Serious question, for discussion.

After the events of January 6th, I currently expect the inauguration to happen on January 20th, although there will be death threats against both the incoming president and vice-president. How seriously they're taken by the US Secret Service, FBI, and other relevant security agencies is going to be telling: we know that white supremacists have pursued a policy of entryism in police and military forces for decades now (globally, not just in the USA), and although a palace coup by the Praetorian Secret Service seems vanishingly unlikely, there may be conspiracies from within the state apparat of repression.

It's fairly obvious that the new administration will go after the rioters/putsch plotters/lynch mob. It's possible there'll be a criminal investigation of elements of the Trump administration: all those high-level resignations on the 7th suggest that something very illegal was going on, in relation to the storming of the Capitol. Possibly enough to justify the prosecution of a former president, if there is a smoking gun to be found ...

And it also looks as if the Republican party have lost their grip on the executive and congressional branches of government (but not yet on the judiciary), and are beginning to wake up to the moral hazard of farming baby alligators in their bathtub: the promise of croc-skin shoes is all very well, but when the alligator grows up and gets loose in your house, you have a problem on your hand.

Are the Trumpists going to split and form a new party? Or are the Republicans going to split, many of them deserting to the Democrat coalition, and leave the rump party to the neo-Nazis? Or something else?

I'm in a holding pattern on the blog just now because I'm frantically busy with end-of-year work: publisher production departments like to clear their desks before the office shuts down for a fortnight, and they expect to come back to a full in-tray on January 4th, and of course authors don't have families or friends to socialize with, so why not share the joy of a tight deadline copy edit check with your loved ones this festive season?

That's not actually what I'm working on right now, but I am actually working way more than usual, and as a result I hope to have good news to share with you early in the new year.

As for the blog?

I ought to blog about either an update on my COVID19 forecast, or an update on my Brexit forecast, but those are basically boring and disgusting and demoralizing and would take precious brain cells away from bringing you the next book, so naaah. If you feel like updating me with your predictions for 2021 in the comments below, though, go right ahead.

Finally, I have one thought to leave you with. Apparently the Washington Post ran a write-in competition for the best summary of 2020, and the winner (a nine year old from the mid-west) came up with this totally accurate description: "2020 was like taking care to look both ways before you cross the road, and then being hit by a submarine."

Happy solstice!

Today is December 6th. The UK left the EU most of a year ago, but a transition agreement is in effect; it expires on December 31st, and negotiations between the British government and the EU appear to be on the rocks.

How did we get here and where are we going?

I've been head-down in the guts of a novel this month, hence lack of blogging: purely by coincidence, I'm working on the next-but-one sequel to Dead Lies Dreaming.

Which reminds me that Dead Lies Dreaming came out nearly a month ago, and some of you probably have read it and have questions!

So feel free to ask me anything about the book in the comments below.

(Be warned that (a) there will probably be spoilers, and (b) I will probably not answer questions that would supply spoilers for the next books in the ongoing project.)

This is your official thread for discussing the upcoming US presidential and congressional election on November 3rd; along with its possible outcomes.

Do not chat about the US supreme court, congress, presidency, constitution, constitutional crises (possible), coup (possible), Donald Trump and his hellspawn offspring and associates, or anything about US politics in general on the Laundry Files book launch threads. If you do, your comments will be ruthlessly moderated into oblivion.

You are allowed and encouraged to discuss those topics in the comments below this topic.

(If you want to discuss "Dead Lies Dreaming" here I won't stop you, but there's plenty of other places for that!)

As you know by now, my next novel, Dead Lies Dreaming comes out next week—on Tuesday the 27th in the US and Thursday 29th in the UK, because I've got different publishers in different territories).

Signed copies can be ordered from Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh via the Hive online mail order service.

(You can also order it via Big River co and all good bookshops, but they don't stock signed copies: Link to Amazon US: Link to Amazon UK. Ebooks are available too, and I gather the audiobook—again, there's a different version in the US, from Audible, and the UK, from Hachette Digital—should be released at the same time.)

