Hi! Charlie here. I'm about to hit the road for ten days (I'm one of the guests at Italcon next week). And while I'm away, I'm handing over the blogging podium to a new guest blogger: April Daniels, author of Dreadnought (and, forthcoming, Sovereign).

April Daniels graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in literature, and then promptly lost her job during the 2008 stock crash and recession. After she recovered from homelessness, she completed her first manuscript by scribbling a few sentences at a time between calls while working in the customer support department for a well-known video game console.

She has a number of hobbies, most of which are boring and predictable. As nostalgia for the 1990s comes into its full bloom, she has become ever more convinced that she was born two or three years too late and missed all the good stuff the first time around.

Early in her writing practice, April set her narrative defaults to “lots of lesbians” and never looked back.

Dear Mr Stross

I'd like to apologize in advance, but after consulting with my colleagues in other departments at Reality Publishing Corporation, I'm afraid we can't publish your book, "Zero Day: The story of MS17-010", as things stand. However, I'd like to add that it was a gripping read, very well written, and we hope to see more from you in future!

Because the plot of your yarn is highly technical, we engaged a specialist external reader to evaluate it. And they had some unfortunate words to say on the subject of plausibility. I attach the reader's report, in the hope that you might consider amending your manuscript accordingly.

Signed

E. S. Blofeld, Editorial Director

Today, and for the next two weeks, those of you lucky enough to live in North America (not the UK/EU/rest of world: sorry) can buy the ebook edition of The Atrocity Archives, the first book in the Laundry Files, for just $1.99!

Oh, and if you've been holding off buying the latest book in the series, the ebook price of The Nightmare Stacks has now dropped (to $7.99, from $9.99). It hasn't quite caught up in the UK, but the UK paperback of "The Nightmare Stacks" is due out next Thursday (and the ebook price should drop then).

(Note that Ace do not plan to publish "The Nightmare Stacks" in paperback in the US at this time. The midlist mass market paperback distribution channel in the US is imploding, as ebooks have cannibalized the market for disposable reading matter. (There might at some point be a trade paperback, but don't hold your breath.)

Finally, we're about two months away from the next Laundry Files novel, The Delirium Brief is due out in the USA on July 11th, and in the UK on July 6th.

So if you've been holding off on getting your teeth into the Laundry Files, now is the best time to stock up on summer reading!

^^^ Me again. M Harold Page. The writer with the swords and some books in print, rather than the one with the cats and a metric tonne of books in print (plus enough rockets that we really should get him that Tracy Island in which to keep them).

Did I say "swords"? 

Right now it's actually blasters because I'm wearing my Space Opera hat. 

Yes, despite all my books to date featuring many, many swordfights, I wrote a Space Opera. It's called "The Wreck of the Marissa (The Eternal Dome of the Unknowable #1)".

And yes, as you might guess from its title, it's at the other end of the spectrum from the transhuman wibbletech extrapolative futures that Charlie likes to explore. It's also not Military SF. Though there's fighting - the protagonist is a retired mercenary turned archaeologist - it's small scale stuff and the focus isn't on the regular army.

But what subgenre is it?

The same subgenre as EC Tubb's Dumarest books - hero wanders the galaxy in search of Earth - or Moon's Vatta's War - hero trades across the galaxy while coming to her family's rescue - or Firefly - oddball crew trade between worlds - or, of course, the venerable Traveller Roleplaying Game - I've been reviewing the new Mongoose Traveller over on Black Gate (*).

It's partly defined by vibe; hardboiled adventure in an imperfectly distributed future where there are more planets like Tatooine than Coruscant. However, it's also defined by protagonist(s) and scope; independent operators struggling to make a go of it in a hostile human universe with the antagonists capped at corporation or "house" level, with no Dark Lord, and no saving the galaxy.

You know exactly what I mean. It's the subgenre that that bears the same relation to Space Opera that Sword & Sorcery bears to Heroic Fantasy.

But it doesn't have a name! And though I'm half a century late to the game, I think we should call it "Star Punk".

Here's why.

