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Miscellanea

I'm back home after nearly 4 weeks on the road. I'd like to extend a big thank you to my guest bloggers: Kameron Hurley, Hugh Hancock, and Ramez Naam. Of course I am still playing catch-up with the mail mountain and the dirty clothing midden, so normal service will perforce resume gradually. So in the meantime, here's some news:

I have delivered the first chunk of the new Merchant Princes trilogy to my editor at Tor (along with a first draft of the second chunk): plan is to start work on the third chunk in a week or two, then spend summer revising it. The publication plan isn't fixed in stone yet, but we're hoping that after the omnibus doorstep editions come out in the USA on paper in October/December/February, the first chunk of the new trilogy, "Dark State", will show up some time from April 2015 onwards.

(I'm calling these "chunks" rather than "novels" because they're not stand-alone novels so much as one-third-sized instalments of a thousand-page novel. Which is near future SF set circa 2020, in the universe of the Merchant Princes. And yes, 2020 there is about as grimly paranoid as you would expect in light of the Snowden leaks and the war on terror, if the war on terror had been upgraded to "war on every threat from every time-line in the multiverse", handed over to the Department of Homeland Security, and outsourced to the company formerly known as Blackwater.)

I was hoping to be able to announce a new book deal with Ace and Orbit this week; however, things have been complicated by the news that my editor at Ace is retiring at the end of March. I sell the non-Merchant Princes books to my US and UK publishers in parallel (they each get their respective territorial rights), so new deals require a lot of back-and-forth discussions: nothing can be finalised until I have a new editor at Ace. However, I think I can say at this point that Orbit want to acquire two new Laundry Files novels, and my agent and I were discussing the details with Ace when the retirement news broke.

The first of these books, "The Armageddon Score", already exists in first draft and will hopefully be published in summer 2015 (following 2014's "The Rhesus Chart"); it's told by Mo, not Bob, and concerns matters of law enforcement, would-be superheroes, and the stolen score for a violin operetta called "The King in Yellow". The second has no title yet and won't be written before 2015. The plan is for it to be narrated by a new character (you'll get to meet Alex in "The Rhesus Chart"): who gets the happy fun job of dealing with Elves. Elves in the Laundry Files universe are about as friendly as unicorns: only they're more numerous, better organized, and they drive tanks ...

133 Comments

1:

Elves in the Laundry Files universe are about as friendly as unicorns: only they're more numerous, better organized, and they drive tanks


I am perversely reminded of the anime "Those who hunt elves". More generally, though, more Laundry Files books and worldbuilding is welcome.

You know, I wonder if you DO get enough credit for the Laundry Files as being a growing and building "urban fantasy" universe. You've been adding things steadily, but with careful worldbuilding, fitting it together rather than just dumping things in willy-nilly.

2:

Parenthetically: If you are a Brit and you want to write about Germans there are two cheap stereotypes that spring readily to hand:

(a) Dirndl dresses, Lederhosen, Beer steins, Singing

(b) SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" on the Eastern Front in 1943

Let me assert that everyone who writes about elves picks the equivalent of stereotype (a) (yes, even Terry Pratchett in "Lords and Ladies"). I am not going there. So that leaves option (b) ...

Let me also assert that in the Laundryverse, Elves are gracile hominids from another timeline where H. Sapiens Sapiens is extinct (for reasons not unconnected with the existence of elves). They have a high tech civilization running on ritual magic. The Elder Gods are returning. Now join the dots.

Let me finally add that everything we know about Elves comes from the babbling of traumatized human slaves who escaped (or were allowed to leave) in the middle ages. They are as accurate a guide to Elven culture and politics as would be the ranting of an Afghan poppy farmer (who was grabbed by Delta Forces, subjected to enhanced interrogation in a dungeon near Kabul, then dumped at the roadside by his village when he was found to know nothing of any use) would be with respect to Beltway politics and the US military. Which is to say, if you believe the Afghan hill farmer and use his account as a guide to how to negotiate with the State Department, you will be making a Big Mistake ...

3:

I'm far too lazy to google, so I'll just ask:
Which month can we expect to be able to read "The Rhesus Chart" please?

Also, elves in tanks? I thought they hated iron? Composite armour maybe?

4:

July 1st, this year. Then, hopefully, another Laundry Files novel, same date, same month, two next years running.

5:

Name for the elves book? Something office-related for the second part... 'The something Plan'? Maybe referencing Wagner? 'The Nibelung Plan'?

Or maybe 'The Abhuman Resource"? The Elvish Folder? The Elvish Desk? There ought to be a pun on Elvis somewhere around that region of ideaspace....

6:

Me @5: No, forget Elvis, I don't think that would fit. Maybe if we drag Tolkien into it: 'The Vanyar Portfolio', 'The Vanyar Project', 'The Vanyar Target'? The Vanyar Deadline?

7:

I do think John Rogers does something similar to version (b) in his "Arcanum" comic at http://thrillbent.com/comics/arcanum/arcanum-season-1-chapter-1/#1

8:

"about as friendly as unicorns"

Oh my.

Also, Mo looking for a "stolen score for a violin operetta called "The King in Yellow"." should be very interesting as any violin score Mo is interested in should be similar to weapons grade uranium.
An imaginary operetta to go along with the imaginary play. VERY nice.

9:

I imagine Obama-era spooks using FTA-developed palantir-like devices to hunt down and terminate world-walkers with maximum prejudice in a covert war ranging across the time-space manifold. Am I far off the mark?

10:

Also note that I have tentative plot plans for Laundry Files #8. After the events of #7, the Laundry can no longer be kept out of the public gaze (yes, those events are drastic) so it comes under public -- and parliamentary -- scrutiny. And the government of the day does exactly what any British government in the past third of a century has done when it discovers an over-manned, feather-bedded civil service department with a large budget and hazy responsibilities: it sets it up for privatization. (Right in the middle of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.) And guess who's bidding for the outsourcing contracts? (Eight letters, begins with "Cult-".)

I am particularly looking forward to writing the scene where Bob gets grilled by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight ...

11:

Wrong. Utterly wrong.

On the other hand, if you have been wondering what Miriam and the Clan survivors were up to in exile in the revolutionary republic that has emerged from the wreckage of the New British Empire, you might be onto something.

(I've always wanted to write a cold war thriller but the Soviets went away, so I had to roll my own superpower adversaries ...)

12:

the stolen score for a violin operetta called "The King in Yellow"

Potentially bad timing, or good?
I assume you've heard of a current American cop show in which "The King in Yellow" plays some part. I haven't seen it, but io9 has had a few things about it recently. I'm curious about it, having read the book several years ago.

13:

The Victorians did a good job of making the elves and other fair folk seem nice and cute and friendly. Almost like there was a a PR campaign...

When you look at legends like changelings, the Wild Hunt, lost time/abductions, curses, etc... they were pretty nasty.

At the very least they are sociopaths in their relations with humans. And they may be all sorts of other insane, at least from the perspective of a human trying to understand their motivations. Applying a human theory of mind to an elf may be a misleading.

