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New Book Week!

This is your cursory scheduled reminder that I have a new book out this week, on both sides of the Atlantic: Dark State (follow that link for purchase links and info on how to get signed copies).

Questions I get asked:

When is the next book coming out?: "Invisible Sun", the final volume in the trilogy, will be published at the same time next year, January 2019. (It exists: I'm polishing the final draft this month.)

I'm in the EU/UK; why can't I find the audiobooks?: If you're in North America, audiobooks are already available. Meanwhile, British editions of "Empire Games" and "Dark State" are being recorded and will be released via Audible in August. They're not listed for pre-order until six months prior to publication, so if you want to place a pre-order, check back in March.

What about audiobooks of [some other title]?: Read this FAQ.

I want to buy Empire Games/Dark State without DRM: All my publishes except Tor require DRM (the decision is not up to Amazon, it's made by the publisher). Happily, this means that the Merchant Princes and Empire Games books, which are published by Tor in North America and the UK, are free of DRM. In the USA, Tor also publish the short fiction in the Laundry Files and new Laundry Files novels, starting with "The Delirium Brief"; however, the Laundry files is published by Orbit in the UK, who require DRM. If/when Orbit's group-wide policy on DRM changes, I'll nag them to remove it from my books. (Don't hold your breath.)

I bought a hardback and it's broken/pages blank/wrong order! I demand my money back! Authors generally get asked this because they're the public face that readers identify with, but if this happens to you, you really need to get in touch with the bookstore who sold it to you. They should be happy to replace it with a fresh copy.

I spotted a mistake! Where do I go to crow about it? You post a comment in the thread below. (NB: I already know that I misplaced Tehran. Just once I don't look at Google Maps, and ...)

Some other question? Ask it in the comments below. Thanks!

224 Comments

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1:

Finished it last night. 'Twas jolly good. Thank you :-)

2:

First, thank you very much for an awesome read. I can't wait to see the next installment!

While you have admitted this yourself, your distopia has numerous aspects which would make some prefer it to our timeline. This is a slight on our timeline and not the work itself.

Without spoiling anything, was it your intent to make every named character both engaging and sympathetic (or at least competent), or was it a consequence of the world-building? I don't know how to be more clear without spoiling stuff, but I hope this suffices.

One thing which confused me was the number of time lines explored by the factions... I feel that either someone is lying (which given the situations we get the information isn't unlikely) or one of the factions should have explored way deeper by now. Or am I missing something?

3:

Actually a re-play of the timeline nomenclature would be very helpful at this point?
( Maybe ) ?

4:

About 75% of the way through. So many ways that so many things could unravel so badly...

5:

I fear I may have expressed myself in an unclear manner. My confusion stems from how many timelimes each side claims to have explored. I would have expected very different orders of magnitute compared to what is stated (at least from one of the factions involved given the resources they have available).

Right now I am putting this down to intentionally getting the mushroom treatment and a pay-off further down the line.

Long earth series parallels come to mind.

6:

So, first off, very good indeed, a tense ride all the way to the end. The worst that could be said of it is perhaps that because it is the middle book nothing gets resolved while the plot threads keep piling up.

One thing I did want to nitpick. At a certain point in the book a character from timeline 3 was stunned by the roadspeed of a 2020 vehicle. I recall that the metric system was original pioneered by the French revolutionaries in the late 18th century, considering that the French revolution most pointedly did not happen in timeline 3, it is very unlikely that she would've had any idea of the meaning behind the given roadspeed.

I just found this interesting to contemplate, how even something as fundamental to our everyday life as units of measurement are quite modern things and there was quite the regional variation back in the day.

7:

Typo - Chapter 'Action This Day', Paragraph three. 'Low-leader' should be 'low-loader'.

8:

I haven't yet read the book, so I might well be wrong, but much of the science and engineering in timeline 3 was imported from the United States analogue, and I'd suspect they use the same kind of units we do. Miriam and others would probably want a common unit system, and the SI system already in use in the materials they had would be a good starting point.

So, I could well think they would have hijacked the units in use in the Commonwealth, so it wouldn't be that out of line to comment on units use in the US.

As I said, I haven't read the book, so if it was reference to miles per hour, then my reasoning doesn't hold water as well. There is regional variation even nowadays.

9:
  • Timeline 1: The Gruinmarkt ☢
  • Timeline 2: The USA
  • Timeline 3: The North American Commonwealth
  • Timeline 4: The big dome with the portal to the black hole where Earth should be
10:

My confusion stems from how many timelimes each side claims to have explored. I would have expected very different orders of magnitute compared to what is stated

Oh, they're capable of reaching lots of time lines, but exploration is a bit more complex than just getting there.

If you've ever had a window seat on an airliner flying 5-10,000 miles, you might begin to get a feel for how big our planet is. Actually exploring a parallel world is a very big deal.

The USA is able to reach a crapton of parallel Earths ... but is kind of scared of running into other high-tech civilizations, for very good reasons. So their policy is to dip a toe in the water very carefully (to check for breathable air, radio signals, signs of life) before starting mapping with drones. Getting sloppy with the security precautions after the first couple of hundred TLs is how they managed to get a couple of drones shot down by the Commonwealth, and is a wake-up call. As their paratime exploration program is only about 10-15 years old, it's not surprising they're only in triple digits of worlds checked out (and double-digit numbers of TLs with actual outposts).

As it is, the Dome has given them plenty to chew on, and in conjunction with their experience of meeting the Gruinmarkt has contributed to their extreme caution and paranoia.

The Commonwealth is cautious for the same reasons, plus a little extra: without the stem cell tech to build ARMBAND boxes (as yet) they have a limited, precious, scarce supply of world-walkers. Each trip to a new TL risks the lives of a pair of explorers (if they end up somewhere with no air, or no gravity, or no way of jaunting home within a few seconds if things are borderline-survivable for explorers wearing space suits). Nor do they have the advanced avionics to use mapping drones, hence the long range airships (and, in future, JUGGERNAUT).

Point is, both powers are feeling their way very carefully, like blindfolded men exploring a darkened cellar by touch that may or may not contain a venomous snake.

(If the series continues after book nine, INVISIBLE SUN, it'll be a long time in the future — circa 2030 or later — and there will be far more ambitious exploration programs under way.)

11:

it is very unlikely that she would've had any idea of the meaning behind the given roadspeed.

She's not reading the speedometer, she's looking at the other vehicles and the buildings whizzing by.

(We tend to forget that as recently as the 1930s blanket national speed limits were on the order of 40mph. Whereas our protag in that scene has been transported to 2020 Germany and is in the front passenger seat of a BMW on the autobahn.)

12:

I'd just assumed that character was going "wow, this is really fast" — as being something beyond their personal experience in any other context — rather than looking at the speedometer.

13:

And my work week seems to have taken a toll in my mental faculties. I meant that most of the engineering and science material imported from timeline 2 to timeline 3 most probably uses SI units, even if the imperial units were in daily use in the timeline 2 USA. I have a biased view, being an engineer myself, but I think the SI units are better than the imperial ones doing science and engineering.

So, when Miriam and co. did uptech the timeline 3, I'd like to think they used SI units to do that, and most people familiar with those areas in timeline 3 would use those units or at least be used to them.

14:

I cheated with the time line nomenclature.

In early drafts of books 1 and 2, the USA and the Commonwealth both used their own logical numbering system, and the Commonwealth's was inhabited from the Clan.

But it very rapidly became apparent that this was unbelievably confusing to test readers, editors, and even the author. So I settled on the Clan's numbering system and stuck to it even when it's inappropriate to the viewpoint. Like, I guess, sticking to terrestrial time and date measurements in a space opera.

15:
Without spoiling anything, was it your intent to make every named character both engaging and sympathetic (or at least competent), or was it a consequence of the world-building? I don't know how to be more clear without spoiling stuff, but I hope this suffices.

I enjoyed this aspect of the book too. Nobody in here is a moustache twirling villain. Nobody is even overreacting to perceived threats. Yet things are still entreatingly going to hell in a hand basket due to their different goals / loyalties / interpretations of behaviour.

Book 2 has really made the extensive setup in book 1 worthwhile.

16:

Something I've never been clear on WRT timeline 1/Gruinmarkt - ok so the Roman empire fell and fell hard. What about all the others? Why did the world get stuck as medieval peasants without Europe rather than having flourishing Chinese/Indian/Persian/Native American/African advanced civilizations? Like in timeline 3/Commonwealth there is the explanation of, after European civilizations have already gone around with imperialism and colonialism kneecapping and genociding everyone else, then the industrial revolution got delayed. But in Timeline 1 all those other civilizations should have been going along just fine. Instead they are just treated as nonexistant except for Zeng He's explorations managing to colonize the west coast of America before ending. It's weird and kinda hits at european chauvinism; "without us you'd all be nothing"

17:

Been wondering a bit about the nuking that ended the previous series. This book states that the Washington attack caused red state America to go insane, but what about the blue states? I doubt they'd be immune to the hysteria resulting from the Capital being bathed in Oppenheimer's light. And what are the culture wars like here? Is Merchant Princes America undergoing the same kind of demographic changes that America in our world is? If so, how are the even more rabid conservatives over there reacting to whites being an ever-shrinking part of the population? Is Merchant Princes California also a stronghold of resistance?

18:

This may not mean much to you, but the sort of caution that's notable for its complete absence in the Stargate universe.

19:

>Is Merchant Princes California also a stronghold of resistance?

Man, California is leading the charge in giving Trump more and more power here, why would they be actually resisting in a scenario where DC got nuked?

Literally yesterday you had Schiff, Pelosi, and Fienstein push to expand surveillance and curtail warrant protections. They would 110% be on board with the psycho DHS

20:

I haven't read the book yet (my copy's either in the mail, on the doormat or in the PO waiting to be collected right about now) but that was my immediate thought on reading the earlier message; of someone looking at the scenery and seeing blurs.

21:


This may not mean much to you, but the sort of caution that's notable for its complete absence in the Stargate universe.

What do you mean? They had robots they sent in first (MALPs iirc) that served as the McGuffins for plenty of episodes. And them getting their hands on predator drones and using them was a plot point in season 7

22:

A Stargate is about 12' internal diameter; a MQ-1 Predator has a 49' wingspan. Do the maths.

23:


A Stargate is about 12' internal diameter; a MQ-1 Predator has a 49' wingspan. Do the maths.

Yeah, they took it over piecemeal, built an airstrip, and were using that to run an attack on the villain. Can the ignorant snark and watch the show.

24:

Arghhh, loved the book but was shocked when it ended! I thought I had a decent amount of pages left. At least it's only a year wait.

I loved that we got to see more of the inner workings of the Commonwealth. Though there's one thing I was a bit confused about: The Guardian Council is mentioned as being responsible for electing the new First Citizen but when Erasumus is talking to Rita about the election he says its the party committee. Are these the same things? Sorry to be nitpicky but I'm trying to wrap my head around the government structure, the Iranian government is confusing enough on its own let alone a democratic socialist copy.

AIUI The commonwealth is a one party state ala China where the party exists tangentially and above the rest of the government structure. Magistrates are directly elected to the legislature if they are approved by the party (assumedly local chapters). There they can pass laws under the approval of the Politburo and the First Citizen. The Politburo is made up of Ministry and party commissioners and is elected by the Party. Is party membership open to the general public?

25:

You know very well then that they had a "quick look" using MALPs and/or small recce drones, but were basically saying "let's go here" and going rather than performing an organised survey like OGH describes.

Perhaps you should wind your neck in rather than assuming that I'd have a perfect memory of 17 seasons (including Atlantis and Universe) of network television?

26:

Thank you for the detailed response!

If I may, I hve a follow-up:

Given that in time-line 2 alternate earths are public knowledge, how did the US manage to keep the monopoly on the world-walker franchise ? I imagine the power imbalance is something that would need to be addressed somehow lest unpleasantness happens.

Because I can imagine that the Us keeps a tight leash on its own, and maybe some of the harsher geart powers, but some of the europeans would probably allow semi autunomous colonies and so on opening lots of cans with lots of worms and let's say that some systems are more likely to allow bribes and corruption at almost all levels. The big questions is also how hard it is to develop or reverse engineer a vehicle if a sample is available of course.

I am becoming more and more curious to know more about timeline two and it's current state of affairs :) Could we eventually get a small opinionated guid similar to timeline three at one point? (Even if after the end of the trilogy)

27:

Would it have been entertaining for every episode to start with a montage of months long, increasingly invasive covert reconnaissance? Or for the SG-1 team to receive in a highly detailed briefing about the worlds they were about to be sent to? It sure would have made the writing much more difficult, coming up with some tension that would still be plausible after a long period of intelligence gathering.

Not saying it couldn't be done but that level of realistic activity could very probably have tanked the show, barely getting it out of the pilot. Like if every time they met a new culture Daniel had to go through weeks of interaction to learn their language and/or teach English.

You have a lot more scope in a novel (which is akin to a series rather than an episode) to take things slower and in more details, skipping ahead as needed. Making a serialised SF/F TV show with the same level of realism is a hell of a lot harder.

28:

I remember working out that it was possible to fire a Trident D5 missile through a Stargate.

29:

Are you seriously suggesting that having Hammond say "here are your maps" is less dramatic than having him effectively say "we're sending you to off-Terra incognita again"? At least some of the tension derives from "what can still go wrong?"

30:

We're not just talking about "here's some maps" because they already did things like that by putting through probes to identify local features of interest. It's whether or not taking reconnaissance to its logical conclusion would make the show better or worse.

You could make a portal fantasy show where the exploring organisation cautiously and diligently undertook a series of less covert recon missions in order to gather a tonne of intelligence before a overt manned mission. But it would be harder to make it interesting and engaging in 40 minute episodes. And it wouldn't be the same as Stargate which is fun because it relies a lot on the immediate personal experience of exploration.

31:

Finished it yesterday and will have to give it a more careful read and take notes this weekend. However, a question:

Is the TL 4 and its Dome that TL 2 knows about the same as the TL and Dome that Huw, Elena and Yul discovered in The Merchants' War? The Domes appear to be set in different terrain, and so at least are on different parts of the Earth in TL 4. Or they could be on TL 4 and TL X.

Also, did Miriam et al. ever get around to following up on H, E and Y's discovery?

32:

Still waiting to get mine, because some other bugger is a shit programmer and at least one third bugger can't tell the difference between 1 and 0. This has rendered me temporarily unable to order it which is especially annoying given how long I've been waiting for it...

33:

Let's reports bug in the book!

• It ends too soon and on a cliffhanger. Argh!

