- "Manfred's on the road again, making strangers rich."
Charles David George Stross (born 18 October 1964) is a British Speculative Fiction author with a bent for Post-Cyberpunk work dealing with posthumanism and The Singularity, but who also has a vast array of other fiction out there. Early in his career, he invented several iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters, including the Death Knight, githyanki and githzerai, and slaadi. He's also on record as being responsible for bringing Footnote Fever to alt.fan.pratchett.
Works by Charles Stross with a page on this wiki:
- Accelerando and Glasshouse: Two books (and a third planned) that explore the concept of The Singularity and its aftermath. Despite similarities in setting, not meant to be set in the same universe.
- The Eschaton Series: A far-future series featuring UN weapons inspector Rachel Mansour and Martin Springfield, set in a universe where a godlike AI called the "Eschaton" has spread humanity across the stars.
- The Halting State series: 20 Minutes into the Future, Everything Is Online, including the criminals and police. A beat cop, an accountant, and a computer game programmer are called in to investigate a bank robbery in a World of Warcraft-esque online game, which quickly proves to be more than it seems. Narrated in the Second Person, in the style of choose-your-own-adventure games.
- The Laundry Files: Also known as The Bob Howard Series, about a special agent for the "Laundry", which is basically MI6 crossed with H. P. Lovecraft.
- The Merchant Princes Series: A journalist discovers she has the ability to travel to an Alternate Universe at will, where her long-lost family are powerful traders.
- Saturn's Children and its sequel Neptune's Brood: Set in a far-future where Humanity has gone extinct and the dominant intelligent beings are the robots we created in our image. Word of God suggests a possible third part of the series, but as the working title was implied to be Probing Uranus he may not have been entirely serious.
Other works include:
- "A Colder War" (link): A novella combining the Red Scare with the Cthulhu Mythos with terrifying results.
- "Missile Gap" (link): A novella combining the Cold War and the late Space Age with science and a bit of the fantastic. To say too much about the plot would be to give it away.
Tropes in his other works:
- Airborne Aircraft Carrier: The ekranoplan aircraft carrier from "Missile Gap" technically counts. (Ekranoplans are ground-effect-vehicles, and thus fly only at very low altitudes.)
- Alien Sky: In "Missile Gap", as the disk is an artificial construct outside of any solar system, it lacks the traditional celestial objects of Earth — and indeed, the altered sky was the first thing to tip people off to the fact that something was wrong. By day, instead of a sun, the sky is lit by an incandescent jet projected from the star in its center, which some people have taken to calling the axle of heaven. By night, no moon is present, but the nearby star Lucifer shines brightly enough to provide considerable illumination and, since the disc lies within the Greater Magellanic Cloud, the aged, reddened swirl of the Milky Way features prominently in the heavens.
- Antiquated Linguistics: The story "Trunk and Disorderly" is set in Modern Times (centuries after the near-collapse of the human race) but is written in the barbaric yet spiffing idiom natural to the early 20th Century master P. G. Wodehouse; enough to drive a cove near to distraction, as Uncle Philpott once remarked. (Additionally, there exists a Dalek.)
- Big Dumb Object: "Missile Gap" takes place on an artificial disc with a radius two and half times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Sun, large enough to contain scale copies of every habitable world in the Milky Way, which the Earth and its inhabitants were mysteriously transported to. The immensity of this new world, the time needed to explore even a tiny fraction of it, and the looming eventuality of encountering other stranded civilizations or, worse, the aliens who built it, are major themes in the story.
- Captured Super-Entity:
- In "A Colder War", the Soviet Union does this to Cthulhu. It doesn't end well. As in the original "The Call of Cthulhu," the eponymous godlike superentity is not imprisoned by any meansonly sleeping. When the Soviets get nervous about US activity and poke him hard enough to wake him up, they hope he'll obliterate NATO. Instead he consumes indiscriminately and walks west, murdering the world and bringing about arguably the darkest ending in the entire Mythos.
- Played straight in that the Soviets do have control over at least four shoggoths. Averted in that Saddam Hussein tries to summon and bind Yog-Sothoth to attack Iran. Doesn't end well for him or the Middle East in general.
- Cosmic Horror Story: "Missile Gap" begins with humanity findings itself on a colossal, extragalactic construct after being somehow moved there by an unknowable civilization, engendering a good deal of dread about why this happened and what these entities are trying to achieve with it. The ending answers some of these questions, in ways that mostly just make humanity's place in creation even more unsettling.
- Deadly Graduation: The Hugo-winning novella "Palimpsest" has a unique variation: the final test for a time agent is to go back in time and murder yourself.
- Domed Hometown: In the Cthulhu Mythos Alternate History short story, "A Colder War", the last survivors of the human race eke out their existence in XK-Masada, a city on an alien planet built beneath a mile-high dome designed by Buckminster Fuller.
- Fate Worse than Death: In "A Colder War", everybody the eater of souls devours is still conscious. In its own words:"There is life eternal within the eater of souls. Nobody is ever forgotten or allowed to rest in peace. They populate the simulation spaces of its mind, exploring all the possible alternative endings to their life. There is a fate worse than death, you know.''
- Ghost World: The Downer Ending of "A Colder War" involves the remnants of humanity eking out an existence in the Domed City XK-Masada, entered through a Cool Gate to a planet nearing the end of its tectonic life with the ruins of a long-disappeared civilization. The Rule of Symbolism is obvious to everyone. Earth That Was has long since become this trope once the Eater of Souls consumed everyone there.
- Here There Be Dragons: In "Missile Gap", a passage describing a survey expedition still sketching out tentative and mostly empty maps mentions someone having scribbled in a dragon coiling in a particularly empty stretch of void.
- Hive Mind: The ending to "Missile Gap" reveals that hive-minded civilizations are ultimately the more successful ones, outcompeting individualistic species, and that the future while eventually be dominated by a galaxy-spanning collective consciousness descended from such beings.
- Insectoid Aliens: Some of the alien species present on the disc are insectoid, varying in size and degree of anthropomorphism, and live in hive-based caste systems. The ending states that these species make up the majority of life there, and that they — not humanity — will inherit the future.
- Mind Screw:
- Did the protagonist of "A Colder War" escape to XK-Masada with Ollie North, Reagan, and other high-ranking US officials, or is all of this just another iteration of their deaths being played out in the mindscape of Cthulhu, meaning that humanity is well and truly extinct?
- Are the characters from "Missile Gap" from the same snapshot, or separated ones? Do they even happen in the same moment, or are separate by centuries? The descriptions make it intentionally vague, so any interpretation works within the context of the story. Add to that the ants that are present in few various forms, too, and you start to wonder if they are alien species or something that evolved from snapshots of Earth where humans went extinct. By the final paragraph of the story there are more questions than there were at the beginning.
- Ruins of the Modern Age: In "Missile Gap", one of the first signs that something is terribly wrong is when a Soviet exploration team, while surveying a continent one hundred and forty thousand miles from Earth, find the thousands-years-old ruins of perfect copies of American cities.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The civilization that built the disc in "Missile Gap" was capable of, as several characters put it, peel the Earth like a grape, take its surface and denizens outside the galaxy, and plate them on the surface of a construct that modern physics says cannot physically exist without anybody noticing. Whatever these entities may be, they operate entirely outside of human comprehension, and probably have as much in common with humanity as humanity does with termites.
- World Shapes: "Missile Gap" is set on an immense flat disc as wide as a solar system, with a hole in the middle like a music record where a star is held to provide illumination through periodic flares. Whole continents and worlds are scattered on its surface like so many archipelagos, divided by immense oceans dotted with cooling fins as tall as Mount Everest.