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The light at the end of the tunnel (is not necessarily an oncoming train)

So yesterday I got to type THE END, at (oddly enough) the end of a book I've been writing since last April. "Ghost Engine" is due out in July 2018, so having a complete draft is a bit of a relief, to put it mildly. (It takes 12 months for a book to work through the production pipeline, because publishers don't publish books, they operate a workflow process that runs in lockstep across multiple books in a pipeline.) Typing THE END doesn't mean it's finished, of course. It's currently with various trusted readers for comment, and I'm probably going to have to rewrite chunks of it. However, experience suggests that most of the work is now done. My books usually expand slightly as a result of the editing after they've emerged in draft, so it's pretty much a dead certainty that this will be my second-longest delivered novel (just longer than "Accelerando", at 145,100 words, shorter than the original Merchant Princes doorstep which finally saw the light of day in its original shape as "The Bloodline Feud", at 197,800 words). (For comparison, "Dune" weighs in at 188,000 words; one paperback page is approximately 330-350 words.)

Here's the funny thing about too much work: it feels as if you're spinning your wheels and not making progress at all. This year so far, I redrafted two novels, wrote about 45,000 words of fiction, checked one set of copy edits, checked two sets of page proofs, did a bunch of promotion for a book launch, and went on a one week business trip to New York and Boston. But until I typed THE END, yesterday, it felt as if I was losing ground and not getting anything done at all. Those two words, however significant they may look, are absolutely trivial: but psychologically, being able to draw a line through a to-do item (write GHOST ENGINE) makes all the difference, and I finally feel I can relax a little.

So, what am I doing next?

Well, "Dark State" (the second Empire Games book) should be in production imminently, which means I have to check copy edits and page proofs. And by the end of this year I need to deliver a final version of "Invisible Sun", the third book in the trilogy. (It's written, but the ending needs tightening up. Not to worry, I have a plan.) I've also got a short story to write for Wild Cards because that's been on my to-do list for, oh, only a decade.

But the manic to-do list (five books in production!) that has been my constant companion and cause of sleepless nights since 2013 is finally coming to an end (three books in production, dropping to two by August) and I can finally think about new projects again for the first time in about five years. After I take the rest of this week off work to recover—time off in lieu for working over the Christmas/New Year holidays, I guess.

Here's a lesson I learned the hard way: once you're over 40, you should never commit to work-overload five years in advance. You'll be five years older, with worse health and less stamina, trying to keep up a pace dictated by your younger self. Over-work is fine—in brief doses. But as a continuous lifestyle for half a decade, it really sucks.

Meanwhile, I've got a bunch of convention travel commitments coming up this summer, including Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, and possibly even Nottingham, England! I've also got speaking gigs at the Edinburgh Science Festival and possibly the Edinburgh Book Festival, and there might just be some sort of launch event for "The Delirium Brief" in July. I'm going to put together an omnibus announcement on Friday (I'm awaiting an announcement from one of the conventions in question first).



Dear right. And the overwork and related stress can cause illness, which reinforces the cycle. Take a DECENT break, and tell yourself that you have deserved it!


PS: so maybe you're wondering what "Ghost Engine" is?

It's a space opera. First in a new setting (distantly related to the universe of "Palimpsest"). Not in continuity with any other books, least of all "Glasshouse" (although the title "Ghost Engine" was originally earmarked for the "Glasshouse" sequel that's never going to be written now because business reasons). Other rejected titles were, "Happy Shiny People" and "Sad Boner Professor in Spaaaace".

An elevator pitch, in case you're unfamiliar with the term, is your ultra-condensed pitch. You're at a hotel, in the elevator, when you realize you're standing next to the CEO of Disney, or maybe Stephen Spielberg. You have until the elevator car reaches his floor to pitch your movie concept at him. If it's too long to fit in a tweet, it's probably too long.

The best elevator pitch I've come up with for "Ghost Engine" so far, is: It's the Great American Novel, only with hot ovipositor sex, trisexual academics, and zombie space ninja monks.

Alternatively: Charlie tries to scratch the Iain M. Banks Culture itch, without ripping off the Culture setting in any way (except for sarcastic warship names, because).


I bet a good break would be to intentionally write something truly awful. Perhaps 'The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City' but for sci-fi.


The problem there is that Reality has been taking its plots from OGH's drafts for some time now - encouraging it to make things even worse doesn't seem a great idea. Now a ScotExit version of Element 79 would be another matter :-)


Have you noted your interest to participate in the programming at Helsinki? (Hint, hint)


There's a Culture itch in all of us, I think. It was dark and baroque, but it was droll as hell and written from a constantly humane place, when it could have just been cynical. What a loss. I kind of wonder if we'll ever get an anthology of Culture stories by all of IMB's contemporaries as a sort of tribute/rip off. I'd read it.


So can we expect a certain amount of gravitas in the ship names ?


What's wrong with ship names like "And Stanger You'll Play Left Wing and Like It" anyway? Well other than the obvious point that that's a Scottish Rugby Union fan in-joke obviously.


I thought I had, but ...

Do you have a URL for a program participant sign-up form?


