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What Are the Biggest Alleged Crypto Heists and How Much Was Stolen?

What Are the Biggest Alleged Crypto Heists and How Much Was Stolen?
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As the appeal of cryptocurrency has grown, so has the opportunity for scammers to part naive investors from their money. 2019 has been no exception, with cryptocurrency and blockchain forensics company Ciphertrace dubbing it “the year of the exit scam.”
Exit scams are not a new phenomenon, with a 2018 report conducted by Statis Group revealing over 80% of initial coin offerings (ICOs) in that year to have been fraudulent. Here, Cointelegraph explains exit scams and how to spot them, as well as a look at some of the biggest scams that have been discovered by various researchers.

What are exit scams?

The premise of cryptocurrency is simple, a new ICO launches, claiming to offer lucrative returns for investors. Investors can’t believe their luck and clamor to buy in. The business runs for some time on the back of the invested capital, but, sooner or later, disaster strikes and the company shuts down, often with no explanation.
After a while, it becomes obvious that the company is gone for good, along with the invested funds. The poisoned chalice of crypto’s decentralized nature often means that investors are left in the dark when trying to recoup or trace their pilfered funds.

How to spot an exit scam

Many exit scams have tell-tale signs that investors should look out for. The financial content site Investopedia has a handy list of key characteristics.
First, exit scams often have inconsistent or misleading information about the team behind the project. When scouting potential investment opportunities, investors should scour for information on key members of any ICO.
It’s important to remember that online credibility can be faked by purchasing likes, profiles and followers on social media. Celebrity endorsements with verified accounts could also ring alarm bells for investors. A fake Twitter account purporting to be Elon Musk, with a supposedly verified twitter account, raised over $155,000 as part of a 2018 Bitcoin scam.
Investors should verify the credentials of backers, team leaders and promoters of cryptocurrency projects. Although individuals may seem to be legitimate at first glance, brand new social mediaprofiles and few followers or connections should raise eyebrows.
The most significant characteristic unifying exit scams in cryptocurrency is the promise of a huge return on investment (ROI) — chances are that it’s probably too good to be true. Investors should always look through even the smallest details of what they are required to invest and what the company purports to be able to give back to them.
ICOs usually come with a white paper, setting out the design details of the project along with a business plan and other information. Investors should pursue all available information for ICOs, as any vagueness in the white papers should signal a big red flag.
When investing in an ICO, it’s vital to get an understanding of the business model. Investopdia writes that anything powered by concept alone should be a warning to anyone tempted to buy in. Although cryptocurrency projects can and do launch off the back of technological advances, investors should be wary of projects looking to gather millions of dollars before taking a sober look at the project’s ability to return the investment from the published information.
Heavy promotion of an upcoming ICO can also be a sign of an exit scam. Past scams have employed bloggers to promote via numerous forums. Ads both online and in print media could also be suspicious.

$2.9 billion PlusToken scam could be largest exit scam ever

A 2019 report shared with Cointelegraph by the cryptocurrency and blockchain forensics company Ciphertrace dubbed 2019 the year of the exit scam and highlighted the billions of dollars stolen in multiple scams this year alone.
The report shines a light on what, if confirmed, could be the biggest crypto scam ever, with an estimated loss of around $2.9 billion after Chinese police uncovered an alleged Ponzi schemeinvolving the South Korean wallet provider and exchange PlusToken. Although more is being uncovered about PlusToken, mystery still surrounds the key events.
Ciphertrace reports that the platform has enshrouded several Chinese nationals, the government of Vanuatu, the Chinese police and the company’s co-founders — a South Korean man operating under the alias of “Kim Jung Un” and a Russian known only as “Leo.” The alleged PlusToken scam centers around an app with which the wallet provider claimed investors could invest in PlusToken (PLUS).
According to the report, the firm claimed that the token, based on the Ethereum blockchain, was developed by a major technology company. PlusToken is also said to have falsely stated that it could deliver wallet holders an ROI of between 8% and 16% per month, with a minimum deposit of $500 in crypto assets.
Ciphertrace also reported that no verifiable source of revenue existed other than the proceeds from new membership. Those were onboarded per the traditional method of a Ponzi scheme, which require a constant stream of new investment in order to support its semblance of growth. Investors were incentivized to recommend new users with an invitation, which was the only way to join.
Although this was enough for some members to dismiss the legitimacy of the project outright, Leo, the company’s co-founder, published a press release that claimed he had met with Prince Charles, the future head of the English royal family, providing photos as proof. Ciphertrust reported that it had contacted the Prince Charles Foundation, which confirmed that Leo had indeed attended the event, but would not provide other information about the individual due to European Union General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.
PlusToken’s fate was seemingly sealed on June 28, after members of the Chinese police touched down in Vanuatu, detained six people involved with the project and extradited them back to mainland China. Ciphertrace reported that the so-called “PlusToken Six” were either Vanuatu citizens or applying for citizenship at the time of their arrest.
Soon after, PlusToken members found that they were unable to withdraw funds from their accounts. Customers were informed that withdrawals via the app were frozen due to “technical difficulties.” By June 20, the PlusToken app had ceased operations due to purported system maintenance.
For investors, there seems to be no secure lead on the final resting place of the allegedly billions of dollars of stolen funds. The Chinese government has yet to comment. A July 12 post from PlusToken stated that the six Chinese individuals were simply service users and not actually involved with the running of the company itself, stating that users should ignore the rumors and not try to log in until they receive confirmation that the servers are back online.

