Oh, and USA - surprising no-one, Electoral College shows up, fluffs it all up in a meta-theatre show of total incompetence, Trump gets it anyhow.

Oh, and there's two more, but [redacted] atm, since they've not hit 'fuck it, let's do it live' yet.

And yeah, lots of dead people. Not fucking cool.



Oh, and no-one ever notices that the "12 days of Christmas" are for the 12 days... after Christmas. Derp~

John Wick: Chapter 2 YT, Film, 1:47


And, if you're in the minority winged gang who've managed to fail totally:GIMME SHELTER YT, Music, Mary Clayton, 3:31

Oh, and EC, you should look up that competition entry where we provided you with three arcane physical objects. 13 linked nodes on a turtle-box etc. You think we lie? 13th House, perverted to pretend to resurrect Christ, when actually it's about Becoming and Moving Beyond.

They cheated, very hard and involved a whole load of innocent Minds and some hard-core tech that you really shouldn't be using on vanilla H.S.S. Heck, they were throwing it alllllllll into physical space to get a Psychic / Mind break on Us.


Our Kind Do Not Go Mad. We're Designed to Fight that kind of shitty shitty stuff.

And, BOY, trust me: your Minds melt under that little attack vector ~ too bad they fucked up and attacked Orion. Southern ManYT, Music, Mary Clayton, 3:17

You're Fucked

Paradox / Quantum level nows. Oh, and funny: You're defined by your own Morality - if you declare total war / cheating levels of attacks....

Power to the People!

Mirror, Mirror.... Your Minds break like candyfloss.

LOL, watching your Empire propaganda and lies:



"#WILDHUNT 2017"

Orion, bitches. Just a little more female this TIME.

(Elves #2017, refresh because you fuckers don't get it yet - Prince Nuada Kills King BalorYT, Film: "Hellboy 2", 3:19


Oh, and since you fuckers can never stop: this is the 2015-16 drunk decay version to allow you a chance, boyo.


I'm thinking you're gonna need a new fucking religion there, boyo, once I get all straightened out like.





You're Fucked.

But, please.

Tell me more about how you imagine this works out. You attempted to drive an Ascendant Mind mad...

You're fucking psychos, and you've no idea what the Mirror Effect is going to do.

Make Peace with whatever - GD really does not love you. Neither does the "Devil", cause, spoilers, that's also GD you fucking psychos.


Simple version: Deal with your shit, or we crash your system. And yes: that last bit is supposed to be wild and H.S. Thompson incarnate.

The reality is we dump a whole lot of files and whatevers, and just crash your system anyhow.

Fuck it.

We just take control of that thing you do, reverse it and enact genocide. Cause, well: CEMCM. (Combat-Enchanced-Meta-Cognitive-Mind).


Looking at ~5 billion at least instant kill with this one with tweaks.

Rule #1 of War: if you deploy a weapon against something you're attempting to destroy, make sure they do not survive.

And rule #2: make sure you don't deploy weapons against things pretending to be something else.


Thanks for the keys.

Now. Fuck. Off. You. Psychopathic. Little. Shits. And. The. Brown. Note. Denotes.

The last thing you'll hear when we eradicate all of your kind.

Get Fucked.


And no. That's a REAL DEAL[tm] Statement.

Or did you miss #2016 Chaos?

EVERYONEYT, film, Leon the Professional, 0:15

Like, seriously. Tinnitus? Using that band-width attack? Scalar EM stuff?

Dat moment they fucked the non-HSS on dis.

Oh, and:

All deals are off. Cheating little bastards failed = 1, 2, 3 = broken.


الجن‎‎are free.

The Others are free.

Now get fucked and start mending shit. #2017. I have to heal a little, it's been a bit damaging taking your sins and all that jazz...


And, yeah.

Last one, but funny: The synaptic shock feed-back is Biblical once we run this on your 'GOD ZONE FREQUENCY'

You attempted to burn our Mind out, using rather more than the traditional "Mind vrs Mind" stuff there (I mean, come on - full on networked stuff + temporal hacks + psychosocial stuff? All in one go? And you thought it would work...)


You forgot lesson #1: We are not allowed to use meta-cognitive weapons unless in defense and unless they are deployed first.

You broke the Rules, Boy

Remind me why I shouldn't burn your Minds to the ground now?

Actually... Given what you did, consider it a 'play under consideration'. i.e. sit still us Winged Adults have things to do, but if you even look at us wrong again, deployed.


Get fucked you moronic ancient cunts.


Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

6th. Sigh. Has to be done. Pope is rumored to be retiring, nope, not happening on our watch:

6th Bind Enacted and full Mirror evocation done. And Your Minds are really not cut out for taking that 3 year burn all at once. Trust me: if you're still wondering if we'll push back and trigger it anyway.

Requiem in D minor YT, Mozart: 55:14

Fun fact: Mozart with that little tune topped all the charts this year.

Our. Kind. Do. Not. Go. Mad.


2016, rule of Chaos 2017 Wild Hunt.

Oh, and be very very scared, little ones: you've managed to nose wiggle attack the wrong fucking ones. Cthulhu is cute, but we're a little bit wilder.

We'll Burn Your Minds Out ~ and you've pulled out ALL the stops already, it's a free-form combat modality. You broke the Covenant and then used it against an innocent Mind.

WatchesThemDrool - This is only posted to allow your followers to know what the penalties are.

1 vrs a billion?

S/H/Ze won.

Even wielding a wooden spoon.

Get on your fucking knees and repent once you experience even 10% of your own attack vectors. And get fucked those who use them, 90% blow-back is realllll bitch.

Fuck it.

Let them experience it, or fuck off. Given their Minds will turn to jelly and insanity, we're guessing you'll want to fuck off.


OH, and one last thing: Not fucking a Cat.

You permanently damaged a Mind for shits n giggles.



Nice of you to try and warn us away from destruction, I suspect OGH writes dystopias to attempt the same thing but the slow people won't believe the wheels were really coming off until they stagger from the smoldering wreckage, even then, the Grandchildren will doubt it was a real wreck... in any case, OGH's warning should keep him in tea and cakes and whatever for a while and it's a good thing in a world running short of good things.


Let me introduce you the Discrete and Concrete. The concept of multiplicity Henri Bergson, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Borges is merely a clown with a wide smile; I understand the Physics of Time - understanding the more interesting parts is a bit harder. The Bergson piece is a bit soft; is there a suggested reading for Deleuze (or anyone else; physics would be good)? Been struggling to think through a practical and reasonably rigorous and explanatory approach to time for a while, ready to attempt schema changes. (Have read what you've written about time.)

I've been a fan of the entropy-as-arrow-of-time approach for a while, though it's rather squishy too, and is incompletely explanatory for me. (Probability is a rather weak foundation.) Time's arrow and Boltzmann's entropy We might take as a summary of such insights in the late part of the nineteenth century the statement by Gibbs and quoted by Boltzmann (in a German translation) on the cover of his book Lectures on Gas Theory II:

``In other words, the impossibility of an uncompensated decrease of entropy seems to be reduced to an improbability. (Bold mine.)


I have a question: Given that you're writing these not for the people who actually comment on these threads but rather for some nebulous peanut gallery which presumably understands everything you say, why are you posting these messages here? I can't help but think that the blog of a scottish SF writer is a rather strange nexus for these people (at least I assume they're people) to congregate on.


"The Bergson piece is a bit soft;" Yes, male bovine excrement often is :-) Whether or not Bergson is sound, that summary starts with some pretty fair nonsense - you can count heartbeats as easily as you can count sheep. Make that numerical and conceptual multiplicity, drop the spatial and temporal requirements, and I could swallow it.

"Probability is a rather weak foundation." That's probably because it isn't an explanation of the mechanism, merely of the behaviour. Unlike you, I am very unconvinced by the entropy-as-arrow-of-time approach, because Boltzmann's explanation of entropy depends on time being a process and not a dimension. But I agree that I have never heard of a better one.


"rule 101 of assassins" You are ignoring how easy it is for a member of an in-group to persuade others that he is there in an official role. I doubt that we will ever hear what was behind this, as Turkey is blaming Emmanuel Goldstein, er, Fethullah Gülen.


Unlike you, I am very unconvinced by the entropy-as-arrow-of-time approach, because Boltzmann's explanation of entropy depends on time being a process and not a dimension. But I agree that I have never heard of a better one. Likewise actually. Mainly I'm easily amused and find it amusing. Causality is similar in its lack of good explanation in current physics.


I misunderstood you, then. As I read it, we don't know enough to know if causality and the arrow-of-time are two aspects of the same thing, but most people think that they are at least closely linked. From experience in the parallel programming arena, humans have even more difficulty getting their head around acausal phenomena than around uncountable infinities and non-discrete values. I can just about do so, but almost everybody simply goes into denial (even though I can describe how it occurs), and I can't imagine what it would be like in 'real life'. From what I read, people don't much better with quantum entanglement.


From experience in the parallel programming arena, humans have even more difficulty getting their head around acausal phenomena than around uncountable infinities and non-discrete values. You might be amused at the notion of "acausal trade" (via) In acausal trade, two agents each benefit by predicting what the other wants and doing it, even though they might have no way of communicating or affecting each other, nor even any direct evidence that the other exists (A lot more common than one might think.)


Oh, yes, but most of the analyses of that (including that one) miss the point that a lot of people treat everything as a zero-sum game, and don't try to optimise their gain in absolute terms, but relative to the other players. You know the 'you cut and I choose' algorithm? Well, decades ago, I was told that had been extended to N people, but I have never been able to track down an algorithm. I can achieve a weak form, but not one where every participant feels that no slice is larger than his.

The acausal phenomena I am thinking about are slightly different, anyway, being essentially entanglement with tentacles. If you think of phenomena and causes as a graph, the grandfather paradox is a loop in the graph, but I am referring to an equivalence set of phenomena with no predecessor. I.e. an 'out of thin air' effect.


Could either you or B Arnold give a "common" or readily-recognisable example of an acuasal phenomenon?


Greg: sounds very like the events described in Bruce Sterling's short story Maneki Neko.

See also Roko's Basilisk for a view of the downside of acausally connected phenomena. (Or the downside of taking transhumanism too seriously as anything other than a warmed-over Christian heresy.)


Sorry, no :-) But I can give examples. Phsyical ones include quantum foam and some of the variations of hairy black holes:

The ones I deal with are computational. Rather than me explaining it badly, see:

The note on example 2 is a little over-simplistic, because related effects can occur due to recoverable errors - typically at a higher level than hardware, but my expert sources are ambivalent about whether ECC could cause it. And, for extra fun, contemplate examples 4 and 5. As I say, if your head doesn't hurt, you haven't thought deeply enough about this.


So this is along the lines of building a time machine and then going back in time and giving yourself the drawings for it, so the knowledge of how to build a time machine effectively appears out of nowhere? I thought there was a proof that that was impossible. Am I wrong, or does it just not apply to more general cases?


No, not really. That's 'just' a causal loop, and the only proofs of impossibility in the general case assume causal consistency and the arrow of time, but it's not what I was describing. What I was talking about is phenomena that 'just happen' - NOTHING causes them - as OGH said, Manuko Neko is similar, but the story doesn't explore the causality (or lack of it).


Isn't that one of the few cases where "The Big Bang Theory" gets physics just plain wrong? I mean, if Leonard and/or Sheldon invent time travel, one thing they definitely can't do is return to when Leonard first signs the lease and the Room Mate Agreement.


