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Just so you know, I've delivered the next Laundry Files novel to my publishers and it's in the pipeline for publication in the first week of July. I don't have any covers to show you yet, but my editor at Ace has kindly agreed to let me share the cover copy (text) for The Annihilation Score with you:

Hugo Award-winning author Charles Stross presents the next case in The Laundry Files, "a weirdly alluring blend of super-spy thriller, deadpan comic fantasy, and Lovecraftian horror" (Kirkus Reviews).

Dominique O'Brien—her friends call her Mo—lives a curious double life with her husband, Bob Howard. To the average civilian, they're boring middle-aged civil servants. But within the labyrinthian secret circles of Her Majesty's government, they're operatives working for the nation's occult security service known as the Laundry, charged with defending Britain against dark supernatural forces threatening humanity.

Mo's latest assignment is assisting the police in containing an unusual outbreak: ordinary citizens suddenly imbued with extraordinary abilities of the super-powered kind. Unfortunately these people prefer playing super-pranks instead of super-heroics. The Mayor of London being levitated by a dumpy man in Trafalgar Square would normally be a source of shared amusement for Mo and Bob, but they're currently separated because something's come between them--something evil.

An antique violin, an Erich Zann original, made of human white bone, was designed to produce music capable of slaughtering demons. Mo is the custodian of this unholy instrument. It invades her dreams and yearns for the blood of her colleagues—and her husband. And despite Mo's proficiency as a world class violinist, it cannot be controlled ...

No, you can't pre-order this just yet. Patience: I'll let you know when it's available.

POSTSCRIPT: some further non-spoileriffic notes

It occurs to me that I ought to explain the title.

This book was originally called "The Armageddon Score". But then my young, dynamic, new editor at Orbit googled it—and discovered we had a google-bombing problem: if you search for "Armageddon Score" on google you get the sound track album to a certain Bruce Willis movie. I may be able to steal the google mojo from a right-wing political science book, but Bruce Willis is an entirely tougher nut to crack. Re-tooling the title therefore seemed prudent.

Next, the elevator pitch(es).

Imagine you're in an elevator in a hotel and realize you're sharing it, for three floors, with Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubrick/insert big-name-director. You have ten seconds to pitch your movie at them. How do you sum it up, in a single-sentence (or two at the most)?

There are three elevator pitches for "The Annihilation Score", although none of them made the back cover copy:

1. It's a sensitive character study of a middle-aged lady civil servant who is simultaneously undergoing a marital crisis, a career crisis, and a nervous breakdown. (Superheroes are involved.)

2. Bob's exes form a superhero team; together, they fight crime!!!

3. Bridget Jones' Diary, volume 42: Bridget Meets The King In Yellow.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

147 Comments

1:

That's wonderful - in the middle of drawing up my list of must-buys for next year so very timely.

Do you, er, have anything else coming out in 2015? Just while I'm updating the spreadsheet...?

2:

> human white bone

Uh... what human bones are not white?

3:

I wrote and sold no short fiction in 2014, and the trilogy shaped object from Tor is being pushed back into 2016 due to editing/rewriting/getting-it-perfect constraints. So the only book due out in 2015 is "The Annihilation Score".

I am supposed to write two short stories or topical essays in the first quarter of 2015, for publication: one in the MIT Tech Review fiction issue edited by Bruce Sterling, and one in an anthology on transparency and surveillance that David Brin is putting together. These are not yet executed.

I am working on Various Other Shit™ including "The Nightmare Stacks" (Laundry Files book 7, for 2016), the aforementioned Trilogy Shaped Thing, and other stuff that's in the queue behind these contracted works (i.e. I'm not allowed to write them until I've delivered stuff I've actually been paid for).

4:

No, you can't pre-order this just yet. And yet the queue is already forming.

5:

Live bone isn't exactly white; it's a living tissue (and haemopoietic at that, so it tends to be very bloody). Old bone tends to dull towards dark ivory in colour. Bleached bone is white, but that's not it's natural state.

NOTE: Authors do not write their cover copy. We're lucky if we even see it and are allowed to give it a nod before it goes forward. It's part of the book cover situation.

6:

Cool!

Are there any books films or comics we should read before this comes out to fully appreciate it? Equoid was partially a satire of cold comfort farm, which i totally missed, never having read it, so id loke to be better prepared this time!

7:

It's an explicit sequel to "The Rhesus Chart". It riffs off superhero fiction, but not deeply, and British police/crime fiction (a very different policing culture from the U.S.). Oh, and if you think a prom is a high school disco, you're going to have a bit off a learning curve (start by looking up the last night of the proms on Wikipedia).

Otherwise, it's a bit less obscure.

8:

Out of morbid curiousity, when did you first realize the Laundry series was turning into a monster that was pretty much taking over a non-trivial part of your writing career, and may be the series for which you are most remembered? (the last is a bit hypothetical, but...)

9:

It hasn't definitely happened yet, but: when I got bored ringing the changes on British spy thrillers and decided to switch to sending up urban fantasy sub-genres -- the first products of this change are "Equoid" and "The Rhesus Chart" -- suddenly it went all Discworld on me. That is, it became a multi-threaded, multi-protagonist setting, not a one-person series (featuring Bob as Rincewind).

I'm now pushing like crazy, trying to see if it'll build sales momentum with a book a year rather than one every 3-5 years. If successful, then great: I'll focus on it, with occasional unscheduled side-trips to write other stuff when I get bored. If unsuccessful, well, I won't drop it -- but it may go back to being a once every 3-5 yearly hobby.

I should know for sure around the time book 8 or 9 comes out.

10:

Thanks. I'm looking forward to The Annihilation Score, wishing you success with pipeline management!

11:

Fair enough; that actually works for me either way since the only thing you've done I'm definitely unkeen on is Palimpcest (and I'm well aware I'm in a minority there. Attempts to explain why I'm wrong will be ignored).

12:

PalimpCEST?

Not sure that's the same book...

13:

Mhari and Mo together?

14:

"Palimpcest" would presumably be OGH's reboot of Heinlein's "All You Zombies".

15:

Also #14 - Whatever guys.

16:

See the movie "Predestination"

17:

I am definitely looking forward to the full novel size version of Palimpsest. The published part so far was a great read.

18:

Re: "Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubrick/insert big-name-director .. "

Suggest Peter Jackson ... Hear he's really into the good vs. evil, new types of monsters, unusual worldscapes, eternity, preferably with a twist of/twisted humor ... [From Wikipedia: 'Jackson began his career with the "splatstick" horror comedy Bad Taste (1987) and the black comedy Meet the Feebles (1989) before filming Braindead (1992)'].

Elevator pitch directed at PJ would probably run along the lines of ... "Let me show you what going off on an existential tangent really means."

Looking forward to this ... really like that the Launderyverse is budding new storylines/characters.

19:

Yeah, but Jackson is going to try and turn "The Atrocity Archives" into a trilogy in 4 parts. ;-)

20:

I look forward to receiving my copy...

I loathe dealing with Amazon, and have hitherto used Transreal Books in Edinburgh for preordering your work; however, it has crossed my mind that Amazon rankings are quite important. What's your advice?

21:

Peter Jackson can be kept at bay by buying beer for Charlie and persuading him to do for Hobbits what he did for Unicorns in Equoid.

22:

As long as you have an MZN account, you can publish a review of anything they sell, even if you didn't buy it from them.

23:

That works for me, and as long as it manifests as an attack novella that gets a first draft out in a week or two, should work for Charlie I think.

24:

Wonderful! Keep up the good work--I, for one, really enjoy the series and would welcome a book-a-year approach, as long as you don't get sick of writing it...

Any inclination towards writing a sequel to Glasshouse? Love that book. Maybe I've mentioned that before.

25:

Going Pratchett?

Oh dear. That would mean, at a guess, the Laundry post CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. For about 15 books.

26:

More like "...about 50 books and counting" at a rate of better than 2 a year (not complaining, just observing).

27:

And didn't Charlie mention that CNG's just a part of CASE NIGHTMARE RAINBOW? Could take Bob et al. a while to deal with.

28:

Hmmm. How to Discworld a situation where there are fewer characters around every book? How to Lovecraft a series which depends on a core of characters who develop rather than dying? That's a bit of a gap to thread.

Oh well, off to Christmas. Party hard y'all.

29:

I'm glad to see you actually making use of the idea that Case Nightmare Green creates people with superpowers. My Laundry Files campaign ran off of that and seemed to keep the players entertained. I'm sure your treatment will be radically different and entertaining.

30:

If the Laundry turned into a film or film series, I'd lean toward Del Toro for capturing the Mythos feel, possibly collaborating with Whedon to handle the character interaction and the humor.

31:

Many Thanks! Looking forwards to it!

