Fiction by Charles Stross: FAQ
(Last updated November 28th 2015)
Who is Charles Stross
Charles Stross, 51, is a full-time science fiction writer and resident of Edinburgh, Scotland. The author of six Hugo-nominated novels and winner of the 2005, 2010, and 2014 Hugo awards for best novella, he has won numerous other awards and been translated into at least 12 other languages.
What about the books?
Stross writes in a variety of sub-genres and styles. While a few of his novels are stand-alones, most of them fall in series.
NOTE: There are links to places you can buy the books (below). I link to the cheapest paper edition and the Kindle ebook edition. The "Crib sheet" links point to extensive discussions of the writing process and ideas behind the books; may contain spoilers.
(Sorry, but I can't provide a comprehensive set of "buy the book" links pointing to foreign editions and multiple ebook formats: with over 20 books already in the list, curating this FAQ would go from difficult to nightmarish—at last count it contained 84 links.)
Stand-alone novels and short story collections
Toast, and other Rusted Futures (2001)
Short story collection, now out of print.
Originally published as a series of nine novelettes in Asimov's SF Magazine between 2001 and 2004, the series received four Hugo nominations and the final fix-up novel was also nominated for a Hugo. (Didn't win, of course.) It's the definitive Singularity novel, covering three generations of a highly dysfunctional posthuman family as humanity itself is rendered obsolescent by the blistering pace of technological change. Shortlisted for the Hugo for best novel, 2005. (Crib sheet, UK paperback, US paperback, Free ebook)
In the 27th century, interstellar travel is by teleport gates, and conflicts are fought by network worms that censor refugees' personalities. On the run from an unknown enemy, the memory-less Robin volunteers to participate in a unique experimental civil order--a decision that places him at the mercy of the experimenters and his own unbalanced psyche. Shortlisted for the Hugo for best novel, 2006. (Crib sheet, UK paperback, UK ebook, US paperback, US ebook)
Short story collection, still in print. Includes the Locus-award winning novella "Missile Gap" and the Hugo award-winning novella "Palimpsest", along with the best stuff from "Toast". (No Crib sheet, UK paperback, UK ebook, US paperback, US ebook)
The Rapture of the Nerds (with Cory Doctorow) (2012)
The comic prat-fall thematic sequel to "Accelerando", interrogating the whole concept of the Singularity and finding it makes a great setting for farce. Co-written with Cory Doctorow, as two novellas and then a fix-up. (No Crib sheet, UK paperback, US hardback, Free ebook.)
In addition to the above, you may run across various foreign editions with variant titles, and English language omnibus editions and novellas. These include hardback signed limited editions of "Missile Gap" and "Palimpsest" from Subterranean Press, a hardback limited edition of my early novel "Scratch Monkey" from NESFA Press, and so on. "Timelike Diplomacy" is a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus of "Singularity Sky" and "Iron Sunrise" (see below), and "On Her Majesty's Occult Service" is an SFBC omnibus of "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue".
The Eschaton series
A space opera universe I invented circa 1996 and set two novels in—originally to be a series, but, alas, due to internal consistency issues I won't be writing any more of these.
In the twenty-fifth century, human society has depended for several hundred years on faster-than-light travel and an artificial intelligence called the Eschaton. Interstellar colonies are scattered all over, and one, the New Republic, has become a classic refuge for antitechnological holdouts. But the New Republic is suddenly under attack, literally, by the technology it has tried to suppress ... Shortlisted for the Hugo for best novel, 2003. (Crib sheet, UK paperback, UK ebook, US paperback, US ebook)
A G2 star doesn't just explode - not without outside interference. So the survivors of the planet Moscow, which was annihilated in just such an event, have launched a counterattack against the most likely culprit: the neighboring system of New Dresden. But New Dresden wasn't responsible, and as deadly missiles approach their target, Rachel Mansour, agent for the interests of Old Earth, is assigned to find out who was. Shortlisted for the Hugo for best novel, 2004. (Crib sheet, UK paperback, UK ebook, US paperback, US ebook)
The Merchant Princes series
An alternate-history series that comes on like high fantasy (a female investigative journalist from Boston discovers a locket that allows her to visit another time line where the eastern seaboard of North America is underdeveloped and occupied by a high mediaeval civilization) and goes out like a paranoid technothriller (what if the post-9/11 US government discovered that the main drug smuggling cartel shipping produce into the USA actually came from a parallel universe?).
