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So I’m a 28 year old guy, and not exactly what most people would consider a normal one, thank god. No one, including any of my friends, knows just how deep that actually goes. Not even my best friend of 19 years, who I’m gonna call John, suspected a thing until it was too late. I’m gonna call myself Ghost for this, cause as far as any of you, or the feds for that matter, are concerned that’s all I am or ever will be. Every single thing I post as Gh0sT666 comes from a different IP address and its original location is completely untraceable, lol everything about Gh0sT666 is completely untraceable too for that matter. I learned the skills needed to do this kinda shit through years of using the dark web.
Its been 8 or 9 years now, and the dark web has been a blessing so to speak. I went from watching the same old shit on BestGore to getting to see some real shit, live videos in all of their glorious and grotesque carnage. Shit I hadn’t ever seen before. It was love at first site. I’m not gonna go into depth on how I found out about this place or any hacking technicals, or even what this beautiful place is called. If you have to ask you’ll never know. I love this place way too much to risk it being compromised. Besides, we already have plenty of active patrons.
My first experience with what I’m gonna call SharkT4nk for the purpose of writing this was when I was around 19 or 20 or some shit. It was extremely hard to get into and took hours of coding work (now ive gotten it down to just the press of a button and a randomized 26 character password, including letters like æ œ ø and ß so even if the feds do manage to find me, good luck guessing it ;) ) to access, but the second I heard that first scream I was sold. The page had a chat room on the right side of the screen, grey background, neon green text, and a loading video player taking up the rest of the screen.
You could drag the chat box around wherever you want, and there was a control panel under it that listed off camera numbers and tip amounts. The video was taking time to load, still stuck on the same frame as when it appeared, the sound was coming through though. The sound of a power tool of some kind was dominating most of the audio but there was a super high pitched scream along with it. Finally, after what felt like 10 minutes, the video loaded and I saw it. The most beautiful piece of throbbing erection inducing gore I had ever seen. I can still remember it perfectly to this day.
There was a large dark room, all you could see from the fluorescent light held up over the scene was a metal table with a girl strapped to it and a men next to her. There was what looked to be a tarp or plastic wrap or something all over the floor, and a small surgical table with the tools of the trade that id come to know so well placed on it. You could just barely see the shadowy outline of a forklift in the background. The girl was held down to the metal table with what looked like leather straps that were probably once white, now caked with deep reddish brown stains with bright red blood splattered on top, reflecting the light from the fluorescent bulb about 5 or 6 feet above.
The man standing next to her was wearing a dark sweatshirt with a brownish red stained leather smock over it, dark pants, and a guy fawkes mask soaked with blood. The power tool I had heard was a sawzall, it wasn’t being used anymore unfortunately, but you could clearly tell what had been done with it. The bicep on this 20 something year old girls left arm was hanging off the bone, and the man in the guy fawkes mask was grabbing and squeezing and pulling at her torn bicep, all the while the girl on the table was screaming and sobbing the beautiful harmonies of agony. In a frenzy of dialed in, unadulterated sexual energy I unzipped my pants and began pleasuring myself, very careful not to finish too soon without seeing what happened next. I noticed the chat box had filled up with new requests, some of the user names having a gold star next to them and a bitcoin tip next to the requests. I scroll back and see one with a gold star and a tip of around 250 usd worth of bitcoin.
“Cut the muscle off of its arm with a hack saw”
I scroll down to the bottom and see the most recent starred request with a $500 tip. “cut the connective tissue in its jaw, clamp its head and neck down to the table, and rip its jaw off with the forklift”
Need I describe the mess I had to clean up off the back of my laptop?
I later learned that those gold stars next to their ambiguous user names were to show that they were one of that particular videos sponsors, and they had helped pay the fee for the kidnapping of the person in the video (we call them livestock) and the materials to be used in it. for a price that varied based on their original contribution, they could choose what happens next to the Livestock. Well needless to say my friends, I quickly learned that I wanted to be at the top of that list of sponsors on every video that I could be. The thrill of just watching something this beautifully macabre, so blissfully dark, so magically grotesque, wasn’t enough. I knew I needed more control than id get by being just another one of the plebs that were just watching.
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Me and john had been really close ever since we were kids. We were the only ones in our town that were into comic books, sci fi, and fantasy and shit, so we naturally gravitated towards each other. I had a couple family members that I liked, which was was nice. Unfortunately john never did, his older brother hated him for some reason, and most of his family were shitty to him. He didn’t like to talk about that stuff though.
We were both pretty small growing up, and never exactly all that brave, but one time we were down by the pond in our town and there were a couple older kids picking on us, and one of them threw my bike in the pond and pushed me down. John picked up the biggest rock he could throw and lobbed it straight at the kids head, busting him open and actually making him cry. They ran off pretty quick after that. John picked me up and I nodded my thanks. He said “you know you’re the closest thing I have to family, I got you bro”. It meant a lot considering he never spoke about family related stuff.
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I started sponsoring feeds on Shark_T4nk a couple years after finding it. I had a pretty well paying job at the time working as a coder for a tech company, as well as a bit of credit card fraud on the side, so I had plenty to spare. just watching was starting to get boring. The hours spent at that job felt like a horrible waste of time, but I knew I needed to grind through it to be able to afford to keep sponsoring Feeds. At this point I was just a base level contributor, I donated 750 usd to the funding pool which gave me rights to place low priority bids on what happens to the livestock and got me a silver star.
I did this for around a year, until I got a promotion and started making enough that I could finally spend more, much much more towards my now fully engulfing addiction. For around 1500 I got a gold star, top priority bids and access to a pov camera attached to the handlers (the guy doing the actual torturing) mask. For 2500 you got a green star, top bidding, pov cam, you get to choose some of the materials and tools used, and you can buy souvenirs taken from the victim (usually articles of clothing, personal belongings, sometimes teeth or skull fragments, even cuts of meat if you so desired and wanted to Fork up the cash for it, if you’ll excuse my pun) mailed to a P.O. box of your choosing. Those were the main levels that everyone bought into, but I wanted more.
The top level of sponsorship was extremely rare, ive watched almost every feed for the past couple years at this point and I had never seen one. Not once. It cost 15000 usd and with that you get the works, you get all the perks of the green star except you now have a purple star, you can choose all of the materials and tools used, what happens and when it happens, whether the video is private or for the whole group (private is an extra 5000), and best of all seeing you’re the only contributor you get to choose the Livestock. You can choose anyone you want, excluding public officials.