Pincoin

On April 9, 2018, two ICOs — iFan and Pincoin — operating under the umbrella of company Modern Tech based in Vietnam, went silent after reports outed them as scams that had scalped 32,000 investors out of an alleged $660 million in tokens, according to Tuoi Tre News.
Victims claim that the damages amount to roughly 15 trillion Vietnamese dong ($660 million) in token sales. Angered investors held a demonstration outside Modern Tech’s Ho Chi Minh City headquarters on April 8.
One of the initial characteristics that could have alarmed investors was the fact that Pincoin offered service users bonuses for successfully bringing other people on board. Pincoin did initially pay out cash until January 2018, when the company switched to iFan tokens, TechCrunch reported.
The owner of Modern Tech’s office building said that the company left its offices in March and that no one knew their current whereabouts. The firm left behind only an incomplete website that is now inactive. Modern Tech initially tried to pass itself off as a mere representative of both coins in Vietnam, prior to media reports confirming that seven of its Vietnamese executives were in fact behind the projects.
TechCrunch reported that the ambiguous mission statement from the then-functional site is typical of the vague and jargon-filled copy used by exit scammers:
“The PIN Project is about building an online collaborative consumption platform for global community, base on principles of Sharing Economy, Blockchain Technology, and Crypto Currency”
Financial scam directory Behindmlm released a report in February 2018 that found its buy-in method was typical of an ROI Ponzi scheme. Pincoin’s website is currently down, though iFan’s is still online.

QuadrigaCX — regulators catch on

The death of 30-year old Gerald Cotten shook the crypto world — not only because Cotten was the co-founder and CEO of Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, QuadrigaCX, but also because his control of the passwords and keys to accounts rendered all the assets on the exchange forever inaccessible after his death. Cotten took over $195 million of stolen cryptocurrency with him to the grave.
Related: QuadrigaCX Users Lose $190M as Speculations Over Cotten’s Death Swirl
Commenting on the May 9 Ernst & Young report, Ciphertrace said Cotten had played fast and loose with customer funds for many years in order to support a lavish lifestyle for both himself and his wife. Cotten allegedly exercised complete control over the exchange and used his position to perform “unsupported deposits” — i.e., fabricated transactions not represented by either fiat or cryptocurrency.
Cotten also used significant volumes of customers’ cryptocurrency via transfers from the platform into other exchanges he controlled. As per the EY report, Cotten shifted significant amounts of fiat and cryptocurrency between alias accounts, although less than 1% of these transfers was supported by documentation. Ciphertrace notes that as the admin, Cotten was in a perfect position to hide his fraudulent activities.
In a pattern that may now seem familiar, Cotten used customer funds to pay for QuadrigaCX operating costs after the company suffered liquidity issues due to his reported fraudulent use of user deposits. As QuadrigaCX began to struggle to stay afloat, EY reported that Cotten gambled customer funds in off-platform margin accounts to meet margin calls.
The report also states that Cotten traded unsupported deposits for legitimate funds thereby generating artificial trading markets, abused his position to override Know Your Customer requirements and hoarded all passwords:
“The Monitor understands passwords were held by a single individual, Mr. Cotten and it appears that Quadriga failed to ensure adequate safeguard procedures were in place to transfer passwords and other critical operating data to other Quadriga representatives should a critical event materialize (such as the death of key management personnel).”
As of April 12, EY estimated that Quadriga held around $20.8 million in assets and around $160 million in liabilities. The debts and assets are spread over three subsidiary companies, 0984750 B.C. LTD. (the “Quadriga Estate”), Quadriga Fintech Solutions and Whiteside Capital Corporation. On July 31, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia approved over $1.6 million in fees for parties seeking remuneration from the exchange, according to court documents.PDF) seen by Cointelegraph.

