So we're into the Conservative Party leadership run-off campaign, and the two candidates are throwing policies at the base that, to outsider ears, sound increasingly bizarre. But there's a lot we can learn from them about how the Conservative elite perceive the state of the UK today, and some of it (who am I kidding? Most of it!) is disturbing.

In the latest move, potential Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (the richest MP in parliament, a former Goldman Sachs employee and hedge-fund manager who married a billionaire) has vowed to phase out university degrees that do not improve students' "earning potential":

... Yeah, I know what you're thinking: "train the serfs for work, actual education is for the wealthy elite". But there's a lot more to it than that.

(Disclaimer: I am a transhumanist skeptic these days, not to mention a singularity curmudgeon and a critic of Mars colonization, but I still find these ideas nice to chew on sometimes.)

Humans are social animals, and it seems reasonable to assume that any transhuman condition we can wrap our minds around will also be a social one for most of its participants.

Society implies a social contract, that is: we grant one another rights and in return make the concession of respecting each others' rights, in order that our own rights be observed and respected.

And violations of rights tend to be at the root of our concept of crime and injustice—at least, any modern concept of crime once we discard religious justifications and start trying to figure things out from first principles.

Which leads me to ask: in a transhumanist society—go read Accelerando, or Glasshouse, or The Rapture of the Nerds—what currently recognized crimes need to be re-evaluated because their social impact has changed? And what strange new crimes might universally be recognized by a society with, for example, mind uploading, strong AI, or near-immortality?

It's been a long time—a couple of years—since I last posted a blog entry describing a book I will not write, because mostly I either wrote them or I just stopped having so many wasteful ideas.

But I had a mild case of COVID19 in late May ("mild" belongs in scare quotes; it kicked my ass worse than influenza, and the lingering gastric effects are horrible, but I didn't need antivirals or hospital treatment, so yay vaccines?), and I downed tools and haven't gotten back to work yet, which is annoying to me but continuing an existing project while cognitively impaired is a really bad idea. (You generally end up spending twice as long untangling the mess you created as you spent making it in the first place.) I expect to get back to work later this week: but in the mean time, my Muse made an unexpected and unwanted house call, screamed at me for a while, and left me with an incoherent pile of notes.

Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and a bunch of other nations who for various reasons didn't become republics after decolonization.

I have nothing against Liz personally—she's performed the monarch's duties diligently for 70 years—but she's 95 and probably doesn't have many more years to run in office.

I submit that when she dies, it will be past time to end the monarchy and held a constitutional convention for the UK to decide what sort of place it wants to be in future.

(In other news, I finally send off the novel manuscript I've been working on for the past 18 months. Taking a couple of days off before getting back to work on a novella I started in 2014 ...)

(Disclaimer: money is a proxy for control or power. I'm focussing on money rather than political leverage only because it's quantifiable.)

To you and me, a billion dollars sounds like a lot of money. It's on the order of what I (at peak earning capacity) would earn in 10,000 years. Give me just $10M and I could comfortably retire and live off interest and some judicious siphoning of capital for the rest of my life.

So are there any valid reasons to put up with billionaires?

Supreme court voted to overturn Roe v Wade abortion law, leaked draft opinion reportedly shows.

Here is the leaked draft opinion by Justice Alito. (Format: PDF.)

I am not a lawyer.

The opinion apparently overturns Roe v. Wade by junking the implied constitutional right to privacy that it created. However, a bunch of other US legal precedents rely on the right to privacy. Notably:

  • Lawrence v. Texas (2003) determined that it's unconstitutional to punish people for committing "Sodomy" (any sex act other than missionary-position penis-in-vagina between a married man and woman)

  • Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) protects the ability of married couples to buy contraceptives without government interference

  • Loving v. Virginia (1968): right to privacy was used to overturn laws banning interracial marriage

  • Stanley v. Georgia (1969): right to privacy protects personal possession of pornography

  • Obergefell v. Hodges (2015): right to privacy and equal protection clause were used to argue for legality of same sex marriage

  • Meyer v. Nebraska (1923): ruling allows families to decide for themselves if they want their children to learn a language other than English (overturning the right to privacy could open the door for racist states to outlaw parents teaching their children their natal language)

  • Skinner v. Oklahoma (1942): this ruling found it unconstitutional to forcibly sterilize people (it violated the Equal Protection clause)

I am going to note that the US congressional mid-term elections take place in about six months' time.

Wider point: if Alito's leaked ruling represents current USSC opinion, then it appears that the USSC is intent on turning back the clock all the way to the 19th century.

Another point: it is unwise to underestimate the degree to which extreme white supremacism in the USA is enmeshed with a panic about "white" people being "out-bred" by other races: this also meshes in with extreme authoritarian patriarchal values, the weird folk religion that names itself "Christianity" and takes pride in its guns and hatred of others, homophobia, transphobia, an unhealthy obsession with eugenics (and a low-key desire to eliminate the disabled which plays into COVID19 denialism, anti-vaxx, and anti-mask sentiment), misogyny, incel culture, QAnon, classic anti-semitic Blood Libel, and Christian Dominionism (which latter holds that the USA is a Christian nation—and by Christian they mean that aforementioned weird folk religion derived from protestantism I mentioned earlier—and their religious beliefs must be enshrined in law).

