Cheeseburger Gothic

What would Slim Jim do?

Posted April 20 into Books by John Birmingham

One of my favourite scenes in Cairo actually takes place in London, as Harry walks through the city to his meeting at MI6. He’s drinking a cup of coffee, not tea. He passes by and around people lost inside clunky Walkman analogues, and takes note of the early model consumer electronic goods on display outside a couple of shops. He ponders the weather and the cricket and the news of the day, as anyone might, but it was imagining what might happen in consumer technologies that was so enjoyable in that brief section. I had to put away that speculation for the most part when the narrative engine spun up and we moved into the kinetic phase of the story.

One of the things I’m really looking forward to when I return to writing long form novels in this universe is having a chance to slow down and work these things out on the page. Slim Jim Davidson will reappear in the next book and he’s been doing a lot more than building boutique hotels in Cairo. Slim Jim has a street hustler’s eye for the main chance. He grabbed it in Weapons of Choice and never let go. That’s how he comes to feature as a player in Paris. Intrigued by the future career of Elon Musk, he was an early investor in the private space industry. He launches satellites for profit.

He tried to hire Professor Ernst Bremer once, but the German found him an odious character and judged him unlikely to be worthy of trust.

Slim Jim is just one of many in the corporate realm who has profited massively from the Transition. I’m still working out exactly what it is he’s into. It is easy to move Karen Halabi from a job with Hewlett-Packard’s Combat Optics division, into their satellite business. But someone like Slim Jim, he’d be into everything. He couldn’t help himself. This makes him a great character to explore both the technological and social changes wrought by the Transition after the end of hostilities.

I have a few ideas about what sort of investments his hydra headed omniglobal mega corporation might have got itself into. But I am open to suggestions. If he was into TVs, which would be a huge business in the 1950s, what sort of TVs would they be? He might start off with black-and-white, but by 1955 I imagine he’d be well into colour models, and looking to go flatscreen. Perhaps circuitry would not be miniaturised to the point where he could do that yet, but he’d know it was coming and he’d be hiring the best minds he could to make sure he got there first.

So, a Pepsi challenge for both Paris and the longer books which follow.

What would Slim Jim do?

49 Responses to ‘What would Slim Jim do?’

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted April 20
Many thanks for the Paris spoiler, but is he someone with access to the actual tech or does he just know what could exist? I guess I come at it with self-interest as from what you describe in the books it appears that there is a lot of non-technical information available ie historical texts etc, so that says to me, why wouldn't every patent application also be available, and we are talking tens of millions from 1950 to 2021, all right there to be taken up ahead of time, perhaps not with the finer detail, but enough to say let's make this thing, which is a bit more than remembering that you had a 40" flatscreen TV back up in the day.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted April 20
It's not a spoiler. I'm happy to tease roles for Slim Jim, Halabi, Kolhammer and Ivanov in Paris. But what they actually do, that's another matter.

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21
Now I must offer one thousand apologies because I am an idiot. I have mixed up Rome with Paris.

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Dailygringo ducks in to say...

Posted April 20
Never letting go puts me in mind of Taibbi’s ‘vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity’ – Goldman Sachs. Slim would have a far better profile with his keen sense of PR (apologetic check to the granny he stiffed), but ‘too big to fail’ is an idea that would appeal to Slim.
Futuristic credit products, and the trendy technology that provides instantaneous access to them, is just Slim’s way of facilitating the American Dream. He might not have Apple Pay up and running, but the irony ofp thousands of American businesses having full faith in the credit of Slim Jim Savings and Loan would not be lost on him.

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Stephen mumbles...

Posted April 20
A look at the history of changing TVs from B&W to colour brings to mind that it's driven by what programming is available. I read somewhere that snooker got on TV because they needed some shows where colour was necessary, not just nice to have, to push colour TV.
So if he really wants to push colour TVs, I'm guessing somebody will be needing to make colour programs. There will be money to be made there somewhere, and I can't see him avoiding it.
I'm trying to decide if Pagers would ever be the status symbol they were for a while in our world, or would they skip straight to mobile phones?
There's a progression in tech - year one it sells for a premium, is OK and only professionals can justify the price, year three it is half the price but better (the bugs are gone) and all the big manufacturers make it, years 5-8 you're flooded with cheap, slightly lower quality versions in department stores, and by year ten you get given it free as promotional material. If tech is in fast forward mode, something that lasted for a decade or so for us might be outdated in two-three years for them - which means it might never get into the every family has one part of the cycle.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 21
I can't see Slim Jim backing Pot Black. Although, he doesn't have to because of all the content which arrived on the servers from 2021.I wonder whether that content would even work with the market of 1955 however. A show like Breaking Bad would probably be considered a threat to national security.

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Dirk would have you know...

Posted April 20
"Make what the people need"

The western European wirtschaftswunder was fueled in the 50s and 60s on a couple of things
1. Mechanization of agriculture (combine harvesters were rare her before the Marshall plan, as was fertilizer) allowing more people to seek employment out of growing crops and milking cows and buy feeding them from own soil (autarky) with wholesome cheap food stocks. Think green housing also and renewable energy.

2. Rebuilding the industrial base that was bombed esp. in Germany and the Benelux for building: factories, small low mileage cars, bicycles, building and DIY stuff and implementing mass-production techniques (most german tanks were hand-built in the 40's for ex.)
3. Building a service sector with at its core banking (easy flow of capital) and later on leisure (holidays, camping, cheap sun-holidays in Spain, music, movies etc.)
4. the start of consumer electronics, kicking of with transistor radios, 8 tracks, tv and the first rudimentary video-games (pong) and household appliances (hoovers, coffeemakers, ovens, washing-machines, fridges/freezers etc.)
5. A government sponsored healthcare, pension, insurance and schooling system
6. A roll out of (a car based) infrastructure and repairs to the railways, with a start in commercial aviation. Also sanitation, electricity and running water.
7. Diversification as a trend in business, so make under one umbrella more kinds of products and or services. Wiki keiretsu for that.
8. Weariness of war and the first steps to making a European Union (EC coal and steel), NATO, WEU
9. The discovery of natural gas and oil

You could enhance the growth even more with a few political things that came later here:

a. a single currency
b. free travel (schengen)
c. unfied import and export levies
d. a unified European taxsystem
e. an integrated European wide banking system (IBAN was introduced here only in the 00-s)
f. standardization of items: one type of electrical socket and 1 type of voltage (220V) for example
g. standardization in communications (no more PAL/NTSC/SECAM but like nowadays 1 type of broadcast format; Ditto for phones (GSM), radios (FM/DAB) etc.) and logistics (ISO containers/ STANAG).
h. have building codes upgraded to include future upgrades of housing. For example by installing infrastructure ducts in streets so you can roll out cable or fiber in future for a fraction of the cost. Make roofing on houses face southward to implement solar paneling first for heating water and in the future for electricity (you know it's coming). Also make city-planning future proof in avoiding ghetto's and by adding more parks and recreation area's to it.
i. embed the colonies and a few others into the European union but impose strict oversight. It depends on what status some countries have in this timeline, but for example Israel, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia and Lybia spring to mind. Also India, Korea, south Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand should be invited

So onto your question: what is Jim's Spiel?
Have him build a consortium of many aspects. Entertainment, consumer electronics, shipping/logistics, energy, communications, retail. The concept of a one stop shop so to say. Command the whole production-chain.

But he will not be the only big fish in the sea. Ingvar Kamprad, Frits Phillips, Sam Walton, Albert Heijn and Howard Hughes for example will try to do something similar. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship for more on that.

ntwinter mutters...

Posted April 20
Whole production chain... like it. Brings to mind where I see Amazon heading.Switch that back to the 50's... massive warehouses on another scale, drone delivery, streaming TV, energy (gas/elec) purchasing. You may even be able to buy your favourite AoT book there too :)

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 21
Sweet baby cheeses, there's a whole book just in this comment.

Dirk swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 21
Give me a cameo and i'll rip up the invoice :D

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insomniac asserts...

Posted April 20
I came back to write this precise word. Think blockbuster drugs like the statins or proton pump inhibitors. Antidepressants. Billions right there.

Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted April 20
what about "the pill" the kind that girls have ...
or the blue variant :)

she_jedi mutters...

Posted April 25
This is a good one, contraception was a huge catalyst for women's lib and making inroads into working life etc. You had a great female mercenary working under Viv, but she's still screwed if she accidentally falls pregnant.

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Peter in the bleachers puts forth...

Posted April 20
Mining. Not just coal, iron ore and other base metals but the rare earths required for all the tech that is slowly being developed. All of the mining locations would be in the fleet files. On top of that he would add refineries and manufacturing industries in a vertically integrated supply chain. I'm pretty sure he would be involved in the odd coup or two in Africa/South America to ensure access to the products he needs.

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Blake mumbles...

Posted April 20
The problem with the Musk slim Jim comparison is that Musk is an optimist whose projects have largely touched on making money off making the world a better place. Where Slim Jim is an opportunist who is out to make big bucks.
He might on the side do things that look good, (on the advice of his lawyer publicist( I'm behind on the AoT so not sure if she's still alive). But it's only for public perception.
He will undoubtedly be interested in space, but it will be to leverage off the military contracts to instate GPS and global comms before the others do.
But he will be playing catch up to the big old defence contractors that just inherited a pile of IP.
Tv Programming was mentioned above, but more than that. media. buy Murdoch's empire before he can, leverage public opinion.
Dirk touched on it above and I forget if it was mentioned in WOC. For the long game, buy up resource rich lands and mining grants.
I recall it being mentioned in WOC that he was being monitored and unofficially sanctioned by (I forget the terminology).
But at some point someone is going to want to bring a whole pile of antitrust law down on his head.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted April 21
"He will undoubtedly be interested in space, but it will be to leverage off the military contracts"
It's like you're looking over my shoulder as I write this thing.

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DrewfromOz swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 20
Satellite TV Porn.
Slim would most probably would find a young Russ Meyer and show him some inspiration from his later work, crossed with a bit of Max Hardcore.

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien mutters...

