PaperBackSwap Blog

Archive for June, 2011

VostromoScope – Cancer

Thursday, June 30th, 2011


Element: Water
Ruling planet: Luna
Symbol: Crab
Birthstone: I don’t know, but I’d get that checked out if I were you

Cancer. CANCER. Really? Twelve months and eight million fluffy friendly animals and THAT’S what you pick? You know, I would think the whole point of the astrological chart is to help people reflect IN TRANQUILITY on their lives and worlds — in a word, destiny — and you offer CANCER? What kind of positive impact is THAT going to make? The other signs have nice names: Aquarius (ooh…), Libra (ahh…), Sagittarius (whoa…)… then BLAM! — CANCER! What?! What the — I mean nobody’s gonna choose to drive around in the “Ford Tumor”, are they? or the “Dodge Neoplasm?” right? Nobody’s gonna get up on the Broadway stage and start singing “This is the dawning of the Age of the topoisomerase inhibitor, tra la” and anyway that doesn’t scan AT ALL!

And it just gets worse, because oh, sure, you say “it’s just the Latin word for “crab” so yadda yadda yadda” — well I mean we don’t go around the garden and say, “Oh, look at all the cute little Lepuses!” — do we? It’s not “Who Killed Roger Lepus?”, am I right? No, it’s RABBIT. Nothing wrong with that, is there, “rabbit.” And if you met a cute girl in a bar and she told you she like totally believed in her crabness, would you ask her out? I know I wouldn’t. Well maybe. Depends on how cute. Point is, how would you know what kind of crabs she really was into? Would you wanna take that chance? And she’s not gonna call anyway, so I mean…

So I just think that calling it “cancer” is really unfair to the people born under this sign. Statistics’ll back me up on this, too — you think anybody with “CANCER!” hanging over their heads has ever accomplished anything that took confidence, or self-reliance or anything? Oh please —

— Helen Keller? Whined a lot as far as I know, at least Patty Duke did in the movie. And talk about table manners!
— Henry VIII? Started this whole social upheaval that influenced the course of human history and all ‘cuz he liked the ladies to LEAVE ALREADY (they all probably had crabs, so who can blame him?)
— Julius Caesar? Even his salad dressing has friggin’ ANCHOVIES in it, I mean, talk about being bitter
— Sylvester Stallone? Guy liked to beat up cows, I mean, come on
— Tom Hanks? Do you know ANYBODY that likes Tom Hanks?
— John Glen? That guy — OK maybe John Glen made a little something of himself, but he’s the ONLY ONE

So look, let’s all just agree that we’ll start calling it something nice, something pleasant to wake up to, like, uh… “The Soft-Shell Beachcomber”, that’s not bad at all. Or maybe “Buttersauce” if you wanna just sorta jump ahead there. At least it’s not freakin’ CANCER!

This month’s forecast: Dine out at least three times, but only within a two-block radius. Someone you want to confront will be a stronger opponent than you anticipate, especially for a nine-year-old girl. Wear only blue.


Some crabbish books for your reading pleasure:

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle


The Crab: Legend of the Five Rings by  Stan Brown


The Cranky Blue Crab by Dawn L. Watkins


Tip on a Dead Crab by William Murray
I Love Crab Cakes by Tom Douglas

Romance Review – Vampire in Atlantis

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Vampire in Atlantis (Warriors of Poseidon 09) by Alyssa Day

Review by Cynthia (Frazerc


Great paranormal romance with an action plot.  Some series are like TV sitcoms, they go stale rather quickly.  Not this one! Alyssa Day manages to give each book its own fresh view of the world while moving the series story arc along and resolving the main story line.

The hero is Daniel who has played an enigmatic role through several of the previous books.  We’ve known him by several names [Daniel/Devon/Drakos/Demetrios] and in several roles – most recently he had become the vampire head of state.  Our story starts with him telling them all to shove it and going out to meet the sun in the middle of the reflecting pool on the Washington DC mall…  Good plan until SOMEONE interfered and smacked him clear to Atlantis.

