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Team Red

Yes, you can stop emailing me now to tell me about the systematic hacking attacks on Google.cn that appear intended to provide agencies of the Chinese government with access to the email of dissidents. You don't even need to tell me about the US State Department response. Finally, you really don't need to remind me that there's a book out there called "Halting State" that (cough) predicted something not dissimilar (cough) to this.

Game over: "Halting State" is history.

(I just hope they haven't caught up with "Rule 34" ...)

58 Comments

1:

AHA! So YOU'RE responsible!

2:

So right now you're feeling some mix of pride and horror, eh?

When do I get the scorpion-stare feature for my smart phone?

3:

Heinlein and Asimov had it much easier. Most of what they wrote about hasn't materialized yet, and some of it never will. Tech progress was a lot slower in the days before microelectronics and software.

Of course, some of their assumptions look really weird nowadays. One of Heinlein's novel's (was it "Starman Jones"?) rests entirely on the assumption that powerful computers would continue to be the size of a house, even after we had starships that could ply between stars.

My favourite is the way men in stories by people like A E van Vogt still wear suits, ties, and 1950s-style hats in the 25th century. (Remember how Gilbert Gosseyn's Null-A trained double brain made his skull bulge, but "when he wore a hat he just looked like a big man with a strongly-muscled face"?)

4:

Send us a plot summary, we'll see what we can do about it.

5:

Yeah, I hate to say it, but I didn't care much for HS. I bought it (so you did get your money) but after about 3 chapters, I lost interest. Now, I am a big Stross fan (Glasshouse shoulda took the Hugo) but Halting State just bored me. Lots of "yeah, yeah, I know. Why is this interesting? Zzzz..." Granted, I do work in the infosec field and have been mired in coming up with evil fictional scenarios myself for my own writing. So sorry, I put the book down and read some more Laundry stories instead.

6:

Dear Mr Charles Stross.

I believe there is a blog post on the internet about an author who wrote a book that came true.
You might like to know this.

Yours,

Chris

7:

Of course, what I want to know is how you distinguish between activities of a Chinese government agency, someone in the Chinese government, or just Chinese hackers with an ax to grind. Guess I was living under Bush II for too many years, and have trouble distinguishing between acts of random idiocy and unofficial government actions (read The Men Who Stare At Goats if you don't understand).

8:

@2 I believe that the scorpion stare software is already installed on your smartphone. You didn't think that you'd be allowed to control it, did you?

9:

"Well, I'm not worried. Hillary's on top of it." he said without a hint of sarcasm.

10:

re: Rule 34, Charlie, if your manuscript contains "GhostNet" and "yaoi" in some referential relationship, you may want to consider a rewrite...

11:

heteromeles @7: AIUI, hacking potentially carries the death penalty in China. They really don't like it. Unless it's carried out under the guidance of cadres of the Red Army, in which case, well, that's different.

12:

I just finished reading Halting State today as well (quite enjoyed it, but I had been warned that the three narrators style took a bit of getting used to, which it did, but once I got into that, the book was a hoot) and I was just putting it down and going "hang on..."

13:

On the other hand, this analysis is pretty cool.

14:

"Unless it's carried out under the guidance of cadres of the Red Army, in which case, well, that's different."

Don't spy. The government hates competition. (The original quote seems to have been damaged. Perhaps it was a man-in-the-middle attack.)

15:

I just hope they haven't caught up with "Rule 34" ...

Well you can always recast yourself as either and alternate history novelist or a plan old historical novelist.

16:

As long as you're apparently being prophetic, I suggest you respond by writing a new novel, in which a surge in exciting new technologies makes everyone in the world healthy, happy, secure, and better off than ever, while Scottish science fiction writers (and their more enthusiastic readers) become filthy rich through cleverly anticipating those trends.

Couldn't hurt, right?

17:

What Clifton @16 said. Also, whatever you do, don't write another Laundry novel. The MV Arctic Sea incident was enough.

:-)

18:

Tom, #3: rereading a lot of Golden Age science fiction you come to the conclusion a lot of writers only had eyes for whatever gadget they were writing a story around and just assummed everything else would stay the same. Van Vogt, as you say, was especially bad at it: all his futures feel like 1940ties or 1950ties America, boarding houses and all.

19:

@14
Don't spy. The government hates competition.

Sounds about right but I can't locate it's origins.

The closest match I've found so far is at
http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20091124.html

Which says
"Governments pass those laws in order to protect their existing monopolies on espionage."

