So: the referendum is over and the count is underway. I'm about to go to bed; when I wake up there should be a result. The final YouGov opinion poll today (not an exit poll) gave No a 54/46 lead, but earlier polls suggest the outcome is within the margin of error; I'd be very surprised if that final poll reflects the final count. In Edinburgh, the turnout was around 89.7% of the electorate, with voter registration running at 97% overall and more than 95% of postal ballots returned.

One thing is sure: even a "no" victory won't kill the core issue of the delegitimization of the political elite. (It has become not simply a referendum on independence, but a vote of confidence on the way the UK is governed; anything short of a huge "no" victory amounts to a stinging rebuke to the ruling parties of the beige dictatorship.) With that level of voter engagement we're seeing, and turn-out—probably setting a new record for the highest turnout in a British election—the number of "yes" votes is likely to exceed the number that would normally secure a landslide victory for the winning party in a general election: this will have serious repercussions in the long term. In event of a "yes" vote, negotiations will open over the terms of separation, and in event of a "no" vote, well ... promises were made by the "no" campaign in the last week that amounted to a major concession on Devo Max: will the Westminster parties keep those promises in the wake of a "no" vote on independence?

Anyway: I'm not staying up for the count. (I'm tired, boringly middle-aged, and the count will happen whether or not I'm glued to the internet feeds into the early hours.) Instead, I'll update this blog entry when there's a result tomorrow ... and in the meantime, open the discussion comments for a single question:

What comes next?

UPDATE: Final results: Yes, 44.7%, No, 55.3%, Turnout: 84.5% (setting an all-time record for a UK election—voting is not compulsory, and at the last UK general election, in 2010, the turnout was 65.1%).

UPDATE 2: First Minister Alex Salmond has resigned. (NB: it'll be utterly astonishing if his successor is anyone other than Nicola Sturgeon.)

You guys have listened to me go on for quite a few days now. I'm almost done! The material I've been talking about through this series of posts is all stuff that I was thinking about a lot during the time I was writing my novel Shadowboxer, which I began in 2008. These days I'm doing a physics degree that leaves me virtually no free time, but back then I was immersed in watching fights on You Tube and also looking at training footage from around the world in connection with my work with Steve.

So far I have talked about where I'm coming from when I talk about martial arts and the Philip K. Dick-like uneasiness I feel about the relationship between Hollywood and reality as I observe it play out in martial arts circles. Today I want to talk about representations of personal combat in popular media that I love. There are two examples that I want to share with you because I think they both exemplify the sincere effort to bring the live animal of the fight to the screen.

In my first post of this series I said I would talk about the depiction of personal combat in contemporary media. What I find most interesting here is the tendency to conflate stage-fighting with real fighting, and I am particularly impressed by the foolishness of movie-makers--who are themselves illusionists--when they are tricked by the illusionism of the martial arts into thinking they are showing something 'real' when in fact they are showing a martial art with only a tangential relationship to fighting

Hello, everyone. Charlie has kindly invited me to post here because I am a science fiction writer. But for the next four guest posts I'm going to be talking about fighting, martial arts, the media, and women. I have a lot to say. In this first post I'll give you an idea of where I'm coming from when I'm talking about fighting.

(I've been under the weather due to a chest bug picked up in Dublin, so haven't had time to write the lengthy article I promised a while ago. Here's it's truncated summary version. Please don't bring up the referendum debate in discussions under other blog posts, okay?)

"Should Scotland be an independent country?"

I have a postal vote. I already voted "yes".

For what is probably an unusual reason ...

This week, I'm lending the soapbox to two extremely talented award-winning SF/F writers—Tricia Sullivan and Kameron Hurley. Kameron has been here before: since then she's won two Hugo awards, most notably for this essay).

Tricia Sullivan is the Arthur C. Clarke Award winning author of Lightborn and Maul. A New Jersey native, she now lives with mixed martial arts trainer Steve Morris and their three children in Shropshire, where she studies physics as an undergraduate with the Open University. She has a six foot Muay Thai bag in her shed. On a bad day she can hit it pretty hard.

I first met Tricia's writing with "Maul" back in 2005, which had the most memorably mind-warping opening sequence of any book I read that year; she's one of the most interesting new SF authors to arrive on the British SF/F publishing scene this century (and I'm looking forward to her new novel, Shadowboxer, which comes out next month).

