Every writer dreams of taking back every book they ever wrote. There's always one more line to be tweaked. One more character to be fleshed out. One subplot to be eased into place to fit that much more snugly. Every book has a directors cut that you never see. If I had the chance I would totally rewrite Weapons of Choice, cutting back on the number of POV characters, smoothing out the narrative arc, which runs at warp speed in places, and drags along in others.
Meeting Charlie Stross for the first time in Perth I was fascinated and a little envious to discover he had done just that with his Traders series. I've had these books, a sort of alternate history portal jumping series, sitting on my must read shelf for a while now. A recommendation from the boys at Pulp Fiction. I love a good portal jump, but the cheap looking fantasy covers chosen by Tor and the implication there would be unicorns, or unicorn analogues, on the other side of the portal put me off.
I think they put Charlie off too because he spent a lot of time rewriting and repackaging this series to be published in the way he originally envisaged them as sci-fi driven alternate history techno-thrillers. (Sound familiar? He was writing these books at the same time as I was putting together Weapons).
The story of how they more from one genre into another is over at Tor. It's a marvelous tale of the way that old world publishing sometimes shoots itself in the arse:
Back in 2002, an eleven-years-younger me had just sold his first two SF novels to Ace, an American imprint of Penguin. As is usually the case, the contract for the books gave Ace the right of first refusal on my next SF novel. ‘But they won’t be interested in seeing your next until the first two are in print, which will take a couple of years,’ said my literary agent. ‘So why don’t you write a big fat fantasy or alternate history series, something which isn’t SF, so I can sell it elsewhere?’ (I love my agent: she’s got all the cold-blooded business sense that I missed out on at birth.)
One thing led to another, and I came up with a plan for gigantic parallel-universe techno-thrillers about folks from another time-line who have the ability to visit our own, and the toppling domino-stack of terrible consequences that unwind when their existence is uncovered. Then I wrote the first book. It weighed in at around 500 pages, and my agent liked it and made some suggestions, and I re-drafted it at 600 pages, and then she tried to sell it.
A marketing edict determined that the technothrillers would become fantasy epics and everything went a bit odd.
Longer story short, he's since had the chance to redo the books as he intended, and he took it. Even though I've bought the original series, I'm going to get the new ones and read them instead.
Below I've extracted a passage that that covers my favorite part of a 'portal' story. The first jump.