32:

Awesome! Another Laundry novel to look forward to. Guess I should get around to reading the Rhesus Chart, then... (short version: life has not been Happy Fun Times for me for a little while, and when the starting chapter finished with words to the effect of, "... and that's how the deaths started", I figured that the time wasn't right for me to dive right in.)

Also looking forward to the trilogy shaped object, but frankly, I'm not overly fussed what comes out when, as long as there's something coming through: anything with Stross in the author field is going to get a very close look from me at the absolute least.

Next time you're in .melb.vic.au, I would be more than happy to buy you a beverage of choice. Or even a meal of choice. Good authors are worth bribingencouraging. ;)

33:

... and one in an anthology on transparency and surveillance that David Brin is putting together.
Very interesting - I will look forward to reading all of that one.
What's you present take on the Brin "difference" between the tow apparently-identical survellance societies, which are, in practice, comlpletely different?
My opinion is that "The authorities" - everywhere, are, of course pushing for version #1 - where they watch us & tough luck ... however, recent events, in the "developed" world, at any rate, suggest that "they" are not getting it all their own way.
Th ubiquity of camers-phones & phone-videos are having a distinct effect ... it's quite noticeable, that here, although Plod still haven't caught on ( - being, often as stupid as some detective-story-writers make then out to be ) many of the "authorities" have, & are tending to back off.
In the USA, however, it seems that this message hasn't even begun to penetrate.
Opinions?
How this will play out in semi-autocratic, corrupt states like Putin's Russia ....

34:

As much as I enjoyed PJ's early work, there will be no further distractions placed between him and getting on with Dambusters! None! Away with you!

35:

I'd be more likely to watch a film(s) by Guillermo and/or Joss than one by Peter anyway.

36:

Utterly and completely off topic, but check out today's Google home page, and let it run.

Happy Holidays folks.

37:

Next time you're in .melb.vic.au, I would be more than happy to buy you a beverage of choice.

Not in 2015. (My travel dance card is already quite full.) Probably not in early 2016, but rising thereafter. Highly likely in 2020 if Auckland wins the worldcon bid for that year -- it'd be idiotic to go all the way to NZ and not pause in AUS on the way home.

The antipodal point on the planet from where I live is about 500 nautical miles south of the bottom of South Island. It's a long way from home.

38:

That is a very sweet Google animation ... happy holidays to you as well!

39:
3. Bridget Jones' Diary, volume 42: Bridget Meets The King In Yellow.

I like the sound of that, and would probably cry my eyes out... And carve both arms off.

40:

I'd be interested in reading your article on surveillance for Sterling as the only people who have anything to fear from a surveillance state are those who cannot be trusted.

Of course, the State has proven habitually that it cannot be trusted absolutely although it may be entitled to qualified trust although that is subjective and dependent upon how much trust and respect you are prepared to accord the State which itself should be predicated upon a mutually reciprocal arrangement.

There is actually a solution to the Trusting Trust problem but it requires introducing the concept of respect into the problem as well as using a series of checks and balances that reciprocally serve to internally affirm and externally validate.

You start by affording each new entity you come into contact with a single instance to abuse your absolute trust such that you inititally trust them implicitly and you include yourself in that arrangement.

Once you yourself have demonstrated that you cannot trust yourself absolutely you use the breach of your own trust by yourself as the hook that forms the bedrock of your conscience which defines the line you never cross again.

Once an entity has abused your absolute trust you then set their relative trust to zero and allow them to build up a level of trust again over time but never permit them to be afforded absolute trust because they have proven the cannot be trusted be trusted absolutely.

Subsequent abuses of trust should each serve to reset the level of trust you afford to zero again until such point in time as you feel you should terminate the relationship.

If they wish to rebuild the relationship then they should be the one to reach out to you from that point onwards although you may occasionally extend the hand of friendship towards them to see if they are prepared to at least attempt to reciprocate.

You also introduce the concept of respect into the arrangement by utilising it to identify who can be trusted implicitly and again you internally affirm and externally validate for respect with respect being demonstrated by how one chooses to interact both with yourself and others - particularly those who might be considered to be weaker than you in an form but particularly that of relative social standing.

Finally, you need to abandon the concept of shame as that is the means by which a surveillance state seeks to control people.

Those who are without shame cannot be controlled but that does not mean you abandon virtues such as modesty or patience nor does abandoning shame mean that you abandon respect for yourself and for others.

Consequently, a thief may be utterly shameless but the cannot be trusted around your personal property as they have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate that they have no respect for you or others or indeed even themselves.

After all, if you cannot afford something then you ask for it and you accept a firm No if that is the answer given in response. You do not simply seek to take because you received a firm No but you want anyway.

It does work and requires building a complex web of interactions with yourself at the centre of an intricate perimeter defence.

Hope that makes sense.

41:

I'd be interested in reading your article on surveillance for Sterling as the only people who have anything to fear from a surveillance state are those who cannot be trusted.

Bullshit. You're making the Facebook Mistake: assuming that everyone has a single social identity.

People can have entirely legitimate reasons for wanting to operate under an identity other than the one assigned to them by others. Examples:

* Transgendered people wishing to adopt the identity (name, gender, other social roles) of their preferred gender

* Victims of stalkers or domestic violence who wish to avoid their abuser

* Teachers who wish to maintain an adult social life that involves acting in way that would set a poor example to their students (e.g. partying, drinking, swearing, generally behaving like adults rather than social role models)

* Members of the judiciary or police, or witnesses in criminal cases, who may not want to be intimidated by potentially violent accused, or be on the receiving end of revenge

* Anyone who wants to keep their work life and private life separate

* Anyone who has fundamentally changed their opinion on key issues (politics, religion) over a period of years and wishes to distance themselves from people who knew them for their earlier beliefs/framework

... This is without touching the sensitive topic of political or social dissent and its policing. (Merely having opinions that are unpopular is currently enough to attract police surveillance in the UK, as witness infiltration and spying on the fricking Green Party by various police forces -- this is a 100% legal political party with representation in parliament! -- never mind anything that breaches the most blue-nosed interpretation of any decency/obscenity laws on the books).

Of course, the State has proven habitually that it cannot be trusted absolutely although it may be entitled to qualified trust

What is this "state" you speak of? You make it sound like the Borg Collective! In reality, it's another hive organism, like a corporation, only with greater legal scope for action. Individuals with roles in the state may abuse those roles, as witness the number of police officers investigated for misusing access to the Police National Computer network in the UK.

Human identity is not immutable and atomic. That is all.

42:

I presume that, since you have nothing to fear from surveillance, you have already installed webcams and mikes in every room in your home.

43:

Anyone who wants to keep their work life and private life separate
I take it you're placing people like SF fans who're mostly known on-line, in fan groups and at cons by $badgename rather than $real_name in this group?

44:

I'm going to have to call you out on that Charlie as you just argued a strawman.

Nowhere did I say or equate having nothing to hide with the Facebook concept of a single identity.

I happen to maintain another identity as a MtF transgendered individual who is fascinated by such 'girly' things as clothes and shopping.

However, I am completely open about doing that so it is impossible to shame me for it.

It's an identity I like to play with and explore discrete from my normal, humdrum heteronormative male identity which happens to have diagnosed several different mental disorders.

Not fearing the surveillance state and not being subject to the tyranny of shame is not the same thing as having a single internet persona.

May I recommend you read Aleks Krotoski's Untangling The Web which is drawn from her doctoral work as well as various articles she's written over the years and so on if you disagree?

45:

It's not about "the tyranny of shame."

It's about the tyranny of death. It's about the tyranny of torture.

You are either blessedly naif, or willfully ignorant. One can be fixed, but I suggest you don't try to fix it here. The other will do nothing but make multiple people, including Charlie and I, angry at you.

46:

Sean, how about we wait and see what Charlie's response is?

I do not dare to speak for him and I doubt you are able to read his mind such that you can speak for him.

Further, you know nothing about me beyond what I have said but it is obvious you have no respect for me as you presume to suggest that you are in some manner superior to me by daring to contradict me and to suggest that I did not mean what I quite explicitly said and meant.

I await Charlie's response if he considers one worthy of his time. I do not personally care for your response which I consider to be condescending and if Charlie wishes to card either of us for our posts then that is his call as it is his blog and he is the tyrant around here.

47:

Sean does speak for me on this. (Also, he's one of the moderators.)

You may have nothing to hide. And I agree that it's generally a good policy to live your life as if everything you do may be reported on and examined in public.

But hiding from a stalker is non-optional. In that example, I'm talking about people with a very real fear of being murdered if they can't maintain separation from their prior identity.

(The schoolteacher's dilemma is somewhat narrower, but it's still potentially career-limiting: shame can cost people their jobs -- and, in extremis, their lives.)

I'm not going to card you just yet, but I will do so if you're rude again.

48:

I happen to maintain another identity as a MtF transgendered individual who is fascinated by such 'girly' things as clothes and shopping.

