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Rule 34: Part Two

Chapter 2: ANWAR: Job Interview

Four weeks earlier . . .

In the end, it all boils down to this: You'd do anything for your kids. Anything. So: Does this make you a bad da?

That's what Mr. Webber just pointed out to you—rubbed your nose in, more like—leaning forward in his squeaky office chair and wagging the crooked index finger of righteousness.

"I say this more in sorrow than in anger, Anwar"—that's how he eases himself into one of the little sermons he seems to get his jollies from. You're the odd one out in his regular client case-load, coming from what they laughably mistake for a stable family background: you're not exactly Normal for Neds. So he harbours high hopes of adding you to the twelve-month did-not-reoffend column on his departmental report, and consequently preaches at you during these regular scheduled self-criticism sessions. As if you didn't get enough of that shite from Aunt Sameena already: You've already got it off by heart. So you nod apologetically, duck your head, and remember to make eye contact just like the NLP book says, exuding apologetic contrition and remorse until your probation officer drowns in it.

But Mr. Webber—fat, fiftyish, with a framed row of sheepskins proclaiming his expertise in social work lined up on the wall behind him—might just have got your number down with a few digits more precision than you'd like to admit. And when he said, I know you want to give Naseem and Farida the best start in life you can afford, but have you thought about the kind of example you're setting them?—It was a palpable strike, although the target it struck wasn't perhaps quite the one Mr. Webber had in mind.

He must have seen something in your expression that made him think he'd got through to you, so rather than flogging the dead horse some more, he shovelled you out of his office, with a stern admonition to send out more job applications and email a progress report to him next Thursday. He didn't bother giving you the usual social-worker crap about seeking a stable life-style—he's already clocked that you've got one, if not that it's so stable you're asphyxiating under the weight of it. (See: Not Normal for Neds, above.)

And so you duck your head and tug your non-existent forelock and shuffle the hell out of the interview suite and away from the probation service's sticky clutches—until your next appointment.

It is three on a Thursday afternoon, and you're out of your weekly probation interview early. You've got no job to go to, unless you count the skooshy piecework you've been doing on your cousin Tariq's dating website—using his spare pad and paid for in cash, which you are careful to forget about when discussing income opportunities with Mr. Webber and his colleagues—and you've not got the guts to go home to Bibi and the weans in midafternoon and hang around while she cooks dinner in that eloquently expressive silence she's so good at, which translates as when are you going to get a real job? It's not like you've been out of Saughton long enough to get your legs back under the table anyway; and on top of that, you're not supposed to use a network device without filling out a bunch of forms and letting Mr. Webber's nice technical-support people bug it (which would tend to rule out your usual forms of employment, at least for the nonce).

Which can mean only one thing: It's pub time.

To be a Muslim living in Scotland is to be confronted by an existential paradox, insofar as Scotland has pubs the way Alabama has Baptist churches. Everyone worships at the house of the tall fount, and it's not just about drinking (although a lot of that goes on). Most of the best jobs you've ever had came from a late-night encounter at the pub—and paid work, too, for that matter. You're not a good Muslim—in fact you're a piss-poor one, as your criminal record can attest—but some residual sense of shame prompts you to try and keep the bad bits of your life well away from the family home. Compartmentalization, Mr. Webber would call it. Anyway, you figure that as long as you avoid the fermented fruit of the vine, you're not entirely doing it wrong: The Prophet said nothing against Deuchars IPA, did he?

The more devout and twitchy-curtained neighbours don't know anything about your private life, and you want to keep it that way: Our neighbour Anwar, he's a good family man, they say. And if you want the free baby-sitters and community bennies, you'd better keep it that way. So you are discreet: You avoid the local boozers and are at pains never to go home with beer or worse on your breath. Which is why you go about your business in a snug little pub that sits uphill from the top of Easter Road, close by the Royal Terrace Gardens, for a wee outing afterwards.

Of course, going to the pub is not wholly risk-free. For starters there's your phone, set to snitch on your location to the Polis—and if they call, you'd better be there to give them a voiceprint. (It's not like you can leave it at home: You've done the custodial part of your sentence, but you're still under a supervision order, and carrying a phone is part of the terms and conditions, just like wearing a leg tag used to be.)

Your phone copies them on everything you text or read online, and you heard rumours when you were inside—that the Polis spyware could recognize keywords like "hash" or "dosh." You figure that's just the kind of stupid shite paranoid jakies make up to explain why they got huckled for shoplifting on their second day out of prison—but you can't prove it isn't so, which is why you keep a dirty sock rolled over the phone's lower half. (And your real phone is a pay-as-you-go you got Bibi to buy you "for the job hunting.")

