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Commercial interlude

Tor are publishing "Equoid" on their website today; after 9am EDT (2pm, BST) you can find Equoid here.

(And if that doesn't sate your appetite you can pre-order the $1.99 ebook edition here (in the US) (or the UK Kindle store has it here), or pre-order the Subterranean Press signed limited edition hardcover here (note publication date: for contractual reasons there's a 12 month wait).

Yes, I will answer questions about "Equoid" in the comments below. So, HERE BE SPOILERS.

Meanwhile, if you are jonesing for more Evil Unicorns, I think you may enjoy this video ...



Duly ordered.

I shall, however, exercise what little willpower remains to me and avoid visiting the Tor website until I get home - otherwise I will get no work whatsoever done this afternoon.


On the first pass, I missed that the link wasn't already up, assumed there was something wrong with the link, searched on equoid, and found The beginning of the equoid radiation. Obviously very small horse-shaped sub-atomic particles, or possibly those moments when you should avoid horses for the sake of your health.

Anyway, looking forward to it-- the cover on the paper versions is gorgeous.


Possible typo? “Then I think we’d better go and have a word with Inspector Dudley. I have some questions for him, starting with where he got the idea of re-equipping the mounted unit with equoids . . .” is in quotes, but it seems odd for Bob to break cover by saying that out loud - is it meant to be an aside to the audience?

Greg, a Landy, vents as air-conditioning - am I seeing things or is that commenter Greg Tingey? Also, I didn't get what EQUESTRIAN RED SIRLOIN or EMOCUM were referencing, I'm guessing it's a Cold Comfort Farm in-joke I missed.

Great novella in any case - can't wait for the Rhesus Chart!


Given other revelations of recent months, does Bob honestly believe that the potentially lethal nature of MS office is purely accidental? It seem to be the sort of "cunning" backdoor that certain US gov't agencies are keen on getting big US tech companies to implement.

In fact, between that and the glamour on the jesusphone, the implications about the links between big computing and the Black Chamber are positively terrifying. Not least because of the implication that there are people in positions of power within the BC who are capable of pushing a weapons-grade-stupid scheme through to fruition.


A couple of clues:

EQUESTRIAN RED SURLOIN (at which I confess I laughed out loud; thank you Charlie) - following a recent food-labelling scandal, the speech-bubble on one issue of Private Eye had a government minister saying "British Beef is as safe as horses".

EMOCUM Emo kids are a type of mopey teenager, some of whom might be considered unreasonably ecstatic about books with sparkly vampires in. (I trust the audience here is educated enough not to need a lecture on the difference between Emos and Goths? :)


Goths are older and have more money?


Remember, at this point Bob hasn't even come across the Jesusphone. His thinking may have changed since.


He's speaking to Greg, who is ex-Artists' Rifles and knows about both the Laundry and unicorns. Possibly unwise, but not actually breaking cover.


Unless I'm reading it wrong, Georgina is still there - she's just had a large chunk of direct speech complaining, then Greg replied to her and addressed Bob, then Bob's odd aside. There's no indication that she isn't still in the conversation, and she wasn't doing anything which would naturally involve walking away.


Thank you Charlie for another great read. Loved the jokes and the use of HPL's perchant for letter writing in eighteenth century style.

I'd love a follow-up covering the source of the procurement memo's. Who is the thing/person/entity behind the various attempts to secure a breeding program?


You're right; I'd lost track of Georgina.


Bear in mind that at this point, Bob is still working for Iris. So there's no telling what's actually going on above his reporting chain. (See also "The Fuller Memorandum".)

As for who keeps sneaking those requirements memos in, think in terms of cultist worshippers of Shub-Niggurath ...


I'd argue they also generally have better taste in music, but that's probably just that they tend to be closer to my age.


Point. Although the question definitely still has some value from an observer perspective :)


Charlie, I was thinking of a novella covering the follow -up by External Assets. The question about the 'who' was more rhetorical than hopeful of a reveal.

I imagined Iris' "wicked glint" with the sure knowledge of what happened to Bob in chronologically subsequent material and let out a snigger myself.

I'm sated for the moment and it's only nine months until we get our next dose of The Laundry.


Not just Microsoft Office, consider the implications of the modern office photocopier/copy centre/multifunction printer. I suspect the Laundry is still using 'traditional' (optical image onto sensitized drum) copiers since the implications of 'scan to digital data and store to disk then print (with optional OCR (data corruption an added extra) to PDF) don't really bear thinking about.


Great job! The Lovecraft letters and the procurement forms interleave to really ramp up the tension. Nice bit of writing craft there.

Something nasty in the woodshed indeed. Before I caught onto the Cold Comfort Farm I was thinking of Ada as in Ada Lovelace and a bit of computational demonology therein. Also, this does rather neatly explain old HPL's seeming fearfulness of female anatomy.

Very interesting little escapade for Bob. As Case Nightmare Green gets closer, one has to guess that all of the crazies will be inching further from the woodwork.


dr_demento @ 3 Yes it (probably) is …. Also, c.f. anonemouse @ 8 I have a friend, exactly a year younger than me who is ex-Artists Rifles ….


Chrisj @ 4 …there are people in positions of power within the BC who are capable of pushing a weapons-grade-stupid scheme through to fruition. And you mean you only just noticed? I mean they’ve been doing this for years already!


Feorag @ 6 Actually, Goths are quite nice … someone I know, his daughter got some horrible semi-crippling (muscular?) disease, which means that a lot of the time she’s in a ‘chair with a very nice Goth boyfriend .. seeing them, both in elaborate blacks is a treat for the eye! There was also the time Battersea Beer Festival shared the building ( which used to be Battersea Town Hall, with a Goth festival … made the evening drinking sessions, erm, * interesting *

Personal thought … the special edition is ordered … but the postal charge is a rip-off!


So what differentiated HPL and good old Bob from the others who were just eaten up and thrown away like refuse? Why the seduction attempts?

Both have magical knowledge - perhaps that made them suitable for joining old Shubby?


Just pre-ordered. So the trade edition isn't signed? Bummer. Will just have to get it done in person, someday/somehow. I don't do leather bound--dry climate would probably wreck it anyhow. In 13 months, when I've forgotten all about it, it will make for a nice surprise. Meanwhile I'll go print it out from Tor.


Chrisj @ 4 …there are people in positions of power within the BC who are capable of pushing a weapons-grade-stupid scheme through to fruition. And you mean you only just noticed? I mean they’ve been doing this for years already!

iPhone has a non-removable battery, so already vulnerable to remote turn-on & control. (No way to simply pop the battery to guarantee no eavesdropping.)

Add in a camera concealed behind the display*, so no way to cover it and still use the smartphone, mix in scorpion stare, and have fun.

*Patent granted in 2009, so old news:


Emo kids are generally the same kids as would have been goth kids back in the day, except that they can't be "goth" anymore, because that's something older people do.

In another 10-15 years it'll still be the same general thing, but they will have come up with a new name for it, because the new kids will look at that oh-so-out-of-touch thirtysomething emo crowd and not wish to be associated with them.

Old goths never die, but it becomes increasingly more difficult to tell the difference.


Interesting story! Also, an interesting way to use a Lovecraftian characters that's, erm, difficult to even write in America these days, and for very good reason.

Two grumbles:

One is that I wasn't bright enough to note down possible typos, but I thought I spotted two on the first page. In both cases they were verbs used in the present tense that (I thought) should have been past tense. I'll try to find them on the reread, because they're trivial fixes.

The other one is about the Conidae: while they're perfectly conical in a Euclidean way, they don't really spiral the way the Terebridae do. The image was fascinating, but not as, well, 'corny as some might hope.


Don't google for EMOCUM. Just...don't.

What's the thinking behind making it available on before the ebook versions? As Tor are very sharp cookies, I'm assuming it makes sound business sense, I just can't see what it is. (I've obviously pre-ordered an ebook version anyway, because paying authors is a Good Thing)

Liked the story very much, as the details of the Equoid's lifecycle became disturbingly clear.

Any description of your writing career tends to hit upon the word "Lovecraftian" in short order. In Equoid, Bob is quite clear about his dislike of Lovecraft's purple prose, but what do you actually think of Lovecraft and his core work?


Small correction; the "snorkel-shaped exhaust bolted to one side of the windscreen" is more likely to be an actual snorkel. The exhaust doesn't need to be above the water as (long as you keep the revs up) hopefully the water will be kept out by the exhaust gasses. I'm pretty sure a snorkel could be had as a factory option on Land Rovers, and now there's many kits to route the air intake up the side of the windscreen. Theoretically you can drive a diesel engined landie through water up to the level of the snorkel. I say theoretically because old land rovers are fickle beasts, especially where electrics are concerned. My brother's used to flash the interior light when he indicated left... That said, when it goes pretty much no terrain will stop it.


