Back to: Public appearances in a time of pandemic | Forward to: Update to Public Appearances in a time of pandemic

Infomercial Interlude

We interrupt the apocalypse to give you a shiny new cover reveal! Because the UK edition of Dead Lies Dreaming now has a cover and a release date (October 29th), even though Big River Co can't let you pre-order it just yet.

Dead Lies Dreaming UK cover

Obligatory disclaimer: this is being announced as Laundry Files book 10, because Marketing. But it's not actually part of the same story line at all — rather, it's the start of a spin-off series, set in the world of the New Management, after the end of the main Laundry Files story about Bob et al. No, you don't get to find out what happened to Bob, Mo, and the gang in this story: that'll have to wait for another book. (And not the next one: the next one in this setting will be a sequel to "Dead Lies Dreaming".)

As far as Bob goes—I believe I'm now allowed to say that I've sold an interstitial novella about Bob to Tor.com. So keep your eyes out for "Escape from Puroland", coming some time in the second half of the year.

PS: I haven't forgotten "Invisible Sun". In fact, I've been really busy rewriting it for the fourth time! It's now with my editors and scheduled for publication next March, assuming that no zombie plagues, dino-killer asteroids, or other disasters come along to derail it.

If that sounds like a weird disclaimer, it's because this has been the cursed project from hell. My first draft didn't quite gel at a plot level, then every time I tried to rewrite it—for three consecutive attempts—someone close to me died. This time round, no single person died—but we got the global COVID19 pandemic instead. I think I stuck the landing this time round, but it's almost as if the multiverse is trying to send me a message ...

210 Comments

| Leave a comment
1:

Congrats on finally throwing Invisible Sun over the wall to the publishers for the (fingers crossed) final time :-)

2:

"every time I tried to rewrite it—for three consecutive attempts—someone close to me died. This time round, no single person died—but we got the global COVID19 pandemic instead."

So, you're the one responsible for this.

J/K, and congrats on getting these books out.

3:

Good to hear that "Escape from Puroland" will see the light of day! Any news on "A Conventional Boy"?

4:

"A Conventional Boy" is not yet written; it's on my to-do list, but not before I finish "Dead Lies Dreaming" book 2 and confirm that "Invisible Sun" is go for production.

5:

At last, some good news! This is going to be fun.

6:

Hey, I thought a major issue was that the RW kept getting in the way of the plot, the rewritten plot, the re-re-written plot....

7:

Why are there tentacles on it?

(And, yes, I'm looking forward to buying it :).)

8:

Why are there tentacles on it?

Branding.

Tentacles = Lovecraftiana, just like Rockets = Space opera.

9:

Not really: the problem (which I only really got my head around about two months ago, after working on it for nearly six years!) was that I wasn't just writing the climax to a novel, or even a trilogy -- but to the entire nine book series, which demanded a climax proportionate to a million word story. Not something I've ever done before (the next time I do it, it'll be the climax of the Laundry story arc).

So there are actually three superimposed plot climaxes -- the "Empire Games" climax, the climax of "Invisible Sun" itself, and the conclusion to the "Merchant Princes" universe. (The latter doesn't prevent me from going back later, but it does mean the readers won't be left with a bunch of unanswered questions, the way they were at the end of the first series.)

10:

... As an afterthought: there was no practical way to end this book without a number of Arthur C. Clarke level infodumps about the structure of the fictional universe that would not be obvious to the protagonists. Short of writing another 6-9 books, that is. And I'm sure most of you would prefer a bunch more Laundry (or New Management, or Space Opera) novels instead, rather than a long-drawn-out explanation via showing-not-telling, right?

Finally, the draft I turned in tips the scales at 145,000 words (without a technical essay/afterword, such as its predecessors had). This is a big book (think 400+ pages). Editors will want cuts: but they may also want more content adding, if it turns out I lost track of anything important. So I doubt the final one is going to be much shorter -- indeed, it's nearly the length of the original big fat "The Family Trade" that I turned in back in 2002 (152,000 words -- grew to 196,000 words, then got cut in two)!

11:
I haven't forgotten "Invisible Sun". In fact, I've been really busy rewriting it for the fourth time! It's now with my editors and scheduled for publication next March
Oh, so now it's definitely too late to implore you not to kill poor Gramps in the finale :(
12:

I can’t wait!

13:

Thanks for the update. I'm definitely looking forward to October and March.

Gotta love the cover blurb from Ben Aaronovitch. I just read his latest Peter Grant/Rivers of London book False Value and kept expecting Grant to stumble across Bob Howard. A fun read, and I happily recommend them to all. I realize you're busier than insert cliche here, but if the opportunity ever comes up for the two of you do a (probably) non-canon crossover, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

15:

Re: ' ... rather than a long-drawn-out explanation via showing-not-telling, right?'

First off - Congrats!

Second - Hope you're saving all of your notes and ideas centrally. Avid SF/F fans have this tendency for wanting to know everything related to a favorite SF/F universe.

16:

Sorry, but I don't work that way: there are no notes outside my own skull.

17:

Oh good, it’s not just me then.

Looking forward to seeing these at the other end of the sausage factory!

18:

> This time round, no single person died—but we got the global COVID19 pandemic instead.

Please don't rewrite it again: the Sun would probably go supernova. Oh wait, you've done that one, too... :)

19:

Yes, yes, yes! This would be great! For once a happy ending!

20:

No, you don't get to find out what happened to Bob, Mo, and the gang in this story: that'll have to wait for another book. (And not the next one: the next one in this setting will be a sequel to "Dead Lies Dreaming".)

Shucks! Well, good luck with your plans.

21:

I would expect a sequel a la Godzilla vs King Kong: Hello, Kitty vs Winnie (Paddington?).

22:

Actually, the provisional plan [1] is that "Dead Lies Dreaming" is the first in a trilogy.[2] I'm midway through the middle of book two at present, and know where it's going, and also know what book 3 has to achieve. (I'm a pantser, not a plotter.[3])

I also know how the Laundry's story arc ends, and it's going to take a big book to tell that story. There also probably needs to be a novel before that where things get a bit grim and Bad Stuff Happens -- darkest before dawn, and all that.

But after that final Laundry arc-ender, I want to keep the universe going, which is what "Dead Lies Dreaming" is about; it's set after the Laundry Files, but only just (i.e. in spring-summer 2016, in a universe where the LF main story arc ends in early 2016).


[1] Caveat: when planning multiple books, no plan survives contact with the real enemy, which is time, because it takes about one year per book.

[2] I'm trying to master the fiendishly difficult art of writing trilogy middle volumes that feel tightly plotted and progress the story (e.g. "Dark State"), rather than just being a saggy sausage full of filler.

[3] There are broadly two types of authors: those who write by the seat of their pants, and those who plot everything in interminable paragraph-level detail before they write the first word. I'm much closer to the former end of the scale, but I like to have some idea where I'm going.

23:

I'm trying to master the fiendishly difficult art of writing trilogy middle volumes that feel tightly plotted and progress the story (e.g. "Dark State"), rather than just being a saggy sausage full of filler.

That's too often the default state of middle volumes, too. (No doubt there's some Received Wisdom explaining why a story can't be told in two volumes.) I have faith in you but also appreciate the scale of the problem. Middle volumes are more commonly flaccid than fabulous.

Enough exceptions exist to demonstrate that it's possible. "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father..."

24:

Please refresh my memory. Whose story is "A Conventional Boy"?

25:

I was just being light-hearted about the Puroland novella. Thanks for the additional insight though.

26:

No doubt there's some Received Wisdom explaining why a story can't be told in two volumes.

Marketing.

(Personally, I blame The Lord of the Rings.)

27:

Mhm. Who is Ben Aaronovitch and why does Orbit advertise him? Are his writings worth reading?

28:

It's a long-overdue Laundry interstitial, telling Derek the DM's origin story. Set a couple of years prior to "The Nightmare Stacks", probably contemporaneous with "The Rhesus Chart" or "The Apocalypse Codex".

Derek was an early D&D player around 1979, when D&D was very new in the UK and the whole Dungeons And Dragons Satanic Panic was getting off the ground.

Obviously some jobsworth in the Laundry would have noticed, around 1980, when TSR published "Demigods & Deities" (superseding the original "white book" D&D "Gods, Demigods, and Heroes" supplement) because "Demigods & Deities" added Lovecraftian elder gods, and by 1980 AD&D was becoming a cultural trope.

Equally obviously, they'd have bungled their first attempts at dealing with "suspected cultists in the community" and swept the detritus under the rug. Coverups'R'Us, of course, because bureaucracy.

Some of said damage was Derek (who shows up in "The Nightmare Stacks" and "The Labyrinth Index", and possibly features in the as-yet-not-written final books), who as a teenage nerdy GM was running a rather ... odd ... game of AD&D for his grammar school buddies. Derek ended up in Camp Sunshine, where he spent the next 35 years. And then Derek escaped (the only inmate of the Laundry's top secret deprogramming camp for captured cultists to do so) and --

-- He went to a gaming convention. In the run-up to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. As the stars were coming right. Carrying his very odd home-made dice, and everything he'd unconsciously learned from a third of a century of living among the captured cultists.

What could possibly go wrong?

(That's what the novella's going to be about.)

29:

If you like the Laundry Files, you'll like Ben's PC Grant books. I assume you're American (he's a bestseller here in the UK!): if so, start with "Midnight Riot" (published in the UK as "Rivers of London").

30:

I have a vague memory of there being a possible allusion to The Laundry in the Aaronovich book that covered the Quiet People living in the underground. As I recall, some tunnels used by a Government Agency had been recently vacated when they moved northward....

Aaronovich also refers to two musicians that appear in the Merrily Watkins books by Phil Rickman. Last I heard, Rickman was looking at ways to refer to Peter Grant - but his current book has been delayed 2-3 years by ill health, so I don't know if that happened. Oddly one of the Folly series takes place on the Hereford Wales border - specifically close to Leominster/Yarpole which is Watkin's stomping ground.

One of the fun things in Aaronovich is the references to old films (rather like Pratchett at one point). He struggles to get through 300 pages without a quote from Aliens.

31:

Some years ago Ben and I discussed doing a crossover. Unfortunately his magic system and mine are pretty much incompatible by design. (He might have changed it in later books, but as of books 1-5, magic generally killed electronics.)

32:

I'm glad to hear that Invisible Sun is finally hashed out. You have really suffered through that book.

From a selfish reader perspective it's better that it take a while than get completely shelved, like the third Eschaton book (Space Pirates of KPMG), or the third Scottish book. Especially when you need to really stick the landing.

Empire Games also took a lot of work as I recall, and it's arguably the tightest book of yours that I've read. I anticipate being equally blown away by Invisible Sun.

33:

Space Pirates of KPMG actually got written ... in radically different form, as Neptune's Brood.

The third Scottish book is still on my to-do list, but not until Brexit plays out. I think we're currently living through yet another example of why it's so bloody difficult to grapple with the near future, yes?

34:

Is "Escape from Puroland" the Kaiju novella you were discussing some time back?

35:

Yes. Coming some time in the second half of this year from Tor.com.

36:

Hmm. I remember when the Foundation trilogy held a similar position in people's perception, there was also Gormenghast (an accidental trilogy) and others. The Lord of the Rings may have cemented the dominance of trilogies, but it's unfair to hand it all the blame.

37:

I will look forward to it very much then, as I am a huge Kaiju fan.

38:

Trilogies are much older than that - there was a fashion for them in Victorian times ...
Kipling even wrote a wonderful poem about them

39:

The Lord of the Rings is six books, published initially in three volumes.