COVID-19 has put a brake on any plans I might have had to promote the book in public, but I'm doing a number of webcast events over the next few weeks. Here are the highlights:

Outpost 2020 is a virtual SF convention taking place from Friday 23rd (tomorrow!) to Sunday 25th. I'm on a discussion panel on Saturday 24th at 4pm (UK time), on the subject of "Reborn from the Apocalypse": Both history and current events teach that a Biblical-proportioned apocalypse is not necessarily confined to the realms of fiction. How can we reinvent ourselves, and more importantly, will we?. (Panelists: Charlie Stross, Gabriel Partida, David D. Perlmutter. Moderator: Mike Fatum.)

Orbit Live! As part of a series of Crowdcast events, at 8pm GMT on Thursday 27th RJ Barker is going to host myself and Luke Arnold in conversation about our new books: sign up for the crowdcast here.

Reddit AmA: No book launch is complete these days without an Ask me Anything on Reddit, which in my case is booked for Tuesday 3rd, starting at 5pm, UK time (9am on the US west coast, give or take an hour—the clocks change this weekend in the UK but I'm not sure when the US catches up).

The N├╝rnberg Digital Festival is a community driven Festival with about 20.000 attendees in Nuremberg, to discuss the future, change and everything that comes with it. Obviously this year it's an extra-digital (i.e. online-only) festival, which has the silver lining of enabling the organizers to invite guests to connect from a long way away. Which is why I'm doing an interview/keynote on Monday November 9th at 5pm (UK time). You can find out more about the Festival here (as well as buying tickets for any or all days' events). It's titled "Are we in dystopian times?" which seems to be an ongoing theme of most of the events I'm being invited to these days, and probably gives you some idea of what my answer is likely to be ...

Anyway, that's all for now: I'll add to this post if new events show up.

I've been writing Laundry Files stories since 1999, and there's now about 1.4 million words in that universe. That's a lot of stuff: a typical novel these days is 100,000 words, but these books trend long, and this count includes 11 novels (of which, #10 comes out later this month) and some shorter work. It occurs to me that while some of you have been following them from the beginning, a lot of people come to them cold in the shape of one story or another.

So below the fold I'm going to explain the Laundry Files time line, the various sub-series that share the setting, and give a running order for the series—including short stories as well as novels.

(The series title, "The Laundry Files", was pinned on me by editorial fiat at a previous publisher whose policy was that any group of 3 or more connected novels had to have a common name. It wasn't my idea: my editor at the time also published Jim Butcher, and Bob—my sole protagonist at that point in the series—worked for an organization disparagingly nicknamed "the Laundry", so the inevitable happened. Using a singular series title gives the impression that it has a singular theme, which would be like calling Terry Pratchett's Discworld books as "the Unseen University series". Anyway ...)

Entanglements Cover.jpg

Many thanks to Charlie for giving me the chance to write about editing and my latest project. I'm very excited about the publication of Entanglements. The book has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and terrific reviews in Lightspeed, Science, and the Financial Times. MIT Press has created a very nice "Pubpub" page about Entanglements, with information about the book and its various contributors. The "On the Stories" section has an essay about by Nick Wolven about his amazing story, "Sparkly Bits," and a fun Zoom conversation with James Patrick Kelly, Nancy Kress, and Sam J. Miller. I think the site is well worth checking out, and here's the Pubpub description of the book:

A young editor once asked me what was the biggest secret to editing a fiction magazine. My answer was "confidence." I have to be confident that the stories I choose will fit together, that people will read them and enjoy them, and most importantly, that each month I'll receive enough publishable material to fill the pages of the magazine.

It's been ages since I last hosted a guest blogger here, but today I'd like to introduce you to Sheila Williams, who will be talking about her work next week.

Normally my gues bloggers are other SF/F authors, but Sheila is something different: she's the multiple Hugo-Award winning editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Sheila started at Asimov's in June 1982 as the editorial assistant. Over the years, she was promoted to a number of different editorial positions at the magazine and she also served as the executive editor of Analog from 1998 until 2004. With Rick Wilber, she is also the co-founder of the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. This annual award has been bestowed on the best short story by an undergraduate student at the International Conference on the Fantastic since 1994.

In addition, Sheila is the editor or co-editor of twenty-six anthologies. Her newest anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow's Lovers, Families, and Friends, is the 2020 volume of the Twelve Tomorrow series. The book is just out from MIT Press.

Dead Lies Dreaming - UK cover

Today is September 27th, 2020. On October 27th, Dead Lies Dreaming will be published in the USA and Canada: the British edition drops on October 29th. (Yes, there will be audio editions too, via the usual outlets.)