CFTC action launched after $147 million BTC scheme

On June 18, 2019, the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) initiated a civil enforcement action against now-defunct Control-Finance Limited for a scheme involving $147 million worth in Bitcoin.
It is alleged that Control-Finance Ltd. defrauded over 1,000 investors by laundering around 22,858 Bitcoin. In mid-September 2017, its website was abruptly taken offline, payments to clients were suspended and advertising content from social media accounts was deleted.
The firm initially said that it would reimburse customers by late 2017. However, the company allegedly began transferring laundered Bitcoin by using the crypto wallet service CoinPayments. According to Ciphertrace’s Q2 2019 Anti-Money Laundering (AML) report, the CFTC complaint charges the company and its founder Benjamin Reynolds with:
“Exploiting public enthusiasm for crypto assets by fraudulently obtaining and misappropriating at least 22,858.22 Bitcoin from more than 1,000 customers through a classic high-yield investment (HYIP) Ponzi scheme called the Control-Finance Affiliate Program.”
Per the CFTC, the company claimed that investors who buy Bitcoin through the firm would be guaranteed daily profits thanks to their team of expert cryptocurrency traders. The complaint also stated that the firm falsely claimed market volatility would ensure funds invested through Control-Finance would result in profit.
The CFTC also alleged that Control-Finance misleadingly promised that it could earn customers a 1.5% ROI daily and 45% monthly. Control-Finance is also reported to have sent partial amounts of new clients’ BTC deposits to other customers, which were disguised as profit from trading, a tactic typical of Ponzi schemes. The legal action seeking civil monetary penalties and permanent trading bans continues.

Co-owner of Bitmarket found shot dead after alleged exit scam

On July 8, the Poland-based exchange Bitmarket shut down, citing liquidity issues. According to Ciphertrace’s Q2 2019 AML report, the shutdown cost users around 2,300 Bitcoin, approximately $23 million. Users attempting to log on to the site were met with the following message:
“We regret to inform you that due to the loss of liquidity, since 08/07/2019, Bitmarket.pl/net was forced to cease its operations. We will inform you about further steps.”
Ciphertrace reports that Bitmarket had a history of partners pulling out. In 2015, the firm lost payment processors CashBill and BlueMedia after the companies' banks requested they end their working relationship with Bitmarket. PKO Bank Polski, Bitmarket’s own bank, also terminated its relationship with the firm only six months after Bank BPH had done so earlier in 2015.
Bitmarket’s two founders, Marcin Aszkiełowicz and Tobiasz Niemiro, have contradicting accounts about the misplaced user funds. Aszkiełowicz claimed that the exchange had been hacked for 600 BTC in 2015, an incident from which the company was unable to recover.
Niemiro, however, claimed that he was not responsible for activities on the exchange. Niemiro also purported to have been told that the company was purchased with a deficit of 600 BTC, which he allegedly repaid with his own money. Niemiro said he could not confirm that his partners had indeed used the money to purchase the 600 BTC.
Two weeks after the interview, Niemiro was found dead in a forest near his home with a gunshot wound to the head, which the police deemed to be self-inflicted. The District Attorney’s Office stated that it is not looking into the involvement of third parties in Niemiro’s death, but are still actively investigating the misappropriation of funds.
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[Table] IAmA: Charles Stross, science fiction writer