Spoiler: you get to meet (briefly) the battlecruiser Looking for Martyrdom? We can help you!.

And at somewhat greater length, the heavy attack monastery Ambassador of Progress Trebitsch-Lincoln and the energetic merchant cruiser Kanno Sugako. (Hint: wikipedia is your friend.)


Ah, found it. Program participation applications were due to close on the 30th, so it's lucky someone reminded me to go look at this!


After reading your workload I'm unaccountably tired. 20 years ago I'd have laughed in derision; now I think I'd like a nap.

Good advice, though, except that I'm at an age where I fear that the inertia of a body in constant motion is all that is keeping me vertical.



I do like the Culture names. I've got a couple of my own I tend to recycle in space games. The first crappy ship I get is always the Dreadgnat. The heavy bruisers get better names like Selection Pressure, Object Lesson, Involuntary Enlightenment and Obedience Training.

I always thought that the US Navy missed the mark giving the carriers such boring names. I'm not scared when I hear the USS Ronald Reagan is off my coast. Hell, they'll probably forget where the target is. When I hear the USS Wreck-Your-Life is offshore, now they have my attention. USS Rubblebouncer? Just tell me what your terms are and where to sign. USS John C. Stennis? I'll bash ye ead in I sware on me mum!


Looking forward to this. Every space opera should have Heavy Attack Monasteries. Nearest I can remember recently was the BiCameral's in Peter Watts Echopraxia.


An "it gets worse the more you think about it" entry: the Serial Peacemaker from Howard's Tayler's 'Schlock Mercenary' webcomic.


UK Parliament shooting ...


One stabbing, stabber shot by police, HoC on lockdown, per latest news.


To be precise, guy with a knife stabbed a cop (who has since died) outside Parliament, was shot. A SUV also ran over a number of people on Westminster Bridge heading towards Parliament, thus far it is unknown if the driver was the same person as the stabber.


Am now reading BBC news reports ... Damned, this is horrible no matter when it happens. But now? Could do even more damage. Stay safe, stay sane.


Oh, come *on*, that ship would be named "I don't know", since it's on third....



330-350 words per page in a paperback, Charlie? Are you sure? I've been using 250 as an average since I counted them, back in my mid-teens.



I did agree with one of the commenters on this In the Pipeline post that No Unplanned Detonations would make an excellent Culture ship name.


385~ on a random page of the first standard paperback I picked up, although it was smallish print compared to some. 250 words per page is the estimate for typed manuscript pages which are double spaced.


When I hear the USS Wreck-Your-Life is offshore, now they have my attention

HMS Revenge; HMS Vengeance; HMS Truculent; HMS Fearless; HMS Intrepid...

Naming after Naval heroes, fair enough - USS Farragut, HMS Anson. Naming after politicians is just tacky - although I'll grant you USS Winston S. Churchill / HMS Churchill, because not many politicians resign from the Cabinet to take over command of an infantry unit on the Western Front... (6th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers seeing as you asked).

There's an irony in WSC commanding a battalion of the Regiment that burned the White House* in 1814...

* Other Regiments may have been involved ;) but Glaswegians... ;)


When I read the phrase heavy attack monastery it makes me think of the opening of Neptune's Brood.

+1 for a double helping of gravitas.


304—again, on random page of standard paperback (p253 of Neal Asher's The War Factory). That page has a fair amount of dialogue, and hence more than the usual number of incomplete lines.


How can we stop you overloading yourself with work?


314 on a full page from my Orbit edition of "Saturn's Children".


Coming to Italy? Where and when?

Re: monastery ships, they appear in Cestus Dei, a novel featuring a Jesuit ninja 😀


Naming after politicians is just tacky

David Brin has a nice rant about the politics of naming US aircraft carriers:


"Naming after Naval heroes, fair enough..."

Although nowadays "HMS Rodney" suggests that "HMS Uncle Albert" would be even more appropriate.


I like it already!


I imagine I'll hear, but give me a yell if you're in snotts? I might not make your main event, but I'll most likely I'll be in the city in the event you need a drink somewhere quieter.

And yeah, my ESA claim is real glad I'm not committing myself to overwork. I hope if you've tried one then you've had better luck with robot cat trays than I have lately!

(no folks, not a tray for Aineko)


I always think of names they won't give ships when I see Royal Navy 'noun' ships

HMS Vulnerable
HMS Enfeebled
HMS Defenceless

The favourite Culture ships I came up with include

ROU Forcible Insertion of Unlikely Object

[d]ROU Are you looking at my alcoholic beverage?

GCU We called, but you were out.

GCU Just Lurking

GSV Electronic message promising Gravitas enlargement

GSV Funnier in the original Marain

Marain being the language of the Culture, not a mis-spell of a women's name ;-)


To paraphrase DJANGO UNCHAINED: You had my curiosity with "zombie space ninja monks", now you have my attention.


I like the idea of a brothel-barge called the USS Bill Clinton, as well as the idea of a non-recreational brothel :-)

A.C. Clarke came up with HMS Insufferable. If I were naming ships according to Culture conventions, they would be things like the GSV A smell of petroleum prevails throughout.