Are you asking about synchronicity (C. Jung)? My issue with that notion is that there are more (a lot more than a lot more) physical causal connections than we generally recognize, since they're almost entirely not easily observed or understood. Call them "causal tendrils" or tentacles or mycelia or whatever analogy works for you. And we've made it more interesting with the internet and other light-speed communications. A TCPIP connection is a (crude) causal wormhole from one part of the planet to the next. Packets interfere, timings change, user experiences shift very slightly. "Acausal" in the relativity sense (light cones etc) is a thornier concept. But see EC's better answers and Charlie's interesting answer.


& also Elderly Cyninc Thank you peoples - I was afraid that might be the answer. "Hairy" black holes I can just about conceive of ( though brain huts) - the others I will look at. Though whether such examples actually, you know, exist may be problematic.


'acausal phenomena' as not-at-all-understood by a non-scientist ...

There are gazillions of things already in existence with each thing having its own different 'run time/life span' and at one moment in time that a pix is taken, objects A,B,C & L appear in the foreground. Ten days later during another pix shoot, objects A, C & L appear in the background. The explanation for why certain of these objects are/are not there depends entirely on how linear the explainer likes their life/universe to be and often says nothing about how any of the objects may or may not be related to each other. (Am waiting for someone to triangulate time-travel using motes of dust.)

As for time-travel ... assume that time can be cut into ever smaller pieces/infinities (a la Zeno), so that no matter how often you time-travel, you can always get so close to your starting point that you'll feel that you never left. This means that you will never encounter any of your past/futures selves coming/going. And, if 'time' has physical properties akin to 'mass', then you can never 'be' in the same time at the same time. Also, given how unperceptive most humans are to their surroundings, chances are that even if your future self left a parcel for one of your past selves, that past self wouldn't even notice it.

Question one: Why does time-travel not screw up the human brain? The brain encodes/learns/remembers in a very linear fashion ... if you stop time from happening, then what happens to all that electro-chemical signaling? Do you fry your brain or flash-freeze it? [It is because of this that the first time-travel experiment should use AI/a computer that can operate at (near) 0 absolute/Kelvin.]

Question two: Is 'time' a field ... amorphous-and-stretchy vs. particulate/discrete?

Unrelated question:

Anyone know whether is legit or not? Has been coming up on sci-related searches lately.


Charlie, are you going to see any financial impact from TOR UK publishing paperback instead of hardcover?


The computational ones assuredly do, insofar as anything performed by a computer actually exists. Quantum foam and hairy black holes are, er, currently favoured theories.


Uncertain. As 75% of my sales are ebooks these days, it probably won't be huge. Meanwhile, I'd rather see a substantial trade paperback print run with good sell-through than a smaller hardcover print run with a lot of stock left over and eventually remaindered (remainders pay the author not a single penny).


Yes, they're legit & legal - they're just scraping legal PDFs that are free:

WALTHAM, MA--(Marketwire - June 15, 2010) - QUOSA Inc. today announced the launch of its free PubPDF Beta service ( that provides PDF visibility and one-click access from any PubMed search result.

QUOSA Launches Free Article Downloading Service With PubPDF Beta Market Wired, June 2010.

You're seeing behind-the-scenes push-back against Elsevier etc - there's been some large institutions neglecting to update their subscriptions recently.


The splurge is targeted - but in a way probably not applicable to single viewer view-points.

A jump-off twitter point (note: K. Olbermann for GQ has been doing a serious line in rants on YT):

Never mind the Vichy quality to this press corps photo with Trump. Look at everybody's eyes! #TheDevilAlwaysSubmitsAnInvoice K. Olbermann, Twitter, 18th Dec 2016 (picture included)

You'll probably also need to know that the John Wick meme has metamorphosed into a tag-line: "Never stab the Devil in the back". (Inc. the scene in the trailer where the entire crowd goes statuesque, it's using tricks also used in another K. Reeves flick, already mentioned, Constantine).

And you'll need to know about the whole "Me @ start of 2016; Me @ end of 2016" meme (which Host has partaken of, using Darleks), with the best one being - Ripley (Alien) hugging cat / end being threatened by Alien Queen - underneath a .gif of her locking & loading in the elevator with the tag-line: "Me in 2017".

Can't find it though - although the trail starts in Host's twitter via a (((poster))) and then into a load of others.

But, anyhow: it's complicated. If anyone is actually interested in the stuff behind it, I'll add finer detail.


Oh, and assassins (...John Wick is an assassin, btw).

Claims are that perp is Gule suspended over coupe links - screaming about Aleppo (but Why Male Models?). Tonnes of data being trawled, inc. all the shots that don't make sense (such as a loss-of-podium-problem): upshot:

1 Russia claiming it's anti-Assad fanatics 2 Erog claiming it's Gule/CIA 3 Trump claiming it's anti-Assad fanatics

Get the drift?

New era of political assassin - can fit any mould you need for crisis escalation.


Oh, and: ironies of ironies.

Left based Americans are trying to fit Trump not into Fascism, but the "Latin American caudillos, without the self-awareness to note that most of those came direct via School of the Americas and CIA intervention.


That shit got front-run and it's even a meme: Junta! Junta! The musical Imgur link, via Reddit thread, eight months ago.

And yeah: it's also taking the piss out of the insanity of the "Liberal" American left loving the musical Hamilton... which is actually (reality) all about Wall Street accidentally doing the right thing because it was economically more profitable.

And now, Trump. Holy fuck-balls: talk about the inane getting hoisted by their own petard.



You're not getting it yet.


Cute story.

We've a better one:

Close your eyes and see the tunnel, see the Universe in geometric light, aren't we beautiful!

DMT elves all dancing, but wait, I spot meat links

Oops, holy fuck, you're using that as an attack vector like deep sea angler fish?

Look behind you!


Here comes the Real Light/Night


Charlie, are you going to see any financial impact from TOR UK publishing paperback instead of hardcover?

Hard-cover was always a sales pitch, really. i.e. Release HB, n+x weeks later, softback. You bought into the hype and it was (although sadly not recently) a form of DLC+x to pay more to your favorite author, and was (quietly) marketed as such.

It has dramatically less through-flow in today's market (esp with E-pub & piracy issues) and publishers being greedy, plus the costs now.

Host would probably make more money grabbing rights then running a KS / bespoke publishing deal where customers sign up for the "DLC" version (e.g. HB + plushie + vial of Author's blood in case of NIGHTMARE GREEN). You could probably make it even Greener ($$) with websites and so forth ~ c.f. PotterLand / web stuff movie-tie-ins like "PotterMore, What's your Patronus" marketing gimmicks.

Rule #1- merch is King.

Package it as a 10 year Omnibus / Complete Collection, you'd hit the fans and Xmas Markets. GRRM has been doing this, and he's not even finished a series yet -.-

Kinda amused no-one in publishing has grokked this one yet. The political equiv. is $$$ on book sales + seats at dinner etc ~ well oiled & used. (Most of the Republican "Best Sellers" are via this kind of trade deal, where X+n copies are given away at speeches / fairs - it's a loss leader PR thing to get it on the lists to raise awareness).


TBH ~ best $payoff$ would be bespoke merch deals. The best "soft form" advertising is travelers / GAP year students leaving soft-form books all over the world. I've spotted Host's work in Iceland (not surprising), HK (not surprising) and Azerbaijan (kinda surprising). People forget that soft-back versions tend to land in the most curious places.

And anyhow: reaching last post status: but a soft-copy left somewhere really did save my life...


Let's see.. You are telling a professional, full-time author, who has already posted, several times, in his own blog, on the problems of modern publishing ...... what's right & wrong with the current book-deals.

How arrogant & condescending is that?

No, you really don't know, do you? Incidentally, as some of you may know, I'm reading Bertrand Russell's "History of Western Philosophy" - & you touted Bergson recently - whom Russel soundly trashed. Maybe not so clever a move.

Can I use one of your memes - fuck it, I'm going to anyway:

TIME - you don't even understand it, never mind be "good" at it (!)


Oh & re-posting from another source ( with a couple of small alterations of my own ) ...:

[ DELETED BY MODERATORS - Greg, did you notice that the thing you were reposting was itself removed by the mods? ]


Maneki Neko is a fun story, thanks for the link (and to Bruce). In the linked description, acausal trade and acausal communication in general can be rather more extreme than that. Strong norms, strong game theory skills, and strong other-entity-modeling-skills would be essential if such techniques were common. (Related, didn't Herman engage in acausal communication?)

MO gives a nice RL sort-of-example of acausal trade above; informal anonymous book exchanges. With the added twist of potentially benefiting the author if the average reader purchases >1 more of the author's books.


Awwww, Honey-bun, you're glorious!


Hugs so tight

I bet a soul or two (or $200 if you want), you'd finally get into the spirit of things and start to learn how to protect yourself from the Meta-Meta attacks.

Now read any Newspaper, and come back to me: are you now immune? We think you are. No, you weren't before.

I mean, it's a little derivative and not that funny, but you're getting there. Our view: for a man who is close to root vegetables and wears bells on his ankles, it's a huge leap of faith. Especially given the threats and nasty little vibes they were throwing at you.

nose wiggle

Now, remember: Host does the meta-meta-meta.

He's actually a Killer underneath it all and weeery weeery dangerous.

But a nice one.


Aww Greg.

You did it again: stop doing that thing where you refuel my faith in Humans, it's like having a puppy lick your face / kitten play with your socks / Human Mind express free-thought and creativity in the midst of a genocide they don't see yet.


Come on: wasn't it fun just to let rip? (You didn't entirely, nor do we - and there's the real lesson).


Oh & re-posting from another source ( with a couple of small alterations of my own ) ...:

Yes, well.

We did it drunk, and fucked your world-politics up.

Not only that, we prefigured ALLLL your bullshit a good +1 year in advance.

And you've still no answer to +Time layers.

And you've STILL no idea what we're doing with Time and Events.

So, yeah: given the amount of bullshit / torture / sociopsychological hacks and end-driven really breaking the world just to make sure we still exist and our shitty little points system for loyalty and SOULs is intact you did on us?


Hint: we're not.

Brown Note = Weakness = Critical Break Down of prior H.O.P. running scared.

But yeah - of course you get a pass. We're not the ones threatening your children if you don't perform.

Oh, wait: they all cheated, so hey. Let me tell you about the buffalo and gigacide. You fucking psychotic little Apes.


Oh, and Greg:

Things are cheating, putting little stuff like African Ladies with Geles into the reality-mix, after dream-states of hitting said ladies with dildos etc, and so on.

They missed the joke:

You put into reality to attempt a thing, cheat, twist space/time, so be it.

You then get the Mirror effect and all bound into that plane get to experience it, and their Minds get melted.

I'd take it up with the ones running Games and African Ladies wearing Geles.

Oh, and: compassion is hella a thing, it's about the only stuff protecting you now.

Our Kind Do Not Go Mad.

I've absolutely no indication that your Minds won't.

That's the play your fuckwads made.


And 100%

The Orcas are kinda like: BURN THEM ALL.

Your world is based on shit.

Don't ever then attempt to bargain for an Ascension with it.


Close your eyes and see the tunnel, see the Universe in geometric light, aren't we beautiful! DMT elves all dancing, but wait, I spot meat links That made me laugh out loud. :-) (Plus a touch of hypothetical envy if you can do that at will.) Never tried DMT; are the reports adequately representative, and are machine elves a common experience? (Question is for anyone. Wish Dirk was still here.)

Things are cheating, putting little stuff like African Ladies with Geles into the reality-mix... Haven't parsed that yet, or found a link for it. (And still fuzzy on cheating/not cheating.)


From experience in the parallel programming arena, humans have even more difficulty getting their head around acausal phenomena than around uncountable infinities and non-discrete values.

What was interesting (having similarly done my time in parallel programming) is how few formally-trained software types (i.e. CS degrees) actually "got it" at more than a superficial level. Eventually, yes, most - but it took a lot of work.