Verified? (This bot cannot verify AMAs just yet)
Date: 2012-07-02
Link to submission (Has self-text)
Link to my post
Questions Answers
Are you planning a kickstarter game like Neal Stephenson? If you did what would it be about? Reverse order: no, I'm not planning a kickstarter game. And I'm not really a game designer. (Writing novels takes up about 100% of my available working time.)
Fellow early adopter here. TI gave me a TIPC with a 1200 baud modem and sent me home. I tripped over the usenet and compuserve by accident. What happened to keep you off for 6 months?! Left university and got a job with a company who had no internet connection, back in the days when a 2400 baud UUCP dial-up cost £900 a year (or about a months' gross salary). Remedied this by changing jobs :)
Hallo Charles. I'm in the UK. I just wrote a book and (it looks like) a good publishing house are going to pick it up. It is sort of sci-fi. For starters, there's a long-standing (50 year old) flame war within the field over whether it's "sci-fi" or "SF".
My question: all agents I've spoken to think that while selling a book to publishers it's best to avoid using the term "sci-fi" if possible. Ideally they want to sneak sci-fi stuff in, "under the radar", so it can get the sort of backing that only a big publisher can provide. Secondly, all these labels boil down to is a bunch of marketing categories that tell bookshop staff where to file the product (which they don't know from a hole in the road) on the shelves where customers can find it. SF has traditionally been looked down on by the literary establishment because, to be honest, much early SF was execrably badly written -- but these days the significance of the pigeon hole is fading; we have serious mainstream authors writing stuff that is I-can't-believe-it's-not-SF, and SF authors breaking into the mainstream. If you view them as tags that point to shelves in bricks-and-mortar bookshops, how long are these genre categories going to survive in the age of the internet?
How do you feel about this? Cheers. Note: this skepticism breaks down in the face of, for example, the German publishing sector, where booksellers are a lot stuffier and more hidebound over what is or is not acceptable as literature.
Could you give an example or two of large British publishers that you think are doing a good job in this respect? Ignoring genre barriers, taking risks etc? AhahahaHA!!
Sorry, no I can't. But not for the reason you think. Thing is, my agent is based in New York. And due to a historic accident, my publishing track is primarily American -- I'm sold into the UK almost as a foreign import! So I'm quite out of touch with what's going on in UK publishing. (Even my Kindle is geared to the US store.)
Did you end up with an American agent because all the British agents passed on you? Or did you actually want to do things that way? A bit of both. I wanted an agent who would actually sell stuff. After two British agents failed comprehensively, I was reading Locus (the SF field's trade journal) and noticed a press release about an experienced editor leaving her job to join an agent in setting up a new agency. And I went "aha!" -- because what you need is an agent who knows the industry but who doesn't have a huge list of famous clients whose needs will inevitably be put ahead of you. So I emailed her, and ... well, 11 years later I am the client listed at the top of her masthead!
One last question (if you can be arsed). When you look at the publishing process (particularly the point at which agents have to sell books) what do you think needs to be fixed/tinkered with? Are editors too short-sighted? In your experience is their predilection for putting things in boxes limiting? Biggest message: find your customers and sell them what they want to buy. DRM is bad for business. Territorial rights restrictions are bad for business. Amazon are utterly hateful and evil -- they will kill you and establish a monopoly if they can -- but their one redeeming feature is that they're good to customers: so learn from them.
Basically if you could sit all the big editors down and briefly lecture them on doing their job what would you say? Thanks Charles. It's not the editors I'd lecture, but the senior executives who give the publishing CEOs their marching orders (editors are a level below that). All the editors I deal with are extremely smart, clueful folks who are often frustrated by corporate policies -- because the publishing houses are divisions within large media conglomerates, and they're small, low-profit subsidiaries at that (and so don't get much say in group-wide policy).
Have you considered selling books via Baen? They seem to have the right idea, and you're in the right genre. Link to www.baen.com. Not up to me, up to my publishers.
For someone who is unfamiliar with your work, what book would you suggest as a good starting point (if it's available for Kindle, I will get it as soon as I see your answer)? Any plans to follow in L. Ron's footsteps and start a religion? I'm an atheist (subtype: generally agree with Richard Dawkins but think he could be slightly more polite; special twist: I was raised in British reform Judaism, which is not like American reform Judaism, much less any other strain of organised religion). So: no cults here. Starting points: for a sampler, you could try my short story collection "Wireless". Which contains one novella that scooped a Locus award, and one that won a Hugo, and covers a range of different styles.
Thank you so much for releasing Accelerando as a freebie! I'd just picked up Stanza on my iPhone and was going through the free Sci Fi (or SF) books. That ebook got me hooked, so was a pretty savvy marketing move. Book depository is nothing new; there've been outlets selling books internationally via mail order for many decades -- the only change is that it's now easier to find and use such services.