40:

Yes, I know, and that 'books' is not used in the modern sense, but I doubt that more than a few marketdroids do; it's regarded as a trilogy, though it isn't. Greg Tingey is correct, but I was mentioning two that had a major effect on SF/fantasy publishing shortly before LOTR became a 'thing'. I think (but might be wrong) that the dominance of trilogies that Kipling referred to was forgotten by the 1960s - after all, he was regretting their demise in 1894!

41:

I seem to recall that the third volume was half-appendices. It might be more appropriate to say, "four books, two novellas, and an appendix" but that would be stretching the definition of "novella" by another third, at least Still, if published alone I'm guessing neither of the 'books' in Return of the King would top 130 pages or so.

But it was a "trilogy." Kinda.

42:

Interesting...

I don't know if Derek himself can carry a novel, even with all the fun that can can be had with an arrested-development-teenage-geek catapulted into the thirty-years-later present day.

His gaming circle will now have grown up and graduated from Oxford, Cambridge, and the best of the red-brick universities, to be partners in the big accountancy firms, senior academics in the sciences, or the type of engineering lecturer who has a substantial consulting income; company directors, heads of IT in major banks and, just maybe, the kind of civil servant who isn't the very senior Sir Humphrey, but wields a lot of real power.

One of them might be a successful businessman: not a billionaire with a castle, but a ten-or-so-millionaire, the kind that's captain of the county's best golf club and got his knighthood for political donations - some of them to groups to the right of mainstream Conservative thinking.

Such are the outcomes in life for grammar-school boys: the Technocrat class.

What if they drop off their progeny at the gaming con?

What might happen if Derek reunited them for one last roll of the D20?

43:

Signed copies at TransReal books?

44:

LOTR word count.

LOTR is a "series" of six books and an appendix, not a "trilogy"

(My numbers are usually 10% high because I don't subtract blank pages when I do a word count.)

Book 1 - 128k
Book 2 - 108k

236k vol 1

Book 3 - 110k
book 4 - 76k

186k vol 2

Book 5 - 92k
Book 6 - 76k

168k vol 3

Total - 590k w/o appendix

Each book was a complete story arc. The six books as a whole was Gandalf's story. Each book, and LOTR as a whole, followed the classic three-act structure.

- Act 1 (1st quarter)
- Act 2 (2nd quarter to midpoint to 3rd quarter)
- Act 3 (4th quarter)

Analyzed by the standard "quarter points" of LOTR as a whole.

1st Quarter point - Gandalf battles the Balrog

Midpoint - Gandalf takes Pippin and the Palantir to Gondor

3rd Quarter point - Gandalf turns back from the gate to save Faramir from being burned

The end - Gandalf returns home to the West

The Hobbit - 122k

The Hobbit covers the same story arc as LOTR, but only follows Bilbo. If it had been fully expanded, i.e., following Gandalf when he leaves the group, it would be the same size as LOTR.

Charlie said: [2] I'm trying to master the fiendishly difficult art of writing trilogy middle volumes that feel tightly plotted and progress the story (e.g. "Dark State"), rather than just being a saggy sausage full of filler.

The "middle" of a "trilogy" is where the story goes from "reacting" to "acting".

With LOTR as example:

Up until the mid-point everyone was "reacting" to events. When Gandalf rides to Gondor they are "acting" to keep the focus away from Frodo and The Ring.

So if you focus on "reacting", midpoint, to "acting" you can keep a tight focus.

45:

Hooray! I will look forward to this.

46:

Not a novel, but a novella (or a long novelette): and no, none of his gaming circle even remember being locked up -- he's the one who was institutionalized.

47:

(LoTR): Total - 590k w/o appendix

Reminder: Merchant Princes (tightened-up omnibus trilogy): 640,000 words. (Original six books: 660K.)

Empire Games trilogy looks like it's going to come in at around ... well: "Empire Games" 110K, "Dark State" 117K, and "Invisible Sun" 145K gives me 372K.

So a grand total of 1042K words for the entire series.

(Do not ask me about the word count for the Laundry Files, okay? It's huuuuuge, even without counting "Dead Lies Dreaming" and any stories in that spin-off series as part of the main event.)

48:

Charlie Stross @ 28: It's a long-overdue Laundry interstitial, telling Derek the DM's origin story. Set a couple of years prior to "The Nightmare Stacks", probably contemporaneous with "The Rhesus Chart" or "The Apocalypse Codex".

Derek was an early D&D player around 1979, when D&D was very new in the UK and the whole Dungeons And Dragons Satanic Panic was getting off the ground.

Thank you. I remembered you said that at some point you wanted to tell his story, but I didn't know if this was it.

49:

Charlie Stross @ 29: If you like the Laundry Files, you'll like Ben's PC Grant books. I assume you're American (he's a bestseller here in the UK!): if so, start with "Midnight Riot" (published in the UK as "Rivers of London").

It's interesting that the cover of the American version is apparently controversial because it shows the main character in silhouette, presumably to disguise that he's a black police officer, yet no one comments on an English police officer walking around with a gun openly displayed in his hand. 8^)

I'll have to check the series out if I'm ever allowed out of the house again.

50:

"...there are no notes outside my own skull"

How does your old brain maintain consistent continuity throughout these long series? Unless you have some extra special memory, you must spend a lot of time re-reading past releases.

51:

Nope, Aaronovitch is still turning chips into sand with waves of hands. In fact, he's had fun utilizing this effect in various and sundry ways (sacrificial fission chips, detectors of the unnatural, cool old cars and wind-up watches giving away hidden magicians).

Rivers of London is a fun series, for the most part.

52:

Hadn’t noticed the gun before, it’s right on the edge of the mass market edition (just looked at my copy). I’m pretty sure the current US editions have gone back to the original map covers for the first two books, but kept the title for the first.
They’re on my ‘I really need to get to reading them one of these days’ list.

53:

"What might happen if Derek reunited them for one last roll of the D20?"

For that scenario, you should read Kieron Gillen's brilliant comic Die.

54:
If you like the Laundry Files, you'll like Ben's PC Grant books. I assume you're American (he's a bestseller here in the UK!):

My understanding as of a couple books ago is that the PC Grant books sell about the same absolute numbers in both the US and UK... but the US, of course, has about 5x/6x the UK's population, which means their penetration here is considerably lower as a percentage of the overall population.

55:

Charlie @47 said: (Do not ask me about the word count for the Laundry Files, okay? It's huuuuuge, even without counting "Dead Lies Dreaming" and any stories in that spin-off series as part of the main event.)

Laundry Files word count.

(Remember, my numbers are usually 10% high because I don't subtract blank pages when I do a word count.)

1)The Atrocity Archives w/Concrete Jungle - 112k
2)The Jennifer Morgue w/Pimpf - 128k
3)The Fuller Memorandum - 121k
4)The Apocalypse Codex - 135k
5)The Rhesus Chart - 140k
6)The Annihilation Score - 162k
7)The Nightmare Stacks - 151k
8)The Delirium Brief - 137k
9)The Labyrinth Index - 122k

Total ~ 1,208k

BTW, I just read another Lovecraft based series, by John Michael Greer, The Weird of Hali sequence. Where Cthulhu is good, and Rational Humans called the Radiance are the monsters. I liked flipping the usual story. It worked.

There are seven books in the sequence, so it completes the story with book seven.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before:

Wiki - Finite and Infinite Games

A book by James P. Carse

Read the article and listen to the podcast for what made me start looking into the concept:

Ong's Hat/ The Early Internet Conspiracy Game That Got Too Real

ARG Pioneer Joseph Matheny on the Counterculture's Hijacking from Corporatization to QAnon

I wish that I knew German. I would love to read the Perry Rhodan sequence.

Wiki - Perry Rhodan

Perry Rhodan is an example of an Infinite Game. Where you have a story that never ends. They are short episodes, digest(novella) size, that tell a large story using cycles and grand cycles. There are over 3,000 episodes so far.

56:

Some of the Perry Rhodan stories have been translated into English. I read a few back in the mid-1970s. I must say I was not much impressed by them (and I don't think it was the quality of the translation), and have never bothered to look out more.

JHomes

57:

JHomes @56:

That's the point they make in the Wiki page, That once the english version stopped being published, the complexity of the story increased, so we've never seen what it has evolved into.

I read all the english editions when they came out, lost half of them to a flood. I would love to see what the series has become.

Long series are my obsession.

58:

I remember when the Foundation trilogy held a similar position in people's perception...

I remember Spider Robinson being adamant in a foreword that he had not written a trilogy. He had written a bunch of short stories, of which this happened to be the third volume, and just because the overall tale reached a good stopping place at the end of the third book didn't mean it was a trilogy.

Anyway, he later wrote more books in the setting.

59:

How does your old brain maintain consistent continuity throughout these long series?

Short answer: I don't (and I can't).

Longer answer: "Empire Games" is such a substantial reboot of the Merchant Princes that it kicks off in a different universe, 17 years later. There are some recurring characters (although they've aged), but after writing about them through something longer than War and Peace I think I've got a grip on their personalities.

In the Laundry books, Bob is explicitly positioned as an unreliable narrator, from the outset. Then from "The Concrete Jungle" on you've get the added element of history being somewhat mutable -- stuff gets written out of it. And in later Laundry novels we see just how unreliable Bob-as-narrator is. (I suspect a bunch of the bad reader reviews on "The Annihilation Score" weren't just from random misogynists but from people who couldn't imagine how a married couples' view of events prior to their separation could be so profoundly different. Which just tells me they've never lived through a bad break-up, let alone introspected about it years after the event.)

The new series gets even further into this territory: there is explicit history re-writing in "Dead Lies Dreaming".

(Finally: I keep the old books around electronically and have zero compunction about searching them when I want to double-check something. But I virtually never re-read -- by the time a book's in print, I've already read it 4-6 times, and am sick of it!)

60:

Laundry word count: Total ~ 1,208k

To that, you can add:

Escape from Puroland: 17K

Dead Lies Dreaming: 118K

(Untitled-as-yet-sequel: 66K and expanding, target is 130K)

So by the end of this year the Laundry will be up to 1.343 million words, on course to hit 1.5 million in another year (or less, if I write "A Conventional Boy" promptly).

61:

Yes, I can see that, but I find that it grated to position Bob as the unreliable narrator. I have a fair amount of such experience (both personal and from observation), and my conclusion is that it is people NOT "on the Asperger's spectrum" who recollect such the facts of such events more unreliably, very often FAR more unreliably. That's because most such people think in terms of how things are perceived more than in terms of recordable actions - I long ago lost track of the number of times, contexts and people where I have pointed out that I did not say what I was being quoted as saying (and could provide evidence) and got the response "well, that's how it came across", as if that misinterpretation were MY fault. As far as interpreting how the other is perceiving events, there isn't anything to choose, as neither end can understand the other.

So, as far as reporting on "what actually happened", I trust people like Bob far more than I trust people like Mo, but that does not apply to reporting on the context and reasons.

62:

What makes you think Bob is on the spectrum?

What makes you think that Mo isn't?

63:

Their behaviour, as depicted in your writings, especially the former. If Bob isn't, I find his depiction implausible. The depiction of Mo doesn't read like somewhere close to the far end, but doesn't read like someone anywhere near as far out.

That may not be your intended depiction, but is how I perceive it from matching what I read about them with the people I have known :-)

64:

OOps. Sorry. Unclear. The last sentence of the first paragraph should read "The depiction of Mo doesn't read like somewhere close to the opposite end, but doesn't read like someone anywhere near as far out."

65:
I suspect a bunch of the bad reader reviews on "The Annihilation Score" weren't just from random misogynists but from people who couldn't imagine how a married couples' view of events prior to their separation could be so profoundly different. Which just tells me they've never lived through a bad break-up, let alone introspected about it years after the event

Also a surprising (to me) bunch of folk who read Mo having her breakdown at the end of the book, rather than it being in-progress right from the kick off.

