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Where is my white cat and my Eames recliner?

If I was a 20th century super-villain, obviously I'd want to live here, in a data center with 40 centimetre thick blast doors, designed to withstand a nuclear strike.

I'd also want one of these as my run-around (with a shark pool under the conference table for under-performing executives, of course).

But these concepts of super-villaindom are ever so slightly passé and non-virtual — hypertrophied visions of pre-21st century luxury. What would a true 21st century supervillain lifestyle look like? A very slim aluminium briefcase containing an iPhone and a Coutts platinum Visa card, perhaps? (After all, if you're that rich, everything is effectively disposable except information ...)

64 Comments

1:

A 21st century villain needs to be, above all, invisible. A Keyser Söze - offline and online.

2:

In the 21st century, you won't be able to get up to much villainy without your own private botnet. Serious crime requires serious computing power, and you can't rely on the conventional cloud computing platforms since they'd be to easy to infiltrate. So I'd have a botnet where each zombie runs a virtualised node of a big distributed compute cloud. To avoid traffic analysis, the nodes would communicate using a private Tor-like network, and would also have a big distributed hash table to store data in, since you can't rely any of your zombies being around forever, you need redundancy.

The entire thing could be controlled from your iphone, so that when you're blackmailing a country by threatening to DDoS its government network (for ONE MILLION DOLLARS), you can push a big red button from wherever you are. Secret lairs are passé.

3:

Are you aware of this (1) talk? It touches the very same subject, in a more elaborated way :)

(1) http://magicalnihilism.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/who-stole-my-volcano/

4:

I always thought a 21st Century supervillain would have a bunch of Sun Black Boxes (http://www.sun.com/products/sunmd/s20/) in constant movement on the world's oceans: a DEE, or distributed evil environment. The Cloudvillain. And so on...

5:

I've already got the superior white (cream-cloured, actually) cat, supervising the computer.

I think I'll e-mail you Charlie, with a photo attached, and hope your spam-filters don't eat it.

I mean, given a Birman tom, called "Ratatosk" who is UNSPEAKABLY CUTE, you SHOULD be ruling the planet.

Shouldn't you?

6:

The problem with the out-of-a-suitcase super-villain is motive. What do you do if you can't have the secret headquarters? How do you, let's face it, show off?

Perhaps that nice suburban Mr. Johnson, who commutes into the City every day, spends his time around the wi-fi hot-spots, being a super-villain. And maybe it's just the family business: his grandfather was the looney, and all he does is move packages and make deals.

Not very different from some of the city traders who got the world into the mess it's in.

Maybe, somewhere in a maze of twisted derivatives, there is a futures market in Cocaine?

7:

A shipping container with a satellite dish on the roof. Or possibly a single USB stick.

8:

So, I guess you'd have to crowd-source your henchmen? Because you still need henchmen.

Hmmm. I guess the model for the modern super-villain is Richard Branson.

9:

mort: bingo, I did see this piece -- I just couldn't locate it when I went looking for my own blog piece.

Strongly recommended.

Dave @5: when you need to show off, you do what any enterprising 419 scammer does -- you hire the movie set. Or the colo center. And the minions. (As per-hour contractors.) It's a lot cheaper than running them 24x365.

(PS: I refer y'all to the afterword to "The Jennifer Morgue", in which I interview Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whose biggest gripe is that Sir James Goldsmith got a knighthood, but all he got was James Bond and the sharp end of a license to kill.)

10:

Let's see:

A villa in the French alps. just across the border from my money... and well above sea level so that when my Evil Plan involves melting the polar icecaps if I'm not paid one million dollars — because real supervillainy involves getting everyone to believe that you, and only you, are responsible for the consequences of inevitable "natural" forces — I don't have to give away my location by making an appointment with the removal men.

A specialized supercomputer interface tricked up to look like an ordinary Crackberry device that is preprogrammed with all of the back doors written into widely used cryptosystems, especially those connected with the finance industry and nuclear weapons release protocols, and operating through a private, unjammable satellite system that is controlled through an unwittingly added critical component of the International Space Station's life-support system.

An army of zombie henchmen controlled by use of subliminal messages hidden inside of advertising placed on right-wing-nutcase talk-radio and TV shows, and since they're all capitalists I don't have to pay them at all (they'll live off the plunder) — and, as many of them are already elected officials, they'll have priority access to transportation and information.

