Cheeseburger Gothic

Phillip Marlowe and Han Solo as character archetypes

Posted June 6 into Writing by John Birmingham

Introduced Thomas to Raymond Chandler this morning. Or rather to Chandler’s famous essay about the private detective as archetype. We were discussing favourite characters over breakfast at Brown Dog and I was trying to explain how all characters, in the end, are the same but different. They match certain archetypes.

I googled up Chandler’s famous ‘Mean Streets’ quote:

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

“He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

He read it, grudgingly, and then I asked whether that description of an archetypal 1940s detective could apply to, say, Han Solo. (Spoiler, of course it can). The only point of departure is the matter of honesty. Solo would of course take a dishonest dollar from another rogue, but I don’t think he’d take one off an innocent. His need might tempt him, but his pride would not let him.

Character archetypes are much on my thoughts at the moment as I plot out not just The Cruel Stars but a couple of other projects. Chandler’s knight errant of the mean streets is not the only character type, of course. There are others. But I’ve always thought that short description captures one very particular type of hero very well.

15 Responses to ‘Phillip Marlowe and Han Solo as character archetypes’

Jim reckons...

Posted June 6
Jack Reacher (obviously not the Cruise version) fits in with this

Dick asserts...

Posted June 6
My thoughts exactly.

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Lulu is gonna tell you...

Posted June 6
I've always loved Chandler & Marlowe.

And despite the (ahem!) plot tangles, I think the classic film of The Big Sleep captured that same heroic scrappiness. It helped that Marlowe was played by Bogart.

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GhostSwirv mutters...

Posted June 6

The similarities between the American archetype heroes of Marlowe, Reacher and Solo are manifest ... such as, when in doubt have the Millennium Falcon burst through a Sun flare all guns blazing to end the conflict with the bad guys pronto so Han Solo can get back home to a drink.

GhostSwirv puts forth...

Posted June 6

Of course when I say 'home for a drink' ... its code for 'nail the Princess!'

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted June 6
I am always amazed when I reread Chandler that one of the few items that jar me out of thinking it is contemporary story is when the prices for things are quoted.

It is only this that shakes me free, not the characters/or archetypes, or the betrayals or the self serving villains or noble heroes or the indifferent cruelty of the dominate businessmen.

of course Captain Malcolm Reynolds is even more a Chanldleresque hero.

"he read it, grudgingly' yeah, I hear you with that challenge.

of course the whole cyberpunk genre is full of these heroes. Though for a while the seem to be called anti-heroes. Io9 had a piece on this trend. Can't insert the hyperlink but it can be found here http://io9.gizmodo.com/383876/why-do-anti-heroes-rule-science-fiction.

Funnily enough I am re-reading Altered Carbon in preparation for the upcoming adaptation.

jl has opinions thus...

Posted June 6
Altered Carbon is a great book/concept. I hadn't realized there was an adaptation pending- cool that you mentioned that, I'll have to see it.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted June 6
Would Lucas' characters be classified as archetypes or cliches? The cynical in me would say the latter, pooping on his legacy because . . . . well, i'm a petulant consumer dognabbit!

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted June 6
Clictype or Arches?

FormerlyKnownAsSimon has opinions thus...

Posted June 7
Clictype: This lovable rogue won't kill baddies due to a high sense of self worth. You won't believe what happens next

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted June 6
I think "Force Awakens" repaints Solo in a very different light. He's basically a schmuck. In the original trilogy you may get the impression he's a badass. But he's in hoc to a gangster for dumping cargo. His ship really doesn't work all that well. He completely fluffs the raid on the shield generator. By TFA Leia even says that he's no help whatsoever except once when he helped Luke out with the Death Star. The rest of the movie has one character saying that there was no one left in the galaxy for him to successfully con because he was so rubbish at it. He even completely bollocksed up being a parent to the point where his kid massacred all the other kids at the Jedi academy and, even then, when he tries to get his kid to come back, completely misreads the situation and ends up with a lightsaber through the chest.

Han Solo is like Fonzie. Seems cool until you think about it. Then you realize that Fonzie is a guy in his 20's whose office is a toilet used by teenagers at a fast food joint.

Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 7
Usually the Marlowe archetype has to be good at his job, or 'calling' and fairly smart. Solo ain't too bright and as you point out his efforts are generally half arsed. I'm surprised Leis's scooby gang didn't secretly conspire to not rescue him from the carbonite. "Yeah, leave the idiot there. They can use him as a life size popsicle version of himself." It was probably that stupid howling brown flocati rug which made them do it.

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insomniac reckons...

Posted June 6
and the Pile O'Shame grows ever higher

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Blake puts forth...

Posted June 6
Working my way through 'Rouges' and anthology of shorts put together by George RR Martin & Gardner Dozois. Mr Martin makes a pretty strong case for the general love of the Rogue archetype in the intro. (he very articulatately voices the audible intro, i'm not sure why it suprises me that he would be so articulate...i might have to read those books at some point).

Its interesting in the way so many authors and genre's take on the archetype. Not everyones Rougue is a variation on Han Solo.
Joe R. Lansdale's Hap is very much the Marlowe archetype albeit less of a loner... the concept of western noir has blown my mind.... I'm going to have to go do some follow up reading on a pile of these authors.

Conversely Gillian Flynn's rougue is far from that model, but she revels in the shorter story, a lot less drag on the turnings of the mind fuck than in Gone Girl.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted June 7

I think I have mentioned James Crumley here before when we were talking about book club nights (whatever happened to that anyway?). I can't recommend his novels highly enough, especially to this crowd. Suggest The Mexican Tree Duck as a starting place (the older ones are more rambling). The others have some great, great lines though.