But anyway: pub time.

You're in the back room, surfing on a pad borrowed from the bar as you work your way down your second pint, when the Gnome materializes at your left elbow with a pot of wheat beer and a gleam in his eye. "Good afternoon to you, Master Hussein! Mind if I join you?" The Gnome is a vernacular chameleon: Going by his current assumed accent—plummy cod upper-class twit—you figure he's in an expansive mood.

You nod warily. The Gnome is not your friend—he's nobody's friend but his own—but you understand him well enough, and he's interesting company. You've even spent a couple of relaxing afternoons in his bed, although he's not really your type. "Bent as a seven-bob note," the Cardinal pronounced him when the subject of trust came up in conversation: "Yes, but he disnae get caught," you pointed out. On paper, he's a fine, upstanding member of the community; despite looking like the personification of Uncle Fester cosplay fandom, he even managed to get himself elected as town councillor in some deity-forsaken hole in Galashiels. (Probably on the Hairy Twat vote. You can persuade the remaining students at Herriot-Watt's out-of-town campus to vote for anything if you get them drunk enough, and there's precious little else to do out there but drink.) "Have a seat."

The Gnome sighs appreciatively and smacks his lips, then sits in contemplation of his beer for a minute or two. "What brings you to my office today?"

"The usual." You frown. The Gnome claims to work for the university computer-science department, on some big make-work scheme called ATHENA, but he seems to spend most of his time in the back rooms of pubs: You figure he's most likely working on his own side projects. (He maintains that nobody can earn a full-time living in academia anymore, and who's to say he's wrong?) "I've just had my weekly sermon, and I don't need a second serving right now."

The Gnome chuckles, a quiet hiccuping noise like a vomiting cat. "I take your point." He necks another mouthful of beer. "And is business good?"

"Don't be daft, Adam." You switch off the pad. "I've only been out two months; my mobie's running six different kinds of Polis spyware, and I can't even surf for porn without official permission. What do you think business is like?"

The Gnome looks duly thoughtful. "What you need is a line of work that is above reproach," he declares after a while. "A business that you can conduct from a cosy wee office, that is of such utter respectability that if they're getting on your tits, you can complain about how shocked, shocked! you are, and they'll back off."

"I couldna hack the law courseware you pointed me at," you remind him. "And besides, I've got a record now."

He's shaking his head. "No. No-no-no. I was thinking . . ." He cocks his head on one side, as he does when he's hatching one of his malicious little schemes. "I was thinking, how would you like to be an honorary consul?"

"A what?" Visions of a residence on Calton Road and a shiny black BMW hybrid with diplomatic plates clash confusingly with your gut-deep sense that such a scam is beyond even the admittedly impressive grifting capabilities of the Gnome. "Don't be silly, I was born over here, I don't even hold dual Pakistani citizenship—"

"You don't understand." He takes your wrist. His fingers are clammy from his beer glass: "Let me explain. You don't need to be a native. You just need to be a fine upstanding citizen with an office and enough time to attend to the needs of visiting nationals. The high heid yins all have proper embassies staffed by real diplomats, but there are plenty of small players . . . play-states, just like Scotland's a play-state, hived off the old Union for the extra vote in the council of ministers in Brussels and some plausible deniability in the budget. The deal is, we find some nowhere country that can only afford a proper embassy in London or Brussels, if that. They issue you with a bunch of papers and an official phone, and you're on call to help out when one of their people gets into a spot of bother over here. If you're really lucky, they'll pay you an honorarium and the office rent." He winks; the effect is inexpressibly horrifying.

"Get away with you!" You take another mouthful of beer. "You're winding me up."

"No, lad, I'm serious."


He chugs his pint and smacks his lips. You roll your eyes: You recognize a shakedown when you see one. "Mine's a Hoegaarden," he says, utterly unapologetic.

Five minutes later, you get back from the bar and plant his new pint in front of him. "Spill it."

"What, the beer"—he kens you're not amused and shrugs, then takes an exploratory sip. "All right, the job. I have a mutual acquaintance who happens to work for a, shall we say, small player's diplomatic service as a freelance contractor. They're a very new small player, and they're hiring honorary consuls for the various Euro sub-states—"

You've had enough of this bullshit. "Do I look like I was born yesterday?"