20:

Randolph @13: I have a huge problem with the analysis you point to, insofar as it repeats the classic cold-war analyst's blunder of viewing China as a monolithic entity that acts with one mind -- "China did [X], then weeks later, in response to a proposed US/Taiwain arms deal, China did [Y]". This mode of analysis is convenient but overly reductionistic; it ignores the possibilities that (a) there are multiple interests and factions at work under the blanket label, and (b) sometimes shit happens entirely by coincidence: Chinese corporations and bureaucrats are capable of acting for an internal audience with no idea that they'll be seen by and have effects in the outside world, just as much as American politicians.

21:

I think you'll find that the quote is:

Don't steal. The government hates competition.

Originally with reference to taxes.

22:

Obviously the Laundry novels are history, too- but those who can prove it end up-
best not post that. There's dimensions out there listening in, and screens have ears, etc.

23:

The New Nostradamus? I think the next book should just be the book of your prophecies.

24:

ben @ 2 and Kyle Wilson @ 8 were talking about Scorpion Stare on your mobile phone.

SonyEricsson makes their phones with a camera on the front ostensibly for videotelephony...

25:

I always feel something is taken from a work of fiction when it foretells anything (specially when it's something really specific), that the fact of predicting something somehow diminishes the impact of the dynamics of the fictional construct; in contrast to what most people seem to love and value in science fiction.

What do you think? Does that make any sense?

1984 can be a good example. It somehow foretells something, but that something is not really specific. The specifics of that novel are definitively "wrong".

26:

Actually Charlie, blending the last two blogs, you could probably write a satirical and/or sarcastic story about a writer who masochistically specializes in near-future SF, and who gets in trouble with the rich and powerful because his predictions are consistently too accurate, not because he has a crystal ball, but because he's just (un)lucky.

27:

The Stross Utopia?

(Re #16)

28:

Been re-reading some Murray Leinster from Baen free library). He gets a pass, e.g. for A Logic Named Joe

29:

@#24
Most 3G non-Apple phones have front-facing cameras (and rear-facing cameras).
IIRC, you need two cameras pointing at the target for SCORPION STARE to work though.
Funnily enough, SonyEricsson do/did make a plug-in camera add-on circa the T68i...

30:

@26, That sort of reminds me of the Clarke story 'Security Check', where a model builder for an old SF show get a visit because his designs are too close to the real thing -an alien city.

CW @25, I'm reminded of a Bradbury quote "I don't try to predict the future, I try to prevent it." He was speaking in reference to Fahrenheit 451.

And my earlier comment was one of those dumb things where you hit submit before thinking.

31:

Obviously, the solution is distributed Scorpion Stare.

(Also, the little "if you for some bizarre reason actually want to make 3G video calls, here you go" camera usually has much lower resolution compared to the cameraphone camera, because UMTS videotelephony uses a switched 64kbps circuit like a voice call and it has to fit in there.)

32:

The only other one I can think of would be the power-point paralysis-field, but then, that would be redundant.

33:

@7 The Men Who Stare At Goats is tame and runour compared with the shadow factory by James Bamford, Dick Cheney is the prince of darkness.

34:

@33: runour--not sure what that means?

I agree that Cheney's evil. That's kind of not my point.

Black ops are terribly seductive, right? Especially if you like spy novels? The reason they're black is that (in many cases) they won't survive public scrutiny, because they are breaking one or more laws.

The rationale to black ops is that they are breaking minor laws in the name of some greater good, but I suspect that at least as often, they are little more than glorified criminal rackets, designed to make huge amounts of money without oversight and without responsibility.

The problem, therefore, is figuring out where on the spectrum of governmental, semi-governmental, and non-governmental criminal activity something like Ghost Net falls. In China, where the military runs a number of industrial companies, this can be a little tricky, hence my comment to Charlie. While I agree with his response, I think the point still stands: ghost net and its ilk may be a Chinese Government black op that's run from the highest levels, but it's equally probable that it's the semi-private project of some ambitious and/or jingoistic general or party member.

Currently, I think China (in the monolithic sense) has been getting "a bit" greedy and arrogant, and it's good to see some blowback from Google and the steel producers. As you pointed out Cheney and Bush are evil, and their greed and arrogance didn't do the US any good at all. It's going to take decades to exorcise the demons they created from the US government, as well as paying the costs of their rule.

BTW, has anyone noticed that the Nixon Whitehouse produced Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush I? I wonder who was working in the Bush II Whitehouse who's going to be a problem in 10-20 years?

35:

heteromeles @34: BTW, has anyone noticed that the Nixon Whitehouse produced Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush I? I wonder who was working in the Bush II Whitehouse who's going to be a problem in 10-20 years?

