Wagner Support SF Reviews. SF Reviews. All rights reserved. Book cover art by Sophie Toulouse. For one thing, it's actually about what it would will?
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I have a confession to make: I am not a gamer. No, really and truly. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 , which was so crap that I sold it after two months and bought a Casio FXp — a glorified programmable calculator, but I still have it and it still works. By the time my work machines were able to run games reasonably well, my eyesight and reflexes were those of a thirty-something. Lacking years of twitching or rather, having keyboard reflexes fine-tuned for vi, not missile launchers , I am consequently crap at almost all computer games.
I've been really interested in Virtual Reality as a key indicator that we're living in the future ever since William Gibson published Neuromancer back in , and especially since Neal Stephenson published Snow Crash in , and rang the curtain down on cyberpunk in the process.
Yes, I have first edition copies of both books. Well-read ones. VR seems to exemplify the modern SF paradigm of information space in much the way that the idea of interplanetary exploration exemplified the old paradigm of real space. But, here in the real world, the progress of VR into everyday life has been slow and tenuous Then in I was in the audience at a panel at an SF convention discussing crime and the internet.
One of the panelists had an anecdote from a police station blotter. The victim had been sold a duff in-game item via an auction site: offense, "obtaining money or goods in kind by deception".
This caught my imagination and I went digging and stubbed my toe on the economy of Ultima Online paper from , and then the whole then-embryonic field of MMO economics. That you could buy and sell items using real-world currency seemed inevitable, and the prospect of an inflationary production-driven economy sucking in more and more players seemed fascinating.
As a friend put it, "MMOs like World of Warcraft are the first commercially successful Virtual Realities to get more than a million users". This was around the time of the Second Life boom yes, I dabbled: yes, SL is still going , and all in all it suddenly looked as if, after being fiction for a decade, and then hanging fire due to GPU performance issues and motion sensors not being up to snuff for another decade, it was finally coming through.
This was also the point at which I had my first smartphone Palm Treo So in a fit of creativity I realized that I needed to write a novel about virtual reality — not the by-now cliched cyberspace of the s and s, but the real thing. Because it would centre on a robbery at a gaming company that threatened to bring down a real world economy, it'd be told in the second person — the natural voice of the classic text adventure game "you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike".
Back in the s HP research were looking into defining an HTTP-like protocol for retrieving information from the internet based on the GPS location of the requester; I assumed a distributed, dynamic DNS-like protocol for servicing such requests would be available by How optimistic of me: in the early 00s I didn't anticipate HP's reign of misrule, or the downsizing of corporate research departments!
Finally, it would be written as Mundane science fiction i. I allowed myself one borderline-implausible device in the whole novel — the quantum computer used for breaking PKE. At Ace, my editor, an old veteran, gave me a long, cool, appraising stare then said "I'll take it, on condition it's part of a two book contract, and the other title is a space opera.
Orbit in the UK Everyone there was extremely nervous at the time I made my pitch, wondering if an axe was about to fall. As it happened, the axe was imaginary; but my editor didn't feel able to gamble on an experiment — he offered an advance half the size I was expecting, direct to paperback for a short run.
My agent and I turned him down, and agreed that I'd take the risk of writing it with just a US sale, and see if Orbit would take the finished manuscript when they saw it. It seemed even riskier when the novel took me longer than expected to write: I turned it in three months late, sweating bullets, after taking 15 months over it.
That's three months during which the author doesn't get paid. It tends to concentrate the mind! But, finally, we got to show the finished work to Orbit Final note: "Halting State" was something like my tenth SF book in print. And it was that utterly unpredictable thing, the breakthrough novel that makes a career. It ran away. Ace upped my hardcover print run, then sold out before publication and had to reprint. Starred reviews, Hugo shortlist, big paperback print run: it earned out its entire advance in the first month out in hardcover, and six months later a large and unexpected royalty cheque landed in my bank account.
It did well for Orbit, too — in their scramble to inject it back into their schedule they didn't have time to run a hardcover release, but it came out in trade paperback and kept being mis-filed under Crime in most of the bookstores I looked in. Interesting fact: Crime fiction outsells SF and Fantasy combined by about If I was purely focused on making money by writing fiction, that's where I'd be. But one word of caution: writing crime is a lot harder and more specialised than I realized before I tried it.
It's got the research requirements of hardcore physics-driven hard SF, combined with the characterization requirements of literary fiction, and your plotting had better be bulletproof or it just won't work.
Then go back, re-read it, decide who Did It, delete contradictory evidence, and write the end. I'm a bit busy at present but I'll try to set some time aside for answering them over the next week. I know its not really related to Halting State, but I do have 2 questions 1 is Rhesus Chart still on schedule for july and 2 do you have plans for more Laundry Files books after that?