This book is being marketed as the tenth Laundry Files novel. That's not exactly true, though it's not entirely wrong, either: the tenth Laundry book, about the continuing tribulations of Bob Howard and his co-workers, hasn't been written yet. (Bob is a civil servant who by implication deals with political movers and shakers, and politics has turned so batshit crazy in the past three years that I just can't go there right now.)

There is a novella about Bob coming next summer. It's titled Escape from Puroland and Tor.com will be publishing it as an ebook and hardcover in the USA. (No UK publication is scheduled as yet, but we're working on it.) I've got one more novella planned, about Derek the DM, and then either one or two final books: I'm not certain how many it will take to wrap the main story arc yet, but rest assured that the tale of SOE's Q-Division, the Laundry, reaches its conclusion some time in 2015. Also rest assured that at least one of our protagonists survives ... as does the New Management.

All Glory to the Black Pharaoh! Long may he rule over this spectred isle!

(But what's this book about?)

Global viral pandemics, insane right-wing dictator-wannabes trying to set fire to the planet, and climate change aside, I'm officially declaring 2020 to be the Year of the Conspiracy Theory.

This was the year when QAnon, a frankly puerile rehashing of antisemitic conspiracy theories going back to the infamous Tsarist secret police fabrication The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, went viral: its true number of followers is unclear but in the tens of thousands, and they've begun showing up in US politics as Republican candidates capable of displacing the merely crazy, such as Tea Partiers, who at least were identifiably a political movement (backed by Koch brothers lobbying money).

Nothing about the toxic farrago of memes stewing in the Qanon midden should come as a surprise to anyone who read the Illuminatus! trilogy back in the 1970s, except possibly the fact that this craziness has leached into mainstream politics. But I think it's worrying indicative of the way our post-1995, internet-enabled media environment is messing with the collective subconscious: conspiratorial thinking is now mainstream.

Anyway. When life hands you lemons its time to make lemonade. How could I (if I had more energy and fewer plans) monetize this trend, without sacrificing my dignity, sanity, and sense of integrity along the way?

I'm calling it time for the revival of the big fat 1960s-1980s cold war spy/conspiracy thriller. A doozy of a plot downloaded itself into my head yesterday, and I have neither the time nor the marketing stance to write it, so here it is. (Marketing: I'm positioned as an SF author, not a thriller/mens adventure author, so I'd be selling to a different editorial and marketing department and the book advances for starting out again wouldn't be great.)

Way back in 2000, when I published my first collection of short stories, "Toast, and other rusted futures", I wrote a slightly tongue-in-cheek foreword explaining that time has a way of rendering SF futures obsolete.

For example, after the probe fly-bys of the 1960s it was no longer possible to write planetary romances set in the swamps of Venus or among the barbarian tribes roaming the arid deserts of Mars. After 1969 it was no longer possible to write a story about the first human landing on the moon without being aware of Apollo 11. Even though those futures are still accessible via contrived parallel universe or alternate history conceits, you can't write them naively or unironically, and unironic or naive stories written beforehand tend to read badly after the events that rendered them obsolete.

One of the stories in "Toast" was a Y2K parable. I was working in IT during the 1990s, and while Y2K denialism is a Thing in the media today, it's only a Thing because a lot of people worked a lot of overtime hours to ensure that almost nothing went wrong on the day (the dog didn't bark because the dog was in intensive care at the time and made a full recovery).

Anyway, the 21st century has rendered a whole slew of 20th century plots obsolete, including the first moon landing, habitable planets elsewhere in our solar system right now, Martian and Venusian aliens, Y2K causing the downfall of civilization, a USA/USSR nuclear war causing the downfall of civilization, and so on.

But what are the contemporary plot lines from the first two decades of the 21st century that no longer work?

Post-infection cardiac damage found in 78% of recovering COVID19 patients

That's 78% of a cohort, average age 49, of whom 67% had recovered at home (ie. disease was not categorized as severe enough to need hospitalization). Cohort was normalized with respect to other risk factors relative to uninfected patients. Diagnosis by MRI. Looks reasonably solid, at first glance, publication in JAMA Cardiol. (Journal of the American Medical Association, cardiology). Study coordinated via a German hospital.

Reason for "no comment necessary" is that this suggests most COVID19 survivors—including mild disease survivors—suffer cardiac damage.