• In the introduction of the timelines at the start of the book it states that "our story starts in time line two". That is of course right for Empire Games but the first chapter of Dark State starts in timeline three.

• A protagonist flies to Berlin in 2020 in timeline two. The text reads that he slept through the ride from Brandenburg …, implying that his arriving airport is Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER). Two curses strike again in tandem, that of the inpredictable near future and the Curse of BER. The airport should have been opened in 2012. The current official predicted opening date is October 2020. That could barely work with the books timeline, operation Crown seems to happen in the late fall.
But of course there's a new TüV report which indicates the 2020 opening could be delayed until the 2021. (But of course it's timeline two which is our timeline anymore.)

34:

I meant to write: timeline two isn't our timeline anymore and wasn't really before. I remember something something Paris Hilton in the Merchant Princes. The point of divergence seems to be earlier than 2003. Possibly when the first tinkerer first world-walked?

Btw: If I were responsible to the Commonwealth there would be research in the Clan's history, just to know more. Weren't there artifacts? And how integrated the sixth family into the new structure? I'd love to have read something more about the first few years of the Clan's refuge in the camp.

35:

Here are some bugs I noticed on my first read-through. The page numbers are for the US edition.

page 83: "palaces of New York" should be "palaces of New London".

At some point Elizabeth Hanover's family name is given as Windsor. I missed the page number, but it's the only "Windsor" in the book.

On page 287, "perigeon" should probably be "perigee", which is far more common and is used elsewhere in the book. "Perigee" only applies to orbits around the Earth, but I guess it still applies to the Earth when it's been crushed into a black hole. A term for the point on an orbit closest to a black hole is "peribarythron", which is beautiful but hardly used.

page 325: In our time line, Atlanta was founded in 1847. The colonial capital in 1762 was Savannah. Moreover, it was unlikely to have a "state house" at the time, since it was a colony, not a state.

page 348: "Only the children of two active world-walkers inherit the ability." This is contradicted by two sentences later "The offspring of carriers may have the world-walking ability."

page 349: "hereditable" should be "heritable".

Also, the origins of Elizabeth's skin color, and of the prejudice against it, is explained three times a few pages apart. That's not really an error, but deserves editing.

Sorry for all the criticism. I loved the book but I also love nit-picking.

36:

"At some point Elizabeth Hanover's family name is given as Windsor."

It is Windsor. It used to be Saxe-Coburg-Gotha but they changed it in WW1 because it sounded too German for the time. Victoria was the last Hanover.

37:

Still reading so I skipped to the end to avoid spoilers, but so far in the UK Kindle edition I have noticed

...Bolshaya Neva, living in straightened circumstances.... Should be straitened of course.

The sentence beginning She had few friends at her father’s court, didn't seem to parse for me.

The Sms should probably be The Sims. I'm at 41 percent so I might notice some more.

38:

I'm guessing paws4thot meant the sort of op-sec that was speculated about in like this old blog post and others, like never travelling from Earth to another world without at least two completely blinded wormhole indirection stops, so your enemies can't force you back home if they'd captured you, and lots of /relatively/ low-tech ideas for making transits require much more serious authentication en-route.

39:

• It ends too soon and on a cliffhanger. Argh!

Yeah. I'm so old that I remember when such narratives came out monthly(ish) in the pulps as parts of a single novel. Switching to a yearly cadence is painful, but times change.

40:

so your enemies can't force you back home if they'd captured you

Yeah, especially if the enemies are the Big Bad that collapsed the Earth on the other side of TL 4's bridge.

41:

Ended on multiple cliffhangers, even. A veritable cavalcade of cliffhangers, so many that I was actually a bit nonplussed. I firmly believe in Murphy's Law and dramatic coincidence, but I think there was one too many for my taste. They also set up an almost obligatory 'stand-in' plot which I'm hoping will be quickly subverted in the next book in at least one of two possible ways. (OGH could also play it straight, but I think he's a bit too twisty for that.)

The most pleasant surprise of the book was the garden scene and John Frederick Hanover, who came off as manipulative as hell and a total snake, but also intelligent, charismatic, and very aware of both his goals and the limitations of his position. Normally 'royals in exile' tend to be written as stupid, callow, overly entitled, or some combination of all three, but the King-in-Exile seemed like someone who, with a relatively limited set of resources, was a dangerous player in this Game of Empires. He also seemed to rather like and even appreciate his daughter, even as he was lining her up for a potentially very unpleasant fate (by necessity). Very nice writing.

As a student pilot, I wanted more flying scenes.

42:

It is Windsor. It used to be Saxe-Coburg-Gotha but they changed it in WW1 because it sounded too German for the time. Victoria was the last Hanover.

Wrong Elizabeth, which will quickly become clear once you have a copy.

43:

UK edition Page 246, 3rd paragraph, a (something) is carried in on a low-leader.

Absolutely excellent read as always. Past year I've been reading up on bits of DDR/USSR history, an interest partially sparked by Empire Games. Looking forward to the next instalment.

44:

US Kindle Edition page 333 'French ironclads arrived to take up their basing rights in Tehran in 1926'. Presumably this should be one of the Persian empire ports in the Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean, since Tehran itself is over 1000m in altitude.

Less nitpicky, the alternate history appendix is also great fun, and I really like the use of unexpected constitution templates. I also liked the bit on scientific progress, though with no French Revolution, did the metric system come about a different way, or did the French Empire continue using its existing system(s)?

45:

Whups, and there I go not paying attention to the Author's notes... sorry.

46:

Some more random ones

Irontown being Philly seems odd unless it's a rename. Philly pre-dates the point of departure between timelines.

Lots more questions on how the actual formation of the Kingdom in the Americas. Eg. was the Royal Navy but a shell in 1760? Or did a Rump Navy come over? What influence did this have on the exploration and exploitation of the Pacific?

Not to mention I'm a bit bothered by the lack of agency in South America and the rest of Europe. Francisco de Miranda should have still been born, although Bolivar easily could have been butterflied. While the conditions in Germany should have still pushed some industrialization in the Ruhr.

I'm also confused by the Diplomatic Revolution happening as it did. In OTL, in 1745, France was still allied with Prussia against Austria. Now granted, in the way actions happened, Prussia was still a loose cannon in timeline 3, such that I can conceive the English would be interested in the historic Prussian-Anglo alliance. But it's a much worse deal for the Prussians in timeline 3, where they would have had much more incentives to make nice with the French.

47:

I don't want to spoil anything and my original point was addressed by the author sufficiently, but suffice it to say said character came from a place that would be hilariously unlikely to use SI units even if the American Commonwealth chose to adopt it

48:

Why did the world get stuck as medieval peasants without Europe rather than having flourishing Chinese/Indian/Persian/Native American/African advanced civilizations?

Short answer, they didn't: the western coastline of North and South America is a strip of Chinese colonies, gradually encroaching on the heartland. The pre-contact American civilizations received the same helping of smallpox and other diseases from Eurasia, however, hence the plains of North America being owned by large post-plague tribes who are gradually rebuilding, creating an effective barrier to trade between the western colonies and the east coast.

Remember the caliphate doesn't exist in this TL (no islam) and Europe is atomized, relics of the Roman pantheon hanging on along with Norse practices and other insurgent religions. Nobody has really gotten into gunpowder as a weapon of war on a global scale (remember, it came along about 12-1500 years after the divergent point between that TL and our own).

My world-building cornerstone is that the overwhelming majority of hominid time lines remain stuck in the paleolithic, and of those that escape, there are a number of technological/economic local minima they tend to get trapped in before runaway industrialization can happen. One of the last of these is ~18th century sail/gunpowder mercantilism (which is where TL3, that of the Commonwealth, was more or less stuck before the Hidden Family showed up — although whether they're causally implicated in the late kickstarting of the industrial revolution in that TL isn't developed); the one immediately before that would be the high mediaeval level we find in TL1 (lots of mature empires in the core — in Africa and south-east Asia, mostly — plus atomized marcher kingdoms around the periphery, but no well-established intercontinental sea commerce).

49:

And what are the culture wars like here?

It's finely shaded in the background, but note our gay female protagonist's extreme reluctance to visit certain states, the reference to "no choice" states, the Defense of Marriage Act still in force in 2020 (in our time line it was struck down as unconstitutional in 2013; this hints at a much more right wing supreme court: see also "Judge Bork"). Chunks of Rita's USA have gone Dominionist, on a half-assed state-by-state level, although the most extreme measures tend to get struck down by the courts as unconstitutional: the constitution is still in effect and not amended to facilitate theocracy.

(In the 20 or so "no choice" states, abortion is illegal under all circumstances, contraception is only sold to men/married women with children, homosexuality is illegal, more rabid politicians are trying to strip back equal rights legislation and require all single women to have a male guardian. This has enough support nationally that Rita and her friends worry that the Dominionists will eventually be able to trigger a constitutional convention and go full Republic of Gilead. But very few people are actively trying to prevent it from happening because it's years away, it's politics, and politics is boring. In other words? Slow-motion dystopian mudslide rather than sudden crisis then "Handmaid's Tale".)

This TL's USA has one big difference from our own that reduces the demographic stress — public awareness of paratime, and gradually-commencing expansion into it. It's an empty frontier, in other words. Political pressure from the top down is holding off opening up other TLs for civilian colonization due to threat assessment (the security state is still in the driving seat), but it's widely seen as inevitable that in a matter of a few more years some uninhabited time lines will be opened up for farming/industrialization, not just prison building and defense contractors. So the white supremacists are busy militating for access and buying up toolkits for breaking ground in their hypothetical white homeland, rather than trying to take over small towns in the mid-west.

50:

AIUI The commonwealth is a one party state ala China

No; the Commonwealth is explicitly modeled on contemporary Iran, replacing the Islamic clergy with the Radical Party (who are all about democracy). They've got a choke-hold on the courts, the military, and the civil service ministries. Then there is an elected chamber of magistrates where the public vote for members of various political parties which are approved as being compatible with the ideals of Democracy (as defined by the Radical Party — Monarchists Not Welcome On Board). The chamber of magistrates has power to propose and advance legislation, but it has to be approved by the First Man, who is elected by the inner circle of the Radical Party.

Replace "First Man" with Grand Ayatollah and you've got the picture.

51:

Given that in time-line 2 alternate earths are public knowledge, how did the US manage to keep the monopoly on the world-walker franchise ?

Did they?

From the restricted range of PoVs in the series we'd never know if, say, China had stolen the stem cell lineage needed to build ARMBAND devices. If they had, they'd keep it utterly secret — access to other time lines makes a pre-emptive nuclear decapitation strike easy (as India and Pakistan realized in 2003, hence "World War 2.5" in the back story, when the brushfire war in Kashmir escalated to a full strategic nuclear exchange within hours of Dick Cheney botching the announcement of parallel universes to a horrified world).

We do know that the Commonwealth has access to other parts of Time Line 2 than just North America, simply from Yul's activities. But they've got a good reason to keep quiet, too: they're not terribly popular anywhere in TL2 (for the same reason that Osama bin Laden was rather unpopular throughout most of our world after 9/11).

52:

Yup, it's the same Dome.

The Commonwealth worldwalkers spent the first decade trying not to tip the USA off that they exist, and by the time they begin looking at exploring TL4 again the presence of radio signals makes it clear that there's a US footprint there.

TL4 is directly accessible from TL2 via a single transfer, so it's going to be one of the earlier TLs discovered by the USA. (Don't be deceived by the numbering into thinking it's the first that the US discovers — remember, I'm using the Clan's numbering system throughout: IIRC it took the US a few years of experimentation before they found it.)

53:

Guess who flew out of Tempelhof just over two weeks ago and noted the extensive mockery of the revised Brandenberg timetable?

(Sometimes a non-existent never-opening fantasy airport is just a non-existent never-opening fantasy airport — and sometimes it's A GIANT CLUE YOU'RE NOT IN THE SAME TIMELINE ANY MORE. See also Paris Hilton's celebrity drunk-driving car-crash funeral in 2003 in the preceding Merchant Princes series ...)

54:

If I were responsible to the Commonwealth there would be research in the Clan's history, just to know more. Weren't there artifacts?

I lampshaded some of that in in "The Bloodline Feud" and meant to revisit it, but it was all nuked to hell in "The Revolution Trade".

Trivial spoiler for the meta-plotline: the Clan's Common Ancestor (the original worldwalker) was a deserter from the military of an advanced paratime civilization fighting a losing war against the things we get to see at the end of "Dark State" — the same civilization that built the dome. (It's a human civilization with advanced nanotechnology, paratime tech, full spectrum genetic engineering, and a bunch of other capabilities we've seen only hints of.)

Mr CCA deserted, ran away, and went to ground in the Gruinmarkt: settled down, used his power judiciously to earn a living as a smuggler, got rich (by mediaeval standards) and had lots of kids, then died. Because of a stupid point mutation the world-walking trait he passed on to his children went recessive and causes malignant hypertension when triggered: it was designed to be self-repairing (useful for soldiers in the field), but nobody expected it to survive germ-line transmission in the wild, because who the hell still grows babies with uncurated genomes inside their body? (High tech civilization problems.)

The east coast post-Viking civilization of which the Gruinmarkt was part lacked the Christian cousin-marriage taboo (imposed by the Church in the middle ages to prevent noble families accumulating too much power), and dowry systems encourage inter-family marriages within a clan or tribe to retain wealth: so eventually some of the Clan grandchildren married one another and produced world-walkers.

Somebody had copied the knotwork design grandpa had been so fond of (on his belt, etc — so he could reliably get to his preferred secondary TL for smuggling without using any high-tech engram generators that might fail or be picked up by hostile sensors) and that's how they rediscovered world-walking.

Note that there are implicitly at least three different ways of getting between parallel universes in this setting: the Q-machines and brain hackery the progenitors used, the Gate (a stable permanent wormhole), and whatever the Enemy uses. There may be more. There may be more than two paratime-utilizing sentient species, as well. If you want to use space opera as a metaphor? Humanity has just begun expanding into the solar system using tech looted from a crashed UFO, and has discovered alien wreckage in orbit around another planet. But there's a whole galaxy out there ...

55:

Lots more questions on how the actual formation of the Kingdom in the Americas. Eg. was the Royal Navy but a shell in 1760? Or did a Rump Navy come over?

You know the RN was already operating as a global force by 1760? HMS Victory, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, had already been laid down (in our time line). No, really, the US War of Independence was a side-show in a titanic global superpower struggle between two maritime empires.