I vaguely remember this being touched on, but can't quickly find the reference. As I recall it, Ace didn't print enough copies of Halting State, and - if they had - it might have hit the bestseller charts which would have had very significant implications for your notability and general reputation. Was the impact of this particular slip if I can call it that; after all, not printing enough is, in some ways, better than printing too many particularly significant, or just a mildly embarrassing blip on the chart?
It didn't hurt too much: Ace sold a ton more books than they expected and suddenly I leveled up. But it highlights one of the advantages of the Brave New World of ebooks -- with no print runs, you never run out of stock, so if a word-of-mouth phenomenon catches fire in the first month of publication, there's nothing to hold it back. FYI this book just completely blew my mind. Neuromancer for the noughties. Picky technical objection: the Acorn Archimedes series are bit machines, not bit.
To complicate matters, they had a bit - yes, twenty-six bits - address space for some purposes, but there was nothing bit about the ARM processors even then. Second Life is celebrating the official 10th birthday at the moment, and yesterday I was at their virtual Burning Man site talking with Philip Rosedale, who started it all and is now running a second company which is researching new VR ideas.
The core of Second Life is decade-old tech. He's working on new ways of producing the 3D graphics, and distributed processing, and a lot of other new stuff. You can find this reported at www.
One thing which fits with Halting State are the sensors built into smartphones and tablets. They have accelerometers and gyros, they can sense magnetic fields.
So do some game controllers, but how do you use that tech to control a virtual world? And he was talking about identity. I think he was re-running all the old arguments about the names we used on Usenet, only new we're using a 3D avatar that easily looks nothing like the real person.
And how some people are developing solid relationships in Second Life which develop into real-world marriage. Cries of dismay from some outside SL, but somebody called Arabella just said "Think pen friends". Second Life's Burning Man event is recognised as an official regional Burning Man, There's a bunch getting together in Montana the weekend. How long before we see one held at Burrowhead Holiday Village?
They have the perfect location for a Burning Man. You mentioned you wanted to avoid the 'cliched cyberspace of the s and s' when writing Halting State. What were the main cliches you wanted to avoid? Did you have a sort of checklist of particular tropes you wanted to sidestep? Do you still see books being published today that fall into these traps?
I saw on twitter you completed a NaNoWriMo in 7 days. Hope the fingers aren't too sore! The cover grabbed me - large format paperback, UK edition, that was so clearly a portrait of the author as sprite - and the front blurb by Mr Gibson sold it I have a tendency to take the word of an author I have read extensively over many other factors.. Donaldson's cover blurb for the Malazan stuff, too.
The last page pointed me here and I've been lurking since. And buying everything else too. I've used HS introduce friends and random co-workers over the years It usually works :. I wanted to write a world I could actually see myself living in the background of.
Not a grim meathook future, not a crapsack world, just: regular folks, getting along, just like normal. Additional note: I occurs to me that I've received some stick from Americans over the years for writing the USA out of the spy sub-plot in HS because they're busy dealing with a legacy of run-down infrastructure. Which I think in view of reports like this is just a little bit unfair.
Not that I'd wish a bridge collapse on anyone, but if it was so glaringly obvious to a foreign SF writer back in that he wrote it into a near-future novel, why was nothing done about it? Secundus, because we 'merkins have a serious allergy to getting our taxes raised even when it's a good idea. So please stop it. If you want to debate politics, try debating this stuff instead. I read Lobsters in a best of collection I think it was a best of the best actually , and I loved it.
I loved Halting State and Rule 34 for many of the same reasons. It provides a perfectly plausible look at the future. In fact, this style is my current preferred SF style. So please write another book like this. Question: Was it Halting State or Rule 34 that had the London Eye on the cover before you told the American publishers that they had to change it?
I saw you mentioned it somewhere before, but I can't just recall which one it was. Talking politics, Charlie am I allowed to ask if you'll still be voting LibDem in the future? And as you're in Scotland, you have the interesting choice of the nationalists. Halting State.
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Back to: Lovebible. I really wanted to make it a trilogy, you know? I mean, what could be cooler than a trilogy of near-future Scottish police procedurals about crimes that don't exist yet, written in multi-viewpoint second person? Elizabeth Bear has a term for that kind of thing: she calls it "stunt writing". Unfortunately the NSA have done it again : To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something.
A Halting State Novel Series
The prime suspects are a band of marauding orcs with a dragon in tow for fire support. The bank is located within the virtual reality land of Avalon Four, and the robbery was supposed to be impossible. For Smith, the investigation seems pointless. But the deeper she digs, the bigger the case gets.
We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later. Rule They monitor the Internet for potential criminal activity, analyzing trends in the extreme fringes of explicit content. And occasionally, even more disturbing patterns arise… Three ex-cons have been murdered in Germany, Italy, and Scotland. The only things they had in common were arrests for spamming—and a taste for unorthodox entertainment. Halting State.