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Inverted realities

OK, here's an idle thought (and a question) for you ...

A couple of weeks ago at the British Eastercon I found myself on a panel discussion about vampires. (Hey, I've been trying to get the hell away from being Mr Singularity Guy for years now; what's your problem?)

Anyway, there I was sitting with Freda Warrington and Jim Butcher, and our moderator opens up by asking, "what makes vampires sexy?"

And I suddenly realized I had come to the right place for an argument. Because ...

Vampires are not sexy. At least, not in the real world.

Desmodus rotundis isn't sexy. (Except insofar as small furry rodents that carry rabies aren't as un-sexy as some other obligate haemophages.) Bed bugs are really not sexy. But if you want maximally not-sexy, it's hard to top Placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi, the Hippo Arse Leech.

The Hippo Arse Leech is a leech; it sucks blood. Like most leeches, its mouth parts aren't really up to drilling through the armour-tough skin of a hippopotamus, so it seeks out an exposed surface with a much more porous barrier separating it from the juicy red stuff: the lining of the hippo rectum. When arse leeches find somewhere to feed, in due course happy fun times ensue—for hermaphrodite values of happy fun times that involve traumatic insemination. Once pregnant, the leeches allow themselves to be expelled by the hippo (it's noteworthy that hippopotami spin their tails when they defecate, to sling the crap as far away as possible—possibly because the leeches itch—we're into self-propelled-hemorrhoids-with-teeth territory here), whereupon in the due fullness of time they find another hippo, force their way through it's arse crack, and find somewhere to chow down. Oh, did I mention that this delightful critter nurtures its young? Yep, the mother feeds her brood until they're mature enough to find a hippo of their own. (Guess what she feeds them with.)

Here 's a video by Mark Siddall, professor of invertebrate zoology at the American Natural History Museum, a noted expert on leeches, describing how he discovered P. Jaegerskioeldi, just in case you think I'm making this up.

By the end of my description Jim and Freda were both ... well, I wish I'd thought to photograph their faces for posterity. So were the audience. And that's when I got to the money shot: the thing about fictional vampires is, vampires are only sexy when they're anthropomorphic.

Let's leave aside the whole living dead angle (a callback to ancient burial traditions in northern climes, where the decay of corpses might be retarded by cold weather: and when a family sickened and died one after the other, from contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, on opening the family crypt an undecaying rosy-cheeked corpse might be found with blood trickling from its mouth). Let's look solely at the vampire motif in modern fiction, where sexy vampires are used as a metaphor for the forbidden lover. Do we see anything approximating a realistic portrayal of actual blood-drinking organisms? Do we hell! Blood isn't actually very nutritious, so haemophagous parasites tend to be small, specialized, and horrifyingly adapted: biological syringes with a guidance system and a digestive tract attached. If we expanded a real one to human size it'd be a thing of horror, fit to give Ridley Scott or H. R. Giger nightmares. But I digress: the thing is, we know what real bloodsucking fiends look like, and do we find them in our fiction? We do not.

So here we have a seeming paradox: a class of organism that is represented in fictionalized, supernatural form in a manner that is pretty much the antithesis of their real world presentation. There's an entire sub-genre in which we are expected to temporarily pretend that the smouldering sexy vampire lover isn't actually a hippo arse leech squirming and eager to dig it's jaws into your rectal mucosa. And now I am shaking my head and wondering, thoughtfully, if I can see any other parasitic life-cycles that are amenable to converting into supernatural fictional tropes? (Your first example being, of course, my use of angler fish sex as a model for unicorns ...)

PS: If you are a creationist, the onus is on you to come to terms with why your God saw fit to inflict a parasite like this on hippopotami. Just sayin'.

258 Comments

1:

Irresistibly reminded of Brian Lumley's Necroscope, where vampires are horrifying shapeshifters created by infection with a leech-like symbiote.

Regards the question: Ampulex compressa? Reproduces by stinging a cockroach in the self preservation, towing it to the wasp's burrow, laying an egg on it, then burying it alive. The larva hatches, burrows into the roach and eats it from the inside - apparently in a manner that keeps the cockroach alive as long as possible - then pupates inside it.

2:

Reads new thoughts from Charlie
...
Ain't biology grand? Parasites. Amazingly sophisticated and incredibly disturbing at the same time.

3:

This is what Seanan McGuire (aka Mira Grant) and I bond over at SF conventions.

Parasitology.

4:

I found this article about an ant species fascinating: link

Rather than a physical parasites, the social structure of the colony (fungal agriculture and all) allows a whole separate colony-level parasitism. Resisting the obvious joke about the upper classes, I guess some well-developed conspiracies would fit this model - though the actual speciation, of living alongside things that thought you were one of them but couldn't interbreed with, is more difficult.

There's a Greg Egan short, whose title and details escape me, about a secret society of humans with a different set of genetic bases from the rest of us slowly plotting a disease that will wipe out everyone but them (of course, they're immune to the infection).

5:

Glad to see I'm not alone in thinking the whole sexy vampire thing is silly.

Did the whole sexy vampire thing hit take-off speed with the AIDS epidemic (the whole sex=death message)? Did it then convert to a more Christian audience in the 1990s, with the whole forbidden passion trope of sexy tramps leading to damnation? I really don't know. It's never appealed to me that much.

Of course, vampire bats are known to be altruistic blood sharers, so they do have that going for them. I think Rebecca Ore picked up on that back in the 1980s, although in an SFF context.

If you want other parasites to convert to humanoid tropes, I'd suggest reading Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson's Journey to the Ants. The social parasites on ants are wonderful tropes, and the parasitic ants are even more so. Heck, there's even a vampire ant from Madagascar, although it's not in the book. You'll have to look that one up separately.

There are also hyperparasites, which are parasites on parasites. The worst case I've heard of there is a fifth-level hyperparasite: a wasp parasitizing a wasp parasitizing a wasp parasitizing a wasp parasitizing a caterpillar. Since technically the caterpillar wasn't killing the tropical plant it was found on, you could say six levels of parasitism. The question of whether the caterpillar lived or died depended on which wasp(s) hatched first.

6:

What about toxoplasma gondii?

Though maybe Scifi already lays claim to that, what with the way some Weyland Yutani employees reacted to the titular Alien...

As for the arse-leech end of the vampire spectrum, a personal favourite is Guillermo del Toro's The Strain.

7:

Hmm. There's apparantly loads of parasites that modify their hosts behavior so the parasite finds its next host (fish flashing their belly so they get eaten by birds the parasite likes, ants that hang around the edges of leaves)[citation needed, I know].

So the romantic behavoour analogue would be ... A romances B to get invited to the kind or party where C hangs around, whom A romances etc. Which sounds like it was the plot o 200romcoms.

8:

I though OGH has always been Mr Horrific Parasite Guy based on the horrors in the Laudry files....

There are plenty of examples of zombification from parasites, my favourite would be the fungus Ophiocordyceps that makes its host seek out somewhere nice and shady before pushing out of your head. Gives a plausible explanation as to why zombie victims are always missing their braaaiinnns.

9:

Not the story you referenced, but it reminded me of the William Gibson and John Shirley short featuring creatures who lived on alcohol and secreted money: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Belonging_Kind.

10:
Did the whole sexy vampire thing hit take-off speed with the AIDS epidemic (the whole sex=death message)? Did it then convert to a more Christian audience in the 1990s, with the whole forbidden passion trope of sexy tramps leading to damnation? I really don't know. It's never appealed to me that much.
It predates AIDS by quite a bit.
11:

Did the whole sexy vampire thing hit take-off speed with the AIDS epidemic (the whole sex=death message)?

No, I think we can lay that one at the feet of Stoker.

Are Vampires parasites on humanity, or instead predators of humanity, though? They're obligate predators of humanity for the most part (although you sometimes see plots involving artificial blood or blood of other animals as substitutes)

12:

I did some digging about the sexy vampire thing, and it way predates Stoker. Lord Byron was playing around with it; I've seen evidence (I forget where now, as I did this reading some time back) that one of the MS that his executors burned after his death was about vampires, which may or may not have included gay sex.

At any rate, he certainly talked about vampires that famous summer. Polidori lifted some of those ideas for his vampire novel, which was popular in early victorian times.

You see references to vampires with a weird amalgam of fatal attraction all through the nineteenth century, even in the Brontes.

13:

No, I think we can lay that one at the feet of Stoker.

Ah, but Stoker used Dracula as a multi-layered metaphor for syphilis and uncontrolled female sexuality and rape! It's a dessert topping and a floor wax!

14:

I think I'm very relieved both of you are so busy doing your own works, because a McGuire-Stross collaboration would be ... disturbing.

(And throw in Watts in case it was too full of hope and cheer.)

15:

Check out Cymothoa Exigua. A parasite that enters fish through their gills and replaces their tongue.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymothoa_exigua

16:
Check out Cymothoa Exigua. A parasite that enters fish through their gills and replaces their tongue. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymothoa_exigua.
Charlie had that one too. The Apocalypse Codex. I can truthfully say that he used them as the basis for something more disturbing.
17:

Well, here is a serious response. The neuro/psychological links
between aggression/domination/submission and sex are too well-known
to need mentioning, but I am pretty sure that there are also close
links in those areas between eating/gluttony and sex (though I
haven't seen an academic paper describing that, unlike the
previous). I shall omit the evidence to avoid corrupting those of
tender years :-)

Observation indicates that the media have a fetish about violent
sex, consensual and non-consensual, and I suspect that this is
simply another aspect of that (though with gluttony replacing
violence).

18:

I agree that vampires are not sexy ... however some of their charm may lie in their single-mindedness in going for and getting whatever they want, and damned the consequences to bystanders. This is a romanticized 'eye on the prize', everyone loves a winner, etc. To shift the image of sexy to not-sexy, portray vampires' addiction leading them to breaking a major cultural taboo ... family, children as victims in a feeding frenzy. Or, equate the vampire seduction stare (or first bite) with roofies. After all, it is the same outcome only the nature of the agent has changed.


Other parasites ...

How about viral-bacterial parasites, as in potentially contributing to the spread of MRSA? So in a conspiracy scenario, it isn't that some classes of antibiotics are being over-prescribed, it's that the drug is being consumed by a parasite whose digestion process renders it useless/ineffective. (But no one is looking for a parasite because that would result in all sorts of malpractice lawsuits, shift sales between industries, and most importantly - no one would want to deal with the new/revised airport security screenings.)

There's also molecular parasites ... they can alter DNA, and be passed on to the next generation. While looking for more molecular info, this phrase caught my eye ...

"Thus, any changes in host behaviour would be expected to have a molecular basis in the CNS."

Article title: Host–parasite molecular cross-talk during the manipulative process of a host by its parasite (Authors: David G. Biron1,2,* and Hugh D. Loxdale3)

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/1/148.full

19:

Vampires prey on Buxom Screamy Wenches, who in turn tend to parasitise Handsome Adventurous Lads, who in turn leech off their parents, who are Baby-Boomers and parasitising everyone...it's disgusting!

20:

Problem is, it's hard to think of too many new parasites, because there aren't a lot of parasites out there whose practices haven't been copied or mirrored by either a corporation or some type of con artist.

One truly disturbing parasite: toy dogs. Especially the ones that the owners call their children. That's so close to what a bunch of socially parasitic species do to ants that it's not funny. The sickening thing is that humans deliberately bred these dogs to act as parasitic versions of human babies. Not only are they useless, not only are they nutritional parasites, taking our own food, not only do they prevent their owners from breeding by taking the place of real offspring--we created them and we sell them at a huge profit. As fashion accessories.

And yes, cats fill the social parasite niche too. I wonder how many other species actively participated in creating their own parasites?

This is one reason I've serious qualms about calling animals "our children" and giving them human-like rights.

21:

Ophiocordyceps!! Yessssssss!!!1

But what's a sexy, anthropomorphic version? Artists' muses? Capitalist CEOs? Mountaineers who die on Everest?

22:

Unfortunately, X-Files got there in 1994...

23:

A few years ago, I had complications from surgery that made me swallow a lot of blood for several days. One of the first things I thought of was who the hell thinks drinking blood is cool or sexy? Having to do this every day would even make me question whether immortality was worth the cost. Putting aside the whole moral dimension, it's still just ick.

24:

The title of Horrific Parasite Guy belongs to one Mr. Neal Asher of Essex. Several people have used parasites here and there, but not many people build entire global ecologies around them.

25:

My own favourite is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunicate "The sea squirt that eats its own brain".

Oh, the things you learn when you're trying to gross-out the artists in an arts-meets-science event.

26:

Obviously Vampires would not be sexy if they existed. Hell, if even the Sexy Vampires existed we would be forced on a species level to exterminate them. (They sicken and kill people. The only reason that doesn't dominate the fiction is that the author doesn't have them kill the protagonist)

But the traits we have shoved onto Vampires are SUPER sexy. Young and immortal? Yes please.
Super strength? There's a REASON guys pump a lot of iron.
The ability to look at someone and tell them what to do (and they just...do it)
The ability to be the most fascinating thing in the room.
Absolute resistance to injury/sickness?

It's a slate of powers which comes off as "Super Monkey Sex God". They're basically dark, broody Superheroes who are better dressed.

^_^

27:

Sure we have real world vampires. The corporate raider/vulture capitalist/financier/banker is by far the closest human representation of a vampire; only the lifeblood they leech is not haemoglobin, it's cash.

They seduce the poor, innocent, founder with tales of open vistas where they can live the good life too; then chomp down and suck blood from the victim - keeping it alive, but in thrall until it's given what it can - when it's discarded.

You might point of that VC stump up money - and vampires are only takers - but it's only a small perturbation and in some forms of the mythos the vampire secretes something into the bloodstream to keep the victim docile ("cow like").

Are corporate raiders sexy? Well, ask the devotees of "Pretty Woman".

> any other parasitic life-cycles

Well, the Cuckoo seems fair game, and other than "Species" and eponymous "The Midwich Cuckoos", not exactly mined out. It also combines teenage sex and consequences in interesting and disgusting ways. Xenogenesis would even fit quite well with the previous discussion of "the great filter". Why wipe out when you can out genetically evolve and replace the target civilisation with your own?

28:

Hmm. I got the idea that Xenogenesis also had a (sub)text of how a dominant culture can appropriate and incorporate, um, genes from a "conquered" society under the guise of helping it. Comparisons with the black experience in America are probably not out of place, although the trilogy wasn't a pure allegory.

Maybe it's just me.

As for other types of parasites, we do have whatever that organism is on Donald Trump's head. Shade's of Brin's Weirders. Maybe it helps him keep a straight face or something.

Actually, speaking of weirds, we haven't had gotten nearly enough mileage out of Gymnopholus lichenifer. It's fun to talk about living in sym.

29:

There's that horrible barnacle thing that crabs get, Sacculina. Which, I guess, has something of the Ophiocordyceps about it.

Or there's the deeply disturbing mating technique of some male ticks; apart from the whole procedure of eschewing the traditional orifice and simply drilling through the female's abdominal wall using their specially adapted penis (iirc females of some species have evolved subcutaneous sponge padding at the favoured drilling sites). In the example I'm thinking of; when the tick mates with a female after she's been fertilised, his sperm seeks out the developing gonads of any male offspring and devours them, before replacing them with gonads formed of its own genetic material. Kind of generational reproductive vampirism, if you will.

The more I've learned of the reproductive strategies in usein the natural world (especially those of the supreme innovators, the insects), the more I get the feeling that you simply couldn't make it up.

30:

Catholic, not creationist, though probably to the right of John C. Wright. We do have a thing for Devils advocates.
I don't have the talent to advocate for the Devil, or knock down saints, but I will stick up for creationists, at least as far as Catholic doctrine will go anyway.
Gods purposes are, by definition, beyond our understanding, beyond those matters that he revealed to us. The wonder of creation lies in every direction, in scale, scope, complexity and, presuming a bit, humor and irony. Whether all this came in a flash or through a process is irrelevant as far as explaining the purpose of any bit of it. I find the idea of a process more mysterious and wonderful actually.
We can pretend to understand, at best. We can learn a few tricks.