I think the Freudian in me is giving you some serious side-eye.
That said:
GOU Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar
GCU How Long Have You Felt This Way?


Oh yeah, and Mazal Tov! on finishing the first draft. Very much looking forward to it, and the other novels of course.


I couldn't resist:

ROU I'm all out of bubblegum

ROU Contact, Wait Out

GOU How do you plead?

VFP Meep-Meep

LCU We are the Pilgrims, master

GSV Innocent Pawn in Great Game of Life

and for those Ninja Space Monks...

GCU Body of a Rock


HMS Insouciant
Or perhaps the "What's Up Doc?"


There's the No Cause For Unreasonable Alarm as well. I'll leave the classification to others, I haven't read the books for some years. (GCU?)


Text taken mostly from Fallen London:

GSV Ideal For Birthday Parties

GOU One Of The Very Nicest Ways To Die

LOU Peculiar And Sinister Privileges

GCU A Sombre Aura Of Gravitas Like A Cloud Of Courteous But Severe Bats


Nice to see that your Science Festival venue is within walking distance of the pub...


"+1 for a double helping of gravitas". Perfect... that's my new ship name.


In the Hitchhiker's Guide series they had the Galactic Survey Ships:

GSS Daring
GSS Audacity
GSS Suicidal Insanity

For the Culture my candidate is ROU An Acceptable Level Of Collateral Damage.


Got it! (Feel free to remind other friends of yours.)


It's not big, and it's not clever, but this one always makes me act like a 14-year old at the back of the class.


For Aussies:

ROU That's not a knife
GCU Gday mate
GSV She'll be right cobber


Glad you got the sparkly vampire unicorn / my little pony novella out when you did, then.

A thing that I like about Ghost Engine is the Merchant Princes pivot, from just another portal/isolated world-with-castles-and-and-a-king fantasy, into something far more interesting and just a little bit twisted.

Meanwhile, a break - a holiday, for real - is well-earned and well in order. Time to take your boots and spurs off, soak out the saddle sores in the hot tub, and catch up on all that My Little Shoggoth fanfic you've been missing.


Implacable, Invincible,indefatigable, Illustrious...
Battle-Cruisers, then Carriers


There's a famous, & almost-certainly highly politically incorrect song ... that has the line:
"My name is Rodney, & I live in Leicester Square ...."
Would probably be considered highly offensive to LGBT these days, except I've heard an outrageously gay person sing it .. ( Um, err ... )


How about the titles of some Rene Magritte paintings for Culture ships?
( This is not a pipe f'rinstance.., )


Going back to Charlie's opening statement ... that explains why you were so tetchy last week, then - OK, not a problem & have a nice relax.

Meanwhile, here in London, the latest presumed-islamist loonie-attack is leaving the usual repercussions.
And, talking of London, I'm going to offer, without comment, some links from the opinion (especially readers' letters) pages of the "Standard", regarding the utter pissed-offness many Londoners feel over Brexit & the beginnings of demands for Independence from the rest of the UK, if the "provincials" are determined to commit economic suicide.
Some of it may seem familiar to those of you errr "further North". (?)
And here
There is an increasing amount of this around - I wonder why that might be so?


One of my suggestions, if we must have naval vessels named after politicians, The "Royal Fleet Auxiliary Peter Mandelson", the vessel in question being the fleet's new oiler!


Well Greg, I did suggest to our city mayor that, as the city voted remain, we should approach the EU to join as a Free City (as existed in the Holy Roman Empire). Sir Peter wasn't in agreement at that time.


Ah, like "HH" & "HB" you mean ( Those are German car registrations for: Hansastadt Hamburg & Hansastadt Bremen, repsepctively ...)
I wonder if King's Lynn could do it too, because the Hansa warehouse in Lynn is still-extant.
See also: "The Steelyard" in Wikipedia.


Ship names:

Don't Fight It, Feel It

Higher Than The Sun

We Go Down Slowly Rising

Eighties Fan

French Navy

I Know You Are But What Am I

I Love You, I'm Going To Blow Up Your School

Scotland's Shame

The Sun Smells Too Loud

First Big Weekend

Screaming In The Trees

Death Love Depression Love Death

We're All Going To Die

and of course that takes us to Mornington Crescent.


The ship names thing can be tricky if you are planning a multicultural future, not just one where the in jokes of white male geeks aged 18 to 50 are the main source of comedy and everyone happens to understand cultural references from later 20th and early 21st century Anglosphere.


Our Kind Do Not Go Sane?


Hopefully culturally unambiguous ship names you don't want to meet:

Recreational Genocide

It's no longer a planet

It was only a LITTLE supernova...


No Living Enemies

Dead Organics Have No Legal Standing

Brane Collision

Extinction Event


What's My Name This Week?


Speak Softly And Carry A Markov Chain


The ship names thing can be tricky if you are planning a multicultural future

If you're at the usual venue next Tuesday, remind me to show you my get-out-of-jail-free card, namely the TRANSLATOR'S NOTE at the beginning of the novel.

(It's virtually impossible to write a space opera that gets away from terrestrial date, time, and distance measurements without annoying the hell out of the readers, so we tacitly ignore them in order to willingly suspend our disbelief. I just put a slightly new twist on it, and make it explicit.)


