What Doesn’t Kill You Will Make You Richer – Ahrvid Engholm (Sweden)

    Karl Stig-Erland “Stieg” Larsson (/stiːɡ ˈlɑrsən/; Swedish pronunciation: [ˈkaɭ ˈstiːɡ ˈæɭand ˈlaʂɔn]) 15 August 1954 – 9 November 2004 ; was a Swedish journalist and writer. He is best known for writing the “Millennium trilogy” of crime novels (“Män som hatar kvinnor” – 2005 ; “Flickan som lekte med elden” – 2006 ; “Luftslottet som sprängdes” – 2007, which were published posthumously. Larsson lived much of his life in Stockholm and worked there in the field of journalism and as an independent researcher of right-wing extremism. He was the second best-selling author in the world for 2008. The third novel in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, became the most sold book in the United States in 2010 according to Publishers Weekly. By March 2015, his series had sold 80 million copies worldwide.

    An avid science fiction reader from an early age, he became active in Swedish science fiction fandom around 1971; co-edited, together with Rune Forsgren his first fanzine, Sfären, in 1972; and attended his first science fiction convention, SF•72, in Stockholm. Through the 1970s, Larsson published around 30 additional fanzine issues; after his move to Stockholm in 1977, he became active in the Scandinavian SF Society where he was a board member in 1978 and 1979, and chairman in 1980. In his first fanzines, 1972–74, he published a handful of early short stories, while submitting others to other semi-professional or amateur magazines. He was co-editor or editor of several science fiction fanzines, including Sfären and FIJAGH!; in 1978–79, he was president of the largest Swedish science-fiction fan club, Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (SFSF).

    The Swedish morning paper Dagens Nyheter August the 2nd published an “exclusive diary” by David Lagercrantz, covering his work with writing the new Millennium novel.

    This book is to be realeased August 27th, in 27 countries simultaneously, and the English title will be “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”. (Following the tradition to invent English titles that show little resemblance to the Swedish original, which will be “Det som inte dödar oss“,  meaning “What doesn’t kill us“. Stieg Larsson’s original “Men Who Hate Women” became “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo“.)

    This new Millennium novel will have nothing to do with the famous fourth (rumoured to be about half-finished) Stieg Larsson manuscript, due to the conflict between the Larsson family and Stiegs partner Eva Gabrielsson. I wonder if we will ever see that book?

    Stieg Larsson who was heavily involved in science fiction (fanzine publisher, chairman of the Scandinavian SF Association, among other things) showed a talent for inventing complex plots, using hi-tech concepts.

    His heroine Lisbeth Salander is for instance a super hacker using the most sophisticated software. This is something that will be elaborated in Lagercrantz’s novel. It is since earlier known (see eg that Lisbeth will hack America’s NSA (National Security Agency, the guys eavesdropping on the whole world and private citizens without due court order or probable cause).

    And it is known that Lisbeth will be attacked by cyber gangsters who call themselves the Spiders (thus the title). Meanwhile Mikael Blomkvist is contacted by a professor Balder who has made huge advances in Artificial Intelligence.


    Publishers:Norstedts Förlag (Sweden), Quercus (United Kingdom), Alfred A. Knopf (United States); Publication date : 27th of August 2015 (Courtesy of Quercus & Doubleday Knopf)

    Lets see what can we learn about the coming novel from the Lagercrantz diary! Excerpts are translated by Yours Truly:

    2013, June 12:

    David Lagercrantz is for the first time asked about writing the book.

    2013, August 8:

    He talks with the publisher at Norstedts seriously about the project. In the night he wakes up being reminded about “a deaf autistic boy who one day suddenly drew a perfect street light. A thought comes to me after that and another thought. Within minutes I have a plot”.

    2013, August 13:

    He is commissoned to write a synopsis.

    2013, August 23:

    The synopsis is accepted.

    2013, November 13:

    “I’m  beginning to get the hang on Lisbeth in the action scenes, and that’s where she fits best. She is best when she attacks and fights as an underdog.” But he wonders who to get her to remember “all the dark madness” from her childhood?