Posted April 21
1) Vaping - you indicated there's a move to ban tobacco and vapor cigarettes is a lucrative alternative.
2) Auction-style buying (a la Ebay) instead of your average department store or ordering via Sears catalogs.
3) With better media coverage of sports - sales of sports paraphernalia. Jerseys/shirts, shoes, etc. A glance at sports events for 1955 on wikipedia lists the Cleveland Browns winning the SuperBowl, Newcastle beats Man City in the FA Cup, Syracuse Nationals win NBA, even national teams - France beat Wales in the Five Nations' Cup.
Also Adidas and Puma were both based out of Bavaria. No joy if the Soviets rule there, so Slim Jim should fill the void with ease.
4) Online dating. Big bucks right there. And the times are-a-changing.

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McKinneyTexas ducks in to say...

Posted April 21
He'd buy a ton of real estate in and around Napa/Sonoma CA, Houston TX and Manhattan.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted April 21
And now he has. Thx.

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Rhino mumbles...

Posted April 21
One word, son; plastics.

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jason has opinions thus...

Posted April 21
"Who controls the media controls the masses". I think someone said that or it could just be something i said that was unwittingly clever. Slim Jim would be all over newspapers and television stations to control the news and more importantly the advertising. Slim Jim doesn't just want to be rich, he wants to be famous and powerful and beyond the reach of the law. He could then use the media to build any enterprise he wants and destroy his opponents, both commercial and political. Eventually he will marry a Texan super model... oops reality just crossed over for a second.

Dirk mumbles...

Posted April 22
hmm: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanne_Herring ?

jason is gonna tell you...

Posted April 22
I was thinking more Rupert Murdoch media baron who recently married Jerry Hall.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted April 21
Incubator company? Seems to be a good place to be these days investing in and taking a massive slice if they get up. Everybody would have access to the future info but no cash to get up their ideas on the new and wonderful. Money making as well as being seen to 'help society'. You also have your finger in every pie that way. (i'm also a bit behind on AOT, cut my teeth more on Disappearance series, but making up for it). I've also been thinking of changing my handle to FormerlyKnownAsSimon seeing 'Simon' is a pretty generic name! Can i do this?

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Dave W reckons...

Posted April 22
FormerlyKnownAs...did you know something that the rest of us didn't?

FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted April 22
i swear guvnor i didn't touch it! My brother in law accuses me of topping off Bowie as well. We had a Bowie marathon when they visited and three days later the Bowie news broke.

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted April 22
How much do you charge? Asking for a friend.

Peter in the bleachers swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 22
I hate to ask but perhaps a Bieber marathon?

she_jedi mutters...

Posted April 25
Or perhaps start taking an interest in politics?

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DarrenBloomfield has opinions thus...

Posted April 21
When is some bugger going to introduce Twitter? I've said it before - I'd totally follow Stalin (@progromsarefun) and Beria (@gogulagorgohome) on the Twitterz.

More broadly - I really want to see the exploration of the intertwining of the social with the technological, and how they will feedback on each other. Like the above re the contraceptive pill as just one example.

While the key focus of yours will always be be propelling the story forward - politico-military implications, I think some of the background colour might be the socio-economic/cultural impacts.
Women in particular will see the future and want to leap frog to it. Britain largely missed the chance to make this leap faster post-war: female labour participation fell back to something much closer to pre-war levels than it ought have, this could change. 1950s women will want equal rights, equal pay - heck, even the biggest sleeper issue that held women back in my view - lack of no-fault divorce saw them chained to/dependent upon complete fucktards for at least two generations too long. Remember, women in the civil services (at least in UK, Australia) had to resign when they married!! They'll want that gone. They have role models that have come back, but tey really don't need them, they just need to know what is possible.
I'm sorry the above is off topic - but to try and bring it back - Maybe a sleaze like Jim can see how to exploit this - he can become a rapacious robber baron, cloaked in the (self-generated) disguise as a champion of women's rights??



John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 21
No, it's not off topic. It's right on message. I use these comments to help frame the later books. And this is a good one.

Marccarno swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 23
I think (female equality/'truly' egalitarian society implied by the up timers in AoT) isn't an easy play by any stretch of the imagination, as it requires societal catch up as opposed to manufacturing/technology introduction and as JB inferred often in all the books (most recently Cairo) women in particular resent up timer female emancipation, seeing it as a threat - which aligns to the more conservative culture of the times. As such I don't see anything that takes cultural change being of interest to Slim Jim although I totally get that this could be woven as a longer-running narrative thread.
For me Jim may well look at 'renewables' hybrid cars (just to tank the auto industry as he's always been inclined to give the establishment the finger) could go well in California and have potential, also 'clean' power - relatively easy to build and a good target for power-hungry post war Europe....as well as all those tasty South American 'tinpot Dictatorship' countries that could well be happy dealing with Slim Jim Enterprises and give him enormous power and influence in those countries - something that would appeal (being treated like a South American aristocrat) and simultaneously (because he can and he likes the up timers) doing a sideline in assisting the effective stomping on those escaped Nazis living it up in Argentina.....?

she_jedi asserts...

Posted April 25
I can see the generation of women who were late teens or adults at the time of the Transition resenting the up time women with all their equality and liberation, because they don't know any better (honestly, my BFF's mother in law recently said that women don't belong on the front lines in the military because they need showers, and therefore they can't deploy for weeks at a time in the bush. My BFF's fiance is in special forces at Campbell barracks here in Perth and he was horrified - he's very much in the "as long as they can do the job they belong there" camp. He likes to point out that a large proportion of the male population can't do the job either, so why assume 100% of women can't?).

However, I can see the next generation, the ones who were in primary school or not even born at the time of the Transition (and you touched on this beautifully in Cairo), adapting to a post transition world without batting an eyelid. And it's THAT generation that's going to be demanding equal rights, contraception, equal representation. And I think Slim Jim will surround himself with ambitious, ruthless young women to run his companies and sit on his boards. Firstly, because he would be aware of the studies that show that having women on boards and in senior management is directly linked to positive company performance and profits, but also because this is the generation that will be butting their heads against the boys' club of the 1950s and 60s, and Slim will hoover up all the best female talent available because all the contemporary misogynists in charge of companies and governments will ignore them. And then he'll use them to wipe the floor with the old school companies, inherited IP or no inherited IP. I don't see Jim as an ideologue, he's a ruthless pragmatist, and he'll use anything at his disposal that will get results. I can see large swathes of his companies being managed entirely by women.

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Stephen Portelli is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21
Control global communication? Internet, news, etc. Kick start the net, provide the sat links & the tech platforms and make the punters pay. Hardware can be copied by any back street jobbing shop, but being the only tech service provider requires a huge start up wallet and a massive barrier to entry for competitors.
The diversification and spinoffs would be massive.

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien has opinions thus...

Posted April 22
1) Fast food - April 15, 1955 the McDonald's Corporation is formed in Illinois. Slim Jim can do burgers or some healthy variety. 'Course we gotta watch out for the copyright issues on Slim Jim beef jerky ;-)

2)Depending on how much information came down from 2021, would people be interested in what happens to them and their progeny in that particular future? Ancestor research is a big business in our time. Would "descendant research" be of interest/profit? Would 21 year old Betty Sue Thompson want to know who she marries, how many kids they have, etc, etc?

Macwin ducks in to say...

Posted April 22
Touching on the ancestry aspect I have always imagined something like an 'Office of future history' where peeps would trawl through every line of information from the future and put all the future 'influential' kids into a Charles Xavier type X-men type university.

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HAVOCK21 mutters...

Posted April 22
He'd assemble a fkn team of FKRS like these and FK UP ALL who fkn stand in his fkn way!.
FK YEAH!
https://www.funker530.com/the-most-infantry-mission-brief-that-ever-happened/

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Brother PorkChop has opinions thus...

Posted April 22
Finance. For a piece of the action every time. Venture capitalist to the max. His very own Shark Tank, say a committee of like minded sharks with his being the veto and final say. Then he would truly be in everything, he'd bring them to him, feed the punters some uptime direction and maybe tech and funding. It would all be about having his team of venture capitalists beholden to him and him alone. Then he's into the lot - media, banking, agribusiness, mining, software, hardware, even harderware like Krupps/Northrop/Grumman/etc., pharmaceuticals, entertainment, publishing, you name it.

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Don Bagert would have you know...

Posted April 23
I'm assuming that Slim Jim is a sports fan and so can work with Maria O'Brien to be out front in this future multitrillion-dollar industry. Mark McCormack started IMG in 1960 with one client: Arnold Palmer. Maria and Slim Jim can work with him to speed up the expansion of the sports management industry. Or, realizing that Major League Baseball is going to stand fast against free agency, to start a new baseball league with an early expansion to the west coast, more recruitment of black and Latino ballplayers (Baseball Commissioner Judge Landis, a who was blocking integration of the sport, would have probably live beyond 1944 in the post-Transition world), as well as having better dealing with an earlier-emerging Players' Union with a long Marvin Miller as its head. And that's just baseball - there's so much fertile ground in the sports industry post-WW2.

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sjg ducks in to say...

Posted April 23
He would be involved with companies that provide materials to the nuclear industry, and the moment Maria O'Brien turned her back, he would get himself into trouble making shady deals with characters from countries subject to sanctions

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Gutz would have you know...

Posted April 24
Sharks with Frikken Lazsers!

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JG asserts...

Posted April 24
I think Slim Jim would use advances in technology for gathering data not only about consumer behaviour, but also to blackmail highflyers. He'd use tracking devices and hack into people's TVs so as to observe their private lives. I think he'd be able to blackmail Bremmer and others.
Televisions could be used for Slim Jim's propoganda campaigns (via insidious means) and personal agendas, along with intelligence gathering. He'd be right into making the most of Big Brother, before downtimers knew the full capabilities of uptimer technologies.
Joanna

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dweeze has opinions thus...

Posted April 24
What about lower down the food chain? Recipes for crank, meth, ice, ice baby etc would be available. How much of the war displaced populace would be ripe for the plundering from someone with a lust for cash and power? Maybe slip some extra addictive goodness into the McFatFood chains...