Actually, I've just thought, if you had a snorkel fitted you wouldn't be able to push the windscreen down. Um, sorry I didn't mean to be all nit-picky*.

  • in Dutch I believe the phrase would be "ant fucker", which is a great phrase.
What's the thinking behind making it available on before the ebook versions? As Tor are very sharp cookies, I'm assuming it makes sound business sense, I just can't see what it is.

Well, I guess you somewhat answered your own question with:

I've obviously pre-ordered an ebook version anyway, because paying authors is a Good Thing

BTW, sorry to ask, but is there any official policy by TOR concerning converting to ebook formats for personal use?

Opera runs somewhat fickle on my ODYS Space, which is not that surprising given the hardware specs, and is in the nasty habit of forgetting web pages, so feeding it to Calibre et al. and using the epub with FBReader would be somewhat practical...


Minor nit on "XM-1060" - it's not the grenade launcher, it's a small grenade (once it stops being "experimental", it becomes the M1060). It can be fired from an under barrel grenade launcher (as often used by Hereford, do a search on M203), or from a dedicated launcher (M79). Failing that, google ARWEN or AG36.

Recently, the well-dressed young blade might well be carrying a pair of LASM (the old 66mm LAW with a blast warhead); the UK equivalent of the Russian RPO-A, and more likely to give a satisfyingly large bang...


I should say, you don't load and fuse them (like a UK hand grenade - we store fuses and bodies separately, AIUI the US supply theirs ready-assembled) - AIUI a 40mm grenade would come out of its primary packaging "ready for firing", as would a LASM.


Are we allowed to indulge in typo spotting? The "stack of [glossy] magazines for [space] aliens" appears either side of HPL's second letter. And in the final letter, "was I was" seems in error - though it's hard to discern through the wonderfully purple pastiche.

Does the range of the equoid extend outside western Europe? Borges (and Wikipedia) are typically noncommittal on the actual form of the Qilin, but the single-horned variety only seems to exist in the Japanese tradition. Perhaps the Chinese were better at suppressing infestations?


Does the front-cover copy line for Ace’s edition of The Atrocity Archives really say “There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” ? (I have a different edition so I don't know if that claim from the preamble is correct). That'd be wrong, since "a number" is singular, not plural. There is [a surprising number of meetings] involved.

Also, I noticed a "neighbor" where I thought "neighbour" would be appropriate.


In further uninvited proof-reading action, are there some words missing from "as if Bexhill-upon-Sea might at any time to supply a riot whose average age is a day under seventy!" ?



I think you're missing a 'neither' in this sentence - "East Grinstead is buried deep in the heart of the Sussex commuter belt: this is Ruralshire, nor are we out of it."

Hopefully, the final proofs haven't gone to the printer yet.



This is a truly excellent piece of Lovecraftian horror. In particular, I was interested in the dialogue at the very end; does Shub simply assume that all human males are the same, or does she specifically recognize Bob Howard as someone who she dealt with during one of his earlier incarnations?

And did Bob catch the implications?

“You remember me. I was your Hetty. I said we would meet again. Isn’t that right?”

My skin crawls. I begin to frame a reply, then stop. I was going to say something human, but: do not disclose operational intelligence to happy fun serial group mind horror.

What is the operational intelligence? That Bob already knows or suspects himself to be Lovecraft's reincarnation? Is he simply thinking about the coming Rifles? Or something else?


Marvellous stuff. Nicely done. I'm ashamed to admit I only caught on to the CCF references when Charlie rammed them down our throats a couple of paragraphs from the end (I should finish that book some day ...). I now have more material for recommending the Laundry series to anyone even vaguely compatible with it who crosses my path.

One thing that nagged at me: wasn't OCCULUS formerly spelled thus, rather than OCULUS?


It's possible that the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army might appreciate having an apostrophe inserted in their Peoples. Or not.

I'm also unsure what to make of the semicolon in “Who the fuck are they planning on deploying these things against?” I ask hoarsely; “An invading Panzer division?”


Could it have been that since Bob had read Lovecraft's letter and the knowledge of the encounter was in his memory, Shub thought he was Lovecraft?

Also: was the "Robert" the letter was written to not the Robert Howard of Conan fame, or Robert Bloch, but Bob Howard himself, time-traveling?


That, or the operational intelligence could be "not all humans are the same".

Why do monsters have to have tentacles anyway?


Great read :) a general question about equoids and other aspects of cryptozoology in the laundryverse: are these creatures that have crossed over from other corners of the multiverse at some point in the past (possibly through some cult summoning), relics of ancient alien panspermia, the result of past demonic possession of animals creating a new species or something else entirely?


Really well-done and "ick"-inducing. I like how you give Lovecraft a reason other than his own ... umm ... innate quirks for fearing fish, tentacles, vaginas, etc.

I note that on the one hand Bob talks about his job including dealing with "Old Bat Wings himself" and nine paragraphs later is telling us it's safe to discount everything HPL talks about, including "Old Bat-Wings himself," and that he (Cthulhu) doesn't exist. Or is Bob just saying something Cthulhu-oid exists but he/it isn't as described by Lovecraft?

As for ShubShub being attracted to Bob, I think he/it has a text-based brain and found "Howard" in both names, so go for it. Good thing it never encountered the Three Stooges.


from the intro: Like some other stories published on, “Equoid” contains scenes and situations some readers will find upsetting and/or repellent. [—The Editors]

I should hope so.


"Who the fuck are they planning on deploying these things against?" I ask hoarsely; "An invading Panzer division?"

Congratulations on the subtle (but funny) Tom Swifty! I only caught it on re-reading that line in heteromeles's post.


RingOfStones wrote: "I note that on the one hand Bob talks about his job including dealing with "Old Bat Wings himself" and nine paragraphs later is telling us it's safe to discount everything HPL talks about, including "Old Bat-Wings himself," and that he (Cthulhu) doesn't exist."

Could just be another example of Bob being an unreliable narrator. Or perhaps the Laundry uses "Old Bat Wings" as jargon for extinction event level cosmic horrors. And even if the Laundry does believe Cthulhu doesn't exist, how would they know for sure? Because BLUE HADES told them?

Finally, from the classic days of rec.humor.funny:

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Cthulhu"


Not sure about other cryptids, but at least for the equoids, the impression I got was that they were simply naturally evolved terrestrial animals that hadn't been discovered by mainstream biology yet.


Typos and etc:

Isn't it DEEP SEVEN? Or are we introducing a new race for later use?

"lithospheric colonies of BLUE HADES and DEEP SIX,"

Referring to the same gun:

Actually, I’m not sure how to load it in the first place—it can fire tranquilizer darts as well as bullets—but it’s the thought that counts.

It’s only by sheer chance that I once asked Harry the Horse to show me how to load one of these antiques.

Shouldn't it be "tentacled monster?"

side-order of mortal terror courtesy of tentacle monsters from beyond spacetime.


The phrasing there was very deliberate, and nothing is missing. However, I did wonder whether Bob, given his background, would have been likely to know Marlowe:

"Why this is hell, nor am I out of it. Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God and tasted the eternal joy of heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells in being deprived of everlasting bliss?" - Mephistopheles to Faustus


Two definite typos:

mikecotton @ 35: "... this is Ruralshire, nor are we out of it." simply indicates that Bob remembers his Marlowe.

Mephistopheles: "Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it."

One of the finest lines in Elizabethan drama, Shakespeare included.

troutwaxer @ 47: tentacle monster (n) is a term of art.


Arrgh, that was supposed to say two definite non-typos, until I screwed it up. Muphry's law again.


I know that "tentacle monster" is a term of art. I tend to associate it with Hentai, so I noted it because OGH might not want to go there. (Or he may have deliberately gone there.) I pointed it out just in case it wasn't edited properly.


dr_demento @ 3: Yes, it's in front of Georgina, but Georgina has just been complaining to Bob and Greg all about equoids, and clearly knows a good deal more about their care and feeding (literally) than Bob does. She also knows that it's Dudley who's housed them with her. How is any of that something to keep secret from her, even by the Laundry's screwed-up intelligence handling rules?

Now for my own question:

I'd swear this is not the first time I've run across the pairing of H.P. Lovecraft and Cold Comfort Farm. Did Equoid have its spark in that Making Light thread which began going into "Dueling authors", i.e. unusual author and book rematches, beginning with Edith Wharton's Moby Dick? Or is it merely that, as my wife is wont to say, "Greatly twisted minds think alike"?


To add to the typo hunt, "thoughts it provoke" sounds odd. Apologies if this usage is meant to hark back to some illustrious prior text that I am not familiar with.

Having just waded through HPL's oeuvre, I feel you have nicely captured his detailing of the unnecessary, while eliding the crucial (oh, those mountains of madness!).