However, I am completely open about doing that so it is impossible to shame me for it.

When you say you're open about it, do you mean that when you're inhabiting that persona, you let people know you're really a cis dude on a vacation from himself?

Because if not, if you're actually trying to pass yourself off as transgender to other people while not actually being transgender yourself, I have to say, that's a pretty cruddy thing to do. And if that's the case, you should stop doing that immediately.

If, however, this is how you test the waters before admitting to yourself or others that you're trans, let me know and I can point you to some resources which might answer some questions for you.

49:

Why do I hear an old acid rock tune, 1st chorus "Do You Have the Yellow Sign ?", 3 repeats, with electric violin ?

50:

Merely having opinions that are unpopular is currently enough to attract police surveillance in the UK, as witness infiltration and spying on the fricking Green Party by various police forces

Is that fair, or was it a "we're actually after ALF, and have a suspect who attends Green meetings"?

Granted "we don't know where to start looking for ALF, why not try here" is just incompetent, but "we've now got credible threats to cause criminal damage to the bulldozers putting in the new bypass, nip along to the meeting and find out the tone of things so we know whether to send three PCs to watch six protestors, or thirty to keep an eye on the local angry brigade".

I somehow doubt, in these times of extremely constrained resources and target-led policing, that there's the spare time to start surveillance on the Green Party on the whim of a Chief Constable, except in the dreams of conspiracy theorists. Perhaps it was seen as a low-threat step in skills development for covert operators (because if DC Smith is a bit rubbish and easily spotted, better to find out there than when trying to infiltrate a high or lethal threat environment). We don't hear about the infiltrations of criminal gangs, perhaps the ones discovered by the Greens were the slightly crap ones who failed to progress and returned to other duties?

I did smile at encountering an old episode of "The Professionals" on ITV4 last month; it did a "CI5 uncover and defeat over-enthusiastic and brutal policing in an unnamed major English city", complete with "Home Office not wanting questions asked because crime statistics are dropping". Seeing "defeat government excess" in a 70s TV cop show was unexpected...

51:

smichaud (comment #13): Mharia and Mo -- and Ramona!

52:

To Charlie @ 47. I take on board your point and don't fundamentally disagree with what you're saying.

I was unaware that Sean was a moderator and therefore does, by extension, speak with the authority vested in him by God himself around here although it is always my personal preference to hear something direct from the horse's mouth, so to speak, because experience dictates that too often people are all too willing to put words into others mouths rather than actually listening to what they actually say and want.

To Sean, my apologies if I caused any offence though you may want to think about moderating your own tone in future as well because your response did rub my back up the wrong way - not that that is intended as excuse or justification on my part. Whilst my background is in IT, I'm training as a psychologist and how one communicates as well as what is said are of critical importance to any interaction as well as how we assess people.

To April_D @ 48, it is the case of testing the waters as opposed to passing off in order to make sure it is and was what I wanted as well as making sure that I know how to behave in a manner that will not cause me to be unnecessarily at risk owing to the prejudice and hatred that being transgendered does attract.

There is a difference between not being ashamed of who you are and taking stupid risks. I always try and take calculated risks rather than unnecessary ones although you do still occasionally need to take a chance on something.

I'd be grateful for any assistance you might have to offer in regard to this.

53:

I suggest you head on over to https://www.reddit.com/r/asktransgender and create a throwaway account. They're a real friendly community over there, very welcoming and hospitable to newcomers. By creating a throwaway account, you can ask pretty much any questions you want without much risk. There's a lot of really excellent people who will be happy to help you out with any questions you might have on the subject, even if you're not sure if you're trans or not. A lot of us start that way, after all.

54:

I always use a single identity on the Net, and have nothing to hide. Or at least, nothing you are going to find out about.

55:

It's not the ALF who the police are monitoring, but a councillor and a member of the house of lords: green party press release here. More via Statewatch and The Guardian.

They're also spying on journalists.

And you might want to ask why, in these straitened times, there is still enough money sloshing around to pay for an estimated 1200 undercover police spies infiltrating various groups in the UK.

(It's very easy to keep making excuses and saying, "but they must be looking for real extremists", or "there's no smoke without fire". But frankly, I'm sick of making excuses for the Home Office. They're systematically lying to us about the scale of organized extremism in the UK and using it to justify draconian surveillance measures and tactics the Stasi would have nodded at. And when you go along with it without protest, or saying "yes, but ..." you're in the same position as those folks who refuse to listen to rape victims, or who assume that every unarmed black teenager shot in the back by a US cop was clearly somehow a threat to the heavily-armed officer's life.)

56:

I don't know the UK situation, but I think one has to understand tha most police, most of the time, are at least a bit right of the center (politically speaking), and harbor more than average suspicion to everything left the center. Another thing is that everyone who claims to directly challenge the state (even if only verbally) irks the police in a special way. They don't behave rational anyway, but even less so when it comes to policitical stuff.
What makes me think so? I've senn quite a few demosntrations with more police than participants, and (failed, or we would not have seen them) efforts to get snitches in rather harmless anarchist circles. Where I simply don't see how we ever posed any threat justifying that effort.

Mind you, I also don't see the rationality in drug policing, but I know less about that.

Rational meaning, in this comment, traing to ensure piece and safety of the general public with the least intrusion and effort.

57:

I'd go further... Everyone has something to hide.

* Integrity of context... Everyone behaves differently with their work colleagues and with a toddler, with clients and with friends. Actions are quite properly tailored to the audience and situation. Taking some action out of one context and putting it into another is likely to be embarrassing at least, often damaging, sometimes dangerous.

Behaving always with the most restrictive context in mind is going to lead to an irritated toddler, and no friends.

* Practice. Any time we learn a new skill, or even try it out to see if we like it, we would prefer the early attempts were forgotten. Authors have a (locked) trunk, some burn their early writing. Violinists practice at home, with no recordings (or discard the recordings, if they make them for their own review). We learn new things in friendly spaces where failures are forgiven and/or forgotten.

If there is no way to prevent our early attempts being disseminated or preserved, few of us would ever try out anything new - the risk would be too high.

58:

You can't possibly know what you hide or don't hide, for the simple it's never you who decides that. It's the authorities, and anyone with the power to find out.

What if you're an Eastern European or rural American businessman and you suddenly get mails from anonymous throwaway adresses that tell you how unfortunate it were if the public found out about TwinksAndBear.com showing up in your history, so you better make sure Y instead of X gets the contract, capiche?

And then there's OGH's YidsInYourHood app scenario...

Internet oversharing culture is a grave collective attack on the individual's Peace Of The Low-Profile. Back in the day you could prevent the everyday irrational crazies from committing hate crimes against you by don't letting them know of your existence. How's that possible if your profile is there for the whole planet to see?

(Btw, that's why I shake my head at the adoration the "global village" notion receives from nerds. I grew up in an actual village and everybody gossiping viciously about everyone else was the order of the day. And you really want the whole world turn into this?)

So where are the Libertarians? We have here the many destroying the freedom of the individual. Where's the goddamn outrage?

Oh yeah, right, it's the collective entities called tech companies that wage this campaign, and Libertarians can't say anything against their masters as transparent shills!

59:

"You can't possibly know what you hide or don't hide"

Just hypothetically, suppose the stuff I had to hide was never written down and only discussed in face to face meetings in random locations. As for "the crazies", assume for a moment I might be one of them, and that I know a lot more all across the world. Then?

You think that after 18 years on the Net, always using the same name and being associated with various "extreme" political and religious groups, that I don't know all this? How do you suppose I survive unmolested?

60:

Just hypothetically, suppose the stuff I had to hide was never written down and only discussed in face to face meetings in random locations.

You can't stop it from being written down. You can refrain from doing so yourself, but you can't guarantee your correspondents will observe your privacy preferences.

There's a real world example of this: image tagging and face recognition on Facebook.

You may not have a Facebook page and you may not have given FB permission to know anything about you. But you are a hole in their multi-billion-node social graph, so they will tag it with metadata.

Facebook users upload photographs to FB all the time, and use its extensive and helpful photo tagging service to organize their collections. FB uses photos tagged with names and locations and dates (the latter two auto-added by smartphone cameras these days) to identify who was present at the "event" being photographed. It can then use identified faces as data for their face-recognition algorithm and spot the same faces in the background in other photographs, so if your pal uploaded one photo from a party and several other people uploaded photos at the same time and place, FB can work out who was at the party and show them a shared event in their timeline. Surprise!

FB has a cluster of some millions of CPUs chugging away all the time running face recognition algorithms against photos uploaded by other people, some of which probably feature your face, without your knowledge or consent, because you were simply out in public and walking past in the background when a Facebook user took a snap of their friends.