And if they are immortal, there is another wrinkle. What happens to a primate mind that is thousands of years old?

14:

There ought to be a pun on Elvis somewhere around that region of ideaspace..

The afore mentioned Terry Pratchett wrote an entire book just to use "There's a boy works down the chipshop, I'd swear he's Elvish." so the punning has to top that...

15:

I assume you've heard of a current American cop show in which "The King in Yellow" plays some part.

Nope -- is that why it's on everyone's lips right now?

Probably won't be relevant: "The Armageddon Score" will probably come out in July 2015.

16:

Yup, you're thinking the right way. I have an ev. psych. explanation for my elves, and some theory-of-mind related stuff underlying their culture, which is neither incomprehensible nor based on superstition but is about as happy and fun as the Thousand Year Reich. (Also: they're not immortal. Not even much longer-lived than we are, on average. But folks living to 110-140 years probably looked immortal to mediaeval peasants.)

17:

You know, one thing I've always been curious about in the Laundryverse is what other countries have for their own version of the Laundry. We've seen some of the US's answer, of course. But what about Italy, or Turkey, or China?

I imagine in some cases they must be secret societies rather than government agencies. Or possible religious bodies.

18:

I think this is the show he's talking about in regards to "The King In Yellow": http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/02/20/true-detective-references-boost-the-king-in-yellow-book/

I hadn't heard of the show myself, but then again I only watch HBO for Game of Thrones, and cancel my subscription when it is over.

19:

And if they have advanced magic tech they can probably make themselves appear youthful and beautiful for that entire 140 years.

20:

Privatize and outsource the Laundry?

I know that humanity can't win this war, but do they have to lose it that quickly?

21:

You'll have to read the book (once I've written it) to see how it plays out.

Let's just say, privatization as a foreground threat makes for some wonderful adversarial complexity -- not to mention snark. And by book 8, Bob will be rather more senior than he is in book 4 (which is where we've got to so far in the published series).

22:
And the government of the day does exactly what any British government in the past third of a century has done when it discovers an over-manned, feather-bedded civil service department with a large budget and hazy responsibilities: it sets it up for privatization.

Really? AIUI the real-life spook trifecta have remained firmly in the public sector. Surely even the British government has some limits to its stupidity?

23:

I try to resist the urge, but some part of me keeps shouting you don't want to look for Dark Elder snuff at http://rule34.paheal.net/

Err, whatever, for the Wagner angle, there is an Schwarzalb (literally translating to somethink like "dark elf") in the "Ring der Nibelungen":

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

German wiki is somewhat more informative:

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberich_(Opernfigur)

Interesting note, I have never stood through a whole Wagner opera, maybe I should try "Die lustige Witwe"[1] instead, but the beginning of the first part of the "Ring" sounds interesting:

"The curtain rises to show, at the bottom of the Rhine, the three Rhine maidens, Woglinde, Wellgunde, and Flosshilde, playing together. The key shifts to A flat as Woglinde begins an innocent song whose melody is frequently used to characterise the Rhine maidens later in the cycle. Alberich, a Nibelung dwarf, appears from a deep chasm and tries to woo them."

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

So it seems like BLUE HADES has had some dealings with FAIRY TROLL[2].

[1] Hope somebody gets the shoutout to a certain Viennese painter.[3]
[2] Actually, AFAIK in Norse mythology trolls can mean quite a few supernatural creatures, including elves.
[3] Can we keep Godwin's law out of this please?

24:

They probably don't take the threat seriously. And/or their are "influences" on people in decision making positions.

25:

Do we get any insights into how the privatized department provides Technical Support, PowerPoint graphs for tracking Service Levels, strategic goal-based performance reviews, etc.?

26:

Gee, what would Edward Snowden do with the Laundry?

27:

For government contracts, the most important person/committee is whoever writes up the Request-For-Tender specs. And, if this is an 'open tender', you get all sorts of really interesting submissions.

28:

Charlie, before you write the book about invading high-tech-magic elves from the other dimension, I suggest you peruse this:

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DystopicReturnOfMagic
http://wiki.alternatehistory.com/doku.php/timelines/dystopic_return_of_magic


It is possible that parts of your book are already written. :-)

Also, it's pretty damn good for something out of an alternativehistory forum (you'll need an account to read the actual text).

29:

You know, one interesting thing about the myths about elves, is that for all of their weirdness and nastiness they seem to have been more or less on the side of the "good guys". Which says something really nasty about the "bad guys"....

30:

About 70% of the US DoD's black budget for the intelligence TLAs ends up being paid to corporations. Guess who Edward Snowden was working for?

It's far from inconceivable that the same could happen here, with names like BAe Systems, Serco, and G4S handling the job.

31:

In the real world, I'd suggest that the real danger isn't the Edward Snowdens, it's the Kim Philbys.

If we're dealin' with pointy earred elves, I'm not sure which is worse, to be honest.

So far as gen-u-wine Elvish mythology goes, my favorites include Eddie Lenihan's Meeting the Other Crowd and original source material, such as The Book of Invasions and The Secret Commonwealth.

It would, of course, be terribly ironic if Laundry Elves (would that be brownies?) actually had a working commonwealth, wouldn't it?

While I'm pushing my luck, may I humbly suggest The Book of Invasions as a working title for the Laundry novel?

32:

The elves in Justina Robson's /Keeping it real/ at least have evil scheming, cold-hearted power struggles, and magic. But no tanks.

33:
it's told by Mo, not Bob, and concerns matters of law enforcement, would-be superheroes, and the stolen score for a violin operetta called "The King in Yellow".

Nice. I only came across The King In Yellow recently after Pseudopod dramatised The Yellow Sign.

I'm guessing that Robert W. Chambers is no more on the ball than Lovecraft?

34:

"Privatize and outsource the Laundry?

I know that humanity can't win this war, but do they have to lose it that quickly?"

Frankly, privatization seems to be a virulently effective parasite on Western Civilization, particularly the (US) Anglosphere. If you think of waging memetic econo-politico-parasitical warfare, it's the obvious choice.

35:

Here is how privatization of state assets works in the UK, at a strategy level:

1. Identify a target agency or asset.

2. Install a new minister in charge, who promises (with a clean sheet -- no prior skeletons in the closet) to bring about massive efficiency improvements because these civil servants are obviously not working effectively.

3. Minister "volunteers" their agency for a 10-20% budget cut while delivering maintained performance standards. Metrics are established for determining whether or not the agency is performing to target.

4. Most senior executives are fired/retired, replaced by private sector newbies in non-executive oversight roles with minimum responsibility, and over-paid contractors from the Big Four accountants. Remaining execs are over-stressed.

5. Staff are down-sized.

6. Agency fails to meet [unattainable] performance targets.

7. Stats demonstrating failure are leaked to the press. The agency is roundly condemned for its failures. The minister blames the staff of the agency.

8. Point (7) is used as justification for a new initiative to outsource key agency responsibilities to private-sector contractors (typically the big conglomerates such as G4S, Serco, Capita) who specialize in government contracts.

9. The private-sector non-exec directors from (4) have meanwhile learned a lot about the operational side of managing the agency and migrate back to their private sector employers who pick up the reins.