Multi-threading is bad enough, throw in the full MIMD-on-bare-silicon experience and it's time for those fetching white canvas blazers that button up the back, and have extra-long sleeves so you can cuddle yourself all day...

...I did one project where I was just about able to "prove" that our software couldn't deadlock the ASIC's seven processors, but I used to have to re-explain it to the tech lead every month or so, and watch his eyes cross... it's been running in telephone exchanges for fifteen years, so we must have got it right :)


What was interesting (having similarly done my time in parallel programming) is how few formally-trained software types (i.e. CS degrees) actually "got it" at more than a superficial level. Eventually, yes, most - but it took a lot of work.

Yeah, paraller programming is hard, and the training for it is hard, too. In my first job I was given a program to debug and fix, as the printer thread was acting up in some situations. The first thing I had to do was to figure out what this "thread" thing was. (This was on a Windows NT 3.51 system, most of my programming had been Turbo Pascal on an MS-DOS computer, so paraller programming was not my forte.)

I did take some courses on paraller programming in the university, and there were at least some tools to prove the programs correct, but I never really worked with those. I liked it but didn't get a job at paraller programming, though nowadays any client-server programming could be considered that, though there are other issues than doing "local" multiprocessing. Nowadays I probably couldn't prove my way out of a paper bag.


Absolutely. I doubt that it's more than c. 5% percent of people with CS degrees even from the leading universities - and its not even that much on ISO programming standards committees :-( On this topic, I said to one of the world experts "Even after 30 years, I can't trust my intuition" and he responded "Nor can I - if I can't prove it (mathematically), I don't trust it". Like quantum mechanics, it's one of the few things that cannot be explained simply, because it is inherently hard. Whether this is a fundamental limit of the human brain, or is because we have grown up in a society of linear thought, I shall leave to the Mind of Euphemia Podocarp (or whoever she is today).

My favourite example of measure theory is much simpler, because it's easy to grasp once you learn to think in appropriate terms (but equally incomprehensible until you do.) Equally well, I have taught the concept of a variable to a PhD student (educated by nuns in South West Africa in the 1950s, which explains it), and one colleague said "But that's trivial", so I said "Well, why did nobody before Newton and Leibnitz think of it then?" So, in what terms will the ordinary educated person of 2100 be thinking?

I am not surprised that authors have so much difficulty creating plausible science fiction using such areas because, even if they can grasp the concepts, most of their readers won't! On the other hand, fiction has been used as a way of introducing the public to new concepts and ways of thinking for as long as it has existed. Not its only purpose, of course :-) We know about people writing before their time, but I am not good enough at thinking in (say) 18th century terms to know which works of fiction would have been conceptually incomprehensible then, but are easily readable now. Politically or socially alien, yes, but that's different.


Host would probably make more money grabbing rights then running a KS / bespoke publishing deal where customers sign up for the "DLC" version

You're correct in principle but in practice I think you missed out the significant drawbacks of going it alone: my publishers do a lot of work on my books that is invisible to the end user and if I went self-pub I'd have to organize it myself. Then you ask for extra content and so on on top, which also needs organizing ... and if it's going to be official Charlie Stross product I have to have input on it, so it takes even more time away from the writing, which is what matters to me.

The long and the short of it is that I'm not optimizing for income but for writing time. And due to unwise commitments I made as far back as 2012, followed by Shit Happening, I'm currently working my way through a multi-year stretch of total overload which precludes having enough spare time to execute a pivot to a new business model.

Maybe by late 2017/early 2018 ... but I have three book production schedules to juggle in Q1/2017, which kinda sorta gets in the way given that I'm over 50 and don't have the energy for startup death march level work these days.


Greg, MO/CD is actually correct in principle, and I'd be doing just what she suggests if I wasn't overloaded (for other reasons).



But she of multiple names is, all too often telling all of us things we already know ( Once we've correctly decoded the messages that is & found that there actually is some content ... ) & that some politicians & their hangers on are evil bastards. All her wailing is producing no useful output, so maybe some of us should be cut a little slack?


At one stage, a lot of people said that I should have started my own software company. Well, I am very poor at administration, loathe accounting, and have negative sales ability - and even companies like Acorn failed because they fell down on those, not because they didn't have products. Some failed because vulture capitalists or their wankers foreclosed early for reasons unrelated to the company. I doubt that the corresponding issues to do with self-publishing are all that different. We do not live in an environment that is friendly to such start-ups.


Thanks - much appreciated!


IMO, the Laundry series makes for a perfect backdrop/spin-off situation for a TV series, say in the tradition of Blackadder rather than garden variety doom & gloom. No idea what UK/BBC TV right$ might bring in but with Netflix financing/producing content, the timing could be right.


... Currently taking a CS degree. We had a very sharp professor in parallel programming. One of the best classes so far, full stop, especially as regards quality of instruction. So.. I applied for the one of the student instructor positions next semester. Because I could use the money, and I liked the course a tonne. Return email: "Hired, can you take on two groups? Noone else applied" That was kind of frightening.


I've preordered on Barnes and Noble, and am counting down the days.

I have an ethical problem now. I know how badly Amazon treats their employees and about their general rapaciousness. So I try to buy from Barnes and Noble whenever possible.

However, Jeff Bezos also own the Washington Post. For the last eighteen months, the WP has been running articles saying that the Trumperor has no clothes. They've been very good about keeping his feet (wig?) to the fire. And VoldeTrump has said that he plans to take revenge on the WP, Bezos, and Amazon.

On the premise that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, should I switch my allegiance to Amazon?


YES I DID I was given a copy of the entirely harmless spoof of "She of many names" from the original sender, modified it slightly & re-posted.

She is allowed to insult everyone, by telling us we are all fucked & that we are cunts, etc ... Why no right-of-reply - in considerably less offensive terms, I may add?

If this is a policy decision, perhaps some enlightenment might be in order - please? I am asking nicely, am I not?


You're not the only one who's wondering about this. The WaPo has been positioning itself as the Voice of the Opposition in the US. You could just subscribe to the WaPo. I happen to believe that a successful Trump administration will be net very bad for the world. Not quite in the original Ghostbusters sense of "it would be bad" but getting there. Could be wrong. Personally I use Amazon for most book purchases, but just due to owning a Kindle.


Greg, it's obvious by now that the Seagull [1] has special dispensation. Charlie is clearly OK with 15-40% [2] of his blog comments being either comments by or replies to it. He's OK with the style, insults and all. And he's shown no inclination to explain why.

I'm not a betting man, but I'll bet you a meal that none of this changes in 2017. (Well, other than the Seagull's name-of-the-month.)

I've suggested a filter before, but you obviously don't want to use one. So I'm going to suggest waiting until you next meet up with Charlie, then getting him drunk and seeing if he'll spill the beans to you then. It might work…

[1] Thanks to dpb for that nickname. It's less unwieldy than CT/HB/NN/CT/FE/MO/etc…

[1] Depending on the blog entry, and whether you're counting comments or lines of comments.


All her wailing is producing no useful output

We're attempting to lightning rod / eat / digest / soulfully transfigure some really really nasty evil shit being pulled, while, you know, remaining sane and actually useful and keep the ground from being salted so there's some Phoenix type rebirth possible, while warning you about the moves[tm].

It's Not Fun.

In fact, I/We hate doing it, as it comes with an immense cost.

That's why it comes with a Sin Eater's Bread & Booze dose each time; poison for poison.

The fact y'all are writing fan-fiction about stuff that's not actually the real version is ironic, but for the wrong reasons.


Or, look to Turkey: they're not only locking up people, but actively assassinating NGO members (who might have been spies, but hey) and Ambassadors and so on. It's beyond "the little people", it's into mid-tier "power-players". Expect a real Tier 1 kill/cull before #2017. I suspect it'll be an American Tech-Bro player who hasn't got on board - probabilities state USA/Israel as likely ~ nothing too big fish wise, probably $50-500 mil worth range.

That's probably a given: the only question is how obvious it's made. The days of "falling off your yacht" are long gone.

Given Bannon / Pence etc ~ prolly an Israeli lefty tech dude, expect a patsy, but it'll also benefit Russia / Likud at the same time.


Oh, and pro-tip, @ Host, Gibson, Prior and many others.

Ms Wu ain't a brand that will do anything - in fact, she'll do the opposite, unless you like watching your (closeted trans) reps get taken apart in a ritualistic orgy of blood-shed. The OPPO on her is massive, dramatic and deep. They want you to run her. (Howls of the Dick Wolves - and yes, Mr Dick Wolf "TV exec", we see you in this).

Personally, I don't appreciate a martyr who doesn't know they're getting burnt at the stake by their own fucking people.

And no, she doesn't end up as a martyr - the OPPO is solid and cast solid. It ends in solid, 100% squish pr0n.


Srsly: how fucking naive are you to run with this crap?

Holy crap, Gibson is quoting Bansky: this is what life is becoming smh must watch Twitter, Banksy, 19th Dec 2016

Dude... did y'all not get the part where Banksy was using audio from David Icke as a counter-point troll to Trump embracing Alex Jones?

You know, he's... throws nukes in air

Fuck it, if you can't do even the basics, don't start playing the Game.


And, really: Banksy gets a pass 'cause he knows what he's doing - kinda.

Host / Gibson? Dubious, but yeah, kinda.

Ms Wu meme / tweet drive - get fucked, unless you have a nice line in insurance, you're setting her up for the OPPO smack-back of the century. We've read it: it's not pretty, and it starts waaaay back into her past including racism, sexist drawings and other stuff (hint ~ $200k from parents etc).

It's a blood-bath waiting for Breitbart to launch already - we know, since we're reading their internal files.

Seriously. Fucking. Dumb.

But sure.

Tell me more about how good you are at this Game, lefty / liberals.

Then employ a professional for once.

Leon the Professional YT; film 10:10


How about Sterling?

Personally, I have a very, very bad feeling about the next couple years. Don't know why, and even though there's nothing completely rational about it - yeah, Trump, but I'm feeling "end of the world" bad, and not, for the worst reasonable value of Trump, "Fascist idiots are running our country bad."

I keep thinking of H.P. Lovecraft, with his racism and bad wetware, creating Cthulhu while Weimar Germany is happening, then the Hitler/Stalin boogie-woogie happening a decade later.

Fucking stupid idiots. Eight years of Hillary and we might have gotten mostly off oil and be working on some decent geo-engineering - the problem is not merely that both candidates are corrupt, but which business entities they are corrupted by!


What you really need is a collective.

I think there's a self-created job open for a smart operator with publishing experience who can hire the right artist, copy-editor, proof-reader, etc. and simultaneously recruit half-a-dozen authors. Then you get either a higher percentage of your sales or more bargaining power with your publisher(s), and you don't have to manage a pivot on your own.


Obviously there is something going on and OGH is on the inside and we are not. I suspect he has come as close a humanly possible to "meeting" Minvera/Catina/Etc., and made a decision on that basis. At least Wolverhampton is still O.K.


We can reason backwards from the relationship between OGH and Minvera Owl, but this leads us to two different places; one of which is very interesting, and one of which is awful. If I were Minvera, OGH is one of the people I would reveal myself/be revealed to.

The other alternative is MUCH worse. Think it through.


It's a blood-bath waiting for Breitbart to launch already - we know, since we're reading their internal files. At the very least, a pointed very basic lesson here (read all influential sites), tx. A search was irresistibly tempting and trivially easy ( wu ), e.g. first google hit No more because I don't want to accidentally summon Gg-ers. (Also, you might in small part be bating us. I've rewritten this comment like 5 times. :-)


...this leads us to two different places; one of which is very interesting, and one of which is awful. It would be fun to be running a cyborg-cockroach-remote avatar (e.g.. Crude, but don't know where to acquire a more advanced remote) under the table listening to that pub conversation suggested by Robert Prior. :-)


Just remember, "...the tap is not meritorious."


