Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 4 Nov 03 05:24
I think my actualy titlee is "Internet civil liberties underling." BTW, greetings from the WIPO meeting in Geneva, where they Trilateral Commission of broadcasters is dividing up the world while we watch and fume.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 4 Nov 03 05:47
Are you sure they're not the Bavarian Illuminati? Or the Ahnenerbe-SS?
The Hot Pursuit of Happiness (alexsteffen) Tue 4 Nov 03 07:55
Hey Charlie. Good points and lots to chew on. Great observations about omissions, about Schismatrix and nanotech. You know, a question I have goes something like this: Bruce Sterling once said that writers having a "native decade" - a decade which they really get, where they live with native fluency, but from which they are unable to escape. Ever since he said that I've been trying to stretch my native decade, which started at the fall of the Wall, the Exxon Valdez and the near-simultaneous (for me) discovery of the Internet. Yes, I'm an old fart, and my native decade is set to expire at any minute. Where would you put your native decade? What do you think it allows you to see that perhaps slightly older writers aren't as interested in? What do you do to stay abreast of the new? Is it possible that native decades are getting shorter as things speed up? And given that it often takes writers at least until their 30s to write anything really good - mature and nuanced and done with mastery of craft - could one of the problems near-future SF is having be that there are few people writing natively in this new decade, but much has already changed since the last one? (Did that make sense? Too early to be typing in public...) Anyways, Bravo on Singularity Sky. Looking forward to the next. OH, PS: regarding the whole access to tools thing, while I love Whole Earth and all its works, the idea really goes back to the Enlightenment and Diderot's Encyclopedie, which had the explicit goal of spreading working knowledge of all the arts, crafts, and industries to all mankind.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 4 Nov 03 09:00
Native decade? It's a good idea. I'm not certain, but I think mine probably began in mid-1986, when I spent a whole night sitting in front of a university mainframe terminal playing MUD (yes, the *first* MUD, over JANET, the UK Joint Academic Network) until the sun rose over the back of the computer and I realised I was interacting with people hundreds of miles away. And I can't help thinking that it actually ended on 9/11, when the scriptwriters who plot the soap opera we call history handed over to a new team consisting of the ghosts of Philip K. Dick, George Orwell, and Franz Kafka. (I *don't like* this 21st century, and I would be very grateful if whoever stole the real one would give it back. OK?) Oh yeah. As a random aside: while I'm being interviewed here, my alter-ego has handed over my weblog (at http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blosxom.cgi) to the Evil Overlord (Planetary). You may find the EOP's opinions contrast interestingly with my own ...
Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 4 Nov 03 23:24
What the fuck is in the water in Scotland, anyway? Between you and Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod, there's a regular literary revolution underway in the highlands. You're a transplant to Scotland (albeit a proud one -- tell us about Feorag and her brewery, please; and don't leave out your membership in the whisky-tasting club -- also, exactly how many of your friends have been on the receiving end of a plush nessie with tartan feet with a be-tam-ed scotsman sat astride her?) and you complain about London like a proper Edinburrouvian. What makes Edinburgh the place for you?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 5 Nov 03 02:52
Edinburgh is basically a pocket-sized capital city. Population of about six hundred thousand, but it's got a parliament, airport, two major railway stations, several major theatres, a couple of specialist art cinemas along with the usual horde of multiplexes, and so on. It's the location of the biggest performing arts festival in Europe, if not the world, every August. It's at one end of Silicon Glen, so there's a lot of high-tech startups round about town. What it *doesn't* have so much of is endless miles of boring tract suburbs, and although it *does* have some infamously sleazy and dangerous housing projects, as depicted in "Trainspotting", they're on the edge of town rather than in the centre. Which means you can live in an apartment right in the centre of a capital city which is small enough to get around by walking and where there's a load of stuff happening. I came up to Edinburgh in '95 to join an early web startup, and I sort of stayed because it's civilized. Can't say too much about Feorag and the microbrewery because, er, it went out of business earlier this year (due to the untimely death of one of the directors), but you can still get a decent pint in many pubs and unlike England they don't have to close at 11pm. But I'm a transplant. Ken and Iain are