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 25
This is a fantastic point; Jim could get control of the black markets in opiates before the cartels do. He could practically colonise Afghanistan under the guise of developing poppy farms for legit pharmaceutical purposes, then launder the heroin money via his legit businesses.

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Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted April 26
Corn syrup, in fact, grow a shit load of corn and using uptime technology take over significant segments of the global food market.
Be the man who took steps towards solving hunger, especially in the post-war environment.

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Steve has opinions thus...

Posted April 28
Don't get too far ahead of yourself on the electronics. There is no way they'll have flatscreens that soon. Classic TVs very more sophisticated at the end than you may think. The electronics (expect for the screen itself) were already fully digitalized. They were a far cry from their analog predecessors.

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Stalin's Hammer: Cairo. SPOILER THREAD. (General)

Posted April 19 into Books by John Birmingham

Warren Ellis often writes about the weather in his weekly email, Orbital Operations. This week he riffed on a big storm that blew through southern England a few years back and did a lot of damage, segueing from that to a discussion of technology and the future. He was particularly struck by the way the mobile phone caught sci-fi writers by surprise. I won’t ruin the analogy by attempting to paraphrase:

From this perspective, the Great Storm was the mobile phone. It could be seen in the distance, along with a dozen other swirls of stormy weather, but we had no idea it would hit hard enough to change the shape of the world. It hit hard enough to break science fiction, one of our traditional early-warning stations, and it became interpolated into and interrogated by contemporary and popular fiction without science fiction ever getting to lay a finger on it…

The future is a weatherfront, and attempting to predict single lightning strikes is stupid and wasteful. Understand the future as weather, and yourself as standing on the shore looking out to the horizon. Breathe the air and watch the water. There are dozens of different systems acting on the approach of the future. In order to get a handle on what’s coming, you need to be talking to and working with and keeping an eye on many different fields. Not just “technology.” The future is also always social, and economic, and political, and many other things besides, and those things act on the path of the storm. And, if you’re standing on the shore, you know that there are a lot of storms out there, and any one of them could hit like a hurricane.

I didn’t agree with everything he wrote, or even everything I’ve quoted above. But I do like the elegance of the idea. The future as a chaotic weather system. It’s been much on my mind as I immerse myself back into the Axis of Time story world. When I wrote Weapons of Choice I was projecting two decades into the future. Now the opening scenes of the book are just a couple of years away. There are so many things I would change if I could go back and rewrite the series, and I guess there's no reason I can’t do that. Movie franchises get rebooted all the time, and Charlie Stross has already done something right this with his Merchant Princes series, if I recall correctly.

But I won’t do that. I have enough on my hands wrapping up Paris to start a new series I have tentatively called World War 3.1 in my planning documents. And, of course, I’m also returning to the timeframe of the original series to fill in the gaps. What I hope to pull off is the narrative gymnastic trick of writing two books in one series, separated by a decade. We’ll see how that works out.

For now, however, we have Cairo to discuss. The Beta readers are probably more qualified than anybody to dive in at this point, having poured over the manuscript at a molecular level. But I now throw the comment threads open to anybody who wants to join in.

We can make this a general discussion, with spoilers, and open up more specific threads later in the week.

SPOILERS BELOW.

28 Responses to ‘Stalin's Hammer: Cairo. SPOILER THREAD. (General)’

Dirk mutters...

Posted April 18
Let me be then the first to provide you a blurb:
"A welcome visit of an old friend; or one from another future".

Pass the word, all good people, on the facebook!
And for your shelf you could add items listed on (for dutch viewers)
https://www.bol.com/nl/s/boeken/zoekresultaten/Ntt/john%2Bbirmingham/N/8299+8292/Nty/1/search/true/searchType/qck/suggestedFor/john+birm/originalSearchContext/media_all/originalSection/main/defaultSearchContext/media_all/sc/books_en/index.html
or for german viewers:
http://www.hugendubel.de/de/quickSearch;jsessionid=E0845ADE94F85A86080E58DC66CD1DDF.www03?searchString=john+birmingham&facetNodeId=-1&mainsearchSubmit=Suche

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Blarkon asserts...

Posted April 18
I'm probably wrong, but I get the sense that we haven't seen our last temporal wormhole in this series.

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WarDog asserts...

Posted April 18
You bastard, I wasn't expecting that deep a cliff hanger. Paris had better only be weeks away.

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sibeen has opinions thus...

Posted April 18
Bugger me, Viv StClair is not a fucking Sergeant or even an ex-Sergeant. He gets referred to as such at least once in this tome.
He was the fucking Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of the SAS Regt, which makes him a Warrant Officer Class One. You fucked this up in the books a few times as well, and it drove me nuts.
If you're going to kill the poor bastard off at least you could get his former rank correct.

STOMPS OFF

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 19
Hahahaha. We actually discussed and fixed this up in Beta. And then thought, I'd really like to see Sibeen's head explode. So I changed it back.

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted April 19
What the fuck is it with the Brits and their mixing Sergeants Majors up with Warrants? That is not how we Yanks do shit. ;)

Troppo mumbles...

Posted January 25
Exactly!

It grated with me as well.

Harry should have referred to him as "SarMajor".

Calling him a Sgt is a grievous insult.

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted January 25
Yeah but once you've been forcibly removed from the royal line of succession you probably don't really give a shit.

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Don Bagert swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 18
Thanks for getting the spoiler thread up so quickly!
First of all, I'm glad that you have addressed the fact that the WW2.x trliogy was published in 2004-2007 about a future world of 2021 colliding with a past world of 1942, and now it is 2016 and many of those things didn't happen. (The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that not only did Hilary Clinton not become president in 2009, but she is now much farther to the left politically.) There were also some great predictions such as the drones and the flexipads (iPads). Some day, I'll try to write an essay devoted to it.
Meanwhile, the fact 2021 in our world is quickly approaching means that AoT books for here on will be different in tone. Eric Flint made a great comment about Weapons of Choice being both future history and alternate history. However, January 15, 2021 is less than five years away and the future history time is running out. Still, there was a comment or two in Cairo about soon-to-occur events (as someone who grew up in New Orleans, I found the "second hurricane" remark distressing...)
So I see that Harry Windsor has become Harry Wales. I assume you saw that when the real-world Harry got promoted to Captain a few years ago, it was noted in the media that he uses the last name of Wales in the military, and so future AoT novels should reflect that.
So Kolhammer is only Vice-President? I had wondered if the "Truman and Kolhammer" remark by Stalin in SH: Rome meant that the Admiral was in the Truman third-term administration, or if Kolhammer had succeeded Truman as President. So was Kolhammer made VP as a way of neutralizing him (a la Teddy Roosevelt in 1900) and/or of getting votes (LBJ in 1960 comes to mind)? If Kolhammer has an office in the White House (as Stalin implied) he then became the first to do so (it was Walter Mondale in our timeline).
Okay, I have to go to work. More later :)

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Marccarno puts forth...

Posted April 19
I'm still unable to comment due to my grieving over the loss of Viv...its vicious I say, absolutely vicious! Not so much a cliffhanger as a CIA bag job and right now I'm hanging by my ankles over a cliff........
Once I've got over the shock I'll try to give some constructive feedback!

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted April 19
I was expecting one of the bigger characters to get iced in this and I thought Harry would be perfect for that kind of "shock the reader by offing a star".

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Don Bagert ducks in to say...

Posted April 19
Okay, work is over - back to my feedback!

Prologue: When I was re-reading Final Impact recently, I was wondering about Otto Skorenzy. He had been Berlin in charge of the disposition of Hitler's body on June 9, 1945 - plenty of time to leave on an assignment before the atom bombs struck on June 15. And that appears to be precisely what happened :) I wonder why we didn't see Harry having any problems during "SH: Rome" with his injuries from the fight with Skorenzy like he is in "Cairo" LOL

Chapters 1-2: 1% unemployment in the UK?!? I can't wait to see what it is like in the U.S.! Loved the inclusion of "C" and the discussion of Ian Fleming and the "00 section" (compared with the sanctions of the uptime multinational force). So Churchill is still PM - I wonder if he's served in that capacity continuous in 1945, or if they dumped him for Attlee as soon as war ended.

Chapters 3-4: I'm probably over-sensitive to this because a family member is having memory problems, but I notice that Julia twice mentioned problems with her memory related to her life uptime (once related to David Simon's other shows besides "The Wire" and the other regarding details about Cairo circa 2018-19). Anything there, JB? :)

Chapter 6: The "odious sobriety of campus Christians". Well, as a former campus minister, all I can tell you is that quite a few of them drink.

Chapter 14: Assuming that "UN" is United Nations, I'm surprised that it exists in this timeline. Can you tell us how it is different from our timeline's UN?

Finally: "Prince Harry will return..." No mention of Ms. Duffy? She won't like that LOL

Thanks for listening!

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Don Bagert mumbles...

Posted April 19
My apologies for thinking that Stalin had mentioned Truman in "Rome". Perhaps I was remembering a remark from this thread about you writing "Cairo" back in January 2013(!) and you trying to decide whether Israel would exist in the 1950's Post-Transition World. Certainly a good thread to review, considering the role of the Israelis in Cairo!

http://cheeseburgergothic.com/show/4968

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Brad would have you know...

Posted April 19
If the story of Otto Skorzeny and Yitzchak Shamir teaming up to do wetwork for the Mossad in the 60s had come out before the AoT books were written, how much would be different?

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 19
Heaps.

sibeen reckons...

Posted April 19
Brad, thanks for the heads up on that. Found a decent article on what little Otto appears to have been up to for those sneaky Israelis. Quite surreal.

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DarrenBloomfield has opinions thus...

Posted April 19
I wondered about the Mossad thing too.
And in terms of the weather you didn't see coming, I think you once mentioned this here months ago - but 3 D printing. Makes the mobile phone look like a puddle, not a storm.
But fuck it - its fiction, not fricken Gospel.
And finally as the one (or at least one of) that raised the RSM/WO thing in beta can I say, I'm so pleased I'm not the only pedant here!

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted April 19
al Nouri reminds a bit of The Engineer in Miss Saigon.

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Sparty mutters...