For the base level 15k purple star you can choose from their current lineup of livestock, you can see their stories, screen shots of their facebook pages with all of their friends and family members posts saying “we miss you” “we love you” and all that gushy shit. For 30,000 it can be anyone in the US. For 40,000 anyone in north America. For 100,000 anyone in the world. Apparently public officials can be chosen too, but those prices range from a million to 20 billion and costs 5,000 to 25,000 to even watch it and is reserved for VIP purple stars only (4 time purple sponsor).
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As me and john got older we started gravitating more towards the world of drugs and music. Wed go to festivals in the summer and take ecstasy and acid and have a blast, and in the winter we’d do coke and and ketamine in my room listening to music on my dads record player. We never really had “problems” with drugs, we just enjoyed them. I was always kind of like a kid brother to john, even though he was only a couple years older than me, so he was a bit awkward about introducing me to the stuff at first, but I eventually talked him into it, and god damn am I glad he did.
To this day some of my best memories were of me and him rolling our faces off walking around outside in the rain with no shoes on; and seeing massive geometric patterns in the night sky on acid thinking we were talking to god, talking about the meaning of life and all of our deepest passions and fears. At this point we were without a doubt as thick as blood, we knew each other inside and out, but more importantly we trusted each other and that’s hard to come by in this life.
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The first time I got to see a purple star next to my name was glorious. I decided to keep the video private, in celebration of my first time holding the reins. I chose this 30 year old French man from their stock, who was acquired thanks to its lack of knowledge on protecting its identity while browsing the Dark Web. The only tools and materials I picked were pliers, a kitchen knife, a ball peen hammer, and a drum of hydrochloric acid. First I had the handler grab the livestocks bottom lip and pull it down till it bled profusely, almost ripping it from its face, and smash its teeth in with the ball side of the hammer. The sound of his teeth breaking, like shattering plastc or ceramic, and his whimpering scream made me quiver with pure ecstasy (which I had taken a lot of 30 minutes prior to starting the Feed, obviously got it from john). As the .4 of pure MDMA that I took was just rushing in and my teeth started to grind I told the handler to crush his left testicle with the pliers.
He had a rough time of it too, it kept popping out from in between the jaws of the pliers. I had to settle for him holding it in place with his hand, blocking most of the good stuff from my view. At least I could still hear the scream and the squish. The Feed went on for another couple hours and it climaxed, around the same time and the same fashion as I did (for the third time), in a sticky puddle. The handler funneled acid down the livestocks throat, melting it from the inside out, along with part of the table. The sizzling, bubbling, gurgling sounds are still embedded in my memory, and still arouse me to this day.
Once every six months I would fully fund a Feed, usually just going for the pre caught livestock, but after a while even that got boring. I needed something better. More personal. I decided to spend the 30 grand on something special.
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I had been hanging out with my friend John quite a bit in recent weeks, and when we weren’t hanging out we were texting each other almost constantly. one day he stopped replying to my texts entirely. I went to his house later that night and knocked, and his mom answered the door. “hello Mrs Doe!” I said to her, “is john here?”. “No, he isn’t hun, I just got home, haven’t seen him all day” she said with a polite smile. This wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary for him, john was still living with his parents technically but he spent most of his time away from the house hanging out with people, getting drunk and doing coke.

“Im sorry mrs doe, but could I run up to johns room for a second? I think I left my phone charger up there last night.”. “Of course dear, just make sure you take off your shoes before going up” after all these years she still reminded me to take my shoes off when I come in the house. She was a nice lady, a bit too much so, at least when people were watching. She spoiled the shit out of John growing up, that’s why he’s still living at his moms house, which she must deeply regret seeing how she treats him now.
I took my shoes off at the door, ran up the stairs and around the corner, opened the door to his room and shut it behind me. Looking around as quickly as I could, searching through mountains of trash and piles of comics and records, I found what I was looking for under the sheet next to his pillow. He had kept a journal ever since he was a kid, It was a small notebook with a light blue cover with a couple of fresh blood drops on it and a couple hundred pages of lined paper. I doubt he knew I, or anyone for that matter, knew about that book. What can I say? I get nosey when im fucked up. I tucked it under my shirt, pulled his phone charger out of the wall socket and headed back down stairs. “thanks Mrs Doe! Have a good night!” I said cheerily as I walked out the door and back to my car.
When I got home I opened the notebook up to the most recent page and turned back a few pages until I found what I was looking for
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After reading the notebook I opened my laptop, set up all of my security (which takes about 5 minutes) and logged onto Shark_T4nk. I already received my conformation. this brought a smile to my face, I knew that the fun part was just around the corner. I felt like a teenager rushing home to watch porn.
I replied to the conformation with my conformation code
“Package secure” said one of the gold crowns (admins)
“Question. I’ve been a purple star for 4 years now. You know I’m not a narc or a casual, I’ve spent hundreds of thousands here. Is there any way I could do it myself this time? I would pay literally anything and go literally anywhere.”
20 minutes went by.
“Get a secured burner phone and text this number with your confirmation code. You will receive a location pin. Be there on February 24 at 2:00 am. Not a second later. Park at least a mile away and walk the rest of the way. The cost will be 1mil” he messaged back, along with a number.
When you reach VIP purple star status after 4 purple level sponsorships you receive and code, a string of sixteen random words in different languages, some letters replaced by numbers, some by symbols. I sent that code and the reply was almost instant, I clicked the link and it brought me to that phones map app. It was a 16 hour drive into the next state over. I knew it would be well worth every second and droplet of gas it took. Now I just had to wait 6 days, and let me tell you, they dragged by slower than a spoiled little kids week before Christmas.
I could barely contain myself that whole week, everyone at work was asking me what I was so excited about, I kept having to say I was going on vacation to Aruba for a few days and ended up getting the whole week off. John never came home the day I grabbed his notebook, My friends started asking if I had seen him. I hadn’t.
Eventually the week of waiting came to pass and it was time to hit the road. I was practically shaking too bad to drive, but I tried to contain myself. I felt like I was on a small dose of molly, but a bit more anxious. Not in the scared sense, in the excited sense. The 16 hours of driving went by surprisingly fast, I only stopped twice, once to piss and once to eat. I don’t remember cheap fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy ever tasting so good.