Okay, so, it's open season in the comments here. (Meanwhile discussion of RvW on other blog post comment threads is officially forbidden.)

PS: There are no indications they're going to use this ruling as an opening shot for bringing back slavery. Why would they? Slavery never went away. (The 13th Amendment has a gigantic loophole permitting enslavement as punishment, and the prison-industrial sector in the USA clearly enforces chattel slavery—only under government/corporate management rather than as personal property.)

Just a quick note: I am not blogging right now—at least until the end of April, most likely until this point in mind-May—because I am 2/3 of the way through the final draft of Season of Skulls, book 3 of the New Management: it's due in at the end of the month, or in any case some time in May, for publication in May 2023. (It already exists as a book, this is a final polishing pass with some additional scenes adding into it to make the continuity work better.)

After SoS is baked I also have to finish a half-written novella, A Conventional Boy, about Derek the DM; it got steamrollered by two novels going through production in the past year. I can't multitask on writing projects, so the lower-priority job (a novella) got shelved temporarily.

Normal service will be resumed by June at the latest; in the meantime, if you think the last thread on the Ukraine war is getting too cumbersome, feel free to colonize the comments on this one.

Empire Games cover

The Merchant Princes series is on the shortlist for the Hugo Award for best series, winner to be announced at Chicon 8, the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, this September 1st-5th.

I'd like to congratulate all the nominees, in all the various categories: the full list is here.

For the first three omnibus books in the Merchant Princes series, you can do worse than start here; for the Empire Games trilogy—originally pitched as Merchant Princes: The Next Generation—you can find it here.

(Links go to Amazon ebook format, US store: you can find 'em elsewhere, in the UK and EU as well. I'm going to talk to the folks at Tor about providing series purchase links and links to other stores presently.)

For reasons which should be obvious, I'm going to do my best to get to Chicago this September. Usual caveats apply: it's an 8-9 hour flight from Edinburgh (although there are ofteen direct flights, so no extra airports to traverse in the middle), there's a pandemic on, and who the hell knows what hopeful mutants will emerge in the next five or six months. Getting to attend my first in-person worldcon since 2019 would be good, but Not Dying is my absolute priority.

Today is April 2nd. There's a good reason I skipped blogging on April 1st: the actual news right now is both sufficiently ghastly and surreal that any attempt at satire either falls flat or runs victim to Poe's Law.

(I did hatch a relatively harmless idea for a non-depressing April Fool's jape—an announcement that I'd decided my fiction was too depressing, so I was going to pivot to writing Squeecore (albeit with Lovecraftian features), but then I described it to a friend and he pointed out that Dead Lies Dreaming was already Squeecore with Lovecraftian features, so the joke's on me.)

I have real difficulty writing fiction during periods when the Wrong Sort of History is Happening. The Ukraine invasion completely threw me off my stride, so the novella I was attempting to write the second half of is still unfinished and I'm behind schedule on the final draft of Season of Skulls.

But when life hands you lemons you might as well make lemonade, so here's what I learned from my most recent month of doomscrolling.

Sorry about the outage: I just spent the past two weeks being a tourist and visiting friends in Germany—my first journey more than 50km from home since January 2020. It was fun, good beer was drunk, old friends were visited, many FFP2 masks were worn, and I'm now testing daily because of course BA.2 arrived while I was traveling. (LFTs are all negative so far ...)

Shipping delays mean that Transreal Fiction didn't get copies of Escape from Yokai Land before I departed, so if you've been wondering where your order got to, I'm going to try and get up there tomorrow to sign them (assuming Ingrams, the wholesaler, have delivered them the day after I went on vacation).

As it's not going paperback (ever) there's no point holding off on spoilers/questions about Escape, so if you want to ask me anything about it, feel free to do so in the comments below.

Please do not colonise the comments with (a) the permanent floating cars v. bicycles discussion, (b) the permanent floating climate change discussion, or (c) the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I'll start a new topic for those things later.

(Charlie here. I received this open letter from my Ukrainian translator, who I can vouch for. I am republishing it here, in full and unaltered, with permission. I have not fact-checked the contents but have no reason to doubt them. Comments on this blog entry are disabled for reasons that I think should be obvious.)

On Thursday, February 24th the Russian Federation declared war on Ukraine and attacked our country. As we write this letter, the army of the aggressor nation kills our children, bombs cities and civilians, and has already turned more than 835,000 Ukrainians into refugees. In an attempt to further occupy our lands, Russia at the same time uses aggressive propaganda to justify its war crimes. Russian citizens are consistently being lied to about what is really happening in Ukraine.

We believe that not all Russian citizens are fans of Putin's regime and not all of them justify this war. We know that plenty of Russians feel scared to use their voices and speak up against Putin's regime. Many believe it is none of their business. Yet, there are also many who believe in the righteousness of Putin and his propaganda.