56:

‘Loving it! Pg.103, location 1650: it’s vs its :)

57:

Absolutely loved everything about this book, apart from the having to wait another year for the next instalment part... I am wondering whether one more book will be enough to tie everything together or whether we’ll end up with the Forerunners doing to the US what the US did to the Gruinmarkt, and a third trilogy starting with refugees from the US warning another timeline “the Forerunners are coming.” But as I would gladly buy “Mirian Burgeson’s Notes to Her Milkman” if Charlie chooses to write it I’m not complaining.

A few nitpicks:

“Secretary of State for Homeland Security” reappeared with a note that DHS had been made co-equal with State, but DHS *is already* co-equal with the State Department: they’re both Cabinet Departments. The only seniority is that the Presdential Succession, should it reach the Cabinet, is in order of deparmental creation. The *rank* is “Secretary”, unlike the UK where it’s “Secretary of State”, and in the US the “of State” bit merely describes the department that Secretary is in charge of. In fact the Department and Secretaryship were originally of Foreign Affairs” but were early on changes to “State” when some domestic responsibilities were added to the Department. The name was never changed back after the State Department again was focused on purely foreign affairs.

In the chapter “Bred in the Bones” and a couple of other places Liz’s honorific is “Her/Your Majesty” whereas elsewhere it’s “Your/Her (Royal) Highness”. The latter is correct in the practice established in our TL before TL3’s POD where “Majesty” is reserved for reigning monarchs of at lwast the rank of King or Queen and their consorts.

In the appendix it’s said that the Hanoverians became monarchs of Great Britain after the death of Mary ll in 1714. She died in 1694, with her co-monarch William III ruling alone until his death in 1702. It was their successor Queen Anne who died in 1714.

58:

Wait, the commonwealth's world was stuck in gunpowder and sail mercantillism and not merely delayed a century? From my reading of the situation in the first set of merchant princes book the technology level seemed 1920s to 1940s as of say 2001, with fancy clothes with slow advancement not stuck.

Also interesting note on the different traps civilization can fall into. At the high end of things we've got gunpowder/sail mercantillism, say 1491 eurasia as the two higher possibilities for stagnation. The lowest one is obvious: stuck as cavemen, but are there any potential traps I missed?

59:

I hoped so! I imagine that many of the more expansionistic powers are busy with colonization and especially resource extraction in 1-2 virgin worlds. Sucks to be the Netherlands :). Oil's a big part, but not the only thing. I imagine that China would want to move a lot of the manufacturing off the main soil :).

Regarding the evolutionary "local minima": I fear the same. I often heard the "wouldn't it be awesome to live in X time" bull. I often think how lucky I am to live today and how unlikely it is to be able to enjoy the benefits of the technology and culture and society I have access to.

60:

Wait, the commonwealth's world was stuck in gunpowder and sail mercantillism and not merely delayed a century?

They were stuck prior to the arrival of the hidden family. Whether the HF were the cause of them coming un-stuck and beginning to industrialize is ... unlikely but not impossible. Either way, they're developing, but a century behind TL2, by the time Miriam stumbles on them.

Other sticking points/local minima: agriculture/settlements, development of writing, development of fungible currency. But in general, most hominid worlds never develop agriculture/settlements but remain stuck at paleolithic hunter-gatherer levels. Or appear to be stuck there. This may turn out to be a side-effect of Olduvai theory being mostly correct, and the breakout requirement for a persistent human civilization being access to paratime or space colonization.

(But we're now trundling off the map of the multiverse I had blocked out, merrily exploring blank spaces labelled HERE BE DRAGONNES.)

61:

I am wondering whether one more book will be enough to tie everything together or whether we’ll end up with the Forerunners doing to the US what the US did to the Gruinmarkt, and a third trilogy starting with refugees from the US warning another timeline “the Forerunners are coming.”


It seems as if TL 2 knew that there was some such risk in poking the singularity, so why did they do it?

------------------

Dark State:

Dr. Scranton: "We tickled the dragon’s tail and the dragon woke up."

------------------

Empire Games:

“Yeah.” Julie was silent for a few seconds. “Whoever did this could still be out there, Rita. Somewhere in para-time.”

Rita swallowed. “They crushed the Earth down to a black hole?”

[Julie]: “Just like the Clan world-walkers nuked the White House.”

------------------

Perhaps TL 2 is close enough to ours enough that "tickling the dragon's tail" had meaning to Dr. Scranton:

https://nerdist.com/tickling-the-dragons-tail-the-story-of-the-demon-core/

------------------

And the Forerunners may not turn out to be the problem:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/09/books-i-will-not-write-3-big-f.html

62:

There's a couple of issues with "paleolithic." One critical factor is the presence of clothes a sewing needles, because it turns out these two pieces of tech are absolutely required for humans to survive Beringia during an ice age. No clothes, and hominids are stuck in the Old World south of the glaciers.

A second question/issue is whether Milankovitch cycles are equivalent for all Earth timelines. If you look at the first diagram from the Wikipedia discussion, you'll see in the Q^day at 65 deg N (e.g. the average annual sunlight hitting the Arctic circle) that right about the time you get out of the last ice age, there's a local minimmum in the amount of variation in Q^day: that's where we're living now. Since the data this graph was created from aren't available at their original address, I blew this up and actually analyzed it point by point for my last book, but that's neither here nor there. What is important is that if you look back at the 300,000-odd years of modern human history, the Holocene is the first time that humans encountered a long-term stable climate. Having a stable, predictable climate is critical for agriculture to work. The meso/neolithic was not the first time that someone tried domesticating plants in the Middle East (it was actually 23,000 years BP), but it's the first time that agriculture worked reliably, without a changing climate causing routine crop failures. This pairs with archaeological evidence that suggests both that long-term crop domestication popped up independently in Eurasia, Africa, and South and Central America all within a few thousand years of each other (unlike the failed attempt 23,000 years ago in Israel). Climatic fluctuations may have played more of a role in people switching to agriculture than did the inherent cleverness and the spread of new inventions.

The upshot is that the question about whether Milankovitch cycles are the same across timelines might turn out to be really important. If the cycles are in sync, then it's entirely possible that every inhabited human timeline has people doing agriculture, likely with some subset of the same crops (and note that this isn't necessarily the same ones that we use on our timeline. There's a lot of luck in finding and propagating mutants that goes into domestication. IIRC there's a genetic theory that all domestic horses descend from a single stallion).

If a world is "stuck in the paleolithic," it might not (just) be that critical inventions have failed to propagate among tribes, but that the Milankovitch cycles are just far enough off from our world that the alternate timeline is stuck in one of the rapidly fluctuating periods of an ice age, or something like the Eemian interglacial, where it was warm, but the climate fluctuated so rapidly that broad-spectrum foraging was more reliable than planting a crop that failed most years. I should point out that an Earth in the modern equivalent of the Eemian would look a lot like Earth going through moderately severe climate change without billions of people around--no mass extinction, but it wouldn't be suitable for cross-time colonization either, because there's too much interannual variation in temperature and precipitation for farming to be a predictably useful activity. It would be a great place for a prison though.

If Milankovitch cycles are out of synch, it's also worth pointing out that the depths of an ice age might have a stable-enough climate for agriculture to work, if it was imported from an alternate timeline. Obviously the life zones would be compressed (California would look like Vancouver, the Yucatan would look like Texas, Washington DC like Newfoundland), but the advantage is that you could establish farms on the coastal plain (100 meters below current mean sea level) and not worry about world-walkers jumping directly in or out, unless someone got *really good* with a submarine.

Finally, there is a way to get to the Stone age if every timeline has Milankovitch cycles in synch: simply assume that Classical Rome and Qin/Han China both figured out how to exploit fossil fuels (which AFAIK they both knew about) and both made the jump to global industrial powers around 500 CE-ish. They then depleted global fossil fuel stocks, caused massive climate change, and the worldwalkers ran into the depleted remnants of the mess a thousand years later.

63:

Guess who flew out of Tempelhof just over two weeks ago

if you flew out of THF any time since 2008, then I submit that it's you that's in an alternate timeline ;) I'm guessing you meant Tegel (and my condolences if so)?

64:

Will we see any signs of the US presidential elections of 2020 in TL2? Since we are in August 2020, the conventions are over and we are only ca. 10 weeks away from the elections...

65:

Where can I buy it in epub (in the US) that doesn't have the DRM on it?

Every book on B&N has it and wants to only be on Nook.

I use FBreader which doesn't have DRM on it. I'd prefer not to strip off the DRM and reward stores that offer it without DRM.

66:

Pg 341, Trade paperback.

"Moderate Faction within the Leveler Party.' I think it should be Radical Party.

There's another one I spotted somewhere in the Appendix, but I can't spot it now.

If someone were to make a Hearts of Iron 4 (a Grand Strategy game based on WW2 that has a number of alternate history mods.) mod based on timeline 3, with credit and obviously with no commercial goals, would you have any objection?

Is Australia under Radical or Monarchist control? Are there any New British holdings that have not revolted?
Is Scotland still independent/annexed/protectorate? The Dutch/Portuguese own Indonesia I assume, what about New Guinea?

67:

I'm very glad I only have to wait another year. And please consider continuing further.

68:

Sonia Gomez is certainly not sympathetic, and it's possible that her dislike for Rita may affect her competency.

69:

And, even with a "stable" climate, there's enough change to move the styles & types of agriculture or reversal to Hunt/gathering in our own timeline.
See "The Long Summer" & the accounts of lush/ semi-desert growth in parts of what are now Turkey / Syria etc.
Or the Mediterranean "climate" extending much further north during most of the classical Roman-empire period, etc.

70:

It occurs to me that the name of the probe, ERGO-1, may indicate that the TL 2 American government was investigating the possibilities for using the black hole as a power source. See

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergosphere

and

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerr_metric


What they actually found out, it seems, is that the Big Bad beat them to it. Oops.


71:

Yeah, Tegel. I'm that burned-out right now that I can't tell airports apart ...

72:

Stores have nothing to do with whether a book has DRM or not — it's the publisher's decision.

Tor does not put DRM on my books. If you buy a copy of DARK STATE and find DRM on it, leave a comment here (identifying the ebook store responsible) and I'll alert the publisher to the problem.

73:

No, they're investigating using the black hole as a gravity-assist mechanism for boosting nuclear warheads to very high speed and/or weird-ass trajectories without strapping them on top of two-hundred-ton rockets.

Think in terms of what you'd need to mount a pre-emptive attack on the Commonwealth using a fractional orbital bombardment system, with synchronised strikes on their backup second-strike strategic bomber bases in places like Australia and Greenland at the same time, and without any warning (i.e. no thermal plumes from ICBM launches that might be picked up if the Commonwealth has somehow orbited a MISTY-grade stealthed spysat over the USA).

74:

Charlie, I have a question that probably has been asked before, but I'll ask again.

The Merchant Prince series is written in the third person, and primarily set in the USA. Your other books are usually written in the second or third person, and either set offworld or in the UK. (Yes, I know that the Apocalypse Codex is set in America.) Why did you choose a different format for the Merchant Prince series? Thanks.

75:

Thanks for an excellent book, I wish I'd started reading it 11 months from now. Now, some nitpickery, as requested:

Best laid plans, page 55: "... mother who, living as a recluse, having abandoned all interest in her daughter's education." Should there be something after this?

Multiple locations: "autobahn" should probably be capitalized and/or italicized

Arrivals, page 78: "Guten tag" is not a common way to say goodbye - also "Tag" should be capitalized

Diplomats, page 194: "It's three forty-six. You've got a two-hour window, starting at three, ending at five." That doesn't add up to three hours...

Action this day, page 267: "low-leader" should be "low-loader", as mentioned by others

Action this day, page 295: "How is this expected?" should probably be "When" or "How soon"

Sorry for nitpickery, but you did specifically ask.

76:

It wouldn't offer much in the way of weird orbital trajectories - you'd be fairly strictly limited to polar orbits with an angle to the ecliptic defined by the latitude of the portal in TL4. Using an Oberth slingshot around a small blockhole would be able to give you some ludicrously eliptical orbits, but wouldn't help much at all with plane changes (assuming that I remember my classical mechanics correctly).

Two other comments though - from your past comments, ARMBAND is some sort of wierd electro-biological contraption: a slice of World-walker brain (either vivisected from a preserved captive, or by now, presumably, grown in the lab) mated to a triggering computer. Such a system would probably not be amenable to a prolonged stay in a high radiation environment.

It had occurred to me that it would be a superb way to create a truly stealthy satellite - by shifting it to a spare, unobserved timeline when its in the part of its orbit in which nothing of interest can be imaged. That would rely on a re-usable Armband unit capable of high reliability survivability in a high radiation environment for an awfully long time.

(Perhaps I overestimate the problem, though - the sensors I use in my optics experiments are such that room lighting amounts to an unacceptably high radiation environment...)

77:

The Merchant Prince series is written in the third person, and primarily set in the USA. Your other books are usually written in the second or third person, and either set offworld or in the UK. (Yes, I know that the Apocalypse Codex is set in America.) Why did you choose a different format for the Merchant Prince series? Thanks.

The Merchant Princes series were originally going to be published under a pseudonym. Back when I began writing them the received wisdom in SF/F trade publishing (pre-ebook era) was that if you published more than one novel per 12 months you'd cannibalize your own market — and I was hungry and needed the money. Also, Ace had an option on my next SF book and wouldn't even look at it until they had sales figures for Singularity Sky, so I had to branch out and write something that was marketable as other-than-SF.

(I went as far from SF as I could in the first book, and after a couple of years we got an exception added to the option clause in my contract so that the Merchant Princes was no longer contractually required not to be SF.)

NB: I have written novels in the first, third, and second person, and used a variety of settings (both UK, US, elsewhere on Earth — somewhat constrained by my incompetence in other languages than English — and extraterrestrial.

78:

Using an Oberth slingshot around a small blockhole would be able to give you some ludicrously eliptical orbits, but wouldn't help much at all with plane changes (assuming that I remember my classical mechanics correctly).

Given that nukes in orbit around the black hole will be inaccessible/undetectable by their target until right before delivery, there's plenty of time — weeks to months — for the RVs to maneuver and adjust their trajectory. The moon is still orbiting the hole, so there's a secondary body to use for flybys.

Now here's an interesting paper: A technique for designing highly inclined spacecraft orbits using gravity-assist maneuvers: A highly accurate algorithm for synthesizing chains of cranking gravity-assist maneuvers (GAMs) has been constructed using formalization of the search for ballistic scenarios followed by the adaptive involvement of tens of millions of variants. Its use results in a significant change in the orbital inclination of a research spacecraft without a significant expenditure of propellant with a reasonable mission time.

