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Ego corner

I am informed that the first three books of my Merchant Princes series (that is: The Family Trade, The Hidden Family and The Clan Corporate) have collectively won the 2007 Sidewise award for alternate history (long form — i.e. novel or series).

This is the first time I'd been shortlisted for the Sidewise, and follows a rule change that opens the long form up to include multi-volume works. I'd just like to say that I really wasn't expecting to win this one — not with Paul Park, Harry Turtledove, and Jo Walton all on the ballot — and it's come as a complete by surprise.

I'd like to offer my congratulations to everyone else who was on the shortlist, and say better luck next time. (And because I won the long form award for a series work, they can now cross me off the competition for the next few years — it's my only alternate history in the pipeline.)




Well done Charlie!

Does the schedule for the rest of the series given in your FAQ reflect current plans?


Congrat's Charlie.


Errol: I need to check the FAQ, but book #4 is due out in hardcover soon (November 1st, IIRC) and I plan to write #5 and #6 this autumn/winter/next spring.


Awesome! Congrats.



FWIW, Amazon.com has "The Merchants' War" coming out October 16, 2007.


Congratulations, Charlie. The rest of the world is starting to find out why we've been throwing our money at you.


Many congratulations; the march to world domination continues... ;-)
Are we ever going to see the Merchant Princes books over here?



Oddly enough, Borders in Dublin had an American import (I assume) of the first book in that series yesterday. I have never seen any of them on sale elsewhere in Ireland (or Northern Ireland) and I bought the only one. It hit me as I paid for the book that I had a) bought it purely on the strength of Charlie writing it (not really knowing anything about the series) and b) that the last 3 books I had bought new were all Charlie's books - everything else I go without or buy second hand.

Charlie's books (like all Sci-fi) are poorly represented in the shops in Ireland, Waterstones usually has a good selection but most other shops simply stock Star Wars / Lord of the Rings and label it 'SciFi/Fantasy'.


Congrats, Charlie!

re: Stephen @8: Things aren't as bad in Canada for SF selection in stores. There are a LOT of Star Wars / Star Trek / Dragonlance tie-ins here as well, though.

Are there any numbers about whether that kind of media tie-in can be a gateway to non-media tie in SF&F? I remember reading James Blish's Star Trek short story versions of the original show when I was a kid, and I read SF now. So it worked for me. I wonder though: do some people wind up staying in the media tie-in world?


Dave @7: Tor UK (aka Pan MacMillan) begin publishing them in paperback this November, hopefully at 6 month intervals until they catch up.

James @9: Sooner or later I'm going to have to write up my rant about how media "SF" isn't like literary SF, and how the exigencies of TV and film programming have debased the underlying point of SF -- and then I'm never going to get to sign over my copyright to Universal Studios in return for a mess of pottage. Sigh.


Charlie @ 10

You could just put the rant under DRM; then the Universal executives would never see it. If you don't give anyone a valid key, then only people who use a cracked key can read it, and, of course, no ethical media executive would do such a thing.

I'd argue that what's debased SF in the mass media is the immense profit from tie-ins and collateral merchandising. The studios don't care a lot about what they make from the movies anymore; certainly not about what they make in the US, since that can represent less than a quarter of their revenues, and might not contribute any profit at all.


I should be getting the copies I just ordered. Congrats on the prize; you serve as an inspiration. And before you go burn any bridges in hood-Holywood with some kindo of Storss-on-too-much-tea rant, wait until you can get a get a nice fat movie deal (with you writing the screen play. That way you could be in partial control of certain creative aspects). And as long as you don't act too demonic they might even want you on the set for those annoying daily script changes. Now wouldn't that be fun? Remember, it can pay to know people in low places.



Well deserved congratulations. Charles has expertly interpolated between classic Alternate History and apparent Urban Fantasy (i.e. the books are at least marketed with cover art that suggests a cosmos in which both Science and Magic work).

In a sense, alternate history is one of the hardest subgenres in which to write well. One must combine the research difficulties of the Historical Novel (as established by Sir Walter Scott) with the world-building of Hard Science Fiction. Paradoxically, everything must be derivative, but original; accurate, yet imaginative.

What I'm not clear on is whether the Harry Potter series is or is not alternate history. My comments on this, from an email I sent to family and friends, includes the following.