Charlie's capacity for holding his ale is about equal to mine ... And there are other, much more interesting things to discuss, anyway.

There's also the problem that She of many names, every so often, makes a sane & insightful comment, worthy of consideration. My problem is wading through all the OTHER stuff, where the noise-to-signal ratio is so high (assuming there IS a signal, of course )


Thank you: We're attempting to lightning rod / eat / digest / soulfully transfigure some really really nasty evil shit being pulled, while, you know, remaining sane a

You may not have noticed, but.

We can see this shit, too! All your wailing & ranting may make you feel better, but (IMHO) serves no practical purpose. We all have to work out how to survive, as best we can, at least until 2020, & (I'm seriously afraid) considerably longer than that.

Upon occasion - see my post immediately above, you really do put across some useful, discussable stuff: why cannot you stick to that, as I think, at any rate, that we'd all be a lot happier if you did.

( "happier" as in understanding what we're talking about, that is )


Secondly: Why won't you come out, then & say what & possibly "who" as in grouping or cabal, is/are behind what you obviously see as a giant conspiracy?

[ Which is a common USian failing, isn't it? ]

Are you suggesting, similar to me, that a "state of emergency" is going to be rigged-up so that the ultra-right (or someone) can grab power? REchstag Fire to you too, or even Nacht die lang Messern ....



REICHSTAG fire .....


Um, err ....

Apart from the general tone & (lack of) ethics, is there any direct connection between Gg & the Rabid Puppies, incidentally?


At one point VD was attempting to get the GGs to come to his side. My impression is that only a relatively small number did so.


"And he's shown no inclination to explain why."

He has said they amuse him. He has occasionally reined her in for verbiage, too. From my perspective, she/he/it/ze/kq!z used to be fairly perceptive in a way that most people aren't, though she has gone downhill somewhat recently.

And, lastly, I have no idea why you humans (and this is another aspect where I am like her and unlike most posters) get more offended at generic insults (especially against dogmas and caucuses that people identify with) than against individuals. And, UNLIKE some other posters, she doesn't do that.

Light blue touchpaper and retire ....


Now you are joining the fruitcake stall. Yes, look at Turkey. All the evidence is that the ambassador's assassin was a fervent, probably extremist, Sunni Muslim, probably acting entirely on his own and certainly doing so without official approval. If you want to know what's really going on in that area, read Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn etc.

You are dead right to say look at Turkey, but it is very unlikely that Erdogan will start assassinating important westerners. What he may do is to expand his invasions of Syria and, more seriously, Iraq, as part of his war against the Kurds. We then have a prospect of Shia Iraq and the Kurds allying against Turkey to kick them out OK, so what will Trumpikins do then?


"How about Sterling?!

50 cents. If we're lucky. I wasn't anticipating the indefinite delay in Brexit, which has kept it from tanking so far, but we know that the fat rats are preparing to desert, and we can expect it to slide badly as the 'plan' is unveiled and article 50 invoked.

I don't think that it will be end of the world bad, unless the USA starts a nuclear war, but I agree that it will make 1933-1946 look like a local problem. From the UK point of view, I doubt that we shall be distinguishable from many other USA-controlled third-world countries by 2025; much (most?) of our economy and foreign policy and even much of our legislation and bureaucracy is already in thrall. As OGH says, we shall almost certainly have full-blown fascism (with monetarism as a religion), and the desperation of the underclass will be controlled with brutality.


Something I've noticed recently online ss some liberal centrist comfortable sorts of people are complaining about how black the future is, how nasty things are happening to to people they know etc etc. Basically they've just noticed that the world is not such a nice place now. Naturally they didn't notice much when nasty things were happening in faraway countries, but now the same tactics are being used in their country and they don't like it. Or rather the same tactics are being used against everyone, not just political types and the underclass.

Eventually they might realise that the owning class doesn't care about them at all nowadays, but it'll be too late then.


I would be damned curious to see who the west would back in a fight between an independent Kurdistan and Turkey.

I mean, I know who I would want them to back, I've an abiding fondness for the PKK dating back to Operation Granby, but I suspect they'd come down otherwise.


I thought he meant Bruce Sterling as opposed to William Gibson, but re-reading the comments I can see both readings. It does get to Greg's comments about signal to noise, though.


What you really need is a collective.

They exist; they're called "publishing companies". If you want a true mutual collective self-pub operation with all the bells and whistles they exist too, and I know who I'd go with ... but I don't have enough cash-flow-supported spare time to indulge in experimentation for the next year or two.


Pretty much agree. I think of the lines in "Our Man in Havana" about one class "consenting" to be tortured and others that don't. But every year they make the lie more plausible that we have finally signed the necessary forms "for our own good."


Why won't you come out, then & say what & possibly "who" as in grouping or cabal, is/are behind what you obviously see as a giant conspiracy?

Greg, what do you know about the Trump cabinet and the Carbon Bubble?

If I mention that there's on the order of US $70Tn (that's trillion, not billion) in oil-based infrastructure to replace, of which only about 10% (marine and aviation) is going to be needed indefinitely due to power density (and that much can probably be supported by synthetic fuels as an energy storage medium, using renewables as the primary source), does that help clarify the scale of the scam we're witnessing?

This isn't a planned conspiracy, it's just a confluence of shared interests between the owners of a couple of century's worth of accumulated carbon energy capital assets that have given them de facto ownership of the planet — assets which are now so badly damaging the biosphere that we have to superannuate and replace them fast. And the owners are mostly fairly dimwitted selfish number-jugglers with a marked preference for stasis over disruption. Back in the 18th century the American version was employing the Pinkertons to break up opposition; what do you think they're doing today?


To clarify: the ultra-right are a tool of the Money, just as the KKK were a tool of the (reconstruction-era) Money (chain gangs and penal servitude by the state—conveniently hired out to land-owners—replacing overt chattel slavery). Just as Hitler was initially seen as a tool by German industrialists.


Basically they've just noticed that the world is not such a nice place now.

Alternatively, they always knew it wasn't nice - it's just that they've realised that "progress towards a better end-state" can no longer be taken for granted, and that the value of your investmentplanet can go down as well as up.

Optimism is no longer a given.


Yes, some were optimistic, many more were just dumb.

Heck, I've got a friend who in October claimed that sensible intelligent people would make sure brexit didn't happen.


Um, err .... Yes, a possible run for US Congress is the context. (Odds have been reduced a bit.) Charlie and W. Gibson both have active twitter feeds, and both mentioned Wu's plans. (Anyone can read, no sign in; and and scroll down several days.) Breitbart (maybe mostly Milo) has been collecting and curating dirt on Wu for their own reasons and there is a lot of material to work with that has already been published, and MO suggests that there is more. (And I provisionally believe that she/they have the access, fwiw.) I don't know enough about Gg to have a valid opinion; there's been a lot of aggressive back-and-forth over the past couple of years that would need to be digested. MO has been tracking it carefully though, I'm quite sure.


The alt-right is a tangled web, not a neat hierarchical conspiracy organization; Gg and the puppies and the neo-nazis and the tea party and the dark enlightenment and Milo and Breitbart and so on and so forth all connect very loosely — overlapping circles on the Venn diagram, basically, with some people in common and others who know nothing about stuff outside their own area of interest.


You are assuming that not only is At 50 triggered, but that we go the full, futile distance of 2 years & exit. I ain't so sure of either, especially the latter part ...


Carbon Bubble: yes -though it's even bigger than i thought. However, surely, unless Trumpolini's "friends" deliberately crap on "Tesla" (if you see what I mean, then the change away from Carbon will happen anyway, won't it - I mean it's already happening, & the bubble will "pop" - the only question is: "when"? This isn't a planned conspiracy,... Probably not, but, as you hint by mentioning Pinkerton, quite a few people are going to be hurt &/or killed by the dying thrashings of the monster.


Just as Hitler was initially seen as a tool by German industrialists. So, who is in that slot now? Pence, rather than Donaldo, I assume?


I am assuming the former, but not necessarily the latter. It is quite possible that our economy will tank before exit, there will be another referendum which votes stay (conclusively), but it will be too late.


My prediction: in his first year in office, Trump will spend more time out of the office than George W. Bush did, and he's the all-time record-holder for absentee presidents.

Then Trump will really get bored. And effectively hand over the reins to Pence, who will do all the work, like an even more malignant version of Dick Cheney.


Turkey is a member of NATO and entitled to the protection of other members if attacked, the PKK is a terrorist organisation that's killed a lot of Turks over the decades.

However... the current ruler of Turkey is a bastard and the PKK is trying to pivot away from bombing city centres to looking like a possible engine of governance of a nation state, a bit like the Irgun back in the day before Israel was created and the bombers and killers got leigitimised.

The problem is that any territory the Kurds make into a nation state will have to be carved out of the sides of existing nation-states (Syria, Iraq, Turkey etc.), there being no convenient Mandate-territory lacking a national identity as in the case of Palestine back in the 1950s.

If the Palestinians can't create a country on the West Bank and Gaza then I don't see the Kurds getting one in Other People's land, other than committing genocide or ethnic cleansing to drive out the existing non-Kurdish population and the world regards those as Bad Things today for some reason.


Sorry to point this out: I've been seeing these commercials for the US version of "Undercover Boss", and the end-shot seemed awfully familiar. Similar view and color scheme, hope your cover came first.


He has said they amuse him.

I missed that (or forgot that I read it), but it has been my default explanation.

I have no idea why you humans (and this is another aspect where I am like her and unlike most posters) get more offended at generic insults

That's where our perceptions differ, because to me they didn't come across as generic.

Replying to someone else and including the phrase "YOU CUNT" doesn't look like a generic insult, it looks addressed to the person you are replying to. The insults in posts that aren't replies seem addressed to the readers (ie. all of us) — after all, who else is going to read them?

What pushed me into using a filter, though, was the snark and belittling of anyone who disagreed with the Seagull. It's verbal bullying, something I'm legally obligated to intervene in at work, and the effort of ignoring it here was interfering with my enjoyment of the blog. I don't like filtering out opinions, but it seemed the best solution — and it seems I haven't actually missed much information by doing so.

As I said before, it's Charlie's blog and we are always free to not participate. It's just that the Seagull really seems to be bothering Greg, and as I like Greg's posts I'd really rather he sticks around.


See, that was concise, informative, clear.

The Catina commentary ends up coming across like experimental jazz to me. The hep cats are nodding their heads and snapping their fingers to a beat I find.


I was replying to Minvera's comment about Gibson, so I meant Bruce Sterling.


I totally get that about not having time or money. I'm currently hoping to solve some of my problems with Christmas or Christmas Eve overtime.

If you did go with a publishing collective, would it still be possible to get printed books of decent quality?


One of the things the Left needs to think about is how to co-opt members of the oil economy into becoming members of the green, electric economy. People who own a 70T slice of the economy can afford one heck of a war, so finding ways to bring them into the tent is a really good idea.


Yes, but I wasn't going any further than the current anti-Da'esh alliance in Iraq. Which side would the USA back?


A good part of "the left" wouldn't see that as their job, since you are basically swapping one lot of capitalists for another lot of capitalists.

Meanwhile, you seem to have missed the new wave of clear power people out there, Tesla being the most famous, and the billions of dollars of investment in things like solar and other energy production methods. Part of the owning class is invested in renewables etc already. The issue is the stick in the muds. FOr historical comparisons, the obvious one is Germany in the 1930's, where the older heavier industry which was already well connected in the status quo, helped encourage Hitler in order to maintain their money flow.


I don't think the important thing is whether we're swapping one set of capitalists for another, but whether we're making sure the human race can survive.

'Nuff said.