Thus, even though you don't have a Facebook account, FB probably knows what you look like and a lot about where you've been in public. And when you create your Facebook page, FB will helpfully offer to show you a time line, significant events you were at, and put you in touch with your friends ...

How do you suppose I survive unmolested?

Because no government-level agency has taken an interest in you and leaned on FB to disclose your "ghost" time line to them. Trust me, it's the next big thing in police surveillance of demos. Demonstrators photograph each other and keep an eye out for signs of police brutality: in reality, thanks to Facebook they're doing the police Forward Intelligence Team's job for them.

61:

Indeed; this is why I never say that there are no pictures of me on-line, but rather than I don't know of any. For example, my sis and several of my cousins FriendZone.

62:

I've not knowingly pasted a picture of me online, though others have on forums.

Hiding your physical features has always been a difficult business, and its now virtually impossible.

That said, I have plenty to hide, I'm a very guilty person, and I have almost certainly left an audit trail of activity that could be construed by some as socially unacceptable across the web under the username I use here [a childhood nickname].

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory

However, if I put my real birth name into google or bing images, virtually nothing about me will come up - after about ten pages I give up checking.

My name is one letter away from another person with a large web presence, so googling my name is always an untroubling experience for me.

I cannot for the life of me think people who have no need to use their real name as their online identity.

It's different for OGH, of course, as "Charles Stross" is a brandname.

63:

"You can't stop it from being written down. You can refrain from doing so yourself, but you can't guarantee your correspondents will observe your privacy preferences."

I think I can, especially considering what might be discussed. All the trivial crap I don't mind being public, since it demonstrates a certain openness to those who care.

As for "molested", I don't mean by the state. After the ZS BC debacle in the Pacific area we now have direct lines to those who care about such things and keep them informed.
http://wavechronicle.com/wave/?p=1911

64:

"Dirk Bruere"
Google: About 14,200 results (0.44 seconds)
Google Groups: Posts: 25300
As for pictures, there are a number of me online, but if you google pics using my name there is quite a bizarre array

65:

"$real_name"
Google: About 7_220_000 results (0.31s)
Of the first screen:-
25 are LinkedIn entries, one of which is actually me (My employer registered me, but I've never looked at my entry).
One is a university professor.
105 are details from 192.com. None of these should be me since I don't have a home landline.
There's also an Irish singer/songwriter, an aspiring personal trainer, an author, and a USian physician.
If you actually know me by my real name, you know why I'm laughing inside.

66:

AFAIK, there is only one Dirk Bruere on the Net. I have a very distinctive set of names.

67:

Paws4thot only got about 6400 hits, and some of those were not me (or people quoting me).

68:

Names are one thing but in my experience things that reveal you online are more wht you say. I do some moderating on a fairly large forum, once we had a poster who started to make some very threatening and paranoid posts to other users. They used an annonomous name and email but thanks to a few posts they'd made about what degree they'd done, a job they had and a city they lived in it was trivial for the forum owner to find out their real name and report them to the police and their university (some of the threats started to get very serious).

That incident and others like it are examples of how easy it is to find information about someone. Once you have a little bit you can get more and it snowballs. One mention of a degree can find your uni, find something like a thesis project, find a new email that gets you to the next job etcetera etcetera.

69:

You can't stop it from being written down. You can refrain from doing so yourself, but you can't guarantee your correspondents will observe your privacy preferences.

You chose a Facebook example, which is reasonable considering how blatant they are about inter-connecting absolutely everything. I got their habits shoved front and center when I made a Facebook account (in order to solve, for a non-technical friend, the question 'How do I upload a picture to Facebook?'). Having been given only my name (but doubtless knowing my city from IP address lookup) it promptly suggested various friends I might know, including one I hadn't seen in years.

More recently I bought a tablet and found that Google is remarkably promiscuous about linking things together. I recovered a picture of myself that I thought long gone when it showed up on my tablet in a folder of avatar icons. That particular instance isn't bad for me but it suggests that anyone who wants to maintain even a transparent separation between online identities is soon going to need multiple pieces of hardware, preferably paid for in cash.

70:

"That incident and others like it are examples of how easy it is to find information about someone."

I understood this years ago. That's why I post only under my own name. Everything someone wants to know about me they can find out quite easily. Stuff that I don't want them to find out is either not written anywhere, or is a matter of public records accessible, in theory, only by some arms of the State.

71:

It occurs that you have never mentioned Mo in discussing books 7, 8 and beyond.

She's not going to make it out of this one alive, is she?

72:

I offer this suggestion knowing of the difficulties that Trans folk have even within the community...Lesbian and Gay? That I would have, once, from ignorance and as a Male...CIS? Person... have understood should be Supportive, but which, apparently, isn’t...Trans Folk do appear to be a minority of a Minority and so your caution is wise.

So, that being said? And given that OGH Charlie WILL is watching this developing conversation like a Very Hawkish Thing? You might like to have a look at Cheryl Morgan’s blog and... Consult/ examine her history in the Trans Community and far beyond that in Science Fiction/Fantasy Fandom...

http://www.cheryl-morgan.com/

Cheryl has earned huge respect in Sf/Fantasy fandom on account of her abilities and not just because of her resilience in the face of prejudice.

OGH will now Jump Up, and also down, on me if my suggestion is inappropriate.

73:

You should Never make that asumption!


Look at the History of Elric of Melniboné ..

" Elric's finding of the sword Stormbringer serves as both his greatest asset and greatest disadvantage. The sword confers upon Elric strength, health and fighting prowess but must be fed by the souls of those struck with the black blade. In the end, the blade takes everyone close to Elric and eventually Elric's own soul as well. Most of Moorcock's stories about Elric feature this relationship with Stormbringer, and how it—despite Elric's best intentions—brings doom to everything the Melnibonéan holds dear."


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elric_of_Melnibon%C3%A9


The Bone Violin is EVERY bit as Good/Bad in invention as ' Stormbringer ' and every bit as DOOM ridden. That is implicit in Mos situation in The Chronicles of The Bone Violin.

Didn't you realise that she is DOOMED? At least that's the WAY of Her Wierd and Destiny will take her .. unless Charlie has a convincing Escape Clause in mind for Mos contract with the Violin of DOOM.

74:

Counterpoint: It is a horror series. The ending keeps getting worse and worse for the people involved.

Atrocity Archives - happy ending all around.
Jennifer Morgue - light emotional trauma for Bob, physically everyone ok
Fuller Memo - heavy emotional trauma for Bob, light (non crippling) physical trauma
Apocalypse Codex - heavy emotional trauma, heavy physical trauma, possible start of TEOTWAWKI
Rhesus Chart - heavy emotional trauma (separation), heavy physical trauma, mass deaths

Annihilation Score - ?

Nightmare Stacks - a city is toast

Pretty steady ramp up in terms of consequences

75:

That's because book 7 is Alex's novel; Bob and/or Mo barely impact on his awareness -- they're way above his pay grade.

Book 8 is so early in the planning stages that it isn't funny. There's a good chance I'll take a year out to do something else before writing it -- when I hand in "The Nightmare Stacks" I'll have done three Laundry novels in consecutive years, and squeezing something different in before going on to books 8/9/10 would probably be good for my sanity. And there's also a good chance that the plot and thematic matter of book 8 will change in the writing, over the next year (I'm only 11,750 words into it).

But, for what it's worth, here's the first line of "The Nightmare Stacks":

A vampire is haunting Whitby; it's traditional.

76:

Do you enjoy writing the Laundry novels, as compared to others?

77:

Yes and no.

It depends which story I'm writing: a couple were really hard work, while another couple more or less wrote themselves. As story-spinning worlds go it's pretty congenial, though.

78:

I keep wondering whether to read your Merchant princes series. I rather like parallel worlds stories. I keep thinking "Nine Princes in Amber"

79:

Try these checks etc:-
1) You like the Laundryverse?
2) I started MP1 (of 6; I liked them enough to buy the re-edit even though I'd got the originals?) and had the same "9PiA" reaction partway through, but that had cleared by the end of the book. They are actually very different.

Does that appeal?

80:

I'll try it out. My main problem is lack of time, or rather, too many other things to do with my time. Pre-Net I would have a couple more hours free each day.

81:

It pays to have a common name and use it when posting.
a Google search on Mike Collins had lots of hits of which none of them were me.
A search for Michael Collins was similarly barren.
Mike Collins Norfolk had two which were me.
one from LinkedIn (which I seldom use)
And one from Charlie's diary.
So if you want to be anonymous use a common name like John Smith or better still a common name which is shared by a famous astronaut and an Irish freedom fighter.

82:

Pretty much the only privacy I have on the net is because "Bill Stewart" is a relatively common name, so I'm down on page 5-10 of Google unless you add other search terms, the more incriminating of which will get me right away, and when Google bought DejaNews that meant that Usenet flames I posted in 1981 are around for the mildly energetic searcher.