"Cranking" as a technique for orbital inclination adjustment was used extensively on the Cassini mission to Saturn, and going by this Russian work it looks like once you've got a couple of bodies available for gravity assist you can mess with your orbital inclination for virtually no fuel expenditure.

I'm not exploring actual ARMBAND use in a prolonged space/high radiation environment because that's not what this trilogy is about. (There's a much more alarming and whacked-out alternative coming up in INVISIBLE SUN.) Also, I haven't inked in the extent to which the DHS labs have improved on the original ARMBAND units from 2003 — but there's certainly a high priority superblack research project with a budget in the tens of billions working on it in the background, because this stuff is as important to national security as maintaining the nuclear stockpile or running spysats.

79:

You're one of a handful of authors I can't wait a year to read in paperback.
That said, is there any particular channel that pays you better than another? Does it matter to your bottom line whether I buy from Amazon or BN or wherever?

80:

The moon is still orbiting the hole

I thought about that but forgot to ask: what does the moon look like in TL 4 and the TL on the other side of the Gate? Forerunner installations, extra craters or what?

If it still looks more or less untouched, modulo a few craters, perhaps the Forerunner home TL is elsewhere.

81:

Halfway through and it's feeling much too short.

82:

Most of the book is set in August, but it seems to be late fall in Berlin, with leaves changing and cold, wet weather?

The Bridge timeline: Once you've done that to your enemy, there's literally nothing else you can do to them. So why would you need to leave a presence behind, unless they're guarding something?

83:

I was pleasantly surprised to be able to pre-order the kobo edition, and even more pleasantly surprised to see it arrive and be able to spend much of Sunday reading it. Thank you! Thank your publisher(s) etc too!

84:

As it seems spoiling stuff is ok... I'm trying not to read too much, I'm not finished yet, but there is a couple of things of personal interest to me that I would very much like our gracious host to answer :)

The "personal interest" thing is that I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, so ...

1) For what it seems, all Latin America in Timeline 3 is Commonwealth, and previously New British Empire? Timeline 3 Spanish Empire didnt happen, or was eaten up by the Hannover - Bourbon conflict, with Spain and Portugal falling to the French and the American part conquered by the British? Is that right?

2) The very short time (so far as I've read) that we spend in Timeline 2 2020 Caracas, I was a bit confused till I remembered it was 2020. So, I assume Timeline 2 Venezuela either didnt got a terminal case of Chavista idiocy wrecking the country into desperate poverty, or it has recovered a lot in 2 years... something that I find both a bit difficult to believe and, well, happy to think it is intentional and at least we got some hope for the country even if it is in a fictional para-timeline

Any case, enjoying the book - this is just icing on the cake :)

85:

What pays me best is either (a) a hardcover purchased at full SRP from a small specialist bookstore (like Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh, or Borderlands in San Francisco), or (b) an ebook purchased at the sky-high initial publication price (the ebook price is geared to the SRP and will fall when the paperback is released).

Because I get a percentage of the receipts for the sale, the more you pay, the more I get. Because giant chains like Barnes and Noble or Amazon negotiate steeper discounts from publishers, if you buy from a big chain more money sticks to their fingers and less gets to me and my publisher.

86:


Using an Oberth slingshot around a small blockhole would be able to give you some ludicrously elliptical orbits, but wouldn't help much at all with plane changes (assuming that I remember my classical mechanics correctly).

No, in the circumstances I think we're talking about, a gravity-assist plane change is possible. See

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulysses_(spacecraft)

As for fanciness, why not just a simple elliptical orbit with its apogee over the target? The warhead will be subterranean from the point of view of the target until it pops above ground level and transitions and explodes. (No RV needed in this case, as the warhead will be moving quite slowly.)

87:

If it still looks more or less untouched, modulo a few craters, perhaps the Forerunner home TL is elsewhere

We're a long way off the map, but you bet the Forerunner home is elsewhere — a long way elsewhere.

88:

“what does the moon look like in TL 4 and the TL on the other side of the Gate?”

Please tell me it has the face of a historical figure who achieved notoriety as a ruthless dictator just before the timelines diverge engraved upon it...

89:

Apparently I have just won a copy by RTing an announcement on twitter! Me wot never usually wins anything. This is excellent, and means I don't have to worry about the abovementioned problems any more. Waiting now with eager anticipation.

90:

Just a bit of terminology from the book, which I enjoyed:

--What the heck is a low-leader? I think I know the device you're describing, but when you google the phrase, you get an amusing conglomeration of complex fishing lures and references to poor leadership from webpages on management.

--Amber alert (properly AMBER Alert, a backronym for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and named after the late Amber Hagerman) is a US nationwide system for alerting the public that a child abduction is in process, and it dates back to 1996 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMBER_Alert). It goes out on broadcast media, traffic condition signs, and now cell phones. You can read up on it in Wikipedia, but the point is that, after enough children were abducted and murdered by known assailants, they added this to the emergency alert system (replacing earlier ad hoc systems in some states). It's only activated when a child has been abducted and there's a good description of the car (with license number) that the child is in. Whether they work or are a type of crime control theater remains to be determined.

The point is that amber alerts have a particular and ubiquitous meaning in the US, so amber might not be the best alert color to use in a different context.

91:

Guessing (see previous comment), but would "low-leader" be a typo for "low-loader"? - ie. the kind of truck used to transport locomotives and power station boilers and suchlike huge loads by road.

92:

That could be it. I was thinking more of what I now know as a pallet jack. The scale isn't quite clear, I guess, but my impression was the class of object being moved on a "low leader" tends to be fairly light for its size.

93:

My first thought was a crossover with Pratchett's dwarves. Like Low King, without the monarchy.

94:

Guessing (see previous comment), but would "low-leader" be a typo for "low-loader"? - ie. the kind of truck used to transport locomotives and power station boilers and suchlike huge loads by road.

Also shoggoths, per OGH's A Colder War.

95:

Sure, and that black hole is actually Azathoth.

Doesn't this count as Crossing the Streams?"

96:

"(i.e. no thermal plumes from ICBM launches that might be picked up if the Commonwealth has somehow orbited a MISTY-grade stealthed spysat over the USA)."

Or from any of a dozen different devices and methods which could be used at shorter range. Take silos on which there are long lines of sight, and put a spy gadget several miles away. Wire that (through anonymizers) to forward launch warnings to whatever other networks the Clan are using to pull information from TL2.

A world-walker in TL 2 could receive alerts and jump immediately into TL 3, sending a warning.

97:

"The Bridge timeline: Once you've done that to your enemy, there's literally nothing else you can do to them. So why would you need to leave a presence behind, unless they're guarding something?"

In case something else pokes around. Or they are the remnants of a fleet, still on station.

98:

Doesn't this count as Crossing the Streams?"

No, it counts as showing that OGH knows what a low-loader is because he used it in a previous work. Typos happen.

99:

In case something else pokes around.

Which is what just happened.

100:

It's really surprising that they did that. Passive observation was risky enough, but tickling the dragon's tail was really, really f*cking stupid.

At this point it's clear that the US can use ARMBAND to move a large number of times quite easily, and could mount a serious nuclear strike on other TL quite easily. The problem is that Commonwealth undoubtedly has massive retaliatory capability in *at least* one other time line.

101:

It's really surprising that they did that. Passive observation was risky enough, but tickling the dragon's tail was really, really f*cking stupid.

Yes, something Bridge-sized at 6400 km might well have been detectable from the vicinity of the singularity. But, in the happy event it wasn't, just putting a 1-meter aperture UV telescope out of the Bridge door would have give pictures of two-ish meter resolution of the "debris".

Really, really f*cking stupid does seems to apply.

I'd have crept up on this a whole lot more slowly and carefully if I'd been the PTB in T-2.

102:

You could decorate the underside of the Bridge with scopes of various types and get binocular or multiocular views of the black hole at all sorts of angles.

Of course, the first thing I'd check for, were I building the bridge, is whether there's another bridge hanging out somewhere else. Were I guarding the singularity for some reason (possibly because you can gate a singularity into the center of another Earth, and...) I'd have my guardians set to trigger when the matter from a stable gate suddenly stops falling into the black hole. That would be a warning that someone was monkeying around on the other side of the gate.

Oh well, this is all speculation to drive Charlie nuts...

103:

This is driving me nuts ( Never mind one C Stross ) ... my copy hasn't arrived yet!

104:

The Bridge timeline: Once you've done that to your enemy, there's literally nothing else you can do to them. So why would you need to leave a presence behind, unless they're guarding something?

Similar things happen every single day around the world. Wars are over and decades later someone who wasn't even born when the conflict happened puts his/her foot on the wrong patch of soil and BOOM!
Might be a very advanced version of a mine. Just sits and waits until the switch is activated. When that happens it does what is was designed to do even though it may no longer be desirable.

105:

What the heck is a low-leader?

Typo for "low-loader".

... Just discovered it's called a "lowboy" in America. D'oh. Black mark to the copy-editor and proofreader for not calling it out as a spurious Britishism!

106:

They've been watching the debris for a decade; it hitherto appeared to be inert.

I'd also just like to note that human relics tend not to be viable after a few millennia of neglect, unless they're passive structures like buildings (and over-engineered ones at that, such as the pyramids). Consider, for example, the state of the Antikytheria mechanism or the Dead Sea scrolls when discovered. Or, elsewhere in the series, the state of the equipment discovered inside the Dome (pretty much all dead except for the gate itself, which is apparently stable but was created by means unknown).

We don't generally build mechanisms that can operate for more than a human lifespan without maintenance. And a ten year span of observations of a debris belt that detects zero emissions or signs of life, or even reliable evidence that it's artificial (see also the controversy over microbacteria in Martian meteorites on Earth) and the precautionary principle isn't going to trump an emergency weapons program in a cold war political climate.

107:

Charlie,

One thing that has not been said is that your story idea puts a new wrinkle on the Fermi paradox in that civilizations get snuffed out by other civilizations on other, but geographically accessible timelines and not by those around other stars.
Therefore assuming no FTL travel,there is little need for civilizations to hide their presence from others on the same time line. I think there is novel here using this basic premise.

Implied also is that there could be timelines where the dinosaurs not only did not become extinct, but became highly technological and are working to get rid of in all time lines, all of the mammalian upstarts. Maybe they were responsible for the black hole ?

I greatly enjoyed your novel and in the last three novels, I have noticed a bit of a change in your writing. Namely, that the plotting has become a bit more focused.

108:

Well Charlie, I thought that "Lowboy" was a specific trade name from a manufacturer rather than a generic name for a beaver-tail low platform semi-trailer (lowloader).

109:

Thoroughly enjoyed Dark State.
It was strange to alternate between reading news/etc feeds in TL:0 and reading Dark State. Not sure which I prefer. Probably this time line but it's getting darker and weirder[1], fast. And who knows for sure whether or not e.g. TL:-108382.7 is active in TL:0. :-) Enjoyed the jokes (e.g. the pigeons and world walking and implications about invasive species) and little details a few of which were familiar. (looking forward to crib sheet.)

[1] (via) The Neuronal Gene Arc Encodes a Repurposed Retrotransposon Gag Protein that Mediates Intercellular RNA Transfer (paywalled, 11 January 2018 )
Here, we show that Arc self-assembles into virus-like capsids that encapsulate RNA. Endogenous Arc protein is released from neurons in extracellular vesicles that mediate the transfer of Arc mRNA into new target cells, where it can undergo activity-dependent translation. Purified Arc capsids are endocytosed and are able to transfer Arc mRNA into the cytoplasm of neurons.
Also, optimistic analysis, that looks like it will be hard to spin away, from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Maybe we won't fry this timeline's Earth:
Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017 (January, 2018) and executive summary

110:

We don't generally build mechanisms that can operate for more than a human lifespan without maintenance.

For those who haven't heard of it; the people behind longnow.org are working on projects that look further than the next quarter results.

111:

Correct, but the fact that the Long Now foundation is noteworthy and distinctive is itself supporting evidence for my assertion — if we were good at long term planning it wouldn't be!

112:

"somewhat constrained by my incompetence in other languages than English"

Tunes matter more than the instrument they're played on. Mo never would have gotten proficient on violin if she wasted time learning trumpet, flute and clarinet. The fact that people think the same identical thoughts regardless of language shows the predominance of content over form, in both music and literature. Bach and Mozart violin sonatas sound great whether they're transposed to guitar or brass band. And Amazon does offer a Chinese version of Accelerando, seen any royalty checks on that yet?

113:

Just a bit of terminology from the book, which I enjoyed:

--What the heck is a low-leader? I think I know the device you're describing, but when you google the phrase, you get an amusing conglomeration of complex fishing lures and references to poor leadership from webpages on management.

Others have already pointed out that it's a misprint. It should be "low-loader". It's a truck & trailer something like this.

https://sep.yimg.com/ay/yhst-137076335755447/1-50-scale-model-daf-tropco-650kn-6x6-with-7-axis-semi-low-loader-diecast-model-1.jpg

--Amber alert (properly AMBER Alert, a backronym for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and named after the late Amber Hagerman) is a US nationwide system for alerting the public that a child abduction is in process, and it dates back to 1996 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMBER_Alert). It goes out on broadcast media, traffic condition signs, and now cell phones. You can read up on it in Wikipedia, but the point is that, after enough children were abducted and murdered by known assailants, they added this to the emergency alert system (replacing earlier ad hoc systems in some states). It's only activated when a child has been abducted and there's a good description of the car (with license number) that the child is in. Whether they work or are a type of crime control theater remains to be determined.

The point is that amber alerts have a particular and ubiquitous meaning in the US, so amber might not be the best alert color to use in a different context.

Back in the days after 9/11, the newly instated Department of Homeland Security failed to take that into account in devising their chart for "terrorist risk" levels - Green, Blue, Yellow, Amber, Red - from lowest to highest.

I think someone subsequently pointed out the conflict between "Amber" and "AMBER" so they started calling it "Orange" instead, but it was originally Amber.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-kg88ih4RE1w/TXkXkzn9FbI/AAAAAAAABds/dUUhlVbkRJI/s1600/terror_alert.jpg

I should be getting an email from the Library that it's ready for me to pick up at my local branch. Around here, libraries are a "service" of local government, so they close on holidays (Martin Luther King Day yesterday was a Federal holiday in the U.S.).

That just seems backwards to me. Holidays are the days people might have more time to visit the library. They should have extended hours on holidays; not close.

114:

A civilian would probably describe it as "...the military version of a car carrier, engineered to carry tanks and similar vehicles."

115:

"Consider, for example, the state of the Antikytheria mechanism"

To be fair, it wasn't stored under the best of conditions.

