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A Short Hallowe'en Horror Story

[The scene: The Oval Office. The President is addressing the nation -- and the wider world.]

"My fellow Americans:

"I'd like to start by confessing to a minor, but necessary, deception. My published biography has up to now listed my highest academic achievement as being an MBA. I'd like to take this opportunity to correct the record by revealing that in actual fact it was a Masters' degree in social psychology. In addition, I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize for dissembling about my intelligence to you, over the past decade. Believe me, it has been hard work pretending to be stupid. However, I am sure that those of you who have spent the past six years disparaging my lack of insight will be relieved to learn that your President is in fact a former member of MENSA, and has a higher IQ than Richard Feynman.

"And now, for the key issue I'd like to talk about today. For the past six years, in addition to occupying the office of President of the United States, I have been working on my doctoral thesis — a large-scale empirical verification of the pioneering studies of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo. After consulting with my supervisors, Professors Cheney and bin Laden, I have concluded that the control phase of the largest ever experiment in applied social psychology has achieved its intended goals. We are therefore terminating the so-called 'War on Terror' with immediate effect. Thank you for you co-operation, which has been deeply appreciated. Those of you who have found yourself assigned to the 'reality based community' for the past six years will doubtless be relieved to learn that your performance has been excellent. I'd also like to ask for a warm round of applause for your 'winger' opponents, who have given sterling service in following their thankless (albeit lucrative) script.

"Finally, I'm very pleased to announce that the next phase of the experiment will commence shortly. Good night, and sleep well."

(This is Jay Lake's fault. He's been challenging SF writers to come up with their scariest short horror story for the season ...)

34 Comments

1:

LOL. And then protracted shuddering. Well done!

Bush is NOT as dumb as he dissembles. See video of his first run for office in Texas. He was advised to play the role of aw shucks common man cowboy frat boy. That's one grain of truth. That we are the subjects of social experiments is certainly true, by major parties.

I could go on, but this worked at making me uncomfortable beyond Halloween norms. Ray Bradbury's favorite holiday is today. And he thopugh Reagan was "a great president."

Can you expand, Charlie? Please?

2:

I just want to know what the next stage of the experiment is.....

3:

That last line ought to have triggered a horror response, but was routing through the part of my brain that has already been numbed by paying attention to the news. Maybe it’ll evoke a shudder if I re-read it in a few years...

4:

I shat myself.

5:

How'd I do, Dick?

Your reading is improving, GW. You want to discuss Phase Two?

Yeah! Looky! I got all these free samples of this stuff called Enzyte, this big bottle of Viagra outta my daddy's bathroom, and a buncha E, and (unzips fly)I think that with this baby, I can f**k'em ALL! 200 millyin, is that going to be a record?

200 million is the OLD record. You're going to have to do better'n that, George, but you got the winning attitude. You can do it!

Yeah, I THINK I can! I THINK I can! ...That's a quote from a book that I read, once.

6:

Hm. I think I've been inspired to add a section to a..er..slightly satirical RPG I've run a few times.

Of course, said RPG started with a PLIF comic:

http://plif.andkon.com/archive/wc161.gif

(PLIF is NOT worksafe. Really.)

7:

Am I the only person who didn't find this scary at all, but oddly reassuring, like waking from a nightmare and realising it was, er, a nightmare?

8:

Oh, I think finding out George Bush really is the beloved instrument of God would be much, MUCH scarier.

9:

Well, Jesus was the beloved instrument of God, too, and look what happened to him...:)

10:

Maybe I'm a little thick, but I don't get it... :(


Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, is the New London in the Merchant Princes series the same New London that's in Connecticut (founded 1646)? And if not, where is it and what happened to the original New London? It's been bothering me....

11:

Andrew G: the sting is in the penultimate sentence. OK?

(And no, New London is the core administrative city around the royal palace on Manhattan Island, off the coast of New York.)

12:

Ah, I get it now...

And thanks for claifying my geography question. With all travelling between alternate New Yorks and Bostons, I wasn't sure if they were stopping along the way in New London, CT. (An amusing side note for those in the UK -- New London is on the Thames river, which we Americans pronounce with the TH sound and a long A. I got some odd looks the first time I said it the British way...)

The two alternate worlds you've created are very interesting I look foward to seeing how the three worlds interact in future books...