So it's that time in the book production cycle again, and in the next couple of weeks "Empire Games" is going to be finalized for paperback release this autumn. Which means it's my last chance to hunt down and fix any typos/errata in the hardback/initial ebook release.

Got any typos in "Empire Games" (not any other books, thanks!) that you've been saving up? If so, please tell me what it is in a comment below. If it's a hardback, please identify the page and line number it occurs on. If you're using an ebook, cut-and-paste about a line of text that includes the error (so I can search for it). Thanks!

Theresa May, UK Prime Minister, has just announced her intention of calling a UK-wide general election to be held on June 8th. (She will have to bypass the 2011 Parliament Act, achieve a 2/3rds majority, or call a vote of no confidence in her own government in order to do it, but one way or the other, she can make it happen.)

Parliamentary boundary changes coming into effect in 2018 do not apply; this election will be carried out in existing constituencies rather than the downsized number due for a 2020 election.

May currently has a roughly 20% lead in opinion polls and faces disorganized opposition, except in Scotland (which, with roughly 10% of the total seats, can safely be ignored: she risks losing at most a single sitting MP north of the border—her only one).

Predictable side-effects would include the next UK general election scheduled by the Parliament Act (2011) being pushed back to June 2022, three years after the due date for the conclusion of Article 50 negotiations over UK departure from the EU (rather than 13 months after Brexit-date).

I have some speculations about the big picture and what's going on, but before I unleash it on the blog I want to see what the hive mind thinks.

(Previously, I intended to blog a blue-sky SFnal world-building question this week, but hey: politics just farted.)

Where are we going to be, a century from now?

Let's go back and chew on this old bone again--from a different angle.

Let me first eliminate from discussion a bunch of possible outcomes I'm not interested in examining. Total human extinction could happen in a variety of ways, ranging from wars over access to scarce resources (idiotic, but it's something humans have prior form for), to plagues, to the collapse of agricultural viability on a global scale due to climate change, sudden catastrophic collapse of unrecognized critical infrastrcture (e.g. the single factory in Bangladesh that makes the cheap quantum computer chips everyone uses to get around the central planning problem is taken out by a Cat-6 Typhoon: this causes a cascading loss of efficiency in global supply chains, leading to ...) to an asteroid mining operation gone horribly wrong. But scenarios in which everyone is dead are not currently interesting to me, as a fiction writer.

Let's also ignore transport technology, Mars colonization, climate change, the shift to non-carbon energy sources and distribution, how the hell the west will survive the shift to robotic labour (I'm assuming that by 2117 we'll have robots that can make a good stab at changing the bed linen, which is just about the acme of low-paid but algorithmically intractable jobs right now). I mean, if we're currently hearing billionaires discussing the merits of a universal basic income system, I think that tells us where the SS Titans of Capitalism is trying to steer to avoid the iceberg ...

What new fun things can I project that are both plausible, likely, and didn't feature in my earlier prognostication set a century out?

So I've been busy lately.

After lying on my back panting for a few days (the usual follow-up to finishing a new novel in first draft) I'm now making plans for the rewrite, because no novel is ever publishable in its initial form, and there are things I need to sort out before it goes anywhere near an editor. (Notably: I started out with over-ambitious plans for a funky structure that proved unworkable, so now I need to go back and un-kink everything so that the story flows smoothly on its own terms—which it will, because I think I got the rest of it right.) So I'm about to dive back down the rabbit hole of Ghost Engine to try and produce a final draft by the end of the month.

And while this was going on, other stuff happened that's going to distract me from blogging for a while.

So I occasionally get mail via the feedback form on this blog. And I usually try to reply to it (when I get a reply-able email address and it seems to expect a reply and I have something to say), and I certainly don't publish email without getting permission first ... unless it's like this (i.e. the sender is unidentified and unidentifiable from the content, which is copypasta of someone else's out-of-copyright rant):

Subject: Fear the Lord!!!

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

(James 4:1-6 KJV)

To which the holy spirit[*] led me to reply:

My imaginary friends have more fun than your imaginary friends.

