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Coming soon: Escape from Yokai Land!

Escape from Yokai Land cover

Escape from Yokai Land comes out on March 1st, just two weeks from now. It's a novella, not a novel—under 100 pages—and it's a US-only release, from (although you can order copies for import into the UK). As usual, Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh will be happy to sell you signed hardcovers by mail (or even in person, if you happen to be visiting Edinburgh); allow a week or so after publication date for the import copies to show up and for me to get there and sign them.

So what's it about?

Observant Laundry Files fans will have noticed the total absence of Bob Howard from the events described in The Nightmare Stacks (which is why he re-appeared in The Delirium Brief, sweating bullets and fronting for the organization on the TV news shows). What was he doing in the meantime? Well, it appears he was busy with an overseas liaison job in Japan, and this is that story ...

In the internal chronology, this therefore takes place between Laundry Files books 6 and 7, The Annihilation Score and The Nightmare Stacks, and a long time before the New Management books (which start with Dead Lies Dreaming, 2-3 years later in wall clock time).

As for whether there's going to be a UK edition: the short answer is, not yet. The slightly longer version is, I'm working towards a Laundry Files short story collection, which will have a UK edition, and this will almost inevitably be part of it.

In other writing news: I'm currently working on Season of Skulls, the third New Management book, which is provisionally due out in both the US and UK markets (from and Orbit, as usual) in May 2023. And I'm working on A Conventional Boy, another stand-alone Laundry Files novella (this time, about Derek the DM), which will hopefully show up in the aforementioned Laundry Files short story collection (but not before Season of Skulls).

PS: Yes, Escape from Yokai Land was previously titled Escape from Puroland. Trademark concerns prompted a change of title, and the change of title forced a 6 month delay (it takes time to re-schedule and print paper hardcovers with a new title). If you've seen reviews of Escape from Puroland, this is the same novella.

PPS: Puroland is real, Yokai Land is (hopefully) not.



Will the short story collection be available in the U.S. and Canada? And do you have an "if everything goes well" pie in the sky release date?


Pre-ordered n months ago, where n >> 1.


The Yokai Rakuen might raise an eyebrow. Theme part of Gegege no Kitaro, a manga/anime/etc running since 1960, with a few anime reboots since the first in 1968. I think that yokai being a generic word is going to be your best defense.

(I've watched the current anime and its good for improving my paltry Japanese.)

(PS/blog-meta: both the Google and the WordPress sign-in options are broken, in different ways)


It doesn't exist yet, so I can't tell you anything about it (other than that apparently both Tor and Orbit are keen on the idea).

It won't be out before Season of Skulls, which is due May 2023, so most likely not before November 2023 at the absolute earliest -- more probably mid-2024.


Yokai is a very generic term. (Means more or less "monster". They're traditional, unlike Sanrio Corp's properties.)

The broken Google/Wordpress sign-ins will not be fixed, this side of the blog moving to a new server and software platform.


Is this going to be available on Kindle in the UK?


Yes. (Note that it's a novella, and IMO the kindle price -- $10.99 at launch -- is a little bit steep: it's geared against the paper edition, which is a hardcover. I note that frequently discount their novellas steeply after a few months.)


Just a thought to spark some joy around here. As I understand the concept of yokai, Yokai Land could be a chain of resort communities (and/or gated communities) with a fully instantiated Internet of Things in every building. With the normal IoT security Bruce Schneier has taught us to expect. It probably wouldn't be called Yokai Land though (too on the nose). Possibly there could be competing chains connected to some metaverse and those Alphabet soup companies. Or possibly a MouseSoft combined venture?

I'm just thinking about how much fun it would be to live in a place where the walls were ambulatory and wired. Perhaps pop-up buildings would be inflatables formatted as tanuki. Stuff like that.


In the UK, Kobo have it available for pre-order discounted to £7.29. March 1st release date. DRM free EPUB format as a bonus.


Eek! Considering that's not dissimilar to the cost of the hardcopy of QoN, it's a bit steep for an e-book. As much as I dislike delaying gratification, I may have to wait for that to reach a more sensible level.


I am another who won't buy at that price.


Yikes. Just got my signed QoN (thanks, Mike and Charlie!) but $20 for a US novella? Naah.