On Chandler, I'd like to think one would do better to read The Big Sleep before Chandler's writing about himself (or if you want that, make it The Long Goodbye). The reason is that when you come across a sequence like the following for the very first time, you should have the opportunity to have your own thoughts about it:



"I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn't a game for knights.”


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The importance of adjectives

Posted May 5 into Writing by John Birmingham

This Call of Duty ad copy just isn't as good without them. In fact, it makes almost no fucking sense at all.

13 Responses to ‘The importance of adjectives’

Nocturnalist puts forth...

Posted May 5
What about the dakka? Is there moar dakka?

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dweeze ducks in to say...

Posted May 5
I fixed it for ya:

Call of Duty: Infinite FKN Warfare puts uninspired storytelling in a turgindly strained narrative. Infinity Ward (sic) breaks no new ground by exploring dead weight and its myriad responsibilities. In a time of little adversity, the unfortunate player, as listless Captain of their broken warship, must take command against an indifferent enemy. Dumb ass soldiers are thrust into hilarious circumstances that will test their crossfit training and reveal their alphanumeric character as they learn to lead and make stupid decisions necessary to valiantly achieve pointless victory. The dull and repetitive game also introduces bland environments, craptacular weaponry and worthless abilities to Call of Duty. The tedious campaign -from soporific combat to insipid fighters - occurs as an unstimulating experience with epic loading times and delivers 7-11 franchise moments that
imbecilic, naive and simpleminded fans love.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 5
Hmm, this does read a lot better.

Rob mumbles...

Posted May 5
Craptacular!

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Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5
This is what happens when accountants use Google translate.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted May 5
I've never played Call of Duty, this is the first time I've been tempted because it has spaceships.

Am I the kind of gamer that is the reason they are doing this?

Hope not, I'm hanging out for some No Man's Sky action.

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Rob reckons...

Posted May 5
OMG OMG OMG, jumps up and down in an over excited stupid way. COD:MW is being upgraded to HD and remastered! I don't give a flying fuck about grammar rules, wordage, spoilage, Rogue One and Disney Princesses. I'm going to go 3 grenade crazy perk followed up with suicide bombs, when you step over my lifeless digitised corpse. My PC is glowing red , waiting for November to come around.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5
and of course they pull this crap for people who want the remastered game.

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2016/05/you-cant-play-the-remastered-modern-warfare-without-buying-the-new-call-of-duty/

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Aaron asserts...

Posted May 5
They're good fun and as a parent now they appeal more than they used too because you can get straight into the action as opposed to say civilisation which requires many many glorious hours of world dominating goodness. Sigh...

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted May 5
Off topic but Stalin's Hammer:Cairo is up on Amazon.

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w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 5
That is weird. Even the first sentence, 'puts storytelling into a narrative. that's like saying, 'Our bakery puts cakemaking into a cake'.

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Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6
Reads like a failed history student's sad attempt at an essay.

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Cairo to production

Posted April 13 into Writing by John Birmingham

Just sent off the manuscript and artwork to the guy who does my formatting. Don't know when I'll get the files back, but he is pretty quick. For him it's just process work.

It'll take me a day to read and do a final check, another day to get any changes taken in. On this schedule I doubt I'll have a book to send out before Friday, but it might drop over the weekend.

I plan to give this one away for at least a week, simply to drive subscriptions to the mailing list. When I've squeezed it dry for that purpose it'll go into the online bookstores for sale. Probably at US $3.99.

After that, the rubber meets the road. Both Hooper novellas drop in May. Paris in June/July. The full length Dave book, Stronghold, in Aug/September.

It'll be a damned close thing, I tell you. I'm running on vapour here. I've had to take apart my business (and I've had it taken apart for me) and now I see whether the new machine I've built can replace the old one.

I'm pretty sure it can, but I got some dark and scary fucking paths to walk before I'm done.

19 Responses to ‘Cairo to production’

Surtac reckons...

Posted April 13

Huzzah. Very much looking forward to it.


ntwinter ducks in to say...

Posted April 15
Huzzah indeed! Pleased to hear that cry elsewhere. My work mates think me slightly odd when I suddenly shout out HUZZAH!! when something finally goes right for me at the office :)Very much looking forward to more of JB's worlds to get lost in.

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted April 13
It seems you are loading everything on to the front end. Is that an attempt to test it to see if it breaks, or do you want it to become self-sustaining asap? so you can focus on longer term things like The Cruel Stars.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted April 13
There's a bunch of reasons, Insomniac. Partly it's just necessity. I got pretty badly butt-fucked by one of my publishers last year. It left me in a hole financially, a big one, and I need to dig myself out. But there's also a first-mover element. What I'm doing by building a hybrid indie/trade publishing business is the unavoidable future, and I want to get out ahead of the change. But first, I got wolves at the door and they're hungry.

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Gutz has opinions thus...

Posted April 13
Curse them wolves!! By the sounds of it curse said publisher! I hope they are no longer enjoying the fruits of your relentless toiling. Unknown legal proceedings aside (that may or may not prevent you from naming this publisher) so i can avoid spending a zac with them, count me the boycotting type!
My fav author screwed over maketh not happy come quick for this black duck.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted April 13
Much appreciated, guv.

JG mutters...