However, your pastiche is at times too vivid and well-crafted to be altogether convincing. This is just as well. I might have had to skip those bits if you hadn't tweaked HPL's style a little.

Thanks for a great read!


Under the circumstances, 'tentacle monster' was apt and seemed entirely on purpose to me.

Overall impression - yuck, eww, but good. Detail continuity issues don't mess with the flow.


"September 31st, 2002" - did they introduce a new leap day?


default fuzz @ 27 That is an obvious earth fault ... I've had those. You clean up all the contacts @ both ends, & if that doesn't work, you run a new earth-lead. { I once had an earth-fault on the offside brake/indicators, that made the fuel guage go up- )&-down as the lights flashed! Not so bad with diesel models, of course, since no ignition to worry about.


Ryan @ 41 Err ... a possible panspermia reference surfaced recently, as a result of high-altitude research samplings However, note the caveat that the researcers are saying ... "but we will have to do isotopic analysis to make sure that it isn't Terran, because we could be wrong"


@56 Yep, that's how he fixed it in the end.* However, just to prove myself wrong I found this picture of a series 3 which has a snorkel that goes up the edge of the windscreen, probably allowing it to hinge forward.

  • part of the frame had be replaced, and when they welded the new bit on, they scorched a lot of the wiring.

Feorag attends SF cons; there are always Goths at SF cons.


Apparently cats can work the latest j-phones. and scroll down to "Cat Stuff".


Unfortunately, that research paper is full of holes. Such as the researchers not actually bothering to ask an expert on microalgae to identify the fragment they found, and using an atmospheric model that assumes a static atmosphere (i.e. one without wind). See Phil Plait's explanation here:


Greg - somewhere in one of Mick Mercer's books on goth, there is a photo of me taken on my 17th birthday at a Specimen gig. And being a fat goth is why I learned to sew. I suppose an emo kid would just sit there moaning about not being able to get anything nice that fits instead.


I can't help noticing that this is not the only story where every single person Howard introduces himself to gets his name wrong. Some sort of goetic side-effect of the fact that it's an assumed name?

(And the horses in Edgebaston Farm appear to have got their naming scheme from Andrews and Arnold... :} )


Yes. Someone asked on Twitter why this paper wasn't all over the news. The answer is that the paper is apparent bobbins, and the science journos will have realised that pretty quickly.

Myself, well, this was found at a mere 22 - 27 km altitude? Diatoms and the like are frequently found in the centres of hail stones and the like dropped by thunderstorms, so we know that they're to be found in the clouds that make up such storms. And the tops of those clouds can go up to the bottom of the required height range. I find it rather odd for the researchers to just ignore those.


I suspect some wanderings in the oeuvre of the Four Lads Who Shook The Wirral...


And east grinstead is not on the main Brighton line you change at east croyden - I have done this route a few times back when I worked for Reed Elsevier. (about an hour from faringdon)

Its also the HQ for scientology in the UK - though not sure what role Ron L has in the laudryverse (maybe in the laundryverse its robert heinlein that started a religion)


About halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it. Is anyone else picturing Mr Scullery being played by BRIAN BLESSED?


I'm still unsure on how to fit the requirement memos on this. Well they fit in an comical way and also with the style of the Laundry tales, but I mean in terms of plot.

Somebody is sending requests for My Not So Little Not Pony every few decades. Dunno. Seems to me as a good way to call attention to the fact that something tentacled is going on... and how that fits the presence of Shub in here? What was first, Shub in the farm then the memo, the memo as a way to plant Shub in the farm...


Well, a Greg with a beard, driving a landrover, drinking bear? Yeah, likely overactive imagination, but I asked myself if Charlie indulged in some tuckerization. ;)

On anther note,

How to describe the foul smell, the vile purulent exudate of eldritch emulsion bearing gelatinous bubbles of toadspawn from its body, did toadspawn only contain minuscule conical snail-bodies & horse-like bodies—not sea-horses yet, for no sea-horse has legs, but bodies of the size of sea-horses

You know, Charlie, for a few seconds I thought you were overdoing channeling good old Howard Phillips, but than I looked again and found it still somewhat tame...

The anal tentacle statutory rape was somewhat disturbing, but then it explains quite a few thing with a certain author.

BTW, "Jew-Fascist", AFAIR HPL's opinions on fascism were somewhat mixed, but did he really make a connection with another thing he had somewhat mixed feelings on? Or is this HPL getting primed into an antisemitic association, realising the surname of the guy he's writing to is Bloch and going for some other target?

As for Professor Watts, could it be that the son of said guy started similar, later on did the Price inversion

and became a Baptist minister? If so, might I have heard of his grandson?

Last but not least, is Bob saying "(unicorns|vampires|Cthulhu) don't exist" in the Laundryverse just on a par with "Oceania was always at war with Eurasia"?

Somebody is sending requests for My Not So Little Not Pony every few decades. Dunno. Seems to me as a good way to call attention to the fact that something tentacled is going on.

Well, personally I thought that one more along the lines of Charlie being tired of discussions about planes and religion popping up, some patent offices have special politics concerning perpetuum mobiles of the first and second kind, at least one mathematician had a form for replying to "proofs" of Fermat's theorem, most of us have a fleeting familiarity with Velikovsky, some usenet groups had a FAQ and the probability of Heinlein and/or Hitler being mentioned in a thread approaches 1.

TLDR, the human mind has some strange attractors, and these are seldom practical and/or healthy.


Last but not least, is Bob saying "(unicorns|vampires|Cthulhu) don't exist" in the Laundryverse just on a par with "Oceania was always at war with Eurasia"?

Well, this isn't a spoiler (because it's all over the cover copy and marketing materials), but I think I can admit that "The Rhesus Chart" is the Laundry vampire novel.

Unicorns don't exist. (Check.) Vampires don't exist. (Check.) Cthulhu doesn't ...


ooh yes I like where your coming from though I could see John Nobel in that role.

so who do we get to play Bob and Mo - Karen Gillan as Mo maybe as she she is a red head Scottish and tall


I've always assumed that people get Bob's name wrong because he hits them with his warrant card, which violates them mentally in unpleasant ways and probably bobbles things up when they have to inform their superiors, that, um, this guy, Mr... Hogarth, yeah, Hogarth is here.


Having just read this on - Charlie, you are an eeevil, eeeevil bastard, and I love you to bits for it.

I groaned, I yelled at the screen, I complained loudly about the references, and my partner thinks I'm crazy. So about par for the course with Laundryverse stuff there.

I did love the Pratchett reference dropped into the middle of things. Of course Bob reads Discworld; he probably thinks Havelock Vetinari would do quite well at his (Bob's) job.

(Oh, and speaking as someone who lives in neither the US nor the UK, nor in a location which really counts to either as a definite "foreign" market[1] and is therefore caught out by both sides on the whole geolocation mess when it comes to sourcing ebooks, seeing this on for only the low low cost of my internet connection was a nice surprise. It means I'm still up to date with all the Laundry-verse, praise $WHATEVER).

[1] I love living in Australia, but I could live quite cheerfully without the geolocation catch-22 of being considered outside Europe geographically, but nowhere near Asian enough culturally to fit into the greater SE Asian marketing sphere. What it tends to translate to in practical terms is "Aussies pay twice the price".


I was thinking about Lovecraft's account possibly being shaded by gynephobia, and the idea of androphobia (sp?) occurred to me as a matter of fairness. If Lovecraft and Tiptree team up, could the human race survive it?


No, see, I see why Mr Stross wrote those - they are fun, they make a good example of the whole Laundryverse mix of bureocracy, espionage & Mythos stuff in particular and of his style in general.

What I'm wondering is what was first in the plot. We know that the last document had a very powerful magic virus in it. Somebody also got the Inspector all pwned. But I dont see how to work those 2 things into a coherent plan. I can see a sneaky group of worshippers hacking Inspector Dudley to get a nice little farm for their new nest and having the document as cover story, but not that they would be willing to show their hand by having the request really show up in whatever review procedures it takes to grant or deny them. Unless is something done by Shub herself in her not-yet-there-but-growing understanding of humanity and society ("now that I have a pawn in the Army/Law Enforcement/whatever ..."). But that doesnt sound good either unless we think Shub knows Visual Basic.

Well, maybe the worshippers are a bit dense or a lot hopeful :-)


Hmm. Having had some time to digest this, as well as the other Laundry files.. I'm gonna come right out and say it: the Laundry isn't competent to operate domestically this way, and their incompetence got at least three people who didn't need to die killed.

Bob is an excellent computational demonologist. Know what he isn't? A police officer. Or an expert in forensics. Or a CSI. He hasn't been trained in any of those things, and those things are important if you care at all about minimizing casualties.