Finally, around 1:35, I got to the town I was meeting them at. it was a dark, empty town with not too much in it. I parked in a free parking lot next to a small movie theater. Walked down the road past the police station and the fire station, past a fast food place, and took a left past a convenience store and a video game store down a dark unlit road that led out towards the woods just outside if town. The road continued until the lights from town were all but invisible, after several minutes of walking (no small feet for a hacker that sits in front of a computer all day) I got to a small improvised parking area that was dug out from years of teenagers slamming their parents cars into park to go smoke weed in the woods. This is where the map was bringing me. I had to use the burner phones flashlight to see where I was going. I checked the phone to see what time it was, 1:59, perfect.
Sure enough, at precisely 2am, a small black van came driving down the road, going just about the speed limit. It pulled just past me, and the two back doors opened. A large dark figure wearing a guy fawkes mask jumped out of the back of the van, and before I had the time to react he was putting a black cloth bag over my head. I was definitely scared but I tried to contain it, I knew it would probably have to be something like this, they wouldn’t just come pick me up without taking precautions. When we were in the back of the surprisingly spacious van, he said in a highly modulated voice “do you have any electronics on you? Phone? Ipod?” “yeah, just the burner phone” I replied as the van started moving. “is it untraceable back to you?” “of course” I said, trying to not sound too cocky.
He told me to give him the phone and that he was going to strip search me for wires or bugs of any kind, and I agreed. He took all of my clothes off, careful not to remove the black bag and I sat down, completely naked except for the mask. I could hear him thoroughly patting all of my clothes down. He must’ve been content, cause I heard him open a lockbox under his seat and put everything except for the phone in, taking out a bag with new clothes, and a mask for me. I clumsily put on everything he gave me, it was all a bit small for me but I wasn’t about to complain. When I felt the mask in my hands I was filled with an exhilarating excitement and almost started quivering violently.
I heard him unscrew the lid of a container which sounded like it had liquid in it. He gently placed something down in it and screwed the cap back on right as it started to quietly sizzle. “you lose the phone, you’ll get your clothes back when we return.” The modulated voice said. I heard him pull something out of his pocket, and unscrewed the cap off a different bottle, tipped the bottle over, apparently soaking the handkerchief or rag he had, and placed the rag over my face. I felt myself being dragged down into a deep pit of sleep.
I’m not sure how long I was out, or how long the rest of the drive was, but I was sure about the headache I had. It was one of the worst I had ever experienced. When I woke up I was in a dark room in a warehouse, seated on a couch. Well, less seated than laid the fuck out. The bag was gone, but the dark masked figures weren’t. Three of them were now standing as tall as trees in front of me, arms crossed, the sound of their breath reverberating off the inside of the plastic masks filling my ears. I could see they had modulators strapped around their throats like shock collars.
One of them reached a hand out to me, and I was about to take it thinking he was trying to help me up, but he lowered his hand and showed me that he had two pills for me. “chew and swallow. They're for the headache,” the distorted voice said “let us know when you’re ready to start.”. As apprehensive as I was about taking two random pills from people like this, at a place like this, I decided to just take them. I had come this far, and plus, im a huge contributor, why would they fuck themselves out of a probable future fortune. Two of the three figures walked out the door to the left of where I was sitting, and the other looked back at me through his mask, held the door open, waved me through, and cocked his head to the side.
I got up off the couch, and started to walk up when he said “Mask.”. I looked around to room, and back at the couch, it was laying there next to where I just was. I grabbed it, and donned the fabled Shark_T4nk mask, in all of its harrowing glory. This is when I could feel the true weight and intensity in the air, eluding to the magic of what was about to happen. This really is a beautiful life isnt it?
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The last time I saw john before he disappeared was two days prior. We got some breakfast, drove around and smoked weed. To be honest that day wasn’t too different than any of the other times we hung out. He commented on my excited behavior, and asked what was up. I could barely suppress the keen, knowing glint in my eye. I just shrugged it off and told him I’ve been feeling really good lately. Like a changed man. I hadn’t thought of the vacation excuse yet, and even if I did I wouldn’t have told it to him. We tell each other basically everything with almost no exceptions, he would definitely think its suspicious that I planned a trip without telling him.
He kept looking at me with slightly concerned eyes, and it just made me beam even harder. I couldn’t control it, I was overflowing with excitement and anticipation. I could tell he was a bit weirded out cause we ended up cutting our day short and going our separate ways for the evening, which was fine with me, I wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be able to keep the tiny bit of a poker face I still had up.
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After walking through the door, me and the three looming dark figures were walking through a much larger room in the warehouse. There were what looked to be large dog cages with shadowy unseen contents stacked up on top of each other arranged in long aisles. The room reeked of a long used and poorly cleaned animal barn. I was, being one if their top contributors at the time, very well trusted by them. At least in a business sense. They were showing me the livestock they had available.
They were telling me that they were willing to add on another Feed or two for 40% off. The viewers would have loved to see someone new handling the livestock. I said I would let them know when we were done with the one I paid for. They did have some really good ones in stock right now too. There was this young girl, couldn’t be older than 18 or 19, red hair, pale skin, skinny. Her small-medium sized tits were dirty brown, and the smell of her was horrific. She must have been a fairly new acquisition because she still had fire in her eyes and fight left in her. The rest didn’t, and were a lot more docile. The hopelessness shining through their empty gazes as dark as night.
Amidst her screams of “LET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!” and “WHO ARE YOU? WHAT DID I DO??” the others just sat silently. The sound of her terrified and furious voice started to make my dick chub up. I looked around at the rest of what this toy store of forbidden delights had to offer. Cold, dead, and zoned out eyes trained on their food dishes like starving dogs in a neglectful house, as far as the eye could see. I turned to one of my companions on this walk around the supermarket of delicious delicacies and said “I'm ready”.
Me and one of the handlers walked towards a different door, one I hadn’t even noticed through the excitement of seeing all of the wonders this place contained. This door led to what looked like a garage, filled with all kinds of tools and blood stained pain implements. There were vice grips, clamps, chains, barbed wire, bolt cutters, sledgehammers, all kinds of knives and swords, even a weed wacker and so, so much more. The possibilities were as endless as my lust. It was so beautiful it brought a tear to my eye. The first my eyes had felt in a long, long time. I picked out my favorites, and asked the handler in a voice probably more akin to a kid asking his dad how many toys he can bring to his friends house than a man about to torture and kill his first person. “can I come back and choose new stuff if I get bored of these?” the man nodded.