31:

Well, we can infer that God loves parasitoid wasps, since there are way over 17,000 species in the Braconidae family alone. WE can also infer that God loves parasites in general, since a large majority of all species on Earth are parasites (per Zimmer's Parasite Rex).

We can also infer that God doesn't love the genus Homo, since of all the species identified, only one is currently extant. Still, he likes our parasites, because there are more parasite species living on us than there are us.

We can also get very confused about whether God likes solar power or not, because he clearly created the Sun to rule or govern the day on the Fourth day of creation, well after God created the plants that depend on light. So obviously light doesn't depend on whether we see the Sun, the Moon, or the stars. I'm still confused about how the Moon is supposed to govern the night, given that it's seen during the day every month, but that could just be my poor understanding. I'm also not sure how we're supposed to orbit above the atmosphere, given that there's water above the sky, but that's another minor issue.

Or perhaps there's some shortcomings to the creationist account.

32:

Well, I make no judgements about your capacity for understanding. All I know for sure is that mine is very limited. My main point though is that the ability, or lack of it, to understand Gods purpose or his creation, is not tied to the doctrine of creationism. Every believer in (nearly, judgement calls abound) every religion is at least implicitly in the same boat. Whether one insists that all was created in an instant, over six days, or 20 billion years, its all the same.

33:


The go-to source for information about unpleasant human vampires is probably "Vampires, Burial, and Death" by Paul Barber (Yale University Press)

He talks about how traditional vampires were more like bloated corpses, and this was likely because people weren't very familiar with the sorts of things normal corpses get up to after burial. For example, shallow graves can be disturbed by the body itself as it bloats with gas. And a "scream" might be emitted when a suspected vampire is staked or decapitated, because of decomposition gases rushing out. (This is given an amusing footnote that the author "almost never has occasion to decapitate a corpse with a shovel"

34:

Actually, I think horrific vampire predates Stoker by quite a bit, though I'm not sure by how much. I believe that several psychologists wrote analyses about it, including Freud, but I don't think he was the first.

OTOH (nearly a change of topic) would you consider a Masai living largely on cows blood to be a vampire? (Of course, most of the calories don't come from the cows blood, but it's [or was] a significant source of protein.) How about black pudding? Or Blutwurst? Though I guess those are minor components of diet.

How dependant on blood do you need to be to be considered a vampire? Clearly the vampire bat would qualify, and it's not a degenerate parasite. The fact that there exist endo-parasitic vampires does not make that a requirement for being a vampire. But it's worth noticing that the typical prey of the vampire bat is a cow, and cows are tremendously more massive than a bat. But it's also worth noting that after a successful hunt the vampire bat has enough blood in his crop to share it with less successful associates. So a human sized vampire would probably need to have something the size of a brontosaurus for prey (as well as several other specialized adaptations).

35:

Well, my recommendation, before we talk about the veracity of Genesis 1, is to print the following four sets of verses out and compare them, side by side:

Matthew 28:1-10
Mark 16: 1-20
Luke: 24: 1-31
John 20: 1-31

And figure out what happened, who saw what and when.

36:

I have an issue with the Dracula model, toothwise.

It's obviously impossible to bite into a neck artery with normal human teeth sets.

Various mods have vampires with elongated (sometimes extendible) canines or even hollow teeth (though both of these would be very vulnerable), but even the mods don't really make it much easier - you have to add in the ability to almost dislocate the jaw and/or retract the lower jaw to be able to get a tooth into the vein, something which would if properly recorded make you look less like sexy vampire and more like Monty Python Upper-Class Twit.

Yes, it would be fairly easy if they went for the wrist, say, or the big toe, but it does always seem to be the neck, for some reason.

37:

Combining the singularity and parasitology, do parasitic circuit elements count? From the point of view of someone worried about crosstalk, some of the parasitic caps are even considered aggressors, with victims. Though "attack of the femtofarads", with them swarming a helpless chip, would be a horror movie with a rather small audience...

38:

In re Genesis, one has to define "veracity".
I will not answer for Biblical literalists, as that is not part of my religious tradition. The Catholic perspective is that the Bible should be read intelligently. Genesis, for instance, is rich in metaphor. This interpretative tradition goes back to the early church, it is nothing new. The Bible is myth and literature.
As for reconciling the Gospels, this is not new either. There is a tremendous amount of writing on the subject, going back to Augustine, if not before, probably, ignorant as I am. The simplest way of looking at it simply that the Gospels were written and transmitted by fallible men.

39:

I will not answer for Biblical literalists, as that is not part of my religious tradition. The Catholic perspective is that the Bible should be read intelligently.

Some people believe that the men who wrote or translated the Bible had Divine inspiration.

I figure that it takes Divine inspiration to read the Bible.

If you read with the right attitude, you are likely to get what you need from it. Divine inspiration is about giving you what you need. Two people should not expect to get the same understanding unless their needs are the same.

And what kind of life are you living, if what you most need to learn from the Bible is how the earth was created?


I have known scientists who were raised Christian, who came up with interesting ideas from reading the Bible and trying to reconcile it with the other things they knew.

#31 Heteromeles

I'm also not sure how we're supposed to orbit above the atmosphere, given that there's water above the sky, but that's another minor issue.

I heard this story that there used to be a "firmament" of ice above the atmosphere. But over a period of 40 days it was destroyed and a lot of it fell as rain. (luckily not as 1000-ton ice-chunks.) The geneologies showed people living about 10% as long after that, maybe because the ozone layer is a very poor substitute for an actual firmament.

There was no explanation why the sea level first rose above the highest mountains and then partly went down to give us around 25% land surface. He might have had an explanation but I missed it.

40:

Re: the Egan thing, there was a conspiracy theory like that in ... Quarantine, I think. Nothing proven within the book.

41:

Not only are they useless, not only are they nutritional parasites, taking our own food, not only do they prevent their owners from breeding by taking the place of real offspring--we created them and we sell them at a huge profit. As fashion accessories.

You can make this argument about any human activity that is no directly related to reproduction.

Why are you wasting resources writing comments to this blog post when you could use them to create more offsprings?

42:

Charlie, that was *unforgiveable*.

All those goth fannish teenagers, looking up adoringly, fluttering their eyelashes and waiting to swoon romantically at the first mention of EDWARD...

*sighs*

...And you gave them hippo arse leeches.

I wish I'd seen that panel.

Also: I know that audience. Serves you right if the filthy little sods write you into slashfic.

43:

vampires are only sexy when they're anthropomorphic.

Anything, ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING is sexy when it is anthropomorphic. That's how the brain works. Sexiness is in the shape, not in the substance.

44:

One truly disturbing parasite: toy dogs.... They prevent their owners from breeding by taking the place of real offspring
Considering the people who usually come with these animals? I can't help feeling that "preventing their owners from breeding" is actually a positive!

45:

What could possibly be sexy about... a metaphor for a well dressed, good looking, intelligent predatory psychopath?

46:

Have you read "The Apocalypse Codex" yet? Only in that vampirism is one of the haemovores' more appealing traits!

47:

Err.. If you are a creationist, the onus is on you to come to terms with why your God saw fit to inflict a parasite like this on hippopotami. Just sayin'.

You are, famously, not the first to say this:
Tey HERE
Incidentally, he (Attenborough) apparently gets christian hate-mail over this &, of course, the various creationist websites are full of their usual lies & deceptions, with no reply slots avaiilable ...
{ E.G. "It wasn't like that when GAWD made it - it was when SIN entered the world(s) that it became evil."
Or "this is a theological question" - but then Theology is a subject with no content, so far, at least.

Erm.

[ Apologies if anyone else has got to the Attenborough quote first. ]

48:

I trust that was, err... IRONIC?
I do hope so, since otherwise "utter bullshit" is far/way too mild a critical comment .....
See also Heteromeles @ 35
AND ...
Compare & contrast Genesis:
1.1 - 2.3
with
2.4 - 2.25
Err, umm, again.

And @ 38
The Catholic perspective is that the Bible should be read intelligently
TRANSLATION
At the direction of the priests, rather than from the original (disagreeing) texts.

No, you weren't being ironic, were you?
Oh dear.

The simplest way of looking at it simply that the Gospels were written and transmitted by fallible men.
And then thoroughly reamed, filleted, fisked & altered, to fit in with being an "official" relgion in the late-Roman (Byzantine) empire with careful suppression of then-politically-inexpediant bits.
Known as the Council of Nicea.
Stalin would have been proud to do a job so well, that approximately 1700 years later, people are still swallowing this tosh.

49:

I wish I'd seen that panel.
I did ... it was hilarious ( & occasionally unsettling) But OGH was well on-form that day.

50:

You can't claim that hippopotami don't have a good excuse for being aggressive.

51:

I wonder, what would be the supernatural equivalent of roaches and rats.

Normally in "urban fantasy" we get a lot of stuff about how the mythical creatures have been displaced by humanity and forced to live in the shadows, in a decandent survival far below what they used to be.

Like you know, the kind of animals people think about when they think about how awful modern life is to the ecology.

But what about roaches. What about rats. That is the kind of animal that yep, may belong to the "shadows", but boy arent they enjoying a bonanza during the human-centric age. They are thriving like never before.

Vampires ... well, in the White Wolf RPGs they could be visualized as that kind of thing, but it was implied that population has to be low (of course that goes out of the window fast due to the whole everybody-of-relevance-is-a-vampire) due to their territorial nature and the need to hide from humanity.

52:

"You can't claim that hippopotami don't have a good excuse for
being aggressive."

Perhaps not but, despite their well-justified reputation for
mayhem, they are NOT aggressive. They attack only when they feel
threatened, and the nastiest gotcha is taking a small boat across
calm water, having a herd surface around it and bashing into one
or getting between a mother and calf. But many of the deaths occur when villagers are trying to drive them away from crops.

53:

"What could possibly be sexy about... a metaphor for a well
dressed, good looking, intelligent predatory psychopath?"

Quite. I regret not having had time to investigate it at the
time, and can't find it again, but there was an academic study
that showed young heterosexual women tended to put out for
'James Bonds', but tended to marry men that treated them
decently. The trouble about the comparable research for young
men is sorting out such subtleties from the "life support for a
penis" background. I haven't seen any references to similar
research for gay people.

PrivateIron: yes, but there are a surprising number of such
things that are normally very distasteful, but become attractive
in a sexual context. Also, remember the era - the Victorians
(as a society) were at least as kinky as we are, including in
some ways that we aren't.

54:

Given the prevalence of love bites (or hickeys if you prefer) in normal human sexual behaviour I suspect the fascination of anthropomorphic vampires with biting the neck is part of their sexualisation.

And while I don't quite agree with Vanzetti's quote that anything is sexy when anthropomorphic, lots of things are. Most people don't find ponies, cats and dogs sexy (although there are always exceptions) even if they find them cute. Sexually desirable individuals in catsuits with sewn on tail and ears, work for most people. Pony play and puppy play might well be more out there in the fetish scene but put an attractive man or woman (depending on your preferences) in the outfits and you'll probably enjoy looking at them even if you don't want the whole of the play. Vampire bats, ticks etc. - really not so much. Ever young, mesmerising, beautiful people that nibble on your neck? What's not to like?

55:

...on the one hand I find it amusing that you found a brand new way to make mister sparklefairy edward easier to dislike, on the other hand I've now an image of a humanoid foot trying to suck blood out of a woodfaced actress via the anus.

Why do you do this to me?

56:


" Actually, I think horrific vampire predates Stoker by quite a bit, though I'm not sure by how much. I believe that several psychologists wrote analyses about it, including Freud, but I don't think he was the first."

Not the first by a long,LOOOOng, Way ...


" Jiangshi

A jiangshi, also known as a Chinese "hopping" vampire or zombie, is a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore. "Jiangshi" is read goeng-si in Cantonese, cương thi in Vietnamese, gangshi in Korean and kyonshī in Japanese. It is typically depicted as a stiff corpse dressed in official garments from the Qing Dynasty, and it moves around by hopping, with its arms outstretched. It kills living creatures to absorb their qi, or "life force", usually at night, while in the day, it rests in a coffin or hides in dark places such as caves.[1] Jiangshi legends have inspired a genre of jiangshi films and literature in Hong Kong and East Asia."

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


Note the Victorian Eras fasination with all things Chinese ..

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-victorian-vision-of-china-and-japan/

Add to that the use of opium - I looked into this after OGH responded to a post that dipped into drug addiction and I realised that I actually knew rather less than I'd supposed about drug addiction. So, here ..


" Drugs (mostly opium and its derivatives) were used for both medicinal and recreational purposes by the Romantic era writers, such as Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). De Quincey described minutely the non-medical use of opiates in his book, Confessions of an Opium-Eater (1821). He “ate opium” in the shape of pills or pellets. Coleridge, who suffered from neuralgic and rheumatic pains, tried to relieve them by opium or its derivatives. It is believed that he composed his famous poem, “Kubla Khan,” in a dream induced by laudanum. Coleridge struggled with his drug dependence all his life. His daughter, Sara (1802-1852) confided to a friend that she was unable to sleep without laudanum. Other poets, including Lord Byron, John Keats, and Percy Shelley, took laudanum from a vial for medicinal and recreational uses. Byron's daughter, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), a mathematical genius and the first computer programmer, became addicted to laudanum having been prescribed it for asthma."

" Asthma" ! Wot The Fuck?! Rheumatic pain I can understand but Asthma?

Anyway here is a link to a handy guide ..

http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/science/addiction/addiction2.html


Actually Vampyres are Blood Addicts and probably require larger and larger doses to maintain the original 'High' that they get at First Blood.Consider the child mortality levels during the Victorian Era ..


http://thechirurgeonsapprentice.com/2013/10/15/death-childhood-in-victorian-england/


All those Dear Little children being loomed over by ever so caring adult doctors and priests as well as by Fond Parents.

57:

"Why are you wasting resources writing comments to this blog post
when you could use them to create more offsprings?"

See what Socrates said (see the fourth paragraph) - but I can't
speak for you :-)

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/plato/rep/rep0102.htm

58:

''"Asthma" ! Wot The Fuck?! Rheumatic pain I can understand but
Asthma?''

The word "asthma" has changed meaning, and used to refer to a
wider and rather different range of breathing problems. Opiates
(nowadays codeine) are used to reduce the coughing reflex when
that is necessary. I am prescribed some for just that.

59:

I thought the creators of Penny Dreadful were just being nasty for nastiness sake, but then I remembered that Victorians found tuberculosis to be a sexy disease. I don't know if they would have gone in for all the blood play though. I think TB was mostly "hot" because it made you thin and pale...hey, vampirism.

60:

May be worth taking a look at this before trying to reconcile those versions: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/014838.html

61:

As implied, the official Christian/Catholic point of view has been controversial for 2000 years, from far more directions than have been mentioned. Some of these disputes can be found even in the Epistles. Far better men, on all sides, have argued this than either of us. To say that libraries have been written on all these arguments is the literal truth. I think you have some of these in Britain.
All I can add is that, from my point of view, the complaints raised here amount to missing the forest for the trees, if not the leaves.

62:

Do note that OGH said the onus on the creationists was to come to terms with the actions of their god(s); not necessarily to explain it to us as well :)

63:

Two themes, maybe three. Okay maybe four.

1) Sexy animal parasites in nature? Yeah, us. Some would argue we are predators, but I'd say that as a trivial category matter, like whether witches are Things that Float. So, predation as a subset of parasitism, as, say, a parasitic wasp ultimately kills its prey. We engage in so many parasitic behaviors, like slave taking and slave making, and in fact, I'd argue that the whole Hebbian Web of Life is made up almost exclusively of parasitic links and loops. And, yes, I consider some (not all) humans extremely sexy.