A Sekrit Laboratory near the headwaters of the Amazon, guarded by both vicious aboriginals and vicious native life, in which I perform experiments with dubious scientific basis (but lots of kewl-sounding mumbo-jumbo descriptions, for the benefit of the screenwriters) on members of the finance industry and EuroMPs... drat, I've just given away what I've actually been doing for the last three decades!

11:

One of the problems with being a super-villain is that the Forces of Justice keep trying to knock you off your perch. The primary function of an evil lair is not just somewhere to execute your nefarious scheme, but also to keep you safe from interfering meddlers.

(Given that a 21st-century villain is likely to be conducting electronic crimes, keeping a base of operations around just to house a server farm is redundant when there are botnets out there that will significantly exceed the bandwidth, storage and processing potential of anything you could build without drawing unwanted attention.

Plus, being distributed, you don't have to worry so much about total system failures. Or hardware maintenance.)

The threats facing a modern supervillian may be quite different to one from the previous century; importantly, given that you're no-longer tied to a specific geographical position to carry out your dastardly deeds, it may be better to operate as a low-profile mobile agent rather than trying to establish a hidden yet ostentatious base of operations.

[ Which is in contravention of Brian's Guide to Evil Lairs, but I suppose that can't be helped. ]

The problem comes with how to protect yourself in the event of discovery; as the late Q famously advised, "Always have an escape plan.."

12:

I think your 21st Century supervillain (21CSV) has to reflect the shift in wealth between the mid-20th Century and this one, and the shift in _reach_.

So your boat-fortress / volcano fortress / underground fortress / island fortress no longer cuts it.

Your 21CSV has, at minimum, Taiwan-level sovereignty. Your first-rank 21CSV has UN membership.

Your army of drones / clones / fanatical guards no longer cuts it.

Your 21CSV simply recruits, hires, dispatches tasks, and pays on the Internet. Your 21CSV has a PayPal Merchant account, a standing army and an Intelligence Directorate.

Your "$20 million dollars" not longer cuts it, either, but we all knew that.

Your 21CSV has a currency, a central bank, and at _minimum_ one stock market.

Your 21CSV is, to put it in two words, Dick Cheney.

13:

Probably an Apple Air customized with gold trim.

You need a satphone or three. And of course you need a SIM server and multiple handsets and you need lots of untraceable SIMs.

If you don't have this then GCHQ or the NSA will be listening in to the commands you give your minions - both human and pwned 'botnets.

Ditto the cards. A single platinum visa card is too easy to track through the payment system. A few dozen from different banks and probably in different names and with different addresses will be required to disguise purchases.

Oh and a wad of cash for those awkward moments when you need to buy the entire contents of a market stall in Portobello road so as to disguise your identification of the valuable old master at one end.

A variety of diplomatic passports and other similar high security IDs would be needed too. Again no good if they are all in the name of S Villain. William Super, S.U.V. Illain and other aliases will be required.

I think you should probably have a car. A tricked out Range Rover with extra batteries to recharge all those aforementioned phones and with a small storage system/server to store all the stuff that you don't want hanging around on teh intertubes.

14:

Dick Cheney. Seriously. He's probably the closest example to an evil overlord in the real world.

Somebody who is very well known to the public but is legally immune, very rarely seen or and is seldom heard from except when he wants to exercise his malevolence.

15:

Since they estimate the computing power of the human brain at around 10 petaflops, I want 10 of these in the Pionen data center, then I will download into it and have my own singularity.

16:

@ 10
Hmmmm .. 21CSV

Let's see - feeling inadequate and underloved, but can't help thretening people.
Those who DO cross you come to public bad ends.
Lots of communications ready-to-hand, and already available, and lots of "muscle" which is nonetheless deniable.
I note the UN membership requirement, but you also need both "secure" AND "leaky" boders simultaneously, and uncertain (YOU now how much you've got, but other people don't) levels of both weapons-grade fissionables, and (these days) bio-weapons as well.

Erm.
I nominate: Vladimir Putin

17:

What about influence? What if your evil plans actually didn't need power or money - they would get those things from the people they inspired? Would you only need a web site, an excellent conference booker, and probably, yes, an Apple Air?

