This blog hosts comments. Boy, does it host comments.

Nearly two decades of comments on this blog leads me to advance the proposition that any computing or information technology enthusiastically endorsed by the collective commentariat of this blog will be unpopular with the general public, and vice versa.


(Ducks and runs)

I mean, please. I know events have moved from shoddy scriptwriting to self-parody in the past month, but yesterday 2019 completely jumped the shark.

Donald Trump self-incriminating for an impeachable offense live on TV wasn't totally implausible, once you get beyond the bizzaro universe competence inversion implied by putting a deeply stupid mobbed-up New York property spiv in the White House, like a Richard Condon satire gone to seed—but the faked-up Elizabeth Warren sex scandal was just taking the piss. (Including the secret love child she bore at age 69, and her supposed proficiency, as a dominatrix, to reduce a member of the US Marine Corps to blubbering jelly—presumably Wohl and Burkman are now seeking proof in the shape of the hush-money payout to the delivery stork.)

But the coup de grace was Microsoft announcing an Android phone.

No, go away: I refuse to believe that Hell has re-opened as a skating rink. This is just too silly for words.

Someone is now going to tell me that I lapsed into a coma last October 3rd and it is now April 1st, 2020. In which case, it's a fair cop. But otherwise, I'm out of explanations. All I can come up with is, when they switched on the Large Hadron Collider they assured us that it wasn't going to create quantum black holes and eat the Earth from the inside out; but evidently it's been pushing us further and further out into a low-probability sheaf of universes somewhere in the Everett Wheeler manifold, and any moment now a white rabbit is going to hop past my office door wailing "goodness me, I'm late!"

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that my activity has been increasingly scarce since roughly January 2017. This is not an accident. You may also have noticed a downturn in my writing output in general, culminating in this year being the first year since roughly 1997 in which I have no new novels or short stories appearing in print. That's not an accident, either.

(Back from Worldcon, where I didn't win a Hugo, and Eurocon, where I was awarded the ESFS Hall of Fame award for Best Author, 2019. Whee!)

So I guess I don't need to give a detailed run-down of political events while I was travelling, save to say that we're now getting into 1642 territory constitutionally, with the unelected Prime Minister declaring his intention of asking the unelected monarch to shut down parliament so that he can force through an unpopular policy that everybody was assured was not a possible outcome of a referendum that was only upheld by the courts because it was non-binding (so the foreign interference and straight-up vote rigging couldn't be held a violation of election law). He's also proposing to pack the House of Lords with unelected pro-Brexit members just in case the HoL tries to to throw a spanner in the works.

Reminder: the legal wellspring of British authority is the crown-in-parliament (i.e. the powers of the monarch, as vested in parliament after the king picked a fight with that body and lost, comprehensively). This is an end-run around British sovereignty. It's a bit like, say, a US President packing the supreme court and then issuing an executive order suspending the 14th amendment (with a manufactured court rubber stamp): procedurally suspect and ethically outrageous. BoJo is gaming the British Constitution on a scale never seen before; if he's allowed to get away with this then, never mind Brexit (and a no-deal Brexit would be very, very bad in its own right), it means the end of British constitutional governance and a shift towards rule by executive decree implemented via the Civil Contingencies Act and/or Henry VIII Orders. In other words, a dictatorship.

Oh, and if the Queen gives Boris his rubber-stamp prorogation, it's quite possible that Brexit will not only take down the British economy, the British constitution, and the Conservative Party: it could well take down the monarchy as well. The Queen is personally popular, but she's in a horrible cleft stick: if she prorogues Parliament she pisses off the remainers (over half the population) and personally gets some of the blame for a no-deal Brexit. If she refuses to prorogue Parliament without a bulletproof legal precedent then she acts unconstitutionally and takes a fire-axe to the relationship between Parliament and Monarch ... and she pisses off a not-much-smaller segment of the population. The Queen is 92. Being put on the spot like this can't possibly not be incredibly stressful for her: there's no good solution, unless I've overlooked her having some magic constitutional power to, say, require the PM to prove that he has the confidence of parliament before he prorogues that chamber. The whole point of the post-1688/1832/1912 British Constitutional system is to put the theoretically-absolute powers of a once-absolute monarchy in a lead-lined safe at the bottom of a very deep mine shaft. So expecting the Queen to ride to the rescue is ... excessively optimistic.