Posted April 19
Nice story - very Fleming like (original books) but with more humor. But Damn you Birmingham - Viv and Dan will be waiting for you one day and there will be a reckoning!
and the chase along the Nile read well (know the area pretty well or at least our timeline version))- particularly given I'm assuming it was mainly done through Google maps?
oh and for your information when writing the next chapter, - even "fictionally" describing the death of real royalty would probably be treason within the commonwealth....just sayin.......

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Marccarno ducks in to say...

Posted April 20
I'm still unable to comment due to my grieving over the loss of Viv...its vicious I say, absolutely vicious! Not so much a cliffhanger as a CIA bag job and right now I'm hanging by my ankles over a cliff........

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Bondiboy66 puts forth...

Posted April 20
I'm hoping its a Jon Snow type of moment....

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien reckons...

Posted April 21
Loved the book. In my opinion even better than Rome.

The Good:
-love the little tidbits about the rest of the world, like the Principalities of the Indian Subcontinent, we learn about Israel, Soviet Greece etc.
-ending is visceral but fits so well.

The Bad:
- not much really, maybe a little more gems about how the rest of the world went, esp the Soviet-ruled parts.

The Ugly:
-i wasn't clear on the Serbs in that hit squad. Are they downtimers? Are they from the Soviet-run secret service? Wouldn't it be Yugoslavia? A lot of anti-communist Serbs, especially army and air force officers ended up in Cairo during our WW II and others and their king went to London. There was some friction between the London and Cairo faction. And there was a pretty thriving anti-communist Serb colony in Cairo until Nasser came around and flirted with Tito and the Sovs.

Otherwise I cannot wait until Paris and moreso the novels. Thanks for a high octane thrill ride JB!

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Gavin Syme is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21
John,
Thanks for the book.
Bloody hell, you utter bastard. To honest, I though al Nouri was going to be a turncoat.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 21
No, big Al was an honest man.

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Guy is gonna tell you...

Posted April 23
I'd love to be able to download SH: Cairo - please can someone tell me how? I'm afraid I'm something of a technophobe...

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JG puts forth...

Posted April 24
I thoroughly enjoyed Cairo, JB. Love the ego-driven character of Mister <font color="#333333">al Nouri, along with Prince Harry and Julia. Your degree in international relations and your background working for Department of Defence's Office of Special Clearances is evident. You certainly know the works, Bond. Wonderful detail.</font><font color="#333333">
</font><font color="#333333">I look forward to reading Paris. By the way, in the latest post 'Paris teaser and cover art', you have 'g orwn' [space added due to auto correct] typo, which you'd no doubt have picked up later. Love the cover art for Paris. </font><font color="#333333">
</font><font color="#333333">Nowhere to post a review for Cairo on Amazon as yet, I see. At the end of Cairo, I pressed 'finished' but when it came to share (5 stars), a message came up with communication error. Anyway, Cairo was a great read, and I'm glad it was the first ebook I've read on my Kindle.</font><font color="#333333">
</font><font color="#333333">Joanna</font>

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted April 25
I just finished Cairo, and my reaction when I got to the final page was "Wait, what? JOHN!!" Which I'm hoping was the reaction you were pitching for :)
I loved Mr al Nouri, his reassurance to Harry that, having cleared the club lounge of all the other guests for Julia's comfort, that indeed had Julia wanted to clear the lounge herself she could have done so with extreme violence,was simply wonderful. What a great yet tragically short lived character.

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Tim Jones mutters...

Posted June 7
Great read! Though at 4 in the morning, the cliffhanger ending is not conducive to good sleep :p.

I'm not too worried about the approaching collision with the novel future timeline - I just look at it as that would have been our world had Hillary become pres instead of Obama ;).

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Disrupted, by Dan Lyons. And the rich will eat us all like pate de foie gras on a crispy little cracker

Posted April 14 into Books by John Birmingham

Dan Lyons used to be the technology editor of Newsweek. And then one Friday morning wasn't. That particular Friday he was at home planning a family vacation to Europe. His wife had just quit work as a teacher. She had been suffering increasingly frequent and crippling migraines. They were readjusting to life on one salary, with young twins, but they had some savings, and Lyons job paid well. If they watched their pennies they could probably afford the trip.

The phone rang. His editor.

He excused himself to take the call upstairs, thinking she had rung to discuss the new technology blog he had proposed. But she hadn't. She had rung to sack him. It was a story familiar to thousands of journalists. Tens of thousands of them these last few years. His work was excellent. He was an asset to the company. But the company needed to cut costs. Lyons was blindsided. The news hit him particularly hard because although he had always been aware he worked in a struggling industry, he had felt himself less threatened by disruption when his editor, a friend of 20 years, had returned to Newsweek a few months earlier. They had been discussing ramping up his work, not cutting it back, and certainly not getting rid of it altogether.

He panicked. As you would. He begged. As you do. None of it made any difference. He was gone. Disrupted. A 50-year-old man kicked out of an 80-year-old company. It seemed impossible. He was the guy who had become a major-minor celebrity for creating the Fake Steve Jobs blog. He got a book deal out of it. A movie deal. He flew around the world and spoke at conferences. His opinion meant something. His name was known.

But none of it made any difference. He had to take a terrible job at a terrible website and started chasing clickbait. He left that job for the promise of bigger bucks and a brighter future at a start-up called Hubspot. It was at this point that things got worse. Much much worse. But only for Dan Lyons, not for us. Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble, his memoir of middle-aged irrelevance and corporate savagery, is a brutally funny indictment of the new economy. It's bitter at times, but not written from bitterness. These days Lyons presumably has both money and cred as a writer on HBO's Silicon Valley.

He is a good writer, with a journalist’s knack of cutting in deep to get to the bone. The earlier chapters, where he details his shock, disorientation and fear at having lost his job are scarifying, but when he enters his own personal hell at Hubspot, the tone is less dark than it is darkly amusing. The company, which sells really crappy marketing software, presents as a cult, full of young, bright eyed true believers. It is not a small enterprise. By the time Lyons signs on, Hubspot has raised hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital, and is valued at billions of dollars for a potential IPO. There are thousands of employees, and to Lyons increasing dismay they cannot see just how badly they are being shafted. Indeed, they connive in their own economic destruction.

His retelling of the witless hysteria of Start-up-land is laugh out loud funny for page after page, but as the book progresses and he comes to understand what a gigantic scam he's been caught up in, not just at Hubspot but across the entirety of the new economy, Lyons turns his attention to the sort of hard-nosed analytic journalism he spent 30 years perfecting. The surprise of this book is not that new economy billionaires are ruthlessly exploiting their employees and their customers, or that wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, but that the new emperors have convinced everybody that what's good for them is good for the world. Disrupted would make a great companion volume to Thomas Pickety’s Capital in the 21st Century. It is a highly personalised, very funny and deeply disturbing account of one man's experience of being crushed between the giant millstones of economic change. Millstones which are grinding all of us into a salty, pink paste which the super rich will eat as happily as pate de foie gras on a crispy little cracker.

17 Responses to ‘Disrupted, by Dan Lyons. And the rich will eat us all like pate de foie gras on a crispy little cracker’

Carolyn Cordon puts forth...

Posted April 14
This sounds truly frightening the people, the ones doing the work should be rising up in protest instead of lining up to be slaughtered as they are ... I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. It sounds like the makings of a manifesto! Workers of the world unite join together for the protection of your livers and your personal dignity!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted April 14
I once heard the Industrial Revolution described as the decoupling of production capacity from population. But it could only arise in a very specific context. I wonder if a similar process is underway.

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Aaron puts forth...

Posted April 14
And just like the industrial revolution those in power vastly profited from convincing those under them to participate in their own disempowerment

NBlob would have you know...

Posted April 14
This theorist* posited that those who go into these epochs of change with powe rarely come out so blessed. I'd defer to Greybeard, he's seen every change since the Cambrian.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted April 14
* Theorist being a term for someone with few qualifications, but a convincing patter.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted April 14

I used to fear loosing my job such as Mr Lyons, unlike him I was not a talented writer, holding valuable and respected experience.

What have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. All my line manager needs to know is I spent time as a chemist, who knows microbiologists and I know how to construct a bio-reactor.

Lulu is gonna tell you...

Posted April 14
"What have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career."

Hehe, I see what you did there.

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted April 14
Thanks, it's a great line.

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Blarkon reckons...

Posted April 14
What surprised me is that I've worked at other startups that have the same feel about them as Lyons describes for Hubspot.
Further reading - David Egger's "The Circle" - which is about a company very similar everyone's favorite search engine - but also has that "it's not a cult if we're going to IPO" thing going on.

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Therbs reckons...

Posted April 14
My manager is often reminded that I know some guys.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted April 14
Gold++

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Aaron reckons...

Posted April 14
I saw a lot of it happen in radio and would hear similar stuff through the grapevine about other media. Being good at your job was no guarantee, sometimes it made you more of a target, the less talented often try to thin out the competition. Urrgh don't miss that world at all

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Analog Penetration puts forth...

Posted April 15
And everyone will want to be the one to sell them the crackers.

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Bill ducks in to say...

Posted April 21
Thanks for the recommendation, John. Reading it now, and I'm really enjoying it.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted April 21
The epilogue is a killer.

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Bill is gonna tell you...

Posted April 22
Wow. I see what you mean. Hope you aren't leaving any printouts of your books in the wheelie bin.

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caldron_baidu mutters...

Posted May 13
thanks also for the heads-up, I'm reading it now too (and as a recently redundant 48yo it does make for some mighty scary reading)

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Should I kickstart the Axis of Time reboot?

Posted April 7, 2016 into Books by John Birmingham

Having decided to reboot* the Axis of Time series, I'm now wondering about the best way to do it. Not about what books to write – I've already decided that. The first book in the new series will pick up at the end of Designated Targets. In other words, I will be writing the invasion of Hawaii and the death of Dan Black. The second book will pick up from Stalin's Hammer: Paris, i.e. it will be set over a decade later. If the idea works I can then advance the two timelines.

Narrative arcs are not what's bugging me at the moment. Its production schedules and budgets and all of the manifold pains in the anus that would normally be dealt with by my publisher. But in this case, I am the publisher. So it falls to me to bend over and pucker.