While I've always known OGH as Charlie Stross, and it is a brand name he uses, lots of authors have a pen name that's their brand and a different name they use in real life. Sometimes they're upfront about it, like Mira Grant being the name Seanan McGuire uses when she's writing some kinds of work, or Iain Banks sometimes having an "M.", sometimes they don't mention it much, sometimes the pen name is run by a group of people (examples ranging from mystery novelist Emma Lathen, who's two men, to the Nicholas Bourbaki mathematics collective or the fiction-factory authors who put out the Nancy Drew books), or by a person with one or more ghost writers (like most politicians putting out quasi-non-fiction books.) Sometimes the brand's value outlives the author and gets continued (like various people writing Robert Ludlum novels.)

I'm a few books behind on the Laundry Series (horror's not my genre), but I hadn't noticed until just recently that one of the protagonists could call herself "Moe Howard", if she needed to boss around any stooges.

83:

With regard to covers etc., look on the bright side - there
have been books so misrepresented that the only sane explanation
is that the cover and blurb is for some other book entirely.
The true explanation is, of course, something else ....
Francis Crick's "The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific
Search For The Soul" is a prime example. The blurb is all
about the study of consciousness, and Wikipedia promulgates
that.

However, the text starts off by saying that he intended to
research into that, realised it was far too hard starting
from here, and studied the visual cortex. A fascinating
book, but nothing whatsoever to do with the title or blurb.

84:

To Martin: who said chief constables would snoop on the Green
Party? It is well documented that MI5 and others have, and
may well still do so.

To Scott Sanford: no, you don't need replicated hardware to
keep Google from matching identities, but you do need far
more IT nous than most people (including most so-called IT
professionals) have.

While I am posting under a pseudonym, I would be surprised
if an intelligent search didn't identify me, and there are
a LOT of hits for me on the Web. The point is that I
wouldn't suffer noticeably from being "outed". As Charlie
Stross says, that is not true for everyone.

85:

While I am posting under a pseudonym, I would be surprised if an intelligent search didn't identify me, and there are a LOT of hits for me on the Web

This moderator recognises your email address from a particular mailing list. My wife has been to meetings with you. While non-moderators won't be able to see your email address, were you actually worried, you would use a more opaque identity.

Assuming you're not borrowing someone else's identity already, that is.

86:

Precisely. And, yes, it is I :-) Other than by the usual
spambots, I haven't had much abuse of my Email address.

Were I a schoolteacher, I would be a LOT more worried, not
least because the courts upheld the dismissal of a teacher
on the basis of proven false and malicious accusations.
So they are at serious risk from the misuse of their Email
address.

87:

"It is well documented that MI5 and others have, and
may well still do so."

They tend to use them as training aids, not long term spying. The reason being it's useful tradecraft and if you are "outed" they won't cut your head off and post it on the Net.

88:

"They tend to use them as training aids, not long term spying. The reason being it's useful tradecraft and if you are "outed" they won't cut your head off and post it on the Net."

I've got to admit that you've come up with the first original excuse for domestic surveillance that I've ever seen.

89:

Not to say a fascinating interpretation of the Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000 paragraph 22. But I shall
stop there ....

90:

How do you think "spies" are trained? Not sure if it is still true, but they also used "occult" groups this way. Something a bit difficult to get into and with "secrets" but essentially harmless.

91:

Essentially harmless, unless they aren't.

See, for a fictional example, "The Green Ripper", by John D. MacDonald.

For a not so fictional example, consider Aum Shinri Kyo and the Japan subway Sarin attack some years ago.

92:

Yes, well, I assume trainees are not sent into such orgs because they really will kill you if you fail. That's why Animal Rights groups are a favorite, and Biker gangs are not. The Green Party is not known for its body dumps. The police, OTOH, are generally idiots.

93:

No, you can't pre-order this just yet. And yet the queue is already forming.

Yeah head north from Kings Cross you'll find the back of the queue about half way to Finsbury Park

94:

" .. Yeah head north from Kings Cross you'll find the back of the queue about half way to Finsbury Park "

OR .... Mornington Crescent !!!!

http://www.londondrum.com/transport/train-journey.php?from=finsbury-park&to=mornington-crescent


..Yeah! I WIN!! 'Hooray For Me...' "


by Bad Religion. Well I can see my teenage father standing straight on a desolate corner / In the shadow of tentacled towers by the.... "

and so forth.


Note the mention of ' tentacled towers '?

Amazing what you might come upon in casual Googling ..thus..

" Mornington Crescent is an improvisational game featured in the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, a series which satirises complicated panel games.[1]

The game consists of each panellist in turn announcing a landmark or street, most often a tube station on the London Underground system. The apparent aim is to be the first to announce "Mornington Crescent", a station on the Northern Line.[1] Interspersed with the turns is humorous discussion amongst the panellists and host regarding the rules and legality of each move, as well as the strategy the panellists are using. Despite appearances, however, there are no rules to the game,[2] and both the naming of stations and the specification of "rules" are based on stream-of-consciousness association and improvisation.[3] Thus the game is intentionally incomprehensible.[4]"


95:

Having seen Braindead the other day -- I think the style of that particular film is a very good fit for the Laundry. I think that Jackson's later style (in LotR) is really not -- the Laundry books do a good job of being fairly understated in their depiction of unknowable horrors from beyond the door of sleep -- and his earlier films had far too many gory puppets for my taste. Seriously, give it a watch -- and imagine the main character being Bob Howard.

It might be too much to hope for. Even though the Laundry Files is the most likely of OGH's series to be adapted to a bunch of feature length films, Jackson has become pretty high-rent and pretty attached to expensive digital effects -- so, he's unlikely to direct it unless he ends up revealing that he's a personal fan (as he apparently is of Evangelion), and if he does he'll be hard to hold back from shooting everything in front of a green screen. What we need for the Laundry is grainy super-8 film, unpleasantly pale flourescent lighting, cheap white drywall sets, a budget befitting a made-for-tv movie, and judicious use of well-constructed miniatures.

96:


Really?" That's why Animal Rights groups are a favourite, and Biker gangs are not. The Green Party is not known for its body dumps. The police, OTOH, are generally idiots."

Err want me to go over just how many points of contention there are in your sentence?

Backwards from “The police, OTOH, are generally idiots."

Nope, or they wouldn’t be remotely effective.

Of course some of them are Idiots...oh the local joy - among knowledgeable people in the North East of England - when a Police Armed Response Unit FAILED to Disarm properly at the end of shift and one Copper managed to shoot himself and two of his colleagues in a non fatal manner.

There have also been UK wide forces reports of accidental discharges of firearms by young Armed Response people - including Diplomatic Protection personnel -who got bored in the Dead of Night and took to practicing fast draws ...ah, well we were all young once.

Once upon a time a police officer left her pistol in....

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2679015/Tony-Blairs-bodyguard-left-gun-in-Starbucks-toilet.html

But still... look up/google “The Green Party animal rights violence”

Not on the order of threat as, say, the various Irish Terrorist Extremists...but give them time and space to develop as quasi religious BELIEVERS who are convinced that They are Right and the Opposition are the Instruments Of Satan!

97:

Again, I don't know the UK situation. But from over here (Germany) I know of more cases where the spies (police/domestic secret service, not snitches from within the movement) spent a long time - years - spying. Does not fit your training hypothesis. Then again, those are the ones that got caught, so maybe others who where there shorter simply got away with it.
Do you have a source for your claim? I'd be interested.

98:

Plod are a laugh with the security services, and I have been a member of one Animal Rights group. They were being played up as The Next Big Threat, along with various Rightwing orgs, before Islamic Extremism conveniently rode in on its big white horse and saved everyone's budgets from the post ColdWar cuts.

99:

look up/google “The Green Party animal rights violence”

You know that the ALF department store fire-bombing convictions are being appealed right now, because by some accounts the fire bombs were planted by undercover cop Bob Lambert?

Ms Lucas said: "In October 2011, after he was exposed as an undercover officer, Bob Lambert admitted that, and I quote 'In the 1980s I was deployed as an undercover Met special branch officer to identify and prosecute members of Animal Liberation Front who were then engaged in incendiary device and explosive device campaigns against targets in the vivisection, meat and fur trades'."

She said: "Mr Lambert has also admitted that part of his mission was to identify and prosecute specific ALF activists."
Ms Lucas added: "He says: 'I succeeded in my task and that success included the arrest and imprisonment of Geoff Sheppard and Andrew Clarke'."
(Ms Lucas = Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party.)

There's a line between being an undercover spy and being an actual agent provocateur, and I submit that planting a bomb is well over the line. Also, one has to ask whether the bomb planting would have happened at all without an agent provocateur in the loop.