Posted April 13
Well said, Gutz. Howdare said publisher shaft you, JB. May they sit on nettles and other assorted thorns.
Speaking of sharks, am moving back to Bris. Rents at GC increasing too much. Thanks, upcoming Comm Games.
Anyway, shall also boycott that publisher, should you make them public, JB.
Your martial arts have stood you in good stead because, instead of sitting, sulking, you fight on, and better, have established your own independent publishing empire. Huzzah, squire!

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 13
One imagines bunnies around the big table with SWOT analyses, grant charts & pivot tables. Others poring over 3D schematics of the spooky blue glowing AI.
Is it a captains call ? Or a collaborative and collegiate decision.
I'm pretty confident the AI can handle the load you made a good choice going up-spec there. But have you considered the mineral water coolant-pool (grotto) may not have sufficient thermal-mass to soak up the additional heat. It wouldn't do to have your bunnies pile engineers or the pile over-heating.

HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted April 14
where the fkn sand table and string grid lines??? ffsakes!

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David S. puts forth...

Posted April 13
No worries JB, we, your loyal followers, will be right there behind you in this time of danger, saying "Thank Christ on a stick it's not me!"

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted April 13
Man, I pretty much live on that planet where the wolves are at the door.

This will work, John. You've done the research, you know the market and your readers. You've got a solid following, and best of all, a steady track record. I think the readers, Old Guard and New, will rise like a flood.

Soon that gold plated hovercraft will be in action again.

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DarrenBloomfield is gonna tell you...

Posted April 13
Yeah, I reckon it will work too. Good call re the first mover advantage. Yeah, I'm the boycotting type too. So you know, hint hint.
Bon chance. You'll always be able to rely on me parting with my folding stuff for words you string together. Keep "writing for food" sir!


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Surtac asserts...

Posted April 14

Happy to support a boycott as well.

Also, I think there has been enough info dropped in recent thread discussions to suggest who the guilty party is <nod> <wink> etc. A little bit of data mining around here should lead others to the conclusion I've reached.

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NBlob reckons...

Posted April 14
for the first time in my memory there is No Birmo to be had @ Bne international airport. I usually entertain myself for half an hour putting JB's latest at eye level in 4 or 5 different categories. Wymmns Ishoos always cracks me up, covering 'All Pete are Eevil' with some 'splodey. But there is no stock with which to do so. This business plan better be giving me something to work with soon

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Don Bagert ducks in to say...

Posted April 15
Is it Friday in Australia yet? LOL j/k

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

Posted April 15
Remember that scene in "A Bronx Tale" when the kid gets ripped off and Sonny tells him to look at it as costing him $20 to get rid of a scumbag from his life? That's basically what happened to you on a larger scale, but think of it just the same. Lesson learned and you are wiser and stronger for it. Can't wait for Cairo and the rest!

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted April 15
I find your argument compelling. I may just subscribe to your pamphlet.

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Halwes puts forth...

Posted April 15
A suggestion for a book title may be " Down and Out in Brisbane and Toowoomba". I'm sure Eric wont mind. "We of the sinking middle class may sink without further struggles into the working class where we belong, and probably when we get there it will not be so dreadful as we feared, for, after all, we have nothing to lose."

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Don Bagert mumbles...

Posted April 17
Just downloaded it - thank you!!!

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After Action Report. Stalin's Hammer: Rome

Posted April 8 into Writing by John Birmingham

Just had a rather brilliant idea. It has been bugging the shit out of me that I don't control the IP for Stalin's Hammer: Rome. It makes a lot of cool things impossible. For instance, I would make the book permanently free if I could, and include a link to the signup page for the mailing list. I would certainly make it free to channel readers towards the later books in the series when they come out. And of course if I controlled the IP I could release the entire series as a box set or even a paperback.

But I don't control it. Pan Macmillan has the rights locally and have already made it clear they will not give them up. Del Rey/Random House control the US market and although they might be talked into reverting the rights to me, I don't want to distract them from The Cruel Stars.
How then to deal with the fact I don't control the first book in the series?

Partly, I've addressed it by writing the first couple of chapters of Cairo as a recap. But that's not enough. It's still bugging me that some readers will come to this series without having read Rome. And I don't want to have them spend more money buying the first book, especially since I get no real benefit from it. (Writing e-books for trade publishers is a mug's game).

But I just had a Eureka moment. If and when I do a box set or a paperback I can do it without Rome by including an After Action Report, formatted as an intelligence file, at the start of the bundled collection. I could even call the file name 'Stalin's Hammer' and the station source 'Rome'. In the form of an AAR by the Section 6 station chief in Rome, or his CIA counterpart, it would be a summary of everything that happened in the first book.

I am disgracefully pleased with this idea.

18 Responses to ‘After Action Report. Stalin's Hammer: Rome’

HAVOCK21 mutters...

Posted April 8
you do have your moments, not many, but yes, this just might well be one such event. In fact, I'll now tag it as such!

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jason has opinions thus...

Posted April 8
Who would have thought, someone who works in a creative industry for a living having an idea how to creatively change a situation. Where is my sarcasm emoji.

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insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted April 8
Now all you have to do is keep it under your hat so your publishers have no idea.

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted April 8

Oh, you have to do this.

Especially after describing the Emergence release fiasco in the kickstarter thread. I thought books intended for a Xmas release dropped in early December at the latest.

Anyway, I'm sure that you don't need reminding that revenge is a dish best served cold.

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DarrenBloomfield has opinions thus...

