inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #101 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 29 Sep 12 05:10
    
Knew I shouldn't have asked that question:)

I got hooked on reading sci-fi in 1965 when I picked up Stapledon's
Odd John lying on a table in my dorm; had no idea how lucky I was to
have started with him. For almost 20 years reading sci-fi was a secret
passion -- the genre was not considered serious lit. That all seemed to
change with cyberpunk -- when sci-fi became informative of the
emerging culture (not that it hadn't always, but now it was obvious). 
 
Now it's almost sociology -- tech has become such a large part of our
lives as we co-evolve with our machines; the far future seems almost
like the present tense. Do you both see us on 'the cusp' of an
evolutionary change? The possibilities seem endless. Must be a great
time to be writing.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #102 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sat 29 Sep 12 08:32
    
Ted #101, evolution is a drunkard's walk through the phase space of
possible mutations, bounded on one side by a cliff -- go too close to
the edge and you die. It is not directed, it has no goal, and it's not
going anywhere.

It's our privilege as conscious entities to *decide* to go somewhere
and to change our environment and our biology to get there. But that's
nothing to do with evolution, at least not in the classical Darwinian
sense. (The closest it gets is to Dawkins' meme theory, if you consider
that our decision to Do Stuff is down to competing ideological
replicators rather than chemical ones. But meme theory is best treated
with extreme caution ...)

SF ... is in some respects dying. From another angle, it's dissolving
back into the mainstream. You can't write a realistic mainstream novel
set in the present day in which the protagonists don't have smartphones
and access to cyberspace unless it's set among the Alzheimer's cases
in an Old Age home. We live in a world with face transplants, mass
intercontinental travel, 200 channels of TV (which we mostly ignore),
and where AI bots have run day traders out of the stock markets. It's
like an 80's cyberpunk yarn! Yet the stars are as far away as ever, and
our radio telescopes reveal nothing but a vast silence, unpolluted by
alien transmissions. And so, over time, the state of mainstream
literature converges with SF, which SF's original expansionary agenda
crumble on the shore of broken dreams.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #103 of 119: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Sat 29 Sep 12 09:11
    
<99> not ignoring Stapleton: I read him long ago and simply totally
forgot him:  Regarding the other Singularity stuff -- the Pohl-Moravec
essay seemed a perfect kickoff because it represented both the SF and
the science side so that's why I used it in a freshman seminar I taught
at USC called "Avatars, Immortality and Information Theory." The final
assignment was students had to talk about their thoughts on their
151st birthday. And that was lots of fun.

(Another class document was '2001,'which brought in Arthur C. Clarke's
view of extraterrestrial intelligence) 
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #104 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 29 Sep 12 10:24
    
<102> Good points. So much of recent SF has been dystopian -- maybe it
serves as a warning, or is just easier to write. But it doesn't seem
to promote the kind of agenda you are talking about. That's why it's
good to see someone like Neal Stephenson doing something like Solve for
X:
(http://tinyurl.com/7ftny4d). 

I live in Phoenix and ASU has teamed up with him and a bunch of
like-minded thinkers in a collaboration called Emerge:
(http://emerge.asu.edu/). That's at the point of do-ability and
refreshing.

Also why its good to see something like Cory's Makers which promotes
the movement.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #105 of 119: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 30 Sep 12 10:18
    
Stephenson is one example of a prolific fictioneer who also writes
nofiction and consults with Blue Origin, Bezos' space company. Bruce
Sterling has been drawn into the world of design, writing less fiction
and more about design, new aesthetic, augmented reality etc. Are you
doing other stuff that you find as compelling as, or more compelling
than, writing fiction?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #106 of 119: Kevin Marks (jonl) Sun 30 Sep 12 11:25
    
Kevin Marks submitted this, referring to <28> and <30>:

I'm interested that the translation issue is at the root of the
license change, as Paolo Coelho took the exact opposite tack,
encouraging pirate editions of his works (to the point of setting up a
website to share them) to show demand for translations in particular
languages. Are you expecting this to happen anyway, and using the CC
condition to clam the publishers about it?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #107 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Sun 30 Sep 12 13:03
    
Jon #105: In my case, no: I'm 95% a fiction writer and 5% doing other
stuff. This may change -- I think doing other things is an important
aspect of staying relevant and avoiding burn-out -- but right now I've
got more fiction to write than time to write it.

(I expect Cory to give a *very* different answer ...!)
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #108 of 119: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 2 Oct 12 02:28
    
I thought your blog post yesterday was pretty interesting (and took
note of the issue you're having with carpal tunnel syndrome, so brief
responses are okay!)  You wrote about some alternatives in the physical
act of writing - dictation/speech recognition and the
Moleskine/Evernote handwriting recognition scheme
(http://www.moleskineus.com/evernote-smart-notebooks.html). I've always
felt that how we write influences what we write. I recall hearing
novelist Jonathan Carroll
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Carroll) say he writes all of
his works in longhand, and the process of transcribing via word
processor is an important step in the overall process of writing for
him. I've also known authors who verbalize as they write, and others
(like myself) who are oriented to word processing, rewriting as they
write. What's your optimal physical writing process? What's the impact
of something like carpal tunnel constraining you from the physical act
of writing?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #109 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Tue 2 Oct 12 07:56
    
Jon: "What's the impact
of something like carpal tunnel constraining you from the physical act
of writing?"

In one word -- frustration! 

(NB: right now I am trying to type without using my index fingers.
Slow and annoying but better than dictation.)