(Hint: in the UK, "sting" operations to sucker people into terrorist acts are pretty much illegal, unlike the USA, where the FBI makes a steady stream of "jihadi plots" up this way. And if disclosed, it tends to result in criminal convictions being overturned.)

100:

" Mornington Crescent is an improvisational game featured in the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, a series which satirises complicated panel games.[1]

The game consists of each panellist in turn announcing a landmark or street, most often a tube station on the London Underground system. The apparent aim is to be the first to announce "Mornington Crescent", a station on the Northern Line.

Isn't there a risk that some particularly convoluted sequences of stations thereby generated might accidentally be isomorphic to a Dho-Na curve?

102:

See "A Subway named Mobius"!

103:

You do realise that, just by making that post, you have violated most of the rules of Mornington Crescent, and placed yourself in Knip in perpetuity?

104:

Isn't there a risk that some particularly convoluted sequences of stations thereby generated might accidentally be isomorphic to a Dho-Na curve?
Not using the basic rules, which limit you to plays which appear on the London Underground map. Using the advanced rules which allow plays to Brussels, Glasgow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Paris (France)that can be a risk though. You are advised to plan plays such that you do not attempt a play that requires the use of Eurostar and the former British Rail Intercity services.

105:

I grew up between two places of one or two hundred residents. People knew a whole lot about each other, and about others' ancestors.

A while back, someone in an apa I was in explained that lesbians from her city were moving to rural areas for privacy. I managed to refrain from explaining why this resembled moving to Vatican City to avoid Roman Catholic clergy.

106:

LOL! I grew up in a village and a more claustrophobic place is hard to imagine. Even people who had been there decades were "the new people" and feuds lasted years. You get on the bad side of "the village" and life can be quite nasty.

107:


I'm going to have to change my Movable Type sign-in name, there are now two of us on this thread using "Martin" and another "martin089". Not sure whether you can tell the difference :)

...I may go back to being a Gravelbelly...

They're systematically lying to us about the scale of organized extremism in the UK and using it to justify draconian surveillance measures and tactics the Stasi would have nodded at.

Draconian? Sorry, Charlie, you sound like a Daily Mail columnist there.

There are demonstrably extremists at large in the UK, as Omagh, 7/7, 21/7, Nail-bombings of the LGBT community, and Glasgow Airport have demonstrated over the last two decades. There are organised criminals operating in the UK, as witnessed by the drugs, people smuggling, and prostitution industries. There are obviously crossover "disorganised criminals" operating as small-time but lethal groups, e.g. those targeted by Operation Trident et al.

So. Even your figure of 1200 undercover cops (presumably with a primary target of organised crime, and credible terrorist organisations) doesn't scare me; to me it actually seems proportional to the 60+ million residents, known number of organised crime gangs, known number of terrorist gangs within the UK; even before you start to worry that they're really trying to subvert democracy rather than preserve it.

If we assume that the undercover types concerned are targeted legitimately at a "more than one per threat", that assumes a cooperative homicidal nutter rate in the UK of one per hundred thousand inhabitants. Sounds plausible, mainly because it's of the same order of magnitude as our murder rate. Even if these cops are targeted solely at the evil suppression of innocent democracy-lovers, one per fifty thousand is hardly going to give us a police state.

I would like to think that there is a difference between jumping into either side of an entrenched and bipolar debate with ulterior significances, and the skepticism I offer when what appear to be !Eleventy!STASI! claims are made about state surveillance in the UK. I have known members and former members of the intelligence community, and they were more thoughtful than bipolar.

And when you go along with it without protest, or saying "yes, but ..." you're in the same position as those folks who refuse to listen to rape victims, or who assume that every unarmed black teenager shot in the back by a US cop was clearly somehow a threat to the heavily-armed officer's life.

Apologies, but you've hit a hot button topic.

I've had to deal with an accusation of a sexual assault by one of my soldiers. I've had to sit in the jury of a rape trial, and found it rather upsetting and totally tragic. I sat there watching and listening to a young lass with the courage to take her accusation to trial, and face her accuser; and heard the tape of the interview of the accused, and listened to a masterclass by a DC, who in thirty minutes conversation made a young man actually understand what he had done. I believed both victims, absolutely.

I've known soldiers who had to make the decision as to whether to use lethal force or not, acting as a policeman in a green uniform (twenty years later, probably justified in their actions, but still screwed up by it). I've also watched well-meaning and thoughtful, but inexperienced and stressed young soldiers make a complete and utter arse of themselves on a decision-making training range, as they pulled the trigger at an "innocent" target, overloaded by adrenalin and sensory input.

I fully appreciate that the death, arrest, search, incarceration rates of young black men in the USA are unacceptably high; and I shake my head in despair at the near-paramilitary attitudes of some US but fewer UK police officers (the Met are quite happy to act incompetently when shooting white innocents - see Harry Stanley, Steven Waldorf) not to mention the instant demands for "loyalty to our Brave Police Heros" in the aftermath of each incident. By comparison, I'm willing to believe that Steven Duggan was stupid or unlucky enough to think that throwing away his gun couldn't be interpreted in the heat of the moment as an attempt to draw his weapon.

I'm not denying that "surveillance on a Green councillor" per se is scary, and should be stamped out; but claims that the Animal Liberation types are just poor misunderstood souls would be foolish. Huntingdon Life Sciences employees would beg to differ as to whether the more aggressive ones were worth surveillance, and even Edinburgh saw an attack a decade ago (Roslin Institute had some numpty use an incendiary device out of a biscuit tin, a soldering iron, a timer plug, and some ether-soaked wadding; fortunately, it had a serious design flaw)

I would like to point out that there is a wealth of righteously furious or just malleable morons out there, hyped up on rather depressing propaganda, and that they demonstrably are a threat. Hopefully, the vast majority will just sit in their echo chambers trying to impress each others with empty boasts; and that any truly motivated ones who slip through the net are limited to "drive a car full of gas bottles at Glasgow Airport" or "run nail-bombings against the LGBT community from their bedroom", and that we'll catch the "try and mix a couple hundred kilos of HME in a self-storage facility" types before they do another Omagh, 7/7, or 21/7 bombing.

Unfortunately, people are bad at probability, so a higher priority or resources will be allocated by politicians and political direction to the "scary" rather than the "most likely" causes of death - counter-terrorism and drugs rather than road safety, smoking, or alcohol unit minimum pricing, for instance...

108:

Fortunately, since I gave up competitive sport I've dropped right down the Google rankings - we had a very efficient and enthusiastic webmaster :)

109:

Back when the web was much newer I had a pretty good standing when my name went into a search engine. Now, not so much; there's a minor politician, a D-list celebrity, and a bunch of others who very effectively make me disappear entirely.

110:

As someone with a unique name on the Internet (there may be another Rex Gatch out there) it's a double edged sword, on one hand if one of your kindergarden friends wants to get in touch, they can. On the other hand anything you sign on line is instantly identifiable. Luckily the worst things I can be identified for are my bad prose style here and on a few other SF blogs/forums.

I am sort of fascinated by how the Laundry series turns out (not happily is my guess, given the end of the Merchant Princes, perhaps Elric style unhappily), the series has been a trifle uneven to me and I am glad OGH has decided to stop using other narrative voices,( I loved Deighton, Fleming not so much and hadn't read the other two).

But it comes down to that fascinating (to me) thing about writing books, write a book, it sells for whatever reason, all of a sudden you have to create a consistent universe from small foundations.

It's interesting how this can work out IMHO, good example Jim Butcher managing his universe, bad example Laurell Hamilton, gutsy take on Urban Fantasy that degenerated into very bad monster porn but was hitting number one on the NYT bestseller lists.
And I can't imagine the moral choices are easy, imagine getting the contract to write the novelisation of the next Star Wars movie, it would be very easy to justify and say to oneself these millions of dollars will let me be financially well off enough to write niche novels, and before you know it, you are churning out Star Wars novels for cash.
Can't be easy to make the right choices.

112:

Just thinking of the Merchant Princes: imagine one of the above patterns rendered as knotwork. I'd find its world-walking powers easier to believe in than those of the patterns shown in the cover art at http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51hmIJX4lQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg and http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51QquNoyKfL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg.

113:

See "A Subway named Mobius"!

I loved the bit where the topologist tells the subway manager that there must be a node [in the topological sense] on the line, and the manager explodes "What is this? We keep our lines clean. No nodes or other rubbish left lying about!".

114:

You can always play using closed &/or renamed stations .....
I usually start with "Bull & Bush".
Cough

115:

Let's then, hear it for more surveillance of the correct ( David Brin / Rule 34 ) style.
It seems to work - why am I not surprised?

Agree re extremist nutters - I've run across the ALF in London - deeply unpleasant people, deliberately spoiling for a fight.

118:

closed &/or renamed stations
Isn't that one of the reasons why the goal actually is Mornington Crescent (well along with being on one branch of the Northern but not the other out of Euston)?