Those who have been following the series know that somewhere in Atlantis lies a vault of ancient, sleeping maidens who were put into stasis 11000 years ago to be married off to Atlantean Royals as needed.  [This was a very big issue in the first book as the heroine was neither Atlantean or even a maiden and Conlan fell in love with her anyway.]  Our heroine is Serai, one of these maidens, rudely yanked into the here-and-now by the malfunctioning Emperor gem – yet another of the gems Atlantis needs before it can rise above the waves.  More importantly, the gem is harming the remaining [still sleeping] maidens and hurting her as well.  She flees Atlantis with the help of the Portal [which now has a presence and an over-the-top verbal attitude] and Daniel who materializes at her feet.  Seems she and Daniel were in love with each other back in the old, still-above-the-waves Atlantis – and both had been told the other was dead.  Talk about an ages old, long unrequited love! Can a vampire mage and an Atlantean princess find happiness while tracking down the missing gem, fighting off other vampires, witches, and the paranormal ops troops?  And then figure out how to use the gem to save the remaining maidens?  Sure they can…

Another big change of scene in this book, most of it is set in and around the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona.  Poseidon makes an appearance towards the end of the book and makes it REALLY clear he doesn’t like the area at all.

There are some real bombshells laid on the story arc which are obviously setups for the next book.  Serai makes it clear that priests don’t have to be celibate, in fact are stronger magic users when they are balanced within the soul-meld.  Big news for Alaric and Quinn.  The Portal informs the warriors in Atlantis that no one can assist Serai and Daniel because they are being ‘tested’ and refuses to transport anyone out of Atlantis.  Daniel gives over being Primus to Nicholas; another ‘bad’ vampire who seems to be trying make changes from within. Then Alaric, Quinn and tiger Jack disappear when supposedly on their way back to Atlantis…


Warriors of Poseidon Series

1.      Atlantis Rising (2007)

2.      Wild Hearts in Atlantis short story in Wild Thing

3.      Atlantis Awakening (2007)

4.      Shifter’s Lady short story in Shifter

5.      Atlantis Unleashed (2008)

6.      Atlantis Unmasked (2009)

7.      Atlantis Redeemed (2010)

8.      Atlantis Betrayed (2010)

9.      Vampire in Atlantis (2011)

Mary’s MoM Musings, Memories and Miscellany

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011


Mary (kilchurn) is today’s featured Member of the Month. She was named Member of the Month in April 2011.


1. How long have you been a PBS member?

I became a member on June 29, 2007 – so 4 years tomorrow.


2. How did you find PBS?

I was sitting in my teeny home office surrounded by bookshelves filled with books.  I hadn’t been to the used bookstore in a while and I was due.  My husband came in my office with a post-it note and handed it to me.  He glanced around the room at all of my books and told me I might find that website “helpful”.  Neither of us had any idea of what was to come.


How has PBS impacted your life?

While PBS has opened my eyes to new genres of books, the books take a backseat to the wonderful people I have met.  PBS has provided me with my real-life best friend as well has two other wonderful women who are great friends and co-conspirators.  I have made friendships with people all across the US with whom I laugh, cry and share my own experiences.  I am going on the cruise in February 2012 and I CANNOT WAIT to hug everyone!!!!


What does PBS mean to you?

PBS came along during a difficult year in my life and my involvement with the site is the greatest unpaid job I’ll ever have.


3. Did you read as a child? What was your favorite book growing up? What book impacted you most as a child or young adult?

I was an avid reader as a child – my mother promised me that I could have a horse if I learned everything there was to know about them.  I LIVED at the library in section 636.1 for most of my youth.  I am quite sure I checked out every horse book at my library at least 10 times.



My favorite book as a young girl was Man O’ War by Walter Farley.  I still have my beaten up copy.


The book that impacted me most was The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel.  I had wanted to read that book for years (because it said “horses” in the title”).  My mother allowed me to read it during the summer between my junior and senior year in high school.  We had moved from the small town where I grew up to the big city of Atlanta and I completely identified with the main character.  We were both alone and making our way through a whole new world.  The Valley of Horses is the only hardcover book on my keeper shelf and is definitely a touchstone for me.