Coming out here: I had been reading your books as a pirate, by looking for them on the interwebbytubes™. Then, some years ago, I acknowledged I actually like them so much that I bought all of them as ebooks. And I've kept doing so since then. But now, more than €10 for a novella? No, thank you. I'll wait for the price to drop. Out of respect for you, I'll not look out for a "free" copy until I can actually buy it at a reasonable price. But a reasonable price (for an ebook) is definitely not this one.


I for one am happily looking forward to getting my pre-ordered ebook since my bookshelves really cannot deal with any more mass!

Cost wise, lucky enough to be able to not worry about a couple of extra quid — and also understand the vast majority of the cost of a book isn't the paper. So happy to be at this end of the publishing industry's slow Dutch auction :-)


I'm buying it. Charlie needs beer and kibble. The latter for the cats, of course.


Charlie needs beer and kibble. The latter for the cats, of course.

Thats one possibility.


I just went to pre-order it and discovered I'd already done so, though I have to admit the weeks are a bit of a blur at this stage.


Back when I was a grad student, I wondered why Purina or other companies like LabDiet didn't make Grad Student Chow. They certainly made a bunch of more esoteric Chows* for various lab animals. Presumably the process for producing and certifying a complete human food was sufficiently onerous that it wasn't worth it. But I suspect some labs would have bought it by the palette for their inmates. Especially if there was a dispenser provided.

I mean, who wouldn't want to eat Certified Student Chow, each batch assayed prior to shipment? You can get it for ferrets, why not doctoral students?


If one were to believe Bozo and his buffoons (bear with me: SF relies on the willing suspension of disbelief), the inhabitants of an independent Scotland would be glad to get kibble.


Indeed. Getting back to the original theme of this post, I'd urge engineers reading this to consider a start-up called Yokai IoT: Internet-enabled gadgets with personality that study you intently. They use the internet, smart sensors, Raspberry PI-enabled deep learning, and five other cutting-edge buzzwords to make your home and office come alive. Hasn't the pandemic made you lonely? Make your spaces smarter and less predictable than your cats.


My pre-order info is still showing that Escape from Yokai Land will arrive on time (March 1/22). Bob was my intro to Charlie's books and he's still one of my favorite characters/POVs.

Re Heteromeles@ 20: 'Make your spaces smart and less predictable than your cats'

Yeah - but as for smart: cats know when to purr and wind around your ankles when you're standing at the kitchen island scarfing down supper in a hurry, purr and climb onto your laptop to sit right in front of your screen, purr and play hunt for toes under the blanket usu. on weekend mornings, etc. The 'know when' strongly correlates with 'human needs a break and doesn't know it' and only somewhat less strongly with 'feed me!'. I don't have/use Al3xa/S1ri but I doubt those systems could read my needs anywhere as well (for now). Brings up a scary idea - fur-ball AI pets - able to predict human behavior and adjust their own programming accordingly to better achieve some predetermined state/goal whether for the human or the AI.


Bob was my intro to Charlie's books and he's still one of my favorite characters/POVs.

I think my first Stross was Accelerado, but I'm not certain.

My intro to the Laundry, which I'd avoided because I don't like horror, was an audiobook version of "Overtime", which led me to conclude that the series was actually black comedy so I started it. Turns out I was wrong, and my urge-to-read Laundry books has decreased over the last few. Either the comedic elements have decreased or I no longer get the jokes, but in any case they now read more like straight horror and that's not my cup of tea.


Brings up a scary idea - fur-ball AI pets - able to predict human behavior and adjust their own programming accordingly to better achieve some predetermined state/goal whether for the human or the AI.

I believe OGH covered that in Accelerando?

For Yokai IoT, I was thinking of something like the following:

--The systems log your behavior in terms of patterns

--They start doing gentle before/event/after experiments to see how you respond.

--Events are based on a stratified random model: random choices from a menu of possible activities, stratified by activity level (and possibly type). Some events are timed randomly within times that you are active, some occur randomly within times you are inactive, based on their intensive model of you.

--When their sensors indicate positive response to an event, they weight the random event table more strongly in that event's favor. Conversely, they downgrade events that result in device breakage. Unless the device is out of warranty, in which case they used inverted tables. And Yokai IoT will call you to discuss your devices extended warranty.

--Your Yokai regularly upload data and download new behavioral menus, all encrypted using a secret, proprietary system.

--Security? Great idea. They'll get back to you on that. System patches will certainly happen, although scheduling may be dependent on revenue streams.