So, is there an official term for "Polite Atheist"? Someone who doesn't believe, yet isn't offensive about it? I'm not sure. The trouble is, if you go too far towards being polite, the label that applies is "doormat".
Hi! Would you consider Halting State and Rule 34 Cyberpunk? I was heavily reminded of Neal Stephensons early books (the craziness of Snow Crash mixed with more current-day themes like Cryptonomicon). "Halting State" and "Rule 34" are cyberpunk only insofar as we are living in a 1980s cyberpunk dystopia, and these are very much novels of our time (plus 10-20 years). What I've learned during my life is that the near future is 90% identical to the present -- if you buy a new car today, it'll probably still be on the road in 2022. Another 9% is predictable from existing tech roadmaps: Intel's projected roadmap for where their processors are going, SpaceX's order book for satellite launches, and so on. And 1% is totally bugfuck crazy and impossible to predict. (Go back to 1982 and the idea that the USSR would have collapsed and been replaced by hyper-capitalist oligarchs would have earned you a straitjacket, never mind a book contract. Go back to 1992 and the idea that the USA and Iran would be fighting a proxy war on the internet would have ... well, ditto.)
While I love the Laundry books I consider A Colder War one of your best works, is there a chance that we will get another 'serious' story with Lovecraftian themes? Lovecraftian seriousness: well, book 5 or 6 of the Laundry series is due to get epically grim.
Case Nightmare Green? Yup.
It's always interesting to learn how different authors approach their craft. What's your "ritual" when writing? TL;DR: I don't have one.
Longer version ... (I want to apologize for keeping this short: I have carpal tunnel issues so I might have to switch to speech recognition soon) ...
I write exclusively using computers. Pens and typewriters can fsck right off -- I wrote my first half million words in my teens on a manual typewriter (had to trade it for a new one due to keys snapping from metal fatigue) so I am not a pen or typewriter fetishist.
I write almost entlirely on Macs, because: Windows gives me hives. (I first ran into Windows as of Win 2.11/386, back in the eighties. It did not leave a good taste. I then became a happy UNIX bunny. Mac OSX is the last UNIX workstation class OS standing. So I've learned to put up with its other foibles.)
I have no set writing routine other than: plant bum in chair in front of keyboard/on sofa under laptop, and start going. Oh, and I drink tea pretty much continuously at a rate of around 1 imperial pint/hour, which sort of enforces screen/keyboard breaks.
(I want to apologize for keeping this short: I have carpal tunnel issues so I might have to switch to speech recognition soon) I write exclusively using computers. Does this mean you use speech recognition while writing too? or have you been writing before the AMA and you're at your fatigue point? Speech recognition is utterly crap for writing fiction. If you try reading a novel aloud you'll soon figure out why -- written prose style is utterly unlike the spoken word.
Why Mac rather than Linux? (Esp. considering your background, e.g. Computer Shopper etc.) Excellent design values. ("Why drive a Porsche if you could drive a backhoe? The backhoe's got more torque and you can do cool things with it like digging holes in the road!" "Yes, but the backhoe isn't a Porsche ...")
It gets out of my way and lets me get stuff done. Seriously, Windows seems designed to make easy tasks hard and hard tasks impossible; Linux would be fine if it came pre-tuned to the hardware, but I've got a long term 30% failure rate getting any given laptop to run it properly with full device support -- I can do without the choice between badly designed, bulky, inconvenient machines that work with Linux, and taking pot luck that the latest well-designed sleek ultrabook will actually, um, boot.
TL:DR; I've reached an age at which I'd rather pay more for something that "just works" than roll up my sleeves, reach for a spanner, and make it work. Time is money, and the older we get the less of it we've got left ...
It's said that people have to write a million words of crap before they can rite good stuff. True, in your opinion? No. I wrote two million words of crap. Maybe I'm just a slow learner ...
Do you just put up with the carpal tunnel when writing? Up to a point. I don't want to permanently damage myself! On the other hand, a couple of days off the keyboard tends to make things somewhat better.
What are your views about people pirating your books? Back before the internet we had a name for people who bought a single copy of our books and lent them to all their friends without charging: we called them "librarians". Frankly, I couldn't care less about you loaning a copy of one of my books, on paper, to a friend. In fact, I think it's a good idea. Spreads the word, right? What I do have a problem with is people who sell my work for financial gain without paying me a cut of the proceeds. If money is passing hands, then the customer feels that they've paid for the right to read the work. But if they haven't paid me (or my publishers), then that's siphoning money out of my income stream. Today, we see some "file sharing" sites that rely on fans uploading cracked copies of ebooks, and which then make money off those books by charging for downloads (via cash subscriptions or advertising). Again: I take a dim view of this. They're making money off the back of my work without paying me.
2: Mr. Stross answered this question in far more detail while I was typing the above edit. Thank you! [Edit/afterthought] More often than not, piracy is a symptom of an under-provisioned market. People want to buy mp3s but can't? Piracy ensues. Then Apple strong-arms the music studios into the iTunes store and music piracy drops somewhat. The same, I believe, is also happening with ebooks.