4. What is your favorite or most meaningful book read as an adult?

I don’t really have a favorite book that I’ve read as an adult, since most of what I read is for pleasure.  However, I read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein last year and I would say that it is the book that has made me stop and think.  It also makes me look at my cat and wonder what is going through her walnut-sized brain.


5. What are you reading now?

Unfortunately real-life is overshadowing my reading right now, but I have a TON of books on my TBR pile.  I want to read my copies of Lover Mine and Lover Unleashed by JR Ward.


Thank you and Happy PBS Anniversary Mary!

Sunglasses Day is Today! o-o

Monday, June 27th, 2011

An homage to Sunglasses by James L. (JimiJam)


Now that summer is officially upon us (though for some it’s been around for weeks already), it’s time to celebrate one of the most indispensable of summertime accessories, Sunglasses!

June 27th is Sunglasses Day, and regardless of whether you’re regularly bespectacled in the off-season months, it’s a day everyone should celebrate! Sunglasses are everywhere, as well they should be. Whether it was the heyday of Hollywood and Holly Golightly strolling across the screen, or General McArthur leading a column of troops, sunglasses have long gone from simple protective eyewear to truly iconic status.

Modern movies have been keen to include various and memorable sun specs, from Tom Cruise’s shades in Risky Business and Top Gun, to the Terminator’s imposingly darkened visage. Doc Brown had his futuristic visor in Back to the Future II, even when flying through a rainstorm. The Blues Brothers would be as lost without their sunglasses as they would without their hats and suits, and the Men in Black would be in a terrible state without their trusted Ray-Bans! Take a look in the video store for a movie about a dog with personality, and it’s a safe bet even pooch is sporting a cool pair of shades right there on the cover.

Music has its bright moments, and a handful of ways to keep from squinting in those moments. Summer wouldn’t be summer without catching Cheap Sunglasses playing under the glare of the midday sun. As students take to their summer breaks (or in some cases, summer classes), it’s wise to consider whether their Future’s So Bright, they have to Wear Shades. Even in the evening, Corey Hart Wears his Sunglasses at Night. For that matter, so do I!

Sunglasses have obviously long been considered integral to affecting an image of pure coolness, but there’s more to dark glasses than simple sense of style! These days, whether they’re prescription or not, Wayfarers or Aviators, Teashades or Solar Shields, sunglasses aren’t just a matter of fashion, but of protection. We all know about using sunscreen to protect our skin, but what about those pretty peepers? In these, the sunniest of months, with their prolonged daylight hours, it’s essential that we do our best to guard ourselves against both blinding glare and harmful UV rays.

There are so many bright and colorful wonders to behold in the brilliance of summer’s days, and sunglasses can help keep your eyes keen enough to take in every splendid glimpse. Whether you’re out for a stylish look, or a sensible guard against the glare, get those shades on and jump into summer!



Life Without Cheap Sunglasses Stephen E Burrows


The Meaning of Sunglasses by Hadley Freeman


Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins


Spectacles & Sunglasses


o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o o-o



Mystery Monday – The Voice of the Violin

Monday, June 27th, 2011

The Voice of the Violin by Andrea Camilleri

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This mystery is the fourth of a series starring Inspector Salvo Montalbano and set in contemporary Sicily. Character and setting drive the plot. Salvo is easily angered and distracted, both of which make him absent-minded and liable to make mistakes. He also has synesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. For instance, Salvo’s brain may assign colors to smells.  Luckily for him, he’s a gourmand that demands silence when eating so as to enjoy the food better. The descriptions of food and eating are a foodie reader’s delight.

Camilleri does not make a big deal of Salvo’s synesthesia and doesn’t refer to it in every book. But it helps Salvo to make leaps of intuition when his emotions short-circuit his intelligence. Blending ideas and hunches creatively may also help him to understand quickly new social milieus and how people are compelled to behave in them. Readers that like the questioning of people in different walks of life and shrewd investigations of Simenon’s Maigret will find Salvo’s lack of method appealing.