One of the problems with writing novels for the trade publishing business is that you're not just writing for your readers; you have to keep one eye on the internal structure of your publisher's business. Prior to the 1980s, trade publishing ran on much the same lines it had in the 1880s; small family-owned or run businesses where editors acquired and edited books, then sent them down to the production department to be typeset and then printed and bound and warehoused. But a wave of corporate take-overs up-ended the entire game board in the 1970s and 1980s, and these days the internal logic of publishing bears little resemblance to the business in days of yore. Any part of the pipeline that can be outsourced has been outsourced for decades: and while editors still edit, their job is now tightly integrated with marketing, and they can't (usually) buy books that they can't convince the marketing department are commercial propositions.

So when you've written a successful novel, the first thing any editor says to you is, "that was great! Can you write me another book just like the last one, only different?" By which they mean something that is easy to explain to the marketing folks without requiring them to read the entire manuscript (because marketing are responsible for selling maybe 2-3 new titles a week, and they just don't have time).

Seems I bought a case of con crud home with me from Dublin; the first server software upgrade went off okay, but then I spent the rest of the week dying of Ebola man flu rather than working. This puts me behind schedule and means that I'm going to be busy for the next few weeks playing catch-up—I have a novel to redraft and deliver by mid-month (the sixth Laundry Files book, "The Annihilation Score"), and another novel to redraft and submit in final form before the end of the year (ideally before the end of November: "Dark State", book 1 of a trilogy that really needs a better title than "Merchant Princes: The Next Generation").

I am hoping to lay on some guest bloggers in the next couple of weeks (all being well we should have visits from Nicola Griffith and Kameron Hurley). And I'm still going to see if I can frame my thoughts on Scottish independence coherently. However, that last one is going to have to wait until after I finally exorcize the shoggoth that's currently haunting my nasal sinuses.

Tomorrow morning (UK time) we will be updating the operating system on the server this blog and website runs on. Service may be intermittent as we're going to have to reboot it at least once. (In case you're wondering it's on Debian Stable, but an old release thereof—so it's time to blow off the cobwebs and bring it up to date.)

[this stage is now completed]

Some time in October the server is going to be switched off and spend about six hours overnight in the back of a truck as it is moved to a new hosting centre. I'll give you some more warning in the days before the move. Note that this is "overnight" in UK time, so it'll be an afternoon outage for most of you.

Next, Google have (un-)helpfully announced that, in an attempt to drive the internet onto SSL (to reduce third-party snooping) they are soon going to begin down-ranking search results from non-encrypted web servers (i.e. results obtained over HTTP, not HTTPS).

I'm home. Two weeks on the road, 1300 miles driven, two international car ferries, two large SF conventions (the worldcon and the eurocon) and about six business meetings later ... I'm home. So normal blogging will resume once I catch my breath, work my way through the washing pile and the correspondence car-crash, and get time to think.

(Meanwhile. Some of you might have noticed that we're now into the last three weeks and change of the Scottish independence referendum campaign, and a major political debate took place yesterday. I wrote about the Scottish political singularity a while ago; I can write some more, if you want me to—or I can keep the blog a Scottish referendum free zone if enough of you yell at me. Opinions in comments, please!)

(Note to visitors: I am not American and this is not an American blog. Please check your cultural assumptions!)

I’m on a work/vacation road trip, but I’ve been unable to avoid the bad news coming out of Ferguson. And thinking about the wider societal questions that it raises.

How many of these fundamental principles of policing (emphases mine) are the police in Ferguson still following, either in practice or even just to the extent of paying lip service?

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them*.

It seems to me that if they’re not committed to the Peelian principles, then they’re not a police force: they’re something else. And the mind-set of a gendarme is not the mind-set of a police officer; it’s the mind-set of a soldier at war.

(Footnote: Yes, I am aware of the role of racism in determining the unadmitted objectives of American policing, and I believe I know what current events in Ferguson are really about (warning: dark humor alert). But what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander and even if you’re not a member of one of the cultures on the receiving end of the jackboot today, the fact that the jackboot exists means that it may be used against you in future. Beware of complacency and apathy; even if you think you are protected by privilege, nobody is immune. See also Martin Niemoller.)

I, um, appear to have won another Hugo award.

Things have been kind of hectic this past week (it's a worldcon: I also threw a large birthday party—I turn 50 in about 8 weeks time—and we drove 450 miles to get here), hence the lack of blogging. I'll try and say something coherent in the next day or two, but tomorrow I've got to drive another 300-odd miles, en route to Dublin for the Eurocon.

In the meantime, my thanks to everyone in the WSFS who voted for "Equoid". And we had an excellent set of results last night.

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