The reason there was no new blog entry earlier this week is the same reason I've been unable to write (or edit) all week: my brain tends to freeze when the wrong kind of history is happening.

And it is now very clear that the wrong kind of history is happening in the UK. Seriously, I had no idea it was possible to crash a G7 economy in less than a week! But it looks like only a Bank of England intervention in the gilts market averted a run—followed by the collapse of the nation's largest pension funds. 40% of mortgage products have been withdrawn by banks and lending institutions, the housing market is expected to fall 10% in the next six months, Sterling is heading below US dollar parity for the first time ever, the BoE is inevitably going to have to raise the base rate (crashing the finances of a huge proportion of the mortgage-holding public) ... it beggars belief.

Truss and Kwarteng appear to be taking policy advice solely from the Institute for Economic Affairs, a hardcore libertarian pressure group with famously opaque finances operating out of 55 Tufton Street—and if you don't know what that is, I strongly suggest you read that wikipedia article and follow the links to the articles about their other pressure groups like the Taxpayers' Alliance, Leave Means Leave, and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, it's a real eye-opener (complete with footnotes). For added fun the cabinet appear to have numerous connections to dominionist Christian churches, as we've seen lately in Australia (see also: Hillsong Church) and The Fellowship (in the USA).

Fuck Around and Find Out time: as of Monday, Labour were polling 17 points ahead of the Conservative (per YouGov). That was bad enough, but by Thursday 29th, a new poll gave Labour a stunning 33 point lead in the polls as Conservative voter support imploded. It seems that tanking the currency, the pension system, the housing market, and the national debt in just one week is slightly unpopular. Who could possibly have seen that coming?

Anyway ... what next?

(Extracted from my twitter stream over the past week)

My brain is going offline until next Tuesday to show respect during the Necroqueen's procession into the Western Lands.

After a short mummification there will be an economic (but not metabolic) recovery.

Meanwhile, I had a dream, and it went someething like this ...

* * *

Day 6 of Necroqueen mourning: the subjects are becoming restive, shuffling and whispering, expressing their disquiet about the teind of children who must be ceremonially strangled in order to power her passage into the afterlife (it has inflationary macroeconomic effects)

(Note that whenever a Royal dies, they sacrifice the servants. Also a sufficiently of widows, orphans, and cancer patients to power their ascent to lichdom, where they take their final undead form and join the unholy choir that endlessly praises Her Dread Majesty, the Necroqueen.)

Day 7 of Necroqueen mourning: the Channel Tunnel opens to accommodate the Queue. Mourners stretching halfway to Calais, weeping and throwing their children under the relentless steel wheels of the Eurostar juggernaut.

Day 8 of Necroqueen mourning: let us remember Her together!

The hymn for today is the dirge-like refrain of "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at":

🪱 👑🪱 👑🪱 👑🪱

The worms go in,

The worms come out:

They go in thin,

They come out stout!

🪱 👑🪱 👑🪱 👑🪱

Newsflash: we interrupt these necrotweets to inform you that the previous social media coordinator has been terminated.

Day 9 of the Necroqueen's progression to the Duat and the operation to tag the sacrifices is proceeding satisfactorily. Volunteers have joined an orderly line, although there are a handful of disruptive elements. Their souls will be consumed last.

screencap of eBay auction for WTF?!?

Day Ten of Necroqueen mourning: a convoy of ambulances will convey the heart of the Deceased to the Royal Brompton Hospital, where it must be weighed against the feather of Ma'at prior to implantation in the thoracic cavity of the Heir. Thus is the Monarchy transferred!

(On the length of the queue: I think it's something to do with the announcement that the 50 least enthusiastic mourners will be mewed up in the Royal Catacombs with her Maj, so the Necroqueen can paralyse and lay her eggs in them?)

WE FINALLY HAVE ENOUGH SACRIFICES THE CRYPT DOORS ARE CLOSING IÄ IÄ REGINA ELIZABETH PTHAGHN THE UNDYING EMPRESS ACHIEVES HER FINAL FORM TOMORROW PRAY TO BE EATEN LAST IÄ IÄ REGINA PTHAGHN

screencap of DCMS announcing they have enough sacrifices

DAY 10,304,871 OF NECROQUEEN FUNERARY RITES

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. The 10 millionth child tribute from the Venusian dominions has been delivered to the altar at Balmoral

  2. 28th Millennial Pyramid and Tzompantli opens tomorrow: Pr'm'r L'g'e warriors compete to be first sacrifice

  3. The Royal Brood Chamber is now 8.2 kilometres long! The egg casings of Her unholy spawn would fill 11 supertankers (archaic measure of fluid volume).