Salvo is every scene and he has vigorous exchanges with this subordinates in the police station, his friends, and his long-distance romantic partner Livia. Dialogue and keen descriptions aid characterization and setting of small town Sicily. Camilleri also uses shifts in tone to excellent effect. For example, Salvo will be enjoying a traditional Sicilian dish. A couple pages later he will act as the cynical fighter for what he thinks is right. For him, it’s mainly uphill battles against the endemic corruption of Berlusconi’s government, the careerism of his colleagues, and depraved human nature that leads to grotesque crimes. Then a couple pages later the comic character Officer Catarlla will be making the reader crack up like Officer Toody did in Car 54 (boy, does that date me….). Then Salvo will be bemoaning Sicily turning into a concrete nightmare due to overdevelopment, sprawl, and road-building frenzy.

Readers who don’t require a puzzle will enjoy the characters and settings of Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano novels.




It’s Beautician’s Day!

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

And to celebrate here are some Member Musings by Adriane (myhotstylist)


Do you ever think about your daily routine at work? For a beautician, routine is a foreign word. When I open the door to enter the salon, my senses go into overdrive. The smell of perms and shampoo, hairspray and colors… the sounds of music, laughter, blow-dryers and clippers. The sight of happy people surrounding me, and hair all over the floor. I’m instantly in a better mood no matter how tired, grumpy or frumpy I feel. The excitement and adrenaline begin at the thought of being able to be creative with my hands, and looking forward to the smile and hug I will later receive from my first client of the day. THIS is my life.

Although beauticians have a fun job, there are times when we rarely get to eat, experience fits of uncontrollable laughter, and sometimes we question our own sanity to the point of wanting to pull out our own hair. We laugh, we cry, we can get very catty at times. Our clients become our friends and we get the joy of sharing in their life’s greatest milestones. Words cannot express what is feels like to be the first to know when someones pregnant, getting married, got into college; or the overwhelming pain you feel when you get a call on New Years Eve and find out that a client you dearly loved has passed away. Life is definitely full of ups and downs, and beauticians see it and live it every day. We do what we do because we care about people. We get paid to play and do what we love the most.

It takes a special person to be a successful hair stylist. However, I honestly believe it takes an even more special person to put up with me in my chair. We each have our own quirks and things that makes us tick. Being a hairstylist has taught me a lot about myself. Patience, kindness, gratitude, and respect. I have been called too skinny, too fat, been told by a 9 year old that i look (cough) 39. Helped an autistic child overcome their fear of scissors. Been featured in newspapers for doing a Locks of Love haircut on a man undergoing chemo-therapy. Been invited to weddings, and almost pulled over at 5am trying to get to the salon to do said wedding updo. Sometimes, I do get frustrated, but it is mainly with myself. My hair has been almost every color of the rainbow at one point or another, but its fun to get reactions from clients in the salon over my newest do. We have a ton of fun in our profession, but mainly we are like one big crazy family.

Working in a salon has truly been one of the best experiences of my life. Ever since I could remember, all I ever wanted to do is play with hair. As you can imagine 90% of my dolls ended up bald! Not a handful of people I know can say that they have their dream job. Not only am I a beautician, I’m also a miracle worker, psychiatrist, creator, counselor, mediator, actor, comedian, friend, critic, analyst, fashion adviser, entertainer, trendsetter, informant, manipulator, keeper of secrets, hearer of confessions, and occasionally, one who cuts hair. We do our best to see the beauty in everyone, even if we want to fire our customers.


In honor of Beautician’s Day I’d like to share with you one of my favorite poems of all time.

Audrey Hepburn’s Beauty Tips:
For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.
Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!