In short, the modern or rather postmodern supervillain is Bruce Sterling.

Again no good if they are all in the name of S Villain. William Super, S.U.V. Illain and other aliases will be required.

This actually worked quite well for Viktor Bout, who is as close to a practising Bond villain as you're likely to get. He used spellings including but not limited to But, Boot, Bout, Bott, Butt, Bota, Victor, Viktor, Vic, Vik; which suggests that the CIA couldn't do a wildcard search or use the SQL HAVING... or LIKE... commands until very recently.

18:

Hello from Sweden. I haven't been down to that data center, but a friend has. He thought it was pretty rad. I'd like to just walk around there a few mintues just to feel the air.
And obviously it wasn't originally a data, but a nuclear shelter that they rebuilt now that the Cold War is no more.

19:

Curmudgeon beat me to it.

Short of that, I imagine he'd pretty much live at airports and on airplanes, flying from one manmade catastrophe to another, directing his henchmen via multiple layers of misdirection via cellphone and laptop. In short, he'd look like every other business traveller. Except for the white persian cat.

20:

Adam is correct: Thurayya satphone, laptop, and a good mailing list is all you need. No one keeps hired guns on payroll these days; EO and all its children just called them up as and when. I think the model for the modern version of SPECTRE - no comment intended on their moral standing - is either Sandline or MEND.

Island and mountain hideaways are hangovers from the days of traditional seize-the-strategic-ground warfare. Nowadays the only vital ground is inside people's heads, and the supervillain will move from safe house to safe house in the megacities of the emerging world.

21:

If shaking the very foundation of Western democracy, as well as contributing in his own way to the near downfall of the world economy fits the bill, then he person best fitting the description is living modestly in a cave in Wiziristan or perhaps a small appartment in Karachi.

22:

Hmmm. The Super Villains of the 20th all were super rich, super organized, with super location. All with a healthy dollop of conspicuous consumption thrown in for that extra evil flair. The goal was either make lots of money, or WORLD DOMINATION!!

Super Villains of the 21st would still need to be super rich, and also super organized. Location, though, is variable. Conspicuous consumption is still a solid way to display that extra evil flair, though these days a certain excessive ideological purity would almost do better to convey this. Making lots of money is still a top goal, but that's likely to be secondary to some other goal like the overthrow of the Western Financial System, or gaining control of third world organized crime.

Super location would be something like a massive botnet, allowing the super-villain NSA-like abilities to crack encryption codes (note, this is the NSA of mythology, not the NSA of reality; where 1024-bit keys are cracked in mere minutes, and 4Kb keys are considered a worthy but paltry challenge). There will be at least a 45 second expository gloat about the millions of subverted computers doing his evil bidding. Though there may be a math genius in some out of the way nook coming up with crypto-cracks, who will have to be rescued/killed.

The dictates of Movie Super Villainry still require that they be a snappy dresser, and exist in the high powered business world. Though this trope can be put away if said Super Villain is looking to crash the Western financial system, at which point he would be just as menacing as a bearded Asian in a coffee shop so long as we get enough over-the-shoulder shots of the havoc he is wreaking online to establish that this is THE evil-mastermind.

And yes, Minionry has been outsourced. It really doesn't pay to keep a 24x7 staff on hand. There may be a small few fully committed co-conspirators, but they won't be /minions/. The minionry would be supplied by controlled organized crime syndicates, and we've all read about the Russian Business Network and their malware empire so we know about this kind of thing already. Little did we know that they're actually the pawns of a guy in an Islamabad coffee shop. This is what will provide the needed car/motorcycle/boat/plane chase sequences.

Of course, tracking down the bearded evil mastermind will require interrogating lots of /people/. Because online still isn't sexy enough to really grab.

However... if the mobsters are holding meetings in an MMPORPG it could provide an excuse for an FX-heavy shot of monsters talking in some fantastic tavern. And provide a key advertising tie-in for the movie makers. Our Hero will have to get into the MMPORPG and sneak around. Which could be its own excuse for fully-digital chase sequences.

Heck, you could get a couple movies out of that.

23:

What about the next super-villain as being the synergetic resultant of the actions of many less-than-super villains?

24:

I'm beginning to wonder just hopw many Charles Stross fan-fic plots we're going to produce before he notices

25:

Don't know about supervillains, tempted to say it might be an 18 year old boy with a laptop who wants to get even with the girl who dumped him, and things get out of hand.