66:

And the Unicorn story, no clue about the word-count.

67:

I read the book as "building up to a major breakdown, which is not inevitable, (until close to the end) meanwhile her inner situation is getting worse and worse."

68:

people who couldn't imagine how a married couples' view of events prior to their separation could be so profoundly different. Which just tells me they've never lived through a bad break-up,

Or never considered the possibility that their partner's view of the relationship might be different from their own.

69:

Yeah: the "assign a timed 15 minute slot to the therapeutic crying jag in the office, then back to work as usual" ought to have been a bit of a red flag to the readers that Something Was Wrong, but a surprising number don't seem to have noticed it ...!

Back in 2006-07 I was beta-testing "The Trade of Queens" and wanted a red flag to signal that Miriam's version of the USA was not ours. I ran a poll on my beta-reader discussion forum. What do you think flags this as not-our-world:

a) Chemical Ali shooting Saddam, holding a coup, and surrendering to George W. Bush in 2002

b) The USAF carpet-bombing Baghdad with nerve gas after the Iraqi army uses mustard gas against US ground forces during the Iraq invasion

c) Paris Hilton's celebrity drunk-driving car-crash funeral

The only thing that made most readers say "hey, waitaminute" was option (c), because the entire Iraq War going sideways (an event only 3-4 years in the past) was non-notable.

I'm pretty sure I could have dropped in references to the Zombie Pandemic of 1996 and some readers would have missed it.

70:

I caught the "assigned 15-minute crying jag" right away, but then I've dealt with some shit! (And having dealt with some shit, it made much more sense to me than it should have.) ;-(

I think I'll put that one on my reread list.

71:

allynh @ 55: Wiki - Finite and Infinite Games

A book by James P. Carse

Read the article and listen to the podcast for what made me start looking into the concept:"

Ong's Hat/ The Early Internet Conspiracy Game That Got Too Real

ARG Pioneer Joseph Matheny on the Counterculture's Hijacking from Corporatization to QAnon

Aren't these are the kind of games Jack is programming in Halting State?

72:

Oh dear lard.
Just saw a window cleaner commercial using a jazzy, marching band version of Laibach’s “Life is Life” as Light is Life.
This stub is ridiculous.

73:

I have enjoyed as a reader the fact that the Laundry books have in recent years been coming from multiple view points. It keeps it interesting from the readers point of view and no doubt (and more importantly) from the author's viewpoint. Certainly in L E Modesitt's most recent Imager series after having two/three books from the "superhero's" viewpoint moving to having two books from the viewpoint of the conscientious ruler's viewpoint worked well for me. I am afraid with Bob his self deceptions are so convincingly written that it does require a third party response to him to realise (and I acknowledge this may be wrong) that he is now a less self aware Angleton. (by the way if anyone wants to place me politically from enjoying Le Modesitt I also am a huge fan of Brust and the Taltos novels - another case of someone who varies things incredibly from book to book - I even enjoyed the Dumas tributes)

74:

Troutwaxer @66 said: And the Unicorn story, no clue about the word-count.

Equoid is about 33k.

75:

Got to say that I too really don't see Bob that way.

Having worked in a variety of technical research organisations down the years, I've met lots of sysmgrs/geeks/nerds/boffins and while some of them lacked social skills, were sensitive to noise, not good at multitasking and displayed other attributes commonly labelled "austism", I have observed that being focussed, intelligent and driven often goes hand in hand with outgoing people people with many friends, a strong social life and the ability to juggle varying subjects at a moments notice.

Bob would fit in fine at work, though he should perhaps eat more chocolate, moan more about his pay and use HR as a swear word. UK Civil Servants have had below inflation payrises for 10 years afterall.

As for Mo. I sort of assumed she was doing what so many people do, coping the best she could when unbearable pressure is applied. And couples loving each other while not fully understanding each other is hardly unknown. :)

76:

Aren't these are the kind of games Jack is programming in Halting State?

Not even close.

Carse's Finite and Infinite Games is a book on philosophy. As far as I'm concerned, in practice the simple version of his infinite game ethic is the most useful conservation ethic I've found so far (and I actually did take a class in environmental ethics back in college).

Here's my version, so you don't have to go find a copy of the book, which goes into rather more detail:

There are two kinds of games, finite and infinite games.

Finite games have an end, after which the winners are determined. Finite games are played to win.

Infinite games have no end. The reason to play an infinite game is not to win, but to keep the game going with as many players as possible.

There is only one infinite game. (and I'd add that most of the players aren't human).

It's far from a perfect ethic, as I'm sure you'll figure out with some contemplation. However, I've found that in practice, it's good guidance for conservation decisions, especially if one includes both humans and nonhumans in the category of players.

I'd also suggest (although Carse does not) that evil within an infinite game comes from playing the infinite game of life like a finite game. Carse, who's a Christian theologian, has a somewhat different take on the problem of evil in an infinite game.

77:

Interesting tidbit – Amazon.ca is now estimating over a month to deliver items that are listed as being in-stock, if they aren't in certain categories.

I'd heard that they were prioritizing "essential items" for delivery, but a bit of fiddling around determined that their definition of essential is:

• Baby Products
• Health & Household
• Beauty & Personal Care (including personal care appliances)
• Grocery
• Industrial & Scientific
• Pet Supplies

So if you want, say, a book you're looking at a long wait.

I find it interesting that I can get a make-up organizer or Olay moisturizing cream a month before I can get a book (because obviously make-up is as important as groceries, while books can wait).

78:

AdrianD @ 73

I'm working my way through Modesitt. I like the way he presents concepts that can only be shown in story.

In one story, he has one person act, without seeking permission from society, because by the time society decided, it would be too late to save billions.

In another, he has society act together. The individual can not choose for society, no matter the cost.

Modesitt does not mix the two concepts in the same story. Each is right for that story. He presents each as an absolute, tells the different stories, then lets the Reader assemble the lessons learned.

BTW, the thing that people miss, is that all First Person POV stories are "unreliable narrators". That is a "feature" not a "flaw" of First Person POV. You only begin to realize this when you have many people telling their First Person POV version of the same events. Done in the same novel you have a "He Said, She Said" event.

He Said, She Said (1991) Official Trailer #1 - Kevin Bacon Movie HD
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS3OLwW7mKk

That is a useful story tool when done intentionally, and a useful excuse when continuity starts slipping over a series.

79:

I'm surprised that the Blair Witch parallel wasn't brought further forward in the Ong's Hat article.

80:

Your perception of people out on the Asperger's spectrum is very media-dominated - we are not as you suppose we are, and our characteristics are VERY different from those associated with autism. God alone knows why those trick cyclists lump the two characteristics together, except that we are 'other'. Yes, I am one, and I work in an environment where we are common - you might be amazed at how many eminent scientists and engineers are, and many other things about us (e.g. the proportion who are married, multitask better than most people, etc.)

81:

My guess is that if you bought a used book through Amazon, where it was fulfilled by a third party (like, for instance, me), you'd get a more rapid shipment, since those of us selling off collections tend to use US media mail and similar. As for new books, I'm afraid Kindle's your best bet at the moment.

82:

[Nods head]

When a story hits me, I always know the first paragraph. Sometimes I know how it goes, other times I know kind of where it ends. All the time, once I start typing, the characters, and even more, the story types itself, and it goes places I'd never thought of.

I've just been accused [g] of writing old-style, plot driven sf, even though I'm making serious efforts to have characters, not cardboard - even my villains aren't cardboard.

And the other problem is that to tell the story, too often, it runs overlength. I've got one I'm working on now, that's had a first draft, and a couple rounds of polish... but it's over 8k words, and I was trying for a short story....

For those who don't know: Hugo (and SFWA) rules:
-7500 words is a short story
7500-17500 is a novelette
17500-40k is a novella
40k+ is a novel.

Now, that was true... through the nineties. Now, publishers and agents don't want less than 75k or 80k *minimum. I can't remember if it's Baen or Tor who says anything under 100k is a hard sell.

Now, on the shorter end, the largest market is for short stories. Longer is a harder sell. I don't even want to talk about "flash fiction", which (even though I've written two) I don't see as much more than a vignette.

83:

Or, as my late wife used to refer to them, Perry Rodent.

I read a few in the mid-seventies. Doc Smith, Skylark series, I don't think it had added the Lensman series, but it was going on and on and on and on and there were already 973 *books* back then....

84:

Except you can play finite games as infinite ones. My first wife and a friend/housemate used to play Monopoly till 04:00, back in the seventies, just the two of them, loaning each other money so they could keep playing.

85:

Your statements are not aligned with current UK medical thinking - disclaimer sample size of one - eldest daughter has a set of ASD characteristics that align with old school Aspergers according to her doctor. She has an ASD diagnosis also ADHD and sensory processing issues too. Aspergers are term is being deprecated by the UK medical establishment but the US medical community is retaining the term so far. It is generally acknowledged by both that Aspergers *is* an autistic spectrum disorder,

Source - my daughters diagnosing physician.

86:

Probably.

I expected items like groceries to be prioritized. I was surprised that make-up and beauty items apparently count as 'essential supplies'.

87:

Probably because this includes various cleansers and sanitizers.

88:

Heteromeles @76 said: I'd also suggest (although Carse does not) that evil within an infinite game comes from playing the infinite game of life like a finite game.

Yes. I like that.

Thanks...

That describes most of my stuff, and most of the fun stories over the past 200 years.

89:

Actually, its largely dominated by the colleagues at work who have announced their status as non-neurotypical at work. Though there may be a component arising from my daughters experiences looking after severely autistic blind children.

To be honest, when my neurodiverse colleagues have revealed their status, there have been no surprises.

90:

Re: ' ... make-up and beauty items apparently count as 'essential supplies'.'

I think this is the catch-all term for personal care products - bar soaps, shampoos & conditioner, deodorant, moisturizer, sun screen, shaving foam/gel, etc.

If it includes make-up, I'd be curious as to retailers, brands and purchaser demos. If it helps people cope - a sense of normalcy - hey, why not.

91:

tampons, pads etc are also "luxury items" in this category. USAians seem to have a phobia of even talking about menstruation and related products, but they are important.

The cause is over-broad categorisation, and hopefully internally they are being a little more specific.

92:

I am fully aware of what they are pleased to call their thinking, and it is at best offensive and misleading and at worst (and probably more accurately) discriminatory, unscientific and harmful. I could explain why, but it is a diversion, so I won't.

93:

Now, that was true... through the nineties. Now, publishers and agents don't want less than 75k or 80k *minimum. I can't remember if it's Baen or Tor who says anything under 100k is a hard sell.

Actually ...

Normal length for a "short" SF/F novel these days is 100K. Anything less than 95K is perceived as small. It only gets harder to cram between the paper covers if it goes over about 130-140K.

(This is down to inflation in grocery stores during the 1970s, according to David Hartwell. Mass market paperbacks were sold in wire racks back then, and as inflation bit during the 1970s publishers wanted to put prices up -- the groceries pushed back and said "if the product costs more, it needs to be bigger". And you can only go so far by using a bigger typeface. In the 1960s, a typical novel was 55-65K words ...!)

94:

Interesting. Do you know why the size of a novel had shrunk to the 1960s level? Checking a few of my books, my 18th and 19th century novels seem to be more like 150K (sometimes longer), but it had dropped to 100K by the early 20th century. That could be an artifact of my very small sample, of course, but I don't think so. Could it have been the dominance of mass-market paperbacks, sold at railway stations?