-Sam Levenson

Now, hair are some book suggestions:

Tressed to Kill by Lila Dare


The Comb: Its History and Development by Jen Cruse


Big Hair And Flying Cows by Dolores J. Wilson


Eureka He Invented: It The Eureka Straightening Comb by Josephine Dorsey Wheeler


Can You Cut It So It Looks Longer? by Pamela Parkhurst


Killer Cuts by Elaine Viets


The Hairy Book





Author Interview with Charles Stross

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

An interview with Charles Stross by Trey

Born in Leeds, England, Charles Stross knew he wanted to be a science fiction writer from an early age. He didn’t really get started until his early teens (when his sister loaned him a manual typewriter around the time he was getting heavily into Dungeons and Dragons); the results were unexpected, and he’s been trying to bury them ever since. He made his first commercial sale to Interzone in 1986, and sold about a dozen stories elsewhere throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s before a dip in his writing career. He began writing fiction in earnest again in 1998.
Along the way to his current occupation, he went to university in London and qualified as a pharmacist. He figured out it was a bad idea the second time the local police staked his shop out for an armed robbery — he’s a slow learner. Sick at heart from drugging people and dodging SWAT teams and gangsters — it’s hard to do that when you’re wearing a lab coat — he went back to university in Bradford and did a postgraduate conversion degree in computer science. After several tech sector jobs in the hinterlands around London, initially in technical publications and then in UNIX, he emigrated to Edinburgh, Scotland, and ended up in web programming consultancy and a subsequent dot-com death march at Datacash.
All good things come to an end, and Stross made the critical career error of accepting an employment offer he couldn’t refuse in early 2000, just as the bottom dropped out of the first dot-com bubble (taking his new job with it). However, he had a parachute: he was writing a monthly Linux column for Computer Shopper, and by a hop, a skip and a jump that would be denounced as implausible by any self-respecting editor, he managed to turn his unemployment into an exciting full time career opportunity as a freelance journalist specializing in Linux and free software. Even more implausibly, after fifteen years of abject obscurity, his fiction became a runaway success and he found himself earning more as a novelist than he ever had as a programmer.
He now writes fiction full-time, has sold around 16 novels, has won one Hugo award (the novella “Concrete Jungle”) and been nominated nearly a dozen times, and has been translated into about a dozen languages. He’s also won the Prometheus Award for libertarian science fiction with Glasshouse.
He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife Feorag, a couple of cats, several thousand books, and an ever-changing herd of obsolescent computers.

Trey: First, thank you for agreeing to this interview Charlie.

If I remember correctly, you started writing Halting State, and its forthcoming sequel, Rule 34, because you wanted to write a world you wouldn’t mind living in. After all, some very bad things happen to the planet and humanity in general in Accelerando, Glasshouse, Saturn’s Children, Singularity Sky and The Family Trade, and the potential for some awful things to happen are in the Laundry novels. Is that still the case as of Rule 34?

Charlie: Yes.

Rule 34 is about as close a projection of where we might be in 2023 that I can come up with. It’s a police procedural, so of necessity it deals with some icky bits, but it’s a police procedural set in a future that is basically civilized, and has found coping strategies for dealing with today’s problems such as climate change and peak oil and corporate ethics. Some of the strategies work, some don’t — but it’s not about survivors eating their neighbours in the ruins or getting a Magic Solution to Everything handed to them on a plate by a prophet who is a thinly-disguised Mary Sue for the author’s pet hobby-horses.

In other words, it’s a world I expect to live in (although I’d like to avoid the messy bits that are the focus of the novel, if you don’t mind). Doubtless my expectations will change over the next 12 years.

Trey: I know that you had to keep changing the nature of the plot of Rule 34 as real life kept out performing your imagination for the criminal plots. What were some of the earlier versions of the plot? And how did the real world over take them?

Charlie: It wasn’t just criminal plots; it was more a case of Rule 34 being an attempt at a realistic projection of our world about 10-15 years hence. That’s always a risky time-frame even if you write it in narrow-focus (for example, a detective novel won’t paint much of a picture of global politics). When the global financial system nearly crashed in 2008 I realized I had a big problem with my existing plot, which centered on a rather outrageous economic crime; then Bernie Madoff came out of the woodwork and I realized I’d been thinking way too small. So it was back to the drawing board for a whole, and — of necessity — push the project back a year while the big picture stabilized. So I got my publishers’ permission and wrote The Fuller Memorandum, which was already under contract, a year ahead of schedule to buy myself some time.