natives -- they live just up the coast from Edinburgh, in South and North Queensferry respectively. (In a US city, they'd be in the suburbs; in Scotland that's way the hell out of town, in fact, in another town.) Now, there *is* something in the water in Scotland. A lot of outsiders underestimate the extent to which Scotland is another country from England, because for nearly three centuries they were ruled from the same parliament in London -- but the cultural difference is at least as pronounced as that between, say, California and the Carolinas, or Texas and Massachusetts. The political difference is even greater. Scotland was the great seething seed-bed of the reformation in the British Isles if you go back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and was run as a theocracy for a couple of hundred years ... which is perhaps why it is considerably less religiously-inclined than England (which in turn is a hotbed of atheism compared to just about anywhere in the States), and also has a strong literary tradition: the Kirk was extremely keen on teaching the masses to read (so they could read the Bible, of course). The political culture also differs from that of England, although you can blame Margaret Thatcher for that: she specifically pursued policies that alienated the whole of Scotland, leaving the Left to pick up the nationalist vote. (Which is not where you'd normally expect it to go.) Oh yeah: the plush Nessies are just the local equivalent of maple syrup and plush mounties in Toronto, or cuddly lobsters in Boston.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 5 Nov 03 02:54
Parenthetical aside: over here, it's Wednesday. Tomorrow, Thursday, is the last day I'll be available for questions for a while because I'm flying down to Birmingham (UK, not AL) on Friday morning at zero dark o'clock for an SF con. I'll be back Monday night (my time), meaning I'll be able to start posting again in the middle of Monday night (WELL time). I'm not taking a laptop and I don't fancy trying to read and post on the WELL from a palm pilot ...
E M Richards (booter) Wed 5 Nov 03 10:41
I'm bereft that Feorag's brewery's gone under. Shows me for not staying in touch. As for the Nessies, I've always preferred the ceramic ones that look like they are surfacing from the desktop. I wonder where I can get a plush Mountie. Oh never mind.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 5 Nov 03 16:15
Hm, if Steffen's an old fart, then I'm grisly with age... and sorry to be late to the party, and late starting the book, which I'm thoroughly enjoying! I hear the pubs in England, when they close, just lock everybody in and they drink all night. That true of Scotland? As for the 4 day lapse of the interview, there's no reason you 'n Cory have to stop when the next discussion starts, so you can just make up the lost time. Or you could do the Neil Gaiman thing, and move in here permanently with a jammin' flock o' fans. (Meanwhile, I'm off to finish SS!)
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 6 Nov 03 03:10
Lock-ins are highly variable. Basically, there's a legal loophole that allows private parties to keep on drinking. But it depends on the publican being willing to risk losing their licence -- tends to happen more often in pubs that are drinking dens for the local police, if you follow me. Licencing hours in the UK in general are still in the process of getting over the first world war, when they were introduced to stop munitions workers getting drunk at lunch-time. The result of restricting drinking hours is that people don't drink less -- they drink faster, with predictable results. (You don't win any prizes for guessing what my position is on the war on drugs, either ...)
Will Entrekin (willentrekin) Thu 6 Nov 03 09:45
Very much enjoyed *Singularity Sky* although I didn't find the writing style as complicated as has been implied here. Mainly, I just thought it was good. I thought the setting was very believable and the characters plausible. Upon reading it, I was very interested in what you had planned for the fantasy books; I tend to think, unfortunately, of fantasy and science fiction as somewhat cliche-ridden genres. To find an author who could make a book like *Singularity Sky* feel new and cram it full of interesting ideas was terrific, and I wondered what you might do in the fantasy genre. After reading your post, I'm looking forward to the TOR stuff even more.
Life in the big (doctorow) Thu 6 Nov 03 14:23
Cole sez, "Earlier in this interview, you [CS} spoke of "the conservativism that seems to be in store for generation Y." Did you mean that generation Y is likely to embrace conservativism (if so, what version and why)? Or did you mean that, as young adults, gen Y will live in a world shaped to a considerable degree by the policies of today's conservatives? "
Andrew Scott Beals (bandy) Thu 6 Nov 03 17:22
You get plush Mounties in Canada of course! It's the not-so-completely-foreign-that-they-speak-another-language country that's right on top of us. "Go North Young Woman!" Whoa, Charlie, talk about another country heard from. Must achieve book!