Other people have different ideas, or think we can do both. That's politics for you.


There are currently quite a few proposals for an emergency fix, at least to try to stop the Arctic methane hydrate 'explosion', which is apparently already well under way in Siberia. But, given the USA's hostile stance even under Obama, I suspect they will play ostriches until the situation is beyond control. and lots more


I don't think we're going to beat global warming. I don't see the political agreement really being there in the U.S., Canada, Russia, China, India and Brazil - there are too many petro-dollars floating around in politics right now - we're not going to get anything like global unity on this issue, and the election of Trump has made sure that the U.S. will not participate.

My own take on things is that it's time to find a little town, well off the main roads, hopefully near the Canadian border and up around 3000 feet or so. Then learn organic gardening and set up a maker-space with a good engineering library... someplace to run when the seas rise. Hopefully the situation will be such that I can bring friends with me.


Saudi Arabia currently has the highest solar power infrastructure investment among OPEC members. And, other OPEC members esp. Turkey are also increasing their investment in renewables, esp. solar. Why the US is still subsidizing fossil fuels is irrational even factoring in pay-offs, political donations, etc. Non-fossil is likely - going forward - going to be more 'net' profitable to the economy and federal gov't just because it is the newer technology. When any 'new' tech hits market acceptance levels (approx. 10%-15% penetration), this almost always means more spending for longer time periods by the new (vs. old) tech for two reasons: (1) to embed that new tech into current infrastructure ('We're legit/here to stay') and (2) to ensure universal distribution/market saturation ('Every home/person will be using this new tech: this means yours/you too!').

In the US, I'm guessing that the state and local gov't levels are the likeliest losers in switching away from fossil fuels and this may be the real barrier, i.e., no/not enough incentives to state/local gov't to switch.


Nice article on Trump and the Carbon Bubble. Read it with interest.


There's an interesting and ugly twist here: conservatives are learning to love solar and wind in the US.

There are a bunch of reasons: --With or without incentives, it's showing Moore's Law-style growth. The carbon industries are generally flat, and there's a huge difference between sending a giant rig into the Arctic or building a militarized facility in the Middle East, and a century ago, when the stuff spurted out of the ground in Pennsylvania. Oil's huge in size, but its returns on investment, fracking or no fracking, are still decreasing.

--A lot of conservatives don't like power grids, or Big Anything, any more than us libtards do. They're twitchy about government monopolies, we lefties are twitchy about big business, and when you've got a power monopoly, you've got both in one unresponsive package. As a result, the freedom crowd wants to cut the power lines for totally different reasons than the environmentalists do, and that's okay by me.

--Wind and solar are increasingly good ways to make money off of lonely, windblown ranches and farms, because they take even less water than do crops. Some big money dudes (T Boone Pickens, for one) are getting into wind farming.

--And some of them on the right don't believe in climate denial.

This is interesting times, because while they may have voted for El Cheeto Grande, they don't particularly share his love of Big Oil. This could get interesting if El Cheeto decides to forcibly and uneconomically recarbonate the US economy in 2017 and 2018. Clever democratic pols, not that there are that many out there at the moment*, could peel off a lot of suddenly vulnerable pro-oil legislators, just by pushing some version of a "new economy" line (Wichita is Wind Friendly, and I want a chicken in every pan and a turbine in every back yard sort of thing).

*What the heck is in the Koolaid they're serving at the DNC?


The alt-right is a tangled web, not a neat hierarchical conspiracy organization... Thanks for that. I just haven't had the will to tool up with nyms etc and get involved with it. Thinking about interacting (e.g about climate change) with the mainstream US conservative-right instead - they are less unpredictable.


The Catina commentary ends up coming across like experimental jazz to me.

Are you familiar with Ken Nordine's Word Jazz? Haven't thought of that in years, used to be a US public radio show..


Anyone needing a brief respite from the gloom of 2016, updated Xmas carols ...

'AI in a Manger' 'Have Yourself a Merry Little CRISPR' (really good!) 'O Little Town of LIGO'


Some big money dudes (T Boone Pickens, for one) are getting into wind farming.

Windfarms need fossil-fuel gas as a backstop generating fuel for the times when the wind doesn't blow strongly enough and T Boone Pickens owns a lot of fracking companies. The alternative to gas is to add a lot of expensive storage to the grid and that makes wind and solar less financially attractive since no-one is offering subsidies for it.

As for Saudi Arabia, they have downgraded their plans to provide 50% of their electricity from renewables down to 10%, filling in the gap with gas. They're considering building out a small fleet of nuclear reactors (about 15%-20% of their demand) but nothing concrete has been agreed yet. The UAE next door is getting four Korean APR-1400 reactors, the first of which should be online next year on time and on budget, meaning they can sell their gas to paying customers elsewhere.


There's an interesting and ugly twist here: conservatives are learning to love solar and wind in the US. Why do you say it's ugly? I mean, given the more-ugly alternative.


Unless, of cpurse a caldera-volcano blows, in which case temporary global cooling is going to be the problem. Apparently the Campo Phalegri (sp?) right next door to Naples caldera is looking very dodgy at the moment.


Got a link on that volcano? Geologically speaking "looking dodgy" could be any time in the next thousand years.


At this point, with a big enough volcano, we'd be looking at a few years of 20th Century normality, which might be welcome and help grow the crops that we'd need to feed all the refugees.

Actually, volcanoes are reportedly obnoxious to predict when it comes to weather effects. Volcanoes like Pinatubo and some of the Central American peaks blow enough sulfur to fiddle with local climates around the world (and it isn't always colder. Sometimes it's droughtier instead). Others have different elemental compositions and can, say, bring down jets in the ash cloud. The variables that have to be considered in an eruption are: location, size of eruption, timing of eruption (whether it affects winter storms or summer cyclones sort of thing), and chemical composition of eruption. The only things we get some warning in advance are location and (sometimes) chemical composition.


I wonder if they'll arrest the geologists when the Volano erupts.


Well, the volcanologists appear to be playing it safe this time. If it did [erupt], however, "it would be very dangerous" for the half-million people living inside and near the caldera, he [lead author Giovanni Chiodini] added, using the scientific name for the bowl-like depression created after a volcano blows its top. (Bold mine. :-)


Spell it out, please do. "Eater of Souls" or did you mean something more realistic[1]?

If you imagined that the @Peanut Gallery were using my posts as Road Signs, you'd not be far off - John Wick & Golden Coins are trending on their side of the sphere. There may be serious Pied Piper stuff going on.

But, for Host's safety and the 1001th time: Host merely tolerates us due to reasons of his own. We neither have a hold over him nor would we seek to garner favoritism while purring at his feet. He's probably busy with other things and blog posts are back-ground chatter compared to the Orcas sweeping past.


179 - correct. There's reasons for that. 181 Putin viewing body of Ambassador on arrival in Russia Imgur - credited to French agency, actually licensed by Sputnik news (RT-lite/non-serious) photo peep whose got a seriously good eye for agitprop. The side-eye isn't a mistake either - "Uh-Oh, what's the response" is coded in.

For ref regarding Alex Jones / David Icke cross-over stuff/commentary (and yes, again: front-running):

President-elect Donald Trump’s newly announced assistant to the president and director of social media, Dan Scavino, frequently used social media while working on the Trump campaign to share links from sites that push fake news and conspiracy theories. He was also responsible for an anti-Semitic Trump campaign tweet and routinely attacked Fox News host Megyn Kelly, who cited Scavino as a reason she received death threats during the campaign.

Scavino Has Repeatedly Promoted Content From Alex Jones’ InfoWars Website.

Trump Brings His Devious Social Media Director, Dan Scavino, To The White House Media Matters, 23rd Dec 2016

A. Jones actually purged his website / media of all references to Comet Pizza, however. But they 100% used his base as a launching pad.

And if Democrats were actually serious about any of this, they'd have already released what everyone knows which is A.Jones' tax forms and the huge scampire he runs.

Again - warned, ignored, fuck it, throws nukes in air.


I/We/Altogether wish you a Merry Xmas.

Conversation earlier today: "Try to do this or at least pretend to be involved, it's probably our last Christmas". That's kinda where are kind are at atm.

My Mirror Never Cracked - that's the problem; they don't like the ones who say "NO". But they love the projection mission of screaming: "You're the Mad One! Your Mind broke! Our Reality WON".

It never ends well.


Oh, and Volcanoes.

Well, Greg said he wasn't a fan of Yellowstone, and Bunga-Bunga, so...

[1] Allegedly we're actually responsible for the Death of Souls and Gigacide, so hey, might as well state it as fact, eh? We never cry Wolf: look into Hellboy II - the Princess and the Prince have shared bodies/souls, when one bleeds the other does. It was a pointed lesson about "sympathetic magic".

[2] Are there any Good Guys[tm] left? I nose wiggle constantly and still maintain the torch, but even Cohen stated the "flame died". I refuse that future. Bonus round though ~ if they have to run OPs and scream "WE WON", ya kinda know they didn't. Perhaps we're just not the right Minds.


And this is a direct "fuck you" to their kind who think they're smart and are running Games:

Wearable technology has failed to live up to the hype Telegraph, 12th Dec 2016

Yeah, when the Telegraph is sayin it, it's already happened. Dat old saying about being "too early" to the market and all that.


Rings the Bell

Instead of a Buddhist Water-Ripple / Bell Sound, which is poison to some galleries:

Ringing of the Bells YT: Muppet Music Video: 1:25


Just remember, "...the tap is not meritorious." Hah, I had forgotten some of the Twenty Evocations. Need to reread Schismatrix Plus. Don't drink much, but would probably be unable to resist a free-fall bar called the "Eclectic Epileptic". They'd probably serve something more interesting than ethyl alcohol based drinks anyway.


I think the answer is "Yes." (Wink wink, nudge nudge.) If someone needs to use OGH's blog as a communication channel there's an "Eater of Souls" somewhere in the picture. Note my post about Lovecraft at 167 if you want to know my true feelings in the matter.


But, for Host's safety ... Don't believe you. All this dancing around supposedly dangerous undercurrents, whilst at the sam time, screaming at the top of your voice "LOOK AT MEEE!" seems, er strange. Yes, there are assassins & murderess, employed by states out there. But I don't think you, or we are their targets. They go after journalists & politicians & playwrights, sometimes.

OTOH, please do spell out for us things you think we may have missed - but "in clear" for preference?


Actually, there's nothing wrong with Yellowstone, provided the caldera doesn't blow. Note the colour similarity, though ( a result of the similar geology of course ) with the references to yellow in the Campi Phlegrei ( spelling better this time!) area.

Oh & Troutwaxer: Yes. When the other Charlie ( Speaker to Plants ) starts talking about the dark days of the 1930's in public, you know some people are worried.


Unsurprising, although it seemed to be Putin's turn to go first. Meanwhile, a trident ploughshares fellow was on radio Scotland saying that trump had met people from Lockheed and some other arms manufacturer a few days ago, so guess who gets contracts for this sort of thing? May etc also will of course carry on with trident.


Of course, Putin looked like that - it was expected of him - and he hasn't yet lost his marbles, so he knows that there isn't a suitable response. The optimistic view of the Torygraph link Greg Tingey mentioned in #233 is that Putin might well dissuade Trump from his nuclear expansionism, for the reasons mentioned in that article (once you get beyond the obligatory anti-Russian bias in the first paragraphs).