Sarah Palin?

(To be serious, though, that's an absolutely terrifying question because of the corollary: they'll be b-a-a-a-c-k ...)

36:

@ 34 .... like the Laundry, do you mean?

As for Charlie @ 35 ..
I used to be scared about 2016 (US election) NOW the thought of a Palin presidency is REALLY frightening.
US christians make common cause with muslims to destroy secular democracy, THEN fight amongst themselves.
Collapse of civilisation.

Plot line?

37:

Hey Charlie,

Isn't the UK about due for an invasion of neo-Thatcherites, who are currently pupating into their next public office instars?

38:

@29: Doesn't the iPhone have a usb port?

39:

@36: nah, the Laundry is what makes real black ops look good.

As for the rest of your comment, I guess the good thing to say about Christianity is that somehow, western civilization has managed to survive it for 2,000 years. There must be some good Christians out there, despite the screamers, lunatics, and power hungry high clerics giving the various sects a bad name.

As for the 2012 election, hmmm. Maybe Sarah Palin will get caught in bed with Levy Johnston, and we'll be rid of both of them. Part of me hopes that she will run in 2012, just so that she can implode so catastrophically on national TV that she'll take the neocons with her, and we'll be left with the moderate republicans. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

40:

Looks like Charlie's got a good grip on Reality, what with the first draft of Atrocity Archive featuring ObLaden before events took over in late 2001, and Bernie Madoff forcing a rewrite of 419.

Somehow I'm not comforted by this...

41:

heteromeles@34 and Charlie@35,

David Addington would be at or near the top of any such list. Was Cheney's legal counsel and later chief of staff. He was sometimes referred to as "Cheney's Cheney".

42:

Three additional words: "Chief Justice Yoo".

43:

@38
No, but I guess the proprietary dock connector will contain a suitable alternative - and since Bob is now toting an iPhone I assume that "there's an app for that".

I'm starting to think about those "novelty" 3D digital cameras
(e.g. http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2009/07/23/fujifilm_3d_w1
)
in a whole new light. Bet they're made in China. What could possibly go wrong?

44:

I wonder who was working in the Bush II Whitehouse who's going to be a problem in 10-20 years?

Addington is obvious, although depending on the timeframe he'd be getting on a bit.

Who else? A lot of possibles were weeded out by the scandals, especially in the second division. I don't see Feith or Wolfie or Libby ever recovering, frex. And you have all the folks involved in the Brent Wilkes thing, too, which took off a layer of intelligence-minded Republicans.

It's got to be people who were under the media and blogospheric noise floor. This is where a copy of that EOVP secret internal phone book would come in handy.

45:

heteromeles @37: Isn't the UK about due for an invasion of neo-Thatcherites, who are currently pupating into their next public office instars?

No, that happened in 1997: Thatcher didn't praise Tony Blair for nothing.

What's going to happen in 2010 is anybody's guess, especially if there's a hung parliament. The Tories have just spent an unprecedented twelve-plus years in the wilderness, had their Thatcherite clothes stolen by NuLab, and are looking for a new angle (over the strident objections of their constituency grass roots membership). If we're very lucky, they'll decide that civil liberties are a good way of rearranging the deck chairs in public (while being hamstrung by the same macro scale economic imperatives as NuLab). But more likely, it's just hot air to try and bamboozle the floating voters who prefer the LibDems in local government but don't vote for them in general elections.

46:

planetheidi@5:

Yeah, I hate to say it, but I didn't care much for HS. I bought it (so you did get your money) but after about 3 chapters, I lost interest. Now, I am a big Stross fan (Glasshouse shoulda took the Hugo) but Halting State just bored me.

I have to say that I buy every one of Charlie's releases without thinking about the quality, and in hard back at that. That's not to say that the presumption is I'll enjoy his books sight unseen. It's just that I support people who walk the walk with "open source" type actions like making works available through Creative Commons. I also buy Cory's books in hardback for just this reason.

People who fight the good fight deserve their props from time to time. Imho, of course.

47:

heteromeles@34:

BTW, has anyone noticed that the Nixon Whitehouse produced Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush I? I wonder who was working in the Bush II Whitehouse who's going to be a problem in 10-20 years?

I don't think this is really going to be all that much of a problem, for the simple reason that what they were willing to do to have things go their way is a measure of their fundamental incompetence. And just like cold is the absence of heat, incompetence is really just the lack of competence. It's hard to believe that people in such high offices could be any less competent than that crew, and still less that they could get there.

Of course, this ignores the possibility that Cheney et al didn't get there so much as they were placed there, in which case it's not so much a matter of demon spawn. Sorta like the way that conservative economics is never discredited.