2) Which makes me wonder whether we've got sex all wrong. Rather than a defense against parasitism, maybe it is the most successful form?

3) I suppose it was inevitable God was brought up. (Me? Don't know, don't give a shit, but those stories are fun toys to play with). So, She is the ultimate hyperparasite, feeding upon the bloating corpses of universes, and infesting same with Her progeny (functionally fashioned somewhat in Her image), soon to return to eat same Progeny. So, fellow honeylambs, don't pray, or don't pray too loud, lest you attract the Wrong Attentions.

4) We've covered ingestion and metabolism, but what about excretion? Can you show me one form of life that doesn't shit in the kitchen? In fact, maybe that's not a universal constant, and the Fermi Paradox is explained by we are the Poop Planet, just this really gross and grotesque series of living turds feeding upon each other, when we aren't shining each other up.

64:

I think one of the usual attractors has raised its head early in this thread! Religious war ahoy! I suggest that everyone duck and cover.

(BTW: @buwaya, you should really dial back the smug condescension and passive-agressive superiority, or things are likely to get ugly fast!)

65:

Slightly more on topic, in terms of Charlies challenge: "any other parasitic life-cycles that are amenable to converting into supernatural fictional tropes".

There's always a focus on vampirism, and it tends to look at the direct benefit that turning a person into a raging haemovore has for the patrasite. Has anyone ever doen a story about parasite drivenlycanthropy, using the behaviourly modification model of parasitism and how it might benefit a parasitical lifecycle? Seems to me that there's some germ of a story in there.

Slight aside, but related: Recommend watching the recent drama series from Sky "Fortitude". I'll not give away how it ties to the parasite thread.

66:

What about the "They Live" trope? There are sounds I cannot hear, colors I cannot see, thoughts I cannot think, and perhaps some species takes advantage of that. Anyone done a proper audit of civilization, see if all energy expended, minus waste, balances out? Maybe some of them brownies or kobolds not so munificent in fixing my shoes?

67:

You're going to give me nightmares about some horrible fictional world in which anthropomorphic *lawyers* are considered sexy.

68:

Charlie, if you haven't, you should read the Japanese horror novel "Parasite Eve". Hint: the title is a direct reference to the concept of "mitochondrial Eve", and (part of) the plot could be summarized by "the mitochondria have been biding their time...".

(There was a video game very loosely based on it, and I do mean *very* loosely. "s/psychological horror/jump scares and gunfights/g", for starters. That made me interested enough to track down a translation into English, which I read and enjoyed years ago.)

69:

Most of the parasitic life cycles that I know of have been used,
especially the 'cuckoo' and wasp/caterpillar ones. Even ones like
Arthrobotrys anchonia exist, though usually with plants. There
are also stories using the non-lethal parasitism of many fungi and
mistletoe in plants. The most likely, underused one I know of is
hypersexuality caused by rabies (and possibly other transmissible
diseases), but that is already referenced in Equoid. One can
hypothesise other variations, including retroviruses and non-lethal
diseases transmitted via hypersexuality, but I don't know of any
for which definite evidence exists.

70:

You can make this argument about any human activity that is no directly related to reproduction.

Why are you wasting resources writing comments to this blog post when you could use them to create more offsprings?

That's easy, actually, although it is a good point against the argument that all our time should be devoted to reproduction. Humans have two forms of inheritance: genes and culture. You can't be a pure human without culture, because you'd die as an infant. Babies have to be taught in order to grow to be fully functioning adults. Culture allows us to become anything from pack ice hunters to businesswomen in the tropics, and to eat anything from yams to spam.

So reproducing the bits of culture isn't a waste of time. While one could argue that this blog is a waste of time, it's educational, and hence not necessarily totally parasitic. Occasionally, I use it to test out ideas that go into books, since the people are merciless with bad ideas, so it's useful to me.

However, toy dogs were bred deliberately to mimic human infants. When they do so even to the point of replacing infants, then it's easy to argue that we've created our own social parasites.

Since we're talking about parasitic horrors, the horror here aren't the dogs, it's that we deliberately created them. Generally, the parasites in horror fiction come from outside to attack us.

One can take a certain Machiavellian interest in noting that they were first bred for (and by) rich women, but now they're loose on the general public.

71:

I would be very surprised if there was some established parasite life-cycle that hasn't been used somewhere in genre fiction, but it usually manifests as zombie-ism or vampirism. I'm specifically wondering if there there's any examples of parasite driven lycanthropy (I can see how your rabies example could be used here).

72:

In the vein of "Why are you wasting resources ... ?" questions, can we throw in a shout out to the basilisk? (Just to make certain parts of the interwebs gibber)

73:

Actually a parasite, when it infects a host, creates a set of problems both for its self and for the host which didn't exist before. First and foremost the host has a new metabolic burden that it didn't have before, and which will certainly weaken it.

Secondly, the host in unmodified form will be at the pinnacle of adaptation for whatever ecological niche it is in. To improve upon this, the parasite has to bring something new to the host (Charlie's vampiric entities greatly improve the magical abilities of their hosts, and protect against the brain-destroying side-effects of magic, in return for being given the magical links to other brains which they can destroy).

Thirdly, a parasite has to guard against hyperparasitism, or even competition from more its own species. Schistosomes (trematode parasites that live in blood vessels) do this by, as they lay eggs, releasing their own antigens into the host's blood. The adult schistosome is hidden from the host immune system, but new ones trying to invade don't get a chance to coat themselves in host antigens before the host immune cells clobber them.

Hyperparasitism exists for another reason. Insect parasitoids frequently have to do a lot of different things to avoid the insect immune system; quite a few are effectively vampires and only drink the insect's haemolymph, rather than actually eat host the host's own tissues. They still need to slightly compromise the insect's immune system, though, which opens a way for another insect to parasitise either the original host or the parasite or parasitoid.

Sexual reproduction exists as a way of preserving genetic diversity in a population, and of spreading genetic diversity around. Even slugs and snails which have both sexes on the same animal indulge in courtship and mating, rather than breed with themselves. Where parasites are concerned, diversity is good, since if all animals are identical a parasite which is the "perfect parasite" for one is going to be the perfect parasite for all, and will very quickly spread through the population.

74:

I suppose one possibility for the sexy side of things is that the characters are a mix of the strange and the familiar. They are the travelling salesman taken to an extreme, an outsider available for sexual purposes, with no apparent reason to preserve the status-quo, and who can be used and dismissed.

And some of the differences are stronger than others. There's a whole swathe of porn centred on black strangers (is that label OK this week?) using the outsider image in all sorts of different bad ways.

The anthropomorphic animal, the "furry", can be a whole bunch of different outsiders, all in one. Fur varies, but if you know what a cat's fur feels like you have a sensual cue. And all that can allow you to get away from current politics as well. Any time somebody starts thinking "No true American would" there is an implicit "So what?"

75:

If we're going to talk about social parasitism in the style of ants, I must point out that my household contains two social parasites. They eat and excrete and sleep and squabble with each other, and from time to time they provide tactile stimulation and make noises that I find pleasant (usually called "purring"). Really it's hard to see much difference from the apparent enjoyment with which ants feed and groom their social parasites. Of course there's research that claims that pet owners gain emotional and health benefits, but I wonder if an ant sociologist might be able to show similar benefits to an ant colony that has other insects living in it.

Kipling has a story about insect social parasitism, called I think "The Mother Hive."

76:

not only do they prevent their owners from breeding by taking the place of real offspring

Are you sure this isn't a good thing?

77:

Taking the discussion on a 90-degree turn here ...

Consider:
a) Almost half of humans in the Western world are likely to get cancer.
b) Many/most currently available cancer treatments kill off blood cells, or even bone marrow.
c) Therefore many/most cancer patients (let alone surgery/accident and other patients) need blood transfusions. (The fake blood doesn't work that well yet.)
d) Blood has/includes a whole whack of antibodies and everyone's antibodies are a bit different.
e) It's expensive to remove antibodies.
f) Blood transfusion (antibody) reactions occur - for some people sooner than others - some reactions are fatal.

Now, imagine if a real vampire were ever discovered... a being who clearly is not affected by blood antibodies, and happens to be immortal.... Talk about turning the tables, not to mention a cash cow, finding the goose that lays golden eggs, etc. Wouldn't any hematologist (not to mention big pharma) just love to get their hands on a specimen to find out how this is possible? There are probably other immune/blood-related conditions that could be exploited if you had a "real vampire" to work on. Also, consider that physician-scientist probably wouldn't have to worry about his/her Hippocratic Oath or research budget while performing live dissections ... because as long as they avoided the heart, anything else is game. They wouldn't even have to use any pain killers or antibiotics (more bang from their research budget) because vampires do not get infections, seem immune to or are able to ignore pain and heal very quickly if not miraculously. So no issues about any meds/treatments/procedures confounding the results. (Research heaven!)

I'm not a vampire fan ... so for those who are: has someone already written about the types of scenarios I just described?

Like most people, some of my friends/family have had cancer, hence have read up on hematopoesis. Based on what I recall, if vampires exist, they are genetically really screwed up - their entire myeloid line is probably missing. Considering that there are in fact a few acquired blood disorders where one of the blood lines goes splat, that is, specific types of blood cells self-destruct very very rapidly, this type of vampire may technically exist. However, even if this 'vampire' blood disorder existed ... the self-treatment doesn't make sense .... it couldn't be that the vampire needed the actual functional whole human blood. Blood is denatured as it passes through the digestive system ... so our vampire would in fact actually need some sub-component of the blood that is produced when the blood is 'íngested' by the vampire. However, as a previous poster noted: sparkly vampires do not sh*t in the woods, therefore vampires clearly do not have digestive systems*. This leads me to guess that whatever it is that interacts with the blood must be produced in the vampire's mouth. (A special saliva - like leeches - that both anesthetizes the victim and "digests" the blood.)

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

Just remembered this from a blood donor clinic ... in some countries any woman who has ever been pregnant is now screened out from donating platelets because pregnant women develop new antibodies in response to their pregnancy. So our vampire is able to detect this (or a related) antibody in potential female victims, and explains the strong preference for maiden victims.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transfusion-related_acute_lung_injury

*This means vampires are missing a circulatory system, an immune system, and a digestive system. Therefore a vampire is a collection of missing body systems, apart from very highly developed olfaction. Extrapolating from this ... folks, I think this is the wet-body end-point of Vinge's automata. (Think it was Vinge ... I've read only one of his books, some time ago.)


78:

And now I am shaking my head and wondering, thoughtfully, if I can see any other parasitic life-cycles that are amenable to converting into supernatural fictional tropes?

In the spirit of the Laundryverse: sexually transmitted parasites ala crabs. Unlike the real world versions these Sexually Transmitted Eldritch Parasites (STEPs) don't just give you an itch, they also project a Class 3 Glamour on the host making them desirable to the opposite sex. At first the outbreak consists of good looking partygoers with glowing bugs in their eyes. But each new infection makes it easier for the Sleeper With People In Pyramids to cross over...

79:

They're basically dark, broody Superheroes who are better dressed.

Some of the big influences for the whole "sexy vampires" thing were Iron Age comic books. Vampires and vampire-like protagonists (Blade, Morbius, Crimson, Preacher's Cassidy, Vampirella, and others) became popular because they met the fashion for grimdark, angsty antiheroes in a manner that didn't require much backstory.

80:

Also microchimerism.

And while I'm here, this topic made me think of the morel in Hothouse.

81:

You're absolutely right! Recall reading about it here ... very weird.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120926213103.htm

82:

I've always figured that they are sexy because that is how they entrap their pray. They're like carnivorous plants, luring their prey to their doom.

Realistic biology aside, seductiveness is a good way to get intelligent prey away from others, to a place where they are alone and vulnerable. And humans are pretty vulnerable when copulating.

Speaking from a mythology standpoint, we seem to have combined the idea of vampires with succubi and lamia.

83:

my household contains two social parasites. They eat and excrete and sleep and squabble with each other, and from time to time they provide tactile stimulation and make noises that I find pleasant

... And if your household had existed 1000-5000 years ago you would probably have considered your two "social parasites" to be vital livestock, earning their place by the fire in return for defending your grain supply against vermin.

Similarly, the baby-dog things are descended -- indeed, bred -- from working animals that were of use in hunting, herding, and destroying vermin.

You might as well complain about the uselessness of bright red two-seater penis extensions that spend the week parked in a garage and only get driven at weekends in good weather, while the owner uses a BMW or SUV for actual commuting/daily use. It's a waste of surplus resources -- but if the resources weren't there to be wasted, they'd be wasted on something else. Because surplus, right?

84:

Dave the Proc @ 64
Doubleplusgood
[ And saved me the effort ]

In line with asking the religious to come to terms with the actions of their gods ( Moschops @ 62 )
err.. first they must demonstrate that their postulated BigSkyFairy exists or is detectable - they are making the claim, after all, let's see some evidence, or purrr-lease - keep quiet about it?

85:

Agreed, on several points. First, the original vampires were *not* sexy. Go watch the original Nosferatu, and tell me how sexy he is.

Second, the AIDs business is what I think of, as well: if you're undead, you don't have to worry about dying from an STD... and I wonder how much of the funnymentalist Christian "sex is only for reproduction, concoms, er, condoms* are nasty, and forget the Pill... plays into this.

mark

* I must have been thinking of SMOFs.....

86:

And, if you live in a house built in 1893, then the resident furry is only a part-time "parasite".
I'd be tempted to use the word "Comensal" actually.
Because, every early winter, end of October to beginning of December, the rodents living in the ubdergrowth etc "decide" that those large brick structures are better places fo spend that coming winter .....
Happens every year, & we get a "present" or two (or five) - & regarding the current pile of unspeakable cuteness, he also occasionally cleans up on the local grey squirrels. ( Five that we know of, so far. )

87:

On the subject of angler worms and unicorns:

An unusual host-parasite relationship: the growth hormone-like factor from plerocercoids of spirometrid tapeworms.

Accelerated body growth is associated with experimental infections with the plerocercoid stage of the pseudophyllidean tapeworm, Spirometra mansonoides. The growth response is due to a protein that is synthesized and released by plerocercoids in the host. Plerocercoid growth factor (PGF) is transported by the blood, interacts with growth hormone (GH) receptors and mimics many of the biological actions of GH.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875304

I'll let others wonder just what's in those magical pills you see on sale all over the internet...

Why is this "sexy"? Because in SF terms, it allows an alteration of the "nice symbiote" tale into the dark baroque world of "...and so our soldiers were infected by species X: yes, there were extreme medical issues and their life spans curtailed, but their musculature and reaction times so improved that it was thought the cost".

However, we should note the differences between parasites, parasitoids (immature stages live inside other organism, adult generally doesn't and only infects prey species with eggs) and hyperparasite (predates parasites only).

Since everyone is so enamored of brain control fungi:

An international research team led by Penn State professor and Huck Institutes researcher David Hughes has discovered that hyperparasitic fungi — which are not pathogens of ants — infect the zombie-ant fungi and significantly limit the viability of their spore-producing organs, thus reducing the danger posed to the colony.

http://www.huck.psu.edu/content/about/news-archive/zombie-ant-fungus-under-attack-hyperparasites

So, let's make this "sexy":

Human infects herself with parasite A that has beneficial elements to it (biochemical or even say something out of Niel Asher - scolds(?) that allow you to do something abnormal) but then gets an offer from a sentient hyperparasite B who offers to stop her death, but who obviously never wants this balanced arrangement progress. Until, of course, it wants to breed...

In a more general level, the more complicated life-cycles in parasites (and brethren) generally require multiple host species (e.g. from water insect to fish to bird), so making it sexy is extremely easy, as you get to invent alien ecologies.