Moral of this story: assuming someone else shares your beliefs—or even understands them well enough to respond to your attempt at evangelism other than with baffled amusement—is a bad idea.

Also: what is it that leads people to believe that an all-powerful omniscient creator, who is presumably responsible for the fine structure constant, neutron stars, and Sacculina carcini, is nevertheless obsessively interested in where and what hairless African plains apes rub their genitalia against?

[*]The memory of last night's very nice single malt whisky

So yesterday I got to type THE END, at (oddly enough) the end of a book I've been writing since last April. "Ghost Engine" is due out in July 2018, so having a complete draft is a bit of a relief, to put it mildly. (It takes 12 months for a book to work through the production pipeline, because publishers don't publish books, they operate a workflow process that runs in lockstep across multiple books in a pipeline.) Typing THE END doesn't mean it's finished, of course. It's currently with various trusted readers for comment, and I'm probably going to have to rewrite chunks of it. However, experience suggests that most of the work is now done. My books usually expand slightly as a result of the editing after they've emerged in draft, so it's pretty much a dead certainty that this will be my second-longest delivered novel (just longer than "Accelerando", at 145,100 words, shorter than the original Merchant Princes doorstep which finally saw the light of day in its original shape as "The Bloodline Feud", at 197,800 words). (For comparison, "Dune" weighs in at 188,000 words; one paperback page is approximately 330-350 words.)

Here's the funny thing about too much work: it feels as if you're spinning your wheels and not making progress at all. This year so far, I redrafted two novels, wrote about 45,000 words of fiction, checked one set of copy edits, checked two sets of page proofs, did a bunch of promotion for a book launch, and went on a one week business trip to New York and Boston. But until I typed THE END, yesterday, it felt as if I was losing ground and not getting anything done at all. Those two words, however significant they may look, are absolutely trivial: but psychologically, being able to draw a line through a to-do item (write GHOST ENGINE) makes all the difference, and I finally feel I can relax a little.

So, what am I doing next?

I've gone dark again on the blog because I'm still wrestling with the space opera that refuses to die (it's due out in July 2018, instead of your regular scheduled Laundry Files novel, so getting it ready for my editors is climbing my priority list). Meanwhile, if I was blogging, I'd be blogging about the high political drama of the past week in the UK.

The internet as we know it is nearly 25 years old (that's the world wide web: the pre-web internet is a lot older, and not far off its 50th birthday, but would be unrecognizable to most people today). We're using it for purposes the designers never anticipated, and a myriad of hopeful experiments flourish on the web ... and sooner or later die, or crumble into gentle decline and benign neglect.

And sometimes the neglect is not so benign.

I suspect the UK might lose its nuclear deterrent (and with it, its permanent seat on the UN Security Council) before 2020, thanks to Donald Trump. Here's why.

I got home from a business trip on Tuesday morning, was a jet-lagged zombie for 24 hours, and between Wednesday morning and now (Friday morning) I have learned:

A new way of exfiltrating data from an air-gapped computer potentially uses malware to modulate the drive activity LED on a PC, which can then be monitored by a drone hovering outside the office window: this is apparently capable of getting up to 6kbps of data off a computer without any physical connection or leaving any signs in device access logs (because it relies on the timing of drive i/o activity).

The North Korean assassins who killed Kim Jong-nam allegedly used VX nerve agent by getting local women who thought they were working for a comedy show to smear it on his face. (Secondary reports say that it was a binary agent, and each woman applied a different precursor: given the nature of VX precursors this seems unlikely, but VX itself could have plausibly been applied by hand. (If confirmed, this falls into the "Polonium 210 is so mundane!" school of baroque state assassination tools.)

Finally, for your delectation, there are people who think this is a good way to deal with Donald Trump (well, if it makes them feel better) ... my only question is, which open source license are they using?

Really, 2017 so far feels like it's fallen out of a novel I wrote in an alternate time line round about 2005, while evidently depressed and suffering from unstabilized hypertension. Or maybe it's just that we swapped out the scriptwriters who showed up in 2001—the ghosts of George Orwell and Philip K. Dick—for a crew led by John Sladek and John Brunner.

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