I couldn’t see his smirk but I could certainly feel it, I felt a bit awkward about that not gonna lie. I told myself to act a little more scary and mean while I was in the Feeding room.
As we were heading to the next room, he stopped me dead in my tracks with a big beefy hand on my shoulder. He had a modulator in his other hand and strapped it around my neck like a father tying his sons tie for his first school dance (or at least that’s how it felt to me) and waves me to walk through the door. And there I was, after all these years spent wishing I could be here in person, after all of this time waiting and planning, and reveling in the thought of the glory ahead, finally I was here. The Feeding room.
Walking through the spacious dark room towards the metal table with a man strapped to it, I was now filled with a kind of focused aggression. The ominous sound of the buzzing flourescent light that I had heard in the beginning of so many Feeds flipped a switch in my mind. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, my heart was pounding, adrenaline pumping, not even a trace of second thought. I was all in on this, and loving every sweet, sweet second of it.
The man that was strapped to the table was just starting to come to, the chloroform they have probably been keeping him under with clearly wearing off. The metal table was angled up, so the man was almost standing straight up, and we were coming in from behind it. You could hear him starting to struggle a little bit as he realized he was strapped to a metal table, naked and alone. It wouldn’t be long now until he truly grasped his fate. Coming up to the table now, I turned to face him, the man that walked me in still pushing the cart with the tools I chose for this task. I could now see the man of the hour, ( hopefully more like several hours) the one everyone had been asking me about for the past week. Jesus did he look skinnier than I’d ever seen him, apparently the don’t feed their guests here too well. John was standing there, completely naked strapped to the table, fear embedded in his eyes.
The only thing I could think to say was “I always knew you had a small dick”. “who the fuck are you, you piece of shit?” he stammered. I just stood there silently, and could now feel my pulse in my throat and head, euphoria coursing through my veins. “All in due time.” I said to him through the modulator. Turning to the handler I had watched in so many videos over the past several years I said “are we ready to start? Cameras off and everything?”. He gave one silent nod. I smiled under my mask, and reached over to the table that was just out of johns site, the handler lowering the table. My hand came back into johns view holding a pickaxe, and he really started struggling now. “woah what the fuck? Dude stop” I chuckled as I stabbed it through the bottom of his foot. He screamed “please what the fuck I don’t know what I did but I’m sorry! Please PLEEASE can we just talk about this?”. He pissed himself, and by himself I mean all over the table, almost getting it all over me. “well that wasn’t very nice of you,” I said “lets see if we can make sure that wont happen again.”
Walking all the way around the table, nice and slow, strutting, almost dancing, plucking the pick axe that was still stuck into his foot with my finger with every step. His head followed my every movement, occasionally letting out a whimper or a scream as I plucked away at the axe. I pulled a knife off the table, as well as a small propane blow torch. “woah dude wait what the fuck man? Please dude please fucking stop please I don’t even know what I did” the last word more of a sob than a plead. he sounded like a little kid being put in the corner when he wanted to be playing with his friends. It was a tone I had never heard out of him before.
I gently place the knife at the base of his dick, and grabbed the rest of it. He was really squirming and screaming now. With a slow intensity, I sliced off his penis, millimeter by millimeter, and he let out some of the most sexually gratifying screams I had ever heard in my life. I laughed, put his penis down on the table next to him and picked up the torch. He was crying a weak, broken, and desperate cry now. As I turned on the gas and lit the flame I said “well we can’t have you bleeding out just yet, now can we?”. As i cauterized his nub he screamed louder and louder, I was getting sick of his melodrama. Everyone screamed, yeah, but usually they had given up hope by this point. I had to figure something out to stop that.
I walked over to the table and looked around, eventually finding something that might do the trick. It was a handle for a tapping drill, the bits used to thread holes so you can tighten screws into them. I grabbed that and some adjustable straps, and walked back over to his now amputated dick. Picking up the flaccid and pale penis I put it in between the jaws of the tap handle and tighten the jaws down on it. He let out a desperate whine as he watched, and looked the other way, seeming more and more defeated by the second. Once the jaws were sufficiently tightened around it, I looped one end of the strap around the handle of the tool, walked over to him, forced the dick in his mouth as well as the squared center of tap handle itself, stretching his jaw wider that it had probably ever been stretched. I secured the other end of the strap and began tightening it. His eyes went cold, still weakly sobbing. He finally truly grasped the depravity he was about to suffer.
A few hours went by like this, and my friend was barely recognizable anymore. Skin and muscle hanging off broken bones, mangled and amputated body parts like fingers and toes and a foot laying on the table and the floor, discarded like the snack wrappers john had strewn all over his room. He was going to bleed out soon and all three of us knew it. So I raised the table back up into a standing position, grabbing the knife I had used earlier to remove his genitals while I did it. You could tell he would have been too weak to hold himself up, but the strap that had been secured to his forehead had made sure his head stayed in place.
After removing the makeshift ball gag, I slowly lifted my mask from my face, took of the modulator, and dropped them both on the floor. I could tell he thought he was hallucinating. “hello john,” I said with my normal voice “nice to see you again.” He began to cry. “w…. Why?” He cried weakly. I just smiled, raising the knife to his strapped down head. As I began to cut off his face, he got quiet. Clearly too confused and betrayed by this situation to care what happened to him at this point.
Once it was fully removed from his skull, I move over to the table, and grabbed the final tool. The tool that would take his life. I walked back in front of this weakened, dying friend of mine holding the tool, wearing his face over mine like a mask, he was making eye contact, not that he had much choice due to his lack of eye lids. "goodbye john" I said with a smile. I raised the Kukri up, and swung it horizontally at his neck. Within two full chops and a final slice, his head was removed, and his life was over.
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The reason I told you this story is simple. I have gotten bored of watching, and at this point even participating in these Feeds. The thrills of the Feed alone aren’t even enough to make me cum weakly anymore. So I figured telling all of the fine people of reddit about my exploits could help that goal along. With the knowledge that people know exactly what I, and people like me are doing, regardless of whether or not you know me, and knowing you can do nothing to stop it, I will find the purest ecstacy.