88:

I dunno if you've run across "Parasite" by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire) but she's ploughing that furrow quite effectively. (Medical uses of tapeworms ...)

89:

Ye, started it, couldn't get beyond the YA level science / writing.

I like my parasites to be a bit darker.

90:

Well, yes, but I'm not necessarily complaining. I have no intention of euthanizing Taiki and Macavity, or putting them out on the street, or otherwise getting rid of them, as I could do if I found their presence undesirable; I enjoy their parasitism! I'm more envisioning a story about an ant colony that takes the same pleasure in its social parasites. If ant colonies were self-aware, that is.

Of course, it could be argued that the insect social parasites are negative factors because they inhibit the reproduction of their hosts. But a lot of the cat owners I know also haven't reproduced. . . .

The interesting question seems to be why we find some parasites repulsive and others attractive. Saying that all parasitism is ugly and creepy seems to be an oversimplification, though it's a provocative one that makes a good start for a discussion.

91:

I agree about toy dogs. Buy a battery powered toy, don't breed a helpless, aggravating toy that you can treat as a baby that never grows up.

Hmmm... is that a parasitism? Is that what the Christian Right wants of the rest of us...?

Cats, on the other hand, you're wrong about. *They* domesticated us, so that they could live in the manner which they intended to become accustomed to....

mark

92:

After ourselves, the river horse is possibly the most dangerous large mammal in Africa. The water buffalo will probably leave you alone if you leave it alone, but the hippo is unpredictably aggressive.

If any animal deserves the hippo arse leech, it's the hippo. A hypothetical creationist might argue that it's a sign of God's love that human beings are not so afflicted.

93:

Really? How Dark is DARK? Beware of what you ask for ..

" I'll let others wonder just what's in those magical pills you see on sale all over the internet... "


Just in case you aren't aware of the nature of the U.Ks press ..this following has been widely released in the UKs press. This item - from the ever so right winge Daily Mail - has a little more information and a photo that most people in jounalism in the U.K/would be less than keen to publish.

" Killed by the tablets they took to lose weight: This beautiful student doctor was killed by internet slimming pills that make users fatally overheat. And she is far from the only victim "

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2315433/Sarah-Houston-cause-death-Boiled-alive-internet-slimming-pills-DNP.html

94:

What that comment provoked is horrifyingly beyond disgusting: giant vampire roaches.

mark "where can I buy some DDT?"

95:

I like my parasites to be a bit darker.

Wait until I get around to "The Delirium Library" (Laundry Files book 8) and bring back Reverend Schiller (from "The Apocalypse Codex"), for a closer look at the hypercastrating parasite whose bidding he serves ...

(NB: I have yet to finish writing "The Nightmare Stacks", book 7, and I want to take a year out to write a very different kind of dark fantasy novel before moving onto "The Delirium Library". So, er, not in print before 2018 at the earliest.)

97:

Just in case you Miss the Really. REALLY! Cute Hippo...


http://www.whitewolfpack.com/2014_08_01_archive.html

Scroll down past ..

" The Shocking moment a cat discovers himself in a mirror. "


Past the CAT ...

DOWN PAST THE CAT CHARLIE!!

To ..

“Orphan Hippo Befriends Two Dogs (VIDEO)”

98:

Confession time: haven't got to those yet, currently on Neptune's Brood. Sadly, local libraries continue to be down-funded.

However, did I just spot a sneaky beer joke?

Revered Schiller - Golden Promise ministries -

Traditional barley variety from Scotland with a sweet, clean flavor. A must for authentic Scottish ales.

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/simpsons-golden-promise-barley.html


Coincidence, wry humor or perhaps the work of parasitical yeast entities working from someone's stomach altering their work to ensure the future of their kind?

99:

Nope, that wasn't deliberate. (I'm not a brewer: you may be confusing me with my wife.)

100:

Greg, I'm surprised by your restraint on the subject! (Also forgot to mention that hackle-raising appeal to authority that always gets trotted out at this point: "we can't explain these things because we can't understand BSF's plan".)

101:

It'd be interesting to know if you picked up the reference accidentally or it was genuinely a coincidence. (Not that it can ever be known - just a thought experiment).

Not prying, but the hypothetical scenario where a large tub of brewing barley rests in the background whilst a conversation goes on about brewing ("Is it ready yet?!") and comes back as a good sounding religious cult front amuses me at any rate.

http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/firewall.htm

102:

Er, our host did invoke the religious question, as in desiring an explanation on a certain point. So there it is, as anyone in my camp (broadly speaking) would give. Information gladly given.

If anyone here wants to throw Christians to (metaphorical) lions, well, virtual martyrdom doesn't count, but thanks all the same.

103:

Actually, I was synthesizing evangelical ministry names, looking for something that reeked of the Prosperity Gospel. I ended up mashing together a couple of real church names to come up with Golden Promise Ministries.

104:

Yeah, and I will note that this is not the blog discussion thread for a religious war. Ahem. Let's keep it civilized: anyone picking a fight on religious grounds can expect to get a yellow card, whether pro or anti.

105:

All humans who reach full maturity are vampires.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), there's a parasite which alters the metabolisms of humans it infects (most of us) so that we don't completely mature.

This parasite was genetically engineered by the nephilim, whose blood is far more nutritious than mere human blood.

106:

I vaguely remember some parasite that manages to hitchhike a lift
on its host's reproduction, and a quick search finds that that is
included in transgenerational parasitism. But damned if I can
remember the details! Parasitic castration is common, but I don't
mean that.

107:

So... it's not quite the same thing, but where does "Elysia chlorotica" fit in here?

This is a sea slug that eats algae, but digests them in a strange way such that the chloroplasts are sucked out of the plant cells and into the animal cells *intact*, and we literally end up with a photosynthesizing animal.

That's not really a parasite, but it seems to me that it has something in common with them.

It also has something in common with vampires, no? It sucks out a kind of "vital essence" of another life form to maintain its own existence, giving it powers not normally available to any animal at all.

108:

@Host. Just to make something clear: I had no idea your wife was into brewing, nor have I started cyber-nosey-stalking. Your response made it all the weirder from this end - my assumption was from SF drinking clubs and beer culture not anything else.

Regarding sperm - it's a fairly common technique:

Females that mate interspecifically can be considered "sperm parasites" on the males of the other species. I provide evidence that sperm parasitism is responsible for widespread hybridization in North America among two species of the ant subgenus Acanthomyops (genus Lasius), and review evidence for sperm parasitism in other hybridization phenomena in ants

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16995614


However, to take this really into the dark and sexy, I present a post from the "Parasites Support Forum"

Let's try and remain scientific here people.
I just had a look at semen, and am a bit shocked at what I witnessed.

The fact is, there are massive amounts of B. Hominis in semen. They are attached to the heads of the sperm, causing havoc.
Some are huge, I am surprised to see this, and some have huge vacuoles. They are being quite aggressive towards sperm cells!!!

http://www.curezone.org/forums/am.asp?i=1119209

Yes, very Fight Club.


Elderly - you're probably looking for this little critter, or a version thereof:

http://www.iaszoology.com/monocystis/

110:

Sure we have real world vampires. The corporate raider/vulture capitalist/financier/banker is by far the closest human representation of a vampire; only the lifeblood they leech is not haemoglobin, it's cash.

Voltaire, from his Philosophical Dictionary, 1764:

We never heard a word of vampires in London, nor even at Paris. I confess that in both these cities there were stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business, who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces.

And then there's Marx, who was quite fond of the vampire metaphor:

Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks. (from Capital)

Although at one point he switches to werewolves:

... we have observed the drive towards the extension of the working day, and the werewolf-like hunger for surplus labour,...

For extra lurid mixed metaphors, there's this bit from The 18th Brumaire:

The bourgeois order, which at the beginning of the century set the state to stand guard over the newly emerged small holdings and fertilized them with laurels, has become a vampire that sucks the blood from their hearts and brains and casts them into the alchemist’s caldron of capital.

(I got these from an article with the wonderful title "The Political Economy of the Dead: Marx's Vampires"[pdf], which argues that Marx was not just drawing on vampires as a popular Gothic monster, but specifically making use of their "undead" nature as an apt metaphor for capital as the proceeds of dead labor...)


(Our knowledge of and fascination with vampires stems in large part from a rash of vampire panics in 18th C East and Southeast Europe, which provoked great discussion in Western Europe, and from there spread into literature...)

111:

Of course, we can also follow in the footsteps of Peter Watts and talk about how vampires will help us travel in deep space. After all if vampires can ideally die to ashes and be reconstituted with blood, then you've got a great way for astronauts to hibernate--provided they are vampires.

Actually, wasn't there a Lovecraftian "Vampire from the stars?"

So far as vampire capitalism, one idea I haven't seen developed to a great extent is the difference between companies that are part of the economy and those that are effectively a parasite load, profiteering without producing anything for it. It's fun to contemplate whether economists can calculate the parasite load on an economy, and whether that has a positive or negative effect on a country's economy as a whole.

Given that "healthier" ecosystems seem to support good populations of parasites and epiparasites, it's at least theoretically possible that the normal state for a healthy economy is to have a fair amount of parasitic activity: all the avant garde artists, hangers on, scammers, and financiers, among others.

112:

Love it! Thanks for the link.

113:

Since I noticed that quite a few people here, including our host, are into Game Theory, you could argue that society itself has this problem.

This is one of those links I'm not going to say much about, as it has lots of elves all over it.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1103.3257

114:

The vampires in 30 DAYS of NIGHT by Steve Niles, aren't sexy, they're viscous monsters. And yes, Peter Watts explains vampires all so scientifically (see BLINDSIGHT and ECHOPRAXIA), Valerie the Vampire is slick and efficient. Sexy? Define sexy.

115:

@110 Never said it was original, but vampires as a metaphor for sex is only one example of the meme; finance is the other obvious one. 'Pretty Woman' can be seen as a vampire movie as much as 'Twilight' can.

&

@111 Strangely enough, if you look for parasites and economics what you tend to find is economists viewing the general population as parasites on the healthy operation of the financial body!

Which kind of brings up a key point - society and finance are like two competing entities, each thinking of itself as prime and the other as a tool, maybe a symbiote at best - that has the risk of turning into a destructive parasite if not properly managed.

Different entities, different aims, different axioms - they are bound to come into conflict. Maybe one, other, or both can be changed so that aims align? We certainly realise that neither of the current attempts has worked.

Otherwise, eventually, one kills the other.

116:

STEPs

That is an awful great idea, shades of Jennifer Morgue, and I'm going to choose to find OGH saying nothing about it as a hint that something similar will show up later.

Also: Echopraxia, that's one I haven't read yet, but from googling it looks like it came out recently, and I went through Starfish > find and read the rest of his stuff a few years back.

117:

Vampires in the folklore generally were ambulatory corpses that spread disease and death, and were as sexy as that implies. I doubt the folks in the New England Vampire Panic found the things they thought were killing their families attractive in any way.


And speaking of the Prosperity Gospel, people might appreciate this review of two books that chronicle how American big business appropriating Christianity to fight against anti-corporate sentiment. (As an odd aside, I found Rev. Schiller not quite nasty enough for conservative American evangelical - I would've expected him to have spent more time gloating over the fate of the unsaved burning in hell).

118:

Sort of on and off topic: I just remembered the word "Vampirarchy", meaning a society ruled by vampires or those resembling vampires.

119:

And also Buwaya ...
And Dave the Proc
"Martyrdom" as yearned for by Da'esh?

Nah.

Ridicule & contempt are much more effective.
Which is why the muslim extremists are so ultra-sensitive on the subject ....
The fate of Asma bint Marwan is noteworthy.
[ look her up ]
I'll shut up now, before I get a yellow card.

120:

Vampires in spaaaaaaace! Also shades of the quite enjoyably bonkers 80's cheesefest that is LIFEFORCE?

121:

Harry Harrison used transgenerational transmission of commensal organisms via germ cell infection in his novel Planet Of The Damned, which contains some damned good discussions of symbiosis and parasitism. I can find no trace of the greenfly he uses as an example having the organ he gives it, but there are definitely papers on their eggs being infected with commensal bacteria (as are most insects', I presume; the state of the microbiome art has moved on some since 1962).

122:

Thanks to both of you - yes, it was something like those. That is
the only parasitism meme that I can think of that is underused in
science fiction.

Ian S: viewed rationally, using any reasonable measure of economic
well-being, the majority of the 'fat cats', 'financial services'
and the underclass that was created by the Blessed Margaret[*] are
mainly parasitic. The vast majority of the rest of the community
are more-or-less symbiotic.

[*] Please don't use this to derail the thread. It's a seriously
complicated political problem, grossly misrepresented by all sides,
and she doesn't deserve more than part of the blame. I am merely
pointing out that those people are economically unproductive in the
society of today, not why and how that could be fixed.

123:

Elderly cynic, there are also quite a large number of people who view state-subsided artists, welfare workers, and refugees as "parasites" by their measures of economic well being.

Economics and money are not great ways to put a value on people.

124:

I am aware of their prejudices, but reread what you posted and you
will see that you have been brainwashed by them. The first two
contribute to the economic welfare in indirect, but potentially
very important, ways. The third is dependent, as children are,
but not parasitic, because the criterion for a parasite is that it
takes its needs even when that harms the well-being of the host.
Inter alia, most refugees would be productive members of (even UK)
society if they were allowed to be.

It's not that economics is a bad way of valuing people's
contribution to society, it's that bad economics and dogmatic
monetarism are. And please note that I did NOT say that even a
good economic valuation should trump all others.

125:

Let's rephrase this entire matter (invert the reality, if you will).

A huge amount of current thinking on certain matters (ranging from economics to politics) suffers from a total lack of education on ecology and non-linear / dynamic systems.

Ecology is a great one to study: it arose at the time when computers, cybernetics [actual cybernetics, not SF version] and RAND etc were attempting to plan the world. A potted history (much bastardized) can be found in part #2 of Curtis' "All watched over by machines of loving grace" - free to watch online.

The general upshot of this is that a lot of the early work had to be re-written. Which is happening.

However we're still living in a world which is largely ignorant of the modes of thought required. (Kantian Categories vrs fluid fields). A rough overview can be found here if you're interested in the actual theories / formula. general PDF.

Basic ecology and systems are a way of thinking, and need to be taught. We're stuck at the moment with people still not even educating about basic reproduction if you need a yard stick.

Oh, and want to be very afraid? Look through internal BIS documents which categorically state they're unable to work numbers / effects using non-linear math. Add a HFT parasite to that, see what happens. (And yes: HFT modelling already has hyperparasites, by design).

To return to an earlier critter: monocystis*. It's a parasite, and all (in the manner of black swans) earthworms have it. We don't know the exact vector of transmission (could be via bird droppings, could be sexual intercourse etc) but we do know that it doesn't really harm earthworms too much. i.e it's a parasite, but not one that truly damages fitness (which probably explains how it can be ubiquitous without an arms race of its own attached).

I'll let you ponder on what that lesson tells you. Feel free to scale it up into Corporations as hostile AI if you're feeling frisky. 2013 post, but hardly new thinking.

*Literally: single anatomical sac. Weeee, three male genitalia jokes so far in this thread! On Ze Roll.

126:

Ugh. Not sure how I broke all those links - apologies.

127:

Links fixed by me. (Might be a good idea not to start URLs with a hard carriage return inside the quote marks?)

128:

Charlie, question to you as a person in the know: what are the current trends in fiction? A few articles I found suggest that in the recent period there were those waves:

1. Fantasy: Harry Potter and its clones (are there any successful clones of HP?).
2. Paranormal: Twilight and followers, which branched from vampires and werewolves. into all kinds of supernatural creatures, including angels, mermaids and centaurs.
3. Dystopia: represented by Hunger Games.
4. ???

So, what's trendy now?