You don't want to get this virus.

On April 16—gosh, it feels like an entire year ago—I made some predictions about where we were going. How do they hold up?

  1. Vaccine development will take a flat minimum of 12 months.

Too soon to tell; it's only been two and a half months. A few people have signed up for testing, but we won't know if the prototype vaccines have provided any protection for months yet. (I haven't seen any reports of them killing the guinea pigs though, so there's that.)

Manufacturing of vaccine adjuvants and the little extras required to turn a raw product into a deliverable medical treatment are in progress, though.

  1. Lockdown can't be sustained more than 1-2 weeks after peak ICU occupancy passes, so it will be lifted in mid-May in the UK and possibly as early as May 1st in the USA.

I am really glad I got this wrong. Lockdown lasted until the end of May in the USA; it began being relaxed in England in mid-June, and here in Scotland non-essential shops are due to lift in July. The English government (that is, the Westminster parliament governing England: Scotland is run by the Holyrood parliament in respect of domestic affairs such as public health and education) tried to convince schools to re-open, but that mostly flopped; Scottish schools are, I believe, staying shut until the next academic year (the Scottish school year ends earlier than the English one by a couple of weeks).

Incidentally, Scotland is broadly coping better than England per this dashboard: there have been no new COVID19 cases confirmed in the past 4-5 days. However, Westminster's desire to dink with the statistics in order to justify a premature re-opening is making it hard to tell just WTF is going on.

  1. Trump is shooting for May 1st because he's been told the economy will take 6 months to recover ... 1-4 weeks later there will be a secondary surge in infections and it'll follow the same exponential growth

Because the US lockdown didn't really begin to lift until June, the USA is hitting this secondary surge right now, and some states are trying to lock down again. Red states with Republican governors who are in complete denial are getting hit badly, though—notably Texas and Florida.

  1. Extra Lulz in the UK

Boris clung on to power and is now visible again, busy pulling levers and waffling in public, Cthulhu help us. His main approach to COVID19 is to treat it as a public relations project, so he's going with patriotic rah-rah rhetoric rather than coolly rational choices. Because he's not a planner he delegates everything to Dominic Cummings, who is in the process of purging the top ranks of the civil service and replacing the current leadership with those willing to swear a loyalty oath to Brexit.

It'd be hilarious if I wasn't trapped in the back of the bus these clowns are driving towards a cliff.

  1. Wildcards: we might conceivably find a simple and effective medical treatment.

Hydroxychloroquine is a bust (snake oil is about what you can expect from a snake oil salesman). Dexamethasone improving the prognosis for ICU patients is a welcome finding, but it's not a magic bullet—it just reduces the death toll by up to 30% among people who require mechanical ventillation. Trump buying up the global supply of remdesivir (even though it's not very effective) is exactly the kind of Milo Minderbinder act you'd expect of the guy. Prediction: it won't work, but it'll make Trump lots of enemies and a little bit of money.




What did I miss?

I missed: the rest of the world, where populist authoritarian leaders everywhere are trying to make Trump and Johnson's handling of COVID19 look magisterial and professional, from Brazil's Bolsonaro to Russia's Putin.

I totally didn't see Black Lives Matter turning into a global protest movement. To be fair, George Floyd was brutally murdered by the Minneapolis police department on May 25th, and the predictive blog entry I'm referring back to was posted more than a month earlier. (I've only posted once since then, prior to this, and that last blog entry was about brainstorming a fiction idea, not current affairs.) In retrospect I should have anticipated that heavy-handed racist policing of lockdown would lead to numerous flashpoints worldwide. There have been other side-effects: illegal raves and parties in the UK, for example. Widespread flouting of social distancing and/or masking guidelines, and the emergence of anti-mask rhetoric among Trump loyalists as a very disturbing kind of political statement.

There's a growing, seemingly global, sense that we can't or shouldn't go back to the status quo ante—in many ways, this sentiment ehoes earlier occasions when pressure for major social change emerged during and after world wars. The long term global economic effects, and possibly the death toll, are clearly in the same order of magnitude as a 20th century global war: it may be that such wars (or in this case a frightening pandemic) provide the trigger for the sort of societal change more normally associated with revolutions. (This certainly happened in 1917-19, and again in 1945-49.)

A new world is being born. I just hope I live to see it, and that there's room in it for someone like me to exist.

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