I laid out my writing and publishing schedule a couple of weeks ago. Once I get Paris drafted in a fortnight or so I'll be done with juggling novella length e-books for a couple of months. It will be on to Stronghold to catch up with The Dave, and into The Cruel Stars for my major trade published commitment. I'm committed to offering Stronghold in paperback. I won't be doing a print run, of course. The Dave's next full-length adventure will be available print-on-demand for those who need to kill a tree. I spent most of this morning investigating the costs and scheduling demands of that decision. It's not cheap, but it would be foolish to attempt layout and typesetting on my own. That's a service you have to buy in, just like cover art and final editing.

Doing my research on getting Stronghold ready for print has given me reason for concern over the costs of any new Axis of Time book. It will be another four or five months before I see any return on all the investment I've made on these independently published titles and there will come a point at which I simply can't keep throwing money into the hole. I'm pretty confident these books will all pay off but if I'm not careful I will run out of money to pay for them before I get there.

For that reason I'm thinking about doing a Kickstarter for The Invasion of Hawaii. I've always been wary of crowdfunding. The whole thing reminds me of Deyan Sudjic's description of property development: an edgy, maverick industry defined by “the naked realities of guile, bravado, aggression and ego”.

On the other hand, a buck's a buck.

If I went down this path, I'd probably keep everything pretty modest. There is no point offering the usual gimcrackery; T-shirts, baseball caps, stickers and shit. Every time I have to go to the post office to mail something out into the world of real things it costs time and money. If I had to send anything to the US, I'd lose money.

So, I dunno. What do you guys reckon? Production costs would probably run somewhere between about five- and ten thousand dollars for a professionally produced novel, offered in both the book and paperback format.

Is this something I should look at kickstarting, or should I just suck up the pain myself?

* I say 'reboot' but it's really just a restart. There is one major plot twist which sort of reboots a storyline, and that will be revealed at the end of Paris. But I'm not reinventing the wormhole.

66 Responses to ‘Should I kickstart the Axis of Time reboot?’

jinx swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 7, 2016
Do it..... My only word of advice is over estimate the costs. We'll follow you, but people get pissed when you legitimately run out of money.

I'm a little late to this party tho. Reboot? Like you're changing the history of the trilogy? Or just adding books into the middle of the story. Will the old universe die and be replaced, or are you saying you'll run two universes.

Will it be more or less complicated that DC's Rebirth?

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 7, 2016
I'm adding books to fill in the gaps, which are huge. But in filling them, I'm also changing the underlying history. There's one major change that'll be revealed at the end of Paris. That sounds confusing, I know, but it's actually pretty simple. I'm not retconning. But I can't give away the spoiler.

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Lobes puts forth...

Posted April 7, 2016
You say reboot but your description sounds more like a sequel.

Not much to advise on how to finance it but Jinx advice on overestimating costs sounds right.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 7, 2016
Mmm, as I explained to Jinx, it is a simple sequel in one sense... but not in another. But no, it's not a pure reboot like, say, the infinite numbers of Spiderman movies.

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HAVOCK21 reckons...

Posted April 7, 2016
so if we be right, reboot is kick off again and by what you describe to me, its filling in the timeline voids, not necessarily a change in timeline right?Yep, over estimate, nothing worse than asking for more dosh.
Have a think about your minimums if you want that, remember that each share requires admin of it VERY OWN, so the smaller the shares the more admin ( that theoretical, in that you have a dominant number of smaller shares )Other than that, as Jinx said, "We'll follow you off the edge of the cliff"
FKN CHARGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted April 7, 2016
The Kickstarter perks don't have to be the usual t-shirts and crap. Some perks might include just a list of contributors for a modest fee, maybe five to ten bucks. You might offer to Redshirt someone in a particularly gruesome fashion for a bit more. Other things might include, for a fair bit more money, the opportunity for a well off aspiring writer to spend some money getting a one on one writing critique session from you. In person if they are local, or via facetime/Skype if they are across the pond.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 7, 2016
I was thinking of offering the ebook for $5 (US)
And major character role for $500.
But a redshirting at $50 is a great idea.
One thing I can't offer is the print copy itself, because of shipping and handling costs.

Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted April 7, 2016
ebook version shouldn't be a problem.

One thing the Star Trek Continues Kickstarter does is offer PDFs of scripts. One thing we might consider is a PDF of an edited manuscript.

In an ideal world we might go nuts and have Research Project Number 2's full binder contents scanned but that is probably beyond the pale.

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philkernick is gonna tell you...

Posted April 7, 2016

Rather than Kickstarter - which can and will work given your rabidly loyal fanbase - you should consider Unbound. It is exactly the concept that you are working with, and it definitely works.

https://unbound.co.uk/about

I bought the Robert Llewellyn books through this process.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 7, 2016
That IS interesting. But I'm wary of ceding rights to them. It looks like they'd get control of the ebook.

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Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted April 7, 2016
It occurs to me, The Invasion of Hawaii would start right at the moment the Japanese strike at Uptime assets. Seems there could be at least two books. One for the Invasion, the other for the Liberation.

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Tyson would have you know...

Posted April 7, 2016
I'd say do it. I'd like to think you could get the 10k in funding relatively easily. It would be worthwhile asking for the coin with jbismymasternow as part of the Cairo release.
I'm sure after reading Cairo for free, most reasonable people would be more than happy to push some money your way for another book in that universe.

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DarrenBloomfield asserts...

Posted April 7, 2016
Do it. People will buy in.
You will need to be careful about over subscription for character names and (a new term to me, but delightfully evocative) "redshirting". Else, it won't be long and you'll have a very crowded narrative. Maybe auction some of these bigger ones?
For example I'd pay SHITLOADS to have my boss offed in a gruesome fashion. And, after his breakfast time antics this morning, maybe my eldest son... "Laurence Bloomfield" has totally the right name-feel for some tight-sphinctered Naval Officer (it's why I named him thus)
Also it occurs to me that you ought be clear in defining what people are getting for the dollars out-laid - expectations may not align with text...
plus, it'll be good practice for when we Go Big or Go Home and crowd fund The Dave movies.

insomniac reckons...

Posted April 7, 2016
You're worried about the crowded narrative. What's the Dave movie gonna look like with two actors and a thousand extras in every scene?

Sudragon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 7, 2016
Bollywood.

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Aaron would have you know...

Posted April 7, 2016
I am wary of crowd funding but I dont begrudge anyone for exploring avenues available. personally I think it should be simply paying for the book in advance with refund if it doesnt reach target. Character rights interesting idea but would be careful to establish what that gets them (and not having to satisfy too many inclusions). If your loyal fan base is the main customer just jettison the cover art and charge for a straight PDF. All I know is more AOT please

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted April 7, 2016

Yeah. Do it.

I'm fine with the idea of supporting via kickstarter, particularly for someone I know and trust. I supported the infamous Amanda Palmer one a few years back and was quite happy with the outcome.

In fact, I was just musing on whether you could use something like Patreon instead to deliver a small regular income from the punters, as Palmer is doing now. But it occurred to me that books, even shorter ebooks, have a longer gestation and a more extended production process than what a modern nimble independent musician can deliver. Selfish I know, but I think I'd rather you were working on the books you want to write rather than scrabbling to toss a regular bone to a slavering pack of patreons.

And, fwiw, I'm really enjoying the narratives you've been giving us about the 'behind the scenes' aspects of ebook writing and production.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted April 8
Yeah, I kind of enjoy it, too. I'm still shaking out the difference between this place and my Facebook author page. They are different. But they still need more separation. I think FB will end up being a lot more 'corporate'.

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Stephen mutters...

Posted April 7, 2016
First thing - do you actually want to use Kickstarter for sure? Are you planning to make the books regardless, and use the fund raising to help offset your costs, or must you get all the money up front or it won't happen? If your costs are 10 grand, and you get nine, are you willing to cover the other grand yourself? In which case you'll need to set a lower target, or use one of the systems that lets you run a project where you get the money even if you don't hit target.
There are some great posts out there about the anatomy of Kickstarter (or any other system) projects, and what to be aware of. (Some of which won't apply if you don't have a fixed target you must meet.) For example, when setting targets, most people realise that there are fees from KS, but you also have to be aware of the fact that about 3-5% of pledges won't actually come through. And if you do decide to mail things, remember postage counts against your target, so you have to allow for that. You can set a $50 fee to cover high postage to where-ever, but if 10 people take you up on it, there's $500 that counts against your target but really doesn't.
Finally - think about when you want to run this. Close to the end of a financial year can be a huge mistake. Getting the money in one tax period but not getting the bills to pay until the next can do really horrible things to your tax bill. And sure, you can claim it back eventually, but that doesn't help you pay the cover artist in July.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 7, 2016
All good points, Stephen. I'd be publishing the book anyway, no matter what. I'm not looking for income support, just a cost offset. But I'll ponder closely what you've said.

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jason mutters...

Posted April 7, 2016
Happy to pay in advance for any books that might come out. I bought concert tickets where the band wont be here for 18 months and didn't cry about that, so if your book takes a year I'm well ahead. Very happy to pay $100 to be written out of a book in a very gruesome way or $50 just to be name checked. .

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w from brisbane asserts...

Posted April 7, 2016
Dunno if it is a good idea. At least, with you, backers would be confident there would eventually be a book. Maybe backers could be offered a special backer edition with some extras. It could perhaps include some character back stories or some other author stuff that you developed to help create the novel.

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted April 7, 2016
I'll pay fiddy smackers to see Abbott's migration ship, the Aronsay, get its beans cashed in a fiery end around 10 September 1960.

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WarDog mutters...

Posted April 7, 2016

You might be able to handle the cost of t-shirts with shipping just by offloading the manufacture and shipping of the T-Shirts to Zazzle. It also then opens up a t-shirt merch revenue for you :-)

Make the KickStarter t-shirts extra special with a JB sig or "I helped JB rewrite history, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt"

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 8
The problem is my audience is split between three major markets. US/Can, UK, A/NZ. There is no easy way to address shipment to all three at once.

Stephen is gonna tell you...