My JPL friends and I previously agreed we needed to know to be satisfied in hard SF/Fantasy mode that were NOT resolved in Deathly Hallows:

(1) How were house-elves enslaved, and Goblins beaten, and maybe giants?

(2) is Muggle-world OUR world or not (i.e. an alternate history world)? If so, when and how did split occur?

The best plot summary of Harry Potter 7 (snarky version, but quite accurate, including pointing out plot lacuna):


Okay, just before the International whatchamcallit of 1689, when Wizards went into hiding, what was going on in what was either the Muggle World or the Muggle-not-yet-separated-from-Wizard world? I previously listed several Isaac Newton and King/Queen of England events from that decade, from my little Science Fiction/Fantasy/Science web domain, that might be related.


1680: Newton, trying to cut Hooke off at the pass, proves that
inverse-square gravity does indeed result in elliptical orbits
(see Newton 1679, 1684)

1688: England's Glorious Revolution deposes King James II; Holland's William and Mary are invited to be the new King and Queen.

We’ll see when J. K. Rowling (with whom I spoken, face-to-face) publishes the Encyclopedia of Harry Potter that she’s started. Might be a lot of backstory, in the mode of the lengthy appendices to The Lords of the Rings. Rowling is somehwere between Tolkien and Dickens, but has a better sense of humor than Tolkien.


I am not one of those people who are tearing their hair out because grown adults are reading a series of books intended for children.

I am just one of those people who are tearing their hair out.


Congratulations! That's well-deserved; those are fine work.



But if the Merchant Princes are your only alternate history does that make the Laundry books non-fiction?


Tobias: try secret history. It's a different category ...


There was no rule change--multi-volume works were always eligible for Long Form. Harrison's "The Hammer and the Cross" series, Turtledove's "World War" series, Stirling's "Nantucket Trilogy", and Keyes's "Age of Unreason" were previous short-listed series, and Mary gentle won for "Ash: A Secret History" (one volume in the UK, but four in the US).


I am not one of those people who are tearing their hair out because grown adults are reading a series of books intended for children.

I'm just curious about how she does it. And I don't even want to write fiction particularly.


Adrian Smith #19. C.S. will probably not want to comment on an other writer's "gift." The "magic" of Harry Potter is probably goint to be (if it's not already) the stuff of more than a few "literature/marketing" Ph.D thesises. Maybe she does use magic to help her along. Practice what you preach, or Write about what you Know.



C.S. will probably not want to comment on an other writer's "gift."

And the fact that I'm not replying to Charlie here might indicate to the careful reader that I'm not suggesting that he do so. I was merely mentioning why *I'd* read the Potter books, despite being ostensibly/chronologically adult.

The "magic" of Harry Potter is probably goint to be (if it's not already) the stuff of more than a few "literature/marketing" Ph.D thesises.

Theses, like crises. I reckon a lot of it's just the conceit of a school for wizards, rendered in obsessive detail. Genius idea.


Adrian, for some weeks now I have been pointedly not venting about how much I dislike the whole Harry Potter phenomenon, books and marketing hype alike.

Because, y'know, (a) it would look like sour grapes, and (b) it would needlessly alienate a goodly subset of readers.

Let's just put it this way: I gave up midway through book #3, pigeon-holing it as "not my stuff". I have not seen the movies, and don't intend to. And I wouldn't give it a second thought, were it not for the juggernaut of media hype surrounding the recent book launch, which has been as impossible to avoid and just as annoying as the nonsense surrounding Diana Windsor (another person who is, in my personal cosmology, just another brown dwarf).


It all depends on whether you like classic British boarding school stories. I rather do, some don't, it's a matter of taste.

I actually had to go to several schools which were based on, and which were fair imitations of, this type of educational institution.

That was back in the Old Stone Age, of course -- for a sample, we did cross-country running with an instructor following us. He had a whip... 8-).

That was the one run by an ex-Colonel in the army of the Raj, a man for whom 1912 was yesterday. You think Kipling was exaggerating? Nope.


@23: Ah, the explanation at last.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Meanwhile, Charlie, I've just read Accelerando and Atrocity, and yes, they're fucking good. NOW WILL YOU RUN THE DAMN IRAQI INTERPRETER POST ON YOUR SODDING BLOG?


