Born in Leeds, England, Stross knew he wanted to be a science fiction writer from the age of six, and astonishingly, nobody ever considered therapy until it was too late. He didn't really get started until his early teens (when his sister loaned him a manual typewriter around the time he was getting heavily into Dungeons and Dragons); the results were unexpected, and he's been trying to bury them ever since. He made his first commercial for-money sale to Interzone in 1986, and sold about a dozen stories elsewhere throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s before a dip in his writing career. He began writing fiction in earnest again in 1998, and that's probably why you're reading this FAQ.
Along the way to his current occupation, he went to university in London and qualified as a Pharmacist. (This is what you get for listening to people who tell you "but you can't earn a living as a writer β get a career first!") He figured out it was a bad idea the second time the local police staked his shop out for an armed robbery β he's a slow learner. Sick at heart from drugging people and dodging SWAT teams and gangsters β it's hard to do that when you're wearing a lab coat β he went back to university in Bradford and did a postgraduate conversion degree in computer science. After several tech sector jobs in the hinterlands around London, initially in technical publications and then in UNIX, he emigrated to Edinburgh, Scotland, and ended up in web programming consultancy and a subsequent dot-com death march at Datacash. (Datacash survived, IPO'd, and prospered; as developer hire #1 and the author of the 20KLOC of object-oriented Perl that the business depended on for much of its first decade, Charlie's sanity nearly didn't.)
All good things come to an end, and Stross made the critical career error of accepting an employment offer he couldn't refuse in early 2000, just as the bottom dropped out of the first dot-com bubble (taking his new job with it). However, he had a parachute: he was writing a monthly Linux column for Computer Shopper, and by a hop, a skip and a jump that would be denounced as implausible by any self-respecting editor, he managed to turn his unemployment into an exciting full time career opportunity as a freelance journalist specialising in Linux and free software. (The adjective "exciting" applies as much to the freelance journalist's relationship with their bank manager as to their career structure.) Even more implausibly, after fifteen years of abject obscurity, his fiction became a runaway success and he found himself earning more as a novelist than he ever had as a programmer.
He now writes fiction full-time, has sold around 16 novels, has won one Hugo award and been nominated nearly a dozen times, and has been translated into about a dozen languages.
He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife Feorag, a couple of cats, several thousand books, and an ever-changing herd of obsolescent computers.