Posted April 8
Sounds devious enough that it might just work. But at the risk of being The Black Hat in this discussion - you'd get legal advice first, right? I mean, if YOU owned the IP, and I wrote a book and included said AAR, I'd totally be ripping off your work, and your IP. And JB would sue me.
I suspect the Robber Barons that currently own it might take the same view about you, notwithstanding that the difference between you and I is you created it. But creation isn't the issue here is it? It's ownership. And I own it just as much as you do...

But I'm a lawyer, not an economist. Which is why I suggest maybe we crowdfund BUYING back the IP.

Marc puts forth...

Posted April 13
now, this is an idea that could not only keep you in a safe, possibly even cuddly, space but it could be pitched in a way that would surely align all those folks who probably would prefer lots of creche's instead of submarines into actively supporting you in your fight against the oppressive corporate monsters....I'm not laying it on too thick here am I? Nah.

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Dave W would have you know...

Posted April 8
This would be one of those disruptive technology thingies I've heard so much about, right? If so, I'm keen.

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Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted April 9
A fine solution to an annoying problem. Chalk it up as world building fodder and move on.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted April 9
John, you would have made a great attorney.

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Marzuk mumbles...

Posted April 9
I think this is a fantastic idea, the story is small enough it can be broken down into a small recap easily and we still get to kill a tree in the process aswell for a nice book we can put on a shelf

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ubersejanus is gonna tell you...

Posted April 9
It'll be done in one of those cool typewriter-looking fonts, right?

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David S. swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 10
Far be it from me to stop you giving stuff away JB, but I bought Stalin's Hammer: Rome quite happily, and I definitely feel I got my money's worth. I would not give buying the subsequent volumes a second thought. But hey, if one gold-plated hovercraft is enough for you that's fine with me.

Marccarno mumbles...

Posted April 13
Hand on David S, let's not be hasty - perhaps we could persuade JB to keep asking for money, buy the second hovercraft then loan it to us to take turns playing with? After all, I recall that we all (happily!) gave up a small portion of our soul for the pleasure of posting/engaging.
Just a thought....

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pi puts forth...

Posted April 10
It would be neat if the report-writer were in some way linked to the story. That way humor and insight could also be added to the report.

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MattE puts forth...

Posted April 11
<font face="Times New Roman">

</font>

There are far too many bad writers with good friends (my
take away from trying to pick books from Amazon book reviews). Excellent work
around BTW, but I am more than happy to pay JB – bought most of your books more than once. </font>



</font>

McKinneyTexas puts forth...

Posted April 12
I tried to comment from my IPHONE and failed, apparently. This looks
too easy to me. I'd get a bought and paid for legal opinion from
someone with E&O insurance. A lot of E&O insurance with a
policy that pays for defense without a limit and without eroding the
liability limit. Or, I wouldn't do what you appear to be planning.

Litigation is no fun at all.

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McKinneyTexas swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted April 12
I tried to comment from my IPHONE and failed, apparently. This looks too easy to me. I'd get a bought and paid for legal opinion from someone with E&O insurance.

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McKinneyTexas reckons...

Posted April 12
sorry about the double post

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Publishing schedule 2016-17

Posted March 10, 2016 into Writing by John Birmingham

Later today I’ll close out the Beta of Cairo, give the manuscript a last polish, and send it off to Deonie for the full service edit. That’ll take a week or two, after which it goes to proofing and then to production in New York city. Barring problems it should be ready for download in a month.

Paris is already plotted out in Scrivener and I’ll start writing that next Monday. I had planned to do three more Hammers but as I was blocking out the chapters and projecting the story arc to its natural end I realised it was more elegant to finish up the sequence in two steps.

However, the end of Stalin’s Hammer will set up a new series of full length AoT novels. The main one will be set in the 1950s picking up the story at end of Paris, but I’m also going to go back and revise the original series by filling in some narrative gaps. The invasion of Hawaii, the death of Dan Black etc.

I’m planning long form books for all of these titles. Having written three Hoopers together I now understand what’s possible when juggling multiple novels in one story-world. There will also be a full length Dave available this year, in addition to a horde of ebooks. (See what I did there?) I have STRONGHOLD, the fourth Dave Hooper novel pencilled in for release on 19 August. I’m hoping to catch Father’s Day with that date, but if it slips, it slips. It’ll be available in both ebook and print-on-demand. The Hooper fanfic will probably be a free Christmas special.

I won’t get onto any new work in the Disappearance universe this year, but I do have at least one, long-delayed novella planned for that in 2017.

Finally, I’m not abandoning trade publication. I’ve accepted an offer from Random House in New York for The Cruel Stars, the big sci-fi epic I’ve mentioned before. I’ll start writing that in about five or six weeks, after I wrap up Stalin’s Hammer. The outline for Cruel Stars already runs to 8000 words and follows five main characters. I'm very excited to getting into space opera, something I've wanted to do for years. If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to go back and read all my Peter F. Hamiltons.

(Art: Antonio Justamante Jacobs)

30 Responses to ‘Publishing schedule 2016-17’

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted March 10, 2016
Is the space opera thing a different thing to the Solar Project project of a couple of years ago?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 10, 2016
Yep.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted March 10, 2016
I can self publish collaborative stuff like that. But my trade pubs won't touch it.

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GhostSwirv reckons...

Posted March 10, 2016
Any excuse to re-read Peter F Hamilton is always good.

Night's Dawn trilogy is my favourite - would love to see someone tackle that for a long-form streaming series.

Dave would have you know...