Alex: is it necessary now? (It was on the 6 O'Clock News on BBC Radio 4, with at least one opposition parliamentarian spouting off about how it was a Disgrace.)


I find the whole H.P. phenomenon fascinating. And C.S. must too, because in a way he writes about phenomena of this sort, albeit it in a less-specific way. The same sort of networking that has been used so successfully to sell Harry Potter is the same sort of Force that the main character takes advantage of in Accelerando. The rapid transmission of ideas, especially ones that seem to have few-if-any ill effects, is what seems to drive the whole system along. Harry Potter is an idea that has been sold on the basis of childhood wish fulfillment fantasies. It will be interesting to see if Rowling can maintain a loyal fan base of tens of millions and transition those readers into more adult books that do not have any of the familiar characters.
Harry Potter helping to create a common childhood mythology for many children around the world. Its not such a bad thing to share good childhood memories with lots of others. It gives people a good starting point, Did you read Harry Potter when you were a kid? In a more connected transhuman culture, childhood commonality makes for a nice base plate on which to build a more perfect society. Or something like that.



And C.S. must too, because in a way he writes about phenomena of this sort, albeit it in a less-specific way.

Well, perhaps you interpret "I wouldn't give it a second thought" differently from me.

In a more connected transhuman culture, childhood commonality makes for a nice base plate on which to build a more perfect society.

Just don't let the Heinlein weenies hear you talking like that.


Of course it's necessary; keep pushing until they walk down the airstair at Brize Norton.


I grew up on Heinlein. One of my little essays is actually in a reprint of a Heinlein classic.

"I wouldn't give it a second thought" may be interpreted as complete disinterest in the subject matter, but the phenomena is itself very interesting. Isn't it? Come on, the man talks very specifically about cutures as organic entities that ebb and flow and combine to form all sorts of Borgistic entities. Resistance is futile, we've caste a spell on you.


There might be some useful ideas for Charles Stross or the Military Science Fiction contingent on this blog, such as S. M. Stirling, in this recent arXiv paper to which I contributed:

Disrupting Terrorist Networks–A Dynamic Fitness Landscape Approach
J. P. Clemens, R. Wright, J. V. Post, M. Dadmun - arxiv.org

My coauthors and I are more and more often publishing in the free online venues, notable the arXiv, and in international conference proceedings, rather than in the medievally slow and expensive journals.

I hope that we didn't give away any Laundry tradecraft...

This was not the methodology used by the Order of the Phoenix, a.k.a. Dumbledore's Army, right?


I grew up on Heinlein.

That's what Heinlein is *for*.

but the phenomena is itself very interesting.

Well, I'm interested in the phenomenon, but I don't really see the connection between it and whatever you feel Charlie's been writing about. Are the people who've read HP supposed to combine into a Borgostic entity at some point?


Adrian, my point in citing the Harry Potter phenomena is that it is the some sort of mass hysteria that seems to be the life blood of Accelerando (in the story itself). The character Manfred uses the human propensity to join the crowd. Harry Potter is a example of what a good idea can turn into when there is a person willing to push it. That said, it is clear that adults are just as (if not more so) susceptible to mass marketing. Manfred taps into what might be labeled the I dont want to be left behind mindset, or lemming-like behavior. A Borgistic entity will probably require a common culture to build upon. Starting with childhood culture is probably not a bad place to start, since it is obviously a very important foudation on which to build all sorts of beliefs.



Jeff? Hello? Quick question: when did I start to write "Accelerando"?


Now: How many years ago was that? Don't you think it's possible I might have moved on to other interests in that length of time?


Charlie, I'm not sure what you mean? I don't know how many years ago it was because I haven't memorized all the details of each one of your books--yet. But even if it was ten years ago, so what? I would have to assume someone like you is always thinking about something interesting, but I didn't realize that also meant you didn't want to talk about your past works. I sort of also assumed you would consider your works food for thought for your fans to discuss. Sorry if I got that part wrong, no offense was intended. But this is your site, and you get to do as you wish. I'm here to meet some like-minded people and one of the "likes" is Your work. I thought this might be a place to talk about how good some of your stuff is and the great way you deal with certain issues. But if you don't want me to do that, I won't.


Consider a spherical wizard...


Why, because a sphere is a perfect Platonic solid?