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Sci-fi Author Charles Stross Cancels Trilogy: the NSA Is Already Doing It 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-we-convince-the-NSA-to-spy-on-a-ringworld dept.
doom writes "Charles Stross has announced that there won't be a third book in the Halting State trilogy because reality (in a manner of speaking) has caught up to him too fast The last straw was apparently the news that the NSA planted spies in networked games like WoW. Stross comments: 'At this point, I'm clutching my head. Halting State wasn't intended to be predictive when I started writing it in 2006. Trouble is, about the only parts that haven't happened yet are Scottish Independence and the use of actual quantum computers for cracking public key encryption (and there's a big fat question mark over the latter-- what else are the NSA up to?).'"
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Sci-fi Author Charles Stross Cancels Trilogy: the NSA Is Already Doing It

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  • by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotageNO@SPAMpraecantator.com> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @05:51PM (#45664327) Homepage

    The Scotts are to have a referendum on independance next year, as far as that goes.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @05:59PM (#45664429) Homepage Journal

      The Scotts are to have a referendum on independance next year, as far as that goes.

      With Madrid shaking its angry little fist at Scotland, saying the can't be admitted to the EU (which is an indirect way to dissuade Catalonia from pursuing independence as well.)

      Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

    • ... and I've got my immigration application signed and ready to send out*, just in case the independence movement actually succeeds :)

      *Emigrating to Scotland, not from.

      • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:14PM (#45665991) Homepage Journal

        ... and I've got my immigration application signed and ready to send out*, just in case the independence movement actually succeeds :)

        *Emigrating to Scotland, not from.

        Sorry, but there can be only one Highlander.

      • by mjwx (966435)

        ... and I've got my immigration application signed and ready to send out*, just in case the independence movement actually succeeds :)

        *Emigrating to Scotland, not from.

        I can see the immigration applications.

        Question 8:
        How many bairns have ye got:
        Lads(_) Lasses(_)

        Question 35:
        Are ye a big jessie: Aye(_) go to question 35b Noo (_)

        Question 35b
        Can ye no play fooootbul very well: Aye(_) go to question 35c Noo (_)

        Question 36c
        Ach, what the fook is wrong with ye, ye big fookin jessie: _____________________

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        I might have to as well. I don't want to leave the EU but I think most of my fellow UK subjects do. Well, the papers tell them they do. It's a scary thought.

      • Given the northward flow of tax money in the UK currently, Scottish Independence would mean that the government of the rest of the UK could immediately end all of the austerity cuts. Meanwhile, the Scottish government would be trying to get comparable handouts from the EU (likely vetoed by Spain so that Catalan independence doesn't get any inspiration), or watching the economy tank. All of the benefits that Scotland gains from large proportions of the military being stationed there in peacetime would evap
        • by _Spirit (23983)

          You are aware that Scotland will claim a significant portion of the UK's natural resources right? Scots have been arguing that money (oil and LNG) is flowing the other way....

  • Scotland (Score:4, Funny)

    by Threni (635302) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @05:53PM (#45664339)

    Still, us English folk can only hope that a future which consists of the Scots living quietly amongst themselves and us not having to put up with that awful dirge Auld Lang Syne every bloody New Year's Eve isn't the stuff of science fiction...

    • by Aboroth (1841308)
      Huh? Oh you mean that song where everyone sings "An old man's eye, my dear, an old man's eye."
  • by cold fjord (826450) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @05:58PM (#45664421)

    It's probably just writer's block. Intelligence agency interest in on-line games was in the news back around 2006-2008, just like the warrantless wiretapping controversy. If he was going to abandon it for the stated reason I would expect he would have done it then. Besides, this sort of thing hasn't really stopped other writers from creating interesting stories.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      With Bush, it was still Science Fiction. With Obama, it has become Science Fact.

    • So far in his prolific career, Stross has never been short of ideas. Writer's Block is highly unlikely. As he posts in the blog, likely he will write a book with the recent NSA revelations as the baseline, and extrapolate from there.
    • So somebody that has been continuously publishing work gets accused of writers block?
      • by khallow (566160)
        Well, writers block happens to anyone who writes. It's a natural state of the process, IMHO. I bet a prolific writer like Stross probably experiences and overcomes more writers block than I will ever see. What might have happened here is that Stross came up with a better and from his point of view more engaging story and simply lost the desire to continue the existing trilogy.