Starship Batavia

Can o' Monkeys

Gravitas Rainbow

Export Grade Meat Ship

I Can See My House From Here

Ballistic Cultural Exchange Vehicle


(It's virtually impossible to write a space opera that gets away from terrestrial date, time, and distance measurements without annoying the hell out of the readers, so we tacitly ignore them in order to willingly suspend our disbelief. I just put a slightly new twist on it, and make it explicit.)

Yeah - I'm just re-reading Excession, and the terrestrial units are kind of noticeable, but it would be even more jarring to have some invented Culture units.


One more, can't help myself, possibly obscure.

GSV* That's Okay Dear, I'll Just Sit Here. In the Dark.

*(Jewish) Mothership class


Or maybe that should be an LOU, Passive-Aggressive class?


Damned, I also have that as a name:

Hello Passive, I'm Aggressive

Repo Time: Leave While You Still Can

Oops! - Belatedly Sorry

CRISPr - Change Your Code, Change Your Life

CRISPr Army - Be All That You Can Be


Unfortunately i likely won't make it on Tuesday, but something else has occurred to me.
Given the size of the universe, you can turn it into a franchise and get different authors to write from different cultures and.make it more varied that way.
Of course maybe that is ruled out, but might be best not to discuss it more.


I know it was named after an Admiral, but I've always thought HMS Hood (sunk by the Bismarck) had a Banksian, street thuggish name.

Charlie @2:

Nothing says "Disney" like hot ovipositor sex.

Turnerss @48 Alright, I'll bite.

Australian ship names:

GSV Fondler of Coal
ROU They Take our Jobs and Go Straight Onto Welfare You Know
GCU I'm Not a Racist But


I won't be, and am a bit puzzled. That's not the norm, nowadays, but used to be pretty common - do you mean that you have a new twist on the way you say it?


From the antipodean space navy, HMASS A Bit Crook


Plus ...

Can’t Cut Corners On A Sphere - could work as a motto for environment

In Space Anyone Can See You Scream (It’s 300 Hz to 3400 Hz)


What happens if I press this Butto........


Can’t Cut Corners On A Sphere might suit Eurostar . . .


On wordcounts: one thing I miss with eBooks and reading on my Kindle is a sense of how big a book is. I know there is a percentage complete and time remaining display but it's not like the heft a bulky new hardcover that promises a big read. Dune was one of the larger SF novels in its time but is unremarkable by present standards.


I just did a little bit of a conscious "embrace and extend" on the usual tacit use of common units and distances. Not dissimilar to what Vernor Vinge did with the spiders in "A Deepness in the Sky".


I have real fun with longer ebooks and the sense of duration.

Don't get me started on what it was like ploughing through Worm in ebook form!

Yeah - I'm just re-reading Excession, and the terrestrial units are kind of noticeable, but it would be even more jarring to have some invented Culture units.

There's some stealth-sorta-non-terrestrial stuff in there, from recollection. The 'kilo-' prefix is 2^10 rather than 10^3, for example. So unintrusive that it may as well not be there, perhaps.


I don't, any more than on paper, but I wouldn't expect to - I think numerically as often as I think in other ways, and have done since childhood. I have finally accepted that is unusual, but I have simply NO idea what sort of thought processes most people use. 90% of HSS is an alien lifeform to me ....

#77 Thanks.


I have real fun with longer ebooks and the sense of duration.

Idea: A virus which infects ebook readers and subtly Markov chains progressively more extra sentences into the narrative, resulting in a book of infinite length without the reader realising.


Ok... a not name for a warship: Wiley Coyote. Or, for that matter, the Battlecruiser Acme.

Here we go, from my youth: the ISBS Vegimatic (We'll dice! We'll chop!....)

By the was, speaking of Empire, which we weren't, I see there's a new paper in Nature, where they're proposing, if I understand it, a new taxonomy and origin of dinosaurs... 15Myears earlier, and from the northern hemisphere - Laurasia, not Gondwana.

In fact, from the area that's now England and Scotland. The first British Empire, when Dinosaurs Ruled the World for real!


By the was, speaking of Empire, which we weren't, I see there's a new paper in Nature, where they're proposing, if I understand it, a new taxonomy and origin of dinosaurs... 15Myears earlier, and from the northern hemisphere - Laurasia, not Gondwana.

To save you wading through the technical terminology of cladistics (yuck), there is a clear account of the bottom line in Tetrapod Zoology.

The key point isn't really the time or place of origin (these are side-effects), but the fact that their analysis breaks what has been considered to be the fundamental division in dinosaur classification, between ornithischian ("bird-hipped", which confusingly doesn't include birds, but does include things like Triceratops) and saurischian ("lizard-hipped", which, er, does actually include birds). Instead, Baron et al. find that Triceratops and friends—the usual Ornithischia—group with the theropods (that's T. rex, velociraptors, and my budgie), and leave the big sauropods (traditionally grouped with the theropods in Saurischia) out on their own (well, actually grouped with the herrerasaurs, which nobody outside the field has ever heard of).