Whether or not you believe in my story or about my existence, just know that there are thousands upon thousands of people just like me. We are everywhere. We are ghosts. If you don’t know one of us directly chances are you know someone that does. We could be your neighbor, a new acquaintance, a police officer in your town, your mayor, your best friend of 20 years, your brother, your father, or your sister. And by the time you realize you’ve chosen the wrong associations, before you even come close to getting a whiff of our stench of reality and death, the Feed will have already begun.
“I'm the fall of man
Giving birth to sin
Your god knew my disguise
And still allowed me in
I am a slave to pain
Without a chance of peace or love
But I'd rather reign below
than be a servant up above”
– Reckless “Judas Iscariot”
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[Table] IAmA: Charles Stross, science fiction writer

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Date: 2012-07-02
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Are you planning a kickstarter game like Neal Stephenson? If you did what would it be about? Reverse order: no, I'm not planning a kickstarter game. And I'm not really a game designer. (Writing novels takes up about 100% of my available working time.)
Fellow early adopter here. TI gave me a TIPC with a 1200 baud modem and sent me home. I tripped over the usenet and compuserve by accident. What happened to keep you off for 6 months?! Left university and got a job with a company who had no internet connection, back in the days when a 2400 baud UUCP dial-up cost £900 a year (or about a months' gross salary). Remedied this by changing jobs :)
Hallo Charles. I'm in the UK. I just wrote a book and (it looks like) a good publishing house are going to pick it up. It is sort of sci-fi. For starters, there's a long-standing (50 year old) flame war within the field over whether it's "sci-fi" or "SF".
My question: all agents I've spoken to think that while selling a book to publishers it's best to avoid using the term "sci-fi" if possible. Ideally they want to sneak sci-fi stuff in, "under the radar", so it can get the sort of backing that only a big publisher can provide. Secondly, all these labels boil down to is a bunch of marketing categories that tell bookshop staff where to file the product (which they don't know from a hole in the road) on the shelves where customers can find it. SF has traditionally been looked down on by the literary establishment because, to be honest, much early SF was execrably badly written -- but these days the significance of the pigeon hole is fading; we have serious mainstream authors writing stuff that is I-can't-believe-it's-not-SF, and SF authors breaking into the mainstream. If you view them as tags that point to shelves in bricks-and-mortar bookshops, how long are these genre categories going to survive in the age of the internet?
How do you feel about this? Cheers. Note: this skepticism breaks down in the face of, for example, the German publishing sector, where booksellers are a lot stuffier and more hidebound over what is or is not acceptable as literature.
Could you give an example or two of large British publishers that you think are doing a good job in this respect? Ignoring genre barriers, taking risks etc? AhahahaHA!!
Sorry, no I can't. But not for the reason you think. Thing is, my agent is based in New York. And due to a historic accident, my publishing track is primarily American -- I'm sold into the UK almost as a foreign import! So I'm quite out of touch with what's going on in UK publishing. (Even my Kindle is geared to the US store.)
Did you end up with an American agent because all the British agents passed on you? Or did you actually want to do things that way? A bit of both. I wanted an agent who would actually sell stuff. After two British agents failed comprehensively, I was reading Locus (the SF field's trade journal) and noticed a press release about an experienced editor leaving her job to join an agent in setting up a new agency. And I went "aha!" -- because what you need is an agent who knows the industry but who doesn't have a huge list of famous clients whose needs will inevitably be put ahead of you. So I emailed her, and ... well, 11 years later I am the client listed at the top of her masthead!
One last question (if you can be arsed). When you look at the publishing process (particularly the point at which agents have to sell books) what do you think needs to be fixed/tinkered with? Are editors too short-sighted? In your experience is their predilection for putting things in boxes limiting? Biggest message: find your customers and sell them what they want to buy. DRM is bad for business. Territorial rights restrictions are bad for business. Amazon are utterly hateful and evil -- they will kill you and establish a monopoly if they can -- but their one redeeming feature is that they're good to customers: so learn from them.
Basically if you could sit all the big editors down and briefly lecture them on doing their job what would you say? Thanks Charles. It's not the editors I'd lecture, but the senior executives who give the publishing CEOs their marching orders (editors are a level below that). All the editors I deal with are extremely smart, clueful folks who are often frustrated by corporate policies -- because the publishing houses are divisions within large media conglomerates, and they're small, low-profit subsidiaries at that (and so don't get much say in group-wide policy).
Have you considered selling books via Baen? They seem to have the right idea, and you're in the right genre. Link to www.baen.com. Not up to me, up to my publishers.
For someone who is unfamiliar with your work, what book would you suggest as a good starting point (if it's available for Kindle, I will get it as soon as I see your answer)? Any plans to follow in L. Ron's footsteps and start a religion? I'm an atheist (subtype: generally agree with Richard Dawkins but think he could be slightly more polite; special twist: I was raised in British reform Judaism, which is not like American reform Judaism, much less any other strain of organised religion). So: no cults here. Starting points: for a sampler, you could try my short story collection "Wireless". Which contains one novella that scooped a Locus award, and one that won a Hugo, and covers a range of different styles.
Thank you so much for releasing Accelerando as a freebie! I'd just picked up Stanza on my iPhone and was going through the free Sci Fi (or SF) books. That ebook got me hooked, so was a pretty savvy marketing move. Book depository is nothing new; there've been outlets selling books internationally via mail order for many decades -- the only change is that it's now easier to find and use such services.
So, is there an official term for "Polite Atheist"? Someone who doesn't believe, yet isn't offensive about it? I'm not sure. The trouble is, if you go too far towards being polite, the label that applies is "doormat".
Hi! Would you consider Halting State and Rule 34 Cyberpunk? I was heavily reminded of Neal Stephensons early books (the craziness of Snow Crash mixed with more current-day themes like Cryptonomicon). "Halting State" and "Rule 34" are cyberpunk only insofar as we are living in a 1980s cyberpunk dystopia, and these are very much novels of our time (plus 10-20 years). What I've learned during my life is that the near future is 90% identical to the present -- if you buy a new car today, it'll probably still be on the road in 2022. Another 9% is predictable from existing tech roadmaps: Intel's projected roadmap for where their processors are going, SpaceX's order book for satellite launches, and so on. And 1% is totally bugfuck crazy and impossible to predict. (Go back to 1982 and the idea that the USSR would have collapsed and been replaced by hyper-capitalist oligarchs would have earned you a straitjacket, never mind a book contract. Go back to 1992 and the idea that the USA and Iran would be fighting a proxy war on the internet would have ... well, ditto.)
