By Charlie Stross "Glasshouse" happened by accident, through a collision of unexpected intersections. But it was a happy accident, in the end. Rewind to And then a book by one of my favourite SF writers is announced—a new title by John Varley. This was also the early 21st century. Abu Ghraib was in the news.
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By Charlie Stross "Glasshouse" happened by accident, through a collision of unexpected intersections. But it was a happy accident, in the end. Rewind to And then a book by one of my favourite SF writers is announced—a new title by John Varley.
This was also the early 21st century. Abu Ghraib was in the news. These experiments suggested that atrocities are in many ways situational: rather than arising from the behaviour of corrupt individuals, phenomena like the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib happened because the environment itself is inherently corrupting and most people will obey what they perceive to be lawful instructions emanating from a legitimate source of authority even if those instructions are themselves illegal or inappropriate.
What happens if you pin them down at random, frozen in one form or another, and give them incentives to conform to arbitrary roles, as a way of interrogating the assumptions and stupidities we take for granted? Of course, this was such a juicy chew-toy that working on it was inevitable. I shambled home, wrote up some notes, and resolved to sit on it for six or nine months, until I was due to write another novel. And then I managed to hold it back for almost ten days. The first draft of "Glasshouse" poured out in 21 days flat, ran to 91, words, and was terrible.
Or rather, the first two thirds worked okay; then it ran right off the rails. But what was going on? Why was Robin on the run, and from who? To realize that if you have a posthuman polity of immortals, then the only thing they can reasonably fight over is their memory of the past "he who controls the past controls the present; he who controls the present controls the future", as George Orwell put it and the only way you can rehabilitate their past crimes is to project them so far into the future that they are no longer relevant.
Final notes Firstly: yes, I have plans for a sequel provisionally titled "Ghost Engine" set years later, when the slower-than-light colony ship harboring the Glasshouse arrives at its destination to discover that the Censorship Wars are still in fact continuing.
So writing this one is on the back-burner until such time as I win the lottery. Secondly: accidentally burping up a spare novel in really helped.
That brain-fogging experience sucked, and took a long time to get over. So by late the ace in the hole was spent, probably never to be replaced.
But it saved me from a gap year in the publishing schedule along the way.
I held it off for all of two weeks or so, until 8 April, when the compulsion to start writing became too strong to resist, and the first draft emerged in just three weeks of obsessive hour days. The culture featured in the novel is based on the culture portrayed in the last chapter of Accelerando, "Survivor" full chapter here. Robin, a human male, is recovering from a memory excision process in a rehabilitation centre. Though he remembers nothing of his past life s , he suspects that he lived through traumatic times as a participant in the series of wars that raged many years before. Suspecting that he has been targeted for assassination by persons unknown, he agrees to sign-up with a radical, isolated social experiment that will attempt to recreate the forgotten " Dark Ages ", the late 20th and early 21st centuries. On being transferred to the polity in which the program is being held, he discovers that he has been given the body of a woman, Reeve. As the experiment unfolds, she begins to suspect that all is not what it seems, and that the founders of the experiment are engaged in a very sinister conspiracy.
All opinions expressed on this blog are the opinions of the individual writers and are not necessarily the official positions of the Libertarian Futurist Society or its officers. Comments on blog posts are welcome, but we reserve the right to moderate comments and do not welcome spam, personal attacks or unpleasant political polemics. For inquiries about submitting pieces for publication, please write to blog lfs. For information about joining the Libertarian Futurist Society and participating in the Prometheus Award, have a look around at lfs. Pursued by a dangerous enemy and desperate to find somewhere to hide, the post-human Robin volunteers to participate in the Glasshouse, an experimental simulation of a pre-accelerated culture in which participants are assigned anonymized identities. In this future, people look back at our own pre-singularity century as a primitive time and part of the Dark Ages. Even so, the simulation requires participants to re-enact life in the 21stcentury.