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.

Yeah, so I haven't been blogging for more than a week. Sorry 'bout that; I had a guest blogger lined up for while I was traveling, but they turned out to be a no-show and I was too busy to take time out from work.

This week's excuse is that "The Delirium Brief" is being typeset twice—separately for the US and UK releases—and the US page proofs landed in my inbox with a thud and a very short deadline which is going to keep me busy for the rest of this week once I'm over the jetlag.

Note that this isn't a separate edit; the US and UK editions were edited and copy-edited in a common process and share the same spelling, grammar, and word-shaped objects. But the US and UK publishers (who are two different companies who just happened to buy the respective territorial rights to publish the work on their own patch) decided to typeset the copy-edited manuscript independently of one another, which means I need to check a second set of page proofs for errors. It a while to plough through a 400 page book; even if you're just treating it as a reading text and can read at a page a minute, that's nearly seven hours—and checking page proofs for typos and errors is somewhat slower and more laborious. (Normally one publisher takes the lead on production and the others just buy in the typesetting files, but because of [REDACTED] that ain't viable this time round, hence the last-minute round of extra work.)

So normal blogging will probably wait until next week, and I'm going to be scarce in the comments for a bit.

Oh, that reminds me: some of you are wondering if I had any trouble entering the United States, right?

Assuming nothing goes too horribly wrong, on Monday I'm flying out to New York for a few days of meetings—my regular annual business trip, basically. (My agent and my publishers are all based in NYC so it makes sense to visit from time to time; Skype chats are all very well, but there's no substitute for serendipitously bumping into someone you've never heard of who works on your books in a back office job ...)

Anyway, I have two public things happening while I'm over there, and neither of them are in New York.

Thursday 16th is Pandemonium at Pandemonium—a multi-author evening event at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, MA. I often do readings at Pandemonium when I'm in Boston, but this time's special: you can expect to find me along with Elizabeth Bear, Max Gladstone, Scott Lynch, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton and Fran Wilde, answering questions, doing an extremely silly storytelling game, and generally having fun.

Friday 17th-19th is Boskone 54, the regular Boston SF convention I've been going to for far too many years. I'm on the program, and if you search the program for my name, you'll find my fixtures. (One update: I won't be taking part in the First Contact/Close Encounters program item on Friday afternoon.)

See you around! (Or not.) And don't expect much blogging before I get home again on Tuesday 21st.

There's a lot of concern about health care on both sides of the pond these days, with the recent worries about the National Health Service, and regime change in America bent on rolling back the benefits his predecessor put in place. In fact, one editorial to my regional newspaper had a headline that feared a return to the Dark Ages.

I write the Dark Apostle series for DAW books, dark historical fantasy about medieval surgery, which continues today with new release, Elisha Mancer. As a researcher into the history of medicine, all I could think was, they don't know much about the Dark Ages, do they? So here, for those who would like to make their comparisons more apt, is a basic primer to medical care through the 14th century.
Elisha Mancer mini.jpg
1. Medical practitioners were highly educated professionals.

Aside from those who needed the midwife (a specialist even then), most patients sought one of three levels of care, depending, then as now, on their location and their level of income (about which, more later).

As you probably noticed, I (me, Charlie) am a bit busy right now. (Actually, I'm in a three-book production deadline pile-up, and next Monday I'm off to New York for a bunch of meetings.) So you'll be unsurprised to learn that I'm lining up guest bloggers to keep you entertained and educated while I'm elsewhere! And first up is E. C. Ambrose, who has some interesting things to say about the history of surgery ...

E. C. Ambrose writes "The Dark Apostle" historical fantasy series about medieval surgery, which began with Elisha Barber and continues with Elisha Magus, Elisha Rex, Elisha Mancer, and a final forthcoming volume. Other published works include "The Romance of Ruins" in Clarkesworld, and "Custom of the Sea," winner of the Tenebris Press Flash Fiction Contest 2012.

As Elaine Isaak, she is also the author of The Singer's Crown and its sequels, The Eunuch's Heir, and The Bastard Queen. Elaine quite enjoys her alternate identity, aside from a strong desire to start arguments with herself on social media. A former professional costumer specializing in animal mascots, Elaine lives in New Hampshire with her family where she works part-time as an adventure guide. In addition to writing and teaching, Elaine enjoys taiko drumming, kayaking, rock climbing, and all manner of fiber arts.

Confession time: I'm an optimist, especially about the ideas of social progress that emerged in Europe at the end of the middle ages and became mainstream in western politics in the early 20th century. I called the outcome of the Brexit referendum wrong (by underestimating the number of racist bigots and Little Englanders in the UK population: Brexit is a proxy for English nationalism, which is absolutely not the same as British nationalism), and I called the US presidential election wrong (underestimating the extent of gerrymandering and micro-targeted black propaganda driven by data mining in the campaign).

Since January 20th we've seen a degree and type of activity emanating from the new US administration that is markedly different from anything in my politically aware lifetime (loosely: since Reagan). Blanket bans on entry to the USA by anyone associated with certain nationalities, mass firings at the State Department, a president railing against a "so-called judge", the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being booted off the National Security Council and replaced by a white nationalist ideologue, and a former CEO of Exxon in the Cabinet: what's going on?

Let me pull on my pessimist's hat and advance the most scary hypothesis I can imagine that explains the current situation.

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