William H. Dailey (whdailey) Thu 6 Nov 03 21:17
I believe you said you don't use Microsoft. How about Tao-Group products from England or QNX from Canada. What Editor do you favor? I like to use VEDIT on QNX4.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 11 Nov 03 01:59
Just back from Novacon, in Birmingham. (Believe me, the WELL doesn't seem to be too accessible on a Treo 600 :) Catching up: Will Entrekin -- on the subject of fantasy, the first and most important thing to note is that fantasy is a publishing category as well as a genre. Publishers can put whatever they like on the spine of a book and frequently do, for a variety of reasons connected with (bluntly) what they perceive as being the best way to maximize the book's revenue-generating potential. "A Family Trade" and its sequels are closest -- in terms of ideas -- to H. Beam Piper's Paratime stories, including the novel "Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen". Piper was one of those science-fictional prodigies who vanished from the landscape before they demonstrated their full potential, in his case tragically; it's a sign of the quality of his work that a series of stories and a single short novel from the 1950's and very early 1960's are still in print today, having outlived about 95% of their contemporaries. Piper's paratime stories were set in a multiverse of coexisting parallel universes, through which his characters who worked for an, er, paratime patrol, moved at will. They were products of the first civilization to have developed paratime travel, and they exploited other time lines for their own benefit. (They were also triumphant colonialists to the n'th degree, and indeed his heroes were the kind of people I'd pick if I wanted some off-the-shelf bad guys.) Piper was sold as SF; forty years later, with a not entirely dissimilar premise, I'm getting marketed as fantasy. Go figure -- maybe it's the quasi-mediaeval castles in the background, or something. Certainly I'm *not* writing Extruded Fantasy Product of the "humans, elves, and dwarves go out to play" variety that has become so tiresomely popular in the wake of the great Tolkein boom. (Now, I'm just back from a con, more or less awake, but I haven't managed to ingest enough caffeine this morning to respond coherently to the next question ...)
Will Entrekin (willentrekin) Tue 11 Nov 03 05:26
>Piper was sold as SF; forty years later, with a not entirely >dissimilar premise, I'm getting marketed as fantasy. Go figure -- Very good point, and, yes, another good point about fantasy being a publishing category as well as a genre. Perhaps it's because I'm not yet published, I still have a difficult time with the difference between what one writes and what one sells as (if that makes sense). Jonathan Carroll, for example, I think a fine writer; it's always a crap shoot if I try to look for one of his novels in the book store. >Certainly I'm *not* writing Extruded Fantasy Product of the "humans, >elves, and dwarves go out to play" variety that has become so >tiresomely popular in the wake of the great Tolkein boom. You hit the nail on the head; that's exactly the kind of cliched I mean. Regardless, can't wait for *Family Trade*, especially after *Singularity Sky*. And how was the Con?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 11 Nov 03 14:43
William H. Dailey: I edit files using Vim, on whatever platform comes to hand -- typically OS/X or Linux (SuSE for preference). I'm an old UNIX-head ... I used to work for a company called the Santa Cruz Operation, back before they sold the name to a bunch of sharks in suits. Oh, and as I'm an old Perl-head, I use POD as a document markup language and a bunch of filters glommed together with a makefile. And RCS for version control (you don't need anything more sophisticated for a novel). But to my shame I have to import the results into Word for a final reformat-and-save-as-Micro$oft-files step before sending them to publishers -- they all seem to insist on Word files as the input stage for their typesetters. Will Entrekin: you may want to read China Mieville's rant on Tolkein. It's at: http://www.panmacmillan.com/features/china/debate.htm The con was great, but my memories are somewhat fuzzy -- the quantity of alcohol that flows at a regional British SF con would likely induce disbelief in most American fans. It's a big cultural difference between US and UK fandom: the two poles around which a Novacon revolves are the program (one stream) and the bar (one decent real ale). There's no fan room as such -- the bar doubles as one, kids are allowed in, food is served, etcetera. It's astonishing how much alcohol fans can get through during a weekend when they set their minds to it and the bar stays open as long as there are customers standing! I'm on the wagon for the rest of the week, having exceeded my normal monthly alcohol consumption in the space of about 72 hours without either getting drunk or succumbing to a hangover. (Hint: drunkenness ensues when people drink too fast to eliminate the alcohol. The laid-back environment of an SF con contributes to a kind of friendly mild inebriation rather than outright drunkenness. And panels are much livelier when all the panelists have had a beer or two and are looking forward to getting down to some serious drinking in the bar afterwards. And Dead Dog parties go further when they're run on a "contribute five pounds of three bottles of exotic beer" basis. I'm not sure just why US cons have such a down on alcohol -- it's one of the main fannish food groups, after all. But that's by the by ...)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 12 Nov 03 06:26
Heh... sounds like a kind of IV drip!