As for henchmen; Charlie's already shown how to recruit them without them even knowing it --SPOOKS, in 'Halting State' (hope I'm not getting ahead of myself, I'm just into the last third. Not my intent to spoil anything.)

Kind of surprised that no one has suggested turning Cheyenne Mountain into a data center, now that NORAD's operations have been moved out (or in process of). Of course, the Air Force still owns it.

Though, there are decommissioned silo/bunkers up for sale occasionally. But do you really need a hydrogen bomb proof bunker for a data center?

26:

Comfort is never dispensable. It's all very well to travel light, but one needs a good place to store one's treasures. I suppose if it's late in the century this could all be condensed into a VR suit, though...in which case even a cheap hotel would suffice if it had decent security...but that puts you as the mercy of the hotel manager. A lair, even a small one, would seem to be a necessity.

27:

Here is a Bond-style gadget for you. (Too bad it's a joke.)

28:

I only know one person who set up a secret Caribbean island base, and he was rocked the black American Express card. Unfortunately he wasted a lot of his evil genius points on Oompa-Loompa porn, which turned out not to be the threat to world stability that one might hope.

Also, anyone speculating on JIT goonage is full of it. As far as I saw the muscle is still the same old school, and access to it requires the same connections that it always did.

29:

Re: #24, here is the URL for the webpage for the utterly cool joke object that I described as "Bondian". http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/11/26/usb_toaster/

30:

Look, it's been done.

He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them. He does little himself. He only plans. But his agents are numerous and splendidly organized. Is there a crime to be done, a paper to be abstracted, we will say, a house to be rifled, a man to be removed–the word is passed to the professor, the matter is organized and carried out.

31:

Not a platinum visa. An iphone with a credit card slot on the back. It ejects a visa card each time you want to use it. Use once, then slide it back in, where the mag strip is re-written with a new, disposable credit card number. It'll do phone calls (each on a different phone number, while spoofing the government mandated GPS reporting), but it will also do video calls.

Your henchmen work as telecommuters for a series of front companies, which are all doing perfectly legitimate business. When you need attack muscle, the local/state/national police provide it.

And what do you do with all this? Financial terrorism.

32:

Brilliant Pebbles from orbit.

Someone displeases you and its a Mach 25 fist of god from 100 miles up, straight through the head.

Talk softly and carry a big stick.

33:

I wouldn't have specified Cheney, but certainly some politician. They can cover their tracks and be invisible.

What others have described is the movie version of villain, and real villians are too smart to be that visible.

34:

@32: Like, oh, Silvio Berlusconi? Who changed the law retroactively to define his activities as entirely legal?

The trouble with criminology as a science is it can only study the criminals who got caught -- the dumb ones, in other words. Super-crims don't get caught -- they get made president or prime minister instead.

35:

"Super Villains" are passe. I remember watching Bond movies and wondering why the heck they were trying to conquer the world with all that wonderful tech, when they could go legit and just _buy_ the world with the money they would make.

I mean, single stage to orbit with orbital capture and return, and they're using it to start a war (to make money in the chaos)?!? Don't be stupid.

The 21c supervillain will be doing it for a different reason. They will be leveraged out their eyeballs, living in their parent's basement. I've got a credit card with a 50k limit. I can buy a _lot_ of compute time on EC2 with that.

Start from the motivation, and then generate the cheapest plan to see it happen. Drop the typical supervillain, the guy of the future is the ritalin damaged, middle-aged, womanless, live-at-home, loser with an axe to grind.

Think Richard Pryor (Superman III), or Michael Douglas (Falling Down), only out to destroy the world because he doesn't like you. Mix in the doomsday of your choice (CPU, GM, viral, grey goo, etc), and serve.

36:

Super villains would just be part of the establishment. He/she would probably be a CEO of a major corporation, be on teh boards of many companies, have influence at the highest political levels for safety and would, for all intents and purposes, be untouchable. The crimes would not be nuclear blackmail, cornering the gold market, or any other obvious and visible crime, but would be a systematic looting of economies using legal means.

37:

Let me rephrase a little bit. I think that the supervillains of the 21c will come in two flavours.

There will be ones who you will look at once you've tracked them down and go, "WTF?"