Trey: 3D printing and mini-factories are moving from science fiction to something that can be bought by a hobbyist (sort of like computing in the early 80’s). And it plays a role in Rule 34 in both interesting and disturbing ways – where did you get the ideas for this? And do you see it going down that path in reality?

Charlie: It’s been kicking around in the zeitgeist for years. Also (cheat code coming up) it’s always a good idea for any SF author who wants to be on what passes for the cutting edge to keep a close eye on what Bruce Sterling is up to. Bruce has consistently been a decade ahead of the field for, well, decades: and he’s been _very_ interested in design and small scale fabrication and rapid prototyping since the turn of the century. And I’ve been running across people doing weird shit with 3D printers for the past few years. And a postgraduate law researcher who was looking into the intellectual property implications of 3D printing and coming to some very unexpected conclusions — copyright and in some cases patent coverage do not apply! — and it all seems to be coming together.

Trey: I’ve enjoyed reading your female characters – Rachel Mansour, Sue Smith and Elaine Barnaby, Oshi Adjani and Miriam Beckstein – how do you wind up writing them as well as you do?

Charlie: It’s not hard: I just try to give them the same level of realistic ideation that I’d give a male protagonist. I’m more surprised that many male SF authors don’t take more pains to get their female characters right. Women are people too, and they’re probably the majority of the reading audience!

Trey: One of the characters in Rule 34, the Toymaker, is one of the most disturbing viewpoint characters I’ve encountered in fiction in years. Where did you get the information to put together a viewpoint for a sociopathic character like you did?

Charlie: Actually, the Toymaker is loaded up — he’s both a paranoid schizophrenic and a sociopath — although one of these conditions is a long term side-effect of medication intended to treat the other. (Many neuroleptic drugs have bizarre and unpleasant side-effects, and we don’t actually have any medications for sociopathy/reduced empathy, so I decided to invent one, along with plausible undesirable effects …)

There are a lot of sociopaths out there: about 2% of the population, by some estimates. But it’s a spectrum disorder. Most sociopaths aren’t knife-wielding serial killers, they’re just people who have a depressed ability to feel empathy for or model the internal emotional states of other human beings or animals. One side-effect of this is a lack of guilt or embarrassment. Got a thrill-seeking friend who’s a bit narcissistic and lies shamelessly? Odds are they’re a bit sociopathic. Then we go all the way to the far end of the spectrum and find the predators who end up in high-security prisons because, despite being utterly free of moral qualms, they’re not actually supermen and most of the criminal ones get caught. An interesting thing to note is that sociopaths/psychopaths don’t anticipate punishment and so are virtually undeterred by the threat of criminal sanctions. (Which feeds into my point about our legal systems being broken.)

Finally, there’s another category of sociopath out there: the corporation. Corporations are granted many of the rights of individual humans in law, but they’re _not_ human: they’re machines for maximizing revenue flow. While a well-run corporation abides within the letter of the law, there’s no conscience there, no empathy other than that which the employees bring to their day job, and if they exercise empathy to the detriment of the company’s interests they can be fired. Successful corporations tend to be a bit sociopathic, and the climate of modern capitalism is if anything structured to promote sociopathic behaviour.

Trey: In 2002 you had a thought provoking essay on the Panopticon Singularity. How has that essay been superseded in the past 9 years? Or filtered into your works?

Charlie: Rule 34 is the panopticon singularity novel. It comes from a throwaway idea by Vernor Vinge — that perhaps one of the limiting factors on the survival of technological singularity would be the development of tools of ubiquitous law enforcement, such that all laws can be enforced — or infringements detected — automatically.

Our lawmakers are out of control.

In the period 1997-2010, in the UK, the then Labour government created an average of one new criminal offence (felony) for every day Parliament was in session. I asked a couple of legal experts how many actual chargeable offences there were in the English legal system; they couldn’t give an exact answer but suggested somewhere in the range 5000-20,000. The situation in the USA is, however, much, much worse, with different state and federal legal systems and combinations of felonies; the true number may be over a million, and a tax code so large that no single human being can be familiar with all of it (but failure to comply is frequently felonious).
Now, most of the time most of these laws don’t affect most of us. But there’s a key principle of law, that ignorance is no defence: I’m willing to bet that most human beings are guilty of one or more crimes, be they smoking a joint or underage sex or speeding or forgetting to declare earnings, or failing to file the paperwork for some sort of permit we don’t even know exists. We are all potentially criminals.