10. Government funds freed up by the cuts in (3) are directed to the contractors, who use them to deliver a brief dead cat bounce in agency performance by repairing the funding shortfall ... for a year or so.

11. Thereafter the agency is not on the government books, the government contracts out the services to the new owners (whose operations are opaque and not subject to public oversight). Costs spiral gradually, but there's no accountability for the taxpayers who pay for the process.

12. Eventually, after a discreet pause, the revolving door between the Cabinet and corporate boardrooms begins to spin.

...

Now, imagine the effects on the Laundry (a) of a 10-30% budget cut and a 20-40% reduction in head count as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN happens, and (b) the possible identity of the corporations that might be bidding to provide the services in question. Finally, (c) contemplate how the Laundry might conceivably push back, without taking action that might be construed as treasonable (in the light of the Spycatcher affair).

36:

Yep, that's the show. I was blanking on the title earlier, just remembering that it co-stars a painfully thin Matthew McConaughey. As far as I know it's intended as a limited run series, so, as Charlie says, not likely to be relevant by time "The Armageddon Score" comes out. Which is probably a good thing, or some might think he was trying to capitalize on it (despite it having been written months earlier). I suppose it's one of those times where 'something's in the air' and unrelated projects have unexpected links.

37:

I don't suppose there's any chance this book might end up being called "Elf and Safety".

38:

Sooo...on reducing headcount....previously Laundry employees could not be fired. Their options were being hired or death. Right? So given that all the craziness is now in public knowledge (or parts of it, I bet not all of it is yet), are those to be cut actually _cut_? Or are they fired and allowed to live? Or, now that I'm thinking about it, third option, fired but subjected to extra rituals a la the warrant card so they can't talk about certain things?

39:

Actually, there might be another option, and it is nasty; we already know what certain extradimensional entities can do and what K syndrome is. Now imagine something like a way to institute some small scale invocations in the neuronal clusters related to memories about the laundry. It might not even be obvious at first, some kind of strange fractal or certain music or the small print of your discharge papers or...

40:

Nah, it's simpler than that: you get your geas reinforced when you get retired. They have to deal with this for work anyway, so why not?

I'd point out that geas-breakers might have lucrative, if dangerous, employment in the private sector...

41:

Charlie, I don't know if can you access this US website, Moyers & Co, but this was a related episode and essay about the US Deep State. The stuff that goes on in the Military Industrial Congressional Entertainment Complex(MICE Complex). HA!

The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight
http://billmoyers.com/episode/the-deep-state-hiding-in-plain-sight/

There is a full transcript and the essay that they are talking about.

42:

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but would it not make sense to reduce headcount in Post Human Resources first?

43:

Re tank-driving elves - I take it that iron allergy isn't one of their problems?

If it is, a few bags full of iron filings and a big fan would make a very nasty WMD...

Re privatisation, don't forget the part where they will be expected to use PFI loans for new infrastructure (at horrible expense) and then have to point out that after the Stars Are Right and the devastation that follows it is very unlikely that the loans will ever be repaid. Or say "okay" and take the money, knowing that this is the case, of course.

44:

Charlie wrote:
And by book 8, Bob will be rather more senior than he is in book 4 (which is where we've got to so far in the published series).

I don't know; Bob doesn't THINK of himself as that senior, but his mental picture is clearly somewhat short of what he did and can do. Possessing himself, and summoning the undead over on the Pyramid Over There, both rank up there.

I guess if you define "senior" as "formal rank in organization" or "awareness of own powers" then that makes good sense, though.

45:

Well, yes, but what about external agencies getting hold of the retiree? Plus there is always this tricky issue with accidentally getting into the way of the geas, there are only so many cases you can explain away with "sleeping with cigarette" or "spontaneous combustion".

Plus it seems death is not necessarily the end in Laundryverse.

Giving ex-employees the wetware equivalent of DoD 5220.22-M might be preferable to some people in the higher echelons, even if there are some, err, side-effects. It has already been hinted at the Laundry is not exactly that white hat or even that much more than 50% grey...

46:

>>>Finally, (c) contemplate how the Laundry might conceivably push back, without taking action that might be construed as treasonable (in the light of the Spycatcher affair).

Charlie, frankly, the fact that the Laundry does not control the government (or IS the government) is the biggest source of the strain in my suspension of disbelief.

If you want the privatization process to be at all believable, you will need to establish the existence of legal, private and independent corporations who use magic.

But this is bullshit, because a state of Masquerade is taking place and you can't sell magic products to the population. Unless the corporations in question trade exclusively with elves and goblins, there is no reason for them to exist.

47:

I see bitcoin is in a big mess.

Over 740,000 bitcoin have gone missing at Mt Gox. The price, which peaked at over $1200 since November, has plummeted to under $500.

I suspect a combination of US Government action against outfits such as the Silk Road and a rise in speculative trading.

The genuine business (and the Silk Road was genuine, if illicit) gave a certain baseline of transactions. Somebody who was stealing bitcoin could find buyers for the loot.

If a lot of hot money came in, and pushed the price up, it wouldn't be long before those buyers would want to sell. And if Silk Road business has gone, who will buy at a high price?

Possible fraud by exchange operators, combined with losing a big chunk of the non-speculative transactions, is a classic financial bubble. The South Sea Bubble was full of frauds, but some of the schemes which failed were repeats of proposals which has worked. There was money being raised for livestock breeding and land drainage, and those were plausible. Though looking closely might have revealed something like a land drainage scheme for a desert.

48:

Apologies in advance for multi-answer post ...

Charlie, nothing new under the Sun?
Maybe, but, you are not writing "chunks" you are writing (have written?) A Three-Decker
Which has a long & honourable history.
To other readers, if you don't know what I'm rambling on about, PLEASE follow the link.
"The Yellow King" is presumably a Lovecraft/Chambers/MZB(??) reference.
You have specifically ruled out "Elves" as in the malicious brain-blinders in Pterry/Cohen's work? If so, make sure you have sticks-&-buckets, then, if only to gum up the tanks' machinery?

[[ apologies in advance for truncating the multi-answer ramble at this point - mod ]]

49:

#3 and #43 - In the "real World", the CVR(t) family (UK), M-551 Sheridan and M-113 APC (both US designed) are 3 examples of tracked armour using aluminium rather than steel hulls. Composite armour is a 1980s technology. So I see no issues with Elves (or Elfs) having tanks.

You might also want to borrow (if not buy) a title from Mercedes Lackey's "SERRAted Edge" series.

50:

Are yuo sure? Pterry also did other puns in similar vein, like "Bud of the Holly" in that one.

51:

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but would it not make sense to reduce headcount in Post Human Resources first?

No, because RHR's don't draw pay; they're legally dead. Sort of like workfare for graveyard inmates.

52:

Charlie, frankly, the fact that the Laundry does not control the government (or IS the government) is the biggest source of the strain in my suspension of disbelief.

Really? I thought the most disbelief-straining aspect of the Laundry Files was the core premise — that a secret government agency with inadequate oversight and transparency could actually exist, have a well-defined role, and evidently be good at it's job (mostly).