"No." His brow wrinkles. "Here's the thing: Issyk-Kulistan is a very new state. It used to be part of Kyrgyzstan, but five months ago there was a vote on independence, and they seceded, with official recognition . . ." You stare at him. The Gnome has a warped sense of humour, but he's not crazy. He's got dozens of fingers in scores of pies, some of them seasoned with very exotic spices. And right now he's got that intense brow-wrinkling expression he gets on his gizz when he's desperately serious, or trying to pinch a jobbie in the lav. He's droning on: "No budget to speak of, but they're soliciting recommendations. The angle is, they're dirt-poor—all they've got is a played-out gas field and a bunch of collective farms. Their capital city's smaller than Stirling; in fact, the whole country's got the same population as Edinburgh. I believe the real story is that Issyk-Kulistan was let go by Kyrgyzstan because unemployment's around 40 per cent and the big man in Bishkek wanted an excuse to cut their bennies. Think of it as national downsizing, Anwar—Kyrgyzstan's got a budget deficit, so what are they going to do? Cut overheads! Anyway, the Independent Republic of Issyk-Kulistan can't afford a real diplomatic corps. Indeed, there's probably nae cunt from Karakol in the whole of Scotland. Or Latvia, Iceland, or Moldova, for that matter. Which is the reason—"

You look the Gnome in the eye and utter three fateful words: "Adam: Why. Me?"

What follows is blether: masterful blether, erudite and learned blether, but blether nonetheless. You swallow his flannelling. It's all sound and fury, signifying naught; but you've got a scooby that there's more to this than reaches the eye. The Gnome knows you, and he wants someone he knows in that shiny black diplomatic limo with the IRIK plates, which means he's got some kind of caper in mind. And you know Adam, and you know this about him: He may be bent as a seven-euro note, but he disnae get caught. Ever.

Which is why . . .

Three days later, you are certain you're about to die.

You are twenty-eight years old and a miserable sinner who has been a bad husband to his long-suffering wife and a terrible father to his two children. (To say nothing of having failed to even think about making the hajj, liking beer and other alcoholic beverages altogether too much, and indulging in such unspeakable perversions with other men that Imam Hafiz would swallow his beard and die of shame if he heard about them). You deserve to die, possibly, probably—for God is Great and he knows exactly what you're thinking—which is probably why he has seen fit to inflict this destiny upon you, seeing you strapped into a business-class seat in an elderly Antonov that rattles and groans as it caroms between clouds like a pinball in the guts of the ultimate high-score game.

The Antonov's cabin is musty and smells of boiled cabbage despite the best efforts of the wheezing air-conditioning pack. Here, up front in business class, the seats are tidy and come with faded antimacassars bearing Aeroflot's livery: But behind your uneasy shoulders sways a curtain, and on the other side of the curtain you swear there is an old lady, headscarf knotted tightly under her chin, clutching a cage full of live chickens. The fowl, being beasts of the air, know exactly what's in store for them—they squawk and cackle like nuns at a wife-swapping party.

The plane drops sickeningly, then stabilizes. There's a crackle from the intercom, then something terse and glottal in Russian. Your phone translates the word from the cockpit: "impact in ten minutes." You're almost certain you can hear the chink of vodka glasses from up front. (The stewardesses haven't shown themselves in hours; they're probably crashed out in the galley, anaesthetized on cheap Afghani heroin.) You yank your seat belt tight, adjust the knot of your tie, and begin to pray. Save me, you think: Just let me walk away from this landing, and I'll give up alcohol for a year! I'll even give up cock, for, for . . . As long as I can. Please don't let the pilots be drunk

There is a sudden downward lurch, a jolt that rattles the teeth in your head, a loud bang, and a screech of tyres. One of the overhead luggage bins has sprung open, and there is an outbreak of outraged clucking from the economy-class area behind the curtain as a small, terrified pig hurtles up the aisle towards the cockpit. Now you see one of the cabin crew, her beret askew as she makes a grab for the unclean animal—she wrinkles her nose, and a moment later a horrible stench informs you that the animal has voided its bowels right in front of the cabin door.

"Bzzzt." Your phone helpfully fails to translate the electronic throat-clearing noise. "Welcome to Issyk-Kul Airport, gateway to the capital of the Independent Republic of Issyk-Kulistan. This concludes today's Aeroflot flight from Manas International Airport, Bishkek. Adhere to your seats until she reaches the terminal building. Temperature on the ground is twenty-nine degrees, relative humidity is 80 per cent, and it is raining."

The Antonov grumbles and jolts across cracked ex-military tarmac, its turboprops snarling rhythmically at the sodden atmosphere. At least it's Aeroflot. You're not a total numpty: You did your leg work before you came here and you know that the local airlines are all banned from European airspace on grounds of safety (or rather, the lack of it). And you're up to date on your shots, thanks to Aunty Sam's abortive attempt to arrange a family reunion in Lahore last year. You also know that the unit of local currency is the som, that it is unsafe to wander round the capital at night, and that your hosts have booked you a room in the Amir Hotel.