Posted March 10, 2016
NIght's Dawn rocked (I'll def sign up for that series), but the Alpha Primes from the early Commonwealth saga blew my mind. Create an entire evolution of a species that's half as fascinating as MorningLightMountain's backstory, and you're doing something amazing.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted March 10, 2016

I may be reading this wrong, but the above implies that Stronghold will be self-pubbed as well. Is that the case? Did your regular publishers not like #TheDave's sales numbers or something?

Anyway, I'm pleased that there will be more explodey goodness in all of your writin' worlds. Looking forward to reading all of it.


John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 10, 2016
No, they did not dig The Dave. But enough people did that I want to go on with him.

GhostSwirv ducks in to say...

Posted March 11, 2016
Now I maybe reading too much into ... STRONGHOLD, the fourth Dave Hooper novel ... But will there be five & six or is STRONGHOLD going to be the splodey gut-wrenching conclusion to #TheDave?

Rob has opinions thus...

Posted March 11, 2016

I want to know if the Dave's movie/tv rights have been sold. Dave could be the new buffy/xena/lastship/ Game of Thrones.

JG asserts...

Posted March 23
Excellent. I love theDave world. I'm staggered by the amount of work and projects you have underway and planned over 2016-17, JB. Mindblowing.

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted March 10, 2016

"publishing schedule' more like punishing schedule - amiright!!!!


I am always up for some space opera, with perhaps an eye on a TV series rights?

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Dave swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 10, 2016
Big sci-fi epic? Fuck yeah!

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Dirk mutters...

Posted March 10, 2016
Good tidings I see :)
When you want to beta Paris, you know where we are ...

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Guy mutters...

Posted March 10, 2016
Great news about all the new AoT stuff - your best work IMHO. Good luck with the space opera - those aliens have really got it coming.

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Sparty reckons...

Posted March 10, 2016
Look forward to it all - assuming The Cruel Stars is set in the future it will be interesting to see a Birmo book with out pop culture references (which I'll miss) - but I'm sure will be made up for with lines like "prepare the Ion Cannons for autofire" spacesplody goodness.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted March 11
spacesplodey *drools*

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Vovchara puts forth...

Posted March 11, 2016
As long as there are no space fighters i would read anything from JB. Sorry, i hate space fighters, every sci-fi i read lately has them. Every fucking one. :( Ah, and no 800 km spherical star ships, hate those too. 2 km long one are more then enough to tell a good story. And no Jump-drives, how i hate Jump drives. Only Catherine Asaro (Skolian Empire) and David Drake (Lt. Leary) managed to create a "jump technology" which doesn't seem to be way to UBER.Key word - limitations. Is more important then abilities, god like abilities lead to boring stories :P

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted March 11, 2016
Right you are, Mr Stross.

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted March 11, 2016
What was the kerfuffle on twitter the other day about you not writing for SMH anymore? I saw the Wendy Harmer tweet that they'd dumped a few writers. I didn't have time to follow that, so, um, What?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 11, 2016
It's costing them a lot of money to have Paul Sheahan on gardening leave. Gotta cut costs somewhere.

Therbs would have you know...

Posted March 11, 2016
Q, there was a conflict of interest with an article on hovercraft acquisition rorts in the Peter Beattie government.

Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 11, 2016
Wait, what? Sheahan is still employed (although currently suspended for incompetence) and you're not? That's ridiculous.

GhostSwirv mumbles...

Posted March 11, 2016
You JB are clearly not offending the right people in the requisite manner to highest possible quotient to merit the 'special Sheahan treatment'.

Lift your game son!!!

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted March 12
Wait, what? No more Blunty? Well that <expletive> sucks!

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 12
I think Blunty is a Brisvegas Times thing. They even have a special link to it on their newfangled website.

she_jedi would have you know...

Posted March 13
Oh good! Fingers crossed Blunty is safe

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Quokka is gonna tell you...

Posted March 11, 2016
Meh.

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cgumm mumbles...

Posted March 13
Hey John are you going to be doing anything in Melbourne any time soon?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 14
Not that I can think of CGumm.

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sjw76 ducks in to say...

Posted March 13
Thank God more Hooper books. I hate the character Dave Hooper but love the series. That's some entertaining stuff. If I were into alternate history at all i would have to pick up the other series but not my bag. So i will have to stick with 'The Dave'. Keep'em coming! They are like awesome 80's movies in a book. Sweet sweet sarcasm, body counts and paranormal monster crazy.

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Alternate 707

Posted March 8, 2016 into Writing by John Birmingham

An interesting question has come up in the Beta edit of Cairo. Harry and Julia catch a flight from London to Cairo, via Rome, on an augmented 707, ie a passenger jet based on the original design, but updated with the accelrated technology of the post-Transition 1950s.

One editor insists the 707 was already in service by the time of the story, approx 1954, to which I replied this is an augmented analog of that original design. Why not go up to a 737 then, he asked?

I don't think it's likely. I can see the Temps jumping to jet travel a lot quicker, and getting something like a 707 into the air well before it was due. But I don't see them being able to accelerate their technological base to the point where they can magic up advanced late 20th Century kit just because they've read a wikipedia entry. They're rocking 1970s miniaturisation in the 1950s, sure. But not 1990s.

Still, I will throw the debate open to the floor.

39 Responses to ‘Alternate 707’

S.M. Stirling puts forth...