53:

*cough* Simon "Nightside" Green *cough*...

His elves are extremely long-lived, and long ago lost the battle about which hominid species would inherit Earth to H. sapiens due to the latter being much, much more prolific at breeding (which apparently elves aren't).

They have both magic and technology, and weapons far in advance of nuclear explosives but even this isn't enough to survive a war to the finish with Humanity; there just aren't enough elves to make it happen. So, their culture has stagnated for a very long time in a sort of twisted magical Medieval fantasia in another world the Elves created as a sort of elf paradise. The biosphere here is incomplete; elves do not breed at all here, so all inhabitants are ancient and mostly insane. Elves and humans don't interact much, and elves are using only a small fraction of their original magic-tech, slowly waiting for racial extinction.

Did I mention that these elves are complete bastards to deal with?

54:

From what I have read of the Laundry's internal secret-keeping, a quote from a Carry On film is most appropriate:

Frying Tonight!

55:

I think that depends on who is on Mahogany Row; if they're all major-conflict survivors, with stable internal politics, and not too much budget, it's the sort of thing that can happen but never lasts with regular lifespans.

Given that the lifespans are something of an open question, it looks like a bunch of people who have senior management roles from ages 50 through 100 or more, so the idea that you can get institutional continuity from Hitler's War to the present isn't all that incredulous.

Especially given the combination of deep history, the sense that the modern bureaucracy is a mere veneer, the widespread use of truth spells, and the enormous number of infractions for which the penalty is summary death. You could certainly get a stable effective system that way; the Laundry as presented isn't anything like as grim as that sort of system would probably be, but then Bob isn't a reliable narrator and is in an position of unusual privilege.

56:

Bastard William, known for intemperate rages, is clearly Infra-Red William. William II Rufus is obviously Red William. William III of Orange is equally obviously Orange William.

William IV "the Sailor" had to have been The King in Yellow. (and that the next William will have to be Green William, which might be interesting.)

Note that this makes David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, and certainly descended of William IV, a lineal descendant of the King in Yellow.

In at least Laundry terms, much is explained.

57:

Would it be appropriate to say that the whole mythology around Elves is related to the problems that ordinary people - serfs, peasants and the like - had with their self-appointed betters (who in England after 1066 were from an identifiably 'other' group as well)?

Or is that being too Marxish about it? (Marx-ish, not Marxist).

58:

Lesser penalties for fucking up are seen in the background in books 5 and 6. Including placing utterly useless employees who don't want to be there on an inactive list, under a geas to enforce secrecy, and placing them back in the outside world with a job, an identity, and periodic monitoring. In general, the Black Assizes don't execute people unless their fuck-up was so serious that people died as a result. (Admittedly, in the Laundryverse, this happens uncomfortably often: it's not a safe universe.)

Yes, Bob is a privileged (and unusual) narrator, and not terribly self-aware. Hence books 6 and 7, at least, have other narrators.

59:

I think you're on to something, but bear in mind the people under the hill/little people/elves go back a lot further than the middle ages. Tolkein, now, he was guilty of using them to further a classist (not to say classicist) agenda ...!

60:

Someone noted the Book of Invasions further up the thread, and I presume he was citing the Fomorians as a precedent for "magic elven bad guys".

The thing of it is, that the BoI as we know it was written down by Irish monks during the early Celtic period. . .

So, how far back can we really trace this stuff? Ancient Greece? Even then, it was already a class society (with bells on).

61:

>Especially given the combination of deep history, the sense that the modern bureaucracy is a mere veneer, the widespread use of truth spells, and the enormous number of infractions for which the penalty is summary death. You could certainly get a stable effective system that way

Yes, a system where the Mahogany Row (the cabal of the strongest wizards) does whatever they want, brainwashing everyone they cab into submission. It's "Men in Black" times "Harry Potter". They could perhaps have a democratic system among themselves, but there is no chance in hell they'll allow muggles to interfere.

62:
William IV "the Sailor" had to have been The King in Yellow.

Well he was promoted to Admiral in the 1790s, but he had blotted his copybook with the Admiralty by speaking out of turn in the House of Lords so he was never given an active command (ie he was 'yellowed').

So it looks like the title can be made to fit...

Regards
Luke

63:

I think you persistently underestimate the effects of social constructs like 'justice' and 'honour' on peoples' behaviour.

64:

Duuuuuude.

You are not writing a Young Adult Urban Fantasy, you are writing a Lovecraftian Spy Thriller. Justice? Honour? It does not fhtagn.

65:

Privatization is like homeopathy. They are so sure it works, there's no need to do a reality check. Some privatizers are true believers and some are just cynics who know it'll make them rich so who cares if it "works."

I'm tickled that my spellchecker wants to correct "privatizers" to privateers. I think that's what I should start calling them.

66:

Does the privatization debacle ever get turned the other way? Do things ever get better? Because it's been getting worse since before I was alive.

67:

Sometimes privatization can turn the other way. See: 1917, Russia. Things do not get better.

68:

There are some organisations that it makes no sense to have in the public sector. The premier example is possible British Airways.

Unfortunately, having seen one case where privatisation made sense, 'they' went mad and tried to apply the lessons everywhere. For example, British Rail.

At first glance, they both carry passengers from A to B, so why shouldn't privatisation work there too?

In practice it doesn't. The British railway system is a horrible mishmash of supposedly competing companies (because, yaknow, competition!) and internal markets (because the actual infrastructure can't be divided, you can't have multiple companies running the signalling on a stretch of track), and it all costs more and does less than the late and much lamented BR was proceeding towards.

69:

contemplate how the Laundry might conceivably push back, without taking action that might be construed as treasonable

No problem at all. At some early step in the process, the Laundry will be asked to turn over some documentation of its operations so the contractors can see what they're signing on for/ look for inefficiencies. With some judicious choices of documents by Angleton, the bidding firms quickly go Cabin in the Woods.

I thought the most disbelief-straining aspect of the Laundry Files was the core premise — that a secret government agency with inadequate oversight and transparency could actually exist, have a well-defined role, and evidently be good at it's job (mostly).

I think you're underestimating the value of having (1) a clearly defined enemy to unite against and (2) severe Darwinian selection among line personnel.

Non-line Laundry personnel seem mostly to be useless, but keeping them securely out of the way is half the point of the Laundry.

70:

Yeah, that's a failure mode.

It seems like history is always a story of wealth concentration. There's a bunch of little guys doing their thing, one guy gets an advantage and starts growing, soon he's got everything. Call it latifundia in Rome, feudal manors in the Middle Ages, monopolies in the age of capitalism, it always seems like the wealth concentrates until something breaks. Depending on how bad the shattering is, eventually all that's left are little guys and they start doing their thing and the cycle continues.

We had gone through a period of reform in the west as absolute autocracies gave way to the modern interpretation of a democracy and we had middle classes, not just absolute wealth and absolute poverty. But it's all seeming like a historical aberration. We're going to regress to the mean and, historically, that's been awful for the common folk.