129:

Well, Twilight was originally HP fan fiction, and 50 Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fan fiction, so I suppose those are successful clones...


Past that the Percy Jackson series draws a lot from the Harry Potter type story

And the thing about "what's trendy now" is that by the time you identify a trend and push out a book for it, the trend has generally passed. It's probably better to write to market in general than to try and trend spot. Afterall, if you were good at it, it would make more sense to look at the publishers who have a lot of that IP and buy stock in them, because you could see sales going up and the probable movie deals (and subsequent higher sales).

130:

Early on Heteromeles mentioned that some corporate execs share several characteristics in common with parasites... however, the corporation itself is probably the best example of a modern-day vampire (social parasite).

'Blood' would come mostly from Government and include subsidies, tax forgiveness/loopholes, disproportionately trivial penalties for scams, criminal negligence, product/service misrepresentation/non-performance, etc.

Possible analogies would include:
(IRS) tax audit ...wooden stake,
labor unions ... garlic,
"partner" companies ... the court/hangers-on,
human/employee rights orgs ... villagers with pitchforks
tax havens ... crypt/coffin
Board of Directors ... the bats that the vampire disperses into when fleeing the villagers


On the biological side .. isn't the cell's mitochondrion a type of parasite? Or would you say this is a symbiote?

131:

Well, Twilight was originally HP fan fiction, and 50 Shades of Grey was originally Twilight fan fiction, so I suppose those are successful clones...

I know 50 Shades was Twilight ff, but Twilight was HP? Really? Do you have any links?

And the thing about "what's trendy now" is that by the time you identify a trend and push out a book for it, the trend has generally passed.

I'm not suggesting Charlie should follow any trends. Just curious.

I'm pretty sure there are enough authors who can write a book in a couple of months, so they at least can follow the trends. I would hesitate to call them "writers", though.

132:

On the biological side .. isn't the cell's mitochondrion a type of parasite? Or would you say this is a symbiote?

It's an organelle that used to be an organism long time ago.

133:
I'm pretty sure there are enough authors who can write a book in a couple of months, so they at least can follow the trends. I would hesitate to call them "writers", though.
Like that notorious hack Michael Moorcock, who wrote the Elric books in three to ten days each.
134:

Back to the original topic, Charlie covered elves and werewolves on twitter.

Elves: Dagda Dé Danann beat the elves/Fomorians/fey folk in war, they agreed to cede half of Ireland to humans. Dagda considered it, and chose the top half, forcing the elves into the underground; taken literally they now wage an asymmetric war from there kidnapping human children, replacing them with doppleganger spies, sabotaging things as "gremlins", and generally just being a bunch of scary, pointy-eared, psychopathic fuckers.


Werewolves: apply modern knowledge of wolf psychology and social structure to the mythos; which was previously based off complete misunderstanding from studying those in zoos (where they had been ripped away from their social group and thrown in with others so unfamiliar they don't even speak the same "language" resulting in a prison yard violence style situation) or those who are running into farmers (generally starving to the point where the extreme danger of going after human stock or humans themselves is the least bad option). Have them meet up with stock werewolves and their comparatively toxic take on things.

Vampires: As above (or if you want to go with the take that nosferatu = unbreathing disease bearing nocturnal cannibal you have the Peter Watts take - they may have prion resistance but their prey won't, so their bite could infect you with CJD even if you got away, never mind all the other nasties that live in a pre-modern dental care mouth)

Unicorns: see Equoid

Zombies: some sort of Ophiocordyceps; the old cachet of zombie being useful tools of the sorcerer/voodoo has more or less died since the 70s in favor of them as a hungry swarm

Centaur: maybe combine with the kelpie and have it be more like the Alligator snapping turtle? as in, the "looks human" part is there to attract prey, then the rest of the creature, previously submerged, attacks.


135:

It's somewhat closer to the inverse. Mitochondria are the generators for our cells, and without them we'd die quickly. Mitochondria are descended from free-living bacteria that were engulfed but not digested by the ancestors of our nuclear cells, so one might even posit (wrongly) that cells parasitize mitochondria. The reason this is wrong is that a bunch of mitochondrial genes are now found in the nuclei, so neither the eukaryotic cell nor the organelle can exist without the other.

136:

Since I've taught ecology, I'd point out that it's much harder to do than you might think. There are some interesting ways to screw it up, too.

The basic problem with ecology is that the learning curve is a sigmoid. There's a bunch of basic stuff that seems almost too trivial to care about, and then there's the high level lateral thinking stuff that most people get. In between is a very steep learning curve.

The key problem is that ecology is based on lateral thinking. Since general ecology is taught in college, if the students haven't been exposed to lateral thinking before they get there, they're in deep trouble, just as anyone in a taxonomy or anatomy class is in deep trouble if they've never had to memorize anything before they get to college (sadly, it happens. Teach your kids how to memorize things, like songs, poems, foreign languages, and the names of bugs and dinosaurs, when they're really young, okay? Get those tablets away from them).

I was actually lucky enough to go through a "fluffy bunny" ecology class that was actually about lateral thinking, and it worked great. For students who are struggling with the concept, I've recommended reading Sherlock Holmes. It seems silly, but the way he assembles disparate clues into a coherent story is a good way to start learning how to think laterally.

137:

Mythological depictions of vampires are also, by and large, not sexy. (Obviously, succubi and incubi share a certain amount of lineage with the modern vampire, and in some cases *are* sexy -- specifically the 'demon lover' variety. But, these beings are not the living dead.)

Vampires in mythology have a pretty wide range of attributes, but vampirism is almost universally not passed virally (that seems to have first appeared in western europe and the united states in the eighteenth century, connecting with the association with tuberculosis; yet, in most cases, the vampirism is passed along family lines). The borderline between vampires and other revenants in mythology is vague -- the strigoi is in some ways closer to the Haitian idea of the zombi than a mythological vampire, insomuch as it is repelled by salt, and very similar to the hungry ghost insomuch as it's defined by a literal hunger associated with its greed in life. In some cases, vampires are even more generic and not even anthropomorphic -- Serbian romani myth had vampire watermelons and vampire pumpkins because any object left outdoors during a certain time period would become vampiric (yet their behavior sounds less like any other variation on a vampire and more like the 'household yokai' of japanese myth -- umbrellas, shoes, and other objects that come to life and bother their owners if not showed the proper respect and maintained).

We can't lay this all on Stoker, because he was not the first to try to combine vampirism with sexuality in pop culture. Instead, perhaps blame Varney the Vampire -- a long-running victorian serial about a down-on-his-luck vampire from a fallen aristocratic line who gets into a wide variety of comic situations while attempting to marry into wealthy families. While Varney was not a particularly frightening figure (he was more pitiable and despicable), he's essentially the reason why vampires are aristocratic in western pop culture (insomuch as Varney influenced Stoker), and we can also blame him for the idea of the lecherous vampire. Stoker, of course, synthesized this with elements from Carmilla, added subtexts of science versus magic and fear of immigrants, and produced something that's lasted a bit longer in the public consciousness.

Over the twentieth century, a certain amount of the creepiness of Dracula has been filed away in pop culture vampires. Few of them have attributes taken from pre-Stoker folklore; yet, even Stoker portrayed his vampires as clearly alien in a variety of unpleasant ways (hairy palms, awful breath). Since then (starting with the 1933 Universal Studios adaptation), attributes have changed in ways that are clearly attributable to two trends: the sexualization of vampires, and the marketing power of flashy visuals. In Stoker's Dracula, a stake to the heart merely keeps a vampire in place (which corresponds to the folkloric use of the stake to the heart) and the vampire then needs to be beheaded, drawn, and quartered; sunlight does not kill Dracula, but does prevent him from shape-shifting. In the modern conception, a stake through the heart turns a vampire into a cloud of dust, and sunlight causes a vampire to spontaneously combust. As vampire movies became more profitable, it began to make sense to cast big stars as vampires, keep them sexually attractive, and make them progressively more of an aspirational figure (in the same way that the profitability of superhero movies is inversely proportional to the amount of time those superheros spend in masks -- you cast an A-lister as Spiderman and you expect to get your money's worth in terms of exposure).

138:

Regarding a fluid field model being a more modern development than discrete categories: trying to model everything as fluids is a distinctly 19th-20th century approach, and is creaking at the seams. 21st century approaches from computer science, statistical mechanics, multi-agent systems, and linguistics keep components discrete when they really should not be modelled as fractional entities, while still being scalable like fluid models for the parts of the system that do behave like fluids. Thinking about ecology in terms of differential equations is a useful simplification that leads to nice models for well-behaved systems. However, important differences like parasites being absent or present really should be modelled via hybrid systems that explicitly model discrete behaviour, and I don't think trying to shoehorn them into a differential equation view of the world is especially useful.

Or did you mean something else altogether? (A maximum likelihood estimate of intended meaning has a large variance when applied to an oblique/literary style of referencing. So it is hard to tell.)

139:

It seems entirely possible that the unpredictably aggressive behaviour of hippos is due to sporadic sharp discomfort from P. jaegerskioeldi activity.

140:

I was looking for vampire origin stories and found this 1955 article ... female mosquitoes digest human blood more rapidly in the dark so a bit of science to explain why vampires are likelier to arrive at your doorstep at dusk. Couldn't find if this is also true of leeches.

http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=BI9560125.pdf

Interesting 4-page article below ... vampire bats and some leeches have similar digestive attributes. Also explains why mammals are the preferred food group for bloodsuckers: have a much higher concentration of erythrocytes.(Hmmm ... my off-the-cuff myeloid hypothesis may not be entirely wrong.)

http://www.biopharm-leeches.com/uploads/1/2/6/2/12624111/bioandbehav.pdf

141:

Hmm. The white-winged vampire bat (Diaemus youngi, one of the three vampire bat species) reportedly prefers bird blood to mammalian blood. Where I live, the local ticks (fortunately) feed on lizards as well as mammals, fortunately because the Lyme disease spirochaete they can carry apparently can't survive in a tick that's full of lizard blood, and that's why we don't have many cases of Lyme disease here. Then there are all those assassin bugs that go after insect hemolymph.

So no, I'm not sure this is the case.

I'd also point out, in passing, that there appear to be more avian vampire species than bat vampire species (tetzoo reference). This is a trope we could really sink our, erm, beaks into.

142:

Many years ago, my late wife and I were at a Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas, and we heard a Native American storyteller, who told us this one: one day, a tribe discovered that a wendigo had moved into their area. A wendigo is a horrific, humanoid monster, anthropophagic, that could run at great speed, and their feet seemed to be on fire. They *may* have once been human, and changed by something (no clue). (There's a *great* song about a wendigo.). They come from northern North American legends.

At any rate, the tribe got together to try to figure out what to do. What they decided was to dig a deep pit, and put stakes on the bottom, and cover it over with branches and fallen leaves. Then their fastest runners would draw straws, which they did, and the one with the short straw went out looking for the wendigo, while the rest hid near the trap.

Finally, he found the wendigo, and turned and ran, as fast as he could, with the wendigo following. Just as it was closing in, he reached the trap and leapt over it. The wendigo, following, ran on it, and fell into the pit. Then all the people came out, and threw rocks down on it, until the wendigo burst into a million pieces... and each piece flew up, and began biting the people.

They still are to this day, though we call them mosquitoes.

mark

143:

Thanks - very interesting! I'll keep a closer eye on those playful little finches visiting my backyard.

Guess you get first nebs ... (erm) ... dibs ... on the bird vampire sequel.

144:

question to you as a person in the know: what are the current trends in fiction?

If you find out, could you let me know? My editors would like to know too.

What you see being published this year was put into production 12 months ago. It was written 12-24 months ago, probably to contracts signed 2-4 years ago, and therefore reflects buying policy as it stood 5+ years ago.

Nobody knows what's popular right now. If they did, they could make a mint.

145:

Thanks for the dibs, but I figure it's open for everyone. Remember the stirges from D&D? Here's some biology. Have fun.

Chirp.

146:

Hi:

Let's see if I can reposition this as not a complete derail from the current topic ... Ahem ...

The sexy vampire trope is a re-coupling of two different guaranteed sellers ... sex and gore (vampires and parasites) ...that which attracts and that which frightens/repels. You'd never think these opposites would ever hit it off as a couple, but book and movie ticket revenues say they do. So, let's look at where else such couplings of opposites might also occur ... the economy and the environment. (Today is Earth Day.)

http://www.nature.com/news/decoupled-ideals-1.17363?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20150423

And the manifesto is here:

http://static1.squarespace.com/static/5515d9f9e4b04d5c3198b7bb/t/552d37bbe4b07a7dd69fcdbb/1429026747046/An+Ecomodernist+Manifesto.pdf

147:

I'm not even sure I'm capable of lateral thinking any more. Hard to self-judge, apophenia and all that[1].

Or did you mean something else altogether? (A maximum likelihood estimate of intended meaning has a large variance when applied to an oblique/literary style of referencing. So it is hard to tell.)

I'll level with you: my depth / expertise is no-where near many (if not most) in this thread[2], and I like to attempt humor. Think of it as being a court jester, King Lear style; it's an anti-crossword type of playing.

Parse out "fluid field" into ecology informing other disciplines (&where most like spending their time), my mentioning it having rapidly changed, non-linear systems, boundaries, the bit you mentioned, and so on.

It was just a terrible joke / pun.[3]


In the spirit of the thread: sexy stuff SF hasn't mined. I noticed Blindsight was mentioned, and the most famous part of that is the entire "vampires can see both the duck and the rabbit at the same time" mental schema element. So we can't do simple stuff.

Which lead to the wonderful world of
haustorium. These are the bits that allow penetration of hosts, and several of these alter their host's biochemistry to grow extra organs[3] (in plants) like so.

So, if we don't go down the macabre route (warning language)[4], you can posit a parasite / symbiote that is indeed passed on down via the sperm and alters your progeny.

But then we're stuck in chimeras, which has been mined.

So, back to transposable elements: posit a parasite that alters both the environment (suddenly a large percent of the population start loving Pop Music) and the gene expression of its hosts.

Which is basically what sexually reproduced DNA is expressed over populations. (Fashion, Rubens, and so forth).

TL;DR

I've not seen anyone write about parasites causing chimeras / host bodies with extra organs they might be unaware of. Oryx and Crake is close, but that's deliberate and direct.

*hat tip to Elderly Cynic for this bit of thinking*

p.s.

Cats / Dogs are symbiotic bio-weapons just for reference. Canines in particular have altered H.S.S' minds more than most people like to acknowledge.


[1] A little bit is useful, a lot is a bad idea[tm]
[2] A link for you, which really does do fluid and ecologies: warning, large file
[3] This is a bit fuzzy - I'm fairly sure you can find direct evidence for this, but I was hungry and wandered off this part
[4] For all values where it's actually also true.
[5]And a daily dose of the anti-Thatcherisms

148:

And before I really outstay my welcome, this is a really delightful paper on bat parasites altering their behaviours, including defensive mechanisms and wound management in mice. (Warning: large)

http://jeb.biologists.org/content/216/1/11.full.pdf

149:

Re:

"These are the bits that allow penetration of hosts, and several of these alter their host's biochemistry to grow extra organs[3] (in plants) like so."

.... Excerpt from link ...
"We provide evidence for the localized production of H2O2 at the Striga root tip and suggest how this oxidant is used to exploit host peroxidases and cell wall pectins to generate a simple benzoquinone signal."

Well, that finally explains peroxide blondes' success at finding new hosts: they literally get under their host's skin.