48:

Broca@41:

David Addington would be at or near the top of any such list. Was Cheney's legal counsel and later chief of staff. He was sometimes referred to as "Cheney's Cheney".

Just how competent is he considered to be by what I would accept as a nonpartisan source? If he's another Gonzalez I'm not so sure he would make the cut. Now, somebody like John Roberts, evil and competent[1] would definitely make the cut.

[1]Why are so many of the Supreme Court Justices such blithering idiots? Or do I have to ask, fourth-grade civics lessons notwithstanding?

49:

heteromeles@39:

As for the rest of your comment, I guess the good thing to say about Christianity is that somehow, western civilization has managed to survive it for 2,000 years. There must be some good Christians out there, despite the screamers, lunatics, and power hungry high clerics giving the various sects a bad name.

Is there any sort of quasi-official compilation out there of the teachings all religions have in common? Things like don't lie, steal, or murder? Much is made of the fact that not all religions can't be right on the strength of their differences. But what about what they have in common? More specifically perhaps, what do they all have in common, what do the bad varieties have in common, and what do the good ones have in common?

50:

"Is there any sort of quasi-official compilation out there of the teachings all religions have in common?"

The Golden Rule turns up somewhere in every significant religion I think. There was an exhibit in the 'faith zone' at the (benighted) Millenium Dome which illustrated the point with appropriate quotations from various scriptures.

Regards
Luke

51:

@SoV: On the level you're talking about, no. A compilation of rules of "all religions" usually stops at the big four or five (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, "Hinduism").

Note that most people are totally ignorant about the true diversity of religion. I've heard the different sects of Christianity referred to as different religion, and most non-Hindus believe that Hinduism is a monolithic block, but it's actually more like 18 or 20 separate religions. It also ignores the whole western pagan movement, which is doing quite well, santeria, voudoun, and candomble, which are doing quite well in the African diaspora, shinto and taoism, and the other 90 percent of indigenous religions which Christianity and Islam have been semi-successful in attempting to kill off, which includes some really interesting and weird stuff. These you usually find out by reading the anthropological and shamanistic literature.

Getting back to your question, what you're looking for used to be called the Perennial Philosophy. It's not a set of rules. Rather, it's a way of seeing and understanding the world, from which you can generate rules to help you live a good life.

My personal belief and experience is that spiritual phenomena and experiences are a basic part of human experience, and some people have more of them than others do (same as with sex--some people get more than others). I'm not going to argue about the objective reality of the spiritual world. Rather, as humans we are, for better or worse, endowed with a perception of spiritual phenomena. The fundamental basis of religion is helping make sense of these experiences, and using them to help live a good life. Of course, this gets all tangled up in rule-making, social interactions, and politics of all levels, but the basis of religion is using a fundamental human experience to help define what a good life is, and to help live that life.

52:

Charlie @20 As Larry Page said "I don't think we should be making decisions based on too much perception".

A sensible line to take on China.

Though the wording could be taken out of context.

Charlie @post Sorry.

53:

39 & 49-51.
And many christians and muslims refuse to accept the "Golden Rule" as anything other than THEIR SPECIAL VERSION OF IT - which then excepts "unbelievers" / "heretics" / "kuffars" etc, who can be tortured and persecuted as you please.

I don't know if Charlie realises this, bu there is a US commentator and writer, Theodore Beale, writing under the psedonym "Vox Day", who has a LINK to Charlie's blog.
Look up Vox Day, and prepare to have your brain hurt!

54:

But there are a number of us who don't have spiritual phenomena and experience, and you shouldn't leave us out.

55:

@54: You are right, to some degree. I would suggest that you might not have understood the experience as "spiritual" but that is meaningless. The point I was making to SoV is that a lot of religious rules stem from the experience of spiritual people, and focusing on the rules alone misses something.

This is true in other fields. If you don't have the experience with electricity that a trained electrician does, you can innocently make a wiring mistake that could hurt someone. Or if you haven't had to work directly with an endangered species, a lot of conservation law doesn't make much sense. In each case, the experience of a group with specialized experience informs the whole. Similarly, without people having those experiences and keeping the rationale for those rules alive, the rules become twisted toward more political ends.

56:

Greg #54- I seem to recall there was a bit of a to-do with the flaming sworded one a couple of years ago. So please don't mention him again.

57:

Whoops, just realised my comment above reads rather too overbearing, sorry Charlie. This isn't my blog and anything I say on it should be ignored.

58:

Not to mention you posted the number of my comment!

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