Bob not knowing the particulars of the Edgebaston Farm and the family living there before he even got to Grinstead would be a shocking dereliction of duty in even the greenest Detective Constable sent round to work an open investigation. Had he done even that basic level of homework he would have known about Lucinda, Harry, and Ada beforehand, which would have made the initial visit to Georgina play out much differently, and probably in a manner that wouldn't have eventually gotten Greg killed. This isn't Bob's fault; he wasn't briefed and he isn't trained to think that way, to him an EQUESTRIAN RED SIRLOIN infestation is an engineering problem to be solved. But it is the fault of the Laundry.

Using Inspector Dudley as his angler fish was also jaw-droppingly dumb from a law enforcement perspective as well as a safety one. Once he had proven he was mentally compromised, his office became a crime scene. Bob knew for a damn fact that opening that file was likely to be dangerous (which is why he had his phone out and was ready for occult hazards) and letting the victim do it rather than bagging and tagging it got Dudley and later Constable Savage killed. For that matter, if he'd done his homework prior to getting to Edgebaston, he'd already have known glamours and mental compulsion were in play.

This all doesn't matter if your OCCINT organization doesn't give a fuck about the people it is nominally protecting in favor of the "big picture" of "getting the job done." And none of it is precisely Bob's fault; he's trained as a computational demonologist, an OCCINT field operator, and a senior IT professional. But the Laundry really needs to train the people it sends out on shouts like these as police officers as well, if they care about things like minimizing casualties.

This seems like it is really going to bite them in the ass when the CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN party starts. Civil peacekeeping is radically different than operating as a cowboy intelligence agency. The Met is going to want options for dealing with occult criminals and investigations and crime scenes that don't involve high body counts, and the Laundry is going to stare at them blankly.


a small mistake: I hit “send” and wander out into the neon tube overcast where Iris is tapping her toes. “Your place or mine?”

“Mine,” says Iris,

... a bit later ...

She slides the file across my desk and I open the flyleaf. It starts with TOP SECRET

it's her desk, not Bob's


Yup. You know Bob was sent on this job by Iris, right? (And I assume you've read "The Fuller Memorandum"?)


Oh, yes, absolutely. But even controlling for Iris... well, it's not like Atherton or Andy never dropped Bob into an imbroglio without a degree of training or preparedness that one would think would be appropriate to acting in a domestic, non-military context.

Which is fine. The Laundry is an intelligence service and one would expect them to have all the pathologies that go along with being an intelligence service combined with the fact that they have a tap on Real Cosmic Power. But man... Bob's complete lack of training as anything other than a troubleshooter was in full-on display here, and it resulted in bloodshed that wasn't, strictly speaking, necessary.

This isn't me complaining, by the way, because I love that stuff. And please, let me know if I've grossly misread something; for all I know the Laundry has a whole cadre of guys who really are trained as investigators and occult crime-scene experts and this one is all on Iris being a clever, clever girl. But institutionally, the Laundry seems very, very oriented towards a "send troubleshooter, then kill it with fire" modus operandi, and that, I think, is not always going to be an appropriate, necessary, or viable approach.


Well remember many things in the laundry service ouvre happen for plot reasons.

Of course this Charlie Foxtrot could have been a plot by Iris to bump off a promising Laundry officer and replace Bob with one of her cult members.

Though I am surprised that bob went out so untooled up after the first time something with tentacles trued to snack on me/ Potential GF I would not leave the house with out a PPW or two.

Intelligence is not! Police work and when the security service tried having a DG from a police background it was not a success even the official history’s are quite open about this.

And given the real world showing of senior CT police officers as a result of the Levenson enquiry I am not surprised that the Laundry keep the fuzz at a very long remove.


Sorry if anyone has all ready seen this but the podcast night-vale has a very HPL and Laudryverse vibe

"community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide"


I definitely caught the Iris reference. The second paragraph came with this horrible sinking feeling. I love that you went back to the Iris period after "The Fuller Memorandum", that was excellent.

The whole sending Bob in half-cocked bit does beg the question: did Iris know about the EMOCUM units, and was she making a play against rival cultists within the Laundry? There's clearly a problem faction within Her Majesty's government at work, and I don't remember Iris being the horse fancier type... (I expect the answer to this is "just keep reading.")

Also, you had entirely too much fun writing those letters from Howard Phillips Lovecraft, didn't you?


Oh no. I've just worked out PC McGarry and Constable Savage. Deary me...

Not many chances for "Wearing a loud shirt in a built up area" arrests in deepest Ruralshire, but it's nice to know their careers progressed even if promotions haven't come their way.


Yep. And although the scientitians are the most notable group there, East Grinstead has more than it's fair share of religious groups - Opus Dei have a conference centre, there is a group claiming to be the Rosicrucians based there, also a LDS temple, plus the usual more "mainstream" organisations.

From wikipedia: "In 1994, a documentary entitled Why East Grinstead? was produced for Channel 4's Witness strand of documentaries. It sought to examine and explain the convergence of such a wide variety of religious organisations in the East Grinstead area. The documentary, produced by Zed Productions and directed by Ian Sellar, reached no definite conclusion: explanations ranged from the local presence of ley lines to the more prosaic idea that religious leaders had settled there because they liked the views."

Summary - East Grinstead is a church attractor. There are no good reasons why this should be so.

ps- Charlie - duck sized horses? You been spending too long on reddit?


My guess, or perhaps deduction, on the constant memos promoting Horses from Hell is that someone high up in the establishment, with a record and easy opportunity for making their will known through backdoor channels, who likes horses a lot, are cultists.

Yes them. Their Royal Highnesses. "She likes War Horse" indeed, now we know why...


My Boss used to live in EG and it straddles the meridian which is why he thought Scientology was there.


Hi there, long time fiction reader, occasional blog lurker and first time commenter here. I really loved this one. The pacing was great taking us lots of places fairly quickly - from Bob's daily mundanities, through his homework assignment, fish out of water and detective routines, on to caper planning and chaotic finale - without it feeling at all shoehorned or scattershot.

You really nailed Lovecraft's prose style, twice.

"reduce police superintendents and MPs to helpless displays of forelock-tugging obeisance via some kind of weird reality distortion field." Exhibit A: The badger cull

It's interesting to encounter briefly Lovecraft's rabid, visceral xenophobia then cut to the posters in Countryside Alliance-ville police station.

"BLUE PEACOCK project of 1954 to 1958" This led me to a deeply incredulous two minutes on Wiki. Nuclear mines maintained by the body heat from live chickens ?!?

More broadly a huge piece fell in to place for me recently re: The Laundryverse and I have a question. It's not coincidence is it that the whole justification for this huge, secretive, authoriatarian spying bureaucracy was imported straight from Lovecraft: Lovecraft, whose every punchline is a big fat question mark of "You cannot possibly fathom the horrors of which I speak"? If it was deliberate allegory I reckon that's a very neat trick indeed.


First of, sorry, I had not read "Equoid" through when first replying, so I was still assuming the odd tendency of ERS coming up in proposals was a sign of a certain demographic of HSS being too dumb to live, not necessarily a sinister plot by some agency. Seems like the Laundry thinks otherwise...

As for the hen-egg-problem of orchestrating an ERS infestation, there are some possibilities; first of, OGH already hinted at a group of Shubby cultists, who might or might not have some overlap with the Black Pharaoh guys and/or be somewhat antagonistic to those. It also seems like there are some free players in the game, most of the ones we met are somewhat associated with the Laundry, but I guess there are others who are not. For the latter ones, we know what Bob thinks of those "amateurs", but, err, I hope "Apocalyse Codex" is sufficiently old that it's no spoiler if I mention we get some idea what those "amateurs" think of the like of Bob. I guess "chinless wonder" is somewhat positive in comparison. As for the recruitment pool of said players, "Jennifer Morgue" already established former Laundry/Black Chamber contractees. but basically any computer science bachelor student with a sufficiently clueless advisor, any religionist/historian/anthropologist challenged by curiosity of the fatal variety and any rebellious heir to the Laundryvers version of the inhabitants of Melniboné might do. So I guess there is some Black Market for various gadgets, with the necessary knowledgfe level to use said VB script on a par with a script kiddie. And the poor Renfields sufficiently cognitively challenged to forget the "Disable Macros" setting.

OTOH, "Overtime" established that retrochronical information transfer is possible in the Laundryverse, though somewhat tricky; let's not forget one Laundry branch tasked with prognostics self-terminated because it saw a future where its existence led to existence failure of the Laundry. But this is for human or somewhat human players, maybe not for alien tentacle monsters.