It appears to be a sound analysis, not that I have any pretensions to being a cladist, but as it's so radical it needs confirmation.


PS I did think it was amusing that their standard species for the theropod clade, which everyone thinks of as the big carnivorous dinosaurs, was, ahem, Passer domesticus. The house sparrow.


"The key point isn't really the time or place of origin (these are side-effects)"

Dunno. When I read that they might have originated in the UK, my immediate reaction is that would explain a lot about UK politics, what we are seeing at present is an unextinction event, and we can look forward to a new age of Ruling Reptiles :-)


ROU: Burn After Reading
ROU: I Called And No-one Was In
ROU: Red Light Means Stop

GCU: Contents May Settle During Transit
LCU: May Contain Nuts


Lights on, Nobody Home


GCU You'll Have Had Your Tea


Please Do Not Press This Button Again


GCU Please Keep Your Receipt.


TBF, sparrows are smart, voracious and fast, and if they were Utahraptor size they'd be pretty bloody terrifying. They're also common as, well, sparrows, which is probably why they were made Default Bird.


Rocket Labs first rocket is called: It’s a Test

New Zealand now has ballistic missile capability as well as cruise missiles.

Alas, no flying sheep yet.


So some bloke in NZ has re-invented the V1 his shed? That oughta keep the Aussies in line.


That is a very big read. Is it recommended?


Well a sheep went flying in Bad Taste. You know, after the RPG hit it.


The Ponce is fine ship, recently of the variety sometimes referred to as "gator freighters." I sailed on her summer of 1990. We went to a little party called Operation Sharp Edge in Liberia.

So, yes, Ponce is great name!


Besides the Ponce is also performing an important service with its Laser - the sooner we have frikkin Sharks with Lasers on their heads the sooner Reality stops using Charlie for inspiration and moves onto other works of fiction to hijack.


You are clearly a Cordwainer Smith fan!


I always think of names they won't give ships when I see Royal Navy 'noun' ships

HMS Vulnerable
HMS Enfeebled
HMS Defenceless


I love these and would like to offer

HMS Inadequate
HMS Insufficient
HMS Incompetent
HMS Distressed
HMS Pathetic
HMS Paltry
HMS Unconvincing
HMS Effeminate


HMS Troutbridge ???

Which reminds me, how about the ROU Left hand down a bit ( also ?? )


GCU This is Intelligence Speaking
( A N other "Navy Lark" reference, btw .... )


HMS Shoestring, to be replaced by HMS Costplus, which is then renamed HMS Mothball.


HMS WhoNeedsPlanesAnyway


Don't forget pigeons...

"It watched them from the corner with mad little eyes, its genes remembering the time it had been a giant reptile that could have taken these sons of monkeys to the cleaners in one mouthful"
( the late Sir Terry )

I always think of names they won't give ships when I see Royal Navy 'noun' ships

There's always the unofficial names boats get... I can only think of a few british WW2-era ones, but there are probably as many as their have been ships. There's the HMS Curious, HMS Spurious, HMS Outrageous, HMS Refit and HMS Repair, for example.

Wikipedia (inevitably) has a list of ones from across the world, which has the entertaining entry in it:


Per R.R.Martin: GOU We do not Sow


Could be worse...

There were the Arabis-class sloops: HMS Buttercup and HMS Pansy. Having that written on your cap tally could be fun on a run ashore...or not (the RM being noted for occasionally doing their runs ashore in drag, after all).

And the Insect-class: HMS Cockchafer. Although insect names earned "street cred" with the action of HMS Glowworm; between it and HMS Jervis Bay, you've got the inspiration for the opening sequence of the reboot "Star Trek" film...


Apparently the crew of the USS Forrestal used to call it the Fuckusall, at least according to a letter I once saw from a former friend of my parents. This was written before the fire, which he was on-board for. He wrote an account on a site for former crew members, at the time he was a photo recon analyst, and rushed out to man one of the hoses. I remember him as a hippy friend of my father's when I was a little kid in the early 70s.


And, IRL the crew of HMS Brazen named their Lynx helicopter "Hussy" (and got Selina Scott to sign one of the panels after that).


If you like extremely cynical and somewhat nihilistic superhero fic, "Worm" is decent. It's fairly clearly the work of someone learning his craft in the process, however, and I remain unconvinced that anyone can write/plan/stick to a plot at lengths over one million words. Highly ambitious, scratched an itch, I won't be re-reading it myself.


HMS Blowhard
HMS Unverified Incident
HMS Last Best Chance for Glory

Quite a range of nicknames for the USS Enterprise. I especially like the two at the end of this list.

"The Big E"
"Fleet Starship"
"The Gray Ghost"
"Lucky E"
"Mobile Chernobyl"
"Three-Quarter Mile Island"


You were supposed to laugh....

Next, you'll expect me to spill the beans, and tell you the TRVTH about cats (our Lords & Masters)....



GPC I Have A Self-Destruct Button
(Galactive Patrol Cruiser)

mark "RUN! The Lensman said to hit the escape ships!"


HMS "You must be kidding" (formerly Astute; the one that ran into Skye)

HMS Ambushed (the one that got run down by a freighter).