So, we plead with you -- writers and visual content creators that have big audiences of readers and followers in Russia. To them, your opinion and your words matter. Your stand on the war in Ukraine matters. Please, stand by us as we fight for our values, our democracy, and our freedom. For the simple right to be Ukrainians and live in Ukraine. Your powerful voices can influence these Russian readers and followers. To encourage them to be brave, connect with their values, and take a stand on ending this ruthless war.

Please, take to your platforms and address your Russian and Ukrainian audiences. The first ones need your encouragement to believe in the power of their voices against Putin's regime. The second ones are in desperate need of support and kindness.

We encourage the international community of fans of science fiction&fantasy, writers, artists, editors to boycott the Russian book market until the war in Ukraine ends and the country is free from Russian occupation. Until Putin's regime is condemned as criminal and Putin and his closest allies are punished. As Ukrainians, we are working on this to happen day and night but there are bureaucratic procedures that make the process so much slower in critical times where every second counts and can save Ukrainian lives.

Russia invades Ukraine; need I say any more?

Well, yes: Vladimir Putin is 69 and rumours last year suggested he'd been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He's been the Russian Federation's Prime Minister or President for 23 years, and high office combined with executive power tends to drive office-holders completely out of touch with external reality in about a decade.

I'm also going to note that Putin's politics seems to echo a bunch of ethnonationalist tropes from Aleksandr Dugin, a deeply dangerous ideologue who drank the Kool Aid Julius Evola was passing around. (Esoteric fascist neoreactionary philosopher.)

Hates the LGBTQ+, UK news outlet Pink News reports Russia plotting to kill LGBT+ Ukrainians after invasion (according to an unnamed US source, so treat with caution—might be disinformation).

Oh, and both the Russian stock market and BitCoin both fell off a cliff (BtC is down nearly 10% in the past 24 hours). Some "store of value", huh? (Gold is heading for the stratosphere, as usual in time of war ...)

Anyway, over to you for discussion, with one ground rule: do not report on current Ukrainian troop or defensive positions or anything else that might get people killed, otherwise you will get an immediate red card (permaban).

Escape from Yokai Land cover

Escape from Yokai Land comes out on March 1st, just two weeks from now. It's a novella, not a novel—under 100 pages—and it's a US-only release, from (although you can order copies for import into the UK). As usual, Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh will be happy to sell you signed hardcovers by mail (or even in person, if you happen to be visiting Edinburgh); allow a week or so after publication date for the import copies to show up and for me to get there and sign them.

So what's it about?

Observant Laundry Files fans will have noticed the total absence of Bob Howard from the events described in The Nightmare Stacks (which is why he re-appeared in The Delirium Brief, sweating bullets and fronting for the organization on the TV news shows). What was he doing in the meantime? Well, it appears he was busy with an overseas liaison job in Japan, and this is that story ...

In the internal chronology, this therefore takes place between Laundry Files books 6 and 7, The Annihilation Score and The Nightmare Stacks, and a long time before the New Management books (which start with Dead Lies Dreaming, 2-3 years later in wall clock time).

As for whether there's going to be a UK edition: the short answer is, not yet. The slightly longer version is, I'm working towards a Laundry Files short story collection, which will have a UK edition, and this will almost inevitably be part of it.

In other writing news: I'm currently working on Season of Skulls, the third New Management book, which is provisionally due out in both the US and UK markets (from and Orbit, as usual) in May 2023. And I'm working on A Conventional Boy, another stand-alone Laundry Files novella (this time, about Derek the DM), which will hopefully show up in the aforementioned Laundry Files short story collection (but not before Season of Skulls).

PS: Yes, Escape from Yokai Land was previously titled Escape from Puroland. Trademark concerns prompted a change of title, and the change of title forced a 6 month delay (it takes time to re-schedule and print paper hardcovers with a new title). If you've seen reviews of Escape from Puroland, this is the same novella.

PPS: Puroland is real, Yokai Land is (hopefully) not.

Quantum of Nightmares: UK cover

In the before times, a mass market paperback edition usually followed the initial hardcover release of one of my books exactly 12 months later.

But we're not living in the before times any more! The UK paperback of "Quantum of Nightmares" is due in November, but there isn't going to be a US paperback (although the ebook list price will almost certainly drop to reflect a paperback-equivalent price).

So ... I'm open for questions about Quantum of Nightmares in the comment thread below. Ask me anything! Just ignore this thread if you haven't read the book yet and mean to do so in the near future, because there will be spoilers.

Because the novella publication date slipped into 2022, I have just one Hugo-eligible publication this year.

Obviously Invisible Sun is a no-hoper in the best novel category—it's book nine of a series in a deeply unfashionable subgenre—but it's also the last Merchant Princes book, which means the Merchant Princes series is eligible for nomination in the "best series" category.

(It's also eligible for the Sidewise Award for alternate history, but it already won that once, back in 2007.)

Anyway: if you enjoyed the Merchant Princes series this is the last opportunity to recognize it with an award.

So: what, if anything, have you published in 2021?




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