        I suppose he could have applied nose to grindstone and crank out a final novel in the series, but that wouldn't be much fun. Maybe
      • by HiThere (15173)

        Stross has more than once (now) decided that he didn't like the was a series was going, and ended it. It's not exactly writer's block, because he wrote something else instead, but it still ended the series.

        In the "Singularity Sky" series he decided that he couldn't avoid the bad guy's winning in the third volume, so he just decided to stop with "Iron Sunrise". In the "Halting State" series, Scotland was an independent country. Most of his outrageous ideas kept happening (so far "Athena" hasn't yet shown

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:06PM (#45664515)

    Would we rather see...

    - A Neal Stephenson world
    - A George Orwell world
    - A Cory Doctorow world
    - A Aldous Huxley world
    - Name your world...

    • by cusco (717999)

      CJ Cherryh's Foreigner world

    • by jimshatt (1002452)
      A Ron Jeremy world!
    • Anne McCaffrey.

      I'd happily live on Pern, Thread and all.

    • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:31PM (#45664813)

      So...
      Corporocracy
      Totalitarian states in constant war
      A post-scarcity utopia that hinges on karma
      A utopia where the people are bribed into apathy/foolishness

      I'd go with Doctorow.

      • How about this: The old governments do not change, instead the corporations incite violence by proxy. Countries conquering countries is over, they're "freed" instead. The country borders and names left the same, but the corporations fight on economic fronts to institute their economic systems and siphon up as much wealth and work from the lower and middle classes as possible in a shadow war between the people of the world and Marxist Corpratism.

        Welcome to the real world circa 1970-201X [youtube.com]

        As always, reality i

      • by storkus (179708)

        Umm...the !Doctorow options (1,2,4) are not mutually exclusive; in fact, I'm convinced we have been in a Corporatocracy for a while, which controls us through the "utopia where the people are bribed into apathy/foolishness" (courtesy of MPAA/RIAA mafia + youtube and friends), and the "Totalitarian states in constant war" is right around the corner--hell, you can see THAT just in the other comments here!

    • More options, and more hope.. and Moties look like they would be fun to hang out with. Tho preferably after the Kzin wars are over.. i don't want to be eaten by a cat.

      Can i sign up to be an ARM agent?

    • by Esteanil (710082) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:00PM (#45665181) Homepage Journal

      Definitively a Iain M. Banks world (The Culture)

    • by dbIII (701233)
      I'll vote for a "Letters to Playboy" world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:09PM (#45664543)

    A lot of fiction looks dated when current events or technology surpass what was supposed to be a look at the future. This time it caught up with this novelist before he even finished his story. Some are suggesting it caught up with him before he finished the previous piece of it.

    Such is the life of a novelist. Next time be more novel.

  • by Mister Liberty (769145) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:09PM (#45664545)
    Be quick and write that book where a large government structure, say like the Bastille,
    is being stormed by citizens, and the Repulbic of the truly Free can finally be established
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Be quick and write that book where a large government structure, say like the Bastille,is being stormed by citizens, and the Repulbic of the truly Free can finally be established"

      Even blackjack and hookers would do nicely.

  • by Trogre (513942) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:31PM (#45664817) Homepage

    The NSA has been heavily monitoring Internet traffic since the 90s, and no one seemed to mind.

    Perhaps it was predictive in the sense of people suddenly becoming outraged about it now.

    • It's predictive if all you read is near-future sci-fi. Most of the sci-fi we call predictive is either mere coincidence or some bored engineer reading or watching it and deciding it's a cool thing to make things like sentient AI (Asimov, Clarke, et al), a multipurpose hand-held information acquisition tool (Star Trek), or a laser-based space defense system (Star Wars). So no suprise there. If you fire in one general direction enough times, you're bound to hit the bull's eye some time.

