Sunday, February 1, 2015

Laundering Reality: Charles Stross's Laundry Files

The Rhesus ChartI'm about three months behind on blog posts, so....

During the latter part of October (that's 2014) I received in the mail my comp copies[1] of The Rhesus Chart, volume 5 in the continuing Laundry Files series by Charles Stross.

Interestingly enough, at about that same time, Charlie published a blog post on his public Diary entitled "The Curse of the Laundry."

In the opening paragraph, the author writes:
There's some kind of bizarre curse hanging over my Laundry Files series. Or maybe it's a deeper underlying problem with writing fiction set in the very near future (or past): I'm not sure which. All I'm sure is that that for the past decade, reality has been out to get me: and I'm fed up.

Here's the first example that Charlie provides in his post:

[in 2001] I'd just finished writing "The Atrocity Archive" and it was being edited for serial publication in issues 7-9 of the Scottish SF magazine Spectrum SF....

In Chapter 4 of "The Atrocity Archive" Bob learns from Angleton who the Middle Eastern bad guys who kidnapped Mo, intending to use her sacrifice to open a gateway to somewhere bad, really were ... and when I originally wrote the story, in 1999-2000, they were a relatively obscure bunch of anti-American zealots who'd blown up the USS Stark and an embassy in Africa. I know this may boggle the imagination of younger or more forgetful readers, but Al Quaida and Osama bin Laden had not at that time hijacked any airliners, much less etched themselves into the pages of world history....

So, on the 12th of September 2001, the score stood at Reality 1, Fiction 0. And I hastily did an edit job, replacing ObL and AQ with Yusuf Qaradawi as inspiration behind a hypothetical radical group based in groan Iraq (hey, this was before the invasion, all right?). And lo, part one of "The Atrocity Archive" was published in November 2001, and parts 2 and 3 in March and June of 2002.

I'm not sure if the Laundry Files take place in the recent past or in the very near future, or in an alternate reality -- or all three of those at once! In his "Curse" post, Charlie goes around and around on this given how current events always seem to catch up with -- and overtake -- most of the novels. The "Laundry Curse" came back to haunt Charlie with The Fuller Memorandum, written in 2008; The Apocalypse Code, written in April 2010 and March 2011; and again in the recently published The Rhesus Chart, written between September and December 2012. Of course, not to be left out, the forthcoming The Annihilation Score also gets bit by reality.

You can read all of the events to which Charlie refers -- including his declaration about the reality of the Laundry-verse -- in his post "The Curse of the Laundry." And don't forget to check out the nearly 300 comments!


[1] I have been involved as an editor in one form or another with all six volumes of the Laundry Files. I acquired and edited the original hardcover editions of The Atrocity Archives (novel The Atrocity Archive and Hugo Award-winning novella "The Concrete Jungle) and The Jennifer Morgue for Golden Gryphon Press. With volume three in the series, The Fuller Memorandum, Charlie moved to Ace Books -- and I was hired as a freelancer by Ace to line edit and copy edit the novel. Ace obviously was satisfied with my work, because I was called upon to work on the next three volumes. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to work on future Laundry Files volumes as well. And yes, I did mention volume 6, The Annihilation Score, which I just completed work on, and will be published by Ace Books this coming July. But more on this title soon (though Charlie does reveal a major plot point in this novel in the blog post).

[Addendum note 3 February 2015: Since I mentioned my initial involvement in acquiring and editing the first two Laundry Files books, I really should have included a link to my blog post on how these two books came about: "Charles Stross: On Her Majesty's Occult Service"]

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