95:

Could some of those older novels be serials? Looks at my Dumas omnibus :)

96:

A lot of early-period Victorian "novels" were three-volume trilogies which were reprinted later as single volumes.

97:

Could some of those older novels be serials? Looks at my Dumas omnibus :)

Almost all of them were serials until the late 19th century!

Copyright in the modern sense didn't really exist until the second half of the 19th century. Rather: printing presses were licensed (hence "copy right") to facilitate state censorship.

Authors didn't work with publishers, they generally worked with printers: they'd go to a printer and commission a run of 24 or 36 page signatures of their latest serial. They'd then sell these wholesale and they'd end up with street hawkers. By the time the money had come in and the run was sold, the pirate printers would be cranking out copies ... but the author would be having the next installment typeset, staying one jump ahead.

When a serial was complete the collectors would go to a bookbinder and have the loose signatures stitched between leather or cloth covers, forming a book.

(Something not too different still happens with comics/graphic novels: indie comics artists put out each issue one at a time, funding the initial printing costs themselves and selling via distributors who funnel money back to them. At the end of a run of 3-10 monthlies, they then put out collected paperback or hardback editions as graphic novels. NB: it's different with DC or Marvel, who own a bunch of trademarks and a vertically integrated stack and who hire authors, artists, inkers, and letterers to do work-for-hire on their properties.)

Anyway, our current modern copyright system was an attempt to improve things for authors. And the modern publishing industry emerged from embryonic form between the early 19th and early 20th century: publishers take on a chunk of the financial risk by paying for everything, including an advance to help the authors handle the horrible cash flow gap between books, but in return they pay the author a royalty on the net receipts -- thereby taking a cut in the profits as well as the risk.

98:

There were some, but I was not referring to those. Some novels were published in multiple volumes, for practical reasons, but they were not written, sold or bought (by publishers or readers) as single volumes. Quite a few were published as installments (*) in journals or otherwise, but they were STILL written, sold and bought as single books - just as LOTR is, really - as you can tell from the absence of a division in the text. I am excluding books like Tom Jones, which DO have such divisions, even though the volumes cannot really be read as separate books.

Note that this is a separate issue from the original one of the publishers' trilogy fetish, and is about what OGH said in #93.

Actually, there are two questions, of which the answer to the first might be railway bookstalls, but I am at a loss to guess the answer to the second.

1) Why did the length shrink to c. 100K by the early 20th century?
2) Why did it shrink further to c. 60K by the 1960s?

(*) To gordycoale: The Three Musketeers alone is well over 200K.

99:

The length shrinkage by the early 20th century was down to the end of the author-published serial as the main initial format for novels, and its replacement with the written-as-a-monolithic-whole commissioned-by-a-publisher novel.

The shorter novels of the 1960s were a side-effect of the genre format shift from pulp magazines (prior to the mid-1950s) to mass market paperbacks (which were a new thing, for SF publishing) in the late 1950s. Earlier novels serialized in the pulps tended to be shorter, roughly 20,000 words per installment, running in 3-4 consecutive issues. This then set the standard for the length of novels available to publishers when the pulp distribution channel imploded and the paperback publishers took up the slack.

100:

A wonderful quote from another blog commentator...
Having won a referendum campaign and election based on getting people to not listen to experts, the PM is finding it frustratingly hard to get people to listen to experts....
And even worse in the youessay, of course

And some of us still remember the recent health/safety advice about drinking ...
Publicly admitted to be made up on semi-educated guesses ...
AND THEN HALVED, completely arbitrarily...
After that sort of thing, trusting official pronouncements gets difficult.
Unfortunately, it appears that we do have a real problem.

101:

Thanks very much. Very interesting. I had noticed the phenomenon, but didn't know what caused it.

102:

The cause is over-broad categorisation, and hopefully internally they are being a little more specific.

Going by delivery times on the Amazon.ca website, they are not being more specific. I could get an organizing rack for make-up or a lighted magnifying make-up mirror by next Saturday, but have would have to wait 5 weeks for a book about caring for sick children.

103:

And now that the author published serial is back, but now with word processing support, the world is seeing some truly ridonklous word count tomes appearing. Electronic format only, on account of portability issues

104:

Amazon didn't design their product taxonomy for dealing with a pandemic. Given another six months of this, they're going to have adjusted the taxonomy they're using.

I would expect that the current concern is how to keep everything running; if Amazon is offering higher pay things are truly dire in some internal logistical sense.

Though given another six months of this, Amazon will likely as not switch to sealed dormitories, continuous monitoring, and company-store victualling for their warehouse workforce.

105:

Is it? I have heard reports of that, but not seen links. I have seen quite a few self-published items, but they have much shorter.

106:

Took a break from the computer, and had a thought, to be filed under "silver linings": after everyone is done binging, and they're tired of the only concact with people being texting... maybe they'll remember there's another alternative: reading books....

107:

Ha! For me option (c) is exactly the kind of thing that I would consider it normal to only find out about it from a piece of background in a work of fiction several years after the fact. It was probably some time around 2007 that I realised that people using that name were talking about a person and not a hotel.

108:

Using only examples which are both complete, and meet a minimum threshold of quality:

Worm. 1.5 million words. Too grim for my taste, by far, but very popular.

Mother of learning, 805000 words, about a pair of magic students stuck in a one month timeloop, secondary world fantasy, pretty decent.

if we relax the requirement that it be complete, well, the wandering in - which is pretty darn entertaining, is well north of five million words at this point.

109:

Great news on all fronts! Well... not _all_ fronts, but all lovecraftian current day literature fronts!

I've been curious about the DM for quite some time. And also what happens after the Laundry Files. And what Bob did in Japan. It's like a kinder egg surprise.

While I have you (either Charles or someone more knowledgable than me) on the line. Is there a reason why reverend Peters last name keep changing back and forth in the series, most notably in the Nightmare Stacks, between Wilson and Russell. Or am I misunderstanding something?

If it's a mistake and it's corrected in different editions, the edition I'm refering to is the Jack Hawkins audio-book one.

Kind regards!

110:

To paraphrase Pascal, if I had more time I would have written a shorter post.

whitroth @82 said: And the other problem is that to tell the story, too often, it runs overlength.

Mark,

You are looking at the "word count" for each form(short/novelette/novella/novel), and missing the "intent" of each form.

- Each form is a "container" of "story" not just a "word count".

- The compression you use on the story, the story density if you will, depends on the form you choose, and your intent. i.e., How much story are you trying to fit into that "container".

- Cardboard characters come from using too much compression.

- When you are writing a story, you need to know the final form.

You can simply start out writing prose like you do, to get an idea of what you are writing, but if you set out to fill a "container" then you need to adjust your compression to fit that container.

- If you are trying to sell "short stories" to magazines, then compress your story to fit that container.

- If you are trying to sell a "novel" then uncompress your story to fit that container.

Orson Scott Card, in one of his essays, pointed out that when he was transitioning from short stories to novels, he made the mistake of writing at the wrong compression. He was trying to fill a novel with compressed story. He had to learn to make the story fit the "container". I'm paraphrasing of course.

For example:

A short story is not just 7500 words or less, it is a short--->Story. A compressed story.

Read anything by Christopher Anvil. Each of his short stories is a compressed story that is less than 7500 words, yet some of them read like novels. He is astonishing in his ability to compress a story. Get his books and study him.

In comparison to a compressed short story, look at an uncompressed novel:

Go to Amazon and find any Stephen King book. Download the "sample" for any of his books. They generally run 7k to 10k in length. Read the sample and see that it is uncompressed story, with fewer events than in a compressed Anvil short.

For an example, comparing apples-to-apples, to see how a novella is uncompressed into a novel, track down the novella, Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys, that is in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two B, and get the novel version of the story.

Read the compressed novella, and then read the uncompressed novel, then read the compressed novella again, and you will see what he did. Go page by page comparing the compressed novella with the uncompressed novel and you will see how he uncompressed the story.

For example:

In the novella the character simply picks up a wrench to close a valve.

In the novel he picks up a pipe wrench. He feels the weight of the pipe wrench. Feels the texture of the grip, hears the rattle of the jaw, smells the machine oil that keeps it from rusting, sees the way the black metal soaks up the light. He blinks as the sweat rolls down into his eyes. Feels how tired he is, and how he has to grip the pipe wrench a little tighter because his sweaty hand makes his grip unsure. He knows that if he doesn't get the valve closed, and stop losing air, that he can never go home again and watch little Emma riding her red tricycle and laughing in the bright sunlight of home.

- That scene, of course, is not in the book, but you get the idea.

BTW, You can go too far with uncompressing the story, but it is up to taste. One author wrote a trilogy, 100k books each. When I read the trilogy, I saw clearly that she had taken a 100k book and uncompressed it, beat-for-beat, into three books.

For an example of a compressed novel:

Go to Amazon and get The Time Mercenaries by Philip E. High. The ebook is only three bucks.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H6SOLS6/

The story is less than 50k, but has the same story arc as LOTR. It is a compressed story, but rips me to shreds each time I read it. If I were to write that story today, I would uncompress it, beat-for-beat, into five, 100k, novels, and it would still need to be compressed to fit 500k.

Read the interview with John Barnes where he mentions Heinlein's juveniles:

John Barnes: Patterndriven

every 25,000 words, Heinlein would paint his hero into a complete corner where the only reasonable conclusion was 'And then he died.' . . . Of course in a Heinlein novel it would turn into a space opera for another 25,000 words until Our Hero was in some other corner, or it was time to tack on some quick lame ending for the book as a whole.

Look at any of Heinlein's juveniles and notice the compression on each 25k section. If I were to write one of those today, I would uncompress each 25k section, beat-for-beat, into 75k to end up with a medium sized Stephen King novel at around 230k.

111:

On a lighter note, if you're looking for something to keep yourself entertained then I can highly recommend the wallet games from Buttonshy Games:

https://buttonshygames.com

I have nearly everything they've made, in print-and-play format, and generally speaking I'm happy with them. Some aren't really to my taste (which doesn't mean they're bad, just that I like something different), but I quite enjoy most of them. Many have solo options (or are solo games from the start).

Don't just limit yourself to the PNP section of the website. Some PNPs are only found as a purchase option under the wallet game.


Actually, you might get better selection in one place here:
https://www.pnparcade.com/collections/button-shy-games

112:

Elderly Cynic, et al *#80:
A few years ago here in the USA, the DSM-5 (the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the U.S.) eliminated Asperger's Syndrome as a separate diagnosis (along with at least one other ASD PDD-NOS) and lumped everyone together as autistic. I jokingly suggested at our local autistic group called AASCEND.org that we have a "going away party," so I guess we're all "auties" now.

Cheers,

Keith H

*If this has been subsequently commented upon, my apologies. I'm not caught up...

113:

It's not just a matter of compressing prose either. A short story shouldn't have a subplot. A novelette or novella can have at most one or two subplots respectively. A novel can have three or four subplots and a romance as well. And of course the pacing is different for each type of story.

It's also a matter of how many characters can fit in a short story vs. a novelette, for example, or how many different places. These days I prefer to write 20-30 percent over the size I'm aiming for then cut.

114:

It was probably some time around 2007 that I realised that people using that name were talking about a person and not a hotel.

You're not unreasonable in that. The Hilton chain has hotels in Paris. Like much of Paris, it looks nice from the outside.

115:

AIUI
"Paris Hilton" is somoene who is "Famous for being famous", yes?
And I don't think I heard of her until after 2012, at the least.
Who/what is she, anyway & do I need to know?

