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Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
1w ago
(You probably expected this announcement a while ago ...) I've just signed a new two book deal with my publishers, Tor.com publishing in the USA/Canada and Orbit in the UK/rest of world, and the book I'm talking about here and now—the one that's already written and delivered to the Production people who turn it into a thing you'll be able to buy later this year—is a Laundry stand-alone titled "A Conventional Boy". ("Delivered to production" means it is now ready to be copy-edited, typeset, printed/bound/distributed and simultaneously turned into an ebook and pushed through the interwebbytubes ..read more
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Worldcon in the news
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
1M ago
You've probably seen news reports that the Hugo awards handed out last year at the world science fiction convention in Chengdu were rigged. For example: Science fiction awards held in China under fire for excluding authors. The Guardian got bits of the background wrong, but what's undeniably true is that it's a huge mess. And the key point the press and most of the public miss is that they seem to think there's some sort of worldcon organization that can fix this. Spoiler: there isn't. (Caveat: what follows below the cut line is my brain dump, from 20km up, in lay terms, of what went wrong. I ..read more
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Same bullshit, new tin
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
1M ago
I am seeing newspaper headlines today along the lines of British public will be called up to fight if UK goes to war because 'military is too small', Army chief warns, and I am rolling my eyes. The Tories run this flag up the mast regularly whenever they want to boost their popularity with the geriatric demographic who remember national service (abolished 60 years ago, in 1963). Thatcher did it in the early 80s; the Army general staff told her to piss off. And the pols have gotten the same reaction ever since. This time the call is coming from inside the house—it's a general, not a politician ..read more
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The coming storm
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
1M ago
(I should have posted this a couple of weeks ago ...) 2024 looks set to be a somewhat disruptive year. Never mind the Summer Olympics in Paris; the big news is politics, where close to half the world's population get to vote in elections with a strong prospect of electing outright fascists. Taiwan was first on 13th January, and elected Democratic People's Party incumbent Vice-President Vice President Lai Ching-te as President. I don't have enough understanding of Taiwanese politics to comment further other than to note that this outcome evinced displeased noises from Beijing (and my interpreta ..read more
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Crib Sheet: Season of Skulls
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
2M ago
Season of Skulls came out six months ago, so here be spoilers. If you want a recap of the two previous novels in this not-exactly-a-trilogy, you can find my notes on them here: Dead Lies Dreaming, Quantum of Nightmares. What do I mean by not-exactly-a-trilogy? Well: the idea of the New Management was to reboot the Laundry Files, which I've been writing since 1999, with a new cast of protagonists largely drawn from a younger generation, and dealing with more modern social and political issues. My little one-shot Lovecraftian-spy mashup has evolved over two decades into a sprawling setting with ..read more
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Made of lies (and more lies)
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
2M ago
Why you shouldn't trust AI (large language models): a cautionary example. So, Google Bard is the big G's "AI" assisted internet search tool. I'd heard ungood things about Bard's tendency to Make Shit Up, so I decided to test it for myself, on a topic I'm an authority on: me. I logged in with a throwaway account, and gave it a prompt: "Tell me five fun facts about Charles Stross". Bard is stateful, so I followed up with: "Tell me five more fun facts about Charles Stross". And because I'm a glutton for punishment, I did it again: "Tell me another five fun facts about Charles Stross". Here's what ..read more
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We're sorry we created the Torment Nexus
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
3M ago
(This is the text of a talk I delivered at the Next Frontiers Applied Fiction Day in Stuttgart on Friday November 10th, 2023. Note: early draft, contains some typos, I'll fix them next week when I get home.) In 2021, writer and game designer Alex Blechman inadvertently created a meme: Sci-Fi Author: "In my book I invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale." Tech Company: "At long last, we have created the Torment Nexus from classic sci-fi novel Don't Create The Torment Nexus!" Hi. I'm Charlie Stross, and I tell lies for money. That is, I'm a science fiction writer: I have about thirty nov ..read more
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I should blog more, but ...
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
5M ago
All I can think of right now is that the New Management, which started as a ghastly satire on the UK's government of 2016, now looks impossibly utopian. In particular the headlines are dominated by the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, which is a shit-show beyond parody. Suella Braverman went full xenophobe (millions and millions of migrants are about to descend on the UK, apparently) then went full Cruella de Ville (stomping on a guide dog's tail at a press conference) because cruelty is her only policy. Rishi Sunak announced transphobia as his only visible policy (before being tol ..read more
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Pushing it back
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
5M ago
(On vacation this month, hence lack of blogging ...) Apparently archaeologists have discovered the eearliest known wooden structure in Kalambo Falls, Zambia: two cut logs bearing tool marks that were shaped and joined to form part of a structure—476,000 years ago. Click through the link above for details as to how they dated it, and why it appears to have survived: it's being reported in Nature so this looks pretty solid, and it's a jaw-dropper. Wood tends to rot, and most wooden structures more than a few centuries old are known to archaeology from the holes they leave in the soil rather than ..read more
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Do my Laundry
Charlie's Diary
by Charlie Stross
6M ago
One of the longest-shirked jobs on my to-do list is "Finish the Laundry Files". By which I mean "write the final novel in the story arc that began with The Atrocity Archive and follows Bob Howard through his career", not "finish with that fictional universe". Much like the Merchant Princes series, there are two Laundry universe series in progress—the Bob/secret government agency saga, and the civilians-trying-to-cope under the New Management story. The one ends before the other begins, but unlike the Merchant Princes/Empire Games switch-over, I didn't finish the Laundry Files story before begi ..read more
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