Personally, I'm looking forward to the HMS Devolved. Perhaps it will be the first frigate HR Charles III commissions.

That said, my pitch for starship names:

"Ohh myyy" (unfortunately, it looks like getting the number of h's and y's correct is important for trademark reasons)
"Oops My Bad"
"Incoming Fire"
"Tianjin 2015" (note: not if you want this book translated into Chinese, in which case it should be changed to Texas City 1947. Or Minor Scale. Or FOAB. Or MOAB)
"Ecological Imperialism"
"Random Outcome Generator"

All this to demonstrate that I lack Iain Bank's skill with names.

As for American carrier names, I remember the "Stinkin' Lincoln" and the "Forest Fire," back when I knew a sailor. Personally, I'll be happy when the Gene Sharp hits the waves. But I'm not holding my breath.


GCU Do Not Look Into Laser With Remaining Visual Receptor
(D)ROU Lacking In Superlatives
GSV Kardashev Was A Pessimist
GSV Constants Are Relative


Cough, I've heard of herrerasaurs.

Still, I second your key point, that extraordinary results require extraordinary evidence. That said (and without reading the paper), it looks like they do have something close to extraordinary evidence (but read the comments on the TetZoo piece!). Darren Naish (at TetZoo) isn't one to hold back the scorn on badly supported hypotheses, and if he's grumbling that his brand new book on dinosaurs is already outmoded, this paper must be relatively convincing to him.


Oh, ok, I'll play.

Stealing from Vinge,

Fire Upon The Deep

Hexapodia Is The Key Insight

Not stealing from Vinge,

Democritus Was Right

There Is Naught But Atoms And the Void

Except All the Rest


Democritus Was Right

There Is Naught But Atoms And the Void

Except All the Rest

Couldn't we just call it "The Other 96 percent"?


(Said in a twee voice) There are WIMPs at the bottom of my garden

Or, if you prefer, axions or cosmic strings


Shall I be a killjoy and just call an end to the Culture ship names thread right now ...?

(Memo to self: in final version of "Ghost Engine", must include a throwaway reference to the Heavy Assault Wombat[*] "Unbearable Lightness of Gravitas".)

Anyway, ANNOUNCEMENT (pending proper blog entry): I'm going to be (a) guest of honour at Italcon, the Italian SF convention, at Chianciano in Tuscany, from May 25th to 28th. I need to track down an official announcement (it's not showing up on DuckDuckGo yet but it only went public a couple of hours ago); more info here as/when I've got it!

[*] Insert implausible class name here. Or just stick with the wombats.


Re: '... just call an end to the Culture ship names thread right now '

Yep - I can see this bunch going along with that.

HMS Pastor de Felibus


ROU Felis domesticus


It's good that you know you think differently from other people, and if only more people knew that about themselves. I know I think a bit differently from 'average' or 'normal', but forget often, and it's not something that is encouraged, it's as if everyone is supposed to think the same way. Words can lull you into a false sense of agreement about something.


Well, if you can backronym wombat into something useful... Of course, to me WOM is write-only memory, so that's not much help (although it's apropos for a combat mission, I guess). Also, isn't it cooler to reference Digger?

As for ship names: Yeah. Whatever.

It's more fun to talk about fluffy ornithoscelids.

And other random phrases that are suitable names.


The Heavy Assault Wombat class sounds good to me, provided that it includes a ship called Drop Bear.


The "Looking for Martyrdom? We can help you!" now has an entire lineup of infomercial themed warship names running through my head. In honor of this happening, I will just leave the following:

The (Interstellar SSBN Equivalent) Glowing Testimonial


Yo Charlie -

For those that consider you the John Oliver of SF (there's at least one of us), the concept of a "Culture Bridge" is fascinating. If one end of the bridge is the political reality of Empire Games and the other is Bank's impossible dream, what's on the bridge? Bring it on!


Would You Rather Die Than Betray Your Emperor? Think Carefully Before Answering


Wild Cards is great news-- very pleased to see another great author added to that shared world. I discovered the series a few years ago, and was shocked that something of that quality had escaped my attention for so long. Cheers!


Reprieve impossible execute - where do you put the comma?


The Bridge is called ... Bifrost

One cannot turn back on Bifrost, to do so means a dying fall to the lowest reaches of Nifleheim or Hel


If one end of the bridge is the political reality of Empire Games and the other is Bank's impossible dream, what's on the bridge?

That question is of considerable interest and I'm tackling it from the other end in "Ghost Engine". One test reader described it as like a collision between the Eschaton universe and the Culture universe; well yes, only there's no Eschaton — although there's a roughly-E-sized McGuffin in the middle — and there's no Culture. Although the Shining Worlds think they're the Culture (a designed utopia that works and has gone interstellar); they're an interesting hopeful mistake, in a universe full of such things.


I can't resist:

ROU Hold My Beer


Surely the class name for Wombats should be DTR.

(for those who have been working in IT way too many years).


Only the DECadent ones - I had to look it up, and retired last year after 50 years in IT (not quite continually).


Well, if you can backronym wombat into something useful...

What, you've forgotten the "Weapon of Magnesium" backronym for the old 120mm recoilless Battalion Anti-Tank gun?