71:

The British railway system is a horrible mishmash of supposedly competing companies (because, yaknow, competition!) and internal markets (because the actual infrastructure can't be divided, you can't have multiple companies running the signalling on a stretch of track), and it all costs more and does less than the late and much lamented BR was proceeding towards.

I was taught at some point in school that British Rail was a very good example of how some market is best served by a government monopoly. The situation before the formation of BR was apparently a horrible mess of different tickets, gauges and just about everything you could do wrong with private railways.

The time when I was taught this was obviously in the 1980s.

72:

I thought the most disbelief-straining aspect of the Laundry Files was the core premise — that a secret government agency with inadequate oversight and transparency could actually exist, have a well-defined role, and evidently be good at it's job (mostly).

Since agency members who are bad at their job tend to die messily, I do not find it THAT disbelief-straining. That they do not acquire and abuse more power, on the other hand...

73:

You know, I've always thought there was a similarity between UFO sightings/abductions and stories about elves and fairies. A flying saucer would look a lot like a hollow hill. Both take people for odd reasons, and return them with missing time at a later point. Both are humanoid and gracile with odd features. UFOs and odd lights in the sky like the wild hunt or wisps could be the same thing.

In a setting like the Laundryverse, it could merely be humans trying to put something they experienced into familiar terms. In the 20th century that becomes high-tech aliens, in older times it was fairies or spirits.

74:

Privatizing the Laundry is classic Hitchcock-- there's a desperate deadline-- now shorten the available time, or in this case, cut the resources.

One of the functions of the Laundry which will suffer is recruiting, which means that some people who are delving into the wrong aspects of math and philosophy will continue to do so.

75:

Laundry agents, given cause, can compel obedience from any signatory of Section Three. At any point they want to they own important chunks of the civil service, the police, the army...

The Laundry doesn't need to acquire power, it's set up to be able to call on the entire resources of the British state at need. Think sonobuoy operator; IIRC it's an NCO rank, but in the correct circumstances US Navy doctrine allows them to command the movement of entire carrier groups.

76:

Kinda done by David Brin here.

77:

One of the functions of the Laundry which will suffer is recruiting, which means that some people who are delving into the wrong aspects of math and philosophy will continue to do so.

And Wolverhampton is destroyed this time. "Have we lived and fought in vain?"

78:

A little off-topic, but a vindication for Charlie's dampening of our dreams for a New Life in the Offworld Colonies. The UAE has issued a fatwa warning Muslims not to go to Mars, unless it can be shown not to be the equivalent of a suicide mission.

79:

You'd think that common sense would tell *anybody* not to go to Mars if it was a suicide mission.

Good to know that some clerics aren't completely out of touch with reality, I guess.

80:

I am sure there are people who would take a one-way ticket to Mars; they would not even necessarily have to be crazier than the average person.

It's combining the Bucket List and the Bucket in one go for some folks probably.

81:

You aren't the only one to posit that. Human perception being what it is, particularly when the brain is suffering physiological stress or conditions are marginal, we don't always correctly interpret what's out there.

(This is sounding like a different thread, yes?)

Angels and demons. Djinni. Greys. Elves.

Shortly before WWI, it was Zeppelins that people were seeing in the skies, rather than alien space ships.

When people are seeing something they can't interpret, they seem to end up interpreting it anyway, in the context of their society.

82:

There are elements of that in the Roleplaying Game manual, p.118 - 123 (if that is cannon (Spoiler alert)).

In Italy, OCCINTEL has been federated under the aegis of the (officially acknowledged) DIS (Dipartimento delle Informazioni per la Siccurezza).

In China, OCCINTEL is handled by the Nameless Bureau, a branch of the (officially acknowledged) Ministry for State Security.

There is no indication of what happens in Turkey.

There is a hilarious description of the Swiss OCCINTEL agency (handled by P27).

The name of the French OCCINTEL agency makes no sense: it is listed as DCRI, the counter-spying branch of the police, but the name is "Direction Centrale de la Sécurité Extraordinaire" (which would abbreviate into DCSE). Possibly a confusion with the "Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure" (DGSE), which should in theory specialise in external surveillance (duh) but in fact handles GCHQ-like technical surveillance, including (it would seem) of the French population; we could speculate that either the DGSE also manages OCCINTEL, or that a different agency does that, with a close or identical acronym to confuse observers.

The Dutch have Unit G6 of the (officially acknowledged) AIVD; the German have the Geheime Sicherheitabteilung (GSA); the Irish have the Garda Unit for the Bizarre and Unprecedented (GUBU); the Portuguese have the Joint Portuguese Counter-Occult Group (JPCOG - no Portuguese speaker among the writers of the manual?); the Spanish have a Section 5 within a National Countersubversive Organisation, with a predictable nickname; The Canadian have the Canadian Secret Unconventional Intelligence (CSUIS); the Australian give the task to the (officially acknowledged) ASIO; idem for New Zealand and the (officially acknowledged) DESG. The Russians have the 13th Directorate.

Of course, there is a Real Reason for Operation GLADIO. Oh, and there is more to CERN than meets the eyes.

83:

For an textbook example of this see Railway privatisation.
The railways are now costing more than double what "Deeply inefficient BR" (John Major) cost.
There's also reulatory capture to consider, isn't there?

84:

NOT a prblem!
Bronze-aluminium alloys with reinfoprced non-ferrous ceramics in their power plants.

85:

The misuse of "Community Benefits" clauses in a OJEU procurement with tender advice from a former employee has a lot of interesting side effects when Case Nightmare Green is underway. KPIs to include min 95% compliance with eradication of non-terran organisms.

86:

Yes well, I Have sat in total darkness in the centre of the ROH stage, whilst A Pappano conducted the overture to "Rheingold".
Got even better when the lights came up as Die Rheintöchter were wearing blue wigs - & not a lot else!
[ I was wearing a blue wig & my beard had been dyed a deep blue, too.
However Wagner's take on Der Niebelungenlied is a dark tragedy, of the corruption of absolute power (the Ring) redeemed only by sacrificial love - a message that certain mad politicians didn't seem to notice.

87:
the Irish have the Garda Unit for the Bizarre and Unprecedented (GUBU)
Whoever came up with that deserves a small prize.
88:

What about Israel?

89:

Except thay (Elven) had their own problems
Remember that the Ssurvivors whom you meet in LotR are the ones who have learnt & been scarred by the war with Morgoth - there's the kin-slaying & the oath of the sons of Feanor, too - not nice at all, at all....

90:

Well, actually one mad politician not to be named for Godwin's sake seems not to have been the Wagner fan he purported to be; it seems like the favourite piece of one A. Schicklgruber was Lehar's "The Merry Widow", thus my hint at the German title, "Die Lustige Witwe".

Might explain the shoutout to one piece from the Widow in Shostakovich's No.7, according to one chemist I know very apt for waking up with a hangover...

91:

Well, in Indian religion there are the Apsaras and similar entities, which go back to the Rig-Veda, so we're talking 1200 BC at least:

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

Maybe we could add the magical foxes of Japan, the Kitsune and some general tricksters, well, maybe.