116:

I tried ordering 20 quids' worth of items last night from Amazon UK that were flagged as "Eligible for free delivery". Well, what do you know?, they added a "Packing and postage" charge on top, increasing the price by 50%. Forcibly selecting free delivery reduced that to 25%. I haven't seen that before, but you can't say that the current situation is bad for everybody, when they can sneak that in :-(

117:

I would bet that many large businesses come out of this better than they went in, based on how other crisis situations (eg. wars) have played out.

118:

I propose that we need a unit for Evil. We could call it the 'Bezos'.

Like the Farad, it is such a huge unit for all practical applications that most of the time we will be using exponents of it, like the micro-Bezos (pushing a small child down a flight of stairs to steal it's candy) or the pico-Bezos (timing zero-hour worker's toilet breaks).

119:

Is there a reason why reverend Peters last name keep changing back and forth in the series

Yes: memory issues on my part, combined with falling through the cracks with multiple editors, beta testers, and proofreaders.

120:

Paris Hilton is an heiress (to the Hilton family who built the hotel chain). A dirtball ex released a recording of them having sex. She somehow applied social media ju-juitsu to leverage this into fame and then, by a hop, skip, and some very skillful intellectual property law flaming-hoop jumping, into a franchise.

Her family disapproved: her inheritance was cut off. A couple of years later her estimated net worth exceeded that of her entire family put together.

In other words, canny businesswoman disguised as socialite, the 21st century version.

121:

I can imagine this made you extraordinary pleased with the services you were paying for. "This is the literal definition of 'you had one job'"

(I realise that there is much more that goes into editing, proofreading and betatesting than can be snidely summed up in 'one job', but I meant it at in, at least, 46-51% jest)

Maybe Paris Hilton can be viewed upon as a real life Mhari. Also, where does that name come from? Is it a name from over there in Caledonia?

122:

@ OGH:
What changes would you make to the publishing industry to best improve the situation for authors?

123:

No, shit happens.

There is a trilogy by an excellent British SF writer (not me) -- possibly his best work. His editor, one of the big names of the field, personally copy-edited and proof-read the books, just to ensure there were no cock-ups.

Reader, the name of the protagonist is mis-spelled in the first paragraph of page one of book three. The author mis-typed it, and the editor read it at least three times without spotting the mistake. (When I pointed it out he was mortified.)

124:

I'd require Amazon to relinquish much of the 50-70% of gross revenue from ebooks that they take in return for renting space on a web page. Give them the same roughly 25% of net that the author gets (and the publisher is on about the same) -- either prices come down across the board (so, cheaper product: more customers) or authors (and the publishers who do so much production work) get more money.

Amazon is the 500lb gorilla of the ebook world, and they're horrible to deal with if you're a supplier.

125:

Charlie knows this better than I do, but as a riff on Charlie's excrement-occurs point:

People who haven't done it have no idea how miserably difficult the task of proofreading is. Your brain actively does not want to do that, and it shows.

You can crowdsource proofreading and different people -- meticulous, careful, nitpicky people -- will always find different typos. It's kinda horrifying. And you never get them all.

126:

I can witness that the same is true for technical documentation, computer programs, and some other similar things. I started when turnround time for a test was often a day, and we quadruple-checked code before submission and results afterwards but, still, the following was a classic by the early 70s.

http://www.fivegulf.com/LastBug.shtml

127:

This brings back memories of my early working days when the job involved a certain amount of letter writing and proofreading documents. It always amazed me how much more easily I could catch mistakes reading the letter upside down on the desk of my boss then at any other time. The best method for documents seemed to be to have one person reading aloud and another person listening and reading - for some reason that always seemed to pick up more typos then any other method.

128:

fajansen
Surely the unit of evil is the Zuck(erberg) - now there really is an evil little rich shit ....

Charlie
Horse laugh & thanks!

Proofreading
That happened to me in a minor scientific Paper I wrote ...
I didn't spot it, our Head of Group ( Who was a first-class scientist & gruff Yorkshireman ) missed it ... it took our firm's in-house library to spot the omission.
Oops, as the saying goes.

129:

Charlie, I recall one time sitting in your study, opening one of the hardcover author copies of one of your books and my eye was caught almost immediately by a typo (a doubled word IIRC, the same word at the end of a line and at the beginning of the next line).

Every now and then when reading a Gutenberg text I have to resist the urge to get out a red pen and make corrections.

130:

That's all well and good, and yes, a story does have a "natural length" that's need to tell the tale.

HOWEVER, I don't know if you go to cons, or attend panels by authors and editors, or read, say, from Ralan.com the submission guidelines of magazines. THOSE are what I'm dealing with.

I've got one published story, and that was late last year, and I'm hoping to get one or two accepted this year.If 70% of the magazines say, explicitly, "hard limit, x000 words" then I'm trying to fit that market.

What I seem to wind up having to do is have *less* of things that might help sell it - description of people and scene, etc. What I write, there's no way to "compress" the plot itself. I've written two pieces of flash fiction (or I can sell them as one, if someone will let flash fiction run to about 1600 or 1700 words), but I really dislike it as far, far too confining. You *cannot* develop a character, or much of a plot, in that. In fact, I had one editor tell me they were well-written... but "vignettes". When I complained that you can't tell much story, he quoted Hemmingway's six word story. I did not reply that, as far as I was concerned, that was a vignette, that left the entire story for the reader to invent.

Novelettes are hard to sell, with a small market. And if you think that's bad, novellas, of which I am trying to sell one right now, are an even tinier market.

Don't mention self-publish. That's a completely different discussion, and I'm going the traditional route.

131:

Charlie Stross @ 69: Yeah: the "assign a timed 15 minute slot to the therapeutic crying jag in the office, then back to work as usual" ought to have been a bit of a red flag to the readers that Something Was Wrong, but a surprising number don't seem to have noticed it ...!

I caught that, but never realized it was a symptom of trouble with her relationship with Bob. I thought it was all that stupid violin & the job stress from dealing with shit like that execution factory in Iran piling on.

In fact I thought the trouble in her relationship with Bob was entirely the violin's fault.

132:

JamesPadraicR @ 72: Oh dear lard.
Just saw a window cleaner commercial using a jazzy, marching band version of Laibach’s “Life is Life” as Light is Life.
This stub is ridiculous.

I went and found the commercial on YouTube ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nG49-o7KfA

It's not based on Laibach's cover of the song. It's based on the original by the Austrian band Opus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dq7c-KDJxHQ

I'd never heard Laibach's cover before. Probably never will again. It's also been covered by Hermes House Band & DJ Ötzi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY_Zq7pgX2c

Anyway ... thanks for the morale boost this morning.

133:

I caught that, but never realized it was a symptom of trouble with her relationship with Bob. I thought it was all that stupid violin & the job stress from dealing with shit like that execution factory in Iran piling on.

Have you ever seen a relationship hit the rocks because one (or both) of the partners are under external stress and they just can't support one another effectively? Bob's not un-stressed during "The Rhesus Chart." And he's not terribly effective at responding to her needs, even though he is trying. But by the end of "The Rhesus Chart" they're both being ridden by vampire-adjacent Things, and that doesn't end well.

Indeed, it's a book that starts off from "Don't be silly, Bob, everybody knows vampires don't exist", and ends up in a Boss Battle between two very different types of vampire, and the third one in the room -- the nearest thing to a traditional fang fucker in the picture -- jumps naked out of the window and flees into the pre-dawn light to get out from between the Eater of Souls and the Pale Violin.

(Pale Violin = vampire-cursed artefact: it eats souls and takes payment in blood. The Eater of Souls = a hungry ghost. And Mhari is just a regular old-fashioned PHANG.)

The events of "The Annihilation Score" are the other shoe dropping, in the context of Mo's stress levels being driven up through the roof until she cracks. (Bob is less self-aware and mostly deals -- through "Escape from Puroland" with "The Nightmare Stacks" happening off-screen in the background -- until "The Delirium Brief", when he has a very bad time on his own.)

134:

I take your Bezos and Zuck and raise you a Martin.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52018360

All that was missing was a bwahahaha.

Total shitbaggery.

135:

Frankly, they're really not appropriate measures for evil: corporate douchebaggery, maybe, but for evil you really need a benchmark like Heinrich Himmler, or maybe Timur (pyramids of skulls!).

136:

Robert Prior @ 77: Interesting tidbit – Amazon.ca is now estimating over a month to deliver items that are listed as being in-stock, if they aren't in certain categories."

I'd heard that they were prioritizing "essential items" for delivery, but a bit of fiddling around determined that their definition of essential is:

• Baby Products
• Health & Household
• Beauty & Personal Care (including personal care appliances)
• Grocery
• Industrial & Scientific• Pet Supplies

So if you want, say, a book you're looking at a long wait.

I find it interesting that I can get a make-up organizer or Olay moisturizing cream a month before I can get a book (because obviously make-up is as important as groceries, while books can wait).

I understood they were prioritizing items they already have in stock in the warehouses to reduce having to handle items that have to be shipped in to Amazon before they can be shipped out to customers. It may be a peek into just what they keep in stock.

Logistics are kind of uncertain right now. When I did my shopping last week I got more frozen food than I can comfortably keep in my freezer (managed to stuff it all in, but it makes it hard to find what I want in there). I went online and found a little freezer that fits in the cubbyhole under the counter where I expected to put a dishwasher. According to the online merchant I should expect it to be delivered by 31 March. It came this morning.

137:

Heteromeles @ 81: My guess is that if you bought a used book through Amazon, where it was fulfilled by a third party (like, for instance, me), you'd get a more rapid shipment, since those of us selling off collections tend to use US media mail and similar. As for new books, I'm afraid Kindle's your best bet at the moment.

There's other weird stuff going on as well. Last week I ordered some "Hydration Mix" powder [no sugar lemon-lime for diabetics] from a vitamin shop in Chicago [not through Amazon]. The local vitamin shop I used to get it from no longer carries it. I use it as a substitute for carbonated soft drinks, which I'm no longer supposed to drink.

This week I get a tracking number from Canada Post showing it shipped from British Columbia and has arrived at the Sorting center USSFOA, ISC SAN FRANCISCO (USPS).

It kind of makes sense it would go through San Francisco coming in from British Columbia (although why not the one in Seattle, WA?).

What mystifies me is why it's coming from British Columbia in the first place and not from Chicago?

138:

Robert Prior @ 111: On a lighter note, if you're looking for something to keep yourself entertained then I can highly recommend the wallet games from Buttonshy Games:

https://buttonshygames.com

I have nearly everything they've made, in print-and-play format, and generally speaking I'm happy with them. Some aren't really to my taste (which doesn't mean they're bad, just that I like something different), but I quite enjoy most of them. Many have solo options (or are solo games from the start).

Don't just limit yourself to the PNP section of the website. Some PNPs are only found as a purchase option under the wallet game.

Actually, you might get better selection in one place here:
https://www.pnparcade.com/collections/button-shy-games

They look like fun, but how does a solitary semi-reclusive old fart like me play them without breaking "social distancing" rules?

139:

Thanks, that’s a relief, I guess. I had no idea it was a cover, and I always get the title wrong. I only know the song from the Laibach video, which turned me off of them—too Brown Shirty, though that was apparently meant as parody somehow. They’re performance of “The Sound of Music” in N.Korea was amusing.

140:

And I only saw a short version of the commercial with just enough of the music to be recognizable.

141:

Greg Tingey @ 115: AIUI
"Paris Hilton" is somoene who is "Famous for being famous", yes?
And I don't think I heard of her until after 2012, at the least.
Who/what is she, anyway & do I need to know?

I think it's more "infamous for being famous" ... or "famous for being infamous". I know vaguely who she is; basically a no-talent bimbo[1] who got all the breaks in life because she indirectly inherited a lot of money from her great-grandfather. The intervening generations don't seem any more talented or deserving, but at least they kept a fairly low profile.