WOMBAT (link)


Well, if you can backronym wombat into something useful...




The Culture would not have ship types. Types are for inferior civilisations which have to pre-assign products into classes (S, M, L, 32" S, 32" R, 32" L, bootcut, skinny, flare) because manufacturing isn't sufficiently advanced to fabricate just-in-time on-the-spot precisely adapted to current needs (body scan, ask colour, ask fabric, check leg-shape preference, fits like a glove). Each ship would be as unique as a fingerprint and fit its problem like a glove.


Ships hang around a long time and have Minds of their own - they might not have just the one type, but they're going to end up with types just as a means of social navigation.


This may have appeared in one of the books, but I forget if it really did or not so I'm claiming it as an original inspiration:

the GSV Frank & Forthright Exchange of Views


Yes, well: the Seagull ate some poisoned bread and exploded all over the place. Quite the mess. She left a patented format for response[tm], so we'll use it.

However, of note - thinking back to her oil slicks over leaked 23andMe passwords:

The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. It has been overshadowed by the debate over the House GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but the genetic testing bill is expected to be folded into a second ACA-related measure containing a grab-bag of provisions that do not affect federal spending, as the main bill does.

Little-noticed House Republican bill would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results Rawstory, 10th March, 2017

Unlike the madness of the single backed "ban the United Nations" bills, that one seems to be a serious attempt at more evil. She sqwarked and everyone was enchanted by the dog-n-pony show, and yet: she was right.


Given you're all discussing dinosaurs and robins, here's a video (Twitter) of a Brahma chicken. Yes, it's about the size of a Velociraptor.

Tall tales or True Nightmares?

When Remy Mallet, a cognitive neuroscience graduate student at the University of Texas Austin, was an undergrad at the University of Missouri, he was inspired by a science news story out of Brown University. A woman who was paralyzed was able to control a robotic prosthetic limb using her mind. So, using a computer rigged up to respond to brain signals, he went to sleep, started dreaming, took control of that dream and actually completed a computer task from within his dream.

Can we control computers with our dreams? CBC Radio, 4th March, 2017

Comics, of the Gaiman kind:

GODSHAPER #1 Simon Spurrier, 17th March, 2017

For the tech minded and the IOT brigade:

Today’s cautionary tale comes from Verizon’s sneak peek (pdf) of the 2017 Data Breach Digest scenario. It involves an unnamed university, seafood searches, and an IoT botnet; hackers used the university’s own vending machines and other IoT devices to attack the university’s network.

University attacked by its own vending machines, smart light bulbs & 5,000 IoT devices NetworkWorld 12th Feb 2017

For the cynical Late Capitalist:

There's spring water, mineral water, tap water, and now there's Blk Water. Although it looks like something you'd drain out of your car's oil pan, this shadowy H20 is actually a mix of fulvic acid and pure Canadian spring water. The plant-based compound is mined from an 80 million-year-old source and allows for the rapid absorption of over 77 different minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants, while also naturally giving the water its charcoal-hue.

Blk Water Amazon, yours for only $44. For those missing it, fulvic acid + H2O is bog water, as in water from a peat bog. Bilk Merriam-webster.

Anyhow, have fun.


You're not very good at those Culture Ship Names.


Oh, and a non-ironic, heart-felt and warm hug for finishing off that contract, a great book and riding the Ocean waves (it is very good, we've heard).

Shine on, Bright One, Shine on, while the Sea Sings to you as well. (Quite the Thing to have both, we've heard...)

And, for fucks sake, take a holiday! Like at least four weeks!

(((If you wanted to make money, you should have asked for a tip on the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As the Seagull tried to point out, "Loki" is not the only one nudging odds ( Sizing John wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup as Cue Card falls again Guardian, 17th March, 2017. Seagull passed on: "Always check the user names as well as the screen names! It was a freebie there!"))).

Since Author asked not to do more Culture Names, we won't: but we could, you know...

As for the Bridge: Now that is a real question we've been asking ourselves for a long while now. Seagull was actually spewing out caustic songs to Not Your Ears[tm] but to the worst to allow them to join in the choir. Think of it as vines growing off the side of the bridge to allow the Trolls to join.


Last Seagull Shriek:

Exclusive: BlackRock vows new pressure on climate, board diversity Reuters, 13th March, 2017

Make of that, what you Will.


And, to do this whole "three posts" thing that's in the folder as a requisite for being a Seagull, a shout out.

There is light, and you can go buy it for only $1+ ($15 for the entire package).

Three days left (see what we did there?) and full of goodness. It's really a very good deal.


No idea if that comes in E-Book friendly formats, we assume they do.


(e)(ex)GSV[1] (ex) MSV downgrades[2] (intentional / combat driven), (e)ROU [redacted][3], LCU[4].

[1]Literally Here Right Now, But Being Somewhere Else is always more Important and Time is a Big Bad Jazz
[2]Full On 4D Eschaton / Meat Space Mosh Pit
[3]We're Not Allowed to Play War Here, So we pretend to be Muppets.
[4]I'm the One who got to deal with the Apes


There is a bridge. It goes all the way around the world, has a variety of architectural styles, and people live in it. It might connect to the Culture. Or Ancient Greece.


