content by

Charles Stross

Fiction and Excerpts [9]

Fiction and Excerpts [9]

Five Sagas About Alternate Timelines and Parallel Universes

Travel between parallel universes (or time lines, as they’re sometimes called) goes back a long way in SF, but has become vastly more popular since the 1950s and the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, whereby the outcome of every quantum-scale event is resolved by creating new parallel versions of the entire universe for each possible outcome.

[Here are five, written in both fantasy and SF style]

Series: Five Books About…

A Primer on Charles Stross’s The Laundry Files

The Laundry Files are a long-running series of stories and novels I’ve been writing since roughly 1999. Today marks the publication of The Labyrinth Index, the ninth novel in the sequence.

This is your five-minute orientation briefing before Human Resources take over for your induction paperwork. Please try to pay attention: there won’t be an exam, but your life may depend on it.

[Read more]

Read an Excerpt from The Labyrinth Index, a New Laundry Files Novel from Charles Stross

Since she was promoted to the head of the Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs, every workday for Mhari Murphy has been a nightmare. It doesn’t help that her boss, the new Prime Minister of Britain, is a manipulative and deceptive pain in the butt. But what else can she expect when working under the thumb of none other than the elder god N’yar Lat-Hotep a.k.a the Creeping Chaos?

Mhari’s most recent assignment takes her and a ragtag team of former Laundry agents across the pond into the depths of North America. The United States president has gone missing. Not that Americans are alarmed. For some mysterious reason, most of the country has forgotten the executive branch even exists. Perhaps it has to do with the Nazgûl currently occupying the government and attempting to summon Cthulhu.

It’s now up to Mhari and her team to race against the Nazgûl’s vampire-manned dragnet to find and, for his own protection, kidnap the president.

Who knew an egomaniacal, malevolent deity would have a soft spot for international relations?

The Labyrinth Index marks the start an exciting new story arc in Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series—available October 30th from Tor Books.

[Read more]

Five Books / Series to Read if You Like The Laundry Files

The Laundry Files is a cross-genre series; it’s British, but beyond that it transgresses wildly by crossing the streams of normally rigid marketing categories. We have comedy, we have horror, we have magic, we have technology, we have spies. So: what else is out there that has a not-dissimilar feel to the Laundry Files?

[Read more]

How The Laundry Files Got Published

One of the realities of publishing that we don’t like to talk about is that a series generally lives or dies by grace of its first publisher. It’s extremely unusual for a series to hop from one publisher to another, yet with the recent publication of The Delirium Brief by Publishing, the Laundry Files will be on its third US publisher (and fifth English language publisher overall). What happened and how did we get here?

[Read more]

Five Books (or Series) to Read if You Like The Laundry Files

The Laundry Files is a cross-genre series; it’s British, but beyond that it transgresses wildly by crossing the streams of normally rigid marketing categories. We have comedy, we have horror, we have magic, we have technology, we have spies. So: what else is out there that has a not-dissimilar feel to the Laundry Files?

The works I want to point you at today all share three or more from a set of six attributes: they’re mostly British, their protagonists mostly work for bureaucracies (government or police, but also academia), and they mostly involve magic. They may also share other attributes—humour, time travel, and a seasoning of steampunk—but the latter three are a little more optional. So, without further ado, here’s my “if you liked the Laundry Files you may like these” list.

[Read more]

Series: Five Books About…

The Time for Peace is Ending: Revealing Dark State by Charles Stross

We’re excited to share the cover for Charles Stross’ Dark State, a sleek and provocative techno-thriller set in The Merchant Princes multi-verse. Dark State ups the ante on the already volatile situations laid out in Empire Games, as Stross dives deep into the underbelly of paratime espionage, nuclear warfare, and state surveillance.

Check out the full cover and read an excerpt from the novel below!

[Read more]

Five Books About Espionage

Whenever the subject of writing about espionage comes up in conversation and I say it’s something I’m interested in, the immediate reaction I’ve come to expect is, “Oh, you mean like James Bond?” It’s actually quite predictable, just as “Oh, like Star Wars?” used to be the usual reaction to me saying I write science fiction … and it’s just as wrong.

This month Tor published Empire Games, the first book in my Empire Games trilogy. It’s a science-fictional spy thriller; so if you can imagine a James Bond movie set in the Star Wars universe? That’s almost exactly not what it’s about.

Espionage is about spies the way that science fiction is about rocket ships or astronomy is about building telescopes: yes, those items feature in the field to some extent, but there’s a lot more to it. Espionage—or more accurately, intelligence-gathering—is about the process of piecing together an accurate picture of a target’s intentions and capabilities, to enable policy-makers (be they corporate or national) to put in place an appropriate response.

[Read more]

Series: Five Books About…

Empire Games

The year is 2020. It’s seventeen years since the Revolution overthrew the last king of the New British Empire, and the newly-reconstituted North American Commonwealth is developing rapidly, on course to defeat the French and bring democracy to a troubled world. But Miriam Burgeson, commissioner in charge of the shadowy Ministry of Intertemporal Research and Intelligence—the paratime espionage agency tasked with catalyzing the Commonwealth’s great leap forward—has a problem. For years, she’s warned everyone: “The Americans are coming.” Now their drones arrive in the middle of a succession crisis.