While I love the Laundry books I consider A Colder War one of your best works, is there a chance that we will get another 'serious' story with Lovecraftian themes? Lovecraftian seriousness: well, book 5 or 6 of the Laundry series is due to get epically grim.
Case Nightmare Green? Yup.
It's always interesting to learn how different authors approach their craft. What's your "ritual" when writing? TL;DR: I don't have one.
Longer version ... (I want to apologize for keeping this short: I have carpal tunnel issues so I might have to switch to speech recognition soon) ...
I write exclusively using computers. Pens and typewriters can fsck right off -- I wrote my first half million words in my teens on a manual typewriter (had to trade it for a new one due to keys snapping from metal fatigue) so I am not a pen or typewriter fetishist.
I write almost entlirely on Macs, because: Windows gives me hives. (I first ran into Windows as of Win 2.11/386, back in the eighties. It did not leave a good taste. I then became a happy UNIX bunny. Mac OSX is the last UNIX workstation class OS standing. So I've learned to put up with its other foibles.)
I have no set writing routine other than: plant bum in chair in front of keyboard/on sofa under laptop, and start going. Oh, and I drink tea pretty much continuously at a rate of around 1 imperial pint/hour, which sort of enforces screen/keyboard breaks.
(I want to apologize for keeping this short: I have carpal tunnel issues so I might have to switch to speech recognition soon) I write exclusively using computers. Does this mean you use speech recognition while writing too? or have you been writing before the AMA and you're at your fatigue point? Speech recognition is utterly crap for writing fiction. If you try reading a novel aloud you'll soon figure out why -- written prose style is utterly unlike the spoken word.
Why Mac rather than Linux? (Esp. considering your background, e.g. Computer Shopper etc.) Excellent design values. ("Why drive a Porsche if you could drive a backhoe? The backhoe's got more torque and you can do cool things with it like digging holes in the road!" "Yes, but the backhoe isn't a Porsche ...")
It gets out of my way and lets me get stuff done. Seriously, Windows seems designed to make easy tasks hard and hard tasks impossible; Linux would be fine if it came pre-tuned to the hardware, but I've got a long term 30% failure rate getting any given laptop to run it properly with full device support -- I can do without the choice between badly designed, bulky, inconvenient machines that work with Linux, and taking pot luck that the latest well-designed sleek ultrabook will actually, um, boot.
TL:DR; I've reached an age at which I'd rather pay more for something that "just works" than roll up my sleeves, reach for a spanner, and make it work. Time is money, and the older we get the less of it we've got left ...
It's said that people have to write a million words of crap before they can rite good stuff. True, in your opinion? No. I wrote two million words of crap. Maybe I'm just a slow learner ...
Do you just put up with the carpal tunnel when writing? Up to a point. I don't want to permanently damage myself! On the other hand, a couple of days off the keyboard tends to make things somewhat better.
What are your views about people pirating your books? Back before the internet we had a name for people who bought a single copy of our books and lent them to all their friends without charging: we called them "librarians". Frankly, I couldn't care less about you loaning a copy of one of my books, on paper, to a friend. In fact, I think it's a good idea. Spreads the word, right? What I do have a problem with is people who sell my work for financial gain without paying me a cut of the proceeds. If money is passing hands, then the customer feels that they've paid for the right to read the work. But if they haven't paid me (or my publishers), then that's siphoning money out of my income stream. Today, we see some "file sharing" sites that rely on fans uploading cracked copies of ebooks, and which then make money off those books by charging for downloads (via cash subscriptions or advertising). Again: I take a dim view of this. They're making money off the back of my work without paying me.
2: Mr. Stross answered this question in far more detail while I was typing the above edit. Thank you! [Edit/afterthought] More often than not, piracy is a symptom of an under-provisioned market. People want to buy mp3s but can't? Piracy ensues. Then Apple strong-arms the music studios into the iTunes store and music piracy drops somewhat. The same, I believe, is also happening with ebooks.
Do you make a point of turning unpromising-sounding premises into something really extra-ordinary? Or are the back-of-book blurbs just over-simplifying? The back-of-book blurb is not written by the author (any more than the author paints the cover illustration). The sole job of the back-of-book blurb and the cover is to make a reader who is unfamiliar with the author or the book pick the product up in a store, because retail psychology studies show that consumers who handle the merchandise are more likely to buy it.
Hi Charlie! I've read much of what you've written, and I just have to say that you have a creativity rarely matched in SF - please keep it up. That said, what gadget do you think is going to have the greatest impact on the way we live in the next few coming years? Something like the Google glasses? Ultra-low power consumption ubiquitous embedded processors powered by ambient light or EM radiation are going to do insane things to our cities in the next 15-30 years -- far more significant than google glasses, which are just a slightly different UI (you can do much the same stuff already using a smartphone with motion/orientation/positioning sensors) ...
The radical transparency surveillance state that Brin predicted, open to all? Or data inequality leveraged by the HFT engines of the rich corporations to give them the edge to make a buck of it? Now add ambient genome sensing -- not human genomes, but the microbiome soup we live in (remember, sequencer costs are currently obeying Moore's Law) and start wondering where it's all going!
Been a fan for a long time. Got hooked via Accelerando (which I understand is something of an old shame at this point?), and stayed hooked via Halting State and the Laundry Files. Thanks for the AMA. :D. It's not an old shame, it's simply that I wrote it circa 1998-2004, and my views have changed somewhat over the intervening decade ...
Can you please expand on that? In what way did your views change? Accelerando is one of my all time favourites. Sure. See: Link to www.antipope.org
Link to www.amazon.com
Progress always get met with "but consider the ethics..". OK, let me ask you this: if you have a no-shit AI in a box, and it's running, when you switch it off/reboot it/reformat it/send it to the scrap heap, are you murdering a sentient being? Yes/No? Please justify your reasoning.
Now consider: your no-shit AI is the adversary in a computer game environment. What happens when you kill it (in-game)? What happens when you get tired of the game and delete it?
Hint: some fun background reading would be Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects".
Have you ever used unused (or used) ideas from your D&D days in your stories, or vice versa? No. My D&D days are 30 years gone; it'd be a rare idea to survive from that long ago.
