Charlie Stross: March 2011 Archives

This is a beautiful example of why authors should not respond to reviews. Go read, and read as many of the comments as you can cope with.

It's also an example of the perils of self-publishing: we are blind to our own grammatical foibles and spelling errors, and a mechanical grammar or spelling checker won't spot everything. But it's mostly of use as a lesson to aspiring writers on the subject of how not to interact with your readers. And maybe as a new reference point for the Dunning-Kruger effect.

(I've got a personal policy about reviews: I don't respond to them unless one of two conditions apply: there is a citeable error of fact — they spelled my name wrong, or something equally clearly incorrect — or the reviewer directly invited a response to a question. And in the latter case, I try never to comment on, let alone impugn, a reader's reading of my work. Once the words are on the page they're not mine any more, and I have no control over how a given reader will interpret them.)

We humans are social hominids, a branch of the broader family of primates that includes the great apes. We appear to have evolved in extended family groups similar to other primate troupes; with language and, later, writing we developed the ability to signal our social context within much larger groups.

Among the advantages of living in a troupe or pack environment are defense against predators and access to shared food resources. Another mixed advantage is reproductive access for some: among hierarchical primates the alpha males mate frequently while denying reproductive access to less dominant apes. Access is usually controlled by the exercise of violence; a less dominant animal usually stays around the margins of the group but gets less access to resources and is less successful.

Well, that's one model.

Unfortunately I was wrong about the likely death toll from the reactor outage at Fukushima Daiichi.

There's a very good chance that it's going to kill thousands of people — possibly more than the earthquake and tsunami combined.

But the cause of death won't be the one you're probably thinking of.

(Still head-down, working on the book. Likely to stay there for at least another couple of weeks ...)

Meanwhile, it occurs to me that when the definitive history of the Fukushima Daiichi accident is written, there will be a tally of casualties and fatalities at the end of the book.

I firmly believe that the fatalities will be dominated by iodine poisoning, self-administered by people in countries not exposed to emissions from the plant.

(So far there is one definite fatality at the plant: a crane operator who had the great misfortune to be sitting in the control cab of a crane when it was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.)

I am informed that Messenger has successfully entered orbit around Mercury. Per the mission status, "for the next several weeks, APL engineers will be focused on ensuring that MESSENGER's systems are all working well in Mercury's harsh thermal environment. Starting on March 23, the instruments will be turned on and checked out, and on April 4 the primary science phase of the mission will begin."

This is the first time a spacecraft has entered orbit around Mercury.

That leaves Neptune and Uranus to cover; then we'll have a beginning of an idea about the major planets of our solar system.

I am up to my elbows in "The Apocalypse Codex", trying to get the first draft finished. (Only a couple of months late. Ho hum.) Blogging may consequently be a bit low key for the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, if you want one reasonably unimpeachable source of reliable news about that's going on at Fukushima Daiichi in the middle of a crazy media feeding frenzy, I'd recommend the IAEA Update on the Japan Earthquake web page. The IAEA is the International Atomic Energy Agency, an international monitoring organization — they don't run the plant but they do inspect and certify nuclear facilities, and this is their continuously updated report on situation, minus editorializing and newsroom attempts to drum up readership (because that's not their job).

I have zip French.

So can anyone tell me — stuck here in the deafening echo chamber of misinformation that is the anglosphere — how the French news media are covering the events unfolding at Fukushima Daiichi?

(For those who wonder why this is important, read this and then do some thinking about second order consequences before you ask. Hint: the media over here are focussing on anti-nuclear hysteria in Germany. I think they're looking in the obvious — and wrong — direction.)

((Second hint: I think one of the enduring tragedies of the 22nd century will be that during the 20th and 21st centuries we persistently treat nuclear reactors as if they're nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons as if they're nuclear reactors.)

Just as I was trying to take a long weekend off after checking the page proofs for "Rule 34", guess what happens? I get the page proofs for the paperback edition of "The Fuller Memorandum" to check!

On the other hand, TFM is out there in hardcover (and, in the UK, in paperback set from the same DTP files). So if you spotted a typo in "The Fuller Memorandum", please let me know by posting a comment below.

Note: only typos and misprints are wanted at this stage — it's too late to correct any factual errors in the book. If you can provide me with a page number, a description of the error, and a few words of text to search the PDF with, that will allow me to find it; "you misspelled one of the protagonists' names somewhere in the first half, but I forget where" isn't so useful.

Oh, and the deadline is March 24th.

It is my personal conviction that Sir Fred Goodwin is a wanker.

Sir Fred "Banker" Goodwin is the former chief executive of a certain financial institution, bailed out by the British government at enormous expense a while ago: consequently he's the recipient of a more-than-abstract amount of money that I paid in tax. He also appears to be somewhat litigious, to the point of having taken out a super-injunction banning news media from describing him as the entity for which the collective noun is a wunch. I would be unaware of the existence of this super-injunction or gagging order if it hadn't been mentioned in Parliament, under Parliamentary Privilege: there's a rather profound freedom of speech issue lurking here, insofar as it appears to be possible for any random scumbag in the UK to pre-emptively ban all news media from describing him as a scumbag.

Meanwhile, purely in the interests of asserting my freedom of expression, I think it would be jolly amusing if as a result of his censorious superinjunction Fred Goodwin somehow became the top google hit for the search term wanker.

(I was going to write something more substantive on another topic, but right now I'm rather tired and I am consequently taking a few days off writing.)

Five years ago I more or less finished writing "Halting State", although it wasn't published until mid-2007. Around that time, MMOs were getting an increasing amount of interest, and a startup forum/social site called GuildCafe commissioned me to write an article about the next 25 years.

While I linked to it from my blog, the original article stayed on GuildCafe's site, but GuildCafe have apparently been through some changes, and the original article has succumbed to link rot.

So I'm reprinting it below. And my question for you is, what' did I get wrong in 2007?

I've been quiet this weekend because of a last-minute decision to run away to Dublin for eating, drinking, and catching up with friends at P-Con VIII. That, and ploughing through the page proofs of "Rule 34" in search of typos while jet-lagged fried my brain and I needed a break.

However ...

There has been a general election over here, and a huge upset in which the major incumbent party was nearly wiped out and a couple of rivals are forming a coalition government to deal with the fallout from the banking crisis and push through an austerity and cuts agenda.

I'd be saying it's deja vu all over again, except that I haven't got a clue about the difference (if any) between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and a hole in the road. Politics hereabouts is as opaque to an outsider as that of the Scottish Assembly.

Do any of you hae a roadmap or secret [election] agent decoder ring?

So the ipad 2 was announced yesterday ...

There are two points to note about the new iPad.

In case you were wondering, I'm in the process of throwing off the last lingering shreds of jet-lag and grappling with the page proofs of "Rule 34", the novel that's coming out on July 6th this year.

Once I send the proofs back and any corrections are made to the DTP files, there's a final in-house check and then the PDFs are sent to the printer. This happens about eight weeks ahead of publication; the printed, bound, jacketed books arrive back at the publisher's warehouse around four weeks out, then get shipped to wholesale distributors and large retailers. So this is my final chance to fix errors before the presses roll. Because it's the final typeset copy, changes are expensive — you're supposed to limit yourself to typographical errors and refrain from editing the text.

There is a certain pub in Edinburgh that I've used as a setting for some key scenes, because it's quarried out of the side of a near-cliff and is notorious for having no mobile phone or wifi signal. Imagine my joy on discovering that it has acquired a strong 3G signal in the roughly two months since I checked the copy-edited manuscript.

I'm now wondering what else can go out of date in just two months ...



About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries written by Charlie Stross in March 2011.

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