Charlie Stross: July 2013 Archives

"Your papers, please."

I'm not sure what's more enraging—the casual racial profiling or the presumption of guilty-until-proven-innocent—but it's getting hard to deny that the racists are in the driving seat of policy at the Home Office these days.

The racism is utterly, dismally, predictable when times are bad—frightened, stressed people with no economic security look around for someone to blame, and they can be very easily manipulated into blaming others. It's important also to remember that the 1930s were populated by people coming to terms with rapid technological change-induced future shock, and looking for certainty in the face of the future. Today, we have similar levels of future shock, largely social in nature: thanks to the internet we can't ignore other people whose views we find repugnant.

But racism isn't the key issue here. The real question we should be asking is not "what" but "why".

(I'm closing in on the end of this sequence, now: I'm going to establish a rule that I won't emit a crib sheet essay until a book has been out in its final edition in the US and UK for at least three months—that's currently the US mass market paperback—so I won't tackle "Neptune's Brood" until September 2014 at the earliest. However, I'm going to do a fill-in essay on the novellas and omnibuses and anything else I've missed.)

The first three Laundry Files novels all had a somewhat troubled commercial gestation, but were easy enough to write. Not so with "The Apocalypse Codex", where the commercial side of things went through smoothly but the writing was hard ...

So, the British royal family has a new third-in-line heir to the throne. Congratulations to the happy couple, who are presumably in for a period of sleepless nights. Somewhat fewer congratulations to the media and political establishment, though.

The kid is not going to have anything remotely approaching a normal life. For one thing, under current UK law, he isn't eligible to vote. His ultimate career path is already known and if he doesn't want to put up with it, tough: the pressure to conform to expectations is enormous—he was born under a life sentence. When he ends up in that final occupation he won't even be eligible for a passport (for long and complex constitutional reasons). He's going to be the subject of paparazzi attention for the rest of his life. He's almost certainly going to be sent to a private boarding school of some variety (probably Eton, as with his father), to ensure that he's exposed to normal people (for "public schoolboy" values of normality); this is normal for the royal family, and it's worked on previous generations. The usual recipe is for it to be followed by university, then officer training in one of the branches of the military, before joining the Old Firm and learning the onerous duties of public ceremonies and diplomatic receptions. The royals get a particularly brutal work-out in return for their privileges: what other family business would expect an 87 year old great-grandmother to make over 400 public appearances per year?

But those are the traditional parameters of a crown prince's upbringing. This prince is going to find things a little different because he's going to be the first designated future British monarch to grow up in a hothouse panopticon, with ubiquitous surveillance and life-logging ...

It is something of a truism that the reward for a job done well is another job.

In my case ... "Halting State" was that rare, unexpected thing: a commercial breakthrough novel. (The initial hardback run sold out before publication date, and it went into reprint twice in its first month: it earned out the hardcover and paperback advance in its first three weeks.) I was busy finishing "Saturn's Children" when this happened, and regretting not having a sequel up my sleeve—but "Halting State" had been hard to write (it took me 15 months; my contract allowed 12 months per book, so I got paid late).

So my agent went into a new contract round with Ace and Orbit, and this time came back with a three book deal: a short story collection (to give me time to recharge my batteries), a sequel to "Halting State" titled "419", and "The Fuller Memorandum".

So what happened to 419?

It appears that I can write fiction, or I can write blog entries—and right now I'm trying to write a trilogy.

I shall attempt to do a Crib Sheet on "419/Rule 34/The Lambda Functionary" as/when I run out of plot mojo on the first volume of the trilogy. Until then ... hell, use this thread to ask me questions about the stories in "Wireless", why don't you?

Back in the mists of time (this would be circa 2006) I wrote "Halting State". And because the pitch sounded a bit risky, my editor at Ace said, "we'll take it—on condition it's half of a two book deal, and the other half is a nice, safe, bankable space opera."