Meanwhile we have a legal system based on the theory that human beings possess free will, that they commit crimes out of malice, and that the threat or actual delivery of punishment is necessary to keep them in line. All of which are arguably invalid assumptions, if what behavioural psychology tells us is correct.

How do you run a complex society that relies on most people staying within agreed behavioural limits most of the time, if your legal system is not merely broken but can’t be fixed because it’s based on false premises?
(That’s what Rule 34 asks …)

Trey: It has been said that history is the secret resource of science fiction – and I’ve read many novels that were thinly disguised versions of historical events. You, on the other hand, seem to have largely avoided that (with the exception of the New Republic fleet in Singularity Sky). How did you do that? And more importantly, why?

Charlie: I don’t avoid it; it’s just that history never repeats exactly the same pattern, so it’s lazy writing to use an historical event without mangling it out of recognition! Also, a lot of my plots tend to focus on micro-level details so that the background patterns of history aren’t immediately obvious.

The Merchant Princes series did draw on history to some extent — on the evolution and development of mediaeval states, on the problems of economic development, and (extensively) on the collapse of the first British empire (which, in one of the time lines our protagonists explore, went very differently — thanks to a different outcome from a committee meeting held on a rainy Sunday in spring of 1745 in a palace in Edinburgh).

Trey: What is next up for you? Any new projects in the works?

Charlie: Plenty. I’m currently working in parallel on the fourth Laundry novel (The Apocalypse Codex) and on a collaboration with Cory Doctorow (The Rapture of the Nerds), both due for publication in 2012. In the work queue behind them, there’s a far future deep space novel (Neptune’s Brood), and then a near future political farce (The Lambda Functionary) — both sold, so barring catastrophes they’ll see print in the next couple of years, although I’m still at the note-taking stage on both projects.

I don’t generally comment on stuff that isn’t sold, though, so if you don’t mind I’m going to keep quiet about more speculative stuff. In any case, what I’ve just described is my bread and butter through 2013 …

Trey: How does it feel to keep getting nominated for the Prometheus Award for libertarian SF? Especially since it doesn’t seem like you aim your novels at that segment.

Charlie: It’s amusing. But I should like to note that Libertarian SF is a broad church, encompassing social libertarianism (“legalise cannabis!”) as well as economic libertarianism (“Ayn Rand is God!”). I can sign on for one but not the other; and in any event, examining issues surrounding the human existential condition — including, yes, liberty — is part of my shtick.

Trey: Outside of a desire to eat and keep a roof over your head, what motivates you to write?
Charlie: It’s fun. Or rather, I have these crazy ideas and when I let enough of them escape onto the pages people send me books to sign — and holding them is fun.

Oh, and also to keep the cats’ vet bills paid. (They’re elderly and cantankerous and don’t have insurance.)

Trey: What non-science fiction books would you suggest for your fans?

Charlie: I’m currently working my way through Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945 by Tony Judt, and making slow going. (Reason: something very weird has happened to Europe in the past two-thirds of a century — for the first time ever there’s a hegemonic expanding power in Europe that the countries on the periphery are queuing up to join rather than arming up to fight to the death! Furthermore, the last time we went this long without an invading army crossing the Rhine was the height of the Roman Empire. This phenomenon is truly remarkable because it’s truly unprecedented, and I want to get my head around it because it may be one of the most significant historic changes of the 21st and 22nd centuries.)

Trey: Favorite beer when you’re in the US?

I’m partial to a Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA — but only one of an evening, and usually at the end!

Trey:Thanks again Charlie. I’m looking forward to seeing Rule 34 in print.


Thank you Trey and Charles Stross for a great interview! Charles Stross has generously offered a copy of his new book, Rule 34 to a member who comments on this interview. The winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!