This series was marketed as six slim fantasy novels in the US, from 2004-2009. UK publication stalled until 2013, at which point it came out in substantially different (largely re-written) form, as three fat technothrillers. Charlie says: "read the revised edition, it's much better." These omnibus books are now available in the USA as ebooks from Tor, and will be published in paperback in October/December 2014 and February 2015.
Note: a sequel trilogy is under development, and will be published in 2017. Set in the same universe(s) about 17 years later, it takes the paratime intrigue into the near future. (Series title: "Empire Games". Book titles: "Dark State", "Black Rain", "Invisible Sun".)
Winner, Sidewise Award for alternative history, 2007. (Series crib sheet.)
US Original series novels:
- The Family Trade (US paperback, US ebook)
- The Hidden Family (US paperback, US ebook)
- The Clan Corporate (US paperback, US ebook)
- The Merchants War (US paperback, US ebook)
- The Revolution Business (US paperback, US ebook)
- The Trade of Queens (US paperback, US ebook)
UK (revised) novels:
- The Bloodline Feud (UK paperback, UK ebook)
- The Traders' War (UK paperback, UK ebook)
- The Revolution Trade (UK paperback, UK ebook)
US (revised) novels:
- The Bloodline Feud (US paperback, US ebook)
- The Traders' War (US paperback, US ebook)
- The Revolution Trade (US paperback, US ebook)
The Laundry Files series
Good news: magic is real. Bad news: it's a branch of mathematics—prove the right theorems, and entities in other dimensions may hear and, sometimes, do what you tell them to do. Worse news: this means that magic is best practiced by computer geeks—"applied computational demonologist" is a job description. Worst news: the extradimensional entities are the horrors that haunted the dreams of H. P. Lovecraft, and the Stars are Coming Right ...
But don't worry. Her Majesty's Government has a secret agency tasked with defending the realm from the scum of the multiverse. It's nick-named the Laundry by those hapless civil servants and computer geeks who work there, such as Bob Howard, who was drafted after his MSc project nearly landscaped Wolverhampton by accident. And they probably will save the universe ... if they can find their way out of committee hell first, and account for all the paperclips they're missing.
Note: the novellas "The Concrete Jungle" (collected in "The Atrocity Archives") and "Equoid" (via Tor.com) both won the Hugo award for best novella, in 2005 and 2014 respectively. The novel "The Apocalypse Codex" won the 2013 Locus award for best Fantasy novel. Other short stories in this series have been nominated for various awards.
The Delirium Library (Projected, June 2017)
Other Laundry short stories:
The Halting State series
Fifteen minutes into the future, Scotland is an independent state teetering uneasily on the edge of the EU, increasingly at the mercy of a networked world. In these two near-future police procedurals, Stross delves into the implications of ubiquitous computing for virtual reality, games, espionage, criminology, gangland business models, and diplomacy.
Halting State (2007)
In the year 2018, a daring bank robbery has taken place at Hayek Associates. The suspects are a band of marauding orcs, with a dragon in tow for fire support, and the bank is located within the virtual reality land of Avalon Four. But Sergeant Sue Smith discovers that this virtual world robbery may be linked to a much more sinister real world crime. Shortlisted for the Hugo for best novel, 2007. (Crib sheet, UK paperback, UK ebook, US paperback,US ebook.)