The only important bit of local nous you've not got straight is what the capital's called—is it Karakol, or Przewalsk? They change the name whenever there's a coup d'état, as long as there's an "r" in the month. It should be Przewalsk—but how do you pronounce Przewalsk, anyway?

As the airliner taxis the short distance to the stand, you take enough shuddering breaths to get over your conviction that you are about to die—but now a new anxiety takes hold. You've been told you'll be met at the airport, but . . . What do you really know? A dodgy Skype connection and the promise of a car ride: that and five euros will buy you a Mocha Frescato with shaved glacier ice and organic cream to go. For all you know, the Gnome's idea of an amusing jape is to ship your sorry ass to an ex-boy-friend of his who runs a leather bar in Almaty frequented by former US Marines, where they'll steal your passport and tie you face-down to a pommel horse—

You're walking through the humid rain-spattered air towards a terminal building, your shirt sticking to the small of your back. I must have zoned out, you realize nervously. You can't afford to do that: not here, not with the job interview that's coming up. Ahead of you the doors are flung open on a dusty arrivals hall. A porter shuffles past you, leading a motorized baggage trolley out towards the small Antonov. There's a bored-looking crowd just beyond a rope barrier at the far side of the hall, and among them you see a man with an upraised sign: ANWAR HUSSEIN.

"Mr. Hussein?" A broad grin and a bushy salt-and-pepper moustache: firm handshake pumping up and down. "I am Felix Datka." He speaks English with a heavy Russian accent. "Welcome to Przewalsk!" So that's how you pronounce it. "Have you had a good journey from Scotland? Please, let's fetch your suitcase, and I will drive you to your hotel."

You have arrived in the Independent Republic of Issyk-Kulistan. And you relax: because now you know you are among friends.

"And that was the worst part of it," you tell him, wiping your moustache on the back of your wrist.

"It was?" The Gnome blinks rapidly, as if there's a mote in his eye.

"Yes. Once he told the porter to give my suitcase back and we escaped from the pickpockets, or the police—I'm not sure who were which—he had a black Mercedes SUV! Well, it was mostly a Mercedes and mostly black—bits of it were made locally in this car factory they've got that runs on chicken feathers and corn husks or something, and the paint didn't match—" Just like the shite your neighbour Jaxxie runs up on the DRM-hacked fab in his garage—"but from there it was an hour's drive into town, and then dinner in a traditional Kyrgyz restaurant"—actually a McDonald's, after Mr. Datka tipped you the wink that most of the posh restaurants in town were Russian-owned and not halal: But you don't want the Gnome's pity—"the next morning, he picked me up and drove me to the Ministry building. Big concrete slab full of bureaucrats with boxy old computers, sitting around smoking." Your nose wrinkles at the memory.

"The Ministry." The Gnome hums and strokes his chin. "Hmm. Indeed. And how did it go, then?"

"It was a job interview." You shrug. Back in your normal drag, jeans and a sweat-shirt and your favourite Miami Dolphins jacket, it's all mercifully fading into a blur: the stiflingly close air in the aircon-less conference room, you in the monkey suit your cousin Tariq sourced for you from an Indonesian tailoring dotcom, sweating bullets as you tried to answer questions asked in broken English by the bored bureaucrats on the other side of the table. "They asked me lots of questions. How long I'd lived in Embra, what was my citizenship status, what I did, did I have a criminal record, that sort of thing."

"Did you tell them the truth?" The Gnome lays his hand on your knee, very solemnly.

"I lied like a rug." You weren't sweating bullets because of the questions (you realized it was a shoo-in when you clocked you were the only candidate they'd bothered to fly out for the interview): you were sweating bullets because it was hot. Even the criminal-background question was meaningless. If they didn't already know the answer to the question, they weren't networked well enough to detect a lie.

You shrug again: "Who're they going to call, Europol?" You let his hand lie: This is safe space, as safe as it comes, and you're still wound up from the nervous tension of a flight into the unknown. "They flew me to Moscow economy class! Look, you said they've got no money. So what's your angle?"

You don't bother with what's in it for me? because that much is clear. You have got: a bunch of blank passports and a toytown rubber stamp set; a steel-jacketed data key locked to your thumbprint and loaded with encryption certificates; documents telling the government of Scotland that you are hereby authorized to act as the legally responsible consul on behalf of the embassy of the Independent Republic of Issyk-Kulistan to the EU in Brussels; and a corporate credit card. Yes, you've come up in the world. But as you feel the warm weight of the Gnome's hand on your thigh, you can't shift the feeling that there's more to this than him doing one of his on/off boy-friends a favour. You try again. "What's your angle?"