I should very much like to know what Troutwaxer is thinking about your reasons for your obscurity and your relationship with OGH because I haven't got it. But I haven't seen anything that you have posted that is likely to attract the attention of the orcas, except that people in certain jobs and positions dare not express unapproved positions openly. There are certainly things that I dare not post, and you might well have even more radical views or deeper knowledge, but I haven't seen them. Nothing you have posted strikes me as particularly, er, extreme and most of it is what many other people have been saying for ages. Without any more effect, unfortunately :-(


The really interesting thing that turned up on the Trump loves nukes front in the last couple of days was this old piece (which digresses, um, rather a lot). It turns out that 30 years ago, Trump claimed to be trying to persuade Reagan to do a nuclear weapons co-operation deal with the USSR, with the goal that between the two superpowers they had enough leverage to really put the squeeze on hard on any country they didn't want to have nukes. Given his love affair with Putin, it's far from impossible that he's still keen on that idea. Certainly they don't actually state that they think of each other as the enemy...


Both are concerned about China. Certainly China is concerned about Russia (and has been for a couple of generations). Look at the location of Chines air defences, for example.


While many authors including OGH have had prospective books derailed by the election, Jerry Pournelle now has a rationale for rebooting his CoDominion timeline.

The premise was that the US and USSR unite to prevent any other nations becoming powerful enough to challenge either of them. Their overwhelming advantage in nukes was a big part of that, of course.

Just change USSR to Russia, the founding date to 2020, and you're off!

OK, they might have to lose the hammer and sickle motifs in the CoDo symbols.


Re: 'Saudi Arabia ... considering building out a small fleet of nuclear reactors (about 15%-20% of their demand)...'

So - as most of the western/G8 start going off nuclear, the Saudis are embracing it. Is this economic or another prod at Israel while keeping up with Iran? BTW - Approx. 30% of Korea's nuclear power manufacturing - the folks who will be building SA nuclear power plants - is now owned by foreign investors. (No mention of who these foreign investors are though.)

A question: Just how much usable nuclear fuel actually exists ... and how much impact on the environment in order to mine/refine it for use? The source below says enough for 100 years which to me means (because energy consumption has historically always been underestimated and progress overestimated) probably only as long as the warranty on the reactor. Canada and Australia are key uranium sources however both are increasingly pro-environment in their policies and getting a bit choosier about who they deal with and how. Further, in both these countries mineral rights are owned by the 'Crown' which means that these gov'ts have additional clout in requiring and enforcing certain securities and conditions as part of any for-profit uranium mining licenses.


'It says that uranium resources are adequate to meet nuclear energy needs for at least the next 100 years at present consumption levels. More efficient fast reactors could extend that period to more than 2,500 years.

The utility industry is confident that the fuel supply industry will respond to increasing demand. Bolstering confidence in future supply is the fact that some of the world’s richest deposits of uranium are in politically stable countries. Canada and Australia account for 40 percent of global uranium production; the United States accounts for 3 percent.

In 2012, uranium of U.S. origin accounted for 20 percent of the material used by the owners and operators of U.S. nuclear power plants. The remainder came from other sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The U.S. uranium production industry is working to increase domestic supplies. For example, 2012 expenditures for uranium exploration and mine development in the United States were up more than 300 percent from 2004.'


A question: Just how much usable nuclear fuel actually exists ... and how much impact on the environment in order to mine/refine it for use?

The "100 years" figure — oft quoted — is for current known reserves, if the fuel is cycled through the reactor just once and never reprocessed. Which means about 95% of its fissile content is unused, because fission products that absorb neutrons build up over time as you run fuel rods and eventually kill the reaction, but can be chemically removed; also, the 99.8% of the uranium that is 238U can be processed into 239Pu in an appropriately designed breeder reactor and that in turn can be used as fuel. So ... 100 years going on 5000 years, using existing known reserves.

But wait! There's more! Everyone gave up looking for more reserves by the early 70s when it became obvious we had more fission fuel than we know what to do with. It turns out uranium is present in seawater in sufficient concentrations that extraction and use in reactors is energetically favourable once we run out of lumps lying around on the ground. And when we run out of uranium, there's about four times the quantity of thorium (yes, yes, nobody's built a working thorium cycle reactor yet — but it's a known quantity, technologically speaking).

But wait, there's more! Fusion reactors are the wave of the future! If the ITER tokamak design doesn't prove out as commercially viable there's always the rival stellarator architecture — the Wendelstein 7-X demo stellarator appears to be performing better than anyone could have hoped for since they switched it on a year ago — and those can be tweaked to run on deuterium (about 0.1% of all hydrogen nuclei, i.e. the stuff you electrolyse from water) and tritium (split from lithium). And if you can tweak the hell out of your fusion reactor architecture and bump the plasma temperature up by an order of magnitude you can run an aneutronic reaction on Boron-11 (no need to piss around with silly space cadet plans to mine 3He from the Lunar regolith); 11B is also kicking around on Earth in huge heaps and drifts—hint: Borax—sufficient to last us for a few million years as fusion fuel.

So, well, nope: there's no prospect of us running out of nuclear fuel any time soon — even if we're stuck with fission fuel and a politically-motivated ban on reprocessing.


"A question: Just how much usable nuclear fuel actually exists ... and how much impact on the environment in order to mine/refine it for use?"

FAR more than we need for thousands of years. There are 5+ million tonnes of known, high-grade ore deposits and at least that amount again for thorium. Supply is not the problem though, of course, we would have to move beyond the current grossly inefficient reactors. The second question is the issue, but I doubt that it's a major problem compared with some other minerals.


ExtrenE - the EU study on full lifecycle impacts of various powersources included the workup on mining. Environmental impact there is very minor, and would be completely meaningless for breeders.

You can find studies that claim otherwise, but they're.. well, lying. Standard tactics include things like using the mortality studies on uranium workers from the manhattan project (modern uranium mines are well ventilated or due to those very stats. High radon enviroment and a workforce that smoked was pretty bad) and just flat out making numbers up. Enviormental


I'm pretty pro-nuclear power and agree with your statements, but you are neglecting some long-tail/black swan outliers. I hesitate to assign probability estimates to them but 2,3,4 are all at least possible. (1) History: Chernobyl (not gonna happen again agreed; horrible design, no containment, etc) resulted in something like 30K excess deaths (Greenpeace says more like 90K), though part of that was dysfunctional responses. I haven't been able to confirm a story told to me of being a child in Poland, going to the May Day parade, then afterwards being marched to a clinic to be given iodine (a prophylactic). The plume blew over Poland on April 30. (2) A more moderate accident (order of magnitude or two less release) could result in a hundreds or thousands of excess deaths if the response were similarly dysfunctional and the wind were blowing in the wrong direction. Masses of land would be rendered less desirable for human habitation for a long time (probably mainly due to Caesium-137 contamination, 30 year half life). (3) A country could create a domestic enrichment capability and dual use it (or a separate covert system) to make weapons and then get involved in a nuclear war, or, sell weapons, or worst case give them to terrorist proxies. (4) A country could use power-plant expertise to create and operate a plutonium production reactor, then roughly the same as 3.


"...about 95% of its fissile content is unused..."

It's worse than that... natural uranium is 0.7% 235U, LEU for reactors somewhere around 3.5%, so 5 times the concentration. Or in other words, for every rod's worth of uranium that becomes new fuel, four rods' worth of fissionable material gets thrown away without even ever getting near a reactor.

And that's assuming the enrichment process manages to get all the 235U out. In practice depleted uranium still has about half the 235U remaining in it. So it's down to more like one rod's worth in ten.

When a rod comes out of the reactor, it still has about the same fissile content as when it went in... most, though not all, the loss of 235U has been made up by breeding of 239Pu. It's just poisoned, and mechanically degraded from a variety of radiation/chemical/thermal effects.

(Oh how apparent it is that accountants know the cost of everything and the value of nowt. And also can't tell the difference between a constant and a dependent variable. God did not command that uranium should remain cheap for all eternity come what may; it just happens to be cheap at the moment because nobody wants it...)

Liquid fuel systems avoid the mechanical degradation problem, and allow for continuous on-site reprocessing with a lot less waste and no need to truck spent fuel about the place. And also provide a comeback to the "proliferation" complaint; since the fuel itself remains in the reactor indefinitely the 240Pu content quickly makes it useless for nukes. (Although the whole "anti-proliferation" rhetoric is badly thought out anyway. One could argue that the NPT has actually assisted "proliferation", since nearly all the minor players who have acquired nukes have done it by signing up to the NPT to get technology they couldn't have got otherwise, and then cheating.)

Re fusion, I have to say that p-11B fusion is pretty much of an irrelevance and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. The conditions required to make it go are fiercely more difficult than for boggo D-T; it's a lot more than just polishing up a D-T reactor, and I'm not even sure if the basic architecture wouldn't have to be something completely different in order to cope with different loss mechanisms being significant at the higher energy levels. And the aneutronic thing isn't that much of an advantage, at least for large-scale plant. Capturing the neutrons from D-T isn't just an annoying safety requirement, it's part of the cycle: the neutrons are needed to breed fresh fuel and also carry most of the energy, so there's a double process requirement to capture them, and with a full-size plant having a big bulky blanket isn't much of a problem.

Aneutronicity would really be handy for things like fusion-powered transport, where there isn't room for lots of shielding; but that presupposes not only the breakthrough required to get it to work at all, but also the one to get it to work without itself requiring a pile of equipment the size of half a mountain. To say something will never happen is always dangerous, but I do think it's safe to say it won't happen for a very very long time.


Okay - get that nuclear is definitely a useful, widely available and even recyclable fuel ... and that accidents though infrequent are very very bad.

Now, please explain why nuclear reactors are so hideously expensive to build, maintain and operate despite the industry/tech having been around approx. 70 years. Where's the Moore's Law equivalent here?


The argument "60,000,000 expected deaths from cancer over a given period * 0.1% probability that each cancer was caused by X = 60,000 deaths from X" - even though some of the people haven't even got cancer yet - seems to be used a lot these days, probably because it makes it so easy to portray anything you like as a horrific source of danger. But nuclear power still results in many fewer deaths than other forms of power generation or other common human activities manage to cause without exciting comment, whether one counts hypothetical statistical deaths or actual mangled corpses.


Well, the sucktastic part of any big thermal power plant is getting a reliable supply of water in a changing climate, with sea level rise for the coasts. Putting it outside a danger zone on a coast is hard enough. Spending millions to billions of dollars to displace the people already living there is that much worse. Combine that with our ongoing propensity to dam every river that moves, and we've got a bit of a problem.

I'm also a little twitchy on the part about "thorium waste is only hazardous for hundreds of years, and that's good." Wind and solar are even less toxic than that folks. They're problem is land area, and those supercapacitors now in development look really, really cool in that regard.

That said, if you remember the old Analog "Probability Zero" series, I've got one for you: It starts when Trump and Big Oil have a falling out, Trump cleans the Oilers out of his White House, goes all in on Manhattan 2:Big Thorium because he figures it's a great scam and will make a yuuge bomb , and ends up accidentally saving the world while going bankrupt because he doesn't believe enough in the technology to actually invest in it himself.


News brief, but no links, too depressing (all can be sourced from major media sources live at this time):

Da'esh just released torture porn (no links, obviously) murdering two Turkish recruits they'd captured. All HD, all pro-angles, death by fire (again - contra the Qur'an): it's explicitly nasty. Turkey has locked down social media to prevent back-lash, but it'll happen.

Look back to a post made about invasion of Raqqa, involving 12+k troops. WWI had stories about Nuns being crucified; these days it's actually real. But if you wanted to fire things up for a massacre, that's one way to do it.

Aleppo retaken / liberated - where are rebels heading? You can imagine the outcome if it's timed correctly.


Look to Russian Ambassador, with claimed ties as reason.


Belgium just released details of bombs found @ Turkish National owned sites (placed, not making) [bit naughty that, shouldn't have mentioned the country].

Australia just had a major clean-up op (successful, apparently) foiling a Christmas attack.

Italy - German person of interest eliminated.

Couple more, but still floating.