Fast forward to 2007 and I'm trying to get started. And I am spinning my wheels. Because the words on the contract say ESCHATON 3, and I really don't want to go there (see Crib Sheet's passim: this was around the time I was working out that the Eschaton universe was broken beyond my ability to repair).

What to do ...?

Back in the mists of time I wrote a couple of novels, titled "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue". These came with some extras, notably afterwords explaining the ideas underlying the universe of the Laundry Files. And lo, there have been no signs of a British audiobook edition ... until now.

To coincide with the new, facelifted covers on the British editions of these books (below), Orbit are getting ready to release audio editions that don't come with an American accent. (These will also be available via the RNIB's talking books service for blind and visually handicapped people.)

And as a trailer, they're releasing the first chapters of each book, for your streaming audio pleasure!

The Atrocity Archives:

The Jennifer Morgue:


And in other Laundry Files related news ...

Astute sky watchers will know that a new Laundry Files novel, "The Rhesus Chart", is due out in July 2014.

I'm now able to announce that, in addition, a new Laundry Files novella is going to show up in the next few months! You'll be able to read "Equoid" on at the end of September. It will be followed by a limited run signed first edition hardcover (illustrated by Steve Montiglio, who did the covers for the Golden Gryphon editions of "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue"!) from Subterranean Press in 2014.

"Equoid" is set shortly before the events of the "The Fuller Memorandum". It's the longest non-novel-length Laundry story so far. And it explains (among other things) precisely what H. P. Lovecraft saw behind the wood-shed when he was 14 that traumatized him for life, the reproductive life-cycle of unicorns, and what really happened on Cold Comfort Farm.

(Beyond that, I've got tentative plans for more Laundry Files novels—but nothing's going to happen until after I've written the next chunk of the Merchant Princes series.)

By way of an afterwords on Monday's political blog entry, I'd just like to draw your attention to a worrying study that feeds into the issue of political failure modes. The Royal Statistical Society and Ipsos MORI commissioned a poll of public opinion on key social issues. Turns out that the British public are woefully misinformed:

* Teenage pregnancy: public discourse leads people to believe the level is 25 times higher than it actually is
* Crime: 58% don't realize that crime is actually falling
* Benefit fraud: most people think about 24% of social security payments are fraudulently claimed: the actual level of fraud is under 1%
* Foreign aid: more people think foreign aid is one of the top three budget items than the state pension (which accounts for ten times as much expenditure)
* Immigration: the average Brit thinks that 31% of the population are immigrants; even accounting for illegal immigration the figure is under 15%

Even assuming we can fix the damage inflicted on our democratic party system by the growth of the fourth party, how can we hope to elect governments that can engage constructively with actual social problems when the myths believed by the electorate deviate so wildly from the real picture? (And when those myths play so well in the mass media, because bad news makes for such good headlines?)

Is the United Kingdom a one party state?

(You might be forgiven for thinking this is a joke question, but please bear with me.)

Three main political parties have substantial representation in the House of Commons in Westminster; there are a handful of independent MPs and members of regional or minority parties, but in general governance is in the hands of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, and (to a lesser extent) the Liberal Democrat Party ...

I'm blogging for my UK publisher, Orbit, this week. First blog entry here: World building for Neptune's Brood.

Update: And the second part is here.

(Sorry 'bout the delay: I've been really busy.)

Some novels you want to write at some point in the future. Some novels want to be written, and others come on like cholera ...

"The Fuller Memorandum" was the latter.

I'm going to be doing a reading from "Neptune's Brood", and a signing and Q&A, this Thursday in Edinburgh at 6pm. The venue is Waterstones' bookshop, at the west end of Princes Street. It's ticketed (£3) — I believe there may be wine, and there'll certainly be me plus friends, continuing to a pub afterwards. You can buy tickets online here, or from the counter in the shop.



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This page is an archive of recent entries written by Charlie Stross in July 2013.

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