As for you starting at Bull and Bush, I suspect that no-one who knows you is in the least surprised by that!

119:

About the original post, I was amused when reading the new Dungeons and Dragons today, specifically the Monster Manual. The Githzerai, the Githyanki and the Slaadi are still there. Thank you for them, though you probably haven't had anything to do with them since the original Fiend Folio.

I have the dream of some day having a D&D game where I could use them, too. I don't prioritize roleplaying that much nowadays, and usually play different games than D&D (lately Burning Wheel, Laundry and HeroQuest).

120:

Your point that there are dangerous nutters out there is correct, and well-taken:

But it begs the question -- why are the police bothering to monitor non-violent protestors or political party representatives when there are human traffickers, smugglers, and revenant Continuity IRA types to keep an eye on?

Also, the point about the ALF is that, based on those members I've known, they're generally non-violent. (Humans being mammals, after all.) We know now that the leaflet at the centre of the McLibel trial was drafted by an undercover cop -- the animal rights activists who spent a decade in court and were bankrupted by McDonalds defending themselves in a libel trial were merely handing it out. It is not unreasonable to say that they were set up. What about the folks with the incendiary bombs, or the SHAC campaigners? Where does legitimate monitoring end, and turn into The Man Who Was Thursday?

You are welcome to argue that if someone makes a bomb and hands it to me and I throw it, then I am 100% guilty of bomb-throwing -- but if I wasn't going to make a bomb until somebody handed one to me, then it suggests that there's rather more guilt to go around.

121:

There's a lot of inertia in the system. It takes a lot of time, money and effort to get someone into a "core position" and there is a lot of pressure for "results". There is also a reluctance to pull them out if nothing is happening, and throwing away all that work. So often they stay connected for far longer than the requirements of the job. If possible they use their previous position to try to move onto something more interesting (to the police). The problem is that people like ALF and assorted protesters do not in general have interesting connections to criminals and terrorists. So it's a dead end and a dangling plod.

122:

But it begs the question -- why are the police bothering to monitor non-violent protestors or political party representatives when there are human traffickers, smugglers, and revenant Continuity IRA types to keep an eye on?

As I pointed out @50, if I was to guess it would be for their training value - a low-threat environment, outside the comfort zone, to practice "fitting in". Throwing people in at the deep end isn't great for either swimming or covert surveillance in a hostile environment; if you've only got one or two chances to insert an operator into an organisation, why waste it on an unknown quality performer?

Needless to say, the examples in the media don't look to be training successes... I suspect that any political aspect is secondary or even irrelevant to their tasking; even the dumbest police officer is going to be aware of the stupidity of a deliberately primary political tasking. Then again, even the tasking officer can be an idiot occasionally.

It may be that the training coincides neatly with trying to provide an appropriate level of policing at entirely legitimate protest. Not only does "turning up mob-handed, equipped to ruck, riot screens down" for a group of peaceful old folk, Brownies, and cuddly puppies make the police look bad, it's hideously expensive. Determining which legitimate protest will be best served by two Community Sergeants doing a Dixon of Dock Green impression, and which demo might expand to Fawkes masks, intimidation bordering on assault, and criminal damage, is not easy, and the cost of getting it wrong involves the Chief Constable getting mentioned on the nightly news rather than the Honours List...

123:
The antipodal point on the planet from where I live is about 500 nautical miles south of the bottom of South Island. It's a long way from home.
Oh, I do realise that, most definitely. Anybody in .au who has travelled elsewhere (.us, .eu, even Asia) knows both (a) how large Australia really is (hint for those living in the USA: think of the size of the 48 states. Yes, that's pretty much the size of Australia), and (b) how far away it is from anywhere else (it takes a fifteen hour flight to get to the continental USA from Sydney, and something similar to reach Europe, if I remember rightly.) One of my friends, with whom I attended school, currently lives in Europe, and had it driven home to him that it would take him 24 hours to get back to Australia if something should happen when one of his colleagues had to do exactly that.

In other words, it was an expression of a general desire, not an expectation that it would happen any time soon (although at the moment, I'd expect to see you here sooner than me over your neck of the woods, for various reasons.)

124:

John Perry Barlow's description of privacy in small towns was "it's the kind of place where you don't need to use your turn signal, because everybody knows where you're going anyway."

125:

Well, I can answer Charlie Stross's rhetorical question (as I
assume that he knows the answer, too). It is because the sort
of people we have in power regard anything that challenges the
status quo as being terrorism. Read "The Defence of the Realm"
for an MI5-authorised admission of that, when MI5 snooped on
the Prime Minister, no less!

The fact that the ALF has a record of attempted murder does
not justify snooping on the Green Party, let alone Amnesty,
Liberty and similar organisations. Nor does it justify the
invented threats - and, no, I do NOT believe claims that N
threats were averted, in the total absence of any evidence,
prosecution or anything else.

Related to this are the lies and revisionism that we read
about Ukraine, which can be seen as such just by checking
the facts with older news from British (anti-Russian)
newspapers, starting from the days of Gorbachev. Russia
had no option if it didn't want to be destroyed piecemeal.
Or read "The Defence of the Realm" and "Lockheed Skunk
Works" (authorised by the USA defence establishment) for
the truth about the Cuban missile crisis.

The gullibility of the British and derived countries'
publics never ceases to amaze me. Those who will not
study history are condemned to repeat it.

126:

Oops. I may have given the wrong reference - I was lent the
book, and do not have it to hand. It was probably the one
simply called "Skunk Works".

127:

#125 and #126 - Skunk Works is meaningful in the context of Lockheed aircraft, as being the place where the U2 and SR71 were designed and built. In that context it has no direct reference to the Cuban missile crisis beyond that U2s made a number of overflights.

It is also sometimes used regarding covert operations.

128:

You clearly haven't read it, at least not in combination with
the other reference I gave.

The point is that the USA could have destroyed enough of the
USSR's missiles in a first strike to make the retaliation
pretty minor (though the UK and Germany might have been
destroyed). But a first strike by the USSR would have NOT
destroyed the USA, and the retaliation would have led to
its destruction. The reason those books are relevant is
that they stated that the USA and UK knew that, and the USSR
knew that they knew, and was justifiably frightened. The
Cuban crisis was not driven by expansionism, but fear.

129:

I think we may be at slightly crossed purposes? "The Skunk Works" is an actual place; there is a book about it and the aircraft developed there also called "(The) Skunk Works" and that book makes no direct reference to the CMC beyond possibly reporting that U2s made a number of overflights of Cuba in period. I am not referring to any similarly titled book(s) with a political rather than technical slant.

130:

Determining which legitimate protest will be best served by two Community Sergeants doing a Dixon of Dock Green impression, and which demo might expand to Fawkes masks, intimidation bordering on assault, and criminal damage, is not easy, and the cost of getting it wrong involves the Chief Constable getting mentioned on the nightly news rather than the Honours List...

Indeed. The police may get blowback for getting it right as well, not just if they get it wrong.

But my observation may be colored by seeing a recent rant about a city police force's "indulgence of criminals," when a protest that included such heinous crimes as obstructing traffic was handled by a few police officers manning a table with free coffee and hot chocolate for the protesters. As you'd imagine, the protesters showed up, had their say, and went home - and the cost to the police department were some time and a few bucks for refreshments. Not every event can be handled so smoothly but it's nice when it works out that way.

131:

The Cuban missile crisis was triggered by a Soviet counter-move to a really aggressive Cold-war play by the US government -- who had just six months earlier installed a battery of Thor IRBMs in Turkey. Thor, lest we forget, was a big-ass IRBM with a range of around 1500 miles and a flight time from Turkey to Moscow of well under ten minutes, and it carried nuclear warheads. (It was designed for the UK, to allow IRBMs based in the UK to hit Moscow -- operated by the RAF in conjunction with the USAF, For a period in the 1950s/1960s the UK operated them under dual-key control. Withdrawn 1963, went on to an afterlife as the Delta launch vehicle family.)

The UK was an acknowledged nuclear power and already a Soviet target, so placing Thor IRBMs there wasn't a huge escalation. But placing short-range rapidly deployable missiles, aimed at Moscow and carrying megaton yield warheads, in previously non-nuclear Turkey was another matter.

For the Soviets, parking IRBMs in Cuba was a tit-for-tat response to the USA parking IRBMs in Anatolia. Oddly, this got zero coverage in the west at the time. Nor did the hasty withdrawal of those Thor IRBMs at the same time the Soviets were shipping their own IRBMs back home.

Funny, that.

132:

Warning: an aviation pedant posts.

The missiles in Turkey were PGM-19 Jupiters,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PGM-19_Jupiter

not Thors, like the ones given to the RAF in Project Emily,

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

and operated from bases around where I live. I've been to one of the launch sites.