Posted March 8, 2016
I agree, particularly when you're talking about economically feasible mass production rather than making a one-off at vast expense.
It's a matter of materials and machines to make machines to make machines. The 1950's could make 707's; with augments to their production methods they could make -lots- of -improved- 707's. And they'd know the next steps, so by the mid-60's they could make lots of 747's and such.
The difference would be that instead of having a few early 707's in the mid-1950's, they'd have lots of them.
They know -what works- so they can avoid lengthy preliminary stuff and avoid dead ends.
Incidentally, when they do catch up with the 2020's, they're going to be in a bit of a fix, because their R&D model for 40 years will have been based on reverse-engineering future tech rather than pushing the envelope themselves.
At that point they're going to have problems with the institutional culture that all their specialists will have been in for their entire professional lives.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted March 8, 2016
Good point about the train wreck in the 2020s. I can see that being a real problem in public research institutes. But I imagine private corporations such as the rapacious Slim Jim Enterprises would be pushing as fast and hard as they could into undiscovered territory.

S.M. Stirling would have you know...

Posted March 9, 2016
Only if it paid -- and it won't pay until all the stuff the uptimers brought with them has been commercialized.
They'll have lost the experience of doing fundamental research by that point -- their scientists will know what the uptimers know about basic stuff, but they won't have the experience of finding it themselves.
This will require adjustment.

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S.M. Stirling reckons...

Posted March 8, 2016
Innovation is partly concepts and partly basic materials science and production techniques.
Eg., if you could take an AK-47 or an Uzi back to say 1900, any of the world's big arms makers could have duplicated them in a month or so.
They'd have gone: "Wow, radical coolness!" but there wouldn't be anything they couldn't immediately grasp and make -- the result would be slightly less reliable and a bit heavier, but not much. They knew about gas-operation and blowback.
Laser sights would be an entirely different kettle of fish; they wouldn't understand the principles and they couldn't duplicate the mechanisms monkey-see monkey-do.
They could understand the -concepts- behind a jet engine, but they couldn't make it -- the alloys and so forth would be beyond them. They probably could with a decade or so of intensive effort if they had the engineering data, though.
(Nb: they'd wonder about the tactical doctrine behind the AK and the Uzi, though -- both are solutions to problems that hadn't been articulated in 1900, mostly ones that arose in 1914-1918.)

Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted March 9, 2016
Per innovation and invention, I do wonder how the society would evolve. I doubt that they would simply become the equivalent of Pakistanis in the mountains making perfect copies of AK-47s, at least not in the United States. It is too easy to see contemporary engineers, mechanics, and techs pouring over blueprints and while admiring the work also going, "Wait . . . why did they do that? You know, I think this might actually work better."

The innovation and invention might go off in some oddball directions. I doubt that the alternate versions of say, Steve Jobs, or other such folks, are going to be content to merely copy from their prime timeline counterparts. Assuming that they are born in the first place. It may well be that the further from the Transition the timeline gets, the more distorted follow on events may become.

S.M. Stirling mutters...

Posted March 9, 2016
They won't -just- be copying, but they don't -need- to do any fundamental research for a generation -- they're playing catch-up technologically, and they had three generations of pure research handed to them.
By then they'll have gotten into the habit of moving on to the next uptime step.
New stuff will start up again, but it'll take a while.

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Stuart asserts...

Posted March 8, 2016
The 737 was launched to service the short to medium range market, it's not applicable as an 'upgrade' to the 707 which was always built as an long range jet (relative to the standards of the time). The key technology upgrade to the next generation of jets wasn't the electronics, it was the turbofan, especially in the high-bypass configuration, as opposed to the turbojet which powered the first and second generations (707, 727, 737). Turbofans were a big leap forward in efficiency. The 707 was upgraded to low-bypass turbo fans in 1960 which I think would match with your augmented version

Timbo would have you know...

Posted March 9, 2016
This, so much. Have a look at the 100 series 737; it ain't the versatile machine the modern ones are.

http://modernairliners.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/msa_737_100.jpg

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insomniac asserts...

Posted March 8, 2016
There's nothing to say an augmented 737 couldn't be an aircraft in service, it's just that Harry and Jules happened to be flying into Cairo in the 707. It doesn't have to be the latest tech with everything just because.

Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 9, 2016
Why would it be a 737? The 707 is a long range aircraft whereas the 737 is a short haul aircraft?

The next step in the design ladder would probably be a 767, which is going to be outside the capability of the Contemporaries to reproduce.
I could see, possibly, an effort to produce an earlier variant of the 747. But the point which is being forgotten is that these things have to make money for their owners. Without an economic need, one is unlikely to sink the crazy amounts of money into pushing to far ahead of the development envelope.

Thus I'd argue sticking with a 707, perhaps heavily upgraded, certainly with some design characteristics lifted from more advanced aircraft that could easily be incorporated into the earlier design.

insomniac reckons...

Posted March 9, 2016
I agree with sticking with the 707. My point is there will be many different aircraft in service, and you could move to any of the 7X7s, but that doesn't mean you have to use them in the story.

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pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 8, 2016
I don't know man, you could learn a lot from wikipedia, but I think you're barking up the wrong tree.

http://archive.cnx.org/contents/c400f8a0-5268-4d6c-a384-b3f513ee613a@4/digital-system-design-chapter-1-part-1-historical-background-of-ic-technology

It all depends on how much time you have to develop fabrication plants and develop silicon (and other) refining techniques. Imagine how many avenues you wouldn't go down when choosing the materials that you were going to be using for developing IT infrastructure? Imagine if you all still had the war-footing and industrial capture, and could apply it to techniques you already knew were going to work.