[1]I know "bimbo" is sexist, and I hate using it, but it best fits the situation.

142:

Graydon @ 125: You can crowdsource proofreading and different people -- meticulous, careful, nitpicky people -- will always find different typos. It's kinda horrifying. And you never get them all.

Proof reading? I see stuff published nowadays that it's obvious they never even ran it through spell-check; not that auto-correct shit - the one that highlights the words it doesn't recognize so you can fix them or add them to the dictionary if you need to.

143:

I understood they were prioritizing items they already have in stock in the warehouses to reduce having to handle items that have to be shipped in to Amazon before they can be shipped out to customers. It may be a peek into just what they keep in stock.

Everything I checked delivery times on was listed as being "in stock". So either they are preferentially shipping makeup over books or inaccurately listing items as "in stock" when they aren't.

It's not like I have a shortage of books to read, so I'm not really put out by not getting my book for 5-6 weeks. I would have liked to get the focus rail I also ordered, as macro photography would have helped pass the time, but I fully understand that food comes first.

I confess to being somewhat put out that vanity items are prioritized the same as food.

144:

Laibach are hilarious, but you need a very dry, dead-pan sense of humour to appreciate them.

(If you get a chance to see them perform "The Sound of Music" live take it, it's an amazing show. But they won't be taking it to the USA any year soon, not with NK stamps on passports from a former Yugoslavian state.)

145:

"Highest paid DJ in Ibiza" doesn't exactly correlate with "no talent" (it's a highly competitive field and DJ is basically a specialized category of musician these days -- one who works with samples and remixes). She's also 39 and the sex tape thing happened 20 years ago: she must be doing something right to be earning upwards of $10M a year from business ventures.

I'm going with "successful businesswoman from a privileged background who managed to survive wild teenage years and build a new media career". Much like Elon Musk: "emerald mine heir who co-founded a dot-com then decided to build a space program and get the car industry off its petrol addiction along the way". Yeah, these are good places to start from (and Bill Gates' father was the second highest-paid corporate attorney in Sattle), but they did something with it, instead of depending on their trust funds for a life of leisure.

146:

Charlie Stross @ 133:

I caught that, but never realized it was a symptom of trouble with her relationship with Bob. I thought it was all that stupid violin & the job stress from dealing with shit like that execution factory in Iran piling on.

Have you ever seen a relationship hit the rocks because one (or both) of the partners are under external stress and they just can't support one another effectively?

No. I think I've mentioned I'm socially maladroit & don't have good relationship skills. I survived marrying a narcissistic sociopath, but I didn't figure out that's what it was until many years later, long after she'd ditched me to latch on to another victim. Sometimes I think I'm lucky I did survive.

I'm naive enough I believe in happy endings where the hero gets the girl (or vice versa), even though I know that rarely happens in real life and there usually aren't really any heroes anyway.

147:

The games? Many of them have solo variants (or are entirely solo). Pentaquark is essentially a solo puzzle game, for example. My favourite at the moment is Stew, which does need at least 2 people to play so that's probably out for you. Look at these:

Space-Shipped is solo SF trading
Hierarchy has a solo expansion
The Maiden in the Forest
Ahead in the Clouds has a solo expansion
It Was This Big is an estimation game
Tussie Mussie has a solo expansion

I was under the impression that many here have a partner, whom presumably they're being not being distant from…

Buttonshy is also releasing B&W line drawing versions of their children's games, so that the kids can have fun colouring a game before having fun playing it. I'm sending a copy of the colour-it-yourself version of Why I Otter to my grandniece's parents, with the hopes that it will give them a bit of respite from an energetic (if incredibly smart and cute) 6-year-old…

Also arrived in the last few weeks are Maquis, a solo game of French resitance, and Pocket Landship, a solo game of, well, pocket landships :-) I backed both on Kickstarter, but they also have (or had) PNP versions available on BoardGameGeek.

148:

I'm naive enough I believe in happy endings where the hero gets the girl

But what if she wants a guy? :-)

Not all heroes are male… (or straight, although statistically that's more likely)…

One of the books I'm getting for my grandniece (after the current crisis, because delivery priorities) is the Delilah Dirk series:

https://www.delilahdirk.com

Probably a bit complicated for her at the moment, but they'll sit happily on her bookshelf until she grows into them.

149:

Charlie Stross @ 145: "Highest paid DJ in Ibiza" doesn't exactly correlate with "no talent" (it's a highly competitive field and DJ is basically a specialized category of musician these days -- one who works with samples and remixes). She's also 39 and the sex tape thing happened 20 years ago: she must be doing something right to be earning upwards of $10M a year from business ventures.

I'm going with "successful businesswoman from a privileged background who managed to survive wild teenage years and build a new media career". Much like Elon Musk: "emerald mine heir who co-founded a dot-com then decided to build a space program and get the car industry off its petrol addiction along the way". Yeah, these are good places to start from (and Bill Gates' father was the second highest-paid corporate attorney in Sattle), but they did something with it, instead of depending on their trust funds for a life of leisure.

Yeah. That whole celebrity thing goes right over my head, so the "wild teenage years" were all I knew about (and obviously only vaguely that).

If she outgrew it that's good. I'm glad she managed to survive & prosper.

I know that Elon Musk started out as a dot-commer, but I couldn't tell you what dot-com without looking it up. Mostly I recognize his name from Tesla & SpaceX being in the news. Never knew he was a" "trust fund baby".

And having worked for the IBM PC Company, I have a pretty good idea who Bill Gates is & how he got his start. I think his Mom had more to do with him getting his big break than his father did. Still what he did with that break when he got it is what counts.

150:

Musk co-founded Paypal. It made him a proximate-billionaire by thirty.

151:

Troutwaxer @113 said: It's not just a matter of compressing prose either. . . These days I prefer to write 20-30 percent over the size I'm aiming for then cut.

Exactly. Each form(short/novelette/novella/novel) has it's own purpose and structure. Read as many of each form to get a sense of their purpose and structure, then play with each.

BTW, Don't think in terms of "cutting", think in terms of "compression". It does help.

Go to Amazon and download the "sample" for Modern Classic Short Novels of Science Fiction by Gardner Dozois, and read his introduction where he talks about short stories, novellas, and compression.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NKBSID2/

I agree with Dozois that novellas are the perfect form for capturing a compressed story.

And of course the pacing is different for each type of story.

Remember, "pacing" and "compression" are two different things.

- Think of "pacing" as the way the words move the eyes down the page.

- For "compression", think of going from Black & White to Technicolor. The information explodes.

Dorothy entering Technicolor

When we see the transition with our eyes, we do not realize how much the information has exploded. You are limited on the page by how fast you can transmit the increased information when you uncompress a story. It literally can take ten times as many words to show a simple "color" story compared to the compressed "B&W" story.

Think 8-bit color, then 16-bit color, etc..., each increases the amount of information that must be transmitted using words on the page.

- The more "color" you add to the scene, the greater the number of words for the same scene.

As an example:

Read the sample of each of these books and you will see that they have the same "pacing", but different "compression".

- Do the "Look inside" on Time Mercenaries. There is no sample.

The Time Mercenaries

- Time Mercenaries is highly compressed.

Duma Key: A Novel

- Duma has low compression.

Blood Infernal: The Order of the Sanguines Series

- Blood Infernal has almost no compression. They make King look compressed in comparison.

On my stuff, I routinely write the "first draft" as tight, highly compressed "B&W" story, finding out what the story is. Then I "uncompress" what I have, beat-for-beat, by adding "color" to the page. The more "color" I add in each "draft" the greater the number of words grow, yet the story stays the same.

- For me, adding "color" is making sure that the five senses are on every page, and that the "feeling" comes across.

When I make the mistake of trying to write the first draft using every "color", the story ends up wandering all over the place.

I think of writing like painting. Start with a sketch, get the proportions and placement right on the canvas, then start adding broad strokes of color, adding more and more detail until it is finally done.

- Seen on the canvas, the progression seems natural.

- Done on the page, a compressed short story uncompresses to novella length, telling the same story, beat-for-beat, with more detail, more "colors".

Think of going from 1-bit monochrome, to 8-bit grayscale, to 8-bit color. Some people take the story up to 16-bit (high color) or 24-bit (true color) or even 48-bit (deep color).

In the examples above, Christopher Anvil would be 1-bit "monochrome", Philip E. High would be "grayscale", Stephen King would be "true color", Rebecca Cantrell would be "deep color".

"Deep color" would be like painting a Vermeer with every book.

Tim's Vermeer' Trailer (2014): Tim Jenison, Penn Jillette

152:

Re The Last Bug... Good, but you cannot beat The Story of Mel for it nostalgia. :-)

http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/story-of-mel.html

153:

Robert Prior @ 148:

I'm naive enough I believe in happy endings where the hero gets the girl

But what if she wants a guy? :-)

Not all heroes are male… (or straight, although statistically that's more likely)…

Well, I thought "(or vice versa)" would cover that. So, make it ...

I'm naive enough I believe in happy endings where the hero gets to spend the rest of their life with a love interest who loves them just as fiercely in return.

See my previous about why I am alone and single.

One of the books I'm getting for my grandniece (after the current crisis, because delivery priorities) is the Delilah Dirk series:

https://www.delilahdirk.com

Probably a bit complicated for her at the moment, but they'll sit happily on her bookshelf until she grows into them.

I'm a long time fan of Weber's Honor Harrington, along with Elizabeth Moon's Familias Regnant (Heris Serrano & Esmay Suiza) and Vatta's War (Kylara Vatta). And I've read almost everything Bujold has ever written (only got part way through The Sharing Knife before I lost interest).

But it really does NOT matter to me whether the hero is male, female, straight (although I prefer straight heroes who are not "narrow"), gay, trans, cis ... whatever, as long as they have a well told, rollicking good story.

154:

I thought "(or vice versa)" would cover that.

My bad. I took the vice versa of "hero gets the girl" to be "girl gets the hero". I do tend to take things too literally…

I never really got into Honor Harrington. Tried it, put it down, no urge to go back.

Take a look at the Delilah Dirk series. First 40 pages are free, which should be enough to decide if you like the graphic novels or not.

155:

That's where I started, too. A Ferranti Mercury, where there wasn't enough memory to both load the Autocode compiler and run a serious program - with drum memory, natch.

156:

But they won't be taking it to the USA any year soon

Yeah, very unlikely. Maybe after a couple years of a Bernie Sanders presidency—which ain’t happening. (I voted for Warren in the Colorado Dem. Primary, she came in 4th. Bernie was 1st, followed by Bloomberg, which I don’t get, then Biden.)

Learning that Musk came from money does much to explain his behavior, particularly on Twitter.

157:

Robert Prior @ 154:

I thought "(or vice versa)" would cover that.

My bad. I took the vice versa of "hero gets the girl" to be "girl gets the hero". I do tend to take things too literally…

Well, it did, but not exclusively.

I never really got into Honor Harrington. Tried it, put it down, no urge to go back.

Take a look at the Delilah Dirk series. First 40 pages are free, which should be enough to decide if you like the graphic novels or not.

I did. Followed the link you provided. It reminded me of Girl Genius

As to not getting into Honor Harrington - "different strokes for different folks" - but she does show that the "hero" doesn't always have to be a guy.

158:

followed by Bloomberg, which I don’t get

Taking that back some. He spent a ridiculous amount here; lots of commercials, people going door to door more than once, and many mailings. More surprised that he was ahead of Biden.

159:

Re: Honor Harrington

I read the first 7 or so when they were already out. Baen did a promo years ago where the physical copy of book 1 was priced $1.99, and I was hooked.