Speaking of the latter, we know the individual members of the sexual stage are quite unintelligent, that in the course of spawning Shubby and its thousand youngs -Ia!- develop a hive mind and at least this stage is a sufficiently advanced applied mathematics player in the Laundryverse. We don't know about the recently mated unicorns, but let's assume there are not enough youngs around to develop a group intelligence and it is not that much more intelligent than the unmated female, instead relying on mimicry to find an unmated young HSS female; my first guess was it piggybacking the developing reproductive behaviour, but as one of these hosts is only four years old, I guess that's not necessary. Come to think about it, I guess there must be a really strong adaptive advantage to biophilia, since "It looks cute, may I cuddle it" is likely quite high on the list of famous last words, along with "It's totally safe!", "We're out of range", "That looks strange" and "He/She/It/They only want to play".

If we assume the, err, computational power of a hive mind is positively correlated with number of individuals, said power is going to be greatest shortly before the sessile stage collapses and less new youngs are born than eaten up by sexual individuals, e.g. Shubby is eaten alive. It might be the optimum is somewhat below that point, with later on negative interferences kicking in, but we don't know. Also note the Shubby infestations we met are quite intelligent, but below this critical point, so I guess a full-blown infestation could become somewhat more intelligent. If that one reminds you of the Singularity worshippers, well, I might have stolen the idea somewhere...

(The things friendly doom metal friends put you to, err...)

OK, and a hefty dose of the story about Lymphater by Stanislaw Lem. And some hints from ANATHEM.

Also, Bob mentions CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN means its occult powers grow too, even at an earlier stage.

To put it all together, what if Shubby is really a terror from beyond spacetime, e.g. it uses somewhat compromised closed timelike curves for computation? Somewhat compromised, because first thing a future infestation would send into the past would be a way to stop eradication, though then, maybe this happened in some branches of the multiverse, leading to human and thus ERS extinction. Whatever, ERS is not really a god-like AI. Yet. One possible explanation is the available time between Shubby being sufficiently complex to do computational occult tricks and Shubby being too big to generate more offspring than being eaten is quite short, though growing longer.

This might also explain the somewhat astoundingly short evolution and adaption of a quite complex parasite, the first, somewhat primitive ERS got bootstrapped by information from the next infestation. Which was able to do this because said bootstrapping lead to a higher complexity in the infestation sending the information and gaining some information from an even more complex future infestation. As already metioned, if there was no limit, we might get an instant god-like Shubby, but something seems to hold it back, still, it's somewhat faster than I guess evolution usually works. It can comprehend human speech and passes the Turing test, for Cthulhu's sake - note, the speech ability might be due to some past or future fusion with a human mind, but than, the ability to fuse minds is marvellous in itself. For this accelerated evolution, there are two constraints; too much information, and we get human extinction before Case Nightmare Green, which I guess coincidences with an Omega point type infestation. Thus no change of said infestation, and said bootstrapping collapses. Too little, and Shubby is too dumb to live.

Err, I have this strange feeling there were some sidetracks somewhere that I forgot, happens quite often lately, guess I have to lay down on the Club Mate somewhat or do some sport. Shudder. Whatever, compromising some senile military guys seems somewhat trivial for something like this, don't you think?


At the risk of hurting my cheek, I fear any mention of the Church of Happylogy in a work of fiction makes for rabid lawyers descending on you, but then, Nip/Tuck got away with it.

Having said this, Hubbard is not more than one degree of seperation from Aleister Crowley:

Noting Hubbards history of publication in pulp magazines, I guess there is some overlap, though I failed to find any specifics.

That being said, who's to say Xenu is not an Old One sleeping under some mountain top...


Did you manage a subtle piece of promotion in the Grauniad, or is it a coincidence?


[W]hat if Shubby is really a terror from beyond spacetime, e.g. it uses somewhat compromised closed timelike curves for computation?

That would explain a lot. Shubby is getting more clever and/or powerful as time goes on; perhaps its available bandwidth diminishes as it gets closer to its past terminus. I admit I wondered about this early, when Shubby claimed to be from the future. Maybe the channel is too small in Lovecraft's era for Shubby to know how from its home that instance really is. It also explains why unicorns in mythology so rarely speak - Shubby is too busy bootstrapping itself to do thinking or talking. But there's a point that nobody's mentioned: Maybe it's the other way around and Shubby mistook Howard Lovecraft for Bob Howard!

Having said that, damn. Charlie, after reading this I had to administer some pastel ponies as an antidote. ;-)

The Cold Comfort Farm references passed me by; the book doesn't seem to have caught on over on this side of the Atlantic. I'm not sure I even heard of it before it was mentioned here, though I've read the Wikipedia article. Is it still worth digging out and reading?


Indeed, perhaps there should be a word for the inevitable black-wearing angsty/morbid/philosophically-oppositional teen/post-teen subcultures, encompassing goths, emos, what the emos' kids will call themselves and perhaps various types of punks and metallers/heshers? May I propose “darklings”...


Going back a bit … Bearded Land-Rover owners … Let us not forget (ever) Ian M. Banks, who owned a Td5 & eulogised over it in his book on Whiskies …


Vulch @ 84 PC McGarry and Constable Savage No comprende senor?


Trottelreiner @ 88 I didn’t realise that Tipler had totally lost his marbles!


Not sure about McGary, but this is Constable Savage.


Good read... Makes one wonder if the already-slightly-creepy 'young girls love horses' thing is just a natural phenomenon that ol' Shubby takes advantage of, or whether it's something engineered by Shub cultists. All those 'girl and her horse' books, My Little Pony toys, horsey magazines and things of that repellently sweet equine ilk looks mightily suspicious, no?


PC McGarry

And as dpb said, Constable Savage

And I now have my suspicions about Inspector Dudley of the Ruralshire Constabulary Mounted Police...

Oh, and this may be why PC McGarry was transferred.


I remain convinced that the alleged chicken component of BLUE PEACOCK is/was an April Fool joke. The BBC News article on it has the correct date and time, there's almost certainly not enough room in the casing (see photograph in article) to accomodate any chickens (nor would you want them in amongst the wiring, etc.) and the standard military batteries of the day would easily withstand low temperatures for weeks or months if fully charged.


...and now I know why "Elevaaaaate!" is shouted in the opening of "The Trumpton Riots", something that has been puzzling me for years.


guess I have to lay down on the Club Mate somewhat

wait ... what? NO, NEVER!

(well I sometimes substitute with Fritz-Cola, but ...)


in German, we call the whole thing "the Black Scene".


The Cold Comfort Farm references passed me by; the book doesn't seem to have caught on over on this side of the Atlantic.

Obviously also not readily apparent as a reference to this Austro-German. But I'm used to not getting all references.


I'm a bit surprised that no one has mentioned the other parasite in the novel: HPL's clearly memetically infectious prose.

Which makes one wonder if those cleverly captioned cats have been using their memetic infectiousness to ensure their survival during CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Oh, and about those snails...


And "Elevaaaaate!" of course involves those named as not being the crew of the OCULUS truck...


I have been assured by a former chair of DSAC that the chickens were real.


So it is. Due south of Royston, which is another rural town that has the meridian passing through its eastern edge.

We must have dodged a bullet - there's nothing weird here. Well, apart from the Cave supposedly being a Templar initiation place, but the main Templar settlement near here was Baldock, and they're all weird over there1.

(Baldock was supposedly originally known as Baldacca or Baldacco, an old name for Baghdad in Italian.)

1I understand one of its residents later took up writing SF to some success.


Dear Charlie,

Just when I thought I couldn't love you any more, you throw a Half Man Half Biscuit reference into a Laundry story.

Squee, Mike


I'm surprised nobody mentioned the Futurama shout out: "Bureaucratic snu-snu" is one I'm going to have to use now.


Oddly enough, there could be a positive reason for the equoid memos:

  • We're missing one part of the Shub life-cycle, which is the one where it hibernates. The reason I point this out is that it's a bit like measles: it spreads fast enough that it's obvious, and it's too easy to kill and stop the transmission. People would find out and exterminate it, unless it has a long-term quiescent phase where it can hide out until the noise dies down and people forget.

  • Someone in the government knew about Shub, and knows its entire life-cycle (and that person would not be Bob).

  • They also know that there's an easy way to suss out quiescent infections: send out that cavalry memo every 20 years or so. If there's an active infestation, someone will respond with a bid to supply the equoids, and the Laundry or other government branches will be able to find and eradicate the infestation.

  • Now, of course, this has all been mistaken for cultist activity, so this oh-so-clever Shub early detection network will be systematically dismantled in the name of public safety, right as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN kicks in. Well played, Laundry. Well played.


    It just struck me, a creature that says it's own name out loud all the time.... a pokemon reference?


    While I'm in awe of the story, I'm feeling somewhat "culturally deserted" - I missed the references to (High Court Judge)popular music, I believe it is called(/High Court Judge).