      • by Trogre (513942)

        Indeed, that is true. Though I was referring more to the fact that while he was writing those books, the surveillance was already widely known to be happening in his present, not the future, and had been for some time.

        It would be a bit like writing a science fiction novel today that involved a global social network or semi-robotic car assembly lines.

        • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@ e a r t h l i nk.net> on Thursday December 12, 2013 @12:21AM (#45667701)

          It wasn't public knowledge. Everyone who believed it was considered paranoid, at least during the 1960's-70's. Maybe they were. (If you think you know when they really started listening to everyone, I think you're over estimating certainty.)

          P.S.: Surveillance was not the point of the Stross books. It was background, Just like Scottish independence. In Halting State the big surprise was supposed to be a bank robbery inside a virtual game. Shortly after it was published, it happened in Eve-online. The police (and others) were wearing something considerably like google glass. (Actually, I think they looked more like a pair of heavy sunglasses, but I'd need to reread to be sure.) There were virtual overlays on reality published by advertisers, game players, etc. The wierd thing is those have started happening while almost nobody is wearing a VR headset. Spooks, a VR mixed with reality game, was a major subplot. So my brother-in-law walks in with a game called ghosts played on his phone, where he's supposed to chase around after a ghost that can only be seen on his phone, but where the chasing happens in physical space. (That's not Spooks, by any means. For one thing the ghost tried to get him to chase it in front of a car driving down the street. Spooks had more awareness of the actual surroundings.)

          Or, another sub-plot involved remotely driven taxis. But Google has nearly gotten fully automated vehicles working.

          Basicly, the world that developed made a lot of choices that weren't the same, and the stuff that was supposed to be new and exciting kept happening before most people bought the book. Near future SF used to be easier. Unexpected changes were slower in arriving. They ALWAYS arrived out of order, and with some choices not the same, but usually you had several years leeway (so most of your sales could happen before the book was obsolete).

          So now he's discontinued the series. And he's going to wait until the votes for Scottish independence and Britain remaining in the EU are in before he tries any more near future books. Quite reasonable. (Snarl! I don't care if the series didn't match this universe, I wanted the next volume.)

  • All indications are that Verisign and others were compelled to turn over their master keys, so what's left to crack? Seriously, via MitM they can own just about any internet-using box on the planet, and failing that, there's always the cousin of Stuxnet.

    The only solution at this point is a human one - make them stop. Technologically, it's already past game over.

    • by wed128 (722152)

      Or stop trusting central authorities. Run a certificate authority, hand out keys out-of-band, and do the "Web of trust" thing the old fashioned way.

      There's no reason you need somebody like Verisign for personal, or even public, communication.

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        No reason other than every browser on the planet warning its users not to trust your certificate authority, you mean?

        • by wed128 (722152)

          They *SHOULD* warn, unless the person browsing explicitly trusts you. That's the whole point.

  • by Molt (116343) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:06PM (#45665251)
    It could be worse, The Laundry could be becoming reality.
    • Speaking of The Laundry series, he had to change the villains in the Atrocity Archives after they, Al-quada turned out to actually be planning an attack on US soil.

      I think he needs to start writing something pleasant and nondistopian, because it is looking more and more like someone is channeling his writing into the real world. Uh oh, I think he predicted that too, in The Jennifer Morgue.

    • Sometimes I have dreams about code Nightmare Green. I hope that doesn't make me a sensitive.

  • ... anything sufficiently distancing itself from reality is too farfetched to make a plausible premise. I mean, he COULD say that they take DNA from citizens and then create virtual humans inside a matrix to predict human interaction to better control the population.

    Then we have a virtual Snowden break lose on the web like Max Headroom and someone ends up with another case of writers block.

  • HHGTTG had six books in the trilogy, so I think we are being short-changed here...

  • by namgge (777284) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:18PM (#45665393)

    Perhaps Mr Stross could use his skills to to describe an imaginary world where the government told the whole truth to the electorate, there was a right to privacy, and only politicians were systematically spied on and investigated...

    It sure would be interesting to know what that would be like.