The Gnome sighs. "I wish you wouldn't ask awkward questions," he says, a trifle querulously. "But if you must know, I'll tell you." He leans across the table, and you instinctively lean towards him, until his lips brush your ear. "The angle, dear boy, is money—and how you, and I, and a couple of friends, are going to make a great steaming pile of it. Legally come by, no more and no less—and there'll be nobody to say otherwise." You can feel the heat of his Cheshire-cat grin on your cheek: You can smell his yeasty breath. You lean a bit closer, tensing expectantly. "The pen-pushers in Przewalsk want you for a sparkly consular unicorn. I think that's a grand idea. And I think it would be especially grand if you'd keep me informed of developments, as and when they happen . . ."

Where to preorder:

Amazon US: [ Hardcover edition ][ Kindle edition ]

Powell's US: [ Hardcover edition ]

Amazon UK: [ Trade paperback edition ][ Kindle edition TBA ]

Signed copies: Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh will have signed copies of "Rule 34" and can ship them internationally. For details, email Transreal Fiction. (Note: signed copies may be back-ordered between July 20 and August 20 because I'll be traveling overseas and stocks may be low.)



You have no idea how much I cannot wait to buy this book.


Will it include a Scottish+20 years-English dictionary?


Naw; it disnae need wun Big Maun!


I'm relieved to read that the Caledonian Brewery, Deuchers IPA in particular, is going to be available in my retirement.

It'll be interesting to see what other Edinburgh pub's are going to still be operating in 10-15 years time, I seem to know the one that gets a mention in this section. It display's a pink neon ribbon shape in its window, does it not?

I must say as a 30+ year resident of the Athens of the North, there isn't anything, so far, that is even slightly out in Charlies evocation of the city.


Oh, this guy Anwar seems to have "PATSY" written on his face... or not, but thats my first vibe.

In other news I want the book already damnit :-P


La, la, la, I can't hear you. I've got my hands over my ears and my eyes closed, because I want to wait for my copy to arrive to read the whole book in one gulp. Really looking forward to it.

As an aside, I downloaded a copy of The Quantum Thief yesterday from iBooks and started reading it. Terrific so far; I wish I could read it all at once, but I've got several books and papers to read that are relevant to the possibility of creating some salable software in the near future; given the Current Financial Unpleasantness, that's got to be highest priority.


That was ... well, not what I was expecting.

In a good way.


Ah, was that the pub that was supposed to have no cell phone signal, but managed to get some near the window while you were most of the way through the book?


"Herriot-Watt" ? It must be the engineering and Yorkshire vet college ;-).

[I realise you did say the posted version was from before the copy editing stage].


I'd need to consult my dad, but it seems that there isn't as huge a turnover in pubs in Edinburgh as you might think. 5 or 6 years ago, when I said I was going along to a meeting in the Meadows bar, he said "Is that still there? I remember dealing with drunken students from it back in the 70's." Some of the pubs have been in place for many many decades, if not a century.

Herriot-Watt? Dearie me. Don't you just love spelling errors?


I have heard that Herriot-Watt Uni. had a good reputation in engineering, so one can also take it that it has a reputation as a party school ?


The only thing I recall about Heriot-Watt University was that (back in the days when UCCA sent you punch cards to select your university course of choice) it was one of the few to offer a BSc in Brewing.


Charlie, I want to have your baby.


The Meadow Bar is currently closed following a fire in the kitchen area upstairs. But it currently has a builder's sign outside and is expected (according to other signs) to re-open before August.

The turnover in Edinburgh pubs over the last few decades has mostly been when they have changed hands and/or had a major makeover. More recently, it seems to me, there have been longer term closures. Often the properties stay boarded up and later re-appear as pubs (of a sort) but sometimes they turn into other sorts of outlets, or even into flats.

But that's mostly in central Edinburgh. I have the impression that there is a more bleak story in outlying areas.


Nope; different pub :)


I like the prose style of this one better than the other books by you that I've read, even though I'm not normally a fan of second-person narrative. I'll be buying this one I think. Great name of course!


A gay Muslim and a lesbian policewoman - trying hard to make the 2nd person easy for the average sci fi reader to slip into, aren't you? :)

Oh well, likely it will be good for them.


would u drink freon for your kids?... ahem


I was keeping a mental count of exactly how many tenets of islam he was in violation of, but ended up loosing count ;) Not a good muslim, indeed.


'Just like the NLP book says'

Nuero Linguistic Programming? Or something else?


My first thought was "Why is the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge looking for a job?"

Second thought was I've spent too much time in America.

I suspect an early and spectacularly messy demise for Anwar.