Do you make a point of turning unpromising-sounding premises into something really extra-ordinary? Or are the back-of-book blurbs just over-simplifying? The back-of-book blurb is not written by the author (any more than the author paints the cover illustration). The sole job of the back-of-book blurb and the cover is to make a reader who is unfamiliar with the author or the book pick the product up in a store, because retail psychology studies show that consumers who handle the merchandise are more likely to buy it.
Hi Charlie! I've read much of what you've written, and I just have to say that you have a creativity rarely matched in SF - please keep it up. That said, what gadget do you think is going to have the greatest impact on the way we live in the next few coming years? Something like the Google glasses? Ultra-low power consumption ubiquitous embedded processors powered by ambient light or EM radiation are going to do insane things to our cities in the next 15-30 years -- far more significant than google glasses, which are just a slightly different UI (you can do much the same stuff already using a smartphone with motion/orientation/positioning sensors) ...
The radical transparency surveillance state that Brin predicted, open to all? Or data inequality leveraged by the HFT engines of the rich corporations to give them the edge to make a buck of it? Now add ambient genome sensing -- not human genomes, but the microbiome soup we live in (remember, sequencer costs are currently obeying Moore's Law) and start wondering where it's all going!
Been a fan for a long time. Got hooked via Accelerando (which I understand is something of an old shame at this point?), and stayed hooked via Halting State and the Laundry Files. Thanks for the AMA. :D. It's not an old shame, it's simply that I wrote it circa 1998-2004, and my views have changed somewhat over the intervening decade ...
Can you please expand on that? In what way did your views change? Accelerando is one of my all time favourites. Sure. See: Link to www.antipope.org
Link to www.amazon.com
Progress always get met with "but consider the ethics..". OK, let me ask you this: if you have a no-shit AI in a box, and it's running, when you switch it off/reboot it/reformat it/send it to the scrap heap, are you murdering a sentient being? Yes/No? Please justify your reasoning.
Now consider: your no-shit AI is the adversary in a computer game environment. What happens when you kill it (in-game)? What happens when you get tired of the game and delete it?
Hint: some fun background reading would be Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects".
Have you ever used unused (or used) ideas from your D&D days in your stories, or vice versa? No. My D&D days are 30 years gone; it'd be a rare idea to survive from that long ago.
If you could meet any dead science fiction author for a day, who would you meet and what would you do? Roger Zelazny. And probably a pub crawl then a curry.
How hard was it for you to break into the US market? If I'd known how easy it would be, I'd have done it earlier!
If you could choose between The Merchant Princes becoming a video game, a movie series, a TV series, and a limited HBO TV series, what format would you choose? Who would you pick for a director and some of the leads? Would you want to do the screenplay yourself? None of those are media formats I consume, so I have no opinion on the options. (Nor do I have any idea who the currently interesting directors or actors are.) If I wanted to be in movies, I'd have gone into scriptwriting: the fact that I write novels should be a big hint about what I prefer to do!
(Final Q: I dislike Dr Who and Star Trek, so I shan't comment further.)
"I dislike Dr. Who and Star Trek..." This is like finding out your dad really can't beat up everyone else's dad. They've achieved cult following through character development, but as SF they both have gigantic structural flaws at the plot and tech level; great gaping internal inconsistencies! (Although I'm kind of fond of the meta-theory that explains Star Trek as being propaganda intended for external consumption by the Federation, which is actually the Soviet Union in Space in the 24th century.)
Next you will tell me Nutella doesn't really taste good. Damn you Charles Stross! Damn you to hell! I will still read your books, but I will do so with a smug expression of annoyance ;) Nutella is okay, but Marmite rocks as a sandwich topping!
You must try Vegemite. I like vegemite too.
(Alas - this may be TMI - I have a mild yeast intolerance; if I consume too much wheat beer or marmite or vegemite and my next morning will be exceedingly interesting, in a most unpleasant way.)
I saw that you started writing at the age of 15, novels at that. I'm a younger person myself, and for me and the rest of novel-aspiring-youth, what do you have to tell? Tips, motivation, etc.? Write. Every day, if possible.
Finish stuff.
Send it out, and when it comes back, send it out again.
Step 3 may be a bit premature if you're thinking about professional publication, but at the very least: workshop with other writers, learn to critique their work, learn to understand and listen to their criticism of your work, then apply the skills you learned dissecting other folks' writing to your own stuff.
Do you ever read something someone else has written and think "damn, now I cant do that". Who do you read? (if you have time) Yes, I sometimes get the "Damn, too late, [X] got there first" idea. But seriously? I have time to write 1-2 novels per year, and get roughly novel-sized ideas every month. I have to perform triage on my own writing impulses. So it's usually quite easy to shrug and write something else instead.
What I read: while I'm writing, I tend to go off reading fiction for relaxation -- especially the challenging stuff. It's too much like the day job. When I do get to chow down on a book, I try to read ones that are nothing like what I'm writing. So, as I'm currently working on a space opera (of sorts) I'm mostly indulging in urban fantasy.