    • Ian M. Banks' Culture series does that pretty well.
    • by anarcat (306985)

      Actually, that last part (politicians were systematically spied on and investigated) is one of the key plot elements of the novel "The Circle" by Dave Eggers - except everyone is spied on there...

  • I still want to read it!!!! I love Stross' work and I imagine his 3rd installment would still be a good read, regardless of real world applicability.

    • by lgw (121541)

      He's still writing a book with many of the same ideas. I'll just be glad if he drops the "second person storytelling" gimmick. That was clever for about one chapter, and most people won't even get the joke.

    • Don't worry, he won't stop writing; he just won't publish this particular story. He's going to go write something else which he thinks you will enjoy reading even more!

  • Can we have a Kickstarter to get Charlie Stross to write a book about a nice utopic Singularity where nothing horrible happens to anyone?
    • by Artifakt (700173)

      In a word, NO. Stross wrote three books that are formally Singularity/Post Singularity novels, and I guarentee you he absolutely cannot write a nice utopic singularity (although Accelerando has a happy ending for some lobster dataclones, and some individual people in the Iron Sunrise duology make it through all the horrible things happening and have nice enough individual lives, a Strossian Singularity inevitiably includes mass extinctions.). His current series include one with a possible future singularity

  • He should go back to the previous books, revamp them then publish updated versions as v2.0.
  • Get all that encryption math and computer power together, and . . . what gets summoned?
  • I had an idea for a book (that I'd probably never write) where a Canadian spy service turned out to be one of the worst offenders for international assholery. The basic premise was that nobody would think of Canada as a bunch of meddling douch-nozzles; and then damn it turns out we are.

    The whole stupid thing is that if you were to add up all the value that Canada has received from our super spy stuff that it would pale in comparison to the damage that has been done to our international reputation. How man
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      If it turns out that the spies were stopping a James Bond level supervillain every month or so then it might have been worth it.

      That's the problem with all of this massive state defense apparatus bullshit. I know people who are various types of special forces and they will happily tell you that there are real threats out there, but then they will tell you that they can't tell you anything about them. In truth, they actually know fuck-all, and are just going by whatever their higher-ups have told them. They have no idea who the hell they're being sent out to kill, except what they're told.

      In fact, our military has been shown to act p

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 12, 2013 @01:19AM (#45667935)

    I sympathize with Charles Stross's problem. When I wrote "TobakkoNacht" in 1997, it was based on a prediction that by the mid 2020s we'd be seeing the introduction of smoking bans outdoors in public plazas (which NY's Bloomberg brought in three years ago and has been emulated in California and elsewhere), smoking bans in brothels to protect the "working girls" (old news now in Canada), people being shot in smoking disputes (numbers of them by now, including two pregnant women, as well as country singer Wayne Mills last week), a worldwide antitobacco treaty (similar to the 2000s' "World Framework On Tobacco Control" that is now threatening countries that refuse to abide by its dictates) and a president having to hide his evil smoking habit. The problem was that aside from a preliminary Kindle short story version in late 2008, I didn't get to fully publish it until a few months ago as an opening fiction-piece in "TobakkoNacht -- The Antismoking Endgame." When I originally wrote the story I was criticized for supposing that any such things could come about as early as the 2020s ... or *ever* come about at all.

    NOT "anonymous coward" here:
    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of "TobakkoNacht -- The Antismoking Endgame"

    • by nojayuk (567177)

      That's a bit like AsbestosNacht -- the idea that the wonder material of the twentieth century, asbestos, was a toxic hazard to health would have been laughed at by the enlightened rationalists of the 1930s and 1940s. Fortunately everyone knows tobacco is harmless and indeed positively beneficial hence the presence of public smokatoriums burning the weed in city centres so everyone can enjoy its healthgiving effects and pleasant odours. And let's not forget those other boons to mankind, lead and mercury, so

  • by blahblahwoofwoof (2287010) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @07:41AM (#45669199)

    ..faster than it is becoming the past."

    (That may be a paraphrase of a quote in the last year or so from a lady whose name I can't recall. Nor can I find the original text where it appeared. But it has stuck with me just the same. My apologies to the original author.)

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