Charlie Stross's autobiography

Charlie Stross has just wrapped up a 12-part, 25,000-word autobiography explaining how he came to find himself writing some of the weirdest, freshest, wildest post-cyberpunk fiction in the field.

I was stressed out for most of two years. I'm an alpha-type personality to begin with, but this wasn't funny. I was writing fiction (and articles for Computer Shopper) as a therapeutic distraction. Around the middle of 1998, I figured that the novel I'd written in 1995-96 Singularity Sky was about ready, and mailed it off in the direction of Tor in New York, where it sat on a certain editorial director's desk for the next eighteen months. I wrote and sold a couple of short stories, and began work on a project which I was workshopping with some other local writers; a strange humorous horror novel/spy thriller about a hapless geek who's fallen into a government department for dealing with … look, you probably know where this is going, right?. This was strictly a weekend activity, to distract me from the weekday stress cycle: compartmentalising my life helped me deal with Datacash. But it probably didn't help enough.

For most of the end of 1998 and the first half of 1999, the uttermost bane of my life was an ecommerce subsidiary of Bank Paribas called KLELine. They were offering a credit card solution over SSL, which had certain attractions for some of our customers, being (a) French, and (b) able to do some funky and useful things, or so they said. The trouble from my point of view was … well, they weren't terribly clear on open source, for starters, or on public APIs, which was somewhat more serious. And when I got in deeper, I discovered some horrifying shortcuts in their API. Like, oh, once a credit card transaction hit their servers they'd process it, but the acknowledgement might well disappear into the bit bucket if the poor-quality leased line between London and Paris chose that particular moment to crap out. And the exchange rate for the transaction in question would be pulled out of a hat in accordance with the phase of the moon or something, and a subsequent refund or cancellation request wouldn't go through at the same exchange rate if there was a currency fluctuation.

How I got here in the end: my non-tech autobiography

(Thanks, Charlie!)