Wow, I didn't realise the ideas flew in so fast. Is it morbid to ask if you worry about getting it all written before you die? (Im thinking of Terry Pratchett here...) Yes, I worry about that. I'm 47. I reckon I can count on 30 more writing years, averaging a book a year (I can't keep up the 2-2.5 a year I used to do these days). And these days I've gotten round to wondering, for each new idea, "do I want to be remembered for this?" before I get to the point of spending a year on it.
Asimov or Clarke? Neither, although I'm marginally less averse to Clarke's style.
Out of curiosity, what about Heinlein? (As a writer, at least - let's leave politics aside for the moment.) I have written a Heinlein tribute novel.
In general, who in sci-fi/SF inspired you, and/or inspires you now? (Unfortunately, while most authors who do that -- Scalzi, Varley, Robinson, et al -- pick Heinlein juveniles, I went for a dirty old man Heinlein tribute novel. Hence "Saturn's Children" and a novel that hinges on the word spung!).
Have you ever been afraid to actually publish a book for fear of what your fans may think? And how do you deal with writers block, or just actually getting the damn thing started? And lastly, do you read books that aren't in your current genre? And if so, what's your favorite? Publishing is the final step in making a book; if I was afraid to publish one, I wouldn't write it in the first place. (But in general, a little controversy isn't harmful: if anything, it gets people interested. I don't think most of my opinions, political or social, are so far outside of the mainstream that they'd cause massive outrage on a scale liable to provoke death threats or referrals to prosecutors for outraging public decency, so why worry?)
Writers block: when I get it, it's because my subconscious spotted that I'd make a huge structural mistake in constructing a novel before my conscious mind became aware of it, and threw on the brakes. So I've learned not to sweat it: take two days off, then back up a chapter, read through, and try to work out why I'm suddenly uneasy about continuing.
While writing a novel I almost completely stop reading books in the same sub-genre for the duration.
Hi there, funnily enough i just finished the Atrocity Archives, which i bought because i bought the Laundry RPG a while back. Awesome book. Loved it. Can't wait to run the game. So do you play Call of Cthulhu or the Laundry at all? Or are you just into the writing side? Strictly writing side. I was heavily into AD&D in my teens (late 1970s-early 1980s) but fell off the RPG habit in the mid-80s and have never gone back to it; my lifestyle today isn't very compatible with having a regular gaming group (too much travel).
Which do you enjoy writing more; the Laundry series or harder scifi like Glasshouse and Accelerando? That's a very hard question.
If I write too much of anything for too long, I burn out on it. So it helps to vary my output from year to year. That's partly why the Laundry books are coming out at 2-5 year intervals rather than every 12 months.
As someone who grew up reading Ian Fleming and HP Lovecraft, I think they're well worth the wait! (Just pre-ordered the latest iteration) Also, do you find it difficult to write your more abstract stories like Accelerando? I tried to explain it to a friend once, but failed miserably. Accelerando was murder. It took me more than five years, in the shape of nine stories. One of which (#5) was so difficult that by way of finding an excuse to dodge having to work on it I accidentally barfed up the first two volumes of the Merchant Princes series.
I am a huge fan of yours. Three of my favorite short stories are Missile Gap, A Colder War, and Unwirer. Well, I guess I just really love the whole "Wireless" collection. What inspired you to cross Lovecraft with The Cold War? Fear of nuclear annihilation. I'm a child of the cold war: I didn't live more than 10 miles from a major WarPac nuclear target until the Berlin Wall came down and the CW ended. Knowing you can die horribly at any moment because of decisions made by alien intelligences thousands of miles away who don't even know you exist -- there's something Lovecraftian about that, isn't there?
At what age did you start writing novels? I began my first novel when I was 15. It went through three drafts, of around 40,000 words each. If I find it, I'll burn it. (If you read it, you'd thank me :)
Hahahha I'm 15 now. Every time when i have to do an assignment for school, i don't really know how to start, could you give me some advice, please? Nope. Because I'm nearly a third of a century older than you, and any advice I could give you about school assignments would be slightly out of date ...!
The modern solution is to just wikiwalk until inspired. Or tropeswalk! Actually, no, don't do that. You'll get sucked into TVTropes and suddenly notice that the sun's peeking through your window, you're knee-deep in villain archetypes, and the assignment's due in three hours. Your warning comes too late. Actually, I was semi-immunized to TVTropes by being sent a copy of the Turkey City Lexicon by Bruce Sterling at an impressionable age: Link to www.sfwa.org
What do you think of TV Tropes, in general? Like all good things, it's possible to overdose on it.
But for someone who is starting out on developing their critical skills, just being aware of its existence is great: it can make the difference between trying to write a story around a cliche or an original idea, and better still, studying it can eventually clue you in on how to breathe new life into tired tropes.
One of the things that I liked about Halting State and Rule 34 was that they are set in a plausible near future where technology has made individuals much more productive than people from 50+ years ago. Given that with technological assistance one worker can now supervise many machines working to produce goods do you think that there will be a resurgence of a leisure class in the first world? Do you think that we are getting to the point where instead of overpaying people to do manual factory work there is room for another model that still resembles modern life? I have no answer to this question. Keynes asked it more than fifty years ago; something has clearly gone wrong, given that the folks with jobs seem to work endless hours while many people can't get a job at all.