    On the bright side, I did get a lot of side references in Toby Frost's recent "A Game of Battleships", which contains a very healthy groan ratio per page...


    I've bookmarked the story for pulling up on my cell phone later, I'm delighted to discover via this blog two Laundry Files stories I didn't know about and I am a huge fan of these stories. I'm thrilled to hear another novel is on the way, though somewhat in despair that I'll have to wait for it till July 2014. I'll concentrate on the bright side of that news.

    I hope you live a very long life and write a bazillion more Laundry adventures.


    The Lovecraft parodies are brilliant.

    Two observations:

    1) On relation between the Laundry and civilians exposed to or involved in occult incidents:

    I have ran a number of role-playing games in the Laundry universe. In my experience, once the players have positively identified an occult crime scene and have mere suspicions of its nature or its perpetrators, they tend to want to retreat and call in reinforcement. I have to use plot devices to compel them to proceed; even so, then tend to be rather cautious -- more like Bob in the unicorn-infested barn than like Bob with the Word file.

    On the other hand, there was once a memorable incident involving a potentially possessed little girl and large quantities of sedatives. The player received points for ingenuity and control of maternal instincts.

    2) I don't remember seeing reincarnation as such working in the Laundry Universe before this conversation with the sessile unicorn. This discovery has interesting implications, probably a string of CAPITALISED SECURITY CODEWORDS.


    Reading the Laundry novels and short stories, I tend to feel like they're set in different universes. The Jennifer Morgue, Pimpf, and now Equoid feel a lot more tongue-in-cheek than the others, despite the often very dark content. I know - light and fluffy, relatively speaking - but it sometimes jars a little. It feels inconsistent.

    OTOH, I'm glad to see the way civilian casualties (children, no less) are dealt with in Equoid. Too much SF rubs off killing civvies as just Doing What Needs To Be Done For The Greater Good, Nothing To Ever Feel Sorry About, etc. etc. Whereas Equoid frames innocent deaths in a way that makes me wonder if I'd do the same in Bob's situation, and whether that would be forgivable.

    Another observation: I'll thank Charlie for not going directly for the "incubus trope" (i.e. "men have free will and women do not") but Shub's exclusive use of female children is edging a little into that territory. This could be read in different ways if one wanted to, not all of them misogynistic. (e.g. mind control by an eldritch critter <-> brainwashing of girls into subservience by social forces.) OTOH, I think the popular media and religious portrayal (women being more likely to be haunted/possessed) is tacitly misogynistic in nature.


    Shub's exclusive use of female children is edging a little into that territory.

    We only see two primary Renfields, both of whom happened to be juvenile females. Its secondary puppets included adults of both sexes.

    Shub may have learned that many girls are soft touches for a thing that looks like a cute horse, but I'm sure it would be willing to use a gullible stable-boy just as quickly.


    One of the things we don't get told and/or see is how the motile juvenile phase becomes the sessile mature phase. the requirements we can infer are:

    1) a host - a juvenile human female, apparently anything from toddler up to shortly after puberty will do. The parasite then controls the host using either glamour or pheromones or combination of the two. I wonder if there is any additional requirement.

    2) size minimum, probably by either predation or straight up physical parasitism on the chosen host.Given the difference in size between the juvies we see(the longest being described around the size of a hand) and the mature phase, which at a guess is at least horse sized, I suspect predation as more likely.

    questions we don't have any idea about:

    1) how long can a juvenile mated phase survive without a host while staying viable?From the fact we're talking an r-strategy organism the answer probably isn't "forever", but anything from a day to a couple of months seem plausible.

    2)What the hell was Bob thinking about taking samples?These things are way more dangerous then smallpox. Probably not as dangerous as, say, Ebola Zair adapted to air vector, but still horribly dangerous. Even if you don't take them mated.

    3) What is the sessile phase's interest in Bob? Or maybe it's simply a strategy it found useful for dealing with humans that identified the lure?


    Oh good; someone else who's reading Toby Frost.


    Well, to some extent that is deliberate. Charlie is quite up front that so far each of the Laundry novels has been written in the style of a different British spy novelist.


    A shtick I'm now abandoning (ran out of spy thriller writers I wanted to pastiche); switching to urban fantasy sub-genres instead for the next few books. (Equoid: unicorns. The Rhesus Chart: vampires. The Armageddon Score: superheroes. Nameless #7: elves. Nameless #8: old tentacles-and-bat-wings-himself.)


    Nameless #7: elves.

    I suspect you are going the Pterry's "original nasty elf" route. Although trying to integrate Tolkien's elves into Lovecraft could produce interesting results.


    there is a russian tolkien fanfic called "the last ringbearer" that basically does something similar. though more like elves as zen ecofascists...


    It's a shame, but then Bob is a clear successor to Giles Yeoman (from a series of books written by Martin Woodhouse; Tree Frog, Blue Bone, et al).


    There's a pretty widespread misunderstanding about Tolkien's elves that comes from people who've only read The Hobbit and LotR. Elrond and Galadriel do a passable imitation of benevolent in those two stories, but if you read the Silmarillion you get a different impression. ("And then the sons of Feanor committed genocide. Again.")

    Mind you, it's fascinating how many people attribute Tolkien with small, slim, light-weight elves who are faster/more dexterous than humans but not as hardy. Um, no. Even in LotR, Legolas may be able to walk on top of snow, but he's still eight feet tall and able to punch through sheet metal. They're smarter and faster than people /as well/ as being stronger and living forever, not in compensation for weakness.


    I thought there were going to be 9 books. If so I'd guess number nine is either "The thing in the pyramid*" or "All hell breaks loose at once."

    When Bob learns that old-bat-wings does exist, that's going to be a nasty shock.

    *Assuming that "the thing in the pyramic" isn't either Cthulhu or a plot coupon necessary to summon Cthulhu.


    Elrond and Galadriel do a relatively decent impression of benevolence (or at least non-involvement) in the Silmarillion, too. But yes, people seem to think Tolkien's elves do lounging with an abstract air, trees, and not much else. And then they meet Nargothrond, and Fingolfin...


    I haz an impatient (despite having taken up your suggestion of "The Execution Channel").


    I suppose, for those that have not seen it, I should post the URL for that hideous example of Unicorn-Evil called Charlie The Unicorn

    The animation is crappy, but the story contains an important lesson!


    Personally, I agree, although I blame the unicorn myth rather than any inherent sexism on Charlie's part. Of course, I'm not sure that this story passes the Bechdel test or that any of the women (other than possibly Iris) have real agency here, but that's another issue.*

    At some point, is it worth reminding people that this is all a story, and not to over-think it? The whole unicorn biology thing is wonderfully grotesque, but it does kind of fall apart from an evo-devo perspective, due (I think) to placing a priority on keeping elements of the unicorn myth intact and sufficiently Lovecraftian over designing a parasite that looks vaguely unicornish and makes the biologists happy.

    *Speaking of which, is there a reason for the dearth of female combatants and computer geeks in the Laundry? It's not clear to me why there can't be women on an OCULUS crew, for example.


    There's a pretty widespread misunderstanding about Tolkien's elves that comes from people who've only read The Hobbit and LotR. Elrond and Galadriel do a passable imitation of benevolent in those two stories, but if you read the Silmarillion you get a different impression. ("And then the sons of Feanor committed genocide. Again.")

    I'm not one if those people, I love Silmarillion. And the elves there are still mostly benevolent. Just not perfect.

    And the sons of Feanor are a bunch of dicks, which is why we love them so. :-)


    Mind you, it's fascinating how many people attribute Tolkien with small, slim, light-weight elves who are faster/more dexterous than humans but not as hardy. Um, no

    Yeah, yeah, it's all those people who didn't read Silmarillion. I always imagine the elves as having roughly the complexion of Arnold Schwarzenegger. They can take on multiple Balrogs, for Manwë's sake!

    It's not clear to me why there can't be women on an OCULUS crew, for example.

    They're basically SAS squads on loan. How many female SAS are there?

    Google tells me there is a female equivalent, 14th intelligence company, "The Det" so maybe they'll get to show up in a later book to donate some warm bodies for the next

    Here's another link


    Thanks for the links. The general point is that an author who is interested in portraying equality among genders still has to create some female red-shirts in his or her stories. Uncomfortable notion, isn't it? The idea that a woman could go into combat and die or get maimed, simply through bad luck, stupidity, or worse, to crank up the body count in a story and advance the plot?


    BTW, Charlie. If BLUE HADES can apparently wipe out the human race with ease AND the Green Armageddon is arriving because there are too many humans, then how is humanity still there?

    Are BLUE HADES so moral they are willing to risk their own survival?

    Or, are they feeling safe enough at the bottom of the sea and don't care eldritch abominations on the surface?

    Or, is there a MAD situation going on? Can humanity seriously harm the deeponies?