AFAIK both gay Muslim men and cops are not unheard of, although both social backgrounds may not encourage being super open about it.

I'm told Konya is one of the more conservative centers of Islam, but you'll find an unusual number of <del>male couples</del> pairs of men holding hands on the streets, whatever that may signify.

As for police officers, well at least in the country I live in there is (Unfortunately Google will make a complete mess of the translation, so don't bother visiting unless you have a basic grasp of German.)


As a point of note, Lothian and Borders Police Force are currently rated the most gay-friendly employer in Edinburgh, if not in Scotland. Any given police force has its own distinctive local culture, and LBP is broadly progressive on gender issues. (Strathclyde -- Glasgow -- is a somewhat different kettle of fish.)


Also by the time of the novels setting more of the elder generation would have retired and more of the younger generation that grew up with homosexuality as normal will be employed in the work force. This helps progression by changing the frequency of people in the workforce who are more likely to be homophobic with people who wonder what all the fuss is about.


I don't mean to take this off topic too far (again?), but I felt that Nestor implied idea that you are being purposefully provocative on the point of f/m gender preference was not entirely correct.

I also don't think the fact that a website like I mentioned exists is indicative of a social background totally tolerant of the fact, so maybe in a really tolerant society (as far as this matter is concerned, like possibly LBP) you simply wouldn't have them. Let me give you an example: Would anyone even bother to create a website like or similar?


I felt that Nestor implied idea that you are being purposefully provocative on the point of f/m gender preference was not entirely correct.

There is one major character in this novel who is heterosexual. You haven't met him yet. But Nestor is generally correct: this is a non-heteronormative novel.


one of the more conservative centers of Islam, but you'll find an unusual number of male couples pairs of men holding hands on the streets, whatever that may signify.

Not much. In Arab culture it's not unusual for men to hold hands. Remember the picture of Bush jr. and King Abdullah? I suspect it might go back to keeping a potential opponent's sword hand occupied, or close enough that they can't swing it easily.


It may be of general " LGB&T " interest that...

" Five Gwent Police officers and staff members have filmed a short film to spread the message to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) young people that "It does get better and we can make it happen". The five officers - who are all LGB&T liaison officers - have been filmed talking about their own personal experiences, as well as outlining the LGB&T Liaison Officer service for victims of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime."

Things do change even in the ever so conservative with a small 'c' little England....and Wales. Things have certainly changed since I was a boy 50 years ago.

Would I have joined in with the anti Gay prejudice if Gays were recognised to exist way back then? I just don’t know. I had enough bullies to smack on the nose - literally and metaphorically - and, if there had been Gays to defend?..I just don't know what I’d have done way back then if LGB&T folk had been seen to exist.



I'm told Konya is one of the more conservative centers of Islam, but you'll find an unusual number of male couples pairs of men holding hands on the streets, whatever that may signify.

In Bangladesh I was informed that males holding hands meant they were good friends.

It was a little odd to see pairs of air force enlisted guys strolling around holding hands but hey, their culture, their rules.


Oh, and also, on

"(Strathclyde -- Glasgow -- is a somewhat different kettle of fish.)"

.. you don't mean to say that Edinburghs social culture is Different to that of, say, Glasgow which is a mere sparrows fart away from ...

' Welcome to Edinburgh, the first UNESCO City of Literature. Our city is built on books, brimming with writers and readers and home to the world's largest Book Festival.

Use this literature hub to discover more about our projects, Edinburgh's literary landmarks, Scottish literature and search our events database to find out what's going on. ' ...

Oh, Say It aint SO!


Attitudes towards homosexuality vary across space as well as time. I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (not Mississippi in the 1940s and 1950s. At that time, although the prevalent response in the US to the existence of homosexuality was either denial of its existence or savage repression, Philly was a special case, as was San Francisco. The official attitude was that it didn't exist, and that if it did it was illegal, but if homosexuals stayed out of the public eye, and paid the appropriate bribes to the police, and occasionally sacrificed a few people to arrest, they were left largely alone. The attitude of the general populace was that of live and let live, and the sort of rabid homophobia found elsewhere in the US even today was not common. One of my high school teachers (he was also my fencing coach) was commonly known to be in a long-term committed relationship with another man, and many of his students had met his partner. I can't recall anyone making even a semi-rude comment about the situation.

Re holding hands: seeing pairs of males or females holding hands is quite common in most of Southeast Asia, including Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam (I think that's also true of Myanmar, but I haven't been there or known anyone who has spent a great deal of time there).