In another timeline, the U.S. has recruited Miriam’s own estranged daughter to spy across timelines in order to bring down any remaining world-walkers who might threaten national security.

Two nuclear superpowers are set on a collision course. Two increasingly desperate paratime espionage agencies try to find a solution to the first contact problem that doesn’t result in a nuclear holocaust. And two women—a mother and her long-lost daughter—are about to find themselves on opposite sides of the confrontation.

Charles Stross builds a new series with Empire Games, expanding on the world he created in the Family Trade series—available January 17th from Tor Books!

[Read an Excerpt]

The Annihilation Score

Dominique O’Brien—her friends call her Mo—lives a curious double life with her husband, Bob Howard. To the average civilian, they’re boring middle-aged civil servants. But within the labyrinthian secret circles of Her Majesty’s government, they’re operatives working for the nation’s occult security service known as the Laundry, charged with defending Britain against dark supernatural forces threatening humanity.

Mo’s latest assignment is assisting the police in containing an unusual outbreak: ordinary citizens suddenly imbued with extraordinary abilities of the super-powered kind. Unfortunately these people prefer playing super-pranks instead of super-heroics. The Mayor of London being levitated by a dumpy man in Trafalgar Square would normally be a source of shared amusement for Mo and Bob, but they’re currently separated because something’s come between them—something evil.

An antique violin, an Erich Zann original, made of human white bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues—and her husband. And despite Mo’s proficiency as a world class violinist, it cannot be controlled…

From Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross comes The Annihilation Score, the next case in The Laundry Files—available July 7th from Penguin Books.

[Read an excerpt]


Winner of the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Novella. Charles Stross’s “Equoid” is a new story in his ongoing “Laundry” series of Lovecraftian secret-agent bureaucratic dark comedies, which has now grown to encompass four novels and several works of short fiction. “The Laundry” is the code name for the secret British governmental agency whose remit is to guard the realm from occult threats from beyond spacetime. Entailing mastery of grimoires and also of various computer operating systems, the work is often nose-bleedingly tedious. As the front-cover copy line for Ace’s edition of The Atrocity Archives noted, “Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” Previous “Laundry” stories on are “Down on the Farm” and the Hugo Award finalist “Overtime.”

Like some other stories published on, “Equoid” contains scenes and situations some readers will find upsetting and/or repellent. [—The Editors]

This novella was acquired and edited for by senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

[Read “Equoid” by Charles Stross]

Neptune’s Brood (Excerpt)

Take a peek at Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross, out on July 2 from Ace Books:

The year is AD 7000. The human species is extinct—for the fourth time—due to its fragile nature. Krina Alizond-114 is metahuman, descended from the robots that once served humanity. She’s on a journey to the water-world of Shin-Tethys to find her sister Ana. But her trip is interrupted when pirates capture her ship. Their leader, the enigmatic Count Rudi, suspects that there’s more to Krina’s search than meets the eye.

He’s correct: Krina and Ana each possess half of the fabled Atlantis Carnet, a lost financial instrument of unbelievable value—capable of bringing down entire civilizations. Krina doesn’t know that Count Rudi suspects her motives, so she accepts his offer to get her to Shin-Tethys in exchange for an introduction to Ana.

And what neither of them suspects is that a ruthless body-double assassin has stalked Krina across the galaxy, ready to take the Carnet once it is whole—and leave no witnesses alive to tell the tale?.

[Read more]

Charles Stross on the Merchant Princes Series: Crib Sheet

There’s nuts and bolts science fiction, and then there’s science fiction where the ideas are all drawn from some other field. In the case of the Merchant Princes, underneath the second world fantasy meets techno-thriller car-crash, there’s a science fictional examination of a topic that seldom gets air-play: the political determinants of economic development and industrialization.

The world of the Clan is mired in a classic development trap—a situation that prevailed for the vast mass of humanity until roughly 1800, and which we have no actual deep understanding of how to break out of. All we really know is that, prior to 1700 or thereabouts, Great Britain was economically not very far out of line with the rest of western Europe. But by 1860 the UK had achieved a mind-boggling industrial Great Leap Forward, becoming the first truly modern superpower: with naval basing rights in 130 other countries, a navy larger than the two next largest combined, and a staggering 60% of planetary GDP, it occupied much the position in the late 19th century that the USA occupied by the late 20th century.

[Read more]

Charles Stross on the Merchant Princes Series: How I Built A World

I have a confession to make: I hate clichés. This is a problem, because a cliché is a good idea that has been re-used so often that it outstays its welcome.

Also, being a Brit of a certain outlook, I do not view monarchism or aristocracy with any degree of nostalgic fondness. The divine right of kings is a post-hoc justification for hereditary dictatorship (current poster-child: Kim Jong-Un) and the feudal age was one of total militarization of society, of petty lords with the right to hang any serf whose face they didn’t like, and of wars ravaging the land every generation.

Finally: I’m lazy and cynical, I get bored easily, and I have a warped sense of humour. Which is how I came up with this series. I grabbed hold of a bunch of clichés and rammed them together until I achieved fusion. And that’s how The Bloodline Feud starts.

[Read more]

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.