116:

Nah, they're very commonly civilian, that military one is almost certainly a repainted civilian unit. Building a dedicated military version for use on civilian roads is unlikely.

This UK truck sales site has a category "low-loaders", for example:
https://www.trucklocator.co.uk/low+loaders-trucks

Wikipedia redirects to the US term: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowboy_(trailer)

There are dedicated military versions mostly in the former USSR, distinctive mostly by not being road legal - they're often longer and sometimes wider than roads are designed to take, and almost always heavier. "can carry a 70 ton tank" is just not a spec you're going to see on a civilian truck :)

117:
“What the heck is a low-leader?”

Typo for "low-loader".

... Just discovered it's called a "lowboy" in America. D'oh. Black mark to the copy-editor and proofreader for not calling it out as a spurious Britishism!

Well, since it's not OUR actual United States ...

Besides, I've heard that turn of phrase used here. "Lowboy" is more common, but most Americans with any experience with heavy trucks would recognize "low-loader".

118:

Nah, they're very commonly civilian, that military one is almost certainly a repainted civilian unit. Building a dedicated military version for use on civilian roads is unlikely.

Yeah, I only chose that particular image because I expect when I get to read the book the "low-loader" in question will will be from Rita's current employer.

Here's a civilian version

http://www.wsi-models.com/media/Photo-1-WSI-140-02.jpg

Don't know why I haven't received notice from the Library that my book is ready to pick up? Their online catalog showed it on shelf, with no waiting list at the branch I prefer to patronize.

I requested another book at the same time that had to be brought over from a different branch and I've already received an email that the other book is ready to be picked up.

119:

And just as an added note, when I was still in the Army/National Guard, this was the largest military vehicle I was licensed to drive:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/LOWBOY_WITH_MTVR.jpg

That's the U.S. Marine Corps version. It's nicer and newer than the ones the Army would let me drive. In the civilian world, I'd have to have at least a CDL before they'd let me get behind the wheel of something that big.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_driver%27s_license

120:

Hmmm. So, the device in question is supposed to be something like 5'x3'x3' and weighs less than a ton. They move it through the bridge on a hand cart, but they needed a large tractor trailer to bring it in, and not a van or SUV? I guess I've just gotten more confused. Oh well.

121:

I'd have to have at least a CDL before they'd let me get behind the wheel of something that big.

I have a medium rigid license in Australia (which is basically anything with only two axles, including trailers). I downgraded when they started asking for a medical every license renewal for the more capable licenses. Growing up on/around farms the license collection was handy.

But today... I've got about 20 hours behind the wheel in the last 20 years. You do not want me driving anything, or around anything, that you care about. Last time I rented a truck I found Sunday morning traffic in suburban Melbourne terrifying. Driver licensing is a joke from every angle I can see[1] other than the suicidally pragmatic "it's what the voters will accept"... so people like me can quite legally drive trucks in rush hour.

[1] I ride a bicycle across busy roads almost every day, have driven trucks on slightly-busy roads (Christchurch, NZ does not really do "busy road" the same way major cities do), I watch the odd dashcam video compilation... all of which make me surprised that so few people are killed on the roads.

122:

(oh, and farms are the ideal place to learn to reverse anything. I used to be one of the few people that could back a B double in one truck job. B doubles are easy, all the trailers are very long so they turn slowly. Backing a road train, now *there's* a challenge - the rear dolly is five or more links away from the bit you actually control and it's as short as the law will allow)

123:

the device in question is supposed to be something like 5'x3'x3' and weighs less than a ton. They move it through the bridge on a hand cart, but they needed a large tractor trailer to bring it in, and not a van or SUV?

The big vehicle will likely be more stable on the road, and with a few tons of ballast there will be very little vibration. That's the only reason I could think of. Or the simple "that's what we had available".

Although in other situations it's worth noting that hard plastic wheels on a concrete floor will let a single person move several tons without power assist. It's not steel wheels on steel rails but it is close. This is also, BTW, why warehouse floors are religiously flat, level and smooth. Also swept clean. Hit a 5mm bump with a pallet trolley at walking speed and you can end up with stuff all over the floor.

Conveniently, those pallet jacks with plastic wheels also provide electrical isolation... not that that would be any use at all to world-walkers :)

124:

Yeah, that's the gracious answer.

As for real satellites, I believe they get launch certified, which means they get put on a table and shaken at the force they're expected to experience at launch. Only then are they sent up on a rocket. Were the device a certified launch vehicle, they could have delivered towed in a cart behind a dirt bike.

The other thing is that low loaders are big and obvious, and one pulling into suspiciously bland warehouse #1 with an odd little payload kind of begs for all sorts of CCTVs to take its picture. Driving a panel van with an Amazon logo (or whatever) up to the same facility wouldn't cause anyone to bat an eye.

125:

Driving a panel van with an Amazon logo (or whatever) up to the same facility wouldn't cause anyone to bat an eye.

Maybe by low-loader he meant a low-floor van? Those are small trucks with the load bed over the axle rather than over the wheels - same rear wheel cut-outs as a van, but more load capacity at the expensive of comfort and fuel efficiency.

The ubiquitous white van doesn't raise an eyebrow almost no matter what you do with it. I have a friend who lived in one for quite a while and stealth camped in a variety of different Australian locations. I don't think she was ever detected, let alone busted. This despite the roof rack actually enclosing solar panels rather than tradey tools. Being a geek 400W of PV was "necessary" :)

Those are also available up to about 5000kg payload, a friend uses 3 ton ones for his business because you can fit a lot of volume in them. Oh, and he turned one into a campervan for a summer holiday because you can just visit your local DIY shop and fit standard furniture into one (2m internal headroom!). Slider rails will let you shove 3 or 4 pallets into them, at the cost of ~5cm headroom and less than 100kg.

So yeah, that package could have been moved just about any old how, no need for a low-loader.

Also, you could put one on this slightly insane "legally a bicycle" that Ben built. I include it because it's funny: http://trisled.com.au/pedal-powered-stages/

126:

You need to remove the "opacity:0;" from the beginning of line 6 of style.css.

127:

...I mean, ".content{opacity:0}" at the start of the line.

128:

I have a question. Suppose the Commonwealth were to launch a spysat in TL2. How exactly will it be allocated an orbit? It is my understanding that orbit allocation is negotiated; you can't just launch a satellite in whatever orbit you want (unless you're North Korea).

129:

Oh good, this gives me an excuse to go either to Borderlands in SF or Dark Carnival in Berkeley to get the book. And hey, Jeff Bezos is the richest man on earth, right? -- my partner used to make some decent money with her books, until she had to start helping support Jeff Bezos' lifestyle. Friends don't let friends buy from Amazon.

130:

The musicians I know tend to be quite proficient on multiple instruments. One trio I know have a showpiece during which they swap instruments, rotating between guitar, bass, keyboard and drums (the keyboard layer is also the bassist).

One person who I know of sneaked on stage during a live performance of The Wall, when the band were completely hidden behind the construction in question, and while hanging out with the band, borrowed all of their instruments in turn and played them without the star out front even knowing.

I'm also reminded that the best computer programmers in my experience know multiple languages. As do the best linguists. So I'm a bit puzzled by your apparent recommendation to only learn one instrument if you want to be good.

131:

Civilian orbit allocation may well be negotiated, as are ATC slots. But spysats are military, and I imagine they follow the principle of being where they want to be and just looking out for civvie stuff carefully.

132:

Amazon may not be ideal for everyone, but there's no disputing the convenience of having a Kindle - either as an app or as a physical device.

I vastly prefer a book I can hold but, as I hate throwing a book out (why would you?), I quickly run out of space in a house for them. The Kindle makes life a lot easier in that regard. It's a convenience device more than anything else.

133:

OK I agree about supporting physical small businesses where reasonable but let me run a worked example past you.

I don't live anywhere near a bookshop (nearest will cost ~GB£60 to visit), so I buy books mail order.

I bought the MP 3-volume from MZN: Had I bought them from Transreal, and they'd charged me the same as MZN rules for S&H, I'd have spent £17 more. So which 2 books should I not buy in order that OGH gets £1 more? Maybe one of the one's I'd have forgone would have been one of your partner's?

134:

re: low-loaders

Not read the book yet so struggling a little with the context - As someone who works in IT infrastructure in the UK, if you say "low-loader" to anyone, they typically assume you mean any small-medium size truck with a hydraulic tail lift - something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFCZSugn_aQ

The assumption being a truck that can deliver heavy IT kit to a location without a loading bay. This is as opposed to a "flat bed" - i.e. a truck with no tail lift... having experienced an attempt to get a 300kg tape library off a flat bed without a docking bay, the phrase "please ensure you send the kit on a low loader" has passed my lips many times since.

I just wondered if OGH's IT background had him thinking the same thing, although saying he should maybe have used "lowboy" instead I guess says not...

135:

A "flat-bed" truck or van has the load platform above the normal-sized road wheels, about a metre or so above the road. A "low-loader" has the platform between road wheels, maybe half a metre or so above the road and accessed by a folding ramp at the back.

Low-loaders are mostly used for transporting other vehicles like fork-lift trucks, diggers etc. which can drive on and off the low-loader. The military use very big ones, bigger than normally legal for regular use on the roads to move tanks, armoured cars etc. around.

Flat-bed trucks are used for transporting things like generators, water tanks etc. which are craned on and off the platforms. Sometimes a dispatcher will use a low-loader for this if nothing else is available or they're sending a mixed load (a fork-lift plus a generator, say) but they'll still need a crane on site. A lot of bigger flat-beds and some low-loaders these days come with a folding crane built onto the chassis behind the cab -- the generic name for these is "HIAB" since that was one of the first manufacturers to come up with the idea. Until then a separate crane was needed on-site to hoist stuff on and off lorries. The biggest HIABs can lift loaded shipping containers.

The term of art for trucks with a hydraulic lift platform at the rear is "tail lift" to get goods up and down from the truck's load platform and that's what you should specify if you're getting a big delivery and you don't have a docking bay.

136:

Yes, I'm aware of the correct terms as used by logistics and trucking professionals - I was pointing out a specific colloquialism that is often used by UK IT folks - right or wrong this is what is often used!

137:

If you've ever seen footage of satellites being delivered to Edwards AFB or the Cape, they tend to be over-packaged: airtight, dust-proof containers with shock absorbers, usually inside a shroud with extra bumpers all round in case some idiot tries to ram it with a fork-lift or T-bones the delivery truck (your auto insurer is not going to be happy if you wipe out a hundred million dollar satellite while driving without due care and attention). It's not particularly unusual to see 5-15 ton satellite payloads arriving as the sole cargo aboard an Air Force C-17 (payload: around 70 tons) in bulky containers mounted on a low-load trailer.

138:

That question is answered (emphatically!) in INVISIBLE SUN. To say more would be a huge spoiler.

139:

Well MY COPY has just arrived (signed) from Transreal, so I might be missing for a day or so ....

140:

So I just finished it, and one thing was bugging me from the last book and just got worse with this one. Much of the conflict in TL3 is that the Commonwealth has been getting technology boosts from TL2, while the French Empire not only hasn't, but is apparently ruled by men who regard such things as toys. They barely even have cars, probably no large bombers, likely no computers nor radar. They may have nukes, but certainly no ICBMs. The Commonwealth looks to have such a crushing technological advantage that the Empire is utterly no threat to them. It's like 1980's US vs 1940's Nazi Germany. What then was the big war scare from Empire Games?

141:

"Empire Games" and "Dark State" have Rita. The original outline in http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/09/books-i-will-not-write-3-big-f.html has Sue as the same character. Enquiring British minds of an appropriate age might now be wondering if we'll get Bob too...?

142:

I think that Bezos is using his money in a very good cause. He used a portion of the Amazon profits to buy the Washington Post, one of the US's major newspaper. And the Post (aka WaPo) has spent a lot of Bezos' money in the last two years doing investigative reporting into the doings of Mr. Trump.

For example, for almost a year, a reporter looked into the Trump Foundation, especially how often Trump followed through on his promises to donate money. The answer was almost never, unless there was a follow up story. The reporter received a Pulitzer prize for this.

This leaves me in a quandary. I want to support my local bookstore (although that's just Barnes & Noble), but I also want to support anti-Trump forces.

143:

Well, as an occasional self-publisher, I have to disagree. I don't like supporting the Bezos financial black hole. However, for all the caterwauling about putting my book out on Kobo and Smashwords, I made less than 10 sales on those platforms, while I made thousands on Amazon. Worse, I'm still getting messages from Smashwords two years later about how they'll let me on their Premium platform if I only do what they ask, which was to hire one of their approved consultants at hundreds of dollars to make sure the two simple tables in the book could be correctly formatted on their system--in other words, they don't do tables in their ebooks. Meanwhile, publishing on Kindle took an afternoon and on Kobo only slightly longer.

Everyone's experiences vary, but if I'm interested in making money as an author, I'm going to look at Amazon systems first. They're by far the easiest to work with and pay the most for self-publishing. That doesn't mean they're good, but it does mean that ignoring them comes at a very steep price.

144:

They barely even have cars, probably no large bombers, likely no computers nor radar. They may have nukes, but certainly no ICBMs.

Nope, not quite. As with the USSR, they're crap at consumer goods — their military tech is a bit more advanced: they have bombers and nukes and radar. What they don't really have is a semiconductor industry on any scale: they're still on discrete transistors at best, while the Commonwealth is building microprocessor fab lines. Think 1930s-early-40s consumer tech but mid-1950s USSR military tech, a year or two away from having real ICBMs and megaton yield H-bombs. In contrast, the Commonwealth is 1960s/1970s and accelerating rapidly as they up-skill their work force.

By 2030 the Commonwealth will have hit mid-1990s tech, while the Empire will still be scratching their heads over color TV and denouncing computers and networking as some sort of communist conspiracy to bypass the imperial censors.

(But things aren't going to get that far ...)

145:

If you keep using the IT colloquialism of "flat bed" to mean "flat-bed tail-lift truck" don't be surprised when your 300kg tape store arrives on a flat-bed truck without a tail-lift.

You're lucky it didn't arrive on a flat-bed tipper -- there are flat-bed trucks where the bed can slide off the back and slope down to act as a ramp. They're usually used for transporting cars and small vans or other loads on wheels, with the assistance of a winch to load and unload cargoes.

146:

I think that Bezos is using his money in a very good cause

Possibly he is, but that is entirely his decision and it could change at any time. Our need for independent media shouldn't be subject to the whims of billionaires. Nor, indeed for many other things. There's too much risk that he'll decide to follow Murdoch, or even Gates (who is busy privatising schools).