  4. The Martian rebel scum attacking our patriotic Lunar colony have been defeated. Mass execution of survivors to come!

  5. The planet GJ 1214b has been zoned for terraforming! Glory to Her Undying Majesty! It shall be renamed Prince Andrew and a budget for relocating the indigenous population by means of peaceful relativistic impactors has been allocated to the Imperial Expansion Committee.

A million more days of celebratory funeral rites have been unanimously approved by Privy Council! A million more days for Her Undying Majesty, the Dark Sun whose Necrotic Radiance never dims! The black hole who outshines Diana, the star of England! Glory! Glory! Iä! Iä!

* * *

PS: this entire thread was a thought experiment about the sort of thinking Sir Lindsay Hoyle's extraordinary news interview the other day embodied, when he said: "we should not let anything overshadow the most important event the world will ever see and that is the funeral of her majesty." What would it take for him to be right?

(Original video of Hoyle's statement in case you don't believe it's real.)

NEWS FLASH: She's Dead.

Details via The Guardian.

Operation Unicorn is in effect (contingency plans for the monarch dying in Scotland). Charles is now King: coronation will follow within the next year, his name as monarch isn't announced yet.

I'm still traveling but I'm throwing this topic open for discussion because of the breaking news:

Queen under medical supervision as doctors are concerned for her health

The Queen is under medical supervision at Balmoral after doctors became concerned for her health, Buckingham Palace has said.

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, have been seen boarding a helicopter at Dumfries House in Scotland travelling to to be with Her Majesty, who "remains comfortable", Buckingham Palace said.

An RAF aircraft carrying Prince William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex left RAF Northolt in west London at 2.39pm and arrived at Aberdeen airport at 3.50pm, ahead of their arrival at Balmoral.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are travelling separately but have been co-ordinating with other Royal family members' plans, it is understood. Princess Anne is already with Her Majesty at her Scottish Highlands residence.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: "Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen's doctors are concerned for Her Majesty's health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision.

"The Queen remains comfortable and at Balmoral."

NOTE: "Buckingham Palace", the metonym for the royal staff, are notoriously close-lipped, so if they say she's "comfortable" her condition should automatically be assumed to be somewhat worse than you'd expect, i.e. she isn't dead yet ... but you don't haul the next of kin in by helicopter to attend the sick bed if it's just a cold.

Also, the Queen is 96.

Also-Also, Here are my earlier thoughts prompted by the death of Prince Philip (her husband). To which we can add the omnishambles described in the previous blog entry, and the arrival of a government in the UK entirely dominated by the head-banging extremists of the European Research Group. (If you're American, imagine the Tea Party took over all three branches of government in a shady election that polled only 0.3% of the electorate). They will use her death as a culture wars rallying point for their ultra-reactionary agenda.

If you can find any other news that's being buried under the royal succession whoopsie? This is your thread.

Lost in the noise: Earlier this week Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader in Holyrood, announced an emergency package to address the omnishambles: (a) a cap of £2500/year on consumer energy bills, to be funded out of government borrowing (with additional measures to protect small businesses), and (b) a mandatory freeze on both private and social rent increases, to prevent evictions due to folks being unable to pay bills due to inflation. (Speaking as a very small-scale private landlord—I own half a rental flat: it's a chunk of my retirement savings—I entirely agree that this is necessary.) Yesterday Liz Truss announced a similar energy cap for England, at a cost of £120Bn: silence on the rent freeze so far, but it means Truss is capable of making a U-turn on core policy matters in 48 hours flat. The iron weathervane indeed (as the French are calling her).

This is about the gathering crisis in the UK, not any other crisis-hit nation.

Here is a compendium of the firehose of dismay that's been blasting me in the face for the past couple of weeks. Share and enjoy! And feel free to use the comment thread to discuss what's coming next for the UK as the vector sum of Brexit, COVID19, the energy crisis from the Ukraine war, and the worst inflationary bubble since 1980 punches us in the face.

Next month I'll be attending Chicon 8, the worldcon, my first overseas SF convention since September 2019, right before COVID19! It'll also be my first SF convention on US soil—and first book signing there—since February 2017.

Here's my draft schedule, by convention day.