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 12 Nov 03 12:32
I wouldn't go that far. But a friendly bar full of fans with a hand pump dispensing Black Sheep Bitter in good shape (not pasteurized, gassified, or otherwise tampered with) at ordinary pub price (about 2.15 a pint -- pounds, not dollars, and imperial pints, not your wimpy colonial short measures :) makes for a fun atmosphere. (Caveats: it helps that the UK the drinking age is 18 or 14 with food, you aren't asked for ID unless you appear to be under age, and the place isn't under seige by 21 year olds going wild because it's their first ever drop of alcohol.) In general, getting uptight over people drinking e-v-i-l alcoholic beverages only seems to make the problems worse, while removing much of the fun ... (Y'all going to think I'm some kind of alcoholic now, aren't you?)
turing testy (cascio) Wed 12 Nov 03 14:15
We think you're our kind of alcoholic, Charlie.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 12 Nov 03 16:20
Yeah, the BEST kind. Back to thinking space opera, though, I've always wondered about alcohol in space vs the difficulty of using zero-grav toilets...
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 13 Nov 03 06:59
Hmm. I gather that Mir used to have a bottle of brandy for celebrating major triumphs, but in general alcohol and current-day space tech don't mix (except as fuel) ... I keep thinking, every so often, about a non-fiction book I'd like to pitch around (or maybe an article in BIZARRE magazine, come to think of it): "TO BOLDLY BLOW: a history of human bodily fluids in orbit". Everything from the Mercury astronaut who made a sub-orbital flight lying in a suit full of cold urine after a 3-hour launch pad hold, to the effects of space-sickness, the way the Mir waste recycling system works (way more efficiently than the Shuttle or ISS), and Gemini 7 (two adult men sitting in a capsule the size of a SMART car for twelve days, shitting into polythene bags and stashing them under their seats). The thought of adding alcohol to the mess is just too much to bear!
Life in the big (doctorow) Thu 13 Nov 03 12:43
Cole writes: 1. What is the literal English translation of the name "Aineko" (the moniker of the artificial cat in the Accelerando stories)? 2. Does the story "Jury Service" take place in the Accelerando universe? 3. Earlier in this interview, you [CS} spoke of "the conservativism that seems to be in store for generation Y." Did you mean that generation Y is likely to embrace conservativism (if so, which version and why)? Or did you mean that, as young adults, gen Y will live in a world shaped to a considerable degree by the policies of today's conservatives?
E M Richards (booter) Thu 13 Nov 03 13:48
I think the booze thing is cultural. I've noticed the British and Irish drink a lot more than the Yanks. The Re-Search series of books each cover some oddball topic, and would be a good group to approach regarding Pee in Space.
(jacob) Thu 13 Nov 03 16:33
Was Mir more efficient because the Russians are less squeamish? I enjoyed Singularity Sky a lot, but I really, really loved "A Colder War". More than anything I read in the last few years at the very least. Growing up in the UK in the 80s I at least always felt the shadow of the insane US/Russian military confrontation hanging over us. I always felt that nuclear weapons were like something from another planet -- orders of magnitude more destructive than anything prior, a product of weird science, like something designed for interplanetary war rather than useful on our national scale. So the literal militarization of the Lovecraft monsters fit perfectly. In everyday (rather than scientific) terms it's no stranger to me to have a Lovecraft servitor as a weapon than having a single warhead of a few hundred pounds that can destroy an entire city. Hmm, do I have an actual question here. Not on that subject, I think. I am curious about your politics though, politics obviously being an important part of Singularity Sky. Left, very left, crazed commie left?
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