Gave up the series when I read all that had been published, then... didn't read any more. They'd gotten too info-dumpy for my tastes.

I recently saw the first three in a local used book store. I thought: why not see what they're like? I bought them and... well.

The first two were OK in "get your booster shots to increase your willing suspension of belief" kind of way.

Then in book 3 you get into the workings of how politics works on Manticore. Hereditary aristocracy? Check. Massive income inequality? Check. But that's OK because most of the aristocrats take the well-being of the poors to heart. Yes, there are a few bad apples, but aristocrats are mostly OK.

And this was presented straight, with no irony! Then you see Grayson, which is even farther down the "hereditary aristocracy runs things, and all is good" road. With the added bonus of there being 3-4 women for each man. Presumably so teen boys can say to themselves: "Wow! What a cool world! I could have multiple wives there!"

I can't think of any LGBTQ+ characters appearing in those books, either. Got 1/4 of the way through book 3 and set it aside. They'll go back to the used book store when the quarantine lifts.

(In case this is too much about Honor Harrington, please feel free to delete this post).

160:

Laibach are hilarious

There's a whole lot of bands that are (often unintentionally) hilarious if you have that sort of sense of humour. Sisters of Mercy, for example, or The Jesus and Mary Chain ("at 25 I have mastered teen angst, prepare to see it done professionally"). John Grant "that's the good news" is deliberately funny. If you want dubstep bagpipe (because of course you do) the SIDH is classic.

The other ones to watch are when a band changes producer, or a good producer just grabs a random off the street. Pierce Turner "Now is Heaven" turned an eccentric Irish folk musician into an emotionally-affecting pop-folk artist... for exactly one album. Someone grabbed a dancer and produced quite good trip-hop with Brigid Boden's self-titled album (which was followed by ... other stuff).

161:

If you want dubstep bagpipe (because of course you do)

I didn't. Now I do. Thanks for the link.

162:

The SIDH reminds me of the group Rare Air. Basically fusion bag pipes.

Thanks...

Rare Air - Death Of A Space Piper

Rare Air - Topic

163:

Rare Air I hadn't heard before, they're good. Thanks!

164:

No, shit happens. There is a trilogy by an excellent British SF writer (not me) -- possibly his best work. His editor, one of the big names of the field, personally copy-edited and proof-read the books, just to ensure there were no cock-ups. Reader, the name of the protagonist is mis-spelled in the first paragraph of page one of book three.

I believe you. Oh, yes. Few of us want to tell such a story on themselves, so I'll bite that bullet (and nod understandingly at Greg).

Years ago I was in an industrial food preparation line, supervising some smart humans and one dumb robot. You've all seen packages printed "Best before ..." and now that I've mentioned that you know how this story plays out.

At the end of the production line boxes were taped up and dated, with two machines operating in parallel to keep up with everything else. At the start of every shift we'd take physical samples of the output, verifying that it said what it should. And by 'we' I mean me, or whoever was doing my job on the other shift. It would then be double-checked by the overall line manager, just to be sure.

One night, after about five hours of production, one of the guys who stacked boxes onto pallets noticed something odd. Folks, these are guys employed literally to pick up things and put them down a few meters away; editing was not his job and he far exceeded expectations that night. He had nothing to do but move identical boxes and eventually he spotted that not all the boxes were actually identical.

One of the printers was mis-set. The font used had very similar characters for 8 and 9 and nobody had seen it. I looked right at it and missed it; so did the line manager. But we hadn't touched the printers! They got set in the mornings! Yep, the previous shift had mis-set one and then both of the people who were supposed to read the dates missed it. So did at least two day shift stackers who spent twelve hours piling boxes onto pallets (not that it was their job to look). So at least six people missed that error and we were saved by one guy who read something few people look at.

A bunch of us came in for an extra shift and disassembled the previous day's output, re-labeling everything that needed it.

165:

Thanks. Yes, I was thinking of works that had a designed completion from the start, and get to one (not necessarily quite the same). A lot of series are continuations (rather than books that can be read in isolation), and many of them either do not have a designed completion or lose it on the way.

166:

One of the printers was mis-set. The font used had very similar characters for 8 and 9 and nobody had seen it. I looked right at it and missed it; so did the line manager.

A classic case of seeing what you expected to see.

167:

Much of the Honorverse is available on a Baen CD in various electric forms, as are many other of their series for those running short of reading material.

168:

whitroth @130 said: HOWEVER, I don't know if you go to cons, or attend panels by authors and editors, or read, say, from Ralan.com the submission guidelines of magazines. THOSE are what I'm dealing with.

Mark,

You have an editor looking at your 7499 word story along side two other 3500 word short stories by two other guys, what do you think he will choose.

- A 7499 word short story needs to be great, not just cut to a "word count".

Writing short stories is an Art, because of being forced to work within the limits of the form. As I said above, it's not just about word count.

- When people read short stories, they want a short--->Story.

Track down the classic, Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight. I may not have agreed with many of the things Knight did, but he understood short fiction.

In fact, I had one editor tell me they were well-written... but "vignettes". When I complained that you can't tell much story, he quoted Hemmingway's six word story. I did not reply that, as far as I was concerned, that was a vignette, that left the entire story for the reader to invent.

There is the classic short story:

A guy walks into a magic shop looking for a love potion. The owner says we have one for a dollar. What you really want to buy is this "glove cleaner", but it will cost you a thousand bucks. It is an undetectable poison, that kills instantly. The guy says, he doesn't want a poison, he wants a love potion so that the woman he wants will love him completely. The owner sells him the love potion, and the guys walks out the door happy.

- The story doesn't end on the page, because the Reader knows that the guy will be back for that "glove cleaner".

- More than half of the story is off the page.

Here's an example of that.

The Chaser by John Collier in pdf

They did the same story in a Twilight Zone episode, but instead of ending as the short story does, they uncompressed the story and took it to the end to fill the time slot.

BTW, That is an example of uncompressing the story to fit the form.

To help you with setting limits on the story, look at the rules for using "manuscript pages".

Manuscript Preparation

"Manuscript pages" are your friend. They are a useful tool. Each page can hold up to 250 words. You fill the pages with "story" rather than focus on "word count".

Rather than write a short story right up to the limit of 7499 words, set out to fill 30 manuscript pages. (7500 divide by 250 is 30 pages.)

Right off the bat you have a half page drop. That is a "feature" not a "flaw". You can then happily type along, but not have more than 30 pages. Focus on fitting the "story" within the limits of those 30 pages, then you can write something that forces the editor to buy your one story verses two shorter stories.

BTW, Do that often enough, and you can type right up against whatever page limit you set.

169:

OMG Somebody stop him. If he keeps trying to publish this thing, the new gig economy is going to be guys in plague masks with wheelbarrows calling out "bring out your dead!" (Uber Black kinda gets a brand makeover I guess)

170:

JReynolds @ 159: I can't think of any LGBTQ+ characters appearing in those books, either.

I don't think having LGBTQ+ characters in a story is obligatory. I will put a book down (take it back and demand a refund in fact) if there is detectable anti-LGBTQ+ bias or Neo-fascist bullshit or if it just plain advocates for bad people to do bad things to other people ... but not because the writer has cis-gender, mundane characters for his protagonists.

I'm a cis-gender mundane person, so it doesn't bother me if the characters in a story are. Doesn't bother me if they aren't. I accept them as they are ... as long as they appear to accept others as they are.

But they got to have a good, entertaining story to tell me.

171:

_Moz_ @ 160: Laibach are hilarious

There's a whole lot of bands that are (often unintentionally) hilarious if you have that sort of sense of humour. Sisters of Mercy, for example, or The Jesus and Mary Chain ("at 25 I have mastered teen angst, prepare to see it done professionally"). John Grant "that's the good news" is deliberately funny. If you want dubstep bagpipe (because of course you do) the SIDH is classic.

That whole video I'm wondering, "Why does that guy have a 5-string bass when he's only ever playing on the top two strings?"

172:

I'm not happy that she's so successful. I had whole years where I could argue with someone, and if they said, about estate taxes "death taxes" "don't you want your kids to be rich", I could come back with "right, and who as a role model, Paris Hilton?"

173:

Yep. As someone said, "Americans, heirs of the first revolution that completely threw out 'nobility', are obsessed with it."

Now, I think that's the last 40 years of propaganda....

But Honor Harrington, I gave up after they beat whatever the stellar nation was that was run by cheap and totally cardboard Rob S. Pierre, since by that time, Harrington needed a name change to Mary Sue.

174:

the SIDH: ROTFLMAO!!! I love it.

175:

Most of what you had to say, I do already know. Yct was interesting, but... please don't assume I don't understand that.

Did you miss that I brought up (because an editor did) Hemmingway's "short story" of six words?

There are issues with that - some people actually want the *whole* story, not just "what's implied left unsaid". Another is that sometimes, the plot requires more verbiage.

I also already said that one of the problems with some of my stories is that I'm hearing that "nowadays, they want all five senses on every page"... you cannot do that in flash fiction, and it's hard to do in short stories, if you have a truly interesting plot.

And "five senses"? Really? I rarely notice mentions of something smelling or tasting, esp. in short stories, and I don't know of any book, magazine, or ereader that provides tactile stimulation. Yes, the characters can feel texture, but that's not frequently necessary.

Do you really think that I'm shooting for 7500 words? I'm shoorting for a short, and the stories tell me they want to be longer, with or without compression.

176:

Yes. In both directions. Weber's society is no more unrealistic than the delusion that throwing out the nobility resulted in an egalitarian (let alone liberal) society. We have plenty of such idiots in the UK, too.

177:

No the US had a nobility from day one.
The big Land-&-Slave-owners, including Washington.
It was an oligarchic & plutocratic revolution from the very start.
Discuss the validity of this thesis.....

EC has noticed this "slight problem" as well.

179:

AIUI Weber is a conservative christian, and a conservative (political subtype). It's probably a good thing there's no LGBT+ rep in his books because (given his tendency to get all preachy) I suspect it'd all go horribly, offensively wrong.

(At least he's not as vilely paleo-authoritarian as David Feintuch or as barkingly misogynist as Leo Frankowski. (Both deceased.))

180:

whitroth @175 said: Most of what you had to say, I do already know.

That's good.

I've been a bit loquacious the past few days. I'm between projects and need to start the next WIP. It has been fun to step out from my posting sabbatical.

Thanks for letting me kibitz.

181:

the SIDH... "Why does that guy have a 5-string bass when he's only ever playing on the top two strings?"

Other tracks he plays more conventionally, but dubstep is pretty stripped back even at its most decorative. Bare dubstep you can do with about 4 keys on a synth and a kick drum.

Also, five string bass is cool. Fretless is more coolerer but also quite hardcore.

Meanwhile in Australia: https://chaser.com.au/general-news/government-rushes-to-upgrade-the-windows-95-box-running-nbn-mygov-and-centrelink/

182:

You have an editor looking at your 7499 word story along side two other 3500 word short stories by two other guys, what do you think he will choose.

Oof. Mind if I chip in here? I've never been a fiction editor for a SF magazine but I've written and edited lots and lots of convention zines.

The important lesson is that editors see the process differently from writers.

To a (print) editor, there's a hole that needs to be filled. The hole has a specific size. If the hole is about 7500 words large, either is good. If it's about a 10k hole, grab the 7499 and a 3500 story; maybe both will fit. If it's a 4000 word hole, it doesn't matter if the 7499 story inspires choirs of angels to sing when read; it's too big.

There's also the question of deadline pressure. I've frequently been worrying about a looming deadline while searching for an appropriately sized pile of words, hopefully grammatically correct and having something to do with the subject at hand.

That works the other way too. The 3500 word stories are tiny, so it's nice if a few of those can be stockpiled and inserted in holes left by bigger stories.