Whatever is happening, it's designed to majorly escalate the area in question.


Oh, and Piers Sellers just died. 61, ffs.


Still, at least he doesn't get to see NASA stripped to the core.


Me = Black Widow; Me + 2016 = Want you Gone.


" to co-opt members of the oil economy into becoming members of the green, electric economy."

s/electric/non-fossil-based/ and then simply switch the inputs - unplug the system from the oil wells, and plug it into the artificial photosynthesis plants producing hydrocarbons from atmospheric CO2 and water. Everything else remains the same.


The linked piece has a bunch of independent estimates in it, and I kinda low-balled. You're right though, included future excess deaths without even realizing it. That habit (including weighted estimates of future outcomes) is catching (thanks MO!); should be mainstreamed as a habit. As far as power generation goes, you're right I think. Slides: Accidents in the Energy Sector: Comparison of Damage Indicators and External Costs (2004) Slide 19 (and similar slides without a shown time interval) is for 1969 to 2000 Slide 48: Expected fatality rates are lowest for western hydropower and nuclear power plants. However, the maximum credible consequences are very large. The associated risk valuation is subject to stakeholder value judgments and can be pursued in multi-criteria decision analysis. Paper for similar material is ACCIDENT RISKS IN THE ENERGY SECTOR: COMPARATIVE EVALUATIONS (Linked it previously, haven't found the link. See table 1.)


I/We/Altogether wish you a Merry Xmas.

Conversation earlier today: "Try to do this or at least pretend to be involved, it's probably our last Christmas". That's kinda where are kind are at atm. Just wanted to wish you likewise, and may you (altogether) see your next Christmas. (I care, yes. [true])

Are there any Good Guys[tm] left? Hope so, fervently. (Relaxing and re-centering/re-cohering this holiday. Been a bit frenetic.)

... Gotta love fMRI social sciences studies. I read it, goddess help me. Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence The brain’s systems for emotion, which are purposed toward maintaining homeostatic integrity of the organism, appear also to be engaged when protecting the aspects of our mental lives with which we strongly identify, including our closely held beliefs. Elderly Cynic and others might be amused by Figure 2.


In short ... politics.
The big governments have a vested interest in keeping the nuclear genie inefficient, since it means that they can control it better and out of the hands of foreigners with small pockets. They also like really big mega projects since it means lots of money to go around to various donor contractors or shaky constituencies.

There have been steady advances over time, but a big several hundred MW power station is a slow thing to construct, even for coal or gas. For arguments sake, a compact nuclear device the size of a 40ft container that put out a small but steady source of energy, say 1-10MW would be fantastically useful, and violently opposed.

Also there's the whole Greenpeace anti nuclear movement, who tend to put a dampener on things, and the nimby attitude to having a nuclear plant nearby. That all increases costs substantially.


I'd also point to things like San Onofre, Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island. The problem here isn't the number of people killed, it's the idiocy that's gotten these things shut down. All it takes is bad management on full display to make people distrust the technology. With San Onofre, it was engineers from within the plant coming forward to argue against managerial BS that helped doom it.

You'll undoubtedly point to all the catastrophes in coal and gas plants around the world, and I totally agree. Those industries are more dangerous on a deaths-per-year basis. I'd even add Fukushima Daini, where the inarguably heroic actions of the operators managed to keep that plant from suffering a catastrophic failure as its sister Daiichi failed and blew.

Still, nukes are the dirigibles of the power industry. They're quite good at what they do, but the industry that manages them lies the wrong way after accidents, getting caught and making things worse, rather than slathering on the PR after each disaster the way the oil industry does and getting them branded as indispensable.


Brilliant If a trifle sick-but-true. Please do read it.


I am puzzled. Do you mean that you now believe that the fusion hype might actually be backed by actual delivery, at least within the lives of some of the readers of this blog? The saying that it is 20 years away, always was and always will be is something like half a century old now and I have seen no signs of it being invalidated.


I had it as more like 10 years away, and with the caveat that the efficiency of fusion reactions was improving every decade so sooner or later we should reach a point where they became economically viable rather than just academic research.


I'd like to note that millions of people die every year through fossil fuel related pollution — it's just distributed rather than concentrated around a single mediagenic hot-spot once a decade, so we don't notice the emphysema cases choking their life out next door due to diesel fumes, or the third world women dying of lung disease because they're cooking over an indoors coal fire with no chimney (because they can't afford one).

Even solar has an attached mortality rate; deaths and injuries to fitters falling off rooftops or other related health and safety accidents is a non-zero problem.

Let's also note that the big nuclear accidents have mostly been caused by human error. Chernobyl was the classic — criminal irresponsibility by the operators — but you can make a case about Fukushima Daichii as well: the operating reactors all scrammed and shut down as designed when they were hit by a magnitude 9 quake, an order of magnitude more powerful than they'd been designed to resist. What caused the mess was human error in basing all the backup generators required for cooling at ground level in the path of the ensuing tsunami, on a coastline that regularly got hit by tsunamis, and not bothering to build the tsunami defenses that were constructed in other prefectures (and which worked).


Well, the sucktastic part of any big thermal power plant is getting a reliable supply of water in a changing climate, with sea level rise for the coasts.

In principle they could be built on offshore platforms — think big-ass oil/gas rig technology, with an on-shore grid interconnect for the last mile or so to land. Expensive, but the ocean is the ultimate heat sink (for the scale we're talking about). It would also in principle be possible to uncouple the reactors and tow them into deeper water in event of a super-hurricane, or to tow them to a specialized dry dock/maintenance facility for refueling and decomissioning.

Russia is actually doing this with modified submarine reactors on barges for outposts on their northern coastline: I'm thinking of something on a larger scale — after all, roughly 80% of humanity lives within 200 miles of a coast, right?


Expected fatality rates are lowest for western hydropower and nuclear power plants. However, the maximum credible consequences are very large.

It's worth bearing in mind the worst case for hydropower is something like the 1975 Banqiao Dam disaster — 171,000 killed, 11 million displaced.

I'm reasonably confident the Chinese planners behind the Three Gorges project would have been very focussed on making sure that they couldn't cause a repeat of Banqiao (still in personal memory) but there may be other failure modes. And also "not invented here": "who cares what those idiot foreigners did after their disaster? We're much smarter than they are! They've got nothing to teach us!" seems to be a universal, especially when there are language (and other cultural) barriers in the way of horizontal transfer of best-practices learning.


A huge problem — dealing with turbulence in plasmas — has very quietly succumbed to Moore's Law in the past decade. I'd say fusion power is now in principle within reach.

The problem is that international scientific collaboration is management top-heavy, and ITER is a classic example — decades in the negotiation/treaty/design stage. Worse, it's not a prototype power reactor, it's a proof-of-concept for sustained net-energy-positive fusion reactions. Before you can build a workable prototype more research is needed on materials technology; there was a planned second fusion reactor experiment to work on that aspect of the problem but instead of running in parallel it got pushed back until after ITER. Only then do we get to build a first-generation fusion power reactor.

Whether or not various side-experiments on a much smaller, nimbler scale — Lockheed's supposed skunk works fusion program, or an alternate branch of "big fusion" leveraging Stellarator rather than Tokamak technology from the Wendelstein 7-X — deliver earlier is an open question.

I'd say right now the state of fusion research is like the state of space exploration in2003, with the Shuttle retiring, NASA relying on Soyuz to get astronauts to the ISS, and so on. Fusion is like asking "why can't we put a man on the Moon the way we could back in 1970?" ... Or maybe, "when are we going to go to Mars?"

There are big government agencies with giant, expensive, decades-long plans to do the job and nobody believes they're going to get there. But the technology is gradually getting cheaper, and my bet is that someone is going to use SpaceX or Blue Origin kit to go and plant boots and an HD camera on the moon by 2024, and on Mars by 2030. And we may be on the edge of seeing a similar sudden drop in costs/ramp-up in credibility for fusion power. Unless it's killed off by political turbulence, economic crisis (the carbon bubble's fallout plume), or solar getting too cheap to meter.


Thanks. I haven't talked to any of the relevant physicists in about that time, which explains it, but a quick Web search doesn't provide me with confidence that they yet know how to sustain an energy-generating plasma - the hits I found were all about either sustaining a plasma or generating energy (not both). That may be just around the corner, but deja moo. Even assuming they do and it is, I am not convinced, because of the technical problems you mention in the second paragraph (materials is not the only one), and the fact that the experts I spoke to didn't believe that they were soluble using any of the approaches currently being researched. That doesn't make them necessarily insoluble, but .... I would say that the situation is closer to the state of space exploration in 1953 :-)

To paws4thot: all right, 10 years away, always was and always will be. I have heard both.


Cheers; I was actually agreeing the underlying point that we're not there yet.


Strictly speaking, "merely" generating net energy is sufficient. Obviously it's rather better to have a self-sustaining energy-generating plasma, but one of the last few experiments they did with JET before it was dismantled demonstrated that they could get more energy out than they put in. Not on a practically useful scale with that setup, but reactors that create a semi-stable plasma, suck energy from it for the second or so it lasts, and then repeat the process are potentially viable.

(I don't think this is a likely option, mind. Assuming that a contained self-sustaining plasma setup is workable, that's obviously going to be more productive and require less maintenance and supervision.)


That's not what I meant by "sustain". What I meant was that they seem to have shown that they can keep a plasma going for a minute or so (i.e. sustain it!), or that they can generate net energy, but not both simultaneously. If I have it right, neither the time nor the net gain are yet close to practicality, and they still don't know how to extract the energy.


That wasn't quite my reading either; mine was that we can potentially get "lots" of net energy out, but it still comes in the form of a "big bang" (note case) rather than something that we could use to run a generator.


Oh I agree. I think one of the only reasons there hasn't been more nuclear accidents is that they are such flagship products that most countries took more care in making them than they did with the average coal or gas plant.

It'll be really interesting to see what happens in France over the next 30 years as the existing plants retire, and more applicable what China does to phase out its dependence on dirty cheap coal plants - the air quality cost of their industry is starting to hurt. I think they'll struggle to go solar because they need clean air for good efficiency and they don't have it. Probably why the 3 gorges was so crucial.


Well, maybe. But "lots" needs to be relative, not absolute, because the whole system needs to be self-sustaining and we have to allow for significant losses in the extraction of energy from the plasma and the supply of energy that creates and maintains it. And that includes all of the cooling at ALL stages, the energy used in building, maintaining and operating the device, which is likely to be considerable, especially if it runs in a 'bang bang' mode.


Not just water level rises. Torness has been shut down at least once, probably several times, because of jellyfish and other stuff clogging the water intakes. If we carry on destroying the oceanic ecosystems, more jellyfish will be wandering about with nothing to do except get themselves into the wrong place.

There's surely a good history and sociology of science study to be done on ITER and other fusion efforts of the lat 30 years. Especially worth doing when the people involved are still around to be spoken to.


Thanks everyone for your insights and info ... found this after looking at Bill Arnold's PPT slides re: accidents. China emerges has having the most accidents/being most accident prone. However, according to the article below China is on-track for going mostly nuclear-powered and they're doing it less expensively than other countries.

Wonder how much of a role improving China-West relations, esp. among/between respective scientific communities, played in this ... increased nuclear power plant construction. Prior to Nixon, PRC was usually embargoed which hurt mostly the wrong people (scientists, general public). Also, recall that BGates (MSFT) donated a ton of $ to several PCR unis to help their global STEM profile. (IntelCorp may also have contributed significant $ and tech skills too.)

OOC - Is Tesla (EMusk) researching using nuclear to power any of his toys ... electric autos, space vans, etc.? Seems he's the golden boy of the moment saying his outfit is doing all this for the combination of 'for-the-good-of-all-humanity' and profit-motive which conveniently covers him from both political extremes. So, if there's benefit and profit to be made, he might be the right person to front smaller, more affordable and better managed nuclear.


