Stirling FAQ


Hello, and welcome to the S.M. Stirling Discussion at Here's a little list of Frequently Asked Questions for your edification.

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What is this list about?

The S.M. Stirling list is about the works of Stephen Michael Stirling, a popular author in the speculative fiction realm. Thoughts and comments about any of Stirling's works are welcome.

Is S.M. Stirling a list member?

S.M. Stirling is an active list member and posts under the handle of joatsimeon.

Is the list moderated?

There are list moderators, but they operate with a light hand.

What about off-topic posts?

The list does range off-topic on a regular basis. Discussions about history, other science fiction/fantasy works, technological advances, and the Joss Whedonverse often come up.

Help! The volume of this list is overwhelming!

You might want to switch to reading the list on the web if your inbox is getting too inundated with messages, or switch to the digest format. You can do this at the list homepage on Yahoo.

What is the etiquette on actually posting?

When replying to a post, try and snip irrelevant information, advertisements, and signature lines of the post to which you are replying.

If the topic changes during a thread, please change the heading on the post to reflect the new topic. For example, if a thread is discussing Marian Alston but somehow switches to Isketerol, you could rename a heading thusly:
Isketerol (was: Marian Alston)

Is there any topic that is off-limits?

S.M. Stirling has requested that we do not discuss current politics on the list.

What exactly is current politics?

Current can mean different things to different people, but as a general rule of thumb, discussion about politics up to World War II is fine, discussion of politics from the end of WWII to the Vietnam War can be problematic, but is sometimes o.k., depending on the actual topic, and it is generally a good idea to avoid discussing politics past the Vietnam era.

This rule seems awfully restrictive. Why limit discussion on this one issue?

The list was not founded for the intention of discussing current politics. Some people can get passionate about politics, while others have little interest in the subject or are put off by the tendency for such discussions to turn harsh. In the interests of list harmony, please refrain.

If you do wish to discuss current politics, check out our sister group, Lidlesseye, at Many (not all) Stirling list members who wish to discuss current politics do so there.

Someone brings up a current political issue. What should I do?

Politely ask the political poster if s/he can drop the topic, take if off-line, or take it to the Eye.

Is there a bibliography for Stirling's works?

There is a bibliography at The bibliography is, to the best of our knowledge, up to date. If you think something should be added, please let us know.

What Stirling books are in the queue?

The third book in the Sunrise Lands (Emberverse II) series, The Sword of the Lady, will be published 25 August 2009. This series will be concluded(?) in 2010 with The High King of Montival.

The is also short fiction set in the Emberverse, next up will be Ancient Ways, published March(?) 2010 in the anthology Warriors.

S.M Stirling has started a new Urban Fantasy series, the first novel A Taint in the Blood, will be published in 2010(?).

Ooohh! Oooh! That's exciting news! Are there any sample chapters?

Sample chapters of upcoming novels (and older books) can be found at the S.M. Stirling website,

Are there going to be more novels in the Draka series?

Probably not. Steve does not publish much with Baen anymore, and another publisher almost certainly would not publish a book in a series when another publisher has the rights to previous novels. In addition, Steve is more interested in exploring different territory at the moment.

What about more novels in the Island in the Sea of Time series?

There are no current sequels planned, but you might want to check out a novella set in the Islandverse called "Blood Wolf" in the book The First Heroes: New Tales of the Bronze Age if you haven't already.

Will Stirling be doing any more collaborations with other authors, like the General Series he did with David Drake?

Probably not.

What order should I read the Fifth Millennium novels in?

Fifth Millenium Chronology: Shadow's Daughter (Shirley Meier only), Snowbrother (Stirling), "The Waters of Knowing" (Stirling), The Sharpest Edge/Saber and Shadow (Meier and Stirling), The Cage (Meier and Stirling), Lion's Heart (Karen Wehrstein), Lion's Soul (Wehrstein), and Shadow's Son (Stirling, Meier, Wehrstein).

Saber and Shadow is a somewhat revised and expanded version of The Sharpest Edge. Lion's Heart is somewhat separate from the others and can be read before Shadow's Daughter. Lion's Soul and Shadow's Son cover some of the same time period, but from different perspectives and could be read in any order, though you should try to read Lion's Heart before Lion's Soul. In general, the books are all somewhat self contained. You can read them out of order if you can't find one. Since they are out of print, you might want to read what you can find.

"The Waters of Knowing" is a short story in a hardcover collection. The others are in paperback, and can probably be found on Amazon, ect.

What physics underlies "The Change" seen in Dies the Fire and sequels?

From various pieces we have pried loose from Steve Stirling, there are three changes to physical laws:

  1. The ideal gas law ( ) has changed. Rather than a reversible relationship between volume, pressure and temperature, a time component has been added such that gas expansion does not produce useful work.

    In essence, gasses compress normally, but behave more like a liquid when volume expands. E.g., air can be compressed to one tenth of its previous volume, producing ten atmospheres of pressure. Under normal conditions, pressure will cause the gas to expand to its previous volume, and this can be used to move machinery. Under the change, a tiny increase in volume (such as an expansion cylinder moving) will cause the pressure to drop to ambient, resulting in effectively no work being done. The expansion will eventually occur, but so slowly as to be useless.

    The same will happen with heat engines; with a steam engine, for example, gasses are heated to produce pressure, and the expansion of these gasses can be used to produce work. Under the change, heated gasses will only expand at a glacial rate.

    We have not been given details on just how much expansion causes the pressure drop, or how fast the expansion can take place.

  2. Electron locality in solids has changed, precluding electricity from working. Presumably this has caused conductors like copper to change from conductors to insulators. We have speculated that conductivity in metallic solids went from ~10^6 Siemens/meter to ~10^-6. This would make copper an insulator.

    We know that electrical conduction in colloids such as human nerves remains unchanged - after all, human brains are (mostly) unaffected. We know that static electricity in the air remains the same, because we continue to see lightning. (By the way, lightning rods don't work).

    We have speculated that non-solid conductive materials such as mercury and salt water can be used, and there have been suggestions that electronics could be re-invented using aquarium tubing filled with these materials. Note that salt water, while technically a conductor, is only a millionth as good a conductor as copper.

    ( )

  3. Something has changed such that nuclear power plants don't melt down. Radioactive materials remain dangerous, but a pile of fissile isotopes will just sit around getting warm, not generating a runaway reaction. We have speculated that either fissile elements are not undergoing spontaneous fission any more, or the thermal neutron capture cross section has changed such that fission reactions are not self-sustaining.

    ( )

    The change in capture cross-sections appears to be more likely, since it would probably use similar mechanisms as whatever changed electron locality in (2). If neutrons are not captured, they will eventually (10-15 minutes) decay into hydrogen.

I found a loophole in the change! Does this mean the series falls apart?

No. The ASBs causing the change are smarter than you. If you think you found a loophole, they will already have closed it.

People sure toss around lots of acronyms here. What do they all mean?

Here are some Stirling related acronyms:

I'm new to discussion groups and don't know any general acronyms at all! What do they all mean?

Here are some common internet acronyms:

I have some ideas to add to the FAQ. Can I do so?

By all means. If you have any comments, complaints, or suggestions for the FAQ, please let the group know.


This FAQ compiled by Jonathan Amato 2007, with input from other list members.

Text converted to HTML by Bo Johansson
2007-02-09, 2007-02-14

Updated by Bo Johansson

Last changed 2017-08-08