--You want Yokai system protected with two factor authorization? Sure, they'll be happy to cover your devices that way. You mean your data? Oh.

Snark aside, humans are great at imputing intelligence to certain types of random phenomena. Why not make a company based on that principle?*

*That's not doing horoscopes, I mean. That market is saturated IIRC.


Brings up a scary idea - fur-ball AI pets - able to predict human behavior and adjust their own programming accordingly to better achieve some predetermined state/goal whether for the human or the AI.

Wasn't that in a Stross novel? An AI cat?


That's partly because they are satire on the state of the UK's politics and related aspects. Since 2004, things have got much more depressing, and it's increasingly hard to see the funny side. I rather agree with your point, though.


Yes, Accelerando had the AI cat. A lot of what you describe is already there in things like Alexa devices, though my understanding is that their agenda is to gather marketing information in order to sell you more crap. There's no reason they couldn't be made furry and have Tamagochi properties (as I have mentioned before, one of my smoke alarms has them).


I think my first Charlie Stross may have been "A Colder War." It was certainly the first time I noticed hims as an author. I may have read a Manfred Macx previous to that, but it would have been a decade or so before in a magazine.


And I should probably add that I didn't quite get Manfred Macx when I first read the story - it was a fun read, but I was probably a little too young/inexperienced.


Mine was, too, and I found it so depressing that I avoided him for some years.


Totally forgot about Tamagotchis. Thanks!

What I'm goofing with here does have a basis: Yokai include things that go bump in the night, and a good subset of those are random events that humans interpret as intentional. I'm simply proposing adding an element of misinterpreted randomness to household items, to make people feel less lonely like they're not alone. The observation loop is simply to make sure that the device can cause a jump scare (or an aww cute) by acting at an appropriate or very inappropriate time.

You're quite right, though, that a big subset of yokai are household items that are either mistreated and become kind of scary (like the untended family shrine that becomes haunted), that are kept far too long and develop their own personalities (e.g. those favorite, too old sandals that look at you reprovingly from the corner), or that are venerated and thus develop a personality (prized possessions). In these cases something more like a tamagotchi Yokai would be indicated. While I'm deliberately being silly, one might imagine a Yokai enabled house training an Otaku to be less of a slob.


Potato chips (crisps) I have referred to for decades as "certified fan chow" at cons (pretzels being "iron rations").


I know I read Accelerando. I remember Bob, and liking the first story where he's recruited, but The Family Trade really got me - that was where I started looking for the next book in the series.

But then, I prefer sf.


Robert Prior @ 22:

Bob was my intro to Charlie's books and he's still one of my favorite characters/POVs.

I think my first Stross was Accelerado, but I'm not certain.

My intro to the Laundry, which I'd avoided because I don't like horror, was an audiobook version of "Overtime", which led me to conclude that the series was actually black comedy so I started it. Turns out I was wrong, and my urge-to-read Laundry books has decreased over the last few. Either the comedic elements have decreased or I no longer get the jokes, but in any case they now read more like straight horror and that's not my cup of tea.

My first encounter was one of The Merchant Princes series. The illustration on the dust jacket caught my eye. I scanned the first few pages & bought it.

After I read that one, I wondered what else this guy might have written and the public library here in Raleigh had "The Atrocity Archive" ... and so I was hooked.


I had heard of the Laundry Files earlier than I jumped in. Sometime roughy in the mid-2000s, I'd spent a few years where I was working a lot and not reading very much fiction. So when circumstances led me to want to read a lot again, I discovered several authors whose work (to date at the time) I could ingest whole, so to speak. I got through Pratchett and Banks before I got to Stross, but I had read Len Deighton as a teenager (I re-read The Ipcress File before starting on the Laundry) and (having been a Unix sysadmin through much of the 90s) I'd followed BOFH since before it went to The Register, and could spot some of the references even when people who were not familiar with that described it to me. So to me it presented as "satirical SFF riffing on spy genre tropes with a main protagonist cast to be maximally sympathetic for unix geeks", and that meant I started at the beginning and worked up to current, which I think was Fuller Memorandum at the time, fairly quickly. I only looked at the list and thought "hey, he's written some other stuff too" after that. I maybe read Stephenson between the Laundry and things like Accelerando and the Merchant Princes (and yes, Charlie was higher on my list than Stephenson and remains so), which means I read Snow Crash after about half of the Laundry.