Rule 34 (2011)
Meet Edinburgh Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh, head of the Innovative Crimes Investigation Unit, otherwise known as the Rule 34 Squad. They monitor the Internet for potential criminal activity, analyzing trends in the extreme fringes of explicit content. And occasionally, even more disturbing patterns arise ... Three ex-cons have been murdered in Germany, Italy, and Scotland. The only things they had in common were arrests for spamming--and a taste for unorthodox entertainment. As the first officer on the scene of the most recent death, Liz finds herself sucked into an international investigation that isn't so much asking who the killer is, but what--and if she doesn't find the answer soon, the homicides could go viral. (Crib sheet, UK paperback, UK ebook, US paperback, US ebook.)
The Lambda Functionary (????)
Originally planned for 2014, this book is now on indefinite hold (and was replaced in the publishing queue by "The Rhesus Chart"). It may show up in 2016 or 2017, but it's impossible to write predictive near-future SF set in Scotland right now -- Scotland is in the grip of a political Singularity this decade.
The Saturn's Children series
Human beings don't handle exposure to hard vacuum well. This, alas, is a major obstacle to any attempt at depicting a future in which humanity colonizes the cosmos. To make matters worse, space is vast, and every known form of interplanetary or interstellar propulsion is a bit crap, leading to the conclusion that, realistically, any practical form of interplanetary travel is shit.
But we're not going to let these annoying details stop us, are we? Because we're human, and we build things, including our own posthuman robot descendants. And human civilization will conquer the stars, even if the human species goes extinct first. They'll even drag us along behind them, kicking and screaming all the way ...
Freya Nakamachi-47 has some major existential issues. She's the perfect concubine, designed to please her human masters—hardwired to become aroused at the mere sight of a human male. There's just one problem: she came off the production line a year after the human species went extinct. Whatever else she may be, Freya Nakamachi-47 is gloriously obsolete. What's more, the rigid social hierarchy that has risen in the 200 years since the last human died, places beings such as Freya very near the bottom. So when she has a run-in on Venus with a murderous aristocrat, she needs passage off-world in a hurry—and can't be too fussy about how she pays her way. But if Venus was a frying pan, Mercury is the fire—and soon she's going to be running for her life. Because the job she's taken as a courier has drawn her to the attention of powerful and dangerous people, and they don't just want the package she's carrying: they want her soul. Shortlisted for the Hugo for best novel, 2008. (Crib sheet, UK paperback, UK ebook, US paperback, US ebook).
Krina Alizond is a metahuman in a universe where the last natural humans became extinct five thousand years ago. When her sister goes missing she embarks on a daring voyage across the star systems to find her, travelling to her last known location—the mysterious water-world of Shin-Tethys. In a universe with no faster-than-light travel that's a dangerous journey, made all the more perilous by the arrival of an assassin on Krina's tail, by the privateers chasing her sister's life insurance policy, and by growing signs that the disappearance is linked to one of the biggest financial scams in the known universe. (No crib sheet, UK hardback, UK ebook, US hardback, US ebook).
What else is happening?
Not a lot I can talk about.
Books generally take a long time to write—months to years. Stepping out from behind my third-person mask for a moment, I'm currently up to my elbows in the new Merchant Princes trilogy and the sixth and seventh Laundry Files novels -- the work schedules overlap. This is going to keep me busy for at least the next year.
After that, I have some plans—but nothing under concrete contractual obligation to deliver to a publisher. These plans include more Laundry Files novels, a possible novel-length expansion of "Palimpsest" (which is merely the first third of a longer work), "The Lambda Functionary" (which was originally to be the third book of the "Halting State" trilogy, except that the latter book is set so close to what is now the present day that events have overrun it: if TLF ever goes anywhere, it will be as a new near-future stand-alone). There might also be other novels in the "Saturn's Children" continuity, and I'm intermittently chewing on something which might eventually grow up to be a near-future gothic haunted house novel about mortgage anxiety among the millennial generation. But I want to stress that none of this is definitely doing to happen.
The time scales involved are so long that I end up doing something different altogether. I've got enough work to keep me busy until the end of 2015, and the world of publishing is changing so fast that my next project might not be a novel at all, but some sort of ebook serial in a format that doesn't exist yet. All I can say with any certainty is that I intend to keep on writing, and I hope you enjoy the results!