150:

A little series of possible urban legends re. Vampires:
1) there exists a heritable condition that affects blood forming and other things. Those suffering have often retreated gums (giving the appearance og longer teeth), don't like sun and can alleviate the symptons by consuming animal blood. Or, presumably, black pudding. I've also heard that they don't stand garlic well.
2) This is common in central romanian mountains
3) In the 30ties, on professor at the Technical University Munich (They also have medicine) had an assistant suffering from this condition, whom he also examined a lot and learned a lot about blood that way.
4) the prof had to use some clout to protect his assistant, or guinea pig, from the Nazis as he had a heritable disease. After said assitant passed away, the prof kept the body in alcohol in a small room off a hallway in the cellar (the one passing under the court, connecting norht and south wing) until ...
5) in the 50ties or so some students found the sarcophagus and drank the alcohol.

151:

... It was written 12-24 months ago, probably to contracts signed 2-4 years ago, and therefore reflects buying policy as it stood 5+ years ago.

Nobody knows what's popular right now. If they did, they could make a mint.

It sounds like publishers are starting to find out what's popular now, by seeing which parts of their buying policy 5 years ago are paying off.

So to make a mint you'd want to know what will be popular 5 years from now, and somehow get it past today's buying policies.

152:

Two weeks on, and I'm still giggling at the thought of the look on your co-panellists' faces less than a minute into the panel when you came out with this little gem. :-)

153:

You write this as if humans are so much better (instead of being some sort of scavenger monkey which mostly finds itself so hideous it feels compelled to adorns itself with protective scraps - much like a hermit crab, except lamer).

Seriously, though, our hormonal systems are multi-purpose, and our awareness is tuned mostly to notice changes rather than absolutes. And there is something rather horrifying about creating a pain inducing and shit producing little leech (even if it is milk sucking rather than blood sucking and even if it has a cute little nose) which will drain your life for years to come (if all goes well).

Anyways, I suppose it's all a matter of perspective. Our species depends on people being willing to go through the pain and misery of it all, and survive passably well while doing so, so it should not be surprising that we wind up with all sorts of mixed feelings - both strongly positive and strongly negative - when considering such issues.

Nor should it be surprising to find echos of these feelings when dealing with analogies.

154:

Re: parasites

BRANDS OF MAYONNAISE TO AVOID

any that advertise "Bring out the Helminths, and bring out the best!"

155:

Actually, there's a use for flatworms, and it has to do with time travelers.

One of the things time travel SFF never talks about is the problem of traveler's diarrhea. After all, microbes evolve very rapidly. If you get transported a few hundred years, let alone many centuries, you're probably going to have a miserable experience until your intestinal system adapts, if it ever does.

One solution is to tailor a whole gut ecosystem. Use
--tapeworms as apex predators to control any invasive species,
--amoebae that can store bacteria in their cytoplasm as refugia for normal gut bacteria, so that if the normal flora are overwhelmed, there is a place for the old flora to recolonize from,
--a wide variety of bacteria to cope with many nutritional substrates, from processed sugar to cycad seeds and stegosaur menudo,
--potentially bacteriophages (either internal or administered on entering a particular time) to go after potentially pathogenic bacteria.

Of course this adds a really uncomfortable quarantine period to the recruiting of any time cadet, but heck, it makes readers think about the real problems with time travel...

156:

This maybe more along the lines of sexy, rather than parasites, but I was thinking about orchids and wasps, don't know the species off the top of my head.
Anyway, the premise is a species that appears sexy too another species eg specific orchid to wasp. Wasp goes mates with orchid, gets covered in pollen, then goes mates with another orchid, orchids happy, Wasp happy as far as it knows.


I can't think of a supernatural example of this but I kind of wish there was.

I can see a rich vein of sparkle vampire like fiction where rather than sucking blood our supernatural entity needs to get it on with humans and then have said human get it on with other supernatural entities.
Could be written for sexy eg sparkle vampires.
Or horror, possibly close to Charlie's angler fish, with less emphasis on food.

Extra twist could be 'pollen' could change our humans behavior/personality/appearance, maybe some sort of Reinfields.

157:

As in: "The price of everything & the value of nothing" you mean?
Oscar had a very good point, there.

158:

Mr Lucidity #156,

I'm fairly sure I've seen the basic plot of H.G Wells' "The Flowering of the Strange Orchid" reworked so the attraction is visual rather than olfactory.

159:

Yes
"Seeing but not observing/recognising or understanding..." Conan Doyle used Holmes to good effect there.
Example I used last week on a course reagding "meeja" interaction ... I went for a walk with a forend & "botanised" as we went - he had done said walk several time before, but had not "seen" what I noted in the hedgerows - including one plant that I'd never spotted before - I had to look it up, afterwards.
Thus do we learn, if we are awake enough.

160:

Succubus = Sleep paralyisis / "vivid immobile dream"
Very scary, if you don't know what's happening.
And still scary, even if you do ....

161:

"The basic problem with ecology is that the learning curve is a sigmoid. ... In between is a very steep learning curve."

Very much so. I have always been interested in it, and know
enough of the mathematical principles needed to explain it are
HARD. Seriously hard, even for good mathematician/statisticians.
Non-linear, non-deterministic feedback systems are not taught
in even most immediate post-graduate courses. But I fully agree
with CatinaDiamond that we need more people to think in those
terms, especially in economics and politics. And, yes, as Oscar
said, value is a not simply a matter of counting the pounds.

But let's get back to fiction. One of the things that irritates
me about a huge amount of fiction (not just fantasy and science
fiction) are the obvious inconsistencies in the background, when
view as an ecology. You can accept a lot when it is used just to
create the environment for the purpose, but it really grates when
they make the purpose self-denying. Yes, Ayn Rand, I am thinking
of Atlas Shrugged. Tolkein's dwarves are another, but less
central, example.

162:

The old incubus/succubus myth: succubi slept with men to gather sperm, shapeshifted to incubi and impregnated women with it.

(The myth taking this shape was a consequence of the same Christian theology that had Tolkien tied in knots about the origin of orcs - the inability of anything but God to create.)

163:

On bankers as vampires: There is a song, very famous in Portugal, called "Os Vampiros" ["The Vampires"]. It was written by Zeca Afonso, many of whose songs were protests against the Salazar dictatorship. (Indeed his "Grândola, Vila Morena" was broadcast over the radio as one of the signals to start the revolution that ended the dictatorship in 1974.)

In this song, it is, I think, the politicians and generals who are the vampires. "Through a grey sky ... on velvet feet, they come in bands, drinking the blood fresh from the herd. They eat everything, they eat everything, they eat everything, and leave nothing". Hearing it still makes my spine tingle.

Lyrics and chords here on José João A. G. Dias de Almeida's excellent Portuguese music site. English translation here at LyricsTranslate. It's missing the translation for the line "Batendo as asas", which should be "Beating their wings".

164:

If we're going to talk about social parasitism in the style of ants, I must point out that my household contains two social parasites. They eat and excrete and sleep and squabble with each other, and from time to time they provide tactile stimulation and make noises that I find pleasant (usually called "purring"). Really it's hard to see much difference from the apparent enjoyment with which ants feed and groom their social parasites.

There's a big difference between cats and ants. Consider the average cat. It clambers on your lap, sits there for three minutes, licks a front paw, falls off, stares at the window for two seconds, turns round and stares away from the window for half a second, glances at nothing, turns round again and stares at the window for a minute, rolls onto its back, lets you stroke its tummy for five seconds, clamps its teeth and front claws round your sock (while purring insanely), and then runs off to begin licking its back feet. Intelligent response to environmental stimuli; or a random-number generator? Ants are more focussed.

Sadly, I have to conclude that it's a jolly good thing cats became social parasites, because they're clearly not capable of holding an intention for long enough to survive in any other niche.

Does this teach us anything about vampires? If they're like cats, they probably have smaller brains, and thus smaller heads, than had their pre-parasitic ancestors. In fact, since evolution abhors wasted material, their heads are probably so small as to look out well out of normal human proportions, and thus not at all sexy.

165:

Sadly, I have to conclude that it's a jolly good thing cats became social parasites, because they're clearly not capable of holding an intention for long enough to survive in any other niche.

You just described a cat who'd far rather be outside hunting and socialising than stuck indoors with only a human for rather poor mental stimulation. It sounds bored out of its poor little skull, and the sooner it evolves that smaller brain the happier it'll be.

Ours may be odd on occasion (seriously, I don't need my beard groomed, thank you, I'm not your kitten), but we're pretty sure they could cope if all humans just disappeared, pedigree though they are.

166:

There's a recently discovered twist on an old story. Wasp lays eggs on a ladybug. Ladybug stands guard on pupating wasp etc. Thought to be mediated by wasp poison. Not so. Recent twist is it turns out a virus is controlling both wasp and ladybug for it's own ends.

http://news.sciencemag.org/brain-behavior/2015/02/wasp-virus-turns-ladybugs-zombie-babysitters

Could make a story where the obvious events disguise a deeper horror. Baddie turns out to be co-victim. Something like that.

167:

Maybe the sexiness is older than movies. But the audience was much smaller then. I don't think _Nosferatu_ showed a sexy vampire. I think it was the choice of actors that created the modern sexy stereotype.

168:

You might have missed a turn there. The social parasites on ants aren't ants. What they are is everything from mites to caterpillar larvae.

For example, there are mites that attach to army ant feet and suck blood, but they also act as substitute feet for ants while they are attached. Think of a pair of vampiric high heels if you wish. They'd hurt your feet, but they're so cute, they feel like they're a basic part of your identity.

The caterpillar larvae fake the ants into thinking that the caterpillars are their children, so they get extra care. That's what many cats and dogs are bred to do to us.

In general, the reason to look at ants for parasite memes is that it's easier to hack the ants' social code than it is to hack ours, and they've been around much longer than humans have. I have no doubt that, if we're around for a few more million years, we'll have picked up our own huge cadre of social parasites too.

169:

Had to clean my screen after reading this - couldn't hold back the laugh!

Yep - the tapeworm diet is still around.


170:
Ours may be odd on occasion (seriously, I don't need my beard groomed, thank you, I'm not your kitten), but we're pretty sure they could cope if all humans just disappeared, pedigree though they are.

Can use a tin opener can they? Cats with opposable thumbs is the stuff of traditional nightmares!! Opposable thumbs and a bit more intelligence. There's an advertising take on this here (for milk) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6CcxJQq1x8 . Don't get me wrong, I like cats, particularly my new kitten (http://www.computationaldemonology.com/kitten) but there is something slightly sinister about them. Naked self-interest in a fur coat. As Pratchett said:

If cats looked like frogs we'd realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That's what people remember.”
― Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies

I'm sure there's room for a story where cats develop a form of intelligence or some weird analogue of intelligence that enables them to better exploit their position in human society but they keep their essential bastard nature. Not Kzin who "scream and leap" but a more thoughtful sadism, or lack of empathy. (But possibly sadists have higher than average empathy, else how else can they savor your experience of pain?).

Bob has a cat now, IIRC? Oh the possibilities... Though traditionally cats are mere containers for more esoteric entities, I'd prefer cats in and of themselves what with their half-world experience and so on.

171:

If no one has mentioned hookworms yet, best way to catch them is walk around the village latrine area barefoot, then it's in through your toe and eventually chewing on your intestines.
Also Helminthic Therapy is apparently a thing, which maybe kind of awesome if it works, parasite helps people fix their allergies.

172:

Actually, shouldn't it be, by your own reasoning, wanting to know what will be popular two years from now?

That does pose an interesting question, if you knew what will be popular two years from now, but it will be something that you were not interested in writing, would you still do it?

173:

I forgot that part of the sucubus myth :-) it would fit, but I was thinking more of using humans as a vector for something else's reproductive material rather than the something being the vector for human reproductive material.

174:

I'm sure there's room for a story where cats develop a form of intelligence or some weird analogue of intelligence that enables them to better exploit their position in human society but they keep their essential bastard nature.
Does the Sphinxian Treecat fit the bill?

175:

I have an escape clause: you folks. That is to say, I write what I want to write and that I think you guys will enjoy reading. (This is not what you say you want to read when asked, because very often what comes out is "write another, just like the last one!" rather than, more accurately, "write another, that makes me feel sort of like the last one did!" ... But you get the picture.)

176:

How about if I say "Write anything you like except the novel-length version of Palimpsest (I struggled through the novella). BTW 'The Rhesus Chart' is presently my favourite Laundry novel"?

177:
Does the Sphinxian Treecat fit the bill?

Don't know but Google is my friend! Sounds just sinister enough, just by name. How is it on riddles?

Just read the Wiki, sounds cool.And possibly Japanese.

I have had to dash out of the house 3 times in the last hour because my kitten wants to escape, now it is asleep on my keyboard. Hence spelling...

Pictures up later!

178:

"write another, that makes me feel sort of like the last one did!"

- Exactly! My experience/enjoyment of the Laundry is half 'Yea, I always thought so too' and half 'I never looked at it this way before, but yea!'.

179:

Here's an interesting one - although it's a defensive strategy:

We discovered that superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) females call to their eggs, and upon hatching, nestlings produce begging calls with key elements from their mother’s “incubation call.”...

We conclude that wrens use a parent-specific password learned embryonically to shape call similarity with their own young and thereby detect foreign cuckoo nestlings.

PDF

What's interesting about it is that the audio priming is done while the egg is developing - showing that there's some kind of learning mechanism going on.

For SF, let's imagine a siren / chameleon who can sing the songs of your birth then turn around and chomp on you. Or, a genetic proof of "glamour".

180:

In general, the reason to look at ants for parasite memes is that it's easier to hack the ants' social code than it is to hack ours, and they've been around much longer than humans have. I have no doubt that, if we're around for a few more million years, we'll have picked up our own huge cadre of social parasites too.

We already have. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ...

181:

Sadly, I have to conclude that it's a jolly good thing cats became social parasites, because they're clearly not capable of holding an intention for long enough to survive in any other niche.

You just described a cat who'd far rather be outside hunting and socialising than stuck indoors with only a human for rather poor mental stimulation. It sounds bored out of its poor little skull, and the sooner it evolves that smaller brain the happier it'll be.

Lest anyone accuse me of maltreatment, I hurry to add that it's not my cat. And I don't want to derail this thread: I don't know whether the topic of cats counts as an SA. But I would like to know why the cat behaves as it does. It needn't be bored: it has a cat flap, and a garden, and neighbouring gardens, and neighbouring cats, and probably mice and rats to hunt, if suburban Oxford not far from playing fields and a canal can provide these. It certainly has birds.

182:

Sounds like cat is just being an asshole, then. Or young. Or both.

183:

A twist on the vampire theme: Damon Knight's short story "Eripmav". Sap-sucking vampire on a planet of intelligent plants; is eventually killed by a steak through its heart.

184:

You might have missed a turn there. The social parasites on ants aren't ants. What they are is everything from mites to caterpillar larvae.

For example, there are mites that attach to army ant feet and suck blood, but they also act as substitute feet for ants while they are attached. Think of a pair of vampiric high heels if you wish. They'd hurt your feet, but they're so cute, they feel like they're a basic part of your identity.

Point taken. I wasn't reading carefully, and thought the social parasites were the ants, not the animals on the ants. Anyway, your vampiric high heels remind me of Glirindree, the demon that disguises itself as a sword and parasitises on the barbarian warrior Belhap Sattlestone Wirldess ag Maracloat roo Cononson in Larry Niven's "Not Long Before the End". Niven has an elegant and rational way of draining all magical power from the vicinity of the demon, thus revealing its true nature.

185:

Yep. Actually, I wonder what would happen if Randall Monroe got hold of Niven's spinner. There's probably a nasty XKCD What-if lurking in the way Niven set that one up.

Anyway, the original point is simply that, if you're looking for newish parasite tropes, Journey to the Ants is a good resource.

186:

Yep. Actually, I wonder what would happen if Randall Monroe got hold of Niven's spinner. There's probably a nasty XKCD What-if lurking in the way Niven set that one up.

If the spinner works at any scale, you could make molecular spinners. It might be good to confine them inside voids in crystals to avoid interference from air molecules. The result would be a magic-eating dust that would debilitate invisibly. Useful in a magic-based medical murder mystery. I was going to call it pixie dust, but I suspect a technically more correct name is anti-pixie dust.