To add to the fun and games, the political advisor at Number 10 who has the PM's ear is Dominic Cummings, who is noted for being both an Accelerationist and a closet singularitarian (he keeps the latter out of the public eye but it's on his blog). He can thus best be approximated to an ultra-capitalist rapture-of-the-nerds embracing Trotskyite, merrily intent on pouring gasoline on the bonfire of British constitutional traditions.

Opposition--both internal, within the Conservative party, and external, split between the minority parties--is divided. I'm seeing tweets by Labour MPs proposing that if parliament is prorogued they will conduct a sit in and establish a People's Parliament. (I was not exaggerating when I invoked the spectre of 1642.) But the situation is not helped by the new and rather right-wing leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinston, refusing to vote with a Corbyn-led national unity coalition. Or by Labour's perpetual on-going snit with the SNP (Scottish Labour has an unofficial policy of "whatever the SNP are for, we're against", because the SNP are their deadly rival for the peculiarly Scottish niche of "left wing party of government"; this has spilled over into Labour/SNP relations in Westminster). In theory there is an absolute majority in Parliament opposed to a no-deal Brexit, or indeed almost any form of Brexit. In practice, they seem to be more intent on forming a circular firing squad.

Sterling, needless to say, is down 1% this morning, trading at $1.20 to the pound, and the London stock exchange is tanking. Remember that this is nominally a conservative government, the party of business ... except Boris Johnson when asked about the effects of Brexit declared, "fuck business": he's actually got the Financial Times, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, and the Trade Union Congress lined up against him (which is the British equivalent of sheep and wolves holding hands in solidarity).

Folks, I have no idea what happens next. Lewis Goodall (a Sky News political commentator) noted on twitter that Johnson's strategy seems to be:

  • Get through first 2 weeks of Parliament in September (by prorogation)

  • Survive Party Conference season

  • Unveil a new brexit deal at council on 17th October

  • Survive the Queen's Speech because if they don't there'll be no deal by default

  • Ram the new deal through a terrified parliament in the days before October 31st

But it's not obvious that there's any scope for such a new deal to happen. Ireland will veto any arrangement that leaves out the Northern Irish backstop, and the EU 26 have their back. The ERG will veto any deal that includes the backstop. The EU negotiators have already declared that there's no more room for negotiation; they're fed up with the UK's perfidious nonsense and they spend three years negotiating with May in good faith: take it or leave it.

This isn't new. It was broadly the shape of affairs while Theresa May was in charge. What's new is a Prime Minister who is ruthless and willing to destroy the constitution, the monarchy, and the economy to get his own way--and who is listening to the accelerationists.

That's profoundly frightening.

UPDATE: They did it:

(via twitter)


Ruth Davidson resigns as Scottish conservative leader (actual resignation reported on the BBC in past 15 minutes; she's strongly opposed to a no deal Brexit and there's personal animosity with BoJo)

Legal move filed in Court of Sessions in Edinburgh to have Prorogation of Parliament ruled illegal (it's a cross-party move)

List of protests in cities around the UK

(I can't keep up; this is all news that's broken in the last couple of hours.)

Next week I'm off to the land mass to the west of me, visiting Dublin and Belfast for the World Science Fiction Convention, then the following weekend Belfast for Titancon, the EuroCon (European annual SF convention). This is not without complication: sensing vulnerability, my ancient and venerable washing machine picked this week to finally expire, forcing me to embark on a perilous quest for a replacement—not to mention a launderette with service wash facilities—during the Edinburgh Festival. (Which is why this update is late.)

(Note: this is not a solicitation for advice on whether a hand-powered mangle and hot tub combination is more environmentally sound than a Miele TwinDos automatic washer-drier, or the best way to dry my jeans in the toilet, or suchlike helpfulness. As I approach my 55th birthday I'm pretty sure I'm on top of these issues.)

Anyway, I'm on the program at both conventions, and I'm posting an abbreviated version of my schedule below the fold.

Whoops Apocalypse was a six part 1982 TV sitcom that aired in the UK during a particularly dark part of the cold war. It purported to document the last few weeks leading up to the nuclear apocalypse, and starred such luminaries as John Cleese and Barry Morse: it's available on DVD here. It features a chaotic and increasingly unstable global political situation in which nuclear alerts are accidentally triggered by malfunctioning Space Invaders machines; the naive and highly unpopular Republican U.S. President Johnny Cyclops is advised by an insane right-wing fundamentalist security advisor, called The Deacon, who claims to have a direct hotline to God. And the Shah of Iran is locked in the toilet of a cross-channel ferry. (Bits cribbed from Wikipedia because my memory is weak after all these years.)