Nice to see a bit of social marketing, it will be interesting to hear how it compares to the publishers' marketdroid efforts in terms of sales (if you can tease out the stats). Now the important question, favourite beer? My regular session beer is Deuchars IPA (Link to www.caledonianbeer.com) It's not an American-style bitterness wars IPA; it's a light, Scottish ale with just enough hops to tell you what it is, and it's weak enough that you can keep drinking it continuously for hours without any risk of waking up in a puddle with KICK ME tattooed on your bum.
Any other writing aids? Link to www.antipope.org
What's your policy/opinion on adverbs? I ask because guys like Stephen King encourage writers to murder every adverb before it ever hits the page, whereas guys like William Gibson (my favorite author) use them liberally. I have no policy, for or against: only a personal style. (Which is to say, I use them when I think it's appropriate to; for example, an internal monologue by a locquacious and verbose narrator is more likely to be larded with adverbs than an exchange of instant messages between cops at a crime scene.)
I'm a new but big fan. The first book of yours that I read only a few months ago was Accelerando and it absolutely blew my mind! Not only that but it made me very excited for the near future, I see Google Glasses as being a very exciting tech that leads into your vision. Bitcoin: probably not, but it's intriguing enough to be at the root of an entire interstellar finance system in "Neptune's Brood" (due next July, 2013).
PS I'm really looking forward to seeing you when you come to Perth West Aus next year. Maybe I can buy you a beer! Perth, beer? Sure!
Bitcoins as... urrrrgh. Okay. I'll have to read that, then. Hope you got the failure conditions right! I hybridised it with Chaum's digicash. With the added twist that participants in exchanges had to be in different solar systems. It's called "slow money" for a reason ...
How do you make sure you aren't "inadvertently plagiarizing?" I think up ideas a lot but am sure they have already been done somewhere or that I am ripping something off I have read and cannot recall specifically. Original creativity seems difficult. First: plagiarism requires you to copy someone else's words. You can avoid this by, er, not copying! Writing your own story around the same ideas is not plagiarism; at worst, it's being unoriginal.
thanks for the books...I love science fiction and appreciate the work that goes into putting out novels to entertain us. Having said that, you're right: coming up with truly new ideas is hard. But I've got a method: I look for a couple of obvious ideas that have been done before (try: folks who can travel at will to parallel universes; in their home world they're the aristocracy, because: magic powers) and then look for the second-order side effects: stuff that other authors didn't dig into (for example: wrt. the previous idea, what are the consequences of these folks' ability for the ongoing economic and political development of their world? Can it have negative consequences? If so, what are they?)
How long did it take you to become comfortable writing in the second person? I finished reading Rule 34 and it was the first novel* i had read in this style. It took me about a hundred pages of "Halting State" to get the hang of it, and another hundred pages to feel comfortable. I also needed a reason to start doing it (2nd person is the natural voice of the text adventure game -- "you are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike").
A trilogy? Does this mean that a third book is on contract, or that you just have it kicking around in your head? EDIT: Nevermind, you answered this already. Looking forward to it! "The Lambda Functionary" is on contract for delivery on July 1st, 2013 and publication around July 3rd, 2014. And I haven't even begun writing it yet. Ulp.
Connected intelligence (as in, human intelligence augmented by online sources) seems to be on the perpetual 'five years out' list - do you think projects like Google Glass will finally make this a reality? What sort of timescale would you envisage for mass-adoption? (crosses fingures for a 'yes') Hmm ... what's wrong with a smartphone with always-on 3G or 4G data and google/wikipedia? Doesn't that qualify?
How much pre-planning would you say that you do before starting on a new book? Or do you subscribe more to the "Let's just start writing and see where it takes us" camp? Both :)
No two books come out the same way. Some I write by the seat of my pants; others are planned in minute detail.
The one thing that does happen, every time, though, is that I never get to write a book until I've already been thinking about it for a period of months to years. Unless it's "Glasshouse" (time from initial idea to starting writing: 9 days).
Rule 34 was one of my favorite reads last year, but I found the title to be a bit of a red herring since (without spoilers) neither memes nor porn ended being a big part of the story's resolution (other than the department Kavanaugh is in when she started). Was that intentional? What is ATHENA if not a meme with legs? (The relative lack of porn I'll grant you ...) Link to www.antipope.org
Hi Charles, I'm Chinese and I live in Asia and most of the sci fi actually comes from the west. Is this due to cultural reasons, literacy or how technology/future seems to resonate more if written from a western perspective? Also, how can one become a successful sci fi/fantasy writer outside of Europe/America? I have no idea, frankly ...
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Credits ICO Review - Financial Blockchain

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