Posted April 8
If have seen it done where people get something made in China, and then some is bulk freighted to a fulfilment centre in the US for US and Canada, and the rest is sent from Hong Kong or somewhere similar. Sometimes the European stuff is bulk freighted to Europe somewhere, and then shipped around Europe from there. That evidently has benefits from the VAT side for the Euro customers - as you would pay the tax/VAT on the bulk shipment, rather than them having to pay for it on each small one. There is a whole market of people starting businesses to do this kind of thing.
Which reminds me, if you are going to sell books to European customers, make sure you are up to date on VATMOSS, or that could bite you one day.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 8
I am so weary.

WarDog asserts...

Posted April 8
If you were doing it through Zazzle (and they are not the only option) it just becomes a matter of creating an order with them for each reward. They handle all of the rest. Just make sure that the price for the reward covers whatever Zazzle will charge plus Kickstarter costs and round up.

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Jeats swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 7, 2016
I would so put up $50 for a red shirt role. I would chuckle like anything when I eventually reached it while reading.

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moz is allegedly literate asserts...

Posted April 7, 2016
One other perk that people like me would pay for is a bundle of your other ebooks. Give us 5% or 10% off and watch the cheapskates bleed money in your direction. I'm one of those lazy types who would rather get a zip with a whole series in it than try to assemble it over time. I'm currently whining because Juliet McKenna has the final ebook in her Northern Storm series "in the pipeline" but I've read the first three and I wannit neeoooww! A lot seem to be available via kobo as drm-free epub which is nice, but I'm looking at $200 worth of books of which I've read about two and going "there has to be a cheaper way" :)

Also, decide whether this is about growing your market or feeding the vultures who already have their beaks buried in your guts. The latter mob might be just as happy with a paypal address and/or a target bank account, and the fees are lower that way.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted April 8
I'm gonna try something like this with the first two Hooper ebooks. They'll be priced 2.99 each, or 4.99 for both. If that's possible to set up.

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Sparty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 7, 2016
"Production costs would probably run somewhere between about five- and
ten thousand dollars"
But would it?
Way back in '07 Stephen King was coming to UK and Mrs Sparty was desperate to get the King homage Novella she'd written into his hands. We knew that he was often wary of being handed manuscripts for all sorts of reasons but figured there would be a much better chance if it was a ISBN'd proper paperback so we self published via LULU. Thing is although it wasn't perfect, we did manage to produce something (type set, wrap cover art, ISBN barcode etc) the local Waterstones agreed to stock. and we literally did that in a weekend of work (and some physical delivery backwards and forwarding). With more time and local expert help I'm confident we could have had a near flawless product.
So how about recruiting a publishing intern who can do the work pro bono in exchange for some cult authorly wisdom?
And the story, well we did get it into da King's hands and due to a sentence or two in a novel he published a few years later we reckon he'd read it.
Anyhow I'll be in the queue either way but can't help feeling kickstarter doesn't quite gel with novel publishing.
Now if its a live action version of AoT, using Battlestar Galactica "Blood n Chrome" style green screen tech - now your talkin....

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 8
"But would it?"
Yep. I've done the costings. Granted, I don't skimp, because I want these things to be indistinguishable from the industry standard.
One a hundred thousand word novel it breaks down as:
<font color="#333333">Structural editing $2000-$3000*</font>Copy editing $3000Artwork $600-00Typesetting $2000<font color="#333333">Digital formatting $400-$600</font><font color="#333333">Marketing $Fkn Heap$</font><font color="#333333">
</font><font color="#333333">*Structural editing is an unknown. All of my trade published titles get a significant structural edit. As I've become more experienced the edits get lighter, and I often anticipate the major structural changes need to the first draft. Maybe that's something that could be done in beta. Maybe not.</font><font color="#333333">Those costs are for a 100K words. The AoT books all ran to 160K. So you can do the math.</font>

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Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted April 7, 2016
Another option to cut down on shipping costs on the paperbook could be this: http://www.ondemandbooks.com/

It used to be operational here http://www.abc.nl/frontpage/ebm/index.php?pod=Y&show=ebm_info but it's been a while since I've been inside those bookstores so i don't know the current status.

You could sell the axis shorts in an omnibus or ebook pack, get sponsors/productplacement etc, but then your literary integrity would be for sale too ...

Kickstarter is a good option, but then the word about it has to be spread to create a snowball of interest.

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sibeen would have you know...

Posted April 7, 2016
Hold on, hold on, hold on.
I'm trying to wrap my head around a concept here.
The way I'm reading the above, all you people actually laid out real money to actually purchase JB's product. Surely not you, Boylan? Say it ain't so.
JB, my question would be, why not use the publisher for the original AoT series, or have they pissed you off big time, or is it just that paper book sales are kaput?
I do know one of my brother's is going to be totally pissed if there is no print version. He's a complete luddite, as well as being completely broke. Everything he reads he gets from the library, and if they haven't got it in he gets them to order it - good client and all. This will fuck him right up.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 8
Your brother is why there's gonna be a print version.

DarrenBloomfield would have you know...

Posted April 8
My library now provides ebooks on loan, via an app called Axis 360 (how appropriate!)
Bad news is there is fk all* on it - that I'm interested in at any rate. Not sure how that gets energised, but once it does, even cheapskates can go e-books.
*A search for John Birmingham books produced: "no books available"

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McKinneyTexas ducks in to say...

Posted April 8, 2016
If you can raise money with no obligation other than to publish and no expectation of repayment, why not? I've followed your posts on this for some time and remain mystified at the economics. Seems to me, you write a book, someone publishes it, people buy it, you get a slice. Can you do yourself what a publisher does and come out ahead--without an editor? I assume so, based on the fact you are doing it.

That said, I wouldn't mind a few old style Pepsi Challenges where we discuss in detail how things would or should break in the WOC universe.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 8
Senator, the economics are indeed mystifying but, bottom line, yes, you get them right and you can make more money than you would without a publisher raking off 93% of the return.

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Don Bagert puts forth...

Posted April 8
The first book in the new series will pick up at the end of

Donald Bagert is gonna tell you...

Posted April 8
Hey! what happened to the rest of my comment? Let's try again...
"The first book in the new series will pick up at the end of

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Don Bagert asserts...

Posted April 8
This chopping of my messages is becoming annoying. Ok, maybe the third time's the charm:
You said:The first book in the new series will pick up at the end of Weapons of Choice, and well before Designated Targets. In other words, I will be writing the invasion of Hawaii and the death of Dan Black.My response:However...the invasion of Hawaii was towards the end of Designated Targets, and the death of Dan Black was after DT and before Final Impact.I predict, however, that the plot twist at the end of Paris will be that Dan Black is not dead! :)

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 8
Man, I better go back and read those books again.

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pedrogb ducks in to say...

Posted April 8
To answer your first question JB
Yes you should do it, you have a keen audience already, if you don't get all the money up front you could stipulate refunds or other options in kickstarter or foot the rest yourself (which will still be cheaper that what you would have had to pay in the first place)
I would pay for the privilege being red shirted (lol, I had never heard this expression either, but I like it.)
And yes, I will need to reread the series again (shame but hey, what you gonna do?) in order to make comment!

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Surtac asserts...

Posted April 8

Fascinating to see some of the costs that are usually hidden behind the publishing kimono. Gives much more insight into the importance of marketing input and effort from the publisher to the success or not of a book.

Hence the importance of the imminent newsletter (along with Twitter and Farcebook) to you as the self-publisher, am I right?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted April 8
You are more right than you know. Pan Mac released Emergence on Christmas Eve.Think about that. They were trying to get holiday sales but they released the book on the day most indie bookshops close for a week or two, and even chains go dark for at least a week. So the book sat in boxes in the back of most stores for anything up to three weeks (because most bookstores spend the period after Xmas dealing with returns, not selling new titles).There was no publicity. I did no interviews. I went nowhere. They did get a couple of extracts. One in the Daily Telegraph, which helped. But that was pretty much it.If you were trying to bury a book, you couldn't try harder than this.And the cherry on top of that shit sundae? The ebook was released to the A/NZ market but nowhere else in the world. So when the US and UK came to release their editions three months later, a lot of early demand had already been met by the torrent sites.You can see why I'm so keen to strike out on my own.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted April 8
Actually, I think I did one interview. One.

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Macwin mumbles...

Posted April 8
Loooooong time lurker, first time poster. Yes! Yes! Yes! I will happily pledge $50-$100 of my hard earned to see another long form AOT. I still regard the awestruck Kolhammer presenting Einstein with a flex ipad as one of my favourite, cheesy grin alt history moments. More! Oh and thanks for all the other books too JB.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 8
Thanks Mac. That helps.

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Aaron has opinions thus...

Posted April 8
Well you have the relative advantage of an established audience who trusts you to come up with the good stuff. If it's an exercise in seeing how much you can save (these discussions are what keep me interested for the last 12 years) then perhaps some co-op type model? Source as much tasks through the burger?

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jason swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 8
I know this may be a little left of field (where i spend a bit of time) but is it also possible to garner sponsorship from product placement. I assumed you already were when you refer to a Sony screen etc but this might just be you angling for some freebies. It is becoming a lot bigger in many sectors (Master Chef being an ongoing add for whatever shop sponsors the show) and could translate to books. If suddenly all your characters: drank Pepsi or 5 seeds cider, drove only Fords, wore G Shock watches, only traveled on QANTAS because it is the world's safest airline, etc. It may be more costly to pursue it than it is worth and it might mean selling your soul (shootouts in K Mart rather than an old car lot). Admitting to it might also provide a huge publicity burst and the products can be tailored to where the books are published.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 8
It's not that left of field.

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 8
So when you sell your soul what happens to all of our souls that we have entrusted to you? Was there a clause relating to selling our souls to third parties?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted April 8
Your soul has already been crushed and converted into high grade mulch.

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted April 8
Thank you

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insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted April 8
I think it's worth giving it a go for at least one book. As one who has the experience of having to go to the post office on almost a daily occurrence during winter and shelling out $7.45 for the privilege, I would suggest having most of your offers being deliverable with the click of a mouse, and severely limiting those that take up precious time and money.

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pi asserts...