13:

I'm afraid I did not find the ending chilling; I think I'd still rather be the subject of a ruthlessly and intelligently conducted experiment than subject to people who are so delusional they simply have no idea what they are doing. To put it differently, at this point being the subject of an evil genius would be a relief.

14:

The scary part is that "control phase" means "without experimental condition", "phase 2" likely is "with experimental condition", whatever that may be. Use of weapons (oops, sorry, wrong author), or something.

15:

Those in the concentration camps and the gulag were sujects of evil genii - I think you are wrong Mr. Royston.

In the meantime - SCREAM!

16:

You only got one thing wrong. Mr Bush delivered the speech in fluent Chinese (well, he sure as hell doesn't speak American like it is his first language)

17:

Yep, that's scary, all right. And yet, also a relief, somehow....

(On another note, this is the first time I've ever clicked on one of your permalinks since you got this set-up, because I wanted to save the post before a reboot, and I really hate the lack of margins. Can you fix it?)

18:

Eh? What do you hate -- the lack of margins?

19:

Am I the only person who didn't find this scary at all, but oddly reassuring, like waking from a nightmare and realising it was, er, a nightmare?

Yep, that was pretty much my response too. We're in deep shit but at least we're not crazy, you know?

20:

Mr. Tingey:

The millions of Russians and Ukrainians who starved to death under Stalin's Lysenkoist genetics experiments and the roughly 40 million Chinese who starved to death during Mao's "Great Leap Forward" were the victims of idiots who thought they had moved beyond bourgeois ideals of science and economics. A good fraction of the Cambodian million genocide likewise died because the Khmer Rouge had likewise decided that neither modern medicine nor traditional agriculture practices were important to their new society. I could go on, but that's probably enough; I do believe willful stupidity really is more deadly than evil intelligence.

21:

Clifton : I agree. Evil intelligence will at least look at the long-range view, will consider economic realities, and will also generally not be influenced by jingoism. The fanatical Muslims (and certain South American politicians) refer to GWB as Satan. I think this is giving him far too much credit, and doing a disservice to Satan as well. I'm also pretty sure Satan can construct a grammatical sentence. It's hard to imagine GWB tempting Jesus on the mountain...

So - given that I'm an atheist, and wouldn't have much success - is there anyone out there willing to get The Dark Lord involved in running for the 2008 US Presidential election? Or at least a minor demon or two (with the exception of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson, who seem to be occupied)...

22:

The funny thing is, Feynman's actual measured IQ wasn't especially high, only about 1 standard deviation above the mean. Shows you what standardized tests are good for.

23:

Feynman, if he didn't exist, would have to have been invented by Asimov or Heinlein or Ellison or Sturgeon, an unbelieveably brilliant and creative polymath who hated authority, was a practical joker, was the world's #1 amateur safecracker, the world's #1 amateur decoder of Mayan codices, and (in an Asimovian way) played the role of playboy (but was mostly bluffing).

I probably shouldn't be defending my coauthor and mentor Richard P. Feynman, BUT... A.J.'s claim that "Feynman's actual measured IQ wasn't especially high" is as dubious as the urban myth that Einstein flunked math. Given that Feynman was considered "World's Smartest Man" in one poll suggests some disconnect here.

I've personally known several prople well who were considered "World's Smartest" including Stephen Hawking, Feynman, Murray Gell-Mann, and the person who got the highest score ever seen before or since in the standard U.S. military IQ test, Herman Kahn. With any of these boffins, if they were having a bad day and I was having a good day, we were on the same page. Otherwise, they were obviously supergeniuses. Yes, I know, "The Mismeasure of Man", Binet, yadda yadda.

Further, Bush is NOT as dumb as he pretends (I iterate), expecially if one considers the theory of multiple intelligences. Bush ranks extremely high on the personal/emotional intelligence (hate to say). Evidence includes the process that ensued where he applied to be in Skull & Bones at Yale. One at a time, he was introduced to each of the members. Then (test!) he was asked to identify them. He pointed at one after the other and named all of the roughly 50 names perfectly. He was not only in, but asked to run for office immediately. Again, this is scary because it has multiple grains of truth.

24:

Johnathon,

The Skull and Bones thing? He's was still using that wire years later for presidential debates :-)

Joking aside, I think he's a sociopath, and they are rarely if ever both dumb and out of prison.