What would make a difference is if Bezos decided to pay taxes. I realise that's still a voluntary act, but it would make a much bigger, more positive difference especially if he managed to persuade Amazon to do the same. Personally I think paying tax should be mandatory *especially* for ultra-rich individuals (tax the rich, they're the ones who have the money).

147:

That doesn't mean they're good, but it does mean that ignoring them comes at a very steep price.

That's kinda how monopsonies work - they don't have to have better services, they just need to be good enough and have a lot more customers. As a customer I hate them with a passion for various reasons, but there's not always an alternative.

OTOH, as a customer rather than a supplier I can (and do) generally choose not to use them as long as the price premium is not too bad (I paid ~$2 extra for OGH's latest IIRC). But I have no idea whether Amazon even sell a version of the ebook that can be read on my device (Kobo).

148:

Speaking of "divided by a common language" I only just discovered that "flax" in the UK is a completely different plant to flax in New Zealand. Wikipedia has the disambiguation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flax_in_New_Zealand

They don't even look similar, so I'm wondering how they got given the same names. Desperation? "so many plants, and they don't have proper names".

149:

My sarcastic guess is that New Zealand flax got its name because British explorers were pants at naming things, because nationalism, racism, and other issue-isms. And possibly rum and scurvy.

New Zealand flax is from Phormium tenax and P. colensoi. These are big monocots more reminiscent of agaves or perhaps oversized aloes, than the dinky little European flax (Linum usitassimum), which is a blue-flowered monocot. The reason Phormium got tagged with "flax" is that it's the principal native fiber plant in New Zealand. It's analogous to the use of agave fiber in the American southwest and Central America (where it's called sisal), but the Spanish got to the Agaves before the British did, so fortunately the plants that produce tequila (as well as mescal, pulque, and some really nice fibers) didn't get tagged with "American flax" (there actually are local flaxes too, which helps).

As in the tradition of the koala bear and Tasmanian wolf, explorers named the New Zealand plant after items from the homeland. I'm fairly convinced that they'd never seen flax growing and only knew linen as a fabric (we claim this fiber in the name of flax...). As for the koala bear and Tasmanian wolf, it's worth remembering that Merry Ol' England didn't have bears OR wolves by the time the Age of Exploration, thanks to the pleasurable pursuits of the aristocracy, so it's entirely surprising that clueless explorers would name vaguely similar-looking critters after these animals. Fortunately, we live in a time when it's rather more revealing that the imperialist explorers didn't bother to broadcast the local names (unlike, say, the Spanish, who transmitted versions of potato, tomato, maize, cacao, and so forth to the world) but instead imposed names from the sloppy British Isles. I think it's good to care about where the names came from, and high time we realized what imperial naming strategies do.

Or you could blame rum rations and scurvy, but that is a bit of a stretch.

150:

Yeah, I just boggled at a youtube video someone linked of flax harvesting. I had this vision of big Irish blokes hacking away in a swamp (like the bottom of this page but instead got some old geezer trimming overgrown lawn.

I see that pic and think "that's a little wee sickle to use on those big plants", so my image of recreationists making linen in the old way was ... wrong.

The naming thing is (to me) funny because usually the local names are much better than the European ones. There's only so many times you can see "pretty beach" in any language before the utility wears off. In that sense I like Abel Tasman having the guts to say "This, here, is called 'Murderers bay'. Suck that, savages". It's not exactly fulfilling 'find somewhere to colonise' but in a way fair call.

But yeah "yet another bay named after our sponsors, buy Hawkes finest widgets" doesn't even come close to "the headland where the chief with knobbly knees played his flute to woo a hot chick" otherwise known as "now you're just taking the mickey, Aoteraoa"

That's why I like random flora and fauna that get named after random stuff. The teakettle spider, for example (it whistles, ok) or the Morepork (vaguely similar to the English woo-bird, but two different birds in two different antipodean countries)

151:

Animal names: in German it seems that anything even mildly exotic is either a qualified dog or a qualified pig.

Geographical names: Maps of places like Wales, made by the English, contain so many state-the-bleeding-obvious toponyms like "Big Mountain" or "Little Beach" that I keep wondering when I'm going to come across something named "Twp Sais".

Plant transport: you can, of course, get a digger on and off a flatbed without either ramps or a crane...

152:

Morepork is a Maori word I grew up knowing, and learning later that it's called the "spotted owl" (that shockingly inventive English naming again) didn't really help distinguish it in the way "it's a night bird that goes "more-pork" does.

When I got to Australia I was introduced to a Tiddas song that talked about the Morepork... only they're an Australian semi-indig folk band. Turns out that yup, same name used by a completely separate group of people(s). Sorry, can't find that song online but Tiddas are fun. Note that Tiddas is a completely different comedy pair.

Pigeon: we have those in Australia too. I mean "Snowy Mountains" (you don't say?), the Little River (five of them) and my favourite, Mount Minnie (it's 220m high).

153:

Charlie has answered that, but to this reader at least the answer was always pretty obvious: they have nukes. And as we know from our own timeline, having nukes, even if you've only got a couple of little shitty ones that probably aren't going to work properly and are mounted on delivery systems that come apart and fall into the sea, tends to make the other side wibble a bit, even if the other side in question is even further ahead of the nukelet side than the Commonwealth is of the Empire.

And while our timeline has for evidence of what nukes do when used in anger two cities that were rebuilt in a few years and very little by way of long-term health problems for people who were there at the time, the Commonwealth is the home in exile of the survivors of an entire nation that was completely glassed, and not a few of them hold important governmental positions. So I don't find it at all surprising that they should have an enhanced tendency to wibble.

154:

Don't forget, Sierra Nevada means "snowy mountains." Also, Waimea means literally "red water," but more specifically "red river," and oddly enough, there are Waimeas on multiple Hawaiian islands, all on the dry side where the iron-rich basalt has rusted red (the general excuse for red river, actually. Like the Colorado).

Still, I like the Remarkables Mountain Range (New Zealand) Astrolabe Bay, the Stars Mountain Range, and the Neon Basin (PNG). Those get a bit more inventive.

If you want something slightly less lazy, the Spanish had the tendency (copied a bit less by the English) to name geographic features after whatever saint's day was closest to whenever they sighted to the island. Of course, they did stick us with any number of "Santa Cruz" Islands (Holy Cross).

Then there's Kiribati, which includes Kiritimati Island. The inhabitants of the main archipelago didn't have a corporate name for the whole thing (they knew each island, of course), so Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribas," because whoever stuck the I-Kiribati with an alphabet thought that ti was the right way to spell s) is a transliteration of the Gilbert Islands, while Kiritimati is one of several (former) Christmas Islands, thanks to Cook bouncing off of it on Christmas Eve. Still, Kiritimati is nice, because now it doesn't conflict with the other Christmas Island(s).

155:

I find it very difficult to remember that "Nevada" means "snowy", when I'm used to thinking of it first and foremost as the name of the hottest and most deserty state in the US :)

156:

Waimea also means "hidden river" in Maori. The secondary school I went to is Waimea College, as distinct from Waimea High School which is some distance away. Sadly we didn't have a "sister school" or cultural exchange program (although I should suggest it. Maybe I can start a student exchange scholarship fund)

158:

" puzzled by your apparent recommendation to only learn one instrument if you want to be good. "

My intended meaning was to compare the importance of content versus form. Probably could have expressed it better if I said it's more enjoyable listening to a scratchy but tolerable recording of great music, than a flawless state of the art recording of some junk pop tune promoting a bad movie. Or that I'd rather look at a slightly out of focus, fuzzy image of a really inspiring photographic composition than a high-def, crystal clarity rendering of a failed advertising campaign. Or that the best retail distribution channels in the world are worthless, if all they have to deliver is schlock products. All just being metaphors for the idea that fluency in multiple languages won't help an author if he's got nothing interesting to say in the first place, and vice versa, that any of the major modern languages can be used to express whatever the others can. So learning them could well be a step backwards if it distracts a writer from the creative process.
But for musical instruments maybe there's more to it. If for example an instrument was particularly limited in some quality, like say a bagpipe being on a pentatonic scale, then it would help give a better understanding of music itself, above and beyond instrumental peculiarities, if a musician knew how to play several different kinds. Likewise in past centuries it probably was necessary to understand more than a single language just to extricate one's mindset from cultural tunnel vision. I don't think that's true anymore, though, with worldwide electronic media up and running.

159:

There's a difference between quality of production and quality of reproduction, guv.

It seems to be the case that the best creators are sometimes capable of crossing fields and being really good in multiple areas.

But playing musical instruments seems to be a readily generalisable skill. I know several people with multiple competancies, and not a few professional musicians who have "I love the violin but I got a job playing the viola" or some similar-but-subtly-different type shifts. I doubt many exist who could take any position in a modern orchestra, though.

The mediocre are much more likely to be capable of mediocrity in multiple fields, of course.

160:

I have a question. How is the Commonwealth divided in terms of rich areas and poor areas? I'm assuming that the rich cities are found:

1. Along the North American coasts (proximity to trade with Europe/Asia)
This is OTL New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia (Grand Banks Fishery), British Columbia, Washington, California, Baja California

2. Mexico City (OTL it's slightly larger than NYC. The fact that a city in such a poor geographic area grew so big indicates that it has an economic rationale)

3. The Great Lakes (Industrialization was concentrated here in our timeline for a reason)

4. Texas/Oklahoma/N.E. Mexico (oil)

5. Rio/Sao Paulo (I'm not familiar enough with Brazilian history but OTL's Brazilian population and economic activity is centered around these two cities for a reason)

6. Mississippi River Delta (until automation of the ports, N. Orleans was a wealthy American city)

7. Buenos Aires/Montevideo (that's a rich farming area which will need a Chicago)

8. Caracas (oil).

9. Panama City (canal)

Even so, I've left out a lot of cities that in OTL did well or could have done better in other circumstances. I'm thinking of:

1. Lima, Peru and Bogota, Colombia (OTL both have over 10 million people)
2. Santiago, Chile and Qito, Ecuador
3. How developed is the tourism industry in the Commonwealth? If it is very developed, then I could see the following cities benefiting:
a. For beach tourism: Havanna, Miami, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Kingston (Jamaica), Port-au-Prince (Haiti)
b. A few cities next to popular ski resorts such as Wistler (British Columbia) and Jackson Hole (Wyoming).
c. If there's interest in historical tourism, then Cancun (Mexico) (which is close to the Mayan Pyramids at Chichen Itza), Cusco (the historic Inca capital), whatever city is next to Machu Picchu, Quebec City, etc.
d. A city near the Grand Canyon.

4. If there is no War of the Triple Alliance, which killed 90 percent of Paraguay's population, I could see the area having a few larger cities?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraguayan_War

The list above is not extensive.

161:

I greatly enjoyed the book. Two questions: What extinct or never evolved in timeline 2 or 3 animals and plants are now resident in zoos or arboretums in timeline 2 or 3?. What about divergences in cuisines between timelines 2 and 3? I imagine there are lots of culinary differences....

162:

I don't think I know anyone who plays just one instrument. Either they can't play anything or (while they usually do have a favourite) they can play more than one. It doesn't seem to matter if they have radically different controls (eg. keyboard input vs. bowed fretless strings). Come to that, if you look at the list of who played what on an album cover it usually says the same people played several different things (I'm counting several different variants of guitar, etc. as just one instrument).

One year at school it turned out that I was the only one who, when handed a bare oboe reed (not attached to the oboe), could make it make any kind of noise. Someone enthusiastically overgeneralised this observation to mean that I must be a hitherto undiscovered genius on the oboe, and unfortunately I was not old enough either to treat this deduction with an appropriate amount of chin or to realise that it would be in my interests to reject it. So for the next year I was made to periodically exercise my complete lack of talent at hooting down a tube. Repeated protest eventually ended this but the illusion that I was a hidden musical genius proved harder to root from people's minds, so it was followed by a year of using complicated lever mechanisms to hit strings with hammers at which I showed equally little talent. This continued until I unscrewed the control panel for the PA in our classroom and removed a relay from behind it, which disabled the PA and meant that I could repeatedly "forget" to go to my music lesson without (noticeably) incurring the usual nagging over the PA which the school gave to people who were late for their music lesson.

The point of this anecdote is that whatever the reason was that I didn't "click" with either instrument, it was nothing to do with the difference between the controls. Acquiring a working familiarity with either set of controls was not really a big deal. There were a bunch of reasons, but the most significant were that I never did learn to read musical notation in real time, and that I hadn't really learned to understand or appreciate music in general at that age. If I had been properly able to get into what it was really all about, that might have made a difference, but simply shifting to a different set of controls for the same basic process made no difference at all.

163:

Similar-to-almost-identical-use of the plant.
Phormium tenax has fibres running the length of its very large-&-long leaves that can be easily processed to make fibre & ropes, just like Linum usitatissimum
Simples.

164:

I do have one old friend who only plays the one instrument, and oddly enough it's the oboe. In high school she was obliged to learn a second instrument and I vaguely remember it might have been viola, but oboe was her passion and it drove her life. She lives in Germany now, because there are literally 6 jobs for professional oboists in Australia, and understandably there's a lot of competition.

165:

I am reminded of various North American namings such as the Robin.

Count yourself lucky the Porcupine isn't called a hedgehog.

166:

I don't think I know anyone who plays just one instrument.

My dad could play the piano for as long as I can remember. Eventually he decided to teach himself guitar, which brought him up to two instruments, but for the first part of his life he could only play one.

167:

What extinct or never evolved in timeline 2 or 3 animals and plants are now resident in zoos or arboretums in timeline 2 or 3?

You missed the passenger pigeons in Time line 3?

168:

I may be wrong, but I don't remember OGH putting a canal in Panama. The Panama Canal needed massive investment from the USA, which was only possible because the USA was ridiculously wealthy (partly due to lots of untapped natural resources, but mainly due to IP piracy). In our world, the Panama Canal exists for the convenience of trade between the Atlantic and the Far East. Given that the French own all of Europe and Asia, there's not a great deal of trade likely.

OGH also briefly mentioned a railway running north to south, which suggests they've bridged the Darien Gap. We've never done that because there isn't enough traffic to make it worthwhile, but if North and South America are a single nation then of course it would make sense. (For troops, if nothing else.) In that case there's no need to send boats through a canal if your goods can simply rattle down the railway.

169:

Fair enough. In High School history, I heard that the military used the following argument to get around the railroad companies who were opposed to the canal:

The canal was meant to ensure that the Atlantic and Pacific fleets could reinforce each other rapidly so that "the US would have one Navy, and not two". I figured that the rapid-reaction aspects of the project would entice either the New British Empire or the Commonwealth to build it. You're right that they might not have had the technology to build it?