As for explanations, it seems like Apsaras are often found in high mountains, Jinns have an affinity to deserts,, so mayber it's just a way to explain our brain exceeding its specs.

On the other hand, quite a few stories sound like textbook examples of PDDs,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Pervasive_Developmental_Disorders

especially the Theory of Mind ones. Where we have a nice go around to sociopaths.

92:

Life is a suicide mission.

A one-way trip to Mars is not a suicide mission if you set off in middle age with 20-30 years of canned goods. Which is much easier if you're not also carrying an ascent stage and fuel for your return to Earth.

It might shorten your life expectancy, but so does smoking. And isn't spending your twilight years doing trailbreaking research on another planet a huge improvement over spending them in retirement or an old-age home?

(Now, there are different ethical constraints around sending people with inadequate supplies for a reasonable life expectancy. Or sending people of childbearing age, much less having children in a biosphere that isn't self-perpetuating. But that's not what the Mars One-Way folks are discussing.)

93:

Right, Charlie. I originated the modern One-Way discussions, and those were always exactly the points. As long as we adequately prepare and provision, it's a Lifetime mission, not a suicide mission. We can expect likely shorter lifespan due to increased risk of accidents and less depth of emergency medical response, but that is a decision anyone going far enough off-road takes today on earth. If it's ethical to do it here, it's ethical to choose to dedicate your lifetime to it there.

94:

( & Charlie @ 63)
Tell that to the people of the Ukraine, right now?

95:

Just NO
Before 1922 (The grouping) there was a specific organisation the "Railway CLearing House" that dealt with co-ordination of activites between companies on a day-to-day basis, aprt from other intra-company agreements.
It worked quite well ... because each company OWNED ITS OWN TRACK - and leased "running powers" to other who wanted to use them (via RCH agreemens) What happens here was that the track got split form the trains - a total disaster.

96:

I'm not entirely sold on the idea that it's ethical to spend a billionaire's resources to eke out what is, at best, a trailer-park lifestyle on Mars.

It passes the weak ethics test by not hurting anyone, which is the minimum test we usually set for not making something illegal. Still, the same budget spent on mosquito netting could easily yield thousands of times the benefit in years comfortably lived by humans.

I'd put it in the moral category of "allowable but not to be encouraged", like other forms of excessive consumption.

97:

Compared to the preferred ways even hardcore monetarists use for getting away with Keynesian stimulus politics, namely investment into the military, and the tested wisdom you tend to use what you have, sending a few naked apes to Mars is quite benign and might even give us some scientific insights...

98:

" the Irish have the Garda Unit for the Bizarre and Unprecedented (GUBU)

Whoever came up with that deserves a small prize. "

The name GUBU goes back to one of the political scandals of the early 1980s. A bank robber and murderer named MacArthur was discovered to have been staying in the flat of the state's Attorney General, who was an old school friend of his (the power of the old school tie is probably even stronger in Ireland than in UK).

This shocking revelation led the then Taoiseach (i.e. Prime Minister) Charlie Haughey to declare that this news was 'a bizarre happening, an unprecedented situation, a grotesque situation, an almost unbelievable mischance'. The former minister Conor Cruise O'Brien, a scourge of the nationalist old guard in Ireland, to declare that Mr. Haughey himself was 'grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented'.

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

99:

Michael Swanwick already went there to some degree with his elves in The Iron Dragon's Daughter and The Dragons of Babel, though they used fighter-dragons, not tanks. Just make sure you get the proper balance between sodomy and dinosaurs.

The elves of the Warhammer universe (especially 40K) also comes to mind, but then, everyone is super-militarised there.

As for different Laundry-equivalents, I have my pet theory that Astrid Lindgren was involved in the Swedish version during WW2, and that the Pippi books were written as popular pamphlets on how to defend against extradimensional threats.

100:

Sorry-- I didn't make myself clear.

If your Marsbound spaceship with tinned monkeys (with adequate[1] supplies for 20+ years) has a good[2] chance of landing safely, then I agree-- it would be an excellent thing to do-- the science and research produced would be priceless.

However, according to Wikipedia (FWIW), attempts to land objects on Mars have a 30% success rate. Would you be willing to stake your life on those kinds of odds? Even if you got people to say "no problem, I'm cool with taking that chance", should you let them?

------------------------------

[1] for whatever values of 'adequate' you choose
[2] for whatever values of 'good' you choose

101:

However, according to Wikipedia (FWIW), attempts to land objects on Mars have a 30% success rate.

However, you need to look at that as a success rate over time, because it includes a bunch of stuff from the 1960s through 1980s. IIRC the only Mars lander we've lost in the past decade-and-a-half was the UK's underfunded Beagle 2. Whereas prior to 1976's Viking missions, only one lander attempt actually survived: the Soviet Mars 3, which suffered a transmitter failure after 20 seconds on the surface.

102:

Actually, since as we all know German is doing quite a few things only for the evulz, "Geheime Sicherheitabteilung" is somewhat wrong; I guess it'd be "Geheime Sicherheitsabteilung", which would translate to "Secret Security (Division|Department)". I guess the abbreviation "GSA" is meant as an allusion to both the Nazi SA ("Sturmabteilung", or "storm division") and Gestapo ("Geheime Staatspolizei", or "Secret State Police"), though both didn't make it through the end of WWII.

I'm not that sure where they would most likely show up in German bureaucracy. As for actual intelligence agencies, there'd be the "Verfassungsschutz" (or "Constitution Security") which is mainly concerned with domestic issues; if the German "Laundry" is mainly concerned with activities from within, that'd be the place to go, though the guys actually have a somewhat, err, debatable reputation...

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

On a somewhat more ironic note, when they wanted to ban one far-right party, the NPD, it seemed most leading members were on the payroll of the Verfassungsschutz as informants. It seems like part of the money they got was used for party work...

If you want to go for foreign intelligence, the BND is the place to go; personally, I'd put the German "Laundry" into that one, especially given its history as a continuation at least in some personal of the German military intelligence service of WW2 by Canaris et al., the "Abwehr". It's also cooperating with domestic services.

Last but not least, there is the aptly named MAD or "Millitärischer Abschirmdienst" ("Military Shielding Service"). There is also a sub-service for members of the military in the BND called "Amt für Militärkunde" ("Office for Military Science"), though you don't hear about those that often, which might mean they're quite good or quite bad. ;)

OTOH, there's also the German federal police forces, like the BKA (criminal police) or the "Bundespolizei" (including the notorious GSG9).

Actually, I was thinking about designing a sysmbol for the GSa, also known as Faust force (note: "Faust" is both a notorious early modern magician and German for "fist"), though later on I decided to invent a department in the Polish intelligence services called "Salamander Union",

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lizard_Union_(medieval)

part of the Chiffre Bureau:

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

Might have been some debatable identity issues, but the possibilities for iconography were just much better...

103:

There was also the Mars Polar Lander, which crashed in December 1999, so just makes it into your decade and a half.

But most of these were quite lightweight craft whose landing methods wouldn't work for a manned vehicle - the "surround it with airbags and let it bounce" technique isn't something you'd recommend for a manned lander! And do you really want to be aboard something that lands using the "rockets and crane" system they used for Curiosity?