My last main blog entry was dictated (mostly) and read, as one of the
commenters put it, like a pastiche of Charlie Stross by someone else.
And yes, the writing tool does indeed influence the output. Although I
suspect pen and paper writing will resemble keyboard writing much more
closely than dictation -- although, as a very slow [left-handed]
writer, I'd expect to be more parsimonious with words if writing
longhand.

My normal writing process is to start by reviewing and editing the
previous day's output, then add another day's work to the growing
corpus of text. This ensures that by the time I finish a story it has
already been through at least one edit pass, and it also helps me
maintain continuity between scenes (I've got a very poor memory, as
well as being a slow reader). I'm really a creature of the word
processing era.

(The carpal tunnel thing is currently forcing me to take things easy
for a couple of days and to enforce a maximum word quota per day on how
much work I can do.)
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #110 of 119: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 2 Oct 12 11:32
    
We'll go slowly, then.

Civilians might think an author works in a vacuum, but most writers I
know have social processes - sharing with respected others to get their
input, discussing with formal or informal writing groups, etc. Do you
get a lot of input from others as you're drafting a fiction? 
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #111 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 3 Oct 12 02:49
    
Jon #110: Some writers have a phobia of exposing work in progress to
readers. Other writers need a large focus group of test readers around
them. I fall somewhere in the middle; I use a group of test readers to
spot holes in the work as I proceed, but I don't let them guide the
text. 

(Speech rec: that last sentence came out as "I use a group of test
readers to squat holes in the work as I proceed, but I don't let them
read the text." Gotta love it! It creates more typing than it saves.) 

I am a storyteller; I come up with ideas in company, watch people's
responses to the ideas, modify them, bend, spindle, and mutilate them,
and finally weave them into the narrative.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #112 of 119: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 3 Oct 12 04:49
    
Much science fiction is driven by ideas, more focused on plot and
concept than character. How do you "brew" characters for your fiction?
Do you tend to bend plot to character or vice-versa?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #113 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Wed 3 Oct 12 08:51
    
Jon, if you have to bend the plot to fit the characters, you're not
doing it right. 

My take is that the plot/story/narrative direction should emerge
organically from the interactions between the characters and their
environment (including each other). Of course, in SF part of the job is
to redefine the environment in an interesting way that suggests plot
directions that wouldn't occur in a non-genre work; but, hey,
characters! You can do a lot to influence how the plot will evolve by
chosing your protagonists carefully. You don't pick a shy, retiring
accountant if you want a two-fisted action adventure, and you don't
send a gun-fighter to a magician's duel -- not unless you're looking
for a comedy of errors, or cognitive dissonance, or something like
that. 
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #114 of 119: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 4 Oct 12 12:25
    
We've come to the final day of our discussion, and I have one last
question, the most obvious: what are you working on now, and what are
you excited about? 
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #115 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Fri 5 Oct 12 03:22
    
What am I working on now, and what am I excited about?

W-e-e-e-e-l-l ...

I probably won't surprise you if I confess to getting bored easily. So
I keep multiple long-term projects on the go simultaneously. One of
these is the Laundry series, an odd mixture of humour, horror, spy
thriller, Lovecraftian SF, and ... oh hell. If you haven't met them,
try to imagine the British secret civil service agency for protecting
the realm from the scum of the multiverse. Our protagonist, Bob, comes
out of the slashdot-reading, sandal-wearing geek culture of the late
90s dot-com bubble (British subdivision) and accidentally ended up in
Len Deighton land. Then it gets weird.

I'm currently working on the fifth Laundry novel, "The Rhesus Chart",
for publication in summer 2014. As for what it's about, that would be a
spoiler, but I'll give you the first line for free:

"Don't be silly, Bob," said Mo: "everyone knows vampires don't exist."

As for why this one's due in summer 2014 -- my summer 2013 slot is
already occupied by "Neptune's Brood". Set in the same universe as
2008's Hugo-nominated novel "Saturn's Children", but a whole lot later,
it's a sort-of space opera. At least, it features space bat pirates,
communist squids in space, and atomic powered posthuman/robot mermaids
strip-mining a water world. But it's *actually* an extended parable
about the 2008 banking liquidity crisis and the nature of financial
fraud. (Please go easy on me when you see the cover: my publishers
thought that the financial fraud angle would be a harder sell than
MERMAID BOOBIES!!!1!!ELEVENTY!! so they went with the latter ...)

Finally, looking further ahead, in the next year I'll be juggling two
projects: a creative in residence gig for a new academic
cross-disciplinary research group focussing on copyright and new
business models in the intellectual property area (based in the UK),
and a trilogy I'm not supposed to talk about in public yet.

There's nothing like keeping busy, is there?
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #116 of 119: Jef Poskanzer (jef) Fri 5 Oct 12 10:39
    
Hey, I just saw a note that Cory is reading at Books Inc. in Berkeley
tonight!  7pm, 4th Street near Delaware.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #117 of 119: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 5 Oct 12 11:23
    
Charlie, I wish we could go on and on, especially about your upcoming
in-residence gig... and maybe about communist squids. You're welcome to
stay and continue the conversation, however yesterday was the last
"official" day of the conversation, and the beginning of a new
conversation with Susan Sachs Lipman.

Profound thanks to Charlie and Cory for fitting this conversation into
hyper-busy schedules! Hope we can do this again soon...
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #118 of 119: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Fri 5 Oct 12 12:19
    
Really great guys, thanks so much for graciously sharing some time
with us.
  
inkwell.vue.456 : Cory Doctorow and Charlie Stross - The Rapture of the Nerds
permalink #119 of 119: Charlie Stross (charlie-stross) Fri 5 Oct 12 14:09
    
Thanks for having us!
  



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