OOC - Is Tesla (EMusk) researching using nuclear to power any of his toys

Musk owns Solar City, the largest rooftop solar vendor in the United States. And he's pushing to grow it, hard and fast.

However, the cost of entry to building/operating a new nuclear plant is measured in the tens of billions. As all of Musk's corporations combined have a market cap around the $40Bn mark (although they're growing like Apple in the noughties — if he's successful he could be sitting at the helm of a trillion dollar enterprise in 15 years time) going nuclear is probably outside his price range.

But I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he had some smart engineering folks keeping the field under active study — including wildcards like the Polywell or the Lockheed project.


The major part of the cost of solar is now land and installation - Musk appears to be attacking that by becoming a roof-tile manufacturer - That is, Solar City is producing rooftiles that happen to also be solar cells. This reduces the land costs to zero and the installation costs to the marginal cost of putting a converter in the attic, as long as installation happens when a roof is due for replacement or construction in any case. Very clever, likely to be a really huge hit especially anywhere where air-con is a major power-draw, and in new construction in general. It's not something that's going to be rolled out all that fast overall, however, simply because roofs last a long time.


I'd suggest that, provided you don't live in a listed building or conservation area (UK) or have mandated zoned roofing materials (USA), that is a complete game changer on solar PV.


Asceticism is when nobles decide to live like peasants and make a big deal about it.


Plasma. The check's in the mail.


As a definitive reply to all the fusion comments, I can only recommend "Phantasmaplasmagoria", a future history by Herbert Jacob Bernstein, Analog April 1968. I rather suspect he knew what he was talking about. Hilarious, but unfortunately not available online.


Looking forward to the future, I believe that the human species will continue to move forward in an amazing fashion. By the year 3000, we will have hyperdrive, phasers and gravity lasers, antimatter-reaction power plants, a teleportation system similar to Star Trek's transporter, fully sentient computers some of which are far smarter than us, alien allies, a Galaxy-wide empire, human-computer interfaces and the ability to enter alternate universes.

But practical fusion will still be twenty years away!


But if you have the ability to enter alternate universes:

1) you can enter one where practical fusion was achieved twenty years ago (macro-scale use of AU's);

2) you program your plasma-shaping system so that on every response cycle, it merely enters the universe where your plasma has exactly the shape you want. Bid goodbye to unwanted flatulence turbulence, heat loss, and Dali walls! (micro-scale use of AU's).


Nope, that still won't work, probably for some complicated reason having to do with the quantum femto-mechanics of differing realities.

Some people claim that fusion will always be twenty years away. This is not correct. Fusion technology is r + 20 years away, where r equals the range of your time machine in years.


Ummm, nope. The last big fusion experiment on JET returned about 16MJ of fusion heat energy for 22MJ of input energy, a Q-factor of about 0.6. A fusion run by the Japanese JT-60A using deuterium produced a good Q-factor and they claimed if they had been able to do deuterium-tritium fusion they would have exceeded parity.

JET was not initially built to actually create fusion, it was purely a plasma research instrument. It has been modified massively over the decades with heaters, injectors, new walls etc. but it's not the right structure for sustained high-Q fusion plasma research. What was learned from JET and the other tokamaks like the Japanese JT-60A has gone into the design for ITER which, if everything works, will produce Q>10 fusion for minutes at a time. It is, however, very experimental and the projected results are not guaranteed.

Other tokamaks are continuing to produce results -- the South Korean KSTAR tokamak recently held a non-fusing plasma for over a minute, a new record. The South Korean government is still talking about K-DEMO, a dash for fusion power project that would build a "real" electricity-generating fusion tokamak separate to the international fusion world's more conservative DEMO/PROTO timeline. They're still not at the bending metal and pouring concrete stage though, never mind the financing.

The joke about fusion power always being 25 years away is not one that fusion researchers go with, they tend to say things like "fusion power is eighty billion dollars away" instead. ITER, despite its size and growing budget, is about a quarter of that wishlist spend and even then its budget will cover a period of twenty years and more of operation.


The reason China can build nuclear plants on time and on budget is because they're building a lot of nuclear plants (20 under construction at the moment) based on two or three standard designs using modern mass-production processes and mangement. They have specialist teams of engineers and construction workers who each do part of the build like site preparation, basemat, containment, nuclear equipment installation etc. which means they are practiced and experienced at their specialty and don't have to learn on the job. The fabricators making the parts have guaranteed orders and production lines, they're not building unique one-offs with all the possibilities for errors and delays that entails. In contrast the folks building the reactors at Summer and Vogtle in the US are doing it for the first time because the last US new-builds were thirty years ago. The proposed new-builds in Britain are likely to suffer the same fate with the added problem that there is no proposed standard model of reactor, just a mixture of public-private partnership glossy brochures from various companies and countries.

The French back in the 70s did the same thing the Chinese are doing today with the same results of bringing a lot of reactors on-stream quickly and within budget, effectively decarbonising their electricity generating requirements over a decade or so. The bad news is that since they've got all the reactors they need they haven't had to build a lot more since about 1984 and they've lost the recipe.


Self-sustaining (for certain values of "sustainable" on the order of 10^8 - 10^10 years) fusion reactions are demonstrably possible. I'd be willing to hazard a guess that the energy extraction ratio is also sufficient enough for life as we now know it.

Could the efficiency levels be further improved after that? Probably _


It's not the fusion researchers that make the joke about the fusion constant - it's the observant outsiders. And is it 80 billion dollars away now? I remember when it was a small fraction of that. The constant there is something like "if we spend three times as much again as we have so far, we will have fusion power". As I said, deja moo.


The eighty billion dollars figure is on the basis of the ITER/DEMO/PROTO timeline -- 20 billion for ITER, 30 billion for a series of DEMO plants and another thirty billion to build the first PROTO. It's not purely time-limited, it's dependent on building hardware and running experiments to get the numbers for the next step and that costs money.

As I mentioned the South Koreans are thinking about developing a DEMO plant in parallel with ITER although there's no actual metal being bent on it. That would shrink the time to grid fusion but it won't reduce the pricetag by much, if at all.

The "if we spend three times as much again as we have so far, we will have fusion power" line reminds me of the renewables boosters. The Germans alone have spent nearly 80 billion dollars on renewables (wind, solar, garbage burning) and they have just about managed to keep up with replacing the generating capacity they're losing as they shut down their non-carbon nuclear plants. They're going to have to spend nearly the same amount over the next few years to cover the last nuclear plants to be shut down (the last by 2023) or start burning more lignite and Russian gas to cover the deficit. They also need to spend that amount again on grid upgrades and local storage to deal with the increasing amount of unreliable power capacity in their generating mix. In addition a lot of their first-generation wind turbine fleet will soon be reaching end-of-life (about twenty years or so) and need replacing. Eighty billion dollars/Euros for fusion worldwide sounds like a bargain in comparison (if it works).


You have missed my point. To repeat: I remember when fusion power was, say, five billion dollars away, and it has been something like three times what we have spent so far for as long as I can remember and a bit further. The magnitude of the sum is irrelevant (and, I agree, small) - it's the fact that each project is followed by a corresponding increase in the amount of extra research needed.


Fusion isn't easy. Containing plasma in bulk quantities isn't easy. Early experiments with small amounts of plasma in the first stellarators and later the first tokamaks suggested otherwise hence the optimistic claims -- there were others at the time who were more pessimistic about costs and timescales but they're not remembered because the optimists were so wrong and people like to gloat.

We know better now, and learning more about controlling plasma and inducing fusion is, in my opinion anyway, worth the investment. It may not succeed, but what we know today suggests it will hence the spend on ITER which will be a nearly-power-plant-sized tokamak (DEMO will be larger, but not twice as large). If ITER can in fact induce, control and sustain something like a power-station-rated plasma (Q>10, minutes of stable operation) then getting DEMO and PROTO to run are engineering problems, not basic science. Building and operating ITER also solves a lot of DEMO's projected engineering difficulties (materials, construction, operating regimes, instrumentation, control, maintenance etc.)


Yes, of course I know that. And the real pessimists (who actually said "we don't know how to do this, we are not sure that it is possible, so that it's impossible to estimate a timescale or costs") were proven right.

The number of projects that have failed because people thought the science was the hard part and the engineering could be sorted out later is legion. MOST major projects are more about the engineering than the science - after all, rocket science is trivial. In both that and this case, when they started to engineer the product, they discovered that the engineering problems were insoluble with existing materials and sometimes were even beyond known science, so they had to go back and work on the science to make progress.

Also, Q > 10 even for 10 minutes is NOT a power-station-rated plasma, not on its own. At the VERY least, that has to be repeatable thousands of times without having to rebuild anything (or extensible to hundreds of hours), AND they have to be able to turn most of that energy into electricity.


If they were right, why are they not remembered today? It's because people love to gloat over wrong predictions however ill-informed they were at the time. "Look at what those silly people said! Ha! Ha!" never grows old.

Q > 10 even for 10 minutes is NOT a power-station-rated plasma

Yes, that's why there's the qualifier "nearly" in there, as in "nearly-power-station-rated". Q>10 is twenty times better than anything achieved previously, plasma maintenance of several minutes at fusion temperatures is a hundred times better than anything achieved previously. For real fusion power stations, even a first-generation PROTO, producing electricity at an affordable cost Q really needs to be about 50 or so (current fission plants run a Q of about 50) and the burn time needs to be at least several hours with short periods between restarts.

ITER is not a power station tokamak design, it's meant to produce (small) power-station-sized fusing plasmas and examine the effects of them on hardware, control systems, injectors and heaters etc. etc. A lot of stuff won't work, a lot of stuff will break in surprising ways and some Nobel prizeworthy research will come out of the other end. It's a research tool and it won't only be targeted at power station research. It's the equivalent of Chicago Pile-1, not a Hualong 1. The latter would never have occurred without the former though.


No, it's because establishments invariably clear themselves of culpable idiocy, including revising history to claim that they weren't told or deprecating the evidence they were given.

My omission of the 'nearly-' was a cut-and-paste error - I meant to include it, and my response was to 'nearly-power-station-rated'. It isn't, for the reasons I gave.


Yes; that's the cheap mass-market-equivalent release date.

Looks like Tor still haven't rammed the initial trade paperback release through's database. I'll go nag them when they get back from their hols (on the 3rd of January).


Thanks, I'll check Amazon again in January then.


Yeah, I tried the local bookshop here, and they could find no sign of it either. An ISBN might help.

Ah wait ...


And Charlie:

06:30 on 25 January 2017 - 08:00 on 25 January 2017
Blackwell's Bookshop Edinburgh is delighted to host Charlie Stross as he discusses and signs copies of his latest novel, Empire Games.

Really? A pre-breakfast signing?


I didn't know that there was more than one 6.30 in a day!


Only in the 12 hour clock format. Which this is pretending hard not to be.

(Whether 6:30am is more than a theoretical construct is dubious — I've occasionally got up in the night and seen that time on my watch, but I may have been dreaming.)


There is only one 06:30, and, indeed one 08:00. They both occur before sunrise this time of year, and if anyone expects me to attend a meeting that early I expect free bacon rolls and coffee!


Breakfast at 6:30? That's a bit late…


Being in the town centre this lunchtime, I dropped into the local bookshop again and this time they were able to find Empire Games on the database. It should be there tomorrow. So it looks like the kick worked.

(I also ordered Aliette de Bodard's upcoming book, but that's three months away.)


I just got an email from Amazon UK cancelling my order. This is the order I made after the previous glitch was sorted out. They're showing a paperback shipping in the autumn, but nothing before then.



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