187:

Furthermore, if the laws of mana are time-reversal invariant, the Niven spinner could be used to inject magic into a region, spinning itself down in so doing. Portable flywheel mana storage.

188:

But then you lose the whole 1970s we're running out of fossil fuel vibe that kind of powered that series of stories. It also means that later magicians, by definition, would be a bunch of cranks...

189:

Cranks. Aargh. But anyway, there was also a 'we're going to cause massive environmental catastrophe' vibe in Niven's series. Atlantis was tectonically unstable, held above the waves only by spells administered by its sorcerer-king. Once the mana ran out, Atlantis went under. This is now strongly reminding me of the earthquake-catastrophe stories "The Eve of RUMOKO" and "We All Die Naked" in the 1969 collection Three For Tomorrow.

I was trying to work out how to replace this by a 2010s 'climate change' vibe. The trouble is that mana has no breakdown products. If you use mana to give a hovel the seeming of a palace, or to disguise a demon as a sword, this doesn't generate waste heat, gases, or anything else that could affect the environment. Using mana to power vehicles or otherwise generate motion would, because the kinetic energy would eventually degrade to heat. But did enough people use it that way?

The best I can come up with is that mana has been used to inhibit warming-causing geological phenomena, e.g. the release of methane from its clathrates, and that these resume once it runs out.

190:

Gene Wolfe had some weird plant on plant vampirism. I believe those same vampires became more animal like in order to feed on animal hosts. (It's Wolfe. It gets weird and it's possible that I did not actually understand what was vamping on what, but that is my reading today and I'm sticking with it.) What makes this more interesting is that he and Knight were very close, but I have never heard anybody mention the Knight story as a possible inspiration.

191:

Here's a dumb idea. There is, depending on who's counting, 80,000-200,000 years of human history before we get to civilization. We know those people weren't stupid: look at their cave paintings, for instance. Those weren't nearly as crude as, say, the paintings on Grecian bronze age pottery. Now generally we associated crudeness with primitiveness, so there's something really weird about extremely good art in extremely primitive circumstances. When did they have time to practice so much to get so good?

Here's the idea: magic and sustainability. Sustainability isn't rocket science by a long shot. It's more a matter of making sure you've got all the resources you need in your territory, year in, year out. We're actually outliers in the category of not being able to do this very well.

Sustainability also implies invisibility in the fossil record. After all, if you're recycling everything you use or need, you're not leaving any waste behind.

So what if our ancient ancestors were using magic to make their civilization sustainable? It wasn't a matter of mining the earth or anything so noticeable. Rather, it was a matter of making sure everything worked in their world, ice age monsters and all.

Then the magic was used up around 12,000 years ago, and that's when the Pleistocene megafaunal die-off started, primarily in areas that humans had colonized later, so that the wildlife hadn't had the time to adjust to living in a low magic world. Humans insisted on trying to recapture that golden age magical life even though they had no more magic. In desperation, they turned to domesticating species, fiddling with making lime, then kiln-fired pottery, then copper, bronze, iron, and so forth. We've always been on a quest for that golden age, even trying to make our objects talk to us through the fake of technology. But without magic, it just can't be done, as we're demonstrating now.

Is that the kind of thing you're looking for, perhaps?

192:

The trouble is that mana has no breakdown products. If you use mana to give a hovel the seeming of a palace, or to disguise a demon as a sword, this doesn't generate waste heat, gases, or anything else that could affect the environment. Using mana to power vehicles or otherwise generate motion would, because the kinetic energy would eventually degrade to heat. But did enough people use it that way?

The best I can come up with is that mana has been used to inhibit warming-causing geological phenomena, e.g. the release of methane from its clathrates, and that these resume once it runs out.

You don't need to directly mimic the outcomes of climate change. If you want to replace the 1970s vibe with a 2010s vibe, the underlying resource crisis theme switches to "too much" from "not enough." That is, the problems that arrive aren't because the fossil fuels/mana run out. It's because the waste products of humans using them are building up and we don't have the restraint to cut back any time soon.

Who's to say mana use doesn't leave any waste products? Maybe there are mana cycles mediated by biology and geology. Magical life is sensitive to the availability of mana in various forms. What humans consider "spent" mana is actually a key nutrient for some magical creatures. Discharge too much spent mana and you get algal blooms, err midichlorian blooms, in nearby water. Mandrakes smothering the land like kudzu. Animals that thrive on the magical plant life crowding out the non-magical natives. The old magicians thought that mana was used once and gone simply because they didn't understand the deepness of time or work out the natural conservation laws of mana. Now we're releasing a 100 million year accumulation of mana across a few centuries and it is leading to some alarming effects, but the most powerful guilds of mages are claiming that the models are uncertain. The changes we're seeing could be natural astrological fluctuations rather than the outcome of human mana extraction, for instance. In any case the Atlantean way of life is not negotiable!

193:

No-one who played Final Fantasy 7 here, is there? The government/corporate entity in the game invented reactors to convert the raw stuff of magic to electricity. Oops! Turns out it's basically congealed Gaia and burning it for power will kill the entire biosphere. New plan needed. The player group attempt to come up with said new plan; they are explicitly called eco-terrorists.

194:

Since we're talking about parasites, how about the Yeerks from the Animorphs?

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

It's basically the parasites from the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. However, Book 19 and the book "Visser" introduce the parasite's morality. There's a good fanfiction if anyone's interested

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/224135/1/The_Perspective

I've only read a few chapters, but it captures the gist of the story itself.

195:

On cats as social parasites.
What if someone works to develop a vaccine or treatment to make humans resistant to the cuteness of cats. Or maybe a treatment for toxoplasmosis, some sort of virus or counter parasite.
This treatment or infection is too effective, people are not just resistant to cats they actively loath them and destroy them on sight. An accidental Screwfly Solution for cats.
Wars fought between those still uneffected and those on a cat pogram. Mass feline extinction. The horror.

Unintended consequence: the internet now no longer held back by the retarding weight of cat pictures and videos achieves sentience... Bam, Singularity. You're welcome.

There's no supernatural element? But this was all a power play between the Egyption gods, limit the number of cats limit the power of Bast. No cats left, no more Bast. A god dies... Bam, Code Nightmare Cat. You're welcome.

I feel people will be reading more stories like this in the next few years.

196:

it has a cat flap, and a garden, and neighbouring gardens, and neighbouring cats, and probably mice and rats to hunt

Please don't do this, it shows a total lack of awareness about what Felis silvestris catus are as a species. It's also an anthropomorphic abomination of misplaced ignorance.

Cat qua Cat.

You're essentially unleashing a small bio-weapon onto the native fauna and being amused that said bio-weapon is being fed at home and killing off vast numbers of actually wild species when it purrs on its return.

It's one of the largest reasons native / wild species go extinct.

As I said: Humans without Ecology education are fucking dangerous, and this is just the tip.

197:

Not even wrong
You will get hate-mail for that, unless you are lucky.

Look, "wild" cats are semi-solitary high-speed/short-distance carnivorous predators, OK?

BUT

Their "use" from a merely human pov is that their primary prey is usuall small ( & not-so-samll) rodents.
Birds are secondary.
You are repeating an entirely false meme about cats wiping out bird species.
Not so.
Certainly in the London suburbs & near-countryside, it isn't cats that are munching down on the bird-species in increasing numbers. { NOTE }
There are two other "predators" that have become much commoner in the past 20 years, both of which regard young birds & eggs as ready-to-eat snacks:
Grey Squirrels & Magpies.
Between them, these account for silly numbers of nestling birds & eggs.
Magpies are proabably too crafty to be caught by cats ( though our previous Birman tom nearly got one, by a deliberate ruse ) but (grey) squirrels are certainly vulnerable to cat-predation, I'm glad to say.

NOTE: IF cats are so responsible, how come there is ecological room for two other predatory species, now living on the peripheries of London, that have not been seen in those areas, since shotgums became available, if not before?
I'm referring to the Red Kite, see to the W & NW of the capital & Buzzards, which live only 11 miles form me, in sight of the M11/M25 junction.

198:

No-one who played Final Fantasy 7 here, is there?
There is now. I just didn't see Shinra Corp as the main threat in FF7.

199:

Cats come in all varieties of intelligence and socialization/education.

My Siamese had been taught by a previous owner not to go into kitchens (I don't know why.) She also lay in the perfect spot in the bed not to bother people. My other cat could not find her way home if she fell (pushed her way) out of the screen window. She would just sit in a random doorway until someone found her. She also could not figure out that trying to sleep on people's heads was why she eventually could not be in the bedroom. (While she was alive my Siamese reserved the right to sleep with the humans for the Queen alone. I thought it was simple dominance, but it is possible that she knew her minion was too dumb to be allowed on the pile.)

200:

I'm going to ignore the cat hater, ok.

I do know someone who's cat is definitely an apex predator, and regards grey squirrel as a prey species (based on them having been given a freshly killed example of same as a present one balmy Summer night). Said cat is now nicknamed the "silent assassin".

201:

Sean Eric Fagan @ 14 wrote: a McGuire-Stross collaboration would be ... disturbing

You say that like it's a bad thing.

(T'was a really good panel, was timed to be near the end of Eastercon, and thus left attendees with disturbing images in their minds -- so well done, there.)

Perhaps a new verse for Flanders & Swann's song 'The Hippopotamus' is in order? E.g., 'The hippopotamus could not ignore anus.' Und so weiter.

202:

Nope, it's not magpies (which are beautiful birds in their own right).

203:

"Not even wrong
You will get hate-mail for that, unless you are lucky. ...
... You are repeating an entirely false meme about cats wiping
out bird species."

Actually, I could provide some evidence for CatinaDiamond's
statement (IN THE UK), but I won't. Why bird populations have
dropped in the UK is a complicated issue, and poorly researched.
Whole newsgroups have been turned into battlegrounds by cat wars.
Please, people, call a halt before the moderators have to step in.

204:

Now all we need to do is add a religious element to the cat wars and the evil plan will be complete!! bwwwaahhhha

205:

A wendigo is created when a human engages in cannibalism, and is related to cannibalism taboos -- the idea being, if you eat a human being's flesh, you become addicted to it, and eventually become a non-human creature that can *only* eat human flesh.

One notable result is wendigo psychosis. People raised in the culture of various tribes with wendigo legends, when put in a circumstance where they accidentally engage in cannibalism or are forced into by circumstances (for instance, starvation), develop a delusion that they are wendigos and that they must be killed before their lust for human flesh takes over. It's one of the more famous examples of a culture-bound disorder (the other ones being delusions of having one's penis disappear and delusions of being made of glass).

206:

Another part of the wendigo myth is that, while their hunger can only be satiated by human flesh, every time they do eat human flesh, they get bigger and therefore hungrier and more dangerous. A modern Indian storyteller said that the greatest wendigos of the 20th Century are corporations.

207:

Ok, OT comment coming up.

I shall see The Avengers: Age of Ultron 3D at 19:30 tonight (when the film eventually kicks off...). Am I wasting my time ( being 53 there's not much left, even if my grandmother died at 99, and my mother is going strong at 80 )? Not hard SF, but looks quite amusing. Until then I shall drink the res of the beer and build this server, which may come in useful for something.

Still, Never put off until tomorrow, what you can do today. Because if enjoy doing it today, you can do it again tomorrow!

Does a computer virus count as a parasite? Assuming it doesn't destroy the host before it replicates?

208:

Virii that have your PC join a botnet and/or mine bitcoins for someone else are close enough for an analogy, at least; another entity freeloading on the resources it cost you to acquire, an attacker/defender Red Queen Race, complex behaviour to ward off competitor parasites...

209:

OGH isn't much of a visual media fan, due to eye issues. However ...

My wife and I intend to see it (not tonight, perhaps), and we're older than you are. But we've also seen all the predecessor films, so we'll be interested to hear whether your apparently not having seen them ends up confusing you or not.

A friend of ours saw it in both 3D IMAX and 2D yesterday, and was thinking of going back for a third time. She reports it as being fine in 2D. (Disclaimer: she's more of a fantasy novelist than an SF one, but then this is a superhero film.)

So, go see it. If you don't like the genre, fine. If you do like its genre, it's apparently a pretty good example.

210:
Another part of the wendigo myth is that, while their hunger can only be satiated by human flesh. Another part of the wendigo myth is that, while their hunger can only be satiated by human flesh

Graham Masterton wrote a reasonable horror story about that. I think there was a TV film. Though I was so taken with him at the time, I asked my parents for all his novels for a Saturnalia gift, and ended up with 12-15 bodice rippers by someone of a similar name. Ouch. Not what a 17 year old lad needs in it terms of self esteem, though being considered potentially gay does help in many respect with regard to behaviour. Though it many have helped to have them on display when my first girlfriend first ventured into my rooms... Because I didn't give a damn!

I though Masterton's "cyber way" was excellent and worth a read if you can find it.

211:

ObGrammarPeddant: 'virii'? What's a virius?

(The plural 'viri' would be vaguely defensible if 'virus' were a masculine singular (it's not), but the actual word you're after is 'viruses'.)

ObMuphry: 'Peddant'

212:

Thanks for that.

Yes, seen everything since Lou Ferrango(?) first turned green.

will advise after I've seen it and eaten chinese... Though I know threats get me nowhere.

213:

virus
not the same as a bacterium, but we often confuse the two

which is all the Guardian style guide says! And who is this "we"?

Let's not mention the Hippopotamus in the same context. How about a Cat/Religion/Grammer/Spelling war. It's everything you could want, ensuring the world will end in flame and not with a whimper. Or not.

214:

OK, I'll rise to that one: grammar, assuming you are not referring to the American actor. We pedants must stick together.

215:

What you miss is that cats are intelligent*... but their *type* of intelligence is different than yours. There's been lots of research, and published articles, on how, say, an Australian Bushman is very low IQ... but how the person administering the IQ test to them wouldn't last a few weeks in their environment, and so is very, very low IQ to them.

* I've long said that dogs max out as equivalent to humans between 3 and 5, very, very focused on their parent(s)/master, while cats max out at between 7 and 10, where kids are starting to have their own interests, separate from their parents, and agendas that may well *not* be yours.

mark

216:

Yes, I agree. That's why I said:

a form of intelligence or some weird analogue of intelligence

Most peoples agendas differ from mine. As I imagine the agenda of cats would, if it could conceptualise an agenda

But to imagine a different kind of intelligence is hard! Which is why I like Watts.

217:
OK, I'll rise to that one: grammar, assuming you are not referring to the American actor. We pedants must stick together.

HHummm... To enter the circle of the wise with far too much time on their hands, you must announce the possessive plural of pedant For all to see that you will be known as mighty amongst the wise!

218:

HHummm... To enter the circle of the wise with far too much time on their hands, you must announce the possessive plural of pedant For all to see that you will be known as mighty amongst the wise!

The possessive plural of pedant? "The reality is, ..."

219:

Wot IS this Pendent of Power that is spoken of in Words of Fear and Trembling ... seeks out the same using Incantations of Dread...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=pendent+of+power&client=firefox-a&hs=Lbj&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=f4A6VZTZAsbnarb7gcgH&ved=0CCMQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=561&dpr=2.5

Hang about for awhile, it must be in there somewhere...or did some-one leave it fallen - err...FALLEN! Down the back of the sofa of Impenetrability?

DAMN!! I had it just an hour or so ago!

220:

Age of Ultron is brilliant! Varies a lot from the comics, as you might expect. But well worth seeing. The 3D actually worked with the story!

221:

Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road is an excellent example of the working out of a wendigo myth, set in the grim reality of WWI and its immediate aftermath.