Then there ones who will object strongly to the title of supervillain. They will see Bond-style villains as flashy wannabes, who failed to exercise their power efficiently. They will be the ones who will look at an unstable system and apply a tiny bit of leverage to move it into an entirely different state (or just cause chaos).

Both will be leveraged, low equity and low profile. No flashy bases, no satellite weaponry, and no henchmen. No secrets to share, although the guy in the basement is probably trying to brag to a girl. ;)

Imagine someone hacking into Berkshire Hathaway's computers and using them to take obvious short positions on various banks and hedge funds in the current stock market. Would that cause another crash? A run on _all_ the banks?

I agree with Pedro, he'll be like Keyser Soze.

38:

Well, I think Scott McCloud may have gotten the jump on you with 9-jack-9. Hmmm.

39:

"... controls the crime on the West coast in an empty basement with nothing but a phone and a notepad, and he lives in a trunk and has never been seen. Anyone who DOES see him dies brutally, on the spot." - Gail Simone, on the villain of her current run on Secret Six. Seems to jibe with the consensus image we're forming here of what a 21st-Century villain looks like.

That said, this vision seems very ... isolated. The powers of today's world seem to lie in the networks, in connections and nexuses. Any 21C Bond villains would need to reflect that. Good thing then, that Quantum of Solace does.

40:

# 35
By that definition it has to be, in order of preference;
Vladimir Putin
Silvio Berlusconi
Dick Cheney

41:

G. Tingey @39, see @33.

42:

What happened to the Hero who heals the spiritual ills of the world? Is he really gone :(

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hero_with_a_Thousand_Faces

43:

Well we've got the hang of outsourcing everything except evil plotting and (optionally) cat-stroking. But couldn't a 21st century supervillain also work in an open source way? Leak your techniques and technology onto the internet. Semi-supervillains, tech-savvy terrorists and idiot hobbyists will be building stealth suits, plasma cannon, impenetrable armour and flying cars everywhere. The authorities will never spot your plot while trying to deal with that chaos, and you get a free testbed for everything.

Meanwhile, finance ongoing operations with the profits from your high-priced security consultancy which can always predict the next development.

44:

Even in the age of network warfare there's something to be said for having an agent on the ground. I think a 21st century supervillain would use all the distributed evil the Internet can provide, outsourcing thuggery and military power as appropriate, but there'd still be a few minions on fulltime payroll, with benefits. They'd be comfortably ensconced near high positions of power in large corporations and government agencies, where their job would be to monitor and manipulate the attitudes of decision makers in ways that are difficult to do electronically. For instance, taking a Minister to a brothel and showing him the pictures afterward, pouring poison into the ear of an Undersecretary, or encouraging the greed of a CFO.

45:

At LOSCON 35 last night, where I got to introduce my son f2f to GOH John Scalzi [see my slightly longer con report on his "Whatever" blog], at least one person (UK accent) identified me as someone whose name they recognized primarily as "on the Charles Stross blog." Just saying...

I don't like Dick Cheney. But he is clearly good at doing what he does. I don't tag him as a super-villain. Closer to Dr. Evil's #2.

The super villain, does not engage in anything as obvious as terrorist attacks nor botnets nor blackmail. It's strict business. For example:

(1) Promote changes to global climate that cause sea levels to rise rapidly;
(2) Buy real estate which shall become beach-front property;
(3) Profit.

I point towards, say, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gives away more money than any other private charity. Fights diseases worldwide. Buys real estate which shall become beach-front property.

I am not attacking Bill Gates personally. Nor Dick Cheney. Nor other Cheney-esque henchman of the Rumsfeld/Feith/Rove/Wolfowitz meta-axis of declaring axes of evil. Just pointing out that, by USA law, the ONLY legal purpose of a corporation is profit. If the Board of Directors decides to also save the world, destroy the world, or valorize Dark Fantasy above Hard Science Fiction, then the stockholder will throw out those board members and replace them with people who disperse better cash dividends.

Mind you, a super villain need not be Capitalist. Hitler and Mao and Stalin, and Pol Pot, for example. But to do supervillany in a world where Capitalism de facto defeated Communism in an epic 75 year struggle almost everywhere (except Cuba and other minor nations, and the faculty of many universities), it behooves a supervillain to at least have a #2 who understands the workings of Capitalism. Credit Default Swaps and all.