If you could meet any dead science fiction author for a day, who would you meet and what would you do? Roger Zelazny. And probably a pub crawl then a curry.
How hard was it for you to break into the US market? If I'd known how easy it would be, I'd have done it earlier!
If you could choose between The Merchant Princes becoming a video game, a movie series, a TV series, and a limited HBO TV series, what format would you choose? Who would you pick for a director and some of the leads? Would you want to do the screenplay yourself? None of those are media formats I consume, so I have no opinion on the options. (Nor do I have any idea who the currently interesting directors or actors are.) If I wanted to be in movies, I'd have gone into scriptwriting: the fact that I write novels should be a big hint about what I prefer to do!
(Final Q: I dislike Dr Who and Star Trek, so I shan't comment further.)
"I dislike Dr. Who and Star Trek..." This is like finding out your dad really can't beat up everyone else's dad. They've achieved cult following through character development, but as SF they both have gigantic structural flaws at the plot and tech level; great gaping internal inconsistencies! (Although I'm kind of fond of the meta-theory that explains Star Trek as being propaganda intended for external consumption by the Federation, which is actually the Soviet Union in Space in the 24th century.)
Next you will tell me Nutella doesn't really taste good. Damn you Charles Stross! Damn you to hell! I will still read your books, but I will do so with a smug expression of annoyance ;) Nutella is okay, but Marmite rocks as a sandwich topping!
You must try Vegemite. I like vegemite too.
(Alas - this may be TMI - I have a mild yeast intolerance; if I consume too much wheat beer or marmite or vegemite and my next morning will be exceedingly interesting, in a most unpleasant way.)
I saw that you started writing at the age of 15, novels at that. I'm a younger person myself, and for me and the rest of novel-aspiring-youth, what do you have to tell? Tips, motivation, etc.? Write. Every day, if possible.
Finish stuff.
Send it out, and when it comes back, send it out again.
Step 3 may be a bit premature if you're thinking about professional publication, but at the very least: workshop with other writers, learn to critique their work, learn to understand and listen to their criticism of your work, then apply the skills you learned dissecting other folks' writing to your own stuff.
Do you ever read something someone else has written and think "damn, now I cant do that". Who do you read? (if you have time) Yes, I sometimes get the "Damn, too late, [X] got there first" idea. But seriously? I have time to write 1-2 novels per year, and get roughly novel-sized ideas every month. I have to perform triage on my own writing impulses. So it's usually quite easy to shrug and write something else instead.
What I read: while I'm writing, I tend to go off reading fiction for relaxation -- especially the challenging stuff. It's too much like the day job. When I do get to chow down on a book, I try to read ones that are nothing like what I'm writing. So, as I'm currently working on a space opera (of sorts) I'm mostly indulging in urban fantasy.
Wow, I didn't realise the ideas flew in so fast. Is it morbid to ask if you worry about getting it all written before you die? (Im thinking of Terry Pratchett here...) Yes, I worry about that. I'm 47. I reckon I can count on 30 more writing years, averaging a book a year (I can't keep up the 2-2.5 a year I used to do these days). And these days I've gotten round to wondering, for each new idea, "do I want to be remembered for this?" before I get to the point of spending a year on it.
Asimov or Clarke? Neither, although I'm marginally less averse to Clarke's style.
Out of curiosity, what about Heinlein? (As a writer, at least - let's leave politics aside for the moment.) I have written a Heinlein tribute novel.
In general, who in sci-fi/SF inspired you, and/or inspires you now? (Unfortunately, while most authors who do that -- Scalzi, Varley, Robinson, et al -- pick Heinlein juveniles, I went for a dirty old man Heinlein tribute novel. Hence "Saturn's Children" and a novel that hinges on the word spung!).
Have you ever been afraid to actually publish a book for fear of what your fans may think? And how do you deal with writers block, or just actually getting the damn thing started? And lastly, do you read books that aren't in your current genre? And if so, what's your favorite? Publishing is the final step in making a book; if I was afraid to publish one, I wouldn't write it in the first place. (But in general, a little controversy isn't harmful: if anything, it gets people interested. I don't think most of my opinions, political or social, are so far outside of the mainstream that they'd cause massive outrage on a scale liable to provoke death threats or referrals to prosecutors for outraging public decency, so why worry?)
Writers block: when I get it, it's because my subconscious spotted that I'd make a huge structural mistake in constructing a novel before my conscious mind became aware of it, and threw on the brakes. So I've learned not to sweat it: take two days off, then back up a chapter, read through, and try to work out why I'm suddenly uneasy about continuing.
While writing a novel I almost completely stop reading books in the same sub-genre for the duration.
Hi there, funnily enough i just finished the Atrocity Archives, which i bought because i bought the Laundry RPG a while back. Awesome book. Loved it. Can't wait to run the game. So do you play Call of Cthulhu or the Laundry at all? Or are you just into the writing side? Strictly writing side. I was heavily into AD&D in my teens (late 1970s-early 1980s) but fell off the RPG habit in the mid-80s and have never gone back to it; my lifestyle today isn't very compatible with having a regular gaming group (too much travel).
Which do you enjoy writing more; the Laundry series or harder scifi like Glasshouse and Accelerando? That's a very hard question.
If I write too much of anything for too long, I burn out on it. So it helps to vary my output from year to year. That's partly why the Laundry books are coming out at 2-5 year intervals rather than every 12 months.
As someone who grew up reading Ian Fleming and HP Lovecraft, I think they're well worth the wait! (Just pre-ordered the latest iteration) Also, do you find it difficult to write your more abstract stories like Accelerando? I tried to explain it to a friend once, but failed miserably. Accelerando was murder. It took me more than five years, in the shape of nine stories. One of which (#5) was so difficult that by way of finding an excuse to dodge having to work on it I accidentally barfed up the first two volumes of the Merchant Princes series.
I am a huge fan of yours. Three of my favorite short stories are Missile Gap, A Colder War, and Unwirer. Well, I guess I just really love the whole "Wireless" collection. What inspired you to cross Lovecraft with The Cold War? Fear of nuclear annihilation. I'm a child of the cold war: I didn't live more than 10 miles from a major WarPac nuclear target until the Berlin Wall came down and the CW ended. Knowing you can die horribly at any moment because of decisions made by alien intelligences thousands of miles away who don't even know you exist -- there's something Lovecraftian about that, isn't there?
