August 2017 Archives

So it's time I faced facts: I've been writing this blog for seventeen years and it is getting bloody difficult to come up with stuff to say. (At least, right now.)

My usual book launch promo stuff last month was derailed totally by family circumstances (that won't recur). I really don't feel like kvetching about politics, either the ongoing UK-specific slow-motion train wreck that is Brexit, or the equally bizarre theatre of the absurd and evil that is the current incumbent of the White House. The global neo-nazi resurgence might be another angle, but I'm not the ideal person to write a "why Nazis are bad, 101" for folks who haven't already got the message—I'm not patient enough and the subject strikes much too close to home for comfort. (I grew up attending a synagogue with older members who had numbers tattooed on their arms; I'm pretty sure that if I lived in the US right now then I'd be a gun owner by now, and stockpiling ammunition and escape plans.)

These are dangerous times in the anglophone lands, and worse is coming; the UK seems to be rushing headlong towards a private debt crisis (largely due to nearly a decade of misguided austerity policies, but with insane ramping of student loan debt on top) and the economic uncertainty induced by the Brexit-triggered recession we're entering isn't helping ... and the Tangerine Shitgibbon in Chief seems to have decided that, in comparison with a short victorious war with North Korea, sending the US army back into Afghanistan is a vote-winner.

Against such news headlines I don't much feel like prognosticating about the near future right now.

I'd like to be able to take comfort by speculating about how things might have turned out differently in another time-line, but that's not so good either. Imagine the Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election results were flipped: where would we be now?

Hi! Apologies for the long hiatus. I've been kind of preoccupied, with a funeral in the family and then a world science fiction convention in Helsinki, but I'm finally home and trying to get back to some semblance of normal.

In the meantime, some news:

If you're in the United States and read ebooks, The Rhesus Chart is currently discounted to $1.99. (The link goes to Amazon.com but it should be the same price on iBooks and the Google Play store and Kobo. It's probably also at this price in Canada, but not in the UK or Europe--different publishers in different territories.) If you haven't tried the Laundry Files, this book isan entrypoint: why not give it a try?

Tonight, August 16th, I'm appearing at the Edinburgh Book festival with Nnedi Okorafor, Jo Walton, and Ken Macleod. We'll be at the Studio Theatre from 7:15pm; it's a ticketed event from the main book festival box office.

And on Friday August 18th, I'll be back at the book festival for a discussion with Nalo Hopkinson, Ken MacLeod, and Ada Palmer: we'll e at Bosco Theatre (on George Street) from 6:30pm, and again, it's a ticketed event.

And finally, the big news: my space opera, Ghost Engine, is being rescheduled for 2019; instead, July 2018 should see publication of The Labyrinth Index, the ninth Laundry Files novel! Publishers will be Orbit in the UK and Tor in the USA (this being the New Normal for the Laundry Files). This change has been in the works for a few months, but I didn't want to pre-announce it until I had it nailed down. (In a nutshell: Ghost Engine was too ambitious to finish on my original schedule, and The Labyrinth Index was growing more and more timely, until they just crossed over.)

This post is inspired by a real-life issue I'm dealing with, and there are so many possibilities, I figured it would make a great early August chew toy for the group.

The basic issue is adaptation to climate change. If our global civilization isn't going to shatter under the strain of increasingly weird weather, it's going to need to massively adapt. To give you an idea of the scope of the problem, I'll use the mundane example of my household in San Diego, where we're committed to partially decarbonizing over the next 5 years. We've already got solar panels, we're going to get an electric car (a Chevy Bolt, because I don't want to wait three years for a Tesla 3), and we plan to get a wall battery for storage and to remodel our house so that everything runs on electricity. We're looking at vaguely around $100,000 to go partially decarbonized (it won't be total decarbonization until we get rid of the other car, which we need for hauling stuff every week.). There are ways to cut these costs, like using electric Uber cars and the like (mass transit would be lovely too, if only...), but if all of San Diego County's 3.3 million people were to spend $100,000 per household to decarbonize, that's somewhere north of $100,000,000,000 to decarbonize the homes of this county alone (not the businesses, just the homes). Spread over enough time, $100,000 is doable for my family, but costs need to drop by at least an order of magnitude for mass decarbonization. The point of this example is that decarbonization can't be about just retrofitting existing systems, it will have to create new, cost-effective systems. Just depending on families to invest more than most make per year into retrofitting existing lifestyles is too expensive. That's one big root of the climate change crisis.

For every expensive crisis that comes along, though, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scams, schemes, and bad ideas to take advantage of it. And that's your early August chew toy: come up with some of these schemes, figure out what ordinary citizens can do to counter them, and then speculate on what happens as a consequence of the counter. Want to play? I'll warn you, it's a bit like making sausage.

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