Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Fri 14 Nov 03 01:59
Cole: 1: It turns out to be a pun. Originally I took "Aibo" and turned it into "Aineko" - AI Cat - but I'm also told it would translate as "beautiful cat". Serendipitous, no? 2: No, "Jury Service" is not set in the same universe as "Accelerando". (Which, incidentally, is now due out in book form from Ace in July '05.) However, another novel, "Glasshouse", is set several hundred years after the events in "Accelerando". (And if you want more of "Jury Service", Cory and I are working on a sequel, "Appeals Court", which the new ARGOSY magazine should be running next year.) 3: The latter. It seems pretty clear that, in the United States at least, the forces currently in power are extremely reactionary and ultra-conservative. They've got a death grip on the mass media, they're trying to shut down the alternative media, grab control of the electoral system, and institute what looks like an ultra-conservative one party state. This isn't going to be a fun society to grow up in, if they succeed (and they appear to be doing so: even the more liberal of the current crop of Democrat candidates are pretty reactionary, when seen from outside). Obligatory literary reference: "Outlaw School" by Rebecca Ore seems to say it all, far as I'm concerned. Jacob: dunno if this is going to disappoint you or not, but I tend to vote Liberal Democrat in elections. Which makes me a boring middle of the roader in UK political terms, although just where our political map is going is an ... interesting ... question. (New Labour seems to be efficiently stealing the Conservatives clothes, the Conservatives have just elected the Transylvanian prince of darkness as their parliamentary leader in the hope that the voters have forgotten his track record as an ultra-conservative and will mistake him for a centrist, and the Lib Dems seem to be sitting tight while the other parties re-arrange things so that the Lib Dems are presented as the party of the Left. Weird!) Incidentally, if you liked "A Colder War" there's a sort-of-related novel due out around April (hardcover from Golden Gryphon) titled "The Atrocity Archives". More Lovecraftiana, more spies and nukes, more black humour. (If you try to imagine "Declare" by Tim Powers, but running a Neal Stephenson hero through an intelligence agency designed by Len Deighton, rather than playing orthodox Le Carre riffs.)
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 15 Nov 03 02:54
How do you write a story? When we collaborate, we tend to have some tension between your urge to outline and mine to pick our way along as we go -- when you're going it solo, how do you do it? (btw, how's your collaboration with Rudy Rucker coming?) What's your philosophy of prose? You get a lot of eyeball kicks in on a sentence-by-sentence level -- are you consciously doing the Gibson/Rucker/Sterling thing there, or is it something else?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sun 16 Nov 03 11:39
I don't outline much; in fact, my tendency to outline during our collaborations is an anomaly. For me, an outline is a map -- something to refer to so that I know where I've been (what I've already written, scene by scene) and a rough idea of where I might be going. The forward outline can get torn up and re-designed if the actual story goes somewhere else; the backward outline is useful if I've got a story that's diverged from the direction I wanted it to flow in and I'm looking for the scene where it kinked so that I can patch it up. I've written whole novels without an outline -- and others where 10% of the writing work went into designing the outline. It's just a tool, in other words, and you use it on those jobs it's appropriate for. Normally when I write a story I have a bunch of ideas and a general direction to write in. Sometimes it's really specific -- novels often begin with me brain-dumping a load of background into a note file -- and sometimes it's vague. The reason for outlining when working on a collaboration is that collaboration is Different -- because we aren't a group mind. I know of three ways for two authors to collaborate. In one, an author writes a story and their partner then re-drafts it, rewriting some or all of it. In the next, an author writes an outline and the other one expands it, turning it into an entire story -- this may be a subclass of the first technique, but it's more often used in sharecropping, where a junior author takes a novel plan from a big "name" and develops it. The third technique, which *we* use, is to play ping-pong, bouncing a file back and forth and adding a chunk more text at each exchange. This is in some ways more economical of writing effort, and can produce unexpected and better results (both authors get to exercise their imagination maximally), but the drawback for me is that I'm not a mind-reader; if I don't know what you're thinking of for a story, I can end up driving in a completely different direction and defeating your attempts at steering the plot (and vice versa). This is where an outline comes in handy -- not as a rigid prescriptive guide, but just so we both know roughly what the story is meant to achieve. Working without one we end up with a picaresque, cute, jump-around-the-map travelogue with no beginning, middle, or end, and probably no plot. As for theory-of-prose ... I don't think I have one. I go on autopilot. I have an instinctive preference for first-person-present-tense narrative, which some people find odd: to me, it makes it easier to get inside a viewpoint character's head and to deliver a sense of tension. And I don't like to get bored, to have the narrative bog down in pedestrian detail, so I throw in lots of eyeball kicks to keep the reader alert. I suspect if you stripped the eyeball kicks out my writing would feel a bit dull and pedestrian; I'm not exactly the world's greatest literary stylist. (NB: Rudy Rucker and I have discussed the possibility of collaborating, but we're not actually doing so right now -- we're both a bit busy on other projects. Like, oh, this here novella I'm working on with some guy called Doctorow :)
(jacob) Tue 18 Nov 03 12:21
(LibDem is about where I was thinking of "left" actually, and probably what I would vote if I still did, sad to say.) I look forward to the Atrocity Archive then! What sort of non-science-fiction do you read (books, journals, newspapers, blogs)?