104:

I always wondered what the Vatican and Israel would run as an OCINTEL.

I could see MOSAD being an interesting group to run across presumably using a mix of computational and traditional kabbalistic magic plus GOLEMS.

And the Vatican would be interesting having the Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei a small army (halberds engraved with banishing runes anyone) and god only knows where the Jesuits and Opus Dei fit in.

105:

There is a company that works in the same space as Autonomy called Palantir Technologies, Inc run by a rather odd chap who like most non brits totally misses a lot of the sub text of LOTR.

106:

I know; I also remember when it was a bar on Capel St. I was merely appreciating the sly nod. ",)

107:

Elves fleeing / invading as the Elder Gods return reminds me of something I've long wondered. How does the Laundry universe deal with the Fermi Paradox? My memory of the first book has extra-dimensional Nazis who bungled a deal with a demon which proceeded to eat their sun. Once it goes that far, there is little to keep it from going further, so if this is an easy situation to create, why hasn't it happened on another world? And if it has, how long until the galaxy is devoured?

108:

Actually, who's to say this is not actually happening all the time, it's just the narrative we're in has been lucky this far?

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

On another note, Bob himself is on the record musing about humanity's talent for getting into trouble compared to, say, BLUE HADES.

109:

Key difference: remote landers are, well, remote - they can't be controlled in real time by humans; the time delay is too great (around 8-40 minutes, depending on where the two planets are in their orbits, for a round trip.) A manned mission, on the other hand, will have people there who can react in real time to issues that occur, making landing the craft safely a lot easier (relatively speaking.)

110:

As someone with a public sector IT career, I happily pilfered the phrase "public-private prolapse" from one of your recent books.

I also suspect the current large-scale PeopleSoft implementation clanking along at where I work is also evidence of Elder Gods intruding into our reality.

111:

Bob himself is on the record musing about humanity's talent for getting into trouble compared to, say, BLUE HADES.

I've rather assumed that BLUE HADES went through this long ago in their own coming-of-age era millions of years ago. They presumably had to learn "don't conjure that" the hard way...but they've also had a very long time to figure out how to live with all the interesting potential benefits and mishaps that are still biting humans on the arse.

112:

No idea. "Shin Gimel", perhaps?

113:

Yes, I was rather surprised at "Geheime Sicherheitsabteilung", from the current goverment I would expect something more like "Geheime Sicherheitsdienst".

My reading of the RPG manual is that the GSA is an independent organisation, probably parallel to the BfV.

It is rather fun to draw organigrammes of these services and to infer their missions and cultures from whether they are subordinated to a mother organisation or run parallel to the officially acknowledged secret services. It's a bit like the Chinese "Naval arm of the People's Army", which would offend a Western sailor.

114:

I have long suspected the Vatican of being an interdimensional fortress -- [SPOILER ALERT] much like CERN is. As for the occult security of the Vatican, I suspect that it would actually befall the Dominican Order.

As a general rule, the culture of a country will influence their occult programmes. For instance, the materialism of the Communist ideology was at some point a hindrance for the Soviet programme. How that tendency would translate for the Vatican and for Isreal is open to speculation.

115:

Sicherheistendienst is the word you were looking for?
Usually shortened to SD, IIRC
And yes, they worked very closely with the Abwehr, didn't they?

116:

Which isn't "Classim" as Charlie thinks ... it's Roman Catholicism
It was pointed out, some time ago (Tolikein Society IIRC) that his works & world fitted very nicely into conventional RC theology.
Which spolis it for me, a bit, even though it's wonderfully written.
Incidentally, (some of) the technologies used in LotR & the Silmarillion, especially, are, some of them, up to 1960's (or later) standards.

117:

As is also observed in #109, our "flying span can" can be landed manually in real time, by someone who has the advantage of being able to use "seat of the pants" controls. If you doubt that this is an advantage, confirm for yourself how much easier it is to design a pilotte aircraft than a remote control model.

118:

It didn't eat their sun. It ate their universe, in ~60 years.

119:

The Wikipedia 30% failure rate is for landers only, recent rovers are 100% and as the total rover count is given as 7 but the table below only lists 6 I'm wary about their sums.

http://www.space.com/12404-mars-explored-landers-rovers-1971.html shows six failures in 13 missions to the Martian surface between 1971 and 2011.

120:

do you really want to be aboard something that lands using the "rockets and crane" system they used for Curiosity

You wouldn't use the crane bit for a manned lander, the crew can walk far enough away to get uncontaminated samples. They could walk the distance between the Curiosity landing spot and the skycrane crash site in a few minutes for that matter.

Without the crane bit that landing system is essentially a Space 1999 Eagle, though you'd probably put the pilots cabin on top and not have the large engine cluster at the back to get the centre of gravity in a better spot.

121:

I suspect that Bob and other humans/monkey boys have the grass is always greener view on BLUE HADES - it would be fun to see a POV from their equivalent of Bob whuld woudl be as equally pissed off by BLUE HADES bureaucracy as Bob is.

122:

Heh. Does BLUE HADES do bureaucracy like us? I imagine that they have a very different mindset (and therefore social organization) than us chimps.

Heaven knows what DEEP SEVEN thinks about the coming CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

123:

Well, Charlie knows, presumably.

(I'm not convinced BLUE HADES will survive CNG.)

124:

Actually, "shin bet" is an abbreviation of "sherut bitachon" or "security service"; while "sherut" is used for a variety of services, including taxis, "bitachon" is defined as "trust" in most Hebrew dictionaries, though Iwrit is notorious for funny neologisms, quite often mirroring German terms.

As for a likely name for an Israeli Laundry, I don't know any Hebrew, but it seems "kesheph", sorcery might be the term we're looking at. So maybe "shin kaph" might be a more likely term. OTOH, quite a few of the early zionists being somewhat into enlightenment values. "emunah tifla" for superstition is another likely candidate, which would make for the nicley named "shin aleph". ;)

Any people with real knowledge of Hebrew invited to correct me...

125:

Actually, I'm not that much into German WWII intelligence, but it seems that'd be "Sicherheitsdienst" (as already said, German language is just doing it for the evulz), and, well them being part of the SS and actually the intelligence service of SS and NSDAP would quite rule out the name for most Germans. Though quite a few of the members ended up in Gehlen's BND:

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

Gehlen himself was in charge of "Fremde Heere Ost" or "Foreign Armies East", which was somewhat distinct from the actual "Abwehr" or "Defense" under Canaris.

Of course, when Gehlen created the BND, he used quite a lot of the old talent, leading one former BfV head musing if Gehlen speaking about "probing by intelligence services" meant some retired Wehrmacht general visiting the Kremlin...

126:

Actually, I'm not that sure about the Mossad hype; if you look at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mossad#Alleged_operations

there are plenty of operations, but many of those are more with assasinations, where we could talk about the usefulness of those; in the context of the Palestinians and like, it removes the people you can speak to and it strengthens a certain cult of martyrism.