Horribly reminiscent of a quote from L M Bujold:
“Hey. Yours is no better. A god whose harvest of souls includes all whose last words were, ‘Ho, lads! Hold my ale and watch this!"
( "Penric & the Shaman" )


She sqwarked and everyone was enchanted by the dog-n-pony show, and yet: she was right.
Probably because no-one could decipher the tiny bit of signal, amongst all the noise & self-seeking attention?
If you have a message - please put it across clearly?
As (amongst other things) an ex-teacher, I'm only too well aware of the problem, including my own shortcomings at NOT putting things across clearly enough!


Be very VERY VERY careful.
Do not, under any circumstances confuse the bridge you have mentioned, which resembles the worlds'-girdling Tree [ Yggdrasil ] with the world-girdling serpent [ Jormundgand ]


Oh dear, I've just reminded myself, so I suppose I'd better pass it on.

Is it just me, or are other people getting very unpleasant flash back/forwards glimpses of Norse mythology?


Thank you. I knew I'd been wasting my education on useless trivia. Now I've learned something useful.


I should also add that this inspired a novel protest strategy: there aren't any undescribed living wombat species out there, but perhaps if a new fossil wombat is found (especially if it is a poorly preserved specimen), it will be named after a suitable politician. The fossil may be colored orange by mineralization, for instance.

More generally, I hope that American parasitologists take this opportunity to name newly described species after prominent members of the current Republican Administration. After all, parasites are the majority of species on this planet. There are so many rusts, smuts, parasitic worms, and parasitoid wasps around (not to mention methanogenic bacteria) that a lab could gain a lot of free publicity simply by naming the species they've found after, say, the current US Speaker of the House. Heck, there are two species of Euwallacea wood boring beetle loose in my area that haven't been named yet. Obviously, if a researcher isn't in the US, there are plenty of other politicians well deserving of this type of honor. All their institutions have to do is issue press releases announcing the new names and invite comment from the people so honored with those specific epithets.

Thanks for the inspiration, Charlie!


If one end of the bridge is the political reality of Empire Games and the other is Bank's impossible dream, what's on the bridge?

"That question is of considerable interest and I'm tackling it from the other end in "Ghost Engine". One test reader described it as like a collision between the Eschaton universe and the Culture universe; well yes, only there's no Eschaton — although there's a roughly-E-sized McGuffin in the middle — and there's no Culture. Although the Shining Worlds think they're the Culture (a designed utopia that works and has gone interstellar); they're an interesting hopeful mistake, in a universe full of such things."

The peanut gallery is swiftly losing it's decorum in anticipation of a bright new world. Save those shells - they will be collector's items.


Space opera!

The best snarky warship name I have encountered was not in Iain Banks. It was in Eoin Colfer's "And Another Thing...". He named the Vogon ship "Business End".

It might be time to retire the snarky ship name competition, because nothing will ever approach that.


Oh, I don't know, though, because that prompts a whole class, all named "something-or-other: END"
As in:
Sharp End / Round End / Blunt End / Ar you sure this is the End? ...
Or even a la Micheal Bentine: Round the Bend


Cool, Great job. So much writing done. Guess you may also need to visit America.


Wombats. Wombats.... Sorry, I immediately flashed on a thing from long, long ago in an APA, that a friend brought in from another APA: giant barded war frogs.

mark "such a joy, the end of last week, watching them shot down, crash and burn...."


Please put the Wild Cards story at the head of the line (you know, if you're taking reader requests.) I think that would be an excellent combination.


I have always wondered how the HMS Beagle, one of the most important ships in the history of the world, got named. Was she named for a kind of dog, or somebody famous, or what?


thats alot of reading


According to Wikipedia, the first HMS Beagle (before the Charles Darwin one yes) was named for the dog breed.


My apologies if our kind host has some rule on... certain terms, but back when someone hearing PC would probably understand Presbyterian Church the royal navy included several HMS Cockchafer, the last of them a gunship of the aptly named Insect class, launched in 1915 and scrapped in 1949.


I doubt he'll care, particularly since it doesn't seem to be setting off any nannyware.


I must disagree, as Banks managed the apotheosis of ship names in HYDROGEN SONATA:

Mistake Not… (My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Mere Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath).


Oy vey, _now_ I know where Howard Tayler (Schlock Mercenary) gets that sort of shipnaming from (probably)...

(I still/yet haven't read Banks. Yes, I intend to fix that very soon!)


Oh. Whoops. Sorry. But yes, and many other examples there too.


According to Wikipedia, there have been at least 8 vessels of the Royal Navy named HMS Beagle, and they're named after the dog breed, yes. (Reference: Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475.)


Fast Radio Bursts definitely extra-solar

In other news a "doctored" (Coated) graphene sheet can filter seawater for a fresh output ...


One last ship name: HMS BECAUSE WE CAN.

(Unpacking: Jay Leno once made a joke about Al Qaeda fighters protesting against being bombed from 30,000 feet. Mr. Leno said, "Why do we do it? Because we can.")



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