Dr. Jerry Pournelle told of how he used Purina Primate Chow(TM) to stretch his astoundingly slender Korean War GI Bill funding to get him through grad school at the University of Washington. Every Saturday, he dined on those... nuggets, to the exclusion of all other real food.


The intro to Futurama has a billboard for “Bachelor Chow.”


Re: '... OGH covered that in Accelerando'

I'm skewing more toward awww than argh! (another damned user fee). Clearly you've given this human conditioning regimen some thought ... anything you'd like get off your chest? bwahahaha:) One of the local papers had a short article on pet adoption. Basically, a significant increase in pet adoption/ownership since Covid started. (When I checked the local pet adoption site - only senior cats were available. And they're not staying very long at the shelters either - people are taking them home.) So all things considered, a no-fuss fur-ball AI just might be marketable.

One of the reasons I liked Bob was that by the second page it was established that although he knew his job he also accepted that that's not the same as knowing what's going on. Plus a bunch of relatable scenarios on the first few pages so that I literally burst out laughing at the bookstore.


I used to make vegetable soup a lot. It keeps well and is quite nutritious, and it's the traditional use for slightly unpalatable veges. Which means the specials bin at the greengrocer, or the dumpsters ditto. Plus lots of rice, because rice in a 25kg sack is very cheap.

The other trick is to live in a large share house with communal food. It's more work, but you get both bulk discounts and a wider pool of connections to cheap food. Not just stuff that might be thrown out, but also staff discount/staff perk food.

One place we had at least one housemate working at a boutique pasta factory so regularly got 10kg bags of frozen high-end pasta. Really nice, even with the cheapest pasta sauce and shredded cheese you can buy.


I'm quite happy with the senior cats I have, thanks.

Mostly I just enjoy the concept of yokai. It amuses me to think of someone who's, erm, neurodiverse enough to think that IoT Yokai are a good thing. It's one of those ideas that's so bad it's good. Or something. What would be even more interesting is if you could make a small pack (vibrating step motor, processor, appropriate sensors, and battery in a small pack) that could be fit into otherwise ordinary household items to make them seem to be haunted yokai.


Really nice, even with the cheapest pasta sauce and shredded cheese you can buy.

The trick that always stood me in reasonably good stead in share houses was making pizza base from scratch. It helped to own a decent cast-iron frypan, in which case the trick was to brown the bottom on the stovetop while adding the toppings, then stick the whole pan under the grill (broiler for those I'm-not-sure-which-other-English-speaking-nations-call-it-that-instead-of-grill folks).

Cheap flour and baker's yeast only cost cents, while oil wasn't expensive and tolerable substitutes might be much cheaper and/or free depending on convincing the owner to trade some for fresh pizza. Toppings could just be tomato paste and shredded cheese (cheapest in 1kg blocks grated at home, assuming you had access to a grater). I once worked out that tinned sardines were the cheapest protein I could add, and now I pretty much can never eat tinned sardines again, but that's an incidental risk.


Tinned sardines on pizza?

I admit I like Pilipino pizza (ham, pineapple, dilis (anchovies). Not certain what would go best with sardines as a pizza topping…


A couple days before Halloween, some thirty years ago, I found a couple 4.5 volt blinking LEDs at radio shack. I wired them to a nine-volt battery about three inches apart and left them in my father's room when he went out to the store, just before I left for a friend's party...


It works fairly well.


When my son was at university around the turn of the century the staple was Aldi baked beans which cost about 4 pence per can. Since he was a marine biology student there were also lab subjects to cook. When one of the people in his shared house finished his MSc project he invited everyone for a meal in which the main course was the squid who had been his experimental subjects.


IIRC the first novel I bought was Singularity Sky. But that was partly because I recognised the name, both from the /Villains/ anthology and from Zytra, the illithid lord.


That was also the first novel I bought, but I think I bought it because I'd read "A Colder War."


That was also the first novel I bought, but I think I bought it because I'd read "A Colder War." That, IIRC, is how I was introduced to Charlie's work as well. A link (?) to "A Colder War", then "More, Please", and buying whatever was in print at the time, probably "Toast: And Other Rusted Futures".


there were also lab subjects to cook

My dad did that with the control group for his PhD thesis. Can't locate the thesis (probably not online) but here's a paper he wrote in the 70s:

All I remember is that quail is a lot of work for very little meat.