Speaking of large scale projects, with all of South America being one country, could someone have tried something similar to the trans-Alps trains of the early 20th Century and built a transcontinental railroad from OTL Brazil to Peru?

170:

Hmmm. So, the device in question is supposed to be something like 5'x3'x3' and weighs less than a ton. They move it through the bridge on a hand cart, but they needed a large tractor trailer to bring it in, and not a van or SUV? I guess I've just gotten more confused. Oh well.

I'm still waiting on the book. I should have been able to pick it up yesterday, but the library is closed yesterday & today due to inclement weather. But, could it be the device is something easily toppled and they don't want to have to lift it up too high to get it onto the trailer?

There might be other reasons to use a low-loader trailer than just massive size and weight. Another possibility I can think of is they wanted to move it "RIGHT NOW!" and that trailer was readily available.

Pure speculation on my part until the library opens again and I can actually get my hands on the book.

171:

"Empire Games" and "Dark State" have Rita. The original outline in http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/09/books-i-will-not-write-3-big-f.html has Sue as the same character. Enquiring British minds of an appropriate age might now be wondering if we'll get Bob too...?

Just for clarity ...

where the abstract said "projected to run to four volumes", that meant four 600 page volumes? As published then "The Revolution Business" and "The Trade of Queens" are approximately the third volume and "Empire Games/Dark State" occupy more or less where the fourth volume should appear (allowing for differences due to the extra complication of having to split the original books)?

172:

You're lucky it didn't arrive on a flat-bed tipper -- there are flat-bed trucks where the bed can slide off the back and slope down to act as a ramp. They're usually used for transporting cars and small vans or other loads on wheels, with the assistance of a winch to load and unload cargoes.

Over here in the States, that's usually called a "Rollback", although Google doesn't notice that until you get down to the image results. All their web links refer to data management and transactions.

173:

A story I remember at space camp in the mid 90s was the solid rocket boosters for the shuttle being transported by train in bullet proof containers, due to rednecks enjoying target practice at trains in a few very isolated areas. (The solid rocket boosters

Also as a response to my early question about the Royal Navy in TL3 circa 1760, its not so much that the navy wasn't already huge and wide flung (for instance Jamaica Station), as the evacuation of the home fleet to North America seems like a massive undertaking. But keeping the French out of the Americas, and eventually taking the rest of the Americas seems to require at least a substantial number of ships of the line to rally to the Americas.

Also I really do wonder about the changes to science and discovery. The Slaveholder's Rebellion and the Invasion of England would seem to cut the Royal Societies advancements during the pre-napoleanic era. For example, the development of Harrison's chronometers, Cook's voyages of discovery, etc.

At the same time, if the Royal Navy is effectively blockading much of the Americas, I can see Latin American independence getting a greater shove earlier. The Bourbon reforms have already sown the seeds for revolt in Spanish America, and the local elite are mostly Jesuit educated and often the Jesuits are local, with the Suppression of the Jesuits leading to folks like Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán writing treatises on Latin American independence. The cause of the Revolt of the Comuneros hasn't gone away. Although the lack of democratic thought to folks like Guzman and Miranda would make a huge difference.

174:

The passenger pigeons I caught- were they introduced to Timeline 3, or were they local survivors? I was more interested in what sorts of creatures have been captured for zoos or exotic plants in arboretums. It seems likely to me that Timeline 2 would have captured various creatures for zoos, and probably done some big game hunts for high-rolling hunting enthusiasts.

175:

A few nitpicks:
p. 30: Miriam says "She [Rita] was right here, where you're standing now", while in Erasmus' office. On p. 244 Rita says that she met Miriam in Miriam's office, which is also implied in Empire Games.
p. 57: The grammar looks wrong to me "a mother who, living as a recluse, having abandoned all interest in her daughter". Shouldn't it be "had" instead of "having"?
P. 62, 83, and 238 have references to New York. That should be New London.
p. 103: it's should be it's.
p. 150: Wasn't Margaret Bishop based in New London, not Boston?
P. 159: Supreme Court should be capitalized.
p. 174: Leaves drop in August?
p. 251: I thought Julie was an archaeologist, not an astrophysicist.
p. 327: "the two-hundred-year-long struggle between the British and French empires in the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century". That's under one hundred years.
p. 335: Midwest should be capitalized.

176:

I haven't figured out how the USA knows about Hulius' botched attempt to get Elizabeth. Will this be explained in "Invisible Sun?"

177:

I haven't figured out how the USA knows about Hulius' botched attempt to get Elizabeth. Will this be explained in "Invisible Sun?"

And how would having Elizabeth Hanover in their possession enable them to avoid a nuclear war with the New American Commonwealth? If anything it would seem to exacerbate tensions....

178:

I honestly presumed they knew absolutely nothing except that there was a world-walker agent in Germany, thanks to five-eyes type bullshit, and they just did a snatch on general principles. Note that they do not even seem to notice they did not get her.

179:

Col. Smith was expecting Hulius to 'have a hostage' and Elizabeth Hanover is the only candidate for that role that I can think of (and Paulie asks about her by name). I wonder how Col. Smith knows all of this....

180:

Typo: the chapter "Best Laid Plans" contains "the giant airship hanger at Fort Bastion".

181:

McGill, I'm all for ebooks. But there are other formats out there -- a Kindle isn't necessary.

182:

Paws4thot, you are right to point out that there are situations where you pretty much have to buy from online booksellers. I have been in that situation here in the U.S., and managed to find independent booksellers that had an online presence. Here on this side of the Atlantic, Powell's is probably the best known, and the easiest to deal with; perhaps there are equivalent sources on your side of the Atlantic? (((I can't resist mentioning the Seminary Coop Bookstore in Chicago; while they specialize in academic books, with not much in the way of sf/f, they are a joy to deal with and have excellent customer service.)))

183:

Ah ha, Seminary Coop bookstore *does* have Dark State on their Web site:
https://www.semcoop.com/ingram?isbn=9780765337573

For those living in the U.S. but far from a brick-and-mortar store, buy from Sem Coop and Mr. Stross gets his full percentage, you support independent booksellers, and you're buying from a coop. And the sales staff are *nice* (it's a Midwestern thing).

184:

There are several examples of "Beinn Mhor" (big hill) and "Tarbe(r)t" (a narrow neck of land) in Scotland. These are the "local name in the original Gaelic" (with translation for those having even less of the Gaelic than I do), and are nothing to do with the Sassanach but rather a comment on how much less people traveled 400 years ago.

185:

That wasn't my whole point.

Yes there are e-tailers other than MZN in the UK, but that doesn't answer my second point, about how using MZN left me enough books budget after buying 3 of Charlie's books to buy another 2 as well!

186:

Appendix, page 295. "Charles II ruled cannily, ... but his son, James the Second".

Charles and James were brothers, not father and son.

187:

And hit Submit too soon. Following paragraph, after the death of Mary II her sister Anne took the throne and it wasn't until Anne died that George of Hanover took the throne. Mary and Anne were the daughters of James II by his first wife, George I was their second cousin.

188:

I was thinking that Col. Smith knew who Liz Hanover was. This was a plan to provoke a nuclear war between the French Empire and the NAC. This would solve the problem of a high-tech TL with nuclear weapons, without (directly) getting the USA's hands dirty.

The fact that it would be a gigadeath crime? Irrelevant.

189:

It isn't just that. For many Ebooks, and sometimes paper books, the publishers or distributors make it almost impossible to buy them through official channels - one might wonder whether they are actually TRYING to encourage piracy! OGH is relatively immune, except when it comes to things like audiobooks. I haven't so far used a proxy service to bypass the geographic censorship, because I am not happy about passing account information across such things, and haven't yet checked up on how to do it safely, but am seriously considering it.

190:

Not just technology. I've already touched on money. Also manpower though - in our world, this mostly worked because of all the ex-slaves looking for work.

The Navy apparently wasn't such an issue here. The Commonwealth had decisively lost the battle for the seas, but it wasn't practical for the French to stage an invasion across that kind of distance. As the appendix says, you got two superpowers controlling separate continents, with neither able to do anything practical about the other. And of course, once air power became a thing (the New Britain of the first series had airships), that's a far more effective way to defend your coastline.

191:

My pet example is "corn", which in the UK, is grain, while maize is what Americans call corn.

192:

I played with a guitar when I was young, no lessons (my folks didn't have any money). Then, in the early seventies, there was this strange urge floating around, which hit some other folks I met, not just me, that said, "I don't care if you don't know what one is, you're going to learn Autoharp".

I play it very well, even most so if I get my ass back into practice. I own, and can beat on a bodhron, but so can anyone.

Just last summer though, probably because a friend at work did it and was raving about it, I realized I was Letting My Generation Down, I mean, like, what's my generation about, except, like, guitars, man?

I now own one, and did some online lessons, and am almost ready to see if I can find intermediate lessons. Once I get back to playing every day or two, for a while, and build up (OUCH!!!) callouses....

193:

Don't. Get. Me Started. On. Friggin' Ammosexuals.

In an old issue of Model Railroader, from the late '80s, they had an article on "upgrading" your cabeese (pl. of caboose, in some circles) to "modern" standards... which included being able to take a cinderblock dropped on the cupola as it rode by, and a .22 bullet from the side.

194:

They are, they are. I'm infuriated with B&N, because after buying about four books from them for my Nook, I went to back them up... and couldn't find them, anywhere. I'm assuming there's an SD card that's not accessible unless it's running, and not on USB. So I tried to buy Nightmare Stacks from anther place, who said epub... but NOOOOO, I have to install and run Adobe Digital Editions, and as I run Linux, I'm still trying to get an unlocked version onto my Nook.

195:

I once had to install Adobe... something, can't remember what it was called, in order to extract the desired information from some file that I could only get hold of in some horrible fucked-up Adobe format. As far as I remember it was an "electronic magazine" that could perfectly well have been a PDF or something similarly straightforward if the idiots producing it hadn't insisted on making it do animations of turning pages or some equally pointless bollocks.

What I do remember clearly is that the Adobe package was a horrible piece of shit. Completely orthogonal to the distro's packaging system - worse than your usual generic tarball. Put everything in /opt, used directory names with spaces in (AAARRGGHH), and dropped a few random turds elsewhere in the filesystem. But worst of all, it managed to escalate its privileges during installation. I installed it as a normal user and it managed to write to places that a normal user definitely can't.

I didn't investigate why. Having extracted the information from the horrible-format file, I nuked it, and resolved never to try installing anything from Adobe again.

As far as ebook formats on Linux are concerned, again I have occasionally come across things that I can only find in one of these horrible formats and so need to convert to PDF. There is an application called Calibre that seems to be able to read everything I've thrown at it. The main GUI application is a pain in the arse because it insists on trying to "manage your library" and otherwise persistently get in the way doing "helpful" things that aren't, but it includes a command-line utility called ebook-convert which just does format conversion and nothing else, and I just use that and ignore the rest of it.

196:

I wonder how successful TL2's US would be in uplifting TL3's French Empire to keep it at parity with the Commonwealth? Would the French Empire grant the US basing rights within its territory? The US would have a huge motivation to ensure that the French Empire either has parity with the Commonwealth or leapfrogs it.

197:

Oh, you don't need ammosexuals. Over here we have shitscum who dangle concrete blocks off bridges on ropes at locomotive windscreen height because they think that giving someone a concrete block in the face at 60mph is funny.

198:

Technology would not be the problem. You can build canals using railway building technology, because railway building technology is a development of canal building technology, and we know they were well beyond that point when we first encountered them. And although making a canal right across the isthmus sounds like a massive project, there isn't actually that much canal at Panama, because they managed to cover most of the route just by building a dam in the right place to make the middle of the route a big lake.

The biggest difficulty was that everyone they brought in to dig it got yellow fever and died like flies. There were also political and funding hassles. But the actual building was just a matter of using the same old well-known methods.

What sounds to me like more of a feat is the building of a railway through the Darien Gap, since in this timeline there isn't even a road through it because it's too bloody difficult. On the other hand if they did manage it then it suggests that they had been able to get the better of the yellow fever somehow or other, even if it was just by throwing bodies at it.

199:

Flax is the plant used to produce the fibre that makes linen (and linseed, incidentally). The New Zealand plant was called that because the Maoris used it to produce fibre.

Try pawpaw across the pond. Or, worse, elk.

200:

Umm.

Water traffic is far more efficient than even railroad. Back in the 19th Century, it was reportedly easier to get to Capetown via ship than it was to Edinburgh via carriage. It's not just the crap roads, it's that sailing is one of the most energy-efficient ways to move stuff.

Building the Panama Canal in TL3 would be a great boon for the American Commonwealth, because they could sail ships from New London to Los Angeles without going around Cape Horn. On the other hand, the Panama Canal would be a great boon to the Bourbons, because they could sail from France to Shanghai without going around Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope (although I'd assume they've built the Suez Canal for obvious reasons).

Therefore, I'd expect that, if you built the Panama Canal in TL3, you'd start a war, because the Bourbons would see controlling the canal zone a great way to sever the Commonwealth and controlling all the sea lanes.

As it is, the Commonwealth is kind of screwed, Russian style. The great concentrations of oil in the Americas are around Pennsylvania, the Gulf Coast, Venezuela, Mexico, and southern California (which is why I'd expect Los Angeles to be a heavily built-up Commonwealth naval base). Because any ship going from New London to the west coast has to go around Cape Horn, I'd expect there to be separate fleets on each coast, with all the political and logistic hell that entails. This is the problem the Russians have now, with fleets in the Baltic, Black Sea, and Vladivostok.

The serious problem in TL3 is China. As far as France is concerned they're on the long end of the continent from the imperial capitol. Even though they've been conquered repeatedly, those conquerors either got absorbed or booted. I'd expect that, if the Bourbons got mired in a bloody war with the Commonwealth, they'd find they had a giant Chinese (possibly even East Asian) rebellion to deal with too, and possibly one abetted by the Commonwealth.

And finally, I'd note that, in this Earth's history, there's been an inverse correlation between the size of any empire and its longevity. States that grow fast (like the British Empire or the Mongol Empire) seldom last more than a few centuries. Given that, I'd expect that a system of two world powers each controlling huge continents wouldn't last very long. Not that I expect the whole system to collapse by the end of book 3, but even if it doesn't, going forward I'd expect both empires to shatter a decade or two after they fail to solve their pressing systemic problems. There's a lesson in there for the USA too.