    I had been wondering myself about the missing bits of the unicorn life cycle, and in particular that hibernation or latent stage. What form do the motile sexually active or sexually latent unicorns take in between infections, and how does it get reawakened?

    Unfortunately, the answer occurred to me.

    As somebody noted above, the initial size for the unmated motile females is anywhere from sea-horse sized - say, size of your little finger - up to about hand-sized. Maybe they could grow up to kitten size or so before their metabolism accelerates to where the need for meat becomes overwhelming - eat or die. But what if there are no mates for them, and no meat?

    There's a long-established evolutionary strategy for that - it's exactly hibernation. Perhaps they dig a shallow burrow or hide under leaf litter; then they stop eating and go into trance. They retain the light hair needed for their equoid guise, but the texture of their skin changes to something more like a plastic or coarse fabric. The skeletal structure - never really a true skeleton, since they're closer to mollusks - is resorbed; the essential organs contract, harden, and retract into the core, leaving a loose matrix of tissue which becomes something like excelsior as it dries out over a period of months and years. Most of them are never found and eventually are consumed by scavengers of one kind or another.

    But if one is very lucky, one day some little girl like Hettie finds a stuffed horse lying out in the woods, where somebody must have lost their precious stuffy, and brings it home. And she loves it, because it's so cute, just like a teeny horse with big eyes, and eventually she has a tea party and feeds it some water or tea, and it starts to rehydrate, and then it's "Mom, horsey Grace is hungry too! Can I give Grace horsey some food?" and "Mom, Grace horsey talks to me!" and "Mom, I want to go look for snail shells with Grace because Grace is really a unicorn and needs a horn!" And you know the rest.

    So if any of your kids happens to have brought home a stuffed horse toy or a little pony... burn it. Right now. Sorry about the crying, but you can't be too careful.


    So if any of your kids happens to have brought home a stuffed horse toy or a little pony... burn it. Right now. Sorry about the crying, but you can't be too careful.

    Aaaaand now I have a vision of eldritch teddy-bears from beyond the stars burned into my brain.

    PS. Oh dear Cthulhu, Toy Story is actually taking place in a lovecraftian universe...

    "The Armageddon Score: superheroes."

    You have no idea the level of smugness this has elicited in our household. When I read the description of the effects of the gradual ramp-up of effects during CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN I said "that sounds like a superhero world". Ha!


    By the time we get to the Hobbit, most of the Elves in Middle Earth are old -- some of them possible 10,000 years old. I get the feeling that they're just sort of tired with the world at that point, compared to their youthful vigor in earlier Ages.

    The weakness of Elves is their low birth rate (something that appears to have been altered when the orcs were made from them.)

    "Speaking of which, is there a reason for the dearth of female combatants and computer geeks in the Laundry? It's not clear to me why there can't be women on an OCULUS crew, for example"


    (Which is also an interesting on the previously raised point on why Bob is sent in with little training. Outside of the Iris issue I mean. Because we know that the Laundry has ops/combat training. Coz Mo has been on 'em...)


    I think the best teady bear sf story is the one I read decades ago about a future dystopian society that is conditioned at birth not be passive and unable to kill by Ai cuddly toys.

    The resistance suborns the heroes teddy to omit the thou shall not kill conditioning so that he can be raised to kill the dictator.

    I think it might have been in dangerous visions but I cant rember the author.


    Ill see you and raise with Carl the Llama

    Paul: What is wrong with you, Carl?!

    Carl: Well, I kill people and I eat hands! That’s—that’s two things!


    I think the best teady bear sf story is the one I read decades ago about a future dystopian society that is conditioned at birth not be passive and unable to kill by Ai cuddly toys.

    Aaaaaand now I know the Great Old Ones will come in the form of cats. And we will succumb to their irresistible cuteness.

    Wait a minute...


    *Speaking of which, is there a reason for the dearth of female combatants and computer geeks in the Laundry? It's not clear to me why there can't be women on an OCULUS crew, for example.

    Note that "Equoid" is set pretty firmly in 2006/07. That's roughly when the British Army began allowing women in front-line combat positions, isn't it? (The RAF and RN did so some time earlier -- AIUI that was also about when the RAF had a fighter pilot return to front line duty from maternity leave for the first time.) As the OCULUS teams are drawn from a TA reservist Special Forces unit, it probably takes a few more years for any female applicants to work their way through the pipeline. (Leaving aside the issue of physically qualifying for the SAS/SBS/SRR and so on ...)

    But that's on the army side of things. Books 5 and 6 might supply a different perspective ...


    And remember that Beth Baily in Spooks was explicitly based on a real world SIS officer who now works as a PMC.

    And Mossad had/has some very tough female operators.

    Not sure if the Laundry has effectively the artists rifles (Charlie never calls them the SAS) as an organic part or the organization or not.

    With an effectively slightly warmer cold war maybe they retained their own shooters like the CIA has with the SAD.


    Are BLUE HADES so moral they are willing to risk their own survival?

    There's a subplot. Surfacing for the first time in book 6. Patience. (There is too damn much going on in the Laundryverse for me to pull it all out in the next couple of books. Or to limit the series to the original planned 9-book story arc. So books 6 and 7 are going to be a detour off the main plot ...)


    Yeah, you got it. Also religious miracle workers (we saw that with Rev. Schiller in "Apocalypse Codex") and other "supernatural" stuff. Not just tentacle monsters from beyond spacetime.

    But note: superheroes in the Laundryverse are not as straightforward as you might expect. Or as steely-jawed and white-hat wearing.


    Yeah. I like Mo. Always on the front lines, never in the hospital. That kind of combatant.

    I'll look forward to whatever Charlie does with this in the future. Basic point is that there's no organic reason not to have mixed gender combat squads, and it makes a minor plot just waiting to happen: How will Alan feel about the lassies kicking some of his boys out of the action head first? Will Bob rush in to save them, out of some misplaced sense of gallantry? (note that this was rumored to be a problem for Israeli forces some time ago). Or be saved by one, who carries his bleeding body out on her back?


    By the way, if Scotland becomes independent in 2015, will there be a pair of mated equoids on its coat of arms?


    Aaaaaand now I know the Great Old Ones will come in the form of cats. And we will succumb to their irresistible cuteness.

    At the Mountains of Cuteness, yes.


    Aaaaand now I have a vision of eldritch teddy-bears from beyond the stars burned into my brain.

    You're welcome. I aim to permanently scar^W^Wplease.


    I'm looking forward to the elves... Few people seem to do the elves or the fair folk right. Beautiful and horrible and insane. The only thing worse, really, would be angels. :)


    PTerry has it pretty much right...

    "Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder. Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels. Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. Elves are terrific. They beget terror."


    I have to admit I'm not particularly impressed with those elves. They are flat villains with about one emotion. PTerry himself described them as a hive mind. And even as a hive mind they were pretty boring.


    There's a lot of room to play with elves, depending on how broadly you draw from folklore, and which traditions. The Norse ones were basically minor gods, for example. But you also have a whole bunch of similar creatures that can be broadly grouped with elves, such as nymphs, or hulda, or pooka, or even the shape-changing multitailed fox people of Chinese and Japanese myth. And personally I see a lot of similarity between them and modern UFO sightings.


    Hey Charlie, speaking of spy-media, how about a story in the style of The Prisoner?


    probaly more for those interest in doing their own RPG scenarios. The latest episode of Simon Sharmas story of the Jews has some fascinating stuff about the rise of Kaabalistic tradition.


    BTW, Charlie, I forgot if it was actually mentioned in one of the books or not...

    Does J. K. Rowling work for/with the Laundry? Harry Potter seems like a PSYOP project to ease the eventual unmasking of the Mythos to the Muggles. By the time the Green Armageddon arrives, there are going to be a lot of people in the UK who read HP as kids...


    Harry Harrison's I Always Do What Teddy Says. I miss rec.arts.sf.written's 'ID that old story for me' game.


    TY thats the one for some reason i thought it might have been Harlen Elison.

    Hmm just thought about a basilisk gun equipped version of teddy "tell me to look under the bed an I will make the squishy monster go a way timmy"

    FX Bang and blue flash

    "teddy whats that funny blue flash... teddy I dont feel so good"


    hm, the singularity shtick or the christian identification?

    it has been some time, and tipler might have grown better. though i somewhat doubt that. funny thing, this tendency of the human cognitive system gettimg hooked up on some emotionally salient ideas, personally, i only know it from a more, err, romantically involved perspective, with similarly disastrous results. whatever...

    as mentioned, afaik an old schoolfriend of mine took this somewhat serious for a time, though he was not your usual born again. might be dead can dance or vnv nation and thc are a somewhat tricky combination sometimes. he got better, incidentally...


