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Showing posts by: Charlie Stross click to see Charlie Stross's profile
Aug 12 2010 11:20am

Through a backward telescope: Heinlein’s context

History is science fiction’s dirty little trade secret, as many an author in search of a plot has discovered. But more than that: history is also the clue to unlocking the writing of our forebears.

For me, the fascination of Patterson’s biography lies in the social and historical context it provides for Heinlein’s work. I was born in 1964, by which time he was 57; there’s more than half a century between us (not to mention a continental gulf—he being a midwesterner, Californian by adoption, and me being British), and consequently I’ve always found many of the attitudes exemplified in his fiction strange. But no longer; Learning Curve provides the key to unlocking Heinlein’s social attitudes and ideas, because it’s as much a social history of the United States of America during the first half of Heinlein’s life as it is a biography.

And it all goes to show just how strange Robert A. Heinlein was.

[Read more...]

Jul 20 2009 4:30am

On July 20th, Charles Stross

Much to my surprise, I remember the Apollo 11 landing, and the first moon walk. My wife—who is 22 months younger than me—doesn’t. She was three years old at the time; I was not far off five, and somewhere in that gap lies that developmental point where most infants start to remember significant events.

I live in the UK. The precise moment when “Eagle” touched down, 20:17 UTC, would have been around 9pm; rather late for a toddler to be up, but I think I remember my parents bringing me into the living room to watch something important on the new, 625-line black-and-white PAL TV set. That memory is vague—I've seen footage of the descent so many times since that I can't rely on my own experience.

What I definitely remember is my mother waking me up really early—it was still dark—and bringing me downstairs. It would have been around 2am the next morning. I was sleepy, and couldn’t make much sense of what I was seeing on the screen; the upside-down image (at first), the hazy, ghosting figure in the big suit clinging to a ladder, very slowly climbing down it, the crackling static on the sound. I knew something important was happening, because my parents had woken me up and told me to remember it. But after about fifteen minutes, not much seemed to be happening: and I was very sleepy. Back to bed.

The next day, and the day after that, the news sank in; and so did the meaning. Newspapers bore huge headlines, as large as for a royal coronation or wedding, or the assassination of a foreign president: and the pictures that accompanied the headlines made it clear that something epochal had happened, the significance of which—I was four. (Nearly five.) Significance was to come later, gradually sinking in. I was, of course, space-mad for six months, like all my peers. I knew that when I grew up I was going to be an astronaut! There were collectors cards, and colouring books, and all the ephemera of childhood overrun by the Apollo brand. I memorized all the facts and figures I could find, understanding very little. I watched the TV news in 1970 as Apollo 13 ran into trouble, with a five-year-old’s understanding; I watched the final take-off of the Apollo 17 LM ascent stage on that same black and which TV in 1972 as an eight-year-old, still unable to quite comprehend that the program was over. Then it began to sink in—that I probably wasn’t going to grow up to be an astronaut, after all.

They’d taken the moon away from me.


Charles Stross is a British science fiction, fantasy, and horror author. His work has earned over a dozen award nominations, and his most recent novel, Saturn’s Children, is up for this year’s Best Novel Hugo.

Apr 29 2009 3:46pm

“Where do you get your ideas?”

(The death march is over: the manuscript will be in my editor’s inbox on Monday morning. So I’ve got time to blog again ...)

One of the questions that every SF author gets asked sooner or later is “where do you get your ideas?” For better or worse, I seem to get a double dose of it; ideas are my particular speciality, or so it said in the last fortune cookie I opened. So I thought I’d give the game away by explaining just where they come from.

Unlike Roger Zelazny I don’t leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies out by the door; unlike Harlan Ellison I don’t use a mail order supplier in Poughkeepsie. (Or is it the other way around?) I don’t invent invent neat new ideas at all. Instead, I trip over them—because they’re lying around in heaps. The trick is to pick several up at the same time and smush them together until some of them stick to each other—creating something new and interesting.

[More below the fold.]

Apr 22 2009 1:06pm

Death March

I’m supposed to be blogging here regularly this month. So sorry: but I’m delinquent, and consequently my presence is likely to be a little erratic. The proximate cause of my delinquency is a deadline (long overshot) and a promise—to deliver a manuscript to my editor, David Hartwell, some time before the next ice age. I am, in short, embarked on the final death march to the end of the sixth Merchant Princes novel, The Trade of Queens, and on the off chance that some of you are curious—what does this mean?

This novel has been a long time coming. I wrote the original proposal for this series back in 2001, and finished the first book the same year; since then it’s been an on-again/off-again proposition and the road map for the series is almost laughably out-of-date. I originally posited a four book series: this is book six, but going by the original road map it’s actually the climax of book two. I originally posited books in the 600-800 page range: yeah, well, that plan didn’t survive contact with the enemy, or in this case the economics of book binding and production. And there were a couple of other setbacks along the way, I admit—illness, insanity, and the competing demands of other publishers among them.

[So: here’s what the final death march entails ...]

Apr 17 2009 2:43pm

(Tap tap) Is this thing on?

Hello. I’m Charlie Stross; as you probably guessed, I write novels and I’m here because my latest book from Tor The Revolution Business is published this week.

I’m not going to push this particular book at you, because unless you’ve read its four predecessors it’s pretty inaccessible. The Revolution Business is the fifth book-sized chapter in an unfolding serial novel, The Merchant Princes; I’m currently working to finish the sixth book in the series (and the final one in this story arc), The Trade of Queens. If you want to dip a toe in the water, I’d recommend starting at the beginning with The Family Trade.

Meanwhile, I’ll be blogging here for at least the next month. And if you want to ask me any questions (especially about The Merchant Princes, but I’ll try to field anything else that comes my way) feel free to ask!