The brilliant ideas and radiant visions of reclusive SF author Greg Egan



I’m known among my friends for having some pretty strange ideas about metaphysics, notably things like quantum immortality and an all-possible-worlds multiverse thing.

This is all Greg Egan’s fault.

I read Permutation City and Diaspora and, after that, well, there was really no hope for me. I can’t look at the world in the same way again.


Egan has IMO written some of the absolutely finest science fiction of this generation. Happy to hear that US readers will be able to join in on the experience more readily, and can’t recommend strongly enough that they do so.

I’ve had students in quantum physics classes read “Quarantine”, which is a fun quantum-related novel. (It does make the fictional leap that lots of quantum novels make that somehow we find a way to control which way the wave function collapses upon observation, which is not part of regular quantum physics, no matter how much bunkum like “The Secret” or that “Bleep” movie tell you it is.)

Does he publish his own ebooks in a DRM-free format?

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…sadly, it looks like he doesn’t. Amazon Kindle or Itunes are the options. Oh, well, there go a bunch of ebook sales he might have made to me.

Hmm, well, it doesn look like you can get a couple of them from Baen:

The versions for sale from Amazon and iTunes are entirely DRM-free.

The main reason the eBooks are not available from other vendors is because the administrative effort required to deal with smaller players is disproportionately high, and some of them simply won’t do business with non-US authors (last time I checked that was the case with Barnes and Noble).


Aren’t Amazon ebooks usually laden with DRM? I didn’t see anything on the Amazon page suggesting the book was DRM free, and in the modern environment I don’t like to assume that unless it’s abundantly clear.

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I think that when Greg Egan sits to down to write a novel he says, “First let me me develop a very plausible Grand Unified Thoery of Everything”. Then he has to decide whether to publish that in an academic journal or continue writing the novel. I am glad that he writes the novel. People talk about liking “hard” science fiction, his stuff is like microcrystalline diamond hard.


Just a note, link to Egan website incorrectly yields, probably not what you intend.

Amazon and iTunes both give eBook publishers the choice to use DRM or not. On the Amazon pages for DRM-free books you will see “Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited”.

You know the DRM is trivial to remove from your own books, right?

Sure… but I don’t want to pay money for crapware like DRM-encumbered books if I can all avoid it. It’s as much the principle of the thing as anything practical.

Well, pragmatically, you are putting yourself in a bind. Most publishers won’t sell DRM free books at this point so you won’t read any popular novels, history books, etc. from any of the big publishers (and most of the small ones).

For me, I just use a kindle and buy and Amazon while removing DRM to make archive copies of my own books.

I know. It’s a sucky world. On the other hand, when everybody gives up their principles in the name of pragmatism, nothing ever changes.

But, when there is something like a Humble eBook bundle full of DRM-free ebooks or audiobooks, I’ll tend to jump on it.

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Well, I have authors I want to read. Specific ones. I want to support them as well by buying their books. Withholding my money is also withholding support to them financially.

Also, as I said, I can remove the DRM from my books so I’m not sure what the principle is. That DRM just shouldn’t exist?

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I’m a big Egan fan, even though he can be a bit challenging. I’ve joked that I have this mental image of him as a ultra-badboy hard-SF writer. His publishers plead with him, “But you can’t just drop pages of charts and diagrams in your adventure story!” and he says, “Boom! I just did. Deal with it!”

And then the publishers shuffle off, tears in eyes, because they know they can’t stand up to him, because if they try, might not only educate them… he’ll educate their whole families, just to send a message not to mess with him.

But for those who might be intimidated by that, Zendegi is actually remarkably accessible on that front, it’s a very human story set in a near future Iran after a democratic revolution and deals with very very very early AI advancements, and no charts.

Is it more accessible than Schild’s Ladder?

Yeah, I’d say so. I had trouble with Schild’s the first time (though still enjoyed it), it took a reread (and perhaps a decade or so of exposure to other SF in between) before the concepts really jelled. Zendegi I don’t think you really require anything other than the open mind to be trying SF in the first place. Actually, it might even disappoint if you’re heavy into SF extrapolation because it is so grounded and near-future. (It also might disappoint because, IMHO, the story sort of feels like it just stops rather than coming to an entirely satisfying climax, but that’s another issue and I still think fondly of it regardless).

IIRC, of the viewpoint characters, only one is a scientist, the others are normal people, some of whom are trying to use the new science developments to accomplish their own, much more personal and small scale, goals.

(It’s been a long time since I read it, but I think Quarantine is also pretty accessible for Egan, more like a detective novel with a SF twist)

In case nagegerg is the real gregegan and not another vegas impersonator, just wanted to say, thanks for making your books available DRM-free! Just bought them all last night on the strength of the BB post and commenters’ recommendations. Just started Permutation City. WHOA.


Any suggestions on the best one to start with?