    Personally, I'm hoping that Elves in the Laundryverse take on a particularly 20th Century (particularly WW2) incarnation:


    And no, not the movie kind, either.


    Or maybe they are just Santa Claus helpers.


    I'm surprised no one has mentioned how the infertile equoids sound like they look exactly like the companions from Mercedes Lackeys Valdemar books. Maybe the books are a subtle plot to favourably predispose youngsters towards them?

    An excellently disturbing story.

    Incidentally, there's a thread on where someone reads through and analyses those books and the Companions don't really come off much better morally than the Laundryverse unicorns. (Search for "Arrrows of the Queen", yes, with three "R"s)


    Arrrows of the Queen seems to be this thread here.


    Surprised no one else thought that the trying to mate with a human male using a under age human female lure, was it trying to change into it's next form in it's life cycle, A Centaur.

    Apart from that is this story going to be published in any other form besides E-book and Hardback?


    Nah, gremlins were a special Abwehr project. Though given the Nazi fascination with Germanic myth, perhaps there is an elf or dwarf connection. Or maybe they were weaponized kobolds.


    Could be. If so, they were a failure, for WW2 investigations showed that Axis planes were as likely to have gremlin problems as Allied aircraft were.

    One thing I like about gremlins is that no encyclopedia can talk about them straight-faced, including Wikipedia.

    The idea of gremlins getting loose in the Laundry IT system, especially if Bob's been promoted to management and can no longer directly join the hunt, would be absolutely delightful. Throw in CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN conditions, and...


    That's roughly when the British Army began allowing women in front-line combat positions, isn't it?

    Not quite...

    Firstly, there's a difference between "Front Line" and "Dismounted Close Combat". Women are allowed to do the former, but still not the latter (search "Kate Nesbitt MC"). Yes, it's a subtle difference, and yes, there have been grey areas along the way. Put bluntly, women are expected to kill when necessary, but aren't allowed to list "bayoneting the enemy" as a primary job description.

    The SRR and its forebears have employed women since the 1970s (for examples, see "The Operators" by James Rennie). For nearly twenty years now, there have been female artillery forward observers, and combat engineers - front line by any definition. There have been women posted to infantry battalions, but in administrative roles (the female Assistant Adjutant of one Armoured Infantry battlegroup deployed with it on Op GRANBY in 1991, ended up leading its A2 Echelon across the desert - and at one point was forward of its rifle companies). Female friends of mine have been an infantry company commander in the TA (although it was HQ Company, not a Rifle Company); and a troop leader in a regular tank regiment (although it was the demonstration squadron at Warminster).

    I'll thank Charlie for not going directly for the "incubus trope" (i.e. "men have free will and women do not") but Shub's exclusive use of female children is edging a little into that territory.

    Hm, I guess we have read different accounts of the incubus myth...

    In general, an incubus is a demon trying to have or having sexual intercourse with women in a male sexual role. I guess demonological gender studies is a somewhat neglected area of scholastics, but if we go with the identification of demons with fallen angels, quite common in fiction, but actually more Word of Dante and some apocryphs than Word of God if you go with the Verbal Inspiration theory of biblical inspiration or, if you go with the RC variant, Word of Divine Inspiration,

    the demons have no sex, just like angels, have a certain predisposition for male gender roles and can change their bodily attributes somewhat.

    As for the incubus, this specific variant was going after women, but there was a female variant going after men called succubus:

    Guess that one is hardly more feminist, but then, it might depend on interpretation. No idea what's in tow for homosexuals, zoophils, objectophils etc., BTW. Nevertheless, well, it's somewhat equal oppurtunity seduction.

    And tnen, some stories say succubi can change into incubi to impregnate females with the sperm thus gotten; might be a nice explanation if the neighbours child looks somewhat similar too you and nobody believes "a wizard did it".

    As for what really happened when some women or men said an incubus or a succubus was coming for them, besides explaining away unexpected pregnancies and like, it seems there are quite some possibilities, e.g. dreams and fantasies, seduction or physical attack, e.g. what most of us think of as rape. For the actual happenings, well, we know what happens when young people are isolated from their usual sexual partners too long, and some of it might be rationalization of traumatic rape experiences.

    Also note that there are some similar creatures,

    quite often associated with sleep, and there are quite similar things happening with hypnagogia,

    AFAIR there is actually a story of some guy being visited by a witch in Siegel's "Fire in the Brain". And it might be that people prone to hypnagogic hallucinations have a tendency towards other problems, e.g. motoric ones like cataplexy in narcolepsy, automatic behaviour or even psychosis in bipolars

    which might also beget a disord.., err, somewhat unusual sexual life besides.

    As such, yes, incubi and succubi might be a sign of somewhat troubled ideas about human sexuality, but than, I guess with certain circumstances both male and female members of HSS get sufficiently removed from general societal specifications that operating with the notion of free will makes only limited sense. Or at least many members for both sexes can get that way.

    And as already said, OGH was somewhat bound by the mythology with unicorns and virgins, some of which might be doubling for the incarnation of Christ, which makes for, err, somewhat interesting ideas with Mythos deities.

    Besides, I guess it might be an interesting comment on a certain romantisation of potentially troublesome sexual relationships in some strains of modern urban fantasy. Am I the only one who thinks romantic relations with mysterious, emotionally challenged loners have a certain correlation with DBT later on in life,

    and not all of this is just correlation or mere indirect causation...

    BTW, if we go with mythological creatures associated with horses and abductiong children, there is the kelpie,

    though that one is more after males. And if ERS went after bronies,

    I guess quite a few nerds I know would welcome that. Come to think about this, I guess quite some bronies would, too, but let's not speak about the overlap between My Little Pony, Elfen Lied and other Tentacle erotica fandoms...


    Loved it! A minor nitpick: the Hetty's last name is spelled "van 't Hooft" - the apostrophe-t is a shortening of 'het'.


    That reminds me of the Crucible trilogy by Sara Douglass (The Nameless Day, The Wounded Hawk, and The Crippled Angel.) Let's just say that the Roman Catholic Church, in that series, was actually set up to deal with a particular angel-induced problem, and some of the twists and turns were, as I recall them, vaguely interesting.

    I will note, though, that last time I went back to some of her works, I found it rather difficult; either my tastes have changed, or I've become a little more discerning about the quality of writing, or something ... but I do remember one acquaintance complaining about this particular trilogy that the ideas were great, but the execution was appalling. Or something like that.

    So not exactly an endorsement of the series as being worth a read, but possibly worth looking into at the local library if you don't have anything more interesting queued up.


    Cheerful and irrelevant side note: it's not just equoids, there's been a recently sighted outbreak of anoloids too! Where does the madness end? They're so deviously, freakishly, cute...


    Did Bob possess a basilisk gun in this story? I found it odd that he was wrestling with a bolt-action rifle from a moving car instead of frying things with his Palm.


    No. It's not even his rifle; it's nominally for the vet to dart the livestock so that they're not moving around contracting rapid-onset lead poisoning and causing panic in what is an extraordinarily tense and dangerous mission.

    (As a gauge for how dangerous; Capt. Barnes calls in other OCCULUS units, when he felt secure in taking on a decommissioned warship and the remnants of a Cthonian with a single team in the previous book. [He had better backup in that situation, yes, but still])


    There's also the hope of not killing the Equoid's rider - which would go out the window, down the street, and into the corner shop if he fired a basilisk gun in their direction.


    Nope. Nor a HOG. I suspect either one would have resulted in more happy pills for Bob though.


    Err, looking at some of simone Barber's artwork on the Black Unicorn, I somewhat dread what happens when furrydom discovers OGH's unicorns. Though a (quite big) part of me can't wait to see the results. Err, preferably without the statutory and other rape angles, of course.

    Come to think about it, I might even indulge into creating something like this myself. I guess 30C3 needs t-shirts with Lovecraftian not-quite-My Little Ponies indulging in unspeakable acts of pain, death and pleasure. Just like me lynched by a mod of Bronies...


    Err, make that Simon Barber. Though not unheard of, most furries I know are not that much into crossdressing. If you excuse me, I don't think myself dyslexic, but I guess I neeed some testing...


    I'll look forward to whatever Charlie does with this in the future. Basic point is that there's no organic reason not to have mixed gender combat squads, and it makes a minor plot just waiting to happen: How will Alan feel about the lassies kicking some of his boys out of the action head first?

    I just reread TAA/CJ, and if I remember right, there was at least one woman on Barnes' team in The Atrocity Archives (who drove a robot). And at least once Angleton refers to Barnes' "boys and girls". I always figured they were about but in those days wouldn't have been doing as much front line fighting, or maybe just didn't happen to be named/described.


    Read, loved, ordered copy from B&N.  Been offline some while, great to return to THIS!



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    This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on September 24, 2013 12:45 PM.

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