Anyway, here are my notes towards a Brexit specific re-make of Whoops Apocalypse.

I am fresh out of blogging ideas, and am off to Jyväskylä in Finland for Finncon next weekend. In the meantime, feel free to use the comments (below) to ask me anything! NB: I will do my best to lie creatively in my responses.

One of the hard disks on the machine that runs this blog has failed. Accordingly, I'm scheduling a drive replacement, hopefully around 9am tomorrow. The blog and website will be offline for up to a couple of hours when that happens. I'll update this note when we're online again.

In order to reduce the risk of data loss I'm going to disable comments on the blog when I go to bed tonight (probably before midnight BST, 8pm EST).


Hard drive replaced and everything working again as of 10:30am.

I do not write for Marvel or DC.

(Let's leave aside the time I had a close escape from writing Iron Man—back in 2005—but was offered a couple of book contracts just in time: Tony Stark is not my favourite superhero.)

(Also, the rest of this blog post will make no sense whatsoever unless you are at least minimally familiar with Batman and his frenemies.)

Anyway ... a couple of days ago I tripped over a tweet:

"The Joker should have been a woman. And she finally went insane because too many random dudes told her to smile, so now she perpetually smiles while terrorizing Gotham."

The author, Geraldine DeRuiter, explains the context here; I can relate, and I don't even have ovaries, let alone a head full of wasps.

It's a good and worthy idea and WHY AREN'T DC HUNTING DOWN GERALDINE AND OFFERING HER A CONTRACT RIGHT NOW, but it's her story to tell, not mine.

So a couple of months ago I handed in a new novel (it won't be out until the second half of 2020--these things have a long lead time). And it occurs to me that it's probably worth discussing book titles at some point, because I haven't really done so before.

As I noted in CMAP 6: Why is your book cover so awful? the only thing an author is expected to provide to a publisher is a finished manuscript containing the text of a novel (which they will then colaborate with the publisher on editing and proofread and, these days, marketing). The cover is not within the author's remit, and indeed the author may not see it before the general public. Nor is the cover marketing copy the author's job (writing cover copy that sells books, and writing books, are very different tasks, and many authors are utterly dire at writing their own marketing copy).

But something that also escapes many readers is that book titles are (a) fraught, and (b) not necessarily the author's job either. Which prompts me to write another entry in my ancient and haphazard series of essays about Common Misconceptions about Publishing (CMAP).

I live in an ancient city, in a medium-old apartment--one that is rapidly approaching its bicentennial. Like any building in continuous occupation for nearly 200 years, form and function have changed: it's been retrofitted with indoor plumbing, gas central heating, electricity, broadband internet. The kitchen has shrunk, a third of it hived off to create a modern (albeit small) bathroom. The coal-burning fireplaces are either blocked or walled over. Three rooms have false ceilings, lowered to reduce heating costs before hollowcore loft insulation was a thing. What I suspect was once the servants' bedroom is now a windowless storeroom. And rooms serve a different function. The dining room is no longer a dining room, it serves as a library (despite switching to ebooks a decade ago I have a big book problem). And so on.

But certain features of a 200 year old apartment remain constant. There are bedrooms. There is a privy (now a flushing toilet). There is a kitchen. There is a living room. And there is a corridor.

It's April 2019, and to my surprise I find I haven't been to any SF conventions so far this year. But that's going to change. Here's my (abbreviated) calendar:

18-22 April: Ytterbium, the UK eastercon, Heathrow, London. No, I'm not a guest of honour (for which I'm kinda thankful--I've been an eastercon GoH before, it's hard work), but I'll be on a few program items and hanging out in the hotel bar.

7-9 June: Cymera SF Festival, Edinburgh: not an SF convention so much as a literary festival specializing in SF/F; in particular I'm part of a double-header dialog with Jonathan Whitelaw on Saturday, June 8, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM.

5-7 July: Finncon, Jyväskylä, Finland: it's Finland's national SF convention, and I'm one of the guests of honour this year.

15-19 August: Dublin 2019, the 77th world science fiction convention, is held in Dublin, and I'm going to be there.