At what age did you start writing novels? I began my first novel when I was 15. It went through three drafts, of around 40,000 words each. If I find it, I'll burn it. (If you read it, you'd thank me :)
Hahahha I'm 15 now. Every time when i have to do an assignment for school, i don't really know how to start, could you give me some advice, please? Nope. Because I'm nearly a third of a century older than you, and any advice I could give you about school assignments would be slightly out of date ...!
The modern solution is to just wikiwalk until inspired. Or tropeswalk! Actually, no, don't do that. You'll get sucked into TVTropes and suddenly notice that the sun's peeking through your window, you're knee-deep in villain archetypes, and the assignment's due in three hours. Your warning comes too late. Actually, I was semi-immunized to TVTropes by being sent a copy of the Turkey City Lexicon by Bruce Sterling at an impressionable age: Link to www.sfwa.org
What do you think of TV Tropes, in general? Like all good things, it's possible to overdose on it.
But for someone who is starting out on developing their critical skills, just being aware of its existence is great: it can make the difference between trying to write a story around a cliche or an original idea, and better still, studying it can eventually clue you in on how to breathe new life into tired tropes.
One of the things that I liked about Halting State and Rule 34 was that they are set in a plausible near future where technology has made individuals much more productive than people from 50+ years ago. Given that with technological assistance one worker can now supervise many machines working to produce goods do you think that there will be a resurgence of a leisure class in the first world? Do you think that we are getting to the point where instead of overpaying people to do manual factory work there is room for another model that still resembles modern life? I have no answer to this question. Keynes asked it more than fifty years ago; something has clearly gone wrong, given that the folks with jobs seem to work endless hours while many people can't get a job at all.
Nice to see a bit of social marketing, it will be interesting to hear how it compares to the publishers' marketdroid efforts in terms of sales (if you can tease out the stats). Now the important question, favourite beer? My regular session beer is Deuchars IPA (Link to www.caledonianbeer.com) It's not an American-style bitterness wars IPA; it's a light, Scottish ale with just enough hops to tell you what it is, and it's weak enough that you can keep drinking it continuously for hours without any risk of waking up in a puddle with KICK ME tattooed on your bum.
Any other writing aids? Link to www.antipope.org
What's your policy/opinion on adverbs? I ask because guys like Stephen King encourage writers to murder every adverb before it ever hits the page, whereas guys like William Gibson (my favorite author) use them liberally. I have no policy, for or against: only a personal style. (Which is to say, I use them when I think it's appropriate to; for example, an internal monologue by a locquacious and verbose narrator is more likely to be larded with adverbs than an exchange of instant messages between cops at a crime scene.)
I'm a new but big fan. The first book of yours that I read only a few months ago was Accelerando and it absolutely blew my mind! Not only that but it made me very excited for the near future, I see Google Glasses as being a very exciting tech that leads into your vision. Bitcoin: probably not, but it's intriguing enough to be at the root of an entire interstellar finance system in "Neptune's Brood" (due next July, 2013).
PS I'm really looking forward to seeing you when you come to Perth West Aus next year. Maybe I can buy you a beer! Perth, beer? Sure!
Bitcoins as... urrrrgh. Okay. I'll have to read that, then. Hope you got the failure conditions right! I hybridised it with Chaum's digicash. With the added twist that participants in exchanges had to be in different solar systems. It's called "slow money" for a reason ...
How do you make sure you aren't "inadvertently plagiarizing?" I think up ideas a lot but am sure they have already been done somewhere or that I am ripping something off I have read and cannot recall specifically. Original creativity seems difficult. First: plagiarism requires you to copy someone else's words. You can avoid this by, er, not copying! Writing your own story around the same ideas is not plagiarism; at worst, it's being unoriginal.
thanks for the books...I love science fiction and appreciate the work that goes into putting out novels to entertain us. Having said that, you're right: coming up with truly new ideas is hard. But I've got a method: I look for a couple of obvious ideas that have been done before (try: folks who can travel at will to parallel universes; in their home world they're the aristocracy, because: magic powers) and then look for the second-order side effects: stuff that other authors didn't dig into (for example: wrt. the previous idea, what are the consequences of these folks' ability for the ongoing economic and political development of their world? Can it have negative consequences? If so, what are they?)
How long did it take you to become comfortable writing in the second person? I finished reading Rule 34 and it was the first novel* i had read in this style. It took me about a hundred pages of "Halting State" to get the hang of it, and another hundred pages to feel comfortable. I also needed a reason to start doing it (2nd person is the natural voice of the text adventure game -- "you are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike").
A trilogy? Does this mean that a third book is on contract, or that you just have it kicking around in your head? EDIT: Nevermind, you answered this already. Looking forward to it! "The Lambda Functionary" is on contract for delivery on July 1st, 2013 and publication around July 3rd, 2014. And I haven't even begun writing it yet. Ulp.
Connected intelligence (as in, human intelligence augmented by online sources) seems to be on the perpetual 'five years out' list - do you think projects like Google Glass will finally make this a reality? What sort of timescale would you envisage for mass-adoption? (crosses fingures for a 'yes') Hmm ... what's wrong with a smartphone with always-on 3G or 4G data and google/wikipedia? Doesn't that qualify?
How much pre-planning would you say that you do before starting on a new book? Or do you subscribe more to the "Let's just start writing and see where it takes us" camp? Both :)
No two books come out the same way. Some I write by the seat of my pants; others are planned in minute detail.
The one thing that does happen, every time, though, is that I never get to write a book until I've already been thinking about it for a period of months to years. Unless it's "Glasshouse" (time from initial idea to starting writing: 9 days).
Rule 34 was one of my favorite reads last year, but I found the title to be a bit of a red herring since (without spoilers) neither memes nor porn ended being a big part of the story's resolution (other than the department Kavanaugh is in when she started). Was that intentional? What is ATHENA if not a meme with legs? (The relative lack of porn I'll grant you ...) Link to www.antipope.org
Hi Charles, I'm Chinese and I live in Asia and most of the sci fi actually comes from the west. Is this due to cultural reasons, literacy or how technology/future seems to resonate more if written from a western perspective? Also, how can one become a successful sci fi/fantasy writer outside of Europe/America? I have no idea, frankly ...
Last updated: 2012-07-09 03:39 UTC
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