Add on to that project management and development management techniques (like Agile) and you get advanced proto-type development tools as well. Things get developed faster and better. I don't think it would take very long at all before you're producing things that start testing the boundary of what we're currently doing today.

pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 8, 2016
Imagine if you could put John von Neumann onto it...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann



Dirk mumbles...

Posted March 9, 2016
or even a thinktank with the likes of Galbraith, Heisenberg, Bohr, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Forbes_Nash,_Jr. and Arthur C. Clark

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johnb78 mutters...

Posted March 8, 2016
707 entry into service is 1958, not 1954, so there's already a notable advance on OTL (another relevant question is, how does the Transition affect the Comet program? Do we end up with an eight-year headstart on commercial jet aviation because the first jet airliner doesn't fall apart from pressurisation stress and poor manufacturing practice overlap...?)

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted March 8, 2016
One of the Betas asked about the Comets. I haven't put them in the text, but will study them for the long form AoT novel that'll follow Stalin's Hammer.

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
Comets have a terrible initial safety record and never recovered from that in the original timeline.

Dirk ducks in to say...

Posted March 9, 2016
that's is true Murpy, but metal fatigue - the main safety thing that plagued the comet - would be known now in the 20-20 (or 2021) hindsight you would have now.

Bangar would have you know...

Posted March 9, 2016
At least there'll be no square windows ;)

Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted March 10, 2016
Square windows and jets certainly do not seem to mix well, do they?

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Geekstreet ducks in to say...

Posted March 8, 2016
Any thought of Concorde? It first tested around '68, used heavily developed versions of the prevailing turbojet engine paradigm, probably took loads of input from post-war military experience in supersonic flight. Nothing too radical in materials science or production technologies that couldn't be accelerated by a couple of decades or more following a good diet of Wiki.

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Trevor Pyle is gonna tell you...

Posted March 8, 2016
You explained it pretty well in the Original Trilogy. I may have drawing and schematics of how to build an iPhone, but that doesn't mean that I have the photolithography necessary to build the processors. I can't build an A9x processor, but my scientists DO know how to build an 8088. And they use that to build a 386, who then use that to design the titanium crystal fan blades for the latest generation of GE high-bypass turbofans.

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Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted March 9, 2016
The Comet has been suggested but in our timeline it didn't have a great safety record, nor was it very popular.

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Sparty swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 9, 2016
Murph - Comet it was ground breaking that's why it didn't have a great safety record and led to discoveries about metal fatigue....1st Transatlantic Airliner - British 1st (and only) Super Sonic airliner- British. Enuff said.
But I agree on the 707 - and to take a real world case - its taken us 60 years to advance out own computing and manufacturing tech to gain the benefit of reverse engineering the Roswell UFO to produce the TR3B with adaptive camouflage and gravatic propulsion http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread517987/pg1

Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted March 9, 2016
I don't think they are going to have the capability to produce a Concorde that early either.

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Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted March 9, 2016
I think one point which is being missed in this discussion is that of economic need/demand.
It is one thing for someone to say that the military needs a certain item and then justify it, to a degree, with a bottomless defense budget.
It is quite another to expect a civilian organization to subsidize something that is not going to make them any money, short of getting supplemental funding from the government to engage in such research.

The 707s are right on the cutting edge in our timeline, a long range aircraft. I don't see any viable alternatives which wouldn't require a great deal of explaining.

It should also be pointed out that we had a similar debate years ago concerning whether or not the Contemporaries could develop F-86s, AH-1s, UH-1s, and A-4s after Final Impact was released. I'm certainly in favor of having the latest cool stuff on the page, but it should be buttressed by a smidgen of a reality check.

Or, just asking the simple question.

Who is going to pay for it?

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Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted March 9, 2016
Economics and other issues in an alternate Europe.
The altered state of Europe will be a factor also in this, as are the military and economic consequences of it all.
Let's elaborated:
707 vs Comet
So BOAC is flying 707 these days. Or at least something that looks like it. This would mean that a lot on industry policy in the UK (or even in Europe) as we know it in out timeline is out of the window. Britain was iot about 4 years ahead on the US in jet design and associated airplane development, and highly selfcentered in construction. Airplanes and to a lesser extent ships were the main exports of Britain at the time, so what did replace that? Reliance on a not independent India? Tank production i.e. Nato standard tank is the Centurion? Not letting become Germany the industrial powerhouse it is today, by killing of VW and or Mercedes (which would be killing for Nato rearmement btw) to strengthen the likes of what would become British Leyland? So would a V force made up off B-52's. Would this happen? A partly demobilized Britain would have to create about 2-4 milion jobs to get ex servicemen to earn a keep. This excluding the women who are kicked out of a job in our timeline.
How is Western Europe organised?
Germany is bigger, France is smaller, Southern Italy is a bananarepublic. So NATO would be less powerfull but also less divided as it would have been in our time. De Gaulle would have been less of a factor (and be in charge of a frontline state), Germany led by Adenauer (who would have been killed most likely) or Willi Brandt would have a bigger say, as would have the Benelux block. A European Union? Probably in an accellerated process even. Not just Coal and Steel but a freetrade/freetravel zone from (United?) Ireland to Switzerland (also a frontline state) and from Finland to franco-Spain. And Churchill was in favor of this and if he played his cards right have a role like Merkel now. The additional trade would make up for a part of the extra economical growth. Also the Marshall plan (the other thing to pay for this) would be implemented, opening up Europe for US exports and getting Europe's agriculture and industry back on track.
Yes as Pi sayed, modern techniques would be implemented and follies with 20-20 hindsight killed in the crib. But will this kill national interests? Does Europe go "Warsaw pact" in weaponsdesign (for the most part with the exception of Chechoslovakia the WP used the same weapons) ?
Military consequences
The Red Army in it's heyday iot would have +/- 50.000 tanks. NATO was in a tankkilling mode (an emphasis was laid on mobility - tanks, cheap tankkilling weapons and airpower) and had tactical nukes as part of its defence strategy. To do this economically you would have to stick to uniformity in weapon systems (i.e. one type of battle tank/fighter/bomber/APC/artillery) and a shitload of them, same ammo for everybody, one command and control structure, more ships to protect your sealanes and or a greater US presence in Europe, compulsary draft for soldiers and automation of certain parts of defence (minefields, automated air defences etc.) and a fixed amount of your GDP to spend on it. So not the 2% as is the NATO standard but maybee 5-10%. Nationalisation of the defence industry to keep prices down. Investing in infrastructure to ship troops around more quickly
Question is would that be feesible?