    2013, Novewmber 16:

    “Stieg Larsson solved the problem by letting someone else, first of all the laywer and the the guardian Holger Palmgren, tell about Lisbeth’s background, which of course is a classic trick … the myth needs a Dr Watson to be built”.

    2014, March 2:

    He sees “Batman Begins” and begin to think about the “mythology behind Stieg Larsson’s books” and then “see a completely sensational picture on the net, which changes my whole story.”

    2014, September 24:

    His publisher says a track in his plot reminds of something in another just published crime novel. He becomes frustrated and decides to re-write the whole thing. Through Google be “becomes obsessed with a new mathematical track.”

    2014, October 24:

    He comes in contact with professor mathematics Andreas Strömbergsson of Uppsala University, specialising in number theory.

    2014, October 28:

    He meets the professor, who likes the mathematics idea “but thinks it is unrealistic towards the end”. But the professor thinks he “has another idea”.

    2014, October 30:

    The professor sends a long E-mail. “Most is way above my level, but the basic thought gives my idea a sophisticated touch”.

    214, November 5:

    The manuscript is finished.

    What we can learn is that the plot has to do with advanced mathematics, propably in the form of number theory, which also has to do with cryptology (used to protect secrets in computer communications). One should be aware of that Lagrecrantz has earlier written a book about Alan Turing, who worked with the Enigma encryption during World War II (the book The Fall of Man in Wilmslow, so the new book will certainly involve cryptology.

    This professor Strömbergsson is interested in “number theory and automorphic forms… /and has/ particular worked on problems related to geometry and dynamics on symmetric spaces, L-functions, quantum chaos, lattices and sphere packing, and spectral correspondences”, Google tells us.

    That certainly makes things clear as a day!

    The word “number theory” is perhaps easiest to understand. It is about what number sets are – natural, fractional, irrational, imaginary etc sets – , how they behave, how numbers are distributed (eg in the decimals of Pi). “Automorphic forms” are “a generalization of the idea of periodic functions in Euclidean space to general topological groups” (kudos, Wikipedia!) which in an easier language could be described as subtle patterns in sets of numbers.

    If I would dare a guess, I’d imagine that David Lagercrantz simply lets Ms Salander be the first one to crack how to find the prime factors for really big numbers! This is the basis of most modern encryption systems, the holy grail for spies, eavesdroppers, big corporations and their economic transactions – perhaps the foundation of our entire modern computerised society!

    Hints about a drawing of a street light or a “sensational picture” indicates that steganography is also involved. That is hiding information within other information, eg manipulating pixels in a picture file to carry information. And if you have cracked prime number factorisation you have the whole world in your pocket, hidden where no one  can see it.

    In his diary David Lagercrantz also says he always worked on an off-line computer and text were never E-mailed, but sent via a courier (in case a real life Lisbeth Salander would try a hacker attack…). He seemed to have needed a long time writing the manuscript, in the diary he is also talking about periods of angst and obsessive thoughts. In February 2015 the first reactions come from foreign publishers and translators of the book, upon which he “dances home through the night and get stuck with an after-party in my local Italian joint Pane Vino near Zinkensdamm. It was a long time since I became that intoxicated.”

     But finally, when it comes to mathematics, there are some people including David Lagercrantz, who if things go as planned with the book, will have really high numbers to joggle with. Very high numbers in dollars, pounds,  yen and kronor (swedish crowns) !

    What doesn’t kill you will make you richer.

    P.S : I met David Lagercrantz myself in November last year, reported here: He wouldn’t talk about the plot, but said “he worked very  hard with the plot. Stieg was very good at it, he said, so he had to really be on his toes to try to match him …  once the work begun it was a rather comfortable flow. … /He/ doesn’t need to write the  Millennium novel for the money – it was the challenge that attracted him. He also said he tried to develop the characters, especially Lisbeth Salander, and he has introduced some new ones.  He doesn’t have a contract for a fifth book yet. Everything hangs on how the fourth book will be received.”

    ©Ahrvid Engholm


    Pic©Norstedts (Courtesy of)

    Ahrvid Engholm

    Ahrvid Engholm is a swedish author, editor, journalist and SF fan.


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