201:


What sounds to me like more of a feat is the building of a railway through the Darien Gap, since in this timeline there isn't even a road through it because it's too bloody difficult. On the other hand if they did manage it then it suggests that they had been able to get the better of the yellow fever somehow or other, even if it was just by throwing bodies at it.

In OTL, I don't think it was the engineering difficulty as much as a lack of economic/political/military incentive. The Gap is only 100 km or so across and the maximum elevation doesn't get to as much as 200 m.

As for yellow fever and malaria in TL-3, http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/contagion/panamacanal.html suggests that if TL-3 had a Gorgas to figure out the appropriate sanitation methods, the problem could have been handled.

202:


As far as crossing from Atlantic to Pacific is concerned, TL-3 would have available the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which could be developed in various ways up to and including a canal (200 km long). It would have the attraction of being closer to North American ports and much more defensible than Panama or Nicaragua routes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isthmus_of_Tehuantepec#Tehuantepec_route

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicaragua_Canal

203:

"It's not just the crap roads, it's that sailing is one of the most energy-efficient ways to move stuff."

It's also one of the most people-efficient ways to move stuff. And much easier to get away with giving those people long hours and low pay. Hence coastal freight shipping in the UK retaining its usefulness much better after the coming of the railways than the inland canal network did.

204:
"Empire Games" and "Dark State" have Rita. The original outline in http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/09/books-i-will-not-write-3-big-f.html has Sue as the same character. Enquiring British minds of an appropriate age might now be wondering if we'll get Bob too...?
I did have the same thought, and surely "... and Bob too" invites "non-canon MP/Laundryverse crossover short"...


But more seriously, probably don't read that link if you want to avoid Invisible Sun spoilers, since although the series has clearly changed quite a bit since original conception there are clearly elements of EG/DS in that outline and I would be surprised if there are no future plot details in there.

205:

where the abstract said "projected to run to four volumes", that meant four 600 page volumes? As published then "The Revolution Business" and "The Trade of Queens" are approximately the third volume and "Empire Games/Dark State" occupy more or less where the fourth volume should appear (allowing for differences due to the extra complication of having to split the original books)?

Nope.

As published "The Bloodline Feud" was book 1, "The Traders War" and "The Revolution Trade" are book 2 (it ran long!), and the Empire Games trilogy is book 3.

So make it a short, 600 page book then a couple that are 1000-1300 pages, published in multiple volumes.

Book 4 is cancelled due to the series-as-written-through-2018 having diverged too far from the original circa-2002 plan. There might be a new, different book 4 at some future date.

206:

There might be a new, different book 4 at some future date.

Yes, please.

207:

I was thinking that Col. Smith knew who Liz Hanover was. This was a plan to provoke a nuclear war between the French Empire and the NAC. This would solve the problem of a high-tech TL with nuclear weapons, without (directly) getting the USA's hands dirty.

The fact that it would be a gigadeath crime? Irrelevant.

After all, they wouldn't be American deaths.... I wonder how Col. Smith is planning to turn possessing Elizabeth Hanover into a nuclear war between the French Empire and the NAC? Perhaps return her to the French Empire with an exaggerated explanation of how the US ended up with her? Col. Smith seems to have another spy (not just Rita) in the NAC, someone told him about Elizabeth Hanover...perhaps the US can also provide the French with enough real and fake secret NAC documents that the French think their chances are better than they are....

208:

The fact that it would be a gigadeath crime? Irrelevant.

After all, they wouldn't be American deaths....

I remember back during the first Iraq war, when I subscribed to the Guardian Weekly.

The Washington Post would report an operation had no casualties. The Guardian reported that a dozen coalition soldiers were accidentally killed by friendly air power. And Le Monde reported that a dozen coalition and and several hundred Iraqis were killed…

209:

I don't think that TL2's US would want to provoke a nuclear war, but not for moral reasons. TL2's French Empire provides not only a potential massive compliant vassal, but also a huge market for its goods. Potentially, that includes huge cheap labor. So far, TL2's opening the timelines has boosted the economies by making agriculture and natural resources dirt cheap. While that is important for the manufacturing industry, it hasn't opened up any new markets.

Don't forget how the British Empire saw India and how OTL's China sees Africa: a market for their goods. TL2's US would be salivating at the thought of using Elizabeth Hanover as a pretext to strangle the French Empire's industries in their crib and treating the empire as a captive market and potential cheap labor force. The Commonwealth is trying to build domestic industries and technologies. I don't think the French Empire cares.

Plus, let's not forget how much of the US economy is based on weapons sales. The French Empire would be salivating at buying M1 Abrams and F-18s. Let's also not forget that the French Empire is terrified of another rebellion, making them a lucrative market for the US surveillance tech.

210:

As for yellow fever and malaria in TL-3,
Yellow fever and Aedes aegypti are both introduced (and invasive, perhaps) species in the Americas. (Both wikipedia links with a lot of detail.)
Probably though not proven introduced in the slave trade from Africa to the Americas.
So it's possible TL-3 doesn't have it (unless it was mentioned in one of the books and I didn't notice), if the probability of dual-introduction was reasonably low. And it's easy to eradicate plus TL-2 (at least) has a vaccine. (Disregarding stupidity-related shortage)

In general, been wondering about organisms that underwent accelerated evolution in TL-2 (or TL-3, or TL-1), notably drug-resistant pathogens and similarly resistant agricultural pathogens(plant and animal)/insect pests/weeds, and some viruses e.g. flu, retroviruses, etc. And also about more distantly-diverged(in time) timelines.

211:

As it is, the Commonwealth is kind of screwed, Russian style. ... Because any ship going from New London to the west coast has to go around Cape Horn, I'd expect there to be separate fleets on each coast, with all the political and logistic hell that entails. This is the problem the Russians have now, with fleets in the Baltic, Black Sea, and Vladivostok.

They've got one huge advantage over Russia: the passage around Cape Horn isn't iced-up most of the year round. As it is, the north-east passage cuts Baltic-to-Vladivostok sailing time by, what, 80%? when it's available, but until very recently it was only available in summer with the aid of nuclear-powered icebreakers.

The Commonwealth has been working on a nuclear-powered submarine and carrier fleet for nearly 20 years at the time of "Empire Games" (their nuclear program predates the revolution, but was accelerated afterwards due to an influx of engineering reference materials from the US). I haven't inked in this particular aspect of the background, but I'm pretty sure their equivalent of NS Savannah was built to take multimodal freight containers and by 2020 they have a growing nuclear merchant marine fleet — not only because it solves the shipping problem you highlighted, but because they don't have basing/oiling rights anywhere in Africa or Eurasia, so they need nuclear freighters to resupply their carrier battle groups.

China: I hadn't factored that in, I admit. Most likely what we're looking at is a China that entered a warring kingdoms period then got colonialized piecemeal — as happened in our history. In other words, China is totally ripe for a charismatic unifying revolutionary leader with support from the Commonwealth (hello, Chairman Mao). I'm going to have to take that into account if I ever plan/write book 10 in this universe.

212:

Yes, please.

Tough shit. It's backed up behind the third Scottish near-future police procedural (once the Brexit nervous breakdown is receding in the rear-view mirror), a space opera ("Ghost Engine"), and probably the concluding three-book story arc of the Laundry Files — or at least the core of it, Bob's more or less contemporaneous story line. (I'm not averse to doing Laundry universe historicals or side-quests.) There may also be other things, too: I have an itch to try and do a hard-SF secondary world steampunk story where the underlying physics is actually plausible and the socioeconomic system emerges organically from it (and believe me, making steampunk look rigorous and plausible is difficult).

Think you can wait a decade?

213:

After all, they wouldn't be American deaths.... I wonder how Col. Smith is planning to turn possessing Elizabeth Hanover into a nuclear war between the French Empire and the NAC?

Smith doesn't know who Elizabeth Hanover is.

What he does know is that Yulius, a major thorn in DHS's side, has been spotted doing something in Berlin that involves an enemy of the Commonwealth, and that there's a whole lot of scope for griefing: his real target is Miriam, and his objective at this point is to burn her (and by extension, the Clan) with the Commonwealth leadership in the middle of the succession crisis, because (a) the Clan are The Enemy, and (b) the Commonwealth is Probably-Another-Enemy, and setting them at each others' throats is a logical gambit (while establishing a sufficient intelligence capability in TL3 to determine whether it's safe to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Commonwealth, or not).

It's classic short-sighted Cold War tactical griefing, the sort of shit the KGB and CIA got up to all the time in the 50s and 60s. (Anyone else remember the CIA's involvement in the murder of Patrice Lumumba, their assassination attempts against Fidel Castro, or the history of CIA/State Department meddling that brought the Ba'ath to power?)

214:

The Washington Post would report an operation had no casualties. The Guardian reported that a dozen coalition soldiers were accidentally killed by friendly air power. And Le Monde reported that a dozen coalition and and several hundred Iraqis were killed…

Ask a random American how many people were killed in the Vietnam War today, and as often as not they'll give you a figure of 62,000.

That's the US military death toll, yes. It omits the up-to 2.1 million Vietnamese, and the third of a million additional Laotian and Cambodian dead. (And we can attribute the Khmer Rouge revolution and reign of terror to US actions during the war, which led to another 1.5-3 million dead.

So depending who you ask, the death toll was between 62,000 and 5.5 million — but the US military would like you to go with 62,000, please, because civilian collateral damage is so very hard to quantify.

215:

Most of the typos I found have already been reported above, but one seems to remain: Hindenberg in the context of zeppelin history should be spelled Hindenburg. The registration number matches that in TL0, so I'm presuming this is not meant to indicate yet another subtle difference between TL0 and TL2.

216:

Smith doesn't know who Elizabeth Hanover is.

p. 301, Paulie appears to ask if Fox has seen Elizabeth Hanover. Someone must have told her that name....

217:

What about India and Southeast Asia?

I won't go into the trouble that a Vietnamese rebellion could cause, we have the Vietnam War to go by. I should point out that Laos is composed of even more mountains. Then there's Mindanao. The best way to describe Mindanao is the Colombia or Afghanistan of SE Asia. In Colombia, the FARC rebels managed to hold out for 45 years for a reason: OTL the country can be described as the Afghanistan of the Americas for its terrain. Likewise, Mindanao has faced continuous insurgencies since the 1960s.

India has its own fault-lines. Unfortunately, I'm not well-versed enough in Indian history to discuss them.

218:

I'm not an expert on Chinese history, but as I understand it, the TL3 history splits AFTER the worst effects of the Little Ice Age. This is a critical link, because the 1600s marked some really bad weather (see Geoffrey Parker's doorstop history Global Crisis for a worldwide reckoning on this) that brought down the Ming Dynasty as well as causing the transition from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment in Europe.

In China, the Ming Dynasty was succeeded by the Qing dynasty, which meant in practice that a formerly insignificant Manchu tribe took over Beijing and after the Ming. The Ming had gotten by on inertia for most of a century, but the Little Ice Age broke their system and made the opening that the Qing exploited.

Now, the Qing had their own problems (cf: opium wars. In our timeline this was basically a multilateral drug trade. England wanted tea, China didn't want to trade, until the English "created a market" for Indian/Afghani opium in southern China. The opium trade gave the British the Chinese money they needed to buy tea for the home market. Have another cuppa). Oh, and the opium wars mess (which was the Qing's War on Drugs) led to the biggest rebellion (in terms of death toll) the world has so far seen (the Tai Ping rebellion, started by a guy who read some missionary propaganda, decided he was Jesus' brother and almost became the emperor of a talibanesque south Chinese state. But I digress).

Anyway, the Qing dynasty was suborned and axed by the Japanese in the early 20th Century. Partially this is a result of the Tokugawa Shogunate being about the only state not trashed by the Little Ice Age, but more to the point, the Meiji restoration led to Japan striving *real hard* to become a modern imperial power--and I'm not sure how this played out in TL3.

As for TL3 20th Century China being in a warring states format--maybe. The post-Qing warlord era didn't last all that long, any more than the chaos at Ming/Qing transition lasted all that long.

I suppose the key question for TL3 Chinese history is whether the TL3 British empire developed a taste for tea. If they didn't (and hint hint, Brazilian yerba mate would have been a great, local substitute, as would South American coffee), then the opium wars that crippled Qing China wouldn't have happened. This doesn't necessarily mean that the Qing would be in great shape, but one might see the traditional, political system of a Chinese "hegemon" with Korea, Japan, and possibly Vietnam and Siam as vassals and allies, and that might cause a problem for both the Commonwealth and the Bourbons, even though the Chinese are militarily weak compared with the Europeans (and note how fast that differential disappeared after WWII).

Alternatively, if China is a "protectorate" of the Bourbons, and tea seems to be more a bourbon beverage than an American one in TL3 (check references to tea in the 2nd book...), then the Bourbons might have started selling opium in China in the 1950s as a way to get tea to Europe, with opium wars and the possibility of a Tai Ping rebellion starting, oh, 1969 or so. And if you think the American War on Drugs was bad...

219:

...Or stuck to Indian tea, which is nicer than China tea anyway :)

220:

I kind of wonder about the history of Finland in TL 3. The appendix in the book states that it was taken from the Russian empire in 1811. In our time, in 1811 Finland had been a Grand Duchy of Russia only for two years - it was conquered from Sweden in 1809. During that time current-day Finland (or most of it) had been part of Sweden for a long time, and while it was nominally a Grand Duchy, it was pretty well integrated into Sweden and the title wasn't apparently used much.

So, when the French "liberated" Finland, what did they do with it? Give back to the Swedes? The development which led to our independent Finland started only later in the 19th century, and it was quite much a reaction to Russian actions in Finland. (I'm simplifying quite a lot here.) It's just that the idea of Finland as we think of it now didn't exist in the same way in 1811, and they could've just gone back to being part of Sweden.

We don't get much about Sweden, either, and that'd be interesting, too.

I understand that small Nordic countries are not the focus of the book and if Lenin never existed, he couldn't have gone to exile in Finland, either. It's just fun poking around the edges of your world-building. ;)

221:

So does the crown princess prefer the ladies, or are my yuri goggles turned up too high again?

222:

I saw no clear indication one way or the other, or both, or neither. Mostly just getting away from the Dauphin, no time for romantic entanglements right now. A close relationship with a lady-in-waiting, but still no indication on preferences in my opinion.

223:

Would Indian tea exist in that timeline? It only exists in this one because of Victorian IP theft.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Tea-China-Espionage-Favourite/dp/009949342X

224:

Typo? Page 62, UK paperback.

Huw glanced at her. "What is this -" He looked back at Huw.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 12, 2018 9:59 AM.

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