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
I suspect given that the Marshall Plan would have less territory to cover, given that more of it is under Soviet Control, that it might be possible to create a more unified, transatlantic economic policy.
One issue Britain may want to watch for is the collapse of their industrial economy circa the 1960s. It might even accelerate given the conditions extant in the new post war timeline. It would seem to me that the key would be a reform of the nation's education system which could provide workers needed for the post-industrial economy, rather than continuing to churn out cogs for factories soon to go dormant.

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
Yes. Education is a key. But it's part of a triad. the other things being infrastructure and agriculture. But there is nothing wrong in learning at least one foreign language (English is compulsory here since the late fifties) and scheme's like Erasmus in which you can study in other parts of Europe.

But there is more low hanging fruit. Building houses with roofs facing south for example. You know solar energy will come online sometime in the future, so prepare your housing stock for it in advance. Make your infrastructure redundant in the sense you add extra room (an integrated pipe or something like that) on either sides of roads, rails and rivers so you can simply roll out optical cabeling (FttH or copper in the 50s-60s) when it comes online.
And be prepared to have Europe feeding itself in stead of relying on food imports from US/Aus/NZ. In a submarine warfare scenario it weakens the effect on a starving population.

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GhostSwirv has opinions thus...

Posted March 9, 2016

While Comets and 707s to 737s are all very nice ... surely Harry is flying Jules to Cairo wearing his own personal Jet Pack?

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DarrenBloomfield asserts...

Posted March 9, 2016
first: read "Rebooting Civilization: Survivors’ How-to Guide for Restoring Technology after the Apocalypse" (by astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell). It's not timetravel - but outcome is the same - he traverses the practical ground - and all the implicatiosn - of trying to rebuild technology when you have all the constituent parts except being able to actually do it. It's a brilliant read. Excerpt and review here:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rebooting-civilization-survivorse28099-how-to-guide-for-restoring-technology-after-the-apocalypse-excerpt/
On the 707/737 debate. I feel they'd almost certainly augment the 707 rather than leap. The economics of aircraft production, and amortising a massive sunk cost compels it. Not sure even the disruption from uptime is enough to tip that.

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Aaron has opinions thus...

Posted March 9, 2016
I think it would ultimately encourage innovation now that everyone knows the future is waiting. reverse engineering will still happen but having to work it out still requires creative thinking. I think there could be a sideline mention of how some nations might decide to invest in developing their means to develop stuff for long term advantage. Also I wonder just how fast you can push development even with the future knowledge as some interests would want to protect their existing advantage.

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S.M. Stirling is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
One big impact -- the main reason economic planning doesn't work well on the whole is that you can't predict the future. You don't know what will work, so you try a lot of stuff and let competition winnow it.
But in this timeline, they DO know what will work, and why. They're operating by hindsight.
It's like a country playing catch-up rather than one pushing ahead into unknown territory.

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S.M. Stirling has opinions thus...

Posted March 9, 2016
To take a specific example: industrial policy and planning policy generally in the UK was a terrible clusterfuck after 1945. (Take a look at the horror that is Milton Keynes.)
So there's an opportunity to avoid a lot of errors -- no Groundnut Scheme.
Some of the same mistakes will be made, because of strong institutional pressures and "motivated reasoning" about how X would have worked with a bit of tweaking.
But a lot could be not made.

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted March 9, 2016
Check out this recent Freakanomics podcast: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/i-pencil/ if nobody knows hot to make a pencil, what chance metallurgy leaping 60 odd years?

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DarrenBloomfield puts forth...

Posted March 10, 2016
Meiji period Japan - the opening up of Japan to the world from mid 1800s is a good analog to technology from the future - the West really was the future to a fuedal society. It leapt from the medieval to modern in about the same timeframe JB is requiring the whole mid-20th Century world to do so.
Thus far it seems to be working out as well for them as for the Japanese...

Murphy_of_Missouri mumbles...

Posted March 10, 2016
Second this, and good call, Darren.

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DarrenBloomfield reckons...

Posted March 10, 2016
Don't encourage me Murph - I could go on about this all day. I'm an economist by training (*hissss*) and the Meiji period (and Weimar republic) have kid of roped my in (as they marry my love of history - both economic and military history). It is fascinating.
Which is why I love alternate history stuff: seeing how great writers juxtapose plausible do overs with what we know imperfect actors did the first time around. There's a great line in "Cairo" - that sums it up nicely.
"This world wasn't making the same mistakes all over again. It was making a whole new bunch, all of its own."
This is exactly what would happen!

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 11
Sorry 'bout he bold, not entirely sure what happened there.

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