I seem to remember something about hand holding being common in britain until the oscar wilde trial, one of those half- remembered bits of history that may, one day, win beer in a pub-quiz


What would happen to a Muslim man going around holding hands with a woman over there? I bet men are safer. I've talked with ex GI's who still go into a red rage over men holding hands there. But the dancing boys videos and what they said really stirred things up over here. GI's got mad over their holding hands in Nam too.
I've always read and and been told that most homosexual bars here were owned or run by the Mafia. They kept trash away from their money makers and paid off the cops.
What did some Duke say back in Oscars time? He did not care what they did as long as it did not scare the horses?

35: 10 and 14 - If we discuss location and use of premises rather than "name on pub signage", I suspect that most pubs in the Victorian (and older) developed parts of Glasgow and Edinburgh will have been there since the building was finished.
36: 31 - I'm not sure how serious you are, but yes Embra and Weegieland are very different places culturally speaking.

I'm sure I recall references in Sherlock Holmes stories to Holmes and Watson linking arms; I also recall mention of it in "Brideshead revisited" a few decades later.

Also, one of the good things new labour did was put effort and money into encouraging culture change, so that public services such as the police are properly friendly to all parts of the communities they serve, not just the ones they happen to like.


That's the oldest story on the net, innit? "Attention-seeking teen/twenty-something girl was really a creepy dude all along." This being a thread about a book named after a meme, it's impossible not to mention that other old internet adage: "No girls in the internet."


I've talked with ex GI's who still go into a red rage over men holding hands there Toto, I've a feeling...

What did some Duke say back in Oscars time? He did not care what they did as long as it did not scare the horses? Some Duke. That would be Mrs Patrick Campbell.


hmmmmmmmm Interesting how once the subject was broached, the topic of sexual orientation has pretty much dominated this topic.

Obviously its still not as much of a non issue (even amongst literate small 'L' liberals) as I'd come to think.

Don't mean the above in any negative, not suggesting anyone's a part time LGB&T reprogrammer. just interesting what people focus on.

Charlie do I sense correctly from your comment at #27 "this is a non-heteronormative novel" That there is some deeper narrative/conceptual purpose to the sexual orientations of the characters in this novel?? Oh I do hope so. Now am even more eager to read the full novel, the queries (no pun) are just piling up.


The murdervictim in the first excerpt was sent to the pen, and earned his dosh for unspecified crimes of a kinky nature - probably selling viagra and other drugs in the class of "improves sexual preformance and experience" substances without perscription, so it seems likely to be plot relevant.

.. Wild mass guess: Someone came up with a drug that messes with sexuality somehow? That would neatly explain why he did his time in the "likely to be murdered if left in general population" section of the prison, as having someone spike your drik with a drug that sets your orientation to "bisexual" or just outright flips it would not go over well with the average Ned. Altough, just not exercising proper quality control when selling standard viagra might well piss people off enough for that, depending on side effects..


I held hands with my Balinese friends when I visited Indonesia 25 years ago.


“Some Duke. That would be Mrs Patrick Campbell” Well all I clam to have is a sallow but sticky mind. And know I read that some crusty old Duke was said to have said the 'don't scare the horses.” It sounds like the kind of thing that would be said over and over.


@41: Interesting how once the subject was broached, the topic of sexual orientation has pretty much dominated this topic.

Obviously its still not as much of a non issue (even amongst literate small 'L' liberals) as I'd come to think.

That may have something to do with the ages of people round here, as discussed in another thread. It seems a lot of contributors are in the 45-65 range, which means, in the UK at least, most were born at a time when (male) homosexuality was illegal and were raised in a society that was prejudiced against homosexuality even when it was legal. We've all had the experience of either coming out or seeing our friends come out in the face of societal disapproval, and seen the worst of the fight for equality, thus it's a big thing to us.

In my nephew's generation (early 20s), it seems to be no big deal (at least amongst the well educated). He came out to friends and immediate family when at school. He didn't come out to the extended family at the same time, not because he was worried about how we'd react, but because it didn't seem to be that important to him. As he said, when you're talking about what he's doing at university, it's a weird to suddenly interject "by the way, I'm gay" into the middle of the conversation. However, he happily talks about his boyfriend and their plans for the future in exactly the way I talked about my girlfriend at that age.

The interesting thing (to me) is that he doesn't consider his identity to be defined by his sexual orientation in the same way that gay friends of my age do, any more than he considers his height to define him. (He's quite tall.)


Of course there is another interesting possibility. We all know charlie writes well (even if we sometimes fail to follow all that is happening (eg me in "Accelerando"). Given the rave reviews, it should sell well to start with, then the topic we've all ben discussing will be, erm, noticed. If Charlie is very lucky he'll be denounced as a degenerate and immoral writer, and if exceptionally lucky by more than one religious nutcase of more than one religion. Which should do the sales no end of good!