I also admit that I dislike minor henchmen being called "rocket scientists" or "quants." I'm a real rocket scientist, dammit. And I try so very hard to get my high school students to use quantitative reasoning.

As in my 1979 conference paper "Quintillabit: Parameters of a Hyperlarge database" which someone has kindly scanned in as a PDF easily found, from the IEEE proceedings of 1980. My quantitative predictions of 1999-2000 A.D. (made, as I say, 20 years earlier) include:

* 6 x 10^9 people
* 1 x 10^9 of them using a global data network
* a megabit for a buck at home
* 10^18 bits of personal data in the network
* personal long-distance "wrist radio" for 3 cents/minute
* music library for 30 cents/hour
* Computer/Communications industry at 12% of Gross World Priduct

I was also wrong:
* CB radio by satellite (Daddy. what's CB?)
* video conferencing for $100/hour (cheaper, more widespread, lower res)

and vague:
* computer links and information service at 10 cents to $10/hour
* terabit chip (well, a bunch of chips parallel in one little box)

Supervillains. Profit motive trumps ideology. Infrastructure.

46:

Neil @43, I know a SMOF who is starting a cat-sitting business, so that can be outsourced, too.

47:

Marilee, I've cat-sat myself. Although not for supervillains so far as I know. And probably not for profit; usually it's for friends and I've housesat at the same time.

I'm also considering what it is that makes a supervillain a supervillain. I would start with the obvious: Both their methods and objectives should be evil; methods and objective should also be extraordinary. In fiction, it requires extraordinary methods and/or people to defeat him (or her).

48:

Of course cats can be outsourced. I designed the business model in this comments thread. Now whurrs my cash?

49:

Jonathan @ 45: I wonder about the demographics and the nature of social links here. I'm not in fandom (he says in response to a thread a few pages down on an author's blog :-) I'd probably ID you as being from here too.

What never showed up in predictions was www.cutethingsfallingasleep.org, which just seems like an important object of study. (I don't think I will read any lessons from it now.)

Your paper sounds worthwhile though. Isn't CB just geolocalized voip twitter anyway? We're sure spending a lot of effort to find "friends near me" when "RF-reachable" was a first approximation.

50:

The villain of the future is the white cat: his consciousness uploaded and speech mastered, he operates via a collar-mounted voice box, runs for office on a platform that promises compulsory workday naps, and thereafter deals with issues of overpopulation by spaying and neutering us all, then euthanizing those without "licences" to their homes. Charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, he simply explains that his own species has endured similar treatment in first-world nations the world over. "Would you rather we eat you, the way we are consumed in those places you visit as tourists?" he might ask.

Actually I had wanted to do a story just like this, called "Mr. Jangles Goes to Washington," and if somebody dares me I'll probably go for it.

51:

Hmm. Actually, the short story I'm now trying to figure out how to write is the one about the 21st century supervillain, from the point of view of their not-terribly-bright cat-sitter.

52:

Charlie @51 ...the one about the 21st century supervillain, from the point of view of their not-terribly-bright cat-sitter.

Hey, I said the people I cat-sat for weren't supervillains already! One was a lawyer though.

Knowing that you're not a TV watcher, there's an episode of the Simpsons in which Homer gets employed by a Supervillain, which he's almost entirely oblivious too. I doubt you'd be covering the same ground but you might want to either avoid or watch it, depending.

53:

@Charlie@51: Oh, I can see it, now. The not-terribly-bright cat-sitter, enthralled by the innate kawaii of her charge, fails to grasp the horror of his genocidal vision. Only her tail-curlingly good chin scratches can distract him from wreaking destruction upon us all.

But you had likely meant the cat owner as the villain, no? That's tougher. Though I can definitely see a villain of the 21st century protecting his or her not-terribly-bright cat-sitter from impending apocalypse in a rare act of noblesse oblige. I can even see a sweetly-creepy Blofeld-meets-Jane Eyre type of story, a Bluebeard redux, wherein the severed heads/madwoman in the attic is rather the Big Board, the Doomsday Device, the plan for world domination. All along, the Gothic secret has been the dream of empire.

But the possibilities are endless, really. So, now that I can't wait, when will this story be finished?