In the context of the Laundryverse, this is exactly what the Laundry did to Turing, which is still treated as a point of shame. Actually, the Mossad killing of quite a lot of the potential talent and thus being somewhat behind might in OCCINTEL make for an interesting contrast.

Some might admire such a cowboy approach, but most other people known for mainly playing this game, e.g. the Libyans are not that popular. Actually, the Mossad is not the only one known for assasinating its enemies; but it's the only one mainly known for this and counted among the "Good Guys" by most in the Western World.

OTOH, Israel has quite a scientific research program, and we might wonder what WEIZAC was really used for...

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

For Golems and kabbalah, please note the official language in Israel is Iwrit, not Yiddish.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish_language#Israel_and_Zionism

And "medieval superstitions" might seem as reminding of the diaspora, so I would not be that surprised if early zionists actually prohibited using said teachings. OTOH, the Mediterranean countries have the benefit of a long written history, likely including some magical texts, so I wouldn't be that surprised of one of Moshe Dayan's archaeological trips made some interesting discoveries. Of course, with the changes in Israeli politics, e.g. different immigrant groups, the Religious Right etc. that all might change somewhat, and we might have a Kabbalah bureau in the Israeli "Laundry", usually clashing with the other guys if work on Shabbat is permitted and pulling the plugs on the summoning grids a few minutes before sunrise.

As for the real Mossad, though it's somewhat small (about 1500 members), another thing it has quite a number of sympathisants to work with. This might also explain some of the more plain HUMINT successes of Mossad, and an even further excalation of problems for Jews and Christians in Arab countries, but let's not open this can of worms, OK?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavon_Affair
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expulsion_of_Egyptian_Jews_(1956)

Something similar might also work for a Vatican intelligence service, though there are more rumours than facts. Every member of the RCC hierarchy is a potential source for low level intelligence infos, and most of those know the local language and have stayed there for some time, something quite a few intelligence services have lately had problems with. Of course, you must be somewhat careful when using said information, since said informants are quite visible and local Know-Nothings, Taliban and like already think every Catholic priest a potential spy, so you should not encourage that one. And most of these guys have multiple allegiances, but who hasn't?

On another front, Bob had to use a Anglican priest friend to work out the Apocalyse Codex, the RCC has experts at hand, of course some of those are going to be be "true believers", always a questionable quality in analytical work, but at least since Vaticanum II the RCC uses the historical-critical method, so most of the guys should put personal judgements aside:

http://blog.adw.org/2010/12/the-popes-view-of-the-historical-critical-method-of-biblical-interpretation/

In general, the Vatican resources on history, ethnography and archaeology would be quite a bonus in the Laundryverse.

(Err, DISCLAIMER: While yours truely is not as big an Italophile as his brother, there was a time he spend a week every year in Rome, and I guess I'd visit the Musei Vaticani again next time.)

As for the more scientific areas, that might be somewhat tricky; the Vatican has a long history of scientific research, going nback at least to the calendary reform of Pope Gregory XIII, him of the Gregorian calendar. The observatory is still doing conferences on cosmology, so I wouldn't be that surprised about some inner meetings. Also note that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is quite interested in epistemiology, which likely includes combat epistemiology. But than, any biological research has to look at something more than the Human Tissue Act of 2004, it has to pay at least lip service to RCC bioethics. Of course, this might include workarounds, e.g. even though tissues derived from abortions are usually anathema, the vaccine against rubella employing said tissues is permittable since there are no alternatives, and actually might be mandatory since a rubella infection in pregnancy is harming the embryo and might actually lead to an abortion; anti-vaccionists seldom care about the beliefs they exploit.

As for the more practical arm, well, I don't remember if on my trips to the Vatican I saw any guys from the Swiss guard with helbards, but security was quite tight, with the usual x-rays and examples of modern technology in automatic hand guns. I don't remember if those were Swiss guard or some Italian security (BTW, expect a close, but sometimes strained cooperation between Vatican and Italian sevices), but the swiss guard is also trained with handguns, and even the guys in the traditional garb wear the usual wireless:

http://www.youtube.com/user/1506GSP?feature=watch

Of course, the Swiss guard is mainly concerned with the safety of the Pope, for more mundane affairs, look for these guys:

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

I can't remember who did the guard work when we visited the Vatican Pharmacy, BTW.

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

I guess I'll do next time, if anybody plans on visiting Rome, you might look and ask some polite questions.

As already said, there are rumours of a Vatican intelligence service, tasked with things like the Pope's safety on visits and like, though as already said, they are rumours. There is a book about it, "The Entity: Five Centuries of Secret Vatican Espionage", though reviews are somewhat mixed.

Last but not least, the true status of the Vatican might depend on one factor; in the Laundryverse there is one true religion, and you don't want to meet the followers of the god in question. So it somewhat depends how the RCC interprets its place in this scheme.

As for the Roman Inquisi^w, err, the Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei, I guess they's look after the usual cultists.

127:

Postscriptum:
"Cultists under the bed" has the Sodality of St Benedict of Nursia, having the distinction of being founded by one Heinrich Kramer, author of the Malleus Maleficarum.

Actually, they are a cult with different levels, with only the inner two aware of them using the magical stuff, but even the outer one is on the record with using suicide pills, which is somewhat difficult to make comply with RCC view on suicide:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_suicide#Modern_Catholicism

Now we all know both RCC hierarchy and individual members can use quite, err, creative ethical reasoning, still, I guess a visit by the the Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei seems probable.

Actually, them using lots of Latin makes for some strange ideas about crossing into traditionalists Catholics, always a source of fun...

128:

Another Postscriptum:
For actual involvement of the Vatican in intelligence work, there is the precedent of the ratline for Axis personal after WWII:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratlines_(history)

129:

Since this thread is headed "Miscellanea"
I'm going to post a real Back to the Future link
Also Google for "Airlander"
Interesting as it has already flown, is a lifting-body as well as having Helium bouyancy, & has a Carbon-fibre/Kevlar skin.

Any comments?

130:

I think it should be painted a sort of medium green shade, not pale grey.

131:

Paint a huge winged castle on the sides, and you'd have Castle Wulfenbach 1.0.

132:

For some other miscellanea, another example of Poe's law working both ways, "Truther Toys" by one of our conspiracy minded, err, "friends". The original site is gone, but you can find some copies all over the net:

http://www.whokilledbambi.co.uk/2011/12/truther-toys/

No material about DANUBE CROSSING, sadly...

133:

Personal theory-the Very Senior Levels (aka Mahogany Row and the people beyond them) run the UK, but mostly they define "running the UK" as "keeping the 'open' portion of the UK government from doing something really fracking stupid, like open research into IR-wavelength basilisk guns. Otherwise, as long as they aren't selling out to non-human intelligences and/or compromising the safety of the Commonwealth in mystical matters, it's not our responsibility".

Rule 1 (Thou Shall Not Interfere with #10 Downing Street) applies, pretty much (and, I suspect one of the reasons why is beings like Angleton-he knows where the rules can be bent, and otherwise where the rules can't be broken...).

Specials

Merchandise

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 24, 2014 1:48 PM.

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