Well I am 46 myself, though I must admit am not your typical 46 year old Brit male.

Sexual orientation has never been a big deal with me, maybe because am black. Always seen the two things as similar ... your kind of stuck with whatever life dealt you and it would be nice if everyone else forgot about it as often as you did yourself. And just let you get on with it.

Though I must confess I've heard plenty of nasty homophobic nonsense over the years from other people.

IMHO homophobia is more to do with fear than anything else. Next time you hear someone voice a subtly homophobic comment slyly suggest "it's ok mate nothing to be SCARED of" and see how quickly they get flustered, defensive, and over compensate by being slightly hostile at the suggestion. Suppose its wrong to bait people like that, but it always makes me laugh.

I've always had gay friends and always gone to gay clubs with them at times. Always had great nights out, with a complete lack of the lingering hint of beer fuelled violence. Can't say that for all the groups of hetero guys I know. Though I have been in two fights over backing up gay friends ...... I just hate bullies and will not be subjected to it or allow friends to be, period!!


A place named "something-Kulistan" made me really ROFLMAOing, as I'm Italian, and the name sounds like "Ass-istan" or "Butt-istan"; now, in order to indicate a place being both very far away and not deserving the effort to get there, the Italian slang is "in culo al mondo", "at the ass end of the world"

So, at least in my language the fictional country's name is a pun in itself...


Am i the only one who sees Anwar in RICK'S being patted by a fat man with a non funny smile.
The dead guy. That kind of death is somebody making a point.


@BlowFeld20K: Spot on. I've got this buddy whose mother claims some guys fear gays because they're afraid gays will treat them like they treat women. I've not been able to disprove this hypothesis.


All I have to say is there was real reasons to be made at gays. i don't remember it as bad before Aids. There is not as much now as there was then was then, I think.
When it became obvious that the baths and clubs were spreading something that was unknown, there was much yelling and lawyering about gay rights. The asses that did this are all dead. But between them and Bob Doles wife's Red Cross they killed lots people. Like I said they are dead, But today there are young people going back to the bad old days. So gay groups say.
People who can't count are moving money into Aids programs in Africa. They should look at the tombstone count. The money would save many times the humans that die of malaria. But that's not hip.


Ok. When my back really hurts I go rushing on a run to get things over with. Like i did here. Sorry.


You appear to be unclear on the difference between a zoonosis and a human-to-human transmitted epidemic.

Hint: one is limited in scope by the geographical distribution of the transmissive vector (e.g. mosquitos). The other is not ...


Well no. I was talking about the baths and the fights trying to close them. That nobody alive today had anything to do with. And the dead from the Red Cross from not obeying it's own rules more than once.
As I remember the first spread aids and made a lot of anger that was not there before. The Red Cross acts added to it, but thanks to who was running the Red Cross, their part did not make much news. Just the dead from aids.
I Never said anybody got it from bugs or animals. Not here at least. People were the problem. And gay groups say the new guys keep trying go back to the old fun days.


Thanks for the facts. I had only put some things together, this is better. "but it is known that STDs are spread via unprotected sex, and as part of their membership agreement, or as a condition of entry, SOME bathhouses NOW require customers to affirm in writing that they will only practice safe sex on the premises," This is now, not then. And maybe I did not know what was going on before Aids come to town.


Indeed - similar arguments apply in other countries - e.g. the Republic of Ireland where this case was pivotal:

Related issues, such as Civil Partnerships and full marriage rights for same-sex couples are topical but not universal. Civil Partnerships may be a step in the right direction, but they're still second class.


More power to you for standing up to bullies - the world would be a better place if more people followed your lead!


You know that "unprotected sex" can happen between any variable of partners, right?


Gee, really? I referred you to "The Boys in the Band" I think? I only read pieces by it's writer. I think time has put a happy wax over that time. Even before they knew what it was, people who went to the baths a lot were dying of strange things. But that could not be said too loud if you wanted a quiet life.


No, you didn't mention them in 56, which is what I replied to.


"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia" "but it is known that STDs are spread via unprotected sex, and as part of their membership agreement, or as a condition of entry, SOME bathhouses NOW require customers to affirm in writing that they will only practice safe sex on the premises," This is now, not then


relative humidity is 80 per cent, and it is raining.

Uh huh.


I mentioned unprotected sex further up. If you can't get clear true facts, don't bother answering.


Yes you did. Your facts were from the same Wikipedia I used. It's what they said, not what you or I said. I think we are talking past each other. The words of the Wikipedia are the same. and like I say that was then, when something was known to be getting out of the baths.



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