Posted April 8
It wouldn't take much to include an autographed copy of a book for people who contribute over X would it? The incentive structure for a kick-starter is different for every one. Some will just do it so that it gets written, where if you give some the opportunity of exclusiveness, they contribute more.

Perhaps even include lotteries or something for things like plot-outlines and such if they contribute Z? Include people in editing/drafts if they commit to Y?

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted April 8
But you have to mail those books out. It becomes expensive in both time and money very, very quickly. I've learned that recently.

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Ceramic ducks in to say...

Posted April 8
Wow, I go offline for a few months and find out you're self publishing a crap-load of books. Cool.Hats off to you JB. Last I remember you were planning a one book test.
I'd totally be up for contributing to a kickstarter. Seeing as I contribute to artists on Patreon, it would be remiss of me to ignore one of my favourite authors taking a leap into independent publishing :-)

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Thessair puts forth...

Posted April 9
I say Kickstart that sucker. You've got a pretty dedicated fan base and I know that I, for one, would be pleased to be able to lend a bit more support. I think physical rewards in a case like this might be more detrimental and could easily wipe out the funds you generate. Ebooks and ideas like characters (and the redshirt one) would be awesome.

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she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted April 9
I can't add a lot to what everyone else has already said, but yes, shut up and take my money :)

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JG puts forth...

Posted April 10
No thoughts re AOT. However, looking at the forest over the trees, I'm happy this blog is archived by the National Library of Australia. It is fascinating to hear about the transition of publishing from your insightful perspective, JB. I'm glad future generations will read about your road through rapid changes in our time. Cheeseburger Gothic is a wonderful primary source for historians of all generations. Enough with the bush, but you're on top of it. You know what you're doing. Thank goodness.Joanna

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Alister Taylor mumbles...

Posted April 12
Hell, I'm in for a particularly gruesome death... Take my money!

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Alister Taylor mumbles...

Posted April 12
Hell, I'm in for a particularly gruesome death... Take my money!

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Ed swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 13
Yes - oh my god - yes. Just about my favourite series of books ever.

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Turlogh Dubh O'Brien swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 15
First time caller, long time listener here. Yes, absolutely! I will
gladly fork over my dinero to be tuckerized and immortalized within the
pages of your masterpiece! Keep on truckin' JB!

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Respond to 'Should I kickstart the Axis of Time reboot?'

Almost there

Posted February 16, 2016 into Books by John Birmingham

Just hit save on the second last chapter of Stalin's Hammer: Cairo. At least I hope it’s the second last chapter. I’m pretty sure I can kill everybody who needs killing and blow up all the things in one chapter. As long as Prince Harry doesn’t get lost tracking that German rocket scientist across the city.
Assuming he’s cool, the draft should go to beta this week and to full edit next. Then the part I really like about indie publishing; commissioning the artwork. Although in this case I’m a little constrained because this is the second book in a series so I’ll have to stick with the design language chosen by Momentum for the Stalin's Hammer: Rome.
Luckily, their cover is pretty cool and lends itself to iteration. I’m thinking a yellow ochre colour scheme with old Joe Stalin peeking out of silhouettes of the pyramids and the Sphinx.

28 Responses to ‘Almost there’

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 16, 2016
Huzzah! Huzzah for the worldsmith.

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ShaneAlpha would have you know...

Posted February 16, 2016
And just in time for JB to kick back, beer in hand and enjoy Daredevil season 2 on 18 March.

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Sparty ducks in to say...

Posted February 16, 2016
at last- I thought we were going to get to 2021 first.....;-)
will be interesting to see exactly how dystopian the world is when we get to the date they went back in time in the book. (if Trump gets in, I can probably saner that question right now....)

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Peter in the bleachers ducks in to say...

Posted February 16, 2016
Well done sir. I imagine it's like running a marathon and seeing the 1km to go sign. Looking forward to reading it.

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insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 16, 2016
I hope you are saving your work more often than when you get to the end of a chapter. I'm looking forward to reading it slowly, word by word. That was fun.

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Dirk puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2016
I have this spinning already: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlrKETxwRvM

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted February 17, 2016

Looking forward to this. Definitely time to go back to that universe.


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DarrenBloomfield swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 17, 2016
*hits imaginary "like" button*
(ignores imaginary 'heart' button)

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Therbs reckons...

Posted February 17, 2016

Seems a long ago time when I first scooped up the three AOT books and hoovered them down in a week. Been a lot of CBG'ing since then.

Guess its a case of 'Get 'er done'.

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BigWillieStyle reckons...

Posted February 17, 2016
OFF TOPIC: Just went and had a Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake at my local hipster café. Quite possibly the greatest invention ever.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted February 17, 2016
Toasted marshmallow you say, in. a. milkshake?
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

DarrenBloomfield puts forth...

Posted February 22, 2016
what an age we live in

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Thessair mumbles...

Posted February 18, 2016
Excellent news! I am very much looking forward to delving back into this world.

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Alister Taylor asserts...

Posted February 18, 2016
Last week involved sitting on my tod sick as a dog, reading all 3 AoT novels, Stalin's Hammer, and waiting... waiting...
You legend JB!

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Spanner asserts...

Posted February 18, 2016
What about Constable Bob?
The long suffering Art Mullen? I mean who would want to be Raylan's boss?
Dewie now there was a dimwit.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted February 18, 2016
Are you drunk, Spanners? Drunk and pantsless? Its ok if you are, just a bit concerned is all.

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Spanner ducks in to say...

Posted February 18, 2016
I have pants! Pants and dignity. These are things that I have.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted February 21, 2016
Did you hear about the new therapy for In Patients with severe cognitive developmental issues ? They sing while drumming rhythms on fruit. Amazing results, It's called the moron tap an apple choir.
Is this thing on?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 21, 2016
I laughed. And I am ashamed.

NBlob mutters...

Posted February 21, 2016
That's because you are a terrible person. But context is everything, in normal company you'd be the worst person in the room. Here you are no more than one standard deviation from the mean.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted February 23, 2016
maybe two

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted February 23, 2016
But I don't want to deviate from the mean. I am so tired of being "different." I want to live! I want to belong! I want to be part of the whole, not separate from the main. I want to be recognized for the creative genius that I know, in my heart, I can be. When I carefully craft exact miniature classic automobiles using my own poop, I want it recognized as art and not as another sign of mental illness and/or a gross abuse of prescription pain killers - depending on which doctor you're talking to at any given moment.

NBlob reckons...

Posted February 23, 2016
The Bugatti is art.

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MuttsInc mumbles...

Posted February 24, 2016

Dear Sir, I have a question, one asked in a serious and well-modulated tone of voice, not flippant, nor when wearing the visage of a smirk.

Do you ever get angry at your syntax?

When television became reality, I turned it off; now it gets wiped for dust once a week. I have a terminal fascination with the written word, and as often happens (I'm thinking porn here, mayhap not the best example) when we see something we like, we're tempted to try it.

So, in fits and starts, I scribble some words; more starts, less fits, you could say. I introduce words to each other, get them interested enough in each other to form a sentence, hope they evolve into a paragraph and the movement grows into something substantial. Then I go away; leave them to ferment before adding the sugar.

When I come back, invariably they're dead. Just flat on the page, and no amount of defibrillation can jolt them back into life. It's frustrating; all the organs are functioning and healthy, yet no matter how I poke and prod there appear (in my view) no signs of life. Just a carcass in need of burial. This would be fine if my intent was to establish a funeral home; it wasn't, and I'm tired of being unable to resurrect all these dead things laying around the place.

So, in all sincerity, do you - as one who is (self) employed in the craft - ever get the shits with your own words?

Perhaps want to kill them, even though - or because - they're already dead? (this presumes you never write a recalcitrant word, something I refuse to accept; anyone tells me they never hit backspace or delete? I don't believe them)

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted February 24, 2016
Mutt, by the time I'm on the third draft of a book those words make me want to vomit hot blood.I also find it difficult to read a column I've just written. I use the Mac's text to speech function instead.

GhostSwirv is gonna tell you...

Posted February 24, 2016

I activated the text to speech function on my Mac and it read back PNB's last post as if it were Peter Cushing lamenting the destruction of Alderaan.

MuttsInc has opinions thus...

Posted February 24, 2016

Excellent to hear (not the visual stimulation of you projectile-puking hot blood - therapy can subdue that mental scar).

I've started small (5-10 thousand word short stories) and even at that amount, I'm never sure I've drafted the final product sufficiently or, as I strongly suspect, I simply cannot bear reading it one more time. How you cope with an entire novel (several times over) is beyond me. Beer, perhaps? (not swallowing that brandy swirlin')

As to the Mac's text to speech function....umm...I got Word; tells me when I gone and done spelled wrongly.

If you told me - after you've finished writing (and reading) the quantity you do - you then relax with a good book I would have to admit confusion; if I write 5 thousand a day, I almost watch television (if the farmer wants a wife, I should care?).

Almost, but not quite.

Thanks for the response, it's appreciated.

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My ('splodey, stabby) summer reads

Posted January 27, 2016 into Books by John Birmingham

One of the small pleasures of summer I always look forward to is cracking the spine, or hitting download, on a new Cliff Hardy story. Peter Corris has been cranking these out since I was a teenager. I still remember reading The Empty Beach for the first time, and going back to it again and again, drawn by the pastiche of Hardy’s gallows humour, the uniquely Australian voice (well, it was unique at the time) and Corris’s way with transplanting the best elements of the hard boiled school to the bright golden shores of the harbour city.

I still have this year’s release – That Empty Feeling – to read, but just finished Gun Control (iTunes) as my bedside book. Cliff ages gracefully, but he does age. He’s a grandad now, still on medication for his heart attack a few years ago, and all around him his contemporaries are retiring from the game. He gets into fewer brawls and tends to take back up with him when he’s expecting one.

Back up in Gun Control comes in the form of an unusually temperate bikie gang leader, looking to establish his rule after the death of his former pack leader, a shady lawyer and crooked cop. Sydney is as much a character and player as ever and feeling my own understanding of the city fading with every day I’m away, I was taken by how well Corris stayed in touch with the place after moving to the north coast a few years ago. Then I found out, he’d moved back. Sucks for him I guess, but yay for the rest of us.