54:

Hang on a minute, I thought the point of the traditional supervillian is that they operate outside normal society. Mention of CHeney etc is missing the point about the supervillian, which is that they are a damaged individual mad man who can safely be hunted down and eliminated, leaving the normal everyday structures of society intact.
Whereas nominating Putin, Cheney etc as supervillians is wrong, because they are part of society.

So the cat sitter would probably see a different side of the supervillain to the people he (usually a he? Any female ones?) usually deals with. And if one of the villains schemes happens to threaten their cat, by accident than design, I'm sure the cat sitter might have to come along for the ride.
I suppose it also depends on how advanced the cat is...

55:

Hmm.

Let's see - a 21stC super-villian will require high connectivity, the ability to launder vast amounts of cash, a host of minions and potential minions with which they can communicate securely, a cover story which will pass inspection by the authorities and be very difficult to drill though...

Michael Morhaime and Blizzard Entertainment...

56:

It's a hip little Web 2.0 style outfit. Lots of bright colors. They use Agile development and do most of their work in Ruby. They read Bruce Sterling's non-fiction work, and take careful notes. The lab is quite small, but has a number of desktop-computer sized beige boxes that can do things that are really quite remarkable. They receive a steady stream of small refrigerated packages.

57:

So the supervillian is really The Lady May?

58:

Are we talking about their motivation or their lifestyle?

Regarding motivation Bond villains are above all anarchists, or libertarians, the rightist version of anarchism. They want money and power, but reject making money and amassing power in conventional ways. In short, they love chaos (which makes for interesting conflicts when running a big hyerarchical organization... here is where sharks enter the pool, and also that little dirty trick of making everyone think A is going to get the axe when actually B is the one that dies; both are chaotical ways to keep order!)

SPECTRE has always possessed a feudal structure, that's evident, and their leaders could perfectly have met each other in the net. Where else could have met a Russian chess champion, a Greek shipowner, a German-Chinese scientist and a Neapolitan black marketeer? SPECTRE can perfectly be or become a hydra organization of the Internet Age, with leaders meeting in holovideoconferences and with only a few permanently employed select henchmen.

Regarding lifestyles Bond villains love luxury, style and conspicuous consumption. Perhaps they can run their organization from an empty basement but sure as Hell they don't want to. The comment that said Richard Branson would be a perfect example nailed it in my opinion; who wants to be an anonymous billionnaire? Not Branson...

If I had to design a Bond supervillain I would shamelessly pillage modern fears: cloning, AIDS, computers, Internet, homosexuality, perhaps even paidophilia. Two - or more - identical, stylish, androgynous assistants of indeterminate age but very young looking, like out of parfum publicity, would give our villain a darkly sinister aura without spending one word or one second. And if they look younger versions of Bond's romantic interest(TM) all the better. One could control our villain's phone, other his portable PC, etc. They could be named Alpha, Beta, Gamma to suggest a total lack of independence. Add hints of our villain being deep into biotech (perhaps he controls pharma industries? Perhaps he, himself, has AIDS?)

59:

From the PoV of a film producer, I'd be wary of paedophile villain in the essentially escapist world of super villainy. But a "Village of the Damned" look would certainly get creepy.

And, while we know fingerprints don't work this way, it wouldn't be out of the question for movie-clones to have the same fingerprints. So you have the Bond-style opening, and, once the assassin is stopped, you can have M present the mystery which Bond must solve.

60:

Back in the golden age of TV, there was something called _Bird of Prey_. The baddies in that were a very flat, virtual and outsourced conspiracy called 'Le Pouvoir'. Very C21.

61:

Chris: early to mid eighties, if I remember correctly. A remarkably prescient mini-series!

62:

What I loved about Bird of Prey - even more than the computer hacking theme - was the way that the protagonist was played brilliantly by Richard Griffiths as an unfit slightly confused ordinary bloke, trying to do his best against the global conspiracy. He never discovered, nor did he ever look likely to discover, that he had a remarkable talent for shooting people, sneaking up, or getaway driving. It was clear that there was no chance of him ever picking up a MAC-10 and wasting the baddies. Like real life, really.

63:

Bird of Prey--two series in 1982 and 1984.

64:

Re the shark pool conference table, a contracting round table might be suitable as well.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 28, 2008 11:03 AM.

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