23-25 August: Titancon, the Eurocon (European SF convention) is in Belfast, and as I'm driving/taking the car ferry to Dublin 2019 and Belfast is on the road home ... nope, not even slightly kidding! (Doing conventions on consecutive weekends is normally one of my no-nos these days--it's exhausting--but I can hardly say no.) Program not finalized, but I hope to be on it.

I don't have any definite plans after Titancon, other than a provisional "let's go to the worldcon in New Zealand in 2020 (I have air miles to spend)", but doubtless stuff will come up.

Finally: no book launches this year, because 2019 is a gap in my publishing schedule. But that's going to be fixed in 2020, which should see the publication of both "Invisible Sun" and "Lost Boys", both of which will hopefully get launch events.

(Because the previous one passed 1200 comments and is getting a bit cumbersome ...)

So the Article 50 deadline has passed and we're now in penalty time. The British team is still arguing violently with itself while water pours through the changing room ceiling and the EU team looks on, bemused. 75% of the UK fans don't understand why they're playing this match and don't want to be there but the gates are locked until someone wins, and because nobody on the UK side read the rules their team is outnumbered 27 to 1 on the football pitch. The British team all hate their manager and want to sack her but they can't agree on a replacement; meanwhile the defenders are antsy because they placed bets on the outcome (they bet heavily that the other side would win) and they want to get to the betting shop. It turns out that most of them don't understand the rules of the game; some of them thought it was a cricket match, and two of them are playing bowls.

In other news, Serbian foreign minister advises citizens not to travel to the UK due to political chaos. I suppose he'd know the signs ...

So, I have some news to announce this week. Three pieces of it, in fact. All of them have been embargoed for sometime, but I'm finally clear to talk about it—just not all at once. So I'm going to update this announcement a couple of times between now and next Wednesday.

Firstly—I've been sitting on this for ages—but I'm now allowed to admit in public that THE LAUNDRY FILES has been optioned for TV by 42 (producers of Watership Down and Traitors (among other things). This has been grinding through the works for over a year. It's an option deal, meaning the production company are looking at writing a pitch and maybe a pilot script and seeing if they can get a network interested, so it's early days. It doesn't mean that a series has been commissioned or that anything is going to happen. (We've been here before, circa 2006-08, with an American outfit, and in the end nothing came of it.) However: it's a British production company, so anything that emerges this time round is likely to have a British feel to it, and they have a great track record.

Additionally: I'm pleased to announce the sale of the next Laundry Files novel, titled "Lost Boys", to be published by the usual suspects some time in 2020.

You might notice something odd about the title; it lacks a reference to any kind of document or archival storage medium. That's because "Lost Boys" isn't about the Laundry at all: it's a side-quest set in London under the reign of the New Management, and the only familiar character from previous stories is the Prime Minister (who appears briefly).

"Lost Boys" does for "Peter Pan" what "Equoid" did for unicorns. And that's all I'm going to say about it for now!

Finally: It has just been announced that The Laundry Files as a whole is shortlisted for the 2019 Hugo award for best series! And that's the third and final piece of news about the Laundry Files that I've been sitting on for a couple of weeks.)

(No, I don't know what's going to happen either.)

This isn't really a blog entry so much as the head of a discussion thread about the constitutional crisis currently gripping the UK, to stop Brexit neepery overrunning the comments on anything else I post here for the next month or six.

(We have: a minority government led by an instinctive authoritarian xenophobe who consistently fails to understand the relationship between the Crown-in-Parliament and the Government, not to mention an issue that has split the British public down the middle and similarly split both main political parties so badly that they're already fragmenting. It's being exploited as a wedge issue by the hard right and by foreign actors and unscrupulous investors who want to asset-strip what's left of the state and then repurpose it as a tax haven (there are signs that the hard left is also interested in the potential for what one might call "disaster socialism", but this is probably over-stated). The issue is also acting as a centrifuge on the Union, because majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland opposed Brexit from the outset—indeed, the third largest party in Parliament, the Scottish National Party, are adamantly opposed, but totally sidelined by the dominant Conservative/Labour factions. And we have a bunch of other splinters under the fingernails of the body politic: the DUP (from the quasi-Christo-fascist right of Northern Ireland) propping up Theresa May, for example. And on the other other side, we have the EU27, who are acting collectively and defensively to defend their stability by enforcing the rule of international law—which none of the British factions seem to understand.)

Anyway. What's happening today? What's going to happen tomorrow? Your guess is as good as mine, so feel free to have at it in the comments!




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