As always the maguffin in Gun Control is a client; a businessman who pays Hardy to investigate the death of his son. The coroner ruled it a suicide, but nothing is ever simple. Hardy is soon mixing it up with bikers, cops good and bad, dodgy lawyers and a couple of unfortunate muggers who chose the wrong granddad to have a go at.

A world away from modern Sydney, Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom (iTunes) is set in England between 866 and 876, during the age of the Vikings. It had been sitting in my pile o’ shame for years and I’m not quite sure what made me pick it up. Maybe seeing the TV series was coming up on Netflix or Stan. I thought, wrongly, that it might have been Cornwell riffing on the King Arthur saga, but it seems to have been based on an actual historical figure.

The narrator is Uhtred Ragnarsson, born a Saxon but taken by Danish raiders who killed his father when he was ten. Uhtred is raised by the Danes as one of their own, setting up a long series with a vengeance motif at its heart.

I tried to like it. It’s a good story, well told, but for some reason I just didn’t find it compelling. That says more about me than Cornwell. I couldn’t help thinking what this book needs is a gunned up platoon of 21st century SAS hard men somehow pulled back in time to kick Viking arse.

Hmm.

That gives me an idea. Excuse me a second while I rejig my writing schedule.

Anyway, would I recommend it? I guess I would, if you’re a fan of historical fiction set in that period. Cornwall is a great story teller, and hugely popular. It’s not his fault I didn’t get into the Kingdom.

My other summer read was the latest in David Weber’s Safehold series; Hell's Foundations Quiver (iTunes). If you haven’t been following the series, I can’t help you. We’re deep in the narrative woods now and as happens with a lot of these long arcs, if you haven’t been there for the whole thing, it will make no sense to you. I have been there, and at times it didn’t make much sense to me because there are now so many characters and plots and sub plots that I found it hard to remember who was doing what.

Still, it felt a more polished effort than some of the earliest titles. Weber has a few quirks that really grated on me as I rushed through the early novels one after another. We’ve discussed them before; his characters are forever chuckling for no good reason; he loves putting two men in a room to chat about nothing but exposition. Hell’s Foundation isn’t free of these sins, but they happen much less frequently. And the premise off the series, a sentient AI in a combat chassis thrown in amongst religious bigots to set off a holy war is as much fun as ever; i.e., heaps.

33 Responses to ‘My ('splodey, stabby) summer reads’

Surtac reckons...

Posted January 27, 2016
" I couldn’t help thinking what this book needs is a gunned up platoon of
21st century SAS hard men somehow pulled back in time to kick Viking
arse."
Stop. Hasn't this been done by Keith McArdle with 'The Forgotten Land'?

I'm sure I heard bout this from you and have downloaded and read it and enjoyed it.
Please get back to Cairo and the next Dave stuff. Or I will be very upset.

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Sparty is gonna tell you...

Posted January 27, 2016
Haven't read last Kingdom, but the TV series was well made. However the lead was such a whinney brat f%*k wit he made Dave look mature! and forced me to root for the Vikings over the Saxons!
Again like Birmo, the fact that I found that a barrier to really enjoying the series is on me - strange because I hate it when book agents say things like "you need easily relatable, likable characters".

I think he was meant to be a bit of an unreliable narrator who matures later - just suspect we need episodes book-ended with the "mature version".

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SZF has opinions thus...

Posted January 27, 2016
Speaking of historical fiction, Vlad: the Last Confession by Chris Humphreys is worth a gander. A (very) bloody account of the man who inspired Stoker's Dracula.
Your SAS hard men would want to make sure not to miss if they tried to f*ck with Vlad though. The guy kept a lot of stake makers in business...

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted January 28, 2016
Yes, but Vlad only retained the services of stake makers who were passionate about their art.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted January 29, 2016
You know you've found yourself a serious stake making craftsman if they refer to themselves as a "Maker of Stakes."

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted January 29, 2016
That, or their Marketing consultant said "everyone likes assonance."

Lulu mutters...

Posted January 29, 2016
Or they used the words 'bespoke' and 'artisan'.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted January 29, 2016
Artisan stakes: a soft start with notes of pine or oak (depending); a clean finish; aged to perfection. Gluten free.

NBlob mutters...

Posted January 29, 2016
See no not everyone like assonance, some find it immensely irritating but by a strange quirk of fate many who appreciate fine stakes AND have disposable income are bandits for it. That is the genius of marketing.

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WA n'ker is gonna tell you...

Posted January 27, 2016
SAS squad back in time sounds good Birmo, but what happens when they run out of ammo? Perhaps the "Philadelphia/Axis" type chronological quantum transposition event sends back the entire London Australian Embassy building? This would obviously include all the staff and equipment; secretaries, ex-SAS security staff with their cache of weapons, Defence Signals Directorate staff (including that weird guy with a doctorate in Ornithology), computers, back up generators, fuel supply, defence attache with honours from Oxford in the appropriate history and languages, foreign affairs and economics/trade people, and a good supply of Hill of Grace, Grange and Victoria Bitter.

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Guy would have you know...

Posted January 28, 2016
I've read all the Last Kingdom novels and they are truly excellent. Much recommended if you like that sort of thing. From the man who brought you the Sharpe novels.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted January 28, 2016
I started watching the TV series last night. Brutal. But good. I'll probably stick with it.

Squid would have you know...

Posted January 28, 2016
Yes I've read them all also.

I really enjoy them although he pumps them out a bit like Lee Child (who I also enjoy) with similar plot devices, but there has been some story progression in recent books that I have appreciated.

I think I feel an affinity for the story lines with my family being from the Old Country and having lived there for a few years. The family legend goes we are descended from the Vikings but that's likely complete bunkham.

Yeah that and the blood and guts and general disregard for the Christian church.

Guru Bob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 29, 2016
I watched the whole series after Christmas and enjoyed it a lot. Haven't read the book (or is it books?) yet, but Cornwall is probably the definitive historical military fiction writer these days... I have read his books set in Napoleonic era, American Revolution and Civil War, medieval times and others. Usually pretty good reading...

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted January 28, 2016

" is a gunned up platoon of 21st century SAS hard men somehow pulled back in time to kick Viking arse." There are now even more modern army against ancient army tropes thanks to an excellent Axis of Time series.


One of my favorites at the moment is GATE a Japanese Anime about when modern Tokyo is invaded through gate by a couple of thousand Roman legions from an alternative universe, which include mounted flying dragons after a couple of hours of havoc the Japanese's Defense Force wipes the floor with them then goes the gate and establishes a 'special region' so the JSDF can operate there.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted January 28, 2016
Sounds totally cool. Gotta find it. Gotta see it.

Barnesm asserts...

Posted January 28, 2016
I will eagerly await your erudite ruminations on this anime.

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Schweaty puts forth...

Posted January 28, 2016
Hi all, long time lurker, first time commenter. Or second? Anyway. Have any of you read the Cormoran Strike books? The ones by JK Rowling under the name of Robert Galbraith? He's another PI who manages to find himself in the middle of the investigation. I've just finished the third. Characters are interesting, stories move along at a cracking pace. Enjoyable!

WA n'ker is gonna tell you...

Posted January 28, 2016
Danke, Schweaty der lurker. I had no idea JK had written under a pseudonym, I'll check 'em out.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted January 29, 2016
Her first pseudonym was Andre La Plume. Fairly good Gothic romances.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted January 29, 2016
I had to read/review the first one for the Bookshow. Pretty sure I then reviewed it here somewhere.

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted January 29, 2016
I've read the first 2 Comoran Strike books. I thought they were excellent. The two things I look for, character and atmosphere, are both superb. I haven't read the third one yet. I believe J.K. is planning 4 or 5 more. Best to read them in order. The development in the professional relationship between the two main characters is going to be a big theme in the series.

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Therbs reckons...

Posted January 29, 2016
Cliff Hardy - sort of like the Royal on Bondi Rd which has seen a few fights, is feeling its age but still knows how to do cold beer through clean lines and an edible pub feed.

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Bondiboy66 is gonna tell you...

Posted January 29, 2016
I've been meaning to read The Empty Beach for some time...being as how its set in my area and all.

Regarding the SAS/vikings thing - someone put out a thought bubble about a Marine force ending up in Roman times and how they would fare...google it I guess. Of course the main contention was they'd kick major arse until they ran out of fuel/bullets/etc. Still a cool idea though.

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Sudragon reckons...

Posted January 29, 2016
"Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen" by H. Beam Piper. The original (well, apart from Twains time travel story) and still the best.

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Rhino puts forth...

Posted January 30, 2016
Does the story actually move forward in the latest Weber?

Sudragon is gonna tell you...

Posted January 30, 2016
It's moving faster than The Wheel of Time series.

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GhostSwirv has opinions thus...

Posted January 30, 2016
I read young upstart hot on JB's heels James Phelan's The Hunted and Kill Switch over the hols ... no #TheDave to distract me, after reading 'bout Corris' new Hardy I've a mind to re-read Peter Temple's Jack Irish novels - being a Melbourne boy I just love the atmosphere and the darkness of the stories.

dweeze has opinions thus...

Posted February 1, 2016
Haven't read the books but can highly recommend the ABC film versions of Jack Irish - but I may be biased, having spent the bulk of my life in Melbourne too.

GhostSwirv is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1, 2016
Really like the ABC telemovies ... some of the best book 2 tv adaptations I've ever watched.
Can't wait for White Dog to be realised - I hope its the next telemovie they release.

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DarrenBloomfield mumbles...

Posted February 1, 2016
To my eternal shame I've never read Corris/Hardy. But, well, because JB is my master now, I have the ibooks version of "the dying trade" cicada 1980. So I'm away!
The foreword by Charles Waterstreet in this edition fills me with hope. Last year I hinge read another crime series I was late too: Jack Reacher.
I enjoyed that, but fallible that guy ain't. CW suggests Mr Hardy may Mr more mortal. And more likeable for it.
And then this "When we read Corris, we see ourselves, we laugh at ourselves, we cringe at ourselves, and finally we understand ourselves a little better".
I'm in! See you in 35 years/38 novels.

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