Thursday, 1 September

Table Talk, 1pm, Crystal Foyer

This is what they're doing instead of Kaffeeklatsches/literary beers these days (masking is mandatory at Chicon 8, for obvious reasons)

Panel: Beyond our Assumptions, 5:30pm, Randolph 2

Human-built systems, such as capitalism, are neither immortal, nor inescapable. SFF often helps us imagine a world built on different scaffolding than our own. Each of our panelists will start with their favorite "What If" scenario (such as "What if all children were born without primary sex characteristics?" or "What if our only form of currency was seeds?") and we will brainstorm to build worlds beyond current assumptions of "how things work."

Friday, 2 September

How Horror and SFF Blend, 2:30pm, Crystal Ballroom C

Horror has often overlapped with SFF--hello, Frankenstein! Lately it seems like we're seeing a rise in horror elements in popular SFF, including many recent Hugo winners and nominees. What makes horror blend well with science fiction or fantasy? Are there challenges or problems with mixing the genres? And how do cosmic horror, the Weird, and New Weird fit into this discussion? Come find out whether or not anyone can hear you scream . . . in space!

Autographing, 5:30pm, venue TBA

Saturday, 3 September

Alternates, Parallels, Mirrors, and Multiverses, 11:30am, Grand Hall L

Alternate histories and parallel dimensions have been elements of science fiction for a long time, and they seem especially prominent right now, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Trek to novels like Micaiah Johnson's The Space Between Worlds and Gibson's Jackpot novels. We'll discuss what using multiverses does to writing and reading SFF, talk about texts where it works great and others where it falls flat, ask ourselves why it's having such a moment, and wonder how this panel compares to the infinity of parallel panels happening at the same time.

Getting the "Cyber" part right, 2:30pm, Michigan 1

Computers and information technology are omnipresent in both our daily lives and science fiction, but most SFF doesn't focus on it in a deep or scientific way, often using old and inaccurate tropes. What writers are great at conveying interesting things about actual computer science and techno-culture? What are our favorite examples of AI, programmers, and tech support that feel accurate or insightful?

Reading - Charlie Stross, 5:30pm, Airmeet Readings (this will be a virtual session)

NB: I'm not sure what I'll be reading yet, but as I just sent Season of Skulls off to production and have nearly finished A Conventional Boy it'll probably be one of them, unless it's a chunk of unfinished space opera or something else bites me.

Sunday, 4 September

Waiting for Closure, 1pm, Grand Hall K

Getting involved in a book series is always a tricky proposition. On the one hand, there's the FOMO of hearing all your friends squee about the latest book, but on the other hand there's the agony of waiting for the next one to come--or in some cases, wondering if you'll ever get another book! Let's talk about how serialization affects how we approach books, their plots, themes, and characters--as readers and writers, what does the promise (or threat!) of future installments do to how we engage with a book?

Monday 5 September

Future Transit, 1pm, Michigan 2

We're well on the road to self-driving cars, there are companies designing small supersonic jets, and Virgin Galactic is aiming at suborbital transportation. How will we get around in 10 years? 20? 100? Our panelists will imagine future travel both fast and slow.

Footnotes

Other program item participants omitted because I copy-typed the descriptions from an annoying javascript-based scheduler app that doesn't make things easy. For other participants, see the official final program.

All of this is conditional on me not coming down with COVID19 again, either before I travel or while I'm at the convention. I'll be masking/distancing and testing regularly, as is convention policy: yes, I know it's a pain, but I really don't want to get this virus again or worse, infect you with it afterwards. (I am willing to unmask in public if I'm outdoors, there's airflow, and everybody is sensible about social distancing.)

I have other engagements that are not part of this public schedule (eg. business meetings with my agent and possibly publishers: also toilet stops, meal breaks, etc), so please, if you pass me in the hall and I say I'm on my way somewhere, don't be afraid to ask again later (if I growl it's probably because of my knees, not you). If you missed my signing and I'm not busy I'm happy to stop for a moment to sign books.

Pub crawl: there's going to be a pre-worldcon real ale pub crawl on the evening of Wednesday, August 31st. I'll try to update this with details nearer the time. My wife's one of the organizers, but I may not make it—I recently started a new antidiabetes med that is playing merry hell with my stomach, and drinking even two pints of beer is a reach. (Add bad knees and too much walking and you can see why a pub crawl might lack appeal: I'll just have to see how I'm feeling on the day.)

Comments: Please do not use this topic for general discussion, keep it clear for the worldcon (in case I need to notify folks about schedule changes or discuss where to meet up). Thanks!

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.

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