"Cheapest sauce" - sorry, but I've made my own sauce since my twenties (let's just say not the end of the last millenium). A 29oz can of tomato puree, add herbs (like oregano), and ground beef if you have it....


Well you've kind of already said it yourself just in this comment: if tomato puree is already cheaper than fresh or canned tomatoes, then there is likely to be something that's already made into a usable sauce that is even cheaper. I think the reference to "cheapest sauce" takes both into account, as well as other (simpler) things suitable when the pasta itself is pretty nice, so the sauce has less work to do.


Getting back to the Laundryverse, I just reread "The Atrocity Archive." It's aged reasonably well. Made me hope for two things.

One, which almost certainly won't happen, is that, just as the BOFH leveled up to the Eater of Souls over the middle of the series, it would be nice, for the last story, if the Eater Of Souls realizes they leveled up from Mid-Century Agent to BOFH, and interacts with The Boss in this context.

On a more achievable note, it would be nice to see the Eater of Souls perform that head-shrinking trick again. It was a nice touch.


Even better: Lobster researchers!


I've posted this before, but I once found the corpse of a partly-eaten pink rubber unicorn in my garden, so I converted it into an equoid. Video:


Introduction to Charlie's works: funny how nearly everyone seems to have started with Accelerando. So did I. I found a copy of it on some hooky site and rather enjoyed it (though I can hardly remember anything about it now). I then looked up Charlie on TV Tropes, was captivated by the entry for the Merchant Princes, and now have a significant number of instances of -j(CHARLES STROSS) on my bookshelves.

Simple staples: the one most prominent to my awareness has always been porridge. I once ate nothing else for two weeks. I then spent two days alternately groaning in bed and sitting on the toilet with a puke bucket between my legs. Since then I've had what one might call a sort of off-and-on relationship with the stuff.

Tomatoes: there are actually two entirely distinct things called "tomato". One is the type that grows as a round lump on plants, and the related "hermit" species which is an amoeboid skinless blob that inhabits tin cans; the other is an orange or red liquid substance which is excreted by baked beans, spaghetti hoops and other pale whitish can-dwelling entities, and acts like a sauce. The sauce kind usually tastes quite pleasant, while the blobby kinds are disgusting beyond belief, and it is most strange that the same word should be used for two such disparate things.

Consumption of experimental subjects: one of my school reports said that I needed to learn that experimental animals should be "returned to the wild, and not consumed". I am glad to find that my teacher was wrong and consuming them is actually standard practice.


Very fortuitously, the last time I was in Edinburgh ( sigh ) - 2003 (?) I cam across "Singularity Sky" in a bookshop that I think has changed name it's now Armchair Books. Or were Transreal in the West Port in those days? Never looked back.


Re: '... quail is a lot of work for very little meat'

Your dad's paper mentions that the OTs reduced the weight of the quail eggs so I'm guessing it'd take several dozen quail eggs to make a decent omelet. Lots of patience required to crack them and not get any bits of shell though. :)

Since we're talking weird recipes in a pinch. Got stuck on campus during a major snow storm and over-nighted at one of the dorms with a friend whose room included a kitchenette. Anyways, my friend as per typical undergrad dietary habits (low on traditional staple pantry items, lots of packaged fast meals and left-overs) made a (left-over/pre-cooked) 'mac&cheese' omelet the first night and something even weirder the second, a hot dog omelet. Was initially hesitant about eating the mac & cheese omelet but it didn't taste bad at all. Didn't hesitate at all when it came to eating the hot dog omelet the next day. Learned a fundamental lesson there*: eggs are a basic, reasonably inexpensive, easy to store, long shelf-life, bland complete protein that are a useful delivery device for whatever flavor you like. (Yeah - I keep eggs on hand all the time.)

  • We had 'left over' wine(s) before and with the dinner omelet, coffee with the breakfast omelet and since both omelets were tasty - no, it wasn't that we'd had too much sauce.

Back on topic:

In "The Delirium Brief", first chapter, page number... tends to change with font size and ebook reader. Anyway, Bob mentions "the incursion at Puroland that I was sent to help deal with".

Will this become a continuity error, since the park has now been renamed? ;-)


Will this become a continuity error, since the park has now been renamed? ;-)

No, because the only thing that has changed is the title!


Given the state of the world, and since this thread has not reached the 300 comment rule, maybe a new currents events thread is warranted?



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 17, 2022 2:29 PM.

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