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11/9/2007
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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Join Us For GridTalk Tuesday With Science Fiction Writer Charles Stross

Our guest for our next GridTalk is science-fiction writer Charles Stross, whose most recent novel Halting State, is set in the near future -- just 11 years from now, when virtual worlds, massively multiplayer games, advanced mobile computing, and augmented reality are a part of daily life.

Our guest for our next GridTalk is science-fiction writer Charles Stross, whose most recent novel Halting State, is set in the near future -- just 11 years from now, when virtual worlds, massively multiplayer games, advanced mobile computing, and augmented reality are a part of daily life.

Stross will discuss the world he created for Halting State, and how networked technologies are likely to evolve and affect our daily life and business over the course of the next decade.

You can join the discussion in Second Life or on the Web, or listen afterwards as a downloadable audio file or a podcast. Scroll to the end of this post for more details how to participate.

It's really hard to predict the future on the scale Stross does. Imagine yourself in 1996. Back then, would you have predicted the ubiquity of smartphones, user-generated content on the Internet (blogs weren't even invented yet), Facebook, MySpace, the massive American entertainment industry grinding to a complete halt over a dispute over Internet video, and post-9/11 geopolitics? Could you have imagined, in your bones, what it would be like to live in that world?

That's what Stross accomplishes with Halting State.

In Stross's year 2018, most people wear transparent eyeglasses that are hooked up to computers and networks that overlay electronic images and information over their view of the real world around them. These electronic glasses display electronic street signs and directions. Police see overlays of the criminal activity at every building they see. A fencing enthusiast gets to practice her swordplay in a visual representation of a gothic castle.

Multiplayer games like World of Warcraft and virtual worlds like Second Life are part of day-to-day life.

And the characters in Halting State take it all for granted.

Halting State is a well-realized and intelligent treatise about near-future effects of networked technology.

It's also an extremely entertaining, thrilling, and funny crime caper novel.

I really, really loved Halting State. I know Charlie from various online communities, we've participated in discussions on blogs and have mutual friends. He sent me an advance copy of Halting State as a Microsoft Word document almost exactly a year ago. I loaded it onto my Palm Treo and read it as an e-book during Christmas vacation.

I read the last half of Halting State in about six hours, after 10 pm, lying on my back on a mattress on the floor of my in-laws' finished basement in Athens, Ohio, in complete darkness except for the light of the Treo and occasional bursts of flame from a nifty remote-control-powered gas fireplace.

About Stross: His fiction has won the Hugo Award, Locus Award, Prometheus Award, and has been nominated for the Nebula and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He's written 14 novels, including Accelerando, the Merchant Family series, Singularity Sky, and The Atrocity Archive. His most acclaimed stories explore the effects of artificial intelligence on human society, with humor and grand flourishes.

He was born in Leeds, England, and started his adult working life as a pharmacist, going back to school to study computer science after the police staked out his shop for armed robbery -- twice. Later, he emigrated to Edinburgh "where he switched track into web consultancy and a subsequent dot com death march," according to his online biography. He wrote software for an e-finance business.

He went on to write a monthly Linux column, which helped launch a career as a tech journalist specializing in Linux and free software.

He's a full-time science fiction and fantasy writer now.

One of my favorite Stross novels, The Atrocity Archive is about an IT manager for a supersecret British government agency that saves the world from occult threats. He fends off evil spirits with the help of a Palm Pilot loaded with magic spells; a severed, mummified hand that's been hexed into a superweapon; and a Leatherman Multitool. I reviewed The Atrocity Archive in July.

We hope you'll join us Tuesday for what's sure to be a fascinating discussion. Here's how:

  • In Second Life: Be there Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 8 a.m. Second Life time/Pacific time at the amphitheater at Dr. Dobb's Island. SLURL

  • On The Web: Visit the Dr. Dobb's chatbridge., using Flash-enabled browser. You'll need to register first,, if you haven't already. You'll be able to hear the audio of the session and use chat to participate in discussion and ask questions. The form asks you to provide your Second Life name, but that's optional, just give the name you want to use in the text chat.

  • On your iPod or other MP3 player: We'll make audio for GridTalk available for download as a podcast after the interview is done. Watch this space.

We hope you'll join us Tuesday for what's sure to be a fascinating discussion.

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