Regards, Cernig

25:

Which is more desirable, being a victim of a grand conspiracy or living in a chaotic world peopled by madmen and swindlers? No wonder the religious right cling to their 'childish certainties' (to paraphrase Richard Dawkins). Great existential horror story Charlie.

26:

Now, cut that out, Charlie! I have enough trouble sleeping as it is. Of course we're the subjects of experimentation; but the experimenters are at the level of a seven year old with a chemistry set: "Cool, let's see what happens if I mix this green powder with this pale violet liquid!"

Quoth Clifton:

So - given that I'm an atheist, and wouldn't have much success - is there anyone out there willing to get The Dark Lord involved in running for the 2008 US Presidential election? Or at least a minor demon or two (with the exception of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and James Dobson, who seem to be occupied)...

As I mentioned in a previous thread, there's a strong movement to write in Cthulhu for president in 2008, with the slogan "Why vote for a lesser evil?" See link for bumper sticker. Some have suggested that Cthulhu has had its chance, and it's time for vaster and deeper powers like the Unspeakable One, but I ask you, how can you get a soundbite?

27:

From dictionary.com (only the applicable definitions):

1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.
2. manifestation of a high mental capacity: He writes with intelligence and wit.
3. the faculty of understanding.

George W Bush doesn't fit any of these definitions. I would suggest the word "faculty" (as in definition 3) to define his skills, and thus the phrase "emotional/social faculty". Intelligence is concerned with reasoning about facts, not with remembering the names of people who might vote for you, or encourage you to run for president.

I know I'm going to get flamed for this, but I think intelligence (IQ) is a measure of the set of skills involved with reasoning and ability to use logical analysis and mental imagery to solve problems. Re-defining the word to include every way in which in a person can excel is, frankly, condescending to those who possess intelligence, and those who don't. Whatever happening to the word "skill" or "ability"? Intelligence is a measure of intellectual ability (along several axes). Otherwise you end up talking about someone's "athletic intelligence", which is just silly. What "intelligence" do you grant to a really dumb person who is very pretty? I can't even think of phrase that would be suitable. "Aesthetic intelligence"? No - because it's NOT a skill, and if it was, that would refer to Art, not to how attractive one was.

Sorry. My 17c. (based on USD/SA currency exchange rate).

28:

1. capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, RELATIONSHIPS, facts, meanings, etc.
[allcaps by post]

I stand by my comment.

"Blaming George W. Bush for everything that has gone wrong these last years is a lot like blaming Mickey Mouse when Disney screws up."
The Rat Pack
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 06 November 2006

Blaming Tony Blair, ditto. Mel Gibson blaming the Jews, ditto in italics (or in Hebrew).

29:

Jonathan, I don't think the definition you quoted uses "relationships" to mean inter-personal relationships - I think it means relationships between events, objects, etc. And what's wrong with restricting the meaning of the word "intelligence" so that it doesn't mean "everything"? Never mind. It's obviously a sensitive topic, and I'll gladly throw in my towel.

You're also right when you say we shouldn't blame GWB for everything that has gone wrong. At least he has made decisions - and who is to say in his position we would not have done the same thing? But there's also a case to be made that we did not seek to become President of the United States and be in a position to make precisely those decisions, whereas he did. A former US President realized that responsibility, and I think he would be asking : And the buck stops where, exactly?

30:

I knew it! I knew it!

31:

as the husband of a wife, who, in her job, uses a lot of IQ-Tests (she's a psychologist), I can quote somebody who knows about these things (IQ-Tests) thusly:
"Intelligence is whatever is measured by a particular IQ-test. There is no other definition that makes sense. And since IQ-tests change all the time, the definition of intelligence changes all the time."

32:

I hereby formally surrender.

33:

Obviously it was one of these modern, better uses of the word "intelligence" that GWB was using when he came up with the conclusion that US Intelligence had revealed the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

I had to say that, I'm sorry. I couldn't resist.

34:

ah. damn. those pesky translations from German again. *pounds head on table repeatedly*
"intelligence is not the same as Intelligenz. It can also mean a second thing, see CIA". Maybe I'll remember that now. I was talking about the kind that is meant by the I in IQ.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 31, 2006 5:26 PM.

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