September 2023 Archives

(On vacation this month, hence lack of blogging ...)

Apparently archaeologists have discovered the eearliest known wooden structure in Kalambo Falls, Zambia: two cut logs bearing tool marks that were shaped and joined to form part of a structure—476,000 years ago. Click through the link above for details as to how they dated it, and why it appears to have survived: it's being reported in Nature so this looks pretty solid, and it's a jaw-dropper. Wood tends to rot, and most wooden structures more than a few centuries old are known to archaeology from the holes they leave in the soil rather than from actual structural remains (much like the lack of paleontological evidence of organisms that don't have a bony skeleton, such as octopi or jellyfish: there are rare imprints but soft tissue seldom fossilizes).

One of the longest-shirked jobs on my to-do list is "Finish the Laundry Files". By which I mean "write the final novel in the story arc that began with The Atrocity Archive and follows Bob Howard through his career", not "finish with that fictional universe". Much like the Merchant Princes series, there are two Laundry universe series in progress—the Bob/secret government agency saga, and the civilians-trying-to-cope under the New Management story. The one ends before the other begins, but unlike the Merchant Princes/Empire Games switch-over, I didn't finish the Laundry Files story before beginning the next one.

(This was accidental on my part. In 2018, I was dealing with a combination of burnout and a dying parent in a nursing facility 300km from home. I wasn't able to focus on the books I was supposed to be working on, so I finally gave myself dispensation to engage in therapy writing—any old shit was better than nothing—and nine months later that turned out to be Dead Lies Dreaming, which promptly demanded two sequels during the bleak onset of Brexit and COVID19. The latter coincidentally spiked my planned solution to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN so I had to tear it up and start again from scratch.)

Anyway, I'm now at the note-taking stage for two new books. One of them is the fourth New Management novel and no, I have plenty of ideas and don't need your suggestions. But the other is the Final Laundry Files Novel. Again, I don't need plot suggestions—I've got too much plot as it is.

But there is something I do need ...

Setting aside the New Management (but including next year's A Conventional Boy), the Laundry Files currently runs to roughly 1.25 million words of published fiction. That's a lot. It's simultaneously over-familiar to me (there are bits I can quote verbatim, and chunks of back-story I never exposed) and half-forgotten (I began writing it in late 1998, 25 years ago). I don't have the energy to commit to re-reading the entire bookshelf and making notes before I start, but I do need to zero in on anything I've mentally edited out or forgotten and that needs to be closed out: protagonists who went missing en route from book 3 to book 8, for example, or foreign agencies entities that were left hanging at the end of an earlier book.

Fans of the series clearly have Questions to which they want Answers before Bob and Mo are allowed to ride off into the sunset (or un-die horribly in a necromantic re-run of the shoot-out at the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—the ending is entirely open at this point). So I'm open to questions in the comments—just don't expect me to answer them directly, or even use them in the final novel. (Some questions may be answered by the New Management series. For example, Persephone Hazard and Johnny McTavish briefly show up in Season of Skulls, which is set 18 months after the end of The Laundry Files. Other questions might be ignored. For example, I see no reason to revisit the Librarian in the Dansey House archive stacks. Let sleeping Terry Pratchett tributes lie!)

So: your starter question is, who (and what) in the Laundry Files do you want to learn the fate of? And what unanswered questions still nag at you, n books later?

(Small print: There is no guarantee that this book will ever be written, and if it is commissioned and written, it won't be published before 2025 and more likely 2026. That's because A Conventional Boy is on its way to publication in summer 2024, and depending on the publishing pipeline, my space opera Ghost Engine might be ready to follow it in 2025, and I don't have the stamina to support a two book a year output cycle any more. However, rest assured, finishing the Laundry Files is still on my to-do list.)



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