A small excerpt:
Stross and Doctorow are sitting outside the Chequers Hotel bar in Newbury, a small city west of London. The Chequers has been overrun this May weekend by a distinct species of science-fiction fan, members of a group called Plokta (Press Lots of Keys to Abort). The men are mostly stout and bearded, the women pedestrian in appearance but certainly not in their interests. During one session Stross mentions an early model of the Amstrad personal computer, and the crowd practically cheers. Stross is the guest of honor, and he and Doctorow have just emerged from a panel discussion on his work.
The two have met just four times, but they have the comfortable rapport of long-distance friends that is possible only in the e-mail age. (They have collaborated on several critically acclaimed short stories and novellas, one of them before they ever met in person.) Stross, 39, a native of Yorkshire who lives in Edinburgh, looks like a cross between a Shaolin monk and a video-store clerk—bearded, head shaved except for a ponytail, and dressed in black, including a T-shirt printed with lines of green Matrix code. Doctorow, a 33-year-old Canadian, looks more the hip young writer, with a buzz cut, a worn leather jacket and stylish spectacles, yet he’s also still very much the geek, G4 laptop always at the ready.
They have loosely parallel backgrounds: Stross worked throughout the 1990s as a software developer for two U.K. dot-coms, then switched to journalism and began writing a Linux column for Computer Shopper. Doctorow, who recently moved to London, dropped out of college at 21 to take his first programming job, then went on to run a dot-com and eventually co-found the technology blog boingboing.net.
Although both have been out of programming for a few years, it continues to influence—even infect—their thinking. In the Chequers, Doctorow mentions the original title for one of the novels he’s working on, a story about a spam filter that becomes artificially intelligent and tries to eat the universe. “I was thinking of calling it /usr/bin/god.”
“That’s great!” Stross remarks.