Apart from that, as you were. ;-)

133:

annulation score? math, science, (bad) pun, metaphor?...hadamard three-circle theorem sounds kinda occult too. ;-)

speaking of hadamard, anyone ever read "an essay on the psychology of invention in the mathematical field"? it's interesting on it's own, but i found it a quite fun bonus reading from an pretend urban fantasy pov or with a magic subtext. out of copyright, i think.

it kinda of makes me feel sad or like something's been lost that nowadays as there seems to be such a disconnect/antagonism between reasoning and intuition. i can imagine that in the distant past religion could have started as healthy respect and protection for our personal sense of imagination and beauty, uh, kinda got out of hand a bit. :-)

maybe it's like the nsa data problem illustrates, perhaps it's psychologically healthy to hold onto an intuition space so you can build up the small part that you can actually reason well about at one time? if wikipedia's taught me anything it's that there's as much worth not knowing as there is worth knowing!

134:

Disagree re Ukraine ... If only becvause of Putin's previous "form" & terrorisation of legitimate internal opposition (up to & including murder) & his behaviour in Moldova, Georgia, etc ....
Your other pointa are well taken however.

Like I may have said before, I have no problem at all with: "Death to the Queen's enemies" - just make sure 150% that they are enemies, & not someone we can negotiate with, etc .....

135:

I'm sorry to break this to you this way, but Mary Gentle has already thoroughly trashed the reputation of hobbits in her military fantasy piss-take "Grunts!".

The effective plot of this is fairly simple: what happens when the evil forces in a Tolkein-style fantasy don't get their arses comprehensively destroyed by the forces of good? To answer this, magic has to be partly neutralised, and the evil forces need a weapons upgrade. Oh, and while we're about it, let's do every single old military joke going and invent a few more besides.

"Pass me another elf, sergeant...", as OGH will hopefully never have one of his characters saying. And no, that is NOT the entire quote.

136:

Can't wait for the next book! It cannot come soon enough for me. And I hope that everything works out between Bob and Mo

137:

I can't wait! Love the LF novels! Thought Equoid was one of the best, despite it being am aside to the main storyline

138:

Well, topic isn't fresh, but this popped into my head the other night while I was trying to sleep and I couldn't stop giggling, posted it for a friend and he got a chortle out of it (relevant as it was a double zing on one of my ancestral homelands--scottish, native american, german--and his), so what the heck:

After a modified version of darts resembling tic-tac-toe played on a multi-dimensional board becomes popular in Scotland, the following sequence of events occurs:

(all times GMT)

4:03 AM: a disagreement over the merits of 7 dimensional and 9 dimensional boards turns into a bar fight in a small pub outside of Orkney

4:04 AM: the bar fight quickly spreads, and at this point all of Scotland is involved

4:06 AM: the arrangement of brawlers and the discussion topic coincide to accidentally produce the largest summoning grid seen since a coalition of major league baseball fans tried to coordinate a 9 state stadium wave and accidentally [REDACTED] 97% of New Jersey, rendering it uninhabitable to this day

4:07 AM: The Sleeper takes notice, and rolls over to hit the snooze button, initiating Case Nightmare Plaid

139:

*** SPOILER ALERT for THE RHESUS CHART *** DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK YET ***

I read The Rhesus Chart last week, and then went over to the spoiler thread from earlier this year in order to see whether the question that's nagging me had already been asked and answered. It hasn't. So, if you happen to return to this thread, Charlie, here's a question for you:

Just how powerful is the Basilisk Gun? In terms of classes of magic, where the strongest we have seen so far is the class ten sticker in the second scene of the novel, would it tend to infinity? I'm asking because Old George's magic is strong enough to protect him from both normal and magical bullets. It takes the fight with the Junior Auditor to weaken him enough to become at least theoretically vulnerable to kinetic projectiles (although at this point nobody is firing at him anymore). On the other hand, Basil gives in to the Basilisk Gun immediately. Granted, he was weaker than George to begin with, and was probably also weakened by the UV-light. But still, we haven't seen anything so far that could resist a Basilisk Gun. So, would a Basilisk Gun also have stopped George, and would it have done so immediately? If the answer is yes, wouldn't that let the Basilisk Gun come very close to being the ultimate weapon? And if so, why don't all field operatives have one? And ultimately, with an impending CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, why hasn't anyone opened the sarcophagus and taken a photograph of its sleeping occupant, thereby solving the problem once and for all?

140:

Of course I mean the spoiler thread from last year (this one). Silly me.

141:

SCORPION STARE?

142:

Well, yes. But SCORPION STARE is installed as a last line of defense in Bob's universe. My question is: as the Basilisk Gun seems to work unfailingly on any opponent, why would the government agency tasked with protecting the realm from intruders from other universes in full knowledge that a major intrusion is imminent wait until the intruders arrive and only zap them after they've already done a lot of damage? From what I've understood so far the act that will trigger (and possibly unleash the power to enable) the upcoming intrusion is the awakening of the sleeper in the pyramid. So why not kill him preemptively? We already know that the Basilisk Gun works in all universes. Also, why go through the hassle of keeping a secret nuclear Concorde in permanent alert (what is that costing the Laundry per day, while the employees are in constant fear of having to justify very minor expenses in front of the auditors?), when you've had a much more powerful, much cheaper, much easier to maintain, and much simpler to use weapon at your disposal all along?

Finally, there's also a problem from the storytelling perspective, if your hero is equipped with the working ultimate weapon right from the beginning. Why does he only ever use it in the very last moment? In each fight scene you have to come up with ever more creative explanations for why the hero doesn't just walk in and ends the fight before it has really started. Also, his power-ups and character development become a good deal meaningless if in the end it'll always be the ultimate weapon that he had with him from day one which will win the fight for him.

Of course, I can be fundamentally misunderstanding something and be totally wrong. Maybe I'm missing something. I haven't gone and re-read the previous books, but am only pondering the bits and pieces that I've still in my head. So it's absolutely possible that I'm on a wrong track here. Still, I'm wondering.

144:

A basilisk gun is kinda like a claymore mine which displaces the explosion a bit further away from your hand, sometimes things just cook, sometimes you get chunks of hot concrete flying around.

There's no undo button on one, you can decide you shouldn't have shot someone and as long as you didn't put the round in their brain there it just might be that you can patch em up and dig the round out, no way to patch up having most of your carbon molecules swapped for silicon.

The device has to "observe" the target, so it generally has to be pretty close, by the time you get an unnameable horror from outside space and time close enough to snap a selfie with it, there is no such thing as overkill, only enoughkill or notenoughkill.

I don't know what it actually costs to make and charge a basilisk gun, I doubt it is cheap, which fits with the rest of the details I mentioned to classify it under "oh shit button", if there is anything else you can do, do it, if not, hope you can get the target centered in the frame and make an extra-hot statue out of it before you find out whatever it wants to do with you.

145:

Watch my lips: "Equoid" introduces some really important background that is going to come front-and-centre in "The Nightmare Stacks". So, not a side-trip at all, really.

146:

Q: Basilisk gun v. Old George.

A: Remember George's coat? A basilisk gun would probably prove rather ineffective against him -- at least until after he's run into (and dealt with) an Auditor.

Wrt the sarcophagus: nobody has dared to try that because they're not entirely certain it would work, and if it doesn't work the outcome will be very sub-optimal indeed, for world-ending values of sub-optimal. (Trying to murder a god and failing is not terribly safe.)

Wrt why everybody doesn't have one: much the same reason why cops -- at least in the UK -- don't all carry fully automatic assault rifles around at all times: using one properly takes training and practice, and the potential for collateral damage is hair-raising.

Having said that, SCORPION STARE gets turned on for real in "The Nightmare Stacks". With consequences that ... well, let's just say things don't go entirely according to plan.

147:
Remember George's coat? A basilisk gun would probably prove rather ineffective against him -- at least until after he's run into (and dealt with) an Auditor.

That's exactly what I'm having so much difficulty with. As far as I remember, we haven't yet seen a case where a basilisk gun is deflected by magic, so I don't suppose that any spells on George's coat would counter its effects. The coat is mainly protecting him by a translocative compulsion field, in other words, it deflects anything thrown at it, which makes it immune to bullets. But from my understanding a basilisk gun doesn't work by throwing something at its target, so there is nothing to deflect. (I have to admit that I haven't re-read about the exact functioning of a basilisk gun, so this is where I could be wrong.) Furthermore, the coat itself is presumably made of cotton or wool or some other organic fabric, and George added a silk lining. In other words, there's plenty of carbon in the material of the coat itself, so George should find himself suddenly wearing a red-hot, carbon-riddled cinderblock, the instant before he turns into red-hot, carbon-riddled cinderblock himself.

And this is why I can't imagine how George or his coat could possibly survive having their photograph taken by Bob.

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