222:

Best 'special cat sense' story: Oscar the therapy cat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_%28therapy_cat%29

Excerpt:

Oscar's accuracy (which stood at more than 25 consecutive reported instances when the NEJM article was written) led the staff to institute a new and unusual protocol: once he is discovered sleeping with a patient, staff will call family members to notify them of the patient's (expected) impending death.[5]

Most of the time the patient's family has no issue with Oscar being present at the time of death. On those occasions when he is removed from the room at the family's request, he is known to pace back and forth in front of the door and meow in protest. When present, Oscar will stay by the patient until they die, then after death will quietly leave the room.

Oscar is described by Dr. David Dosa as "not a cat that’s friendly to [living] people."[6] One example of this was described in his NEJM article. When an elderly woman with a walker passed him by during his rounds, Oscar "[let] out a gentle hiss, a rattlesnake-like warning that [said] 'leave me alone.'"[5]

223:

Reminds me of the House episode "Here Kitty" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Here_Kitty), which is quite funny for a given value of funny.

The kitty must be a bit pissed off that people keep moving it from a food source.

224:

The best definition of intelligence I have seen is "generalized problem solving ability". As soon as you start narrowing it to "specialized problem solving ability" then we are into the realms of rote learning and pre-programmed behaviour.

225:

"ecological room for two other predatory species, now living on the peripheries of London, "

I half expected a mention of red foxes, one of D. Attenborough's more recent nature programs showed him snooping out the back door of his London house on a fox prowling the yard. His crew filmed a bunch of them scavenging back alleys, seemed like they were common. Superabundance of lawn-fed rabbits here in Illinois likely contributes to the urban coyote population, I saw one in the neighborhood before it could sprint off. Their weird howls spook me on late night bike rides, can't tell if they're tracking me or just partying.

226:

I have seen more foxes during a year in London than in 20 years of living in or near the countryside. Along the street where a friend of mine lives in S London there are packs of them howling up and down most nights. Counted 4 rather big ones when I looked out of the window one time.

227:

My experience with foxes supports this in reverse. When I lived in suburban Leeds I could see foxes in my small garden almost every night. Odd squirrel legs with the meat gnawed off could be found occasionally on the lawn. I have now lived in rural Norfolk for ten years and have seen foxes maybe five times.

228:

Foxes...

Plenty around the back of BT Tower, around 4am.

Ech, forgetting to book your Cab isn't a hanging offence, but it should be.

229:

Raccoons are common in San Francisco. And skunks of course. And possums. In the heart of the city. They are in my garden every night in the spring and summer.
In parts we have coyotes. In the East Bay hills we have mountain lions. Nature adapts.
My daughter wrote a one act play on a blocked writer who turns into a raccoon, like her friends on our backstairs.
I guess a scavenger living off leftover fajitas was a more successful parasite.

230:

"We" is probably the Guardian staff, what with it being the Guardian Style Guide. As to definitions, well, it's a guide, not an encyclopedia. If you're an uncertain journalist, you should go ask someone who knows.

231:

Sorry, I assumed everyone already knew about foxes!
However, they are adapting in other ways, too.
Down on our allotments, we have foxes (they keep the rats down) but last year, we had a vixen who was "less scared" of humans than many.
After she got used to the idea that the humans (on the plots) might not be dangerous & dished out doggie-bikkies ( helps keep the mange at bay) she would come withing 5 metres.
Which led me to experiment ...
I found that, if I gently threw her "bikkies" (to establish that I was not dangerous) & I then sat dowm, feet right out in front of me ... after a couple of experimental tries, she would take food from my outstretched palm - indeed, on one occasion, she climbed over my legs to get to the food.
Sadly, we think she was scared away by local building works & is probably now dead.
The "non-aggression" pact between the local cats & foxes is amusing to watch, too.
It usually consists of each pretending that they have not seen the other, AT ALL, so cat sits under Great Green Beast, "supervising" whilst fox trots down road, carefully not "noticing" cat sat under car .....

232:

Like This? ..

"
Top Definition
grauniad
The Grauniad is a nickname for the UK national newpaper, the Guardian, because of a now ill-founded reputation for typos. The name was given to it by the satirical magazine Private Eye. The Guardian newspaper earned its reputation for lots of misprints in the days of hot-metal printing when it was published in Manchester (it was originally called the Manchester Guardian), and the editions that appeared in London were very early editions brought down by train, before all the errors had been spotted. "

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=grauniad

Fairly notorious with the Literati of the U.K. ... Hum?

Literati? Or, then, theirs ..typos or ..some such tipe Thingi?

I have been rereeding the last two of Our Greytios Hosts Lawn dry novels and ...NO, No I must be Wong .. I could swaear that in the last too US of A hardback editions of the Laundy Files .. " The Apocalypse Codex " and also " The Rhesus Chart " .. I have spotted, ' typos ' ? proff reading errors? Something like that but then such is my liack of Prof Reeding Skulls I may well be mistaken.

233:


The Fox...err that is to say ..." The Fox Conspiracy”...has penetrated the deepest levels of the U.K.s ...”Dork State!"

As is evidenced HERE...

“Election 2015: Fox makes a bid for Downing Street "

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32112635

234:

A professional pedant writes:

It's 1783 over again! I have been saying for some time that
TPTB are trying to take us back to the 18th century, as far as
commercial and employment practices go. That last is a serious
remark, incidentally.

The possessive of pedants is very time-sensitive, including
pedantses and others, but is currently pedants'.

And the Grauniad was sometimes spelled Gnurdian.

But, back to the thread, the parasitism of foxes is more usually
called commensualism, and has been used quite a lot in science
fiction.

235:

A true pedant would write commensalism.

236:

Well, a rather higher quality one, perhaps! Thank you. I have
been misspelling that for decades ....

237:

A rather good short story by an under-rated author, with a peripheral vampire theme (of sorts):
http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/quietwar.htm

238:

I normally only comment on these threads when Commissioner Gordon flashes the "Someone is Wrong on the Internet" sign across the night skey (said sign is a facepalm rampant on a field of nerds by the way).

I was therefore going to leave this thread alone, but last night I saw this fascinating Iranian vampire movie "A Girl Walks Home At Night".

The girl of the title is the one with the fangs, by the way. I won't say anymore than that as it might spoil it. But I will say that this is (AFAICS) a truly original spin on the Vampire trope, and is essential viewing for anyone interested in becaped bloodsuckers as a cultural phenomenon.

(NB, it's made by Iranians, the language is Persian, but it was filmed in the town of Taft, California).

239:

I must be Wong .. I could swaear that in the last too US of A hardback editions of the Laundy Files .. " The Apocalypse Codex " and also " The Rhesus Chart " .. I have spotted, ' typos ' ? proff reading errors?

Quite possibly: I'm a shitty proof-reader[*], and while the publisher is supposed to pay a freelance proofer to go over the copy, how diligent they are is basically a quality control issue for the managing editor to deal with.

Helpful tip: if you read one of my novels in hardcover, or in ebook within six months of initial publication and spot some typos, then I can get them fixed when the DTP file is reflowed for the paperback. But this happens about six months after the hardcover is released, and it's the last chance to fix typos (at least, until the book goes out of print and I revert the rights and republish it -- which hasn't happened to any of my novels yet). Because publishers outsourced all their typesetting and printing back-office stuff decades ago, correcting errors now means paying the external bureau who owns the DTP files $$$ to do the job, even if it would only take fifteen minutes to do in-house.

[*] Partly it's bad eyesight[**], partly it's that I can't spot my own idiosyncratic mis-spellings if there isn't a helpful wiggly red line under them (because I think they're spelled correctly or I wouldn't have written it that way in the first place), and partly because by the time I get to the page proofs I've gone over the bloody thing about 3-6 times and I am totally blind to it -- seeing what I expect to see, not what's on the page.

[**] The insanely high resolution screens on modern retina Macs help when checking a PDF proof[***] -- I certainly picked up more typos in the page proofs of the next Laundry novel than I noted in the previous one (non-retina desktop screen).

[***] My publishers all went paperless around 2010, in the worst possible way -- one that assumes the entire world revolves around the corporate IT fetishware, MS Office and Adobe Acrobat on Windows. One day I will emit an EPIC RANT about brain-dead publishing workflows, but not until I'm ready to burn some bridges -- once the editors in question have safely retired!

240:

partly it's that I can't spot my own idiosyncratic mis-spellings
Don't worry, we all get this:
As in - the second small paper I published when I was working in reaseach had a typo ( a significant omission ) on the front page.
I missed it, ny supervisor/boss missed ( We'd both re-read said paper about 5 times by then, so it went straight past us, of course ... ) & it only avoided escaping into the wild, when one of the library staff spotted it.
Oops, as the saying goes.

241:

Come on Charlie! Don't be an unimaginative old fuddy-duddy. Anything that likes to nibble on your neck and suck on you is "hot" - even if a little blood is involved. And to go sci-fi, if you can set it up to do it forever (at youthful athletic levels), all's the better.

Hey, in my dyslexic demented old age I read "Inverted realities" as some sort of story on gaining economic advantage from old homes. :P

PS:

WTF! moveabletype never sent a verification email and blocked Typepad from signing in with Twitter info, even with an email address used for signin.

242:

> I'm a shitty proof-reader

Everybody's a shitty proof-reader of their own material. You know what you meant to be there and when you read it, that's what you tend to see, no matter what's actually on the page.

At one point in my life, I was writing in an environment that included very competent editors of various sorts -- general, proof, copy. It was incredibly painful to have to deal with that, but when I moved on and was not subject to edit-Nazis, I really missed them.

243:

Years ago, a small scientific journal was supposed to publish a paper titled "The Effects of Feral Pigs on Grasslands." What they did publish was "The Effects of Fetal Pigs on Grasslands."

Fortunately, they were kind enough to run some reprints for the author. It was based on his master's thesis, and he needed a good copy of the paper to circulate with his resume.

I remember that one because my first published paper was in that issue too, and their idea of publishing it was to whack off the last third without telling me.

244:

Everybody's a shitty proof-reader of their own material.

Yep. Have you ever seen one of those fonts where the digits 5 and 6 look similar? As in, very similar indeed? Only a few weeks ago at my work someone hit a wrong button, as we all do occasionally. This should have been no big deal, as the unit in question is double-checked by someone else in the room, then by quality control, then by the shift lead. They all missed it. At shift change the three people in those jobs for the next shift also checked it. They missed it. Only after running for twenty hours did someone notice that the machine's output looked a little funny. It was, as they say, a mess.

245:

"My publishers all went paperless around 2010, in the worst
possible way -- one that assumes the entire world revolves around
the corporate IT fetishware, MS Office and Adobe Acrobat on
Windows. One day I will emit an EPIC RANT about brain-dead
publishing workflows, but not until I'm ready to burn some bridges
-- once the editors in question have safely retired!"

If I ever buy you a drink, we could clear the pub ranting about
such things. My organisation is being moved in exactly the same
direction - NOW, a decade after that whole approach was clearly
discredited in its area, which has a strong Linux usage and
where Macintoshes are the growth area. The rot seems to be an
inevitable consequence of power-hungry bureaucrats/bean-counters
getting unconstrained political control. Just as has been going
on for years in that nest of vipers[*], Whitehall.

And, with regard to fonts, we USED to design ones intended for
character-critical display (i.e. data, programs etc., not
English prose) so that every character was clearly distinct.
But that requirement got forgotten/ignored/suppressed/whatever
round about the time of the 'killer micros'. God alone knows
why. I have a 'cycle computer' where 2 and 7 are possible to
tell apart only by looking down from the top of the display
(i.e. not when looking straight at it). When looking for a
font for coding presentations, I tried to find a good one; the
2-3 tolerable ones I found (out of hundreds looked at) were not
available in my environment.

[*] A substitute for much ruder and more explicit words, because
this is not my soapbox.

246:

I was always told that "The Grauniad" stemmed from one occasion when they actually mis-spelt their name in the page headers!

247:

No, I'm a shitty proof-reader period. I spent years in a big software company's technical publications department, and my manager tried to turn me into a proof-reader. The results were, shall we say, sub-optimal.

(Indexing, I can do. Substantive editing, kinda-sorta. But I am a terrible proof-reader, and I'm also a lousy copy-editor -- I just don't have the kind of detail-retentive memory both roles require.)

248:

Still tell this anecdote to the newbies who feel their reports are being micro-edited/proofed.

Once presented a 'proofed and edited' report re: consumer outlook for a marketing campaign. The intended phrase was 'demographic shift' ... not what appeared in the report/on-screen. (AAARGHHH!!!)

On the bright side ... These individuals will probably long remember how one of their campaigns tanked because of a lot of 'demographic shit'. (This typo was corrected in the final report sent to the client post-presentation, i.e., the report version passed along to their Sr Mngt.)


249:

A colleague of mine very nearly submitted a grant request for construction of solid-state particle detectors by "molecular beam epitaphs" (the spell-checker in OGH's favourite word processor has never heard of "epitaxy").

Fortunately, I am a good proof-reader...

250:

Sweet ... out of curiosity ... what type of sense would 'epitaph' have had?

'Tis a far, far faster wafer that I go to than any ever known before...' (Tale of Two Beams?)

From: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that ..." Tale of Two Cities

251:

Then there's always the Japanese 'vampire', the kappa. Based on the fact that certain, um, tissues swell up in the dead when they're in water.

I did once write a pseudo-Japanese folk tale because I didn't like the usual way of besting a kappa (make him bow = spilled water = weakness), using the monk Benkei as the protagonist.

252:

Now I've been checking a couple of older storylines to make sure I didn't miss anything in some of the webcomics I read and came across this which makes me wonder if your efforts at proofreading could be worse than her efforts at programming.

253:

As an author of paranormal romance novels that have sexy vampire heroes, let me try to answer. I. This is fantasy fiction so there is no need to keep to anything resembling the real world. 2. Vampires became sexy in Anne Rice's work. Rice's vampires were incredibly beautiful immortals with superpowers (strength and telepathy) and with the exception of being rather cold and pale and in need of a constant supply of blood, were not at all unsexy although they were not strictly sexual. The lust they felt in strength was bloodlust but it was very similar to sexual lust. They were Byronic Heathcliffian antiheroes. Louis is a tragic character who can't seem to accept his lot in death, mourns his humanity, and longs for love and companionship. Lestat is a rather narcissistic fellow who wants fame and to be admired and loved. I suspect that is where the whole sexy vampire trope originated. It appeals to a LOT of readers, the majority probably heterosexual women, as the Amazon fantasy and paranormal bestsellers lists will attest. They do not find vampires unsexy. Their love of vampires has allowed a new generation of indie authors to have a very comfortable living as writers, me included. :)

254:

And speaking of inverted realities, I noticed the bodywork similarities between Eva of Ex Machina and the girlbot on the recent edition of Stross's Saturn's Children. Is it an accident that Oscar Isaac looks like a younger in shape version of Stross in the area of the close cut hair and full beard in that same excellent movie?

255:

I have a blog that deals with what I think might be a separate species of human or human+++ above and beyond the deliberate right wing nonsense of Reptilian NWO conspiracies. And the key word there is deliberate. And no, "they" aren't vampires. I borrowed the William Gibson name for same, Peripherals. Mine, unlike his, aren't from the future. His might be a fictional way of dealing with the same thing. Or "The Peripheral" might just be a not so great story. Or he might be one of "Them". But that might just be what "They" want me to believe.

I was looking at Greg Egan's books yesterday because "Diaspora" was the first super difficult singularity book where I didn't understand half of what was going on and didn't care because it was so well written. I will have to check out Egan's version of human kudzu.

256:

I read a book version of Rapture of the Nerds. Loaded with typos. Your part of the book was preetty goud othervise.-/

257:

Any truth to the rumor (not started by me I'm sure) that you and the actor Oscar Isaac share the same barber?

258:

I have no idea who Oscar Isaac is, but I can tell you for sure we don't share the same barber ...

Because I shave my own head.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 20, 2015 8:38 PM.

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