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Thu 20 Nov 03 08:56
Sorry about the brief absence -- I've just had to turn around the copy-edits on a novel at short notice. (It's funny how publishers don't seem to factor in a couple of extra weeks for intercontinental postage in their schedules ...) These days I have the attention span of a stimulant-OD'd weasel. I used to be able to read books, but the web -- and broadband access in particular -- has absolutely destroyed my ability to focus for a long period on any one thing. This is not, you understand, a good thing. Despite that, I try to expose myself to a whole bunch of information on a routine basis. I usually start each day by skimming the online edition of The Guardian, and checking some large websites -- slashdot, BoingBoing (big surprise there), The Register (the tech journalist instinct dies hard), and some other usual suspects. I hop onto LiveJournal, where a surprising number of my friends have diaries -- it's a better way of keeping up to date than usenet these days, the latter being overrun by spammers and trolls -- and bounce around various blogs (to which you can find a bunch of links in the blogroll on my own blog, at http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blosxom.cgi). Magazines: New Scientist, usually every week. Scientific American: yes, but it's turned kind of crap in the past couple of years, losing the technical edge of its articles. Whole Earth Review (when it's around). And just about anything that catches my eye via the web. I have a serious book problem, namely, I buy books faster than I can read them. When I was young I used to speed-read, but following a detached retina -- which required emergency surgery -- fifteen years ago, I've been unable to reach my previous speed, so I plough through text at roughly 350wpm, or a page a minute. Combine this with a poor attention span and a tendency towards 500-page novels, and I can spend a week reading one book in my spare time. Not Good. Of late I've been trying in a desultory sort of way to incorporate history books into my diet, but it's so easy to get behind ... I've been reading Simon Schama's "Citizens" for about 18 months now!
kleptocracy in exile (austern) Fri 21 Nov 03 14:09
Ditto with <jacob> on "A Colder War". I was sorry not to see you at the last Eastercon; I'd just happened to have finished reading _Toast_. I liked a lot of the stories in that collection, but it's "A Colder War", with the blend of horror and alternate history and secret history and just plain banality of evil, that really stuck with me. The combination of Lovecraftian horror and precise military jargon was disturbingly plausible. (And yes, of course, I'll be buying _The Atrocity Archives_ as soon as it appears.)
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 22 Nov 03 15:09
I should add: "The Atrocity Archive" (the short novel in the book -- there's also a sequel novella) was originally conceived of as the first volume of a trilogy. Plans change, but volume #2, "The Jennifer Morgue", is already plotted out and ready to roll as soon as a publisher throws money at me, and there may be more than one subsequent volume ... but given my existing schedule, even if a publisher offered me a contract tomorrow, I couldn't write it before late 2004/early 2005 and it wouldn't see print before 2006. The original idea of "The Atrocity Archive" was to take a Neal Stephenson hero and drop him into a secret service out of Len Deighton, with Lovecraftian horrors in the background. "The Jennifer Morgue", if it happens, will be the Ian Fleming remix -- and I've got vague plans for #3, "The Fuller Memorandum" (in the style of Adam Hall) and #4, "The Nightmare Stacks" (in the style of Christopher Hodder-Williams, the brilliant and now mostly forgotten inventor of the British 1950's techno-thriller). All of which is likely to prove hopelessly recherche and hard to explain to an American publisher, who will probably insist on John LeCarre, but what the hell. (As a point of reference for "Atrocity Archive", while I was writing it a friend and critic was yelling at me, "for god's sake, don't read DECLARE by Tim Powers until you finish it!" Luckily I listened to him ... or I'd have read DECLARE, gone "oh shit", and abandoned my own novel. Which, in the end, turns out to be *nothing* like DECLARE, except for the small matter that both novels centre around rogue divisions of SOE that deal with occult nightmares, special ops SAS teams in operations against said nightmares that go horribly wrong, a misfit hero who has trouble with women, and sundry other trivial coincidences. Erk. Except in tone they're *completely* different books, which is weird ...)
turing testy (cascio) Sat 22 Nov 03 15:22
>American publisher, who will probably insist on John LeCarre< Who? Oh, you mean Tom Clancy.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sun 23 Nov 03 02:05
Cascio: we're talking about publishers here, not Hollywood: I think they're maybe smart enough to grasp that a British writer is probably going to be better at writing a pastiche of other British writers, and that they can get better Clancy imitators locally. Publishing, being an industry that for the most part has narrow margins, doesn't seem to attract the kind of rapacious corporate greasy pole climbers who, being narrowly focussed on expanding their personal bottom line, can make working in other media a real pain for people who're in it for the art. Indeed, almost all the editors I know are smart, clueful people who are in the field because they fundamentally believe that literature is a good thing in and of itself. (Working with people like that is one of the rewards of being a freelance fiction writer, as opposed to, say, a technical author working for corporate middle managers.)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 3 Dec 03 11:26
I wasn't sure how long Charlie and Cory wanted to go with this, but realize there's been no posts in a week, and we failed to say THANKS to Charlie for staying on a bit longer, and to Cory for leading the charge! Onward! Of course, if you want to wander back and talk some more, the topic's open and you're always welcome.
Will Entrekin (willentrekin) Wed 3 Dec 03 17:01
I'll second the thanks. Good discussion on all counts. I haven't had anything to add for a week, though, and, unfortunately, don't now, either. But good talking to you, Cory and Charlie. Good luck with your writing and publishing endeavours, too.
Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 10 Dec 03 05:43
I'm back, I'm back! Reason for silence: a five-day shopping trip to London. Where I bumped into none other than Cory (which was odd, because I thought he was in San Francisco :) Oh, and as a side-note, following a meeting with my editor at Orbit, I now have UK hardcover dates: "Singularity Sky" will be out in May next year, with "Iron Sunrise" (due out the same time in the US) following it in February '05.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 12 Dec 03 12:12
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