183:

allynh
Thanks - will take time to watch those, later

184:

One of the things I've noticed is that communication seems to work subtly differently between HFAs/Aspergers and "norms". (I'm of the 2000AD era so I think of Johnny Alpha and norms/muties. Us muties are all going to end up the Ghetto of Milton Keynes.) I don't seem to have any problem communicating with other muties. Communicating with norms it seems as if you're sometimes communicating over a lossy channel - even face to face.

I had conversations with my then boss, where I thought the intent was crystal clear and received in both directions. Then later the boss would claim that I had misunderstood. I'd replay the scene in my head and think "no, my understanding was what happened/discussed." It was kind of subtle thought, every now and again and not at all blatant but enough to cause occasional angst.

In the end, I thought, "well I'm not trying to belligerent or awkward, and if I assume he isn't either, then it's like there's some sort of intermittent loss on the line." That started me down the path of getting a diagnosis.

185:

I have been married for over 40 years to someone well towards the other end, and you are perfectly correct. It's resolvable, as with deafness, but BOTH parties have to work at it.

186:

"OMG Somebody stop him. If he keeps trying to publish this thing, the new gig economy is going to be guys in plague masks with wheelbarrows calling out "bring out your dead!" (Uber Black kinda gets a brand makeover I guess) "

Uber Soylent Green (if you've seen the movies, imagine those garbage trucks).

187:

@OGH

I'm in the middle of a re-read (just started Rhesus Chart) and I was wondering…

Are the events of the as-yet-unwritten A Conventional Boy the reason Bob got knocked off the fast-track to Mahagony Row? The book never actually says.

188:

Bob didn't get knocked off the fast track to Mahogany Row. I think you mis-read something.

189:

Entirely possible... I was referring to this section:

"Last year, a series of unfortunate events in Colorado Springs coincided with me being promoted onto the management fast track—and earlier this year a series of even more unfortunate events derailed me from said track…"

190:

Greg Tingey @ 177: No the US had a nobility from day one.
The big Land-&-Slave-owners, including Washington.
It was an oligarchic & plutocratic revolution from the very start.
Discuss the validity of this thesis.....

EC has noticed this "slight problem" as well.

What's to discuss. It was nonsense the first time you spouted it. It's been nonsense every time you've spouted it. It's nonsense now. It will still be nonsense the next time you spout it.

191:

Charlie Stross @ 179: AIUI Weber is a conservative christian, and a conservative (political subtype). It's probably a good thing there's no LGBT+ rep in his books because (given his tendency to get all preachy) I suspect it'd all go horribly, offensively wrong.

(At least he's not as vilely paleo-authoritarian as David Feintuch or as barkingly misogynist as Leo Frankowski. (Both deceased.))

I don't know. I know Weber lives in Utah and that the Graysons are pseudo-Mormons seems pretty damn obvious to me. Have you read any of his other works? I'm thinking mainly here of the "Safehold" series where the protagonist is a trans-android on a mission to destroy the "Church of God Awaiting" (pretty obviously [to me] based on the pre-reformation Roman Catholic Church) and that's certainly not a conservative christian point of view.

192:

No, I'm wrong ... Weber lives in Greenville, SC. L.E. Modesitt lives in Utah. I sometimes get the two confused.

But the Graysons are still Mormon analogues.

193:

What I get from David Weber's work is that he comes from a fairly liberal version of Christianity; he's clearly anti-racial-prejudice and pro-feminist* and imagines a society which is rational, prosperous and just. He also clearly dislikes the toxic versions of any religion.

However, his politics are very conservative, and he wouldn't be caught dead voting for a Liberal (though he might vote for a conservative Democrat if that person checked all his boxes.) Essentially, he's an old-school Republican from before the party went psycho - what you might call an "Eisenhower Republican."

This combination of Liberal Christianity and political conservatism is not uncommon in the United States, and it's the reason why his "heroic" societies are all sort of schizophrenically Liberal in nature, while they claim to be conservative - they inherit some values from his religion and some values from his politics. (I've got a fair number of relatives who fit this picture.)

On the subject of LGBT people, I think he's written on the subject twice in the Honor Harrington books; once when Emily gazes rather wistfully at Honor and thinks briefly on how nice it would be to have a whole body, and once when one of the minor villains is a Lesbian. Note that I'm in the middle of moving house and have no capacity to check the text evidence on this.

I'm guessing he'd be an excellent next-door neighbor as long as you avoided the subject of politics.

* Second wave, not third.

194:

Agreed on Weber. I'd add that inferring that a SF writer is drawing from their own life when they're writing can be fraught. For instance, David Weber was not an Olde Tyme captain in the British Royal Navy when he adapted CS Forster's work to SF, nor is he Mormon to use the Graysons. Nor, for that matter, is he female, despite the gender of most of his heroes. He's just doing what we all do, which is writing what works for him. And you have to admit, "Horatio Hornblower in space with a female Horatio" turned out to be a really good elevator pitch.

195:

Mark,

Looking at the "sample" from Knight's book, I saw mention of the essay "Journey With a Little Man" by Richard McKenna and that led me to buying Knight's, Turning Points, so that worked out well.

Along the way I found this article about editing that fits with what I have been saying.

Teaching Stuff: Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic

196:

My current elevator pitch is "Orcish noble with PTSD comes to a human town with a terrible secret."

197:

Ooh! This is great stuff!

198:

JBS
The US nobility had no formal titles, they needed none but: "Massah"
And, so, & no, I am at least partially correct
You have been blinded by your own state's propaganda about "equality" - very similar to parallel lies told inside the old CCCP, actually.

Troutwaxer
Also, some of his aristocrats are really nasty arseholes - & some aren't too bad - people in other words
Manticore society is clearly based on 18th C Britain, with lots of socially extreme-liberal tweaks

199:

To elaborate on your comment:

GT seems blissfully unaware of Britain's Haitian campaign in the 1790s.

But to keep it focused on the United States. You can find pro and anti slavery policies and events on both sides of the American Revolution. There is no indication that Britain was going to push for a general emancipation. Three decades later a new generation eagerly subsidized the growth of Big Cotton to feed the UK's mills and middle class Britons were the biggest investors in slave derivatives on the stock market.

So if I was a not-very-nice person I might suggest that the UK owes African Americans reparations for deliberately turning a dying anachronistic institution into a metastasizing parasitic economy that ruined millions of lives in many different ways. But they'd probably have to get in line given the history of the Empire.

TLDR: both sides were shit on most issues involving racism most of the time. In practice, neither the Mansfield decision nor the Declaration of Independence were the Holy Grails they are cracked up to be.

On a completely side note: Kosciusko spent the war working closely with black soldiers and went home determined not to ignore social inequality in Polish national revolts. This strain of thought eventually led to the identification of revolts as either "red" or "white." The American Revolution was probably a rose at best.

200:

Robert Prior @148:
Big thanks for the Delilah Dirk recomendation, it looks very good.

201:

"Also, some of his aristocrats are really nasty arseholes - & some aren't too bad - people in other words
Manticore society is clearly based on 18th C Britain, with lots of socially extreme-liberal tweaks."

Agreed completely.

202:

The HH books can be weird indeed, especially the ones he wrote with Eric Flint. At one stage clearly the entirety of the equivalent of the House of Lords were shown to be jerks of the highest order (with the exception of the core royal family and some in the military). I personally have a lot of time (or at least think it is worth talking to) for Eisenhower/ TDR republicans or Stanwyck republicans (a mixture of those with a sense of noblesse oblige, square deal and those who say I had it tough on the way up so even though I expect everyone to work hard I will not kick down)

203:

I don't. It may have been based on his delusions of what 18th century Britain was like but, if so, he was less than clueless. It is actually much closer to the best of the 19th and early 20th century parts of Britain (mainly in rural areas), though is excessively eulogistic, even then. More importantly (in terms of discrepancy), the status of his artisans and the type of venality of his aristocrats is VERY 20th century.

It's amusing in that he is correct that an aristocracy is not necessarily any worse than any other form of oligarchy, whether a plutocracy or a political demagogocracy (which is what so-called democracies often are). But it is no better, either.

204:

My assumption was that Greg meant the 1800s. On the other hand, it's Weber's world, so I guess he can assemble the society he likes.

205:

Greg Tingey @ 198: JBS
...
You have been blinded by your own state's propaganda about "equality" - very similar to parallel lies told inside the old CCCP, actually."

I think no more so than your own blind refusal to accept the role English Mercantilism played in bringing slavery to the American Colonies. And extending it within the British Empire long past the time England finally formally outlawed it. Take the beam out of your own eye before presuming to remove the splinter from mine.

See also: stones, casting thereof

206:

PrivateIron @ 199: TLDR: both sides were shit on most issues involving racism most of the time. In practice, neither the Mansfield decision nor the Declaration of Independence were the Holy Grails they are cracked up to be.

I think "Holy Grail" may be a good description for the Declaration of Independence (and for the Constitution) ... in the Arthurian sense; something pure & noble but out of reach that we strive to obtain.

The knights of the round table never found the Holy Grail, but they continued to look for it. Our "founding fathers" did not achieve a society based on the ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence. But like Arthur's knights, we continue the search.


207:

JBS
Bollocks, actually
youTube on the Slave Trade patrols
Oh & slavery was already in "The Americas" through Spain, I'm afraid, well before then.

@ 206
Actually, most gave up the search long since - about the time Nixon became Pres.

208:

[shakes head]
I think we should drop this conversation. I tell you I know this stuff, and you try to point me to stuff I already know.

For example, "MY PRECIOUS WORDS!!!" All the editors I've dealt with, including Eric Flint, who did buy my currently-only first story I sold, knew from conversations with me that I was perfectly willing to make changes as needed, if it didn't destroy the story... and I don't know any editors who a) would ask me to destroy the story, and b) wanted me to write their story, rather than mine.

Btw, if you noticed on the next thread, I just finished my second novel....

209:

Mark,

No matter how often I do something, I don't know what I know until I teach it, so thanks for letting me kibitz.

- I always learn far more when I teach.

Look at the article on editing War of the Worlds again. The insight is so strong that I now see how I can teach what I do using the book. I can't show how I complete one of my novels, because I don't have the final form until it is fully uncompressed. But I can take War of the Worlds, which has a clear story arc, and show how to uncompress a story, beat-for-beat, so that anyone can see the process.

Yesterday, I stumbled on the reissue of Sundiver by David Brin. It was his first novel, and I read it soon after he started getting big with his Uplift stories. Read the introduction to the 2020 edition. I finally see how the book was first published. I'm interested in seeing what he has changed.

I also stumbled on one of Heinlein's books that they found the "first draft" of and assembled it from original notes.

The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes

It is the original version of what became:

The Number of the Beast: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes

They are selling them both as a "Parallel NoveL", so we can now see Heinlein's original intent for the story.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

"I can explain it to you, but I can't comprehend it for you."

Edward I. Koch

210:

I also stumbled on one of Heinlein's books that they found the "first draft" of and assembled it from original notes.

I'm glad I didn't read about a 'new' Heinlein novel yesterday, on April 1st.

From the reviews it sounds like what it says on the tin: a first draft bashed together into a novel, after the original author rethought his plot and decided to do something else. Now that I know it exists I'm sure I will read it eventually.

Leave a comment

Here's the moderation policy. If this is your first time, please read it before you post.

If you need to sign in and want to create a local account on this blog, select "Movable Type" from the "Sign in ..." menu. You will need a working email address.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 20, 2020 3:38 PM.

Public appearances in a time of pandemic was the previous entry in this blog.

Update to Public Appearances in a time of pandemic is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog

Propaganda