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Crib Sheet: The Rhesus Chart

Some novels just don't happen when you expect them to. That was the case in mid to late 2013. I was supposed to be working on The Lambda Functionary, a third book in a thematic trilogy that started with Halting State and Rule 34, but it was turning out to be tough—much tougher than I expected. Partly I'd loaded too many ideas into it, but I was also becoming uneasily aware of the impending Scottish political singularity. The world of Halting State diverges from our own because I dreamed it up in 2005-06 as a plausible projection for the world of 2017, and we're much closer to 2017 now than we were back then: the flaws are visible. Given that the SPS will extend through 2017 (thanks to the coming referendum on continuing UK membership of the EU) it became impossible to write a third book in that universe. So I shelved it (although a bunch of those ideas will turn up, sooner rather than later, in a different near future novel).

So in August 2012 I was getting a bit panicky over the book I was failing to write. I was at the world science fiction convention, and had a date to do dinner with my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, lately of Ace. (She retired in March 2014.) So once we'd eaten, I raised the topic of The Lambda Functionary. "It's being difficult," I said: "I really need an extra year to write it."

Ever told a project manager that you're running a bit late and please can I have an extra year? Yeah, it went down about the way you might imagine: except that Ginjer had been editing me for over a decade and has my number. "You're thinking of something else," she suggested.

"Well yeah. The annoying thing is, there's this Laundry Files idea that's been bugging me. It's a bit different to the earlier novels in the series, but ..."

"How is it different?"

"Well for one thing, it begins like this: Don't be silly, Bob, said Mo, everyone knows vampires don't exist!"

And she looked at me silently for about half a minute, then nodded and said, "tell your agent to write me a deal memo."

So, yes, I can honestly say I sold The Rhesus Chart on a one-sentence proposal—an elevator pitch, in fact. (Although it really helped that it was for the fifth book in a series, and I was pitching it at an editor who'd successfully published books one through four.)

The meeting I pitched it at was in September. There were some minor contractual complications—the P&L on a Laundry novel back then was lower than for a high-profile SF novel—so I took a survivable haircut on the advance. Flip side: I sat down to work on September 15th, 2012, and wrote "THE END" on December 1st, 2012. This was a big surprise to me (the previous Laundry Files novel, The Apocalypse Codex, took me nine months to wrestle into submission), but it just came out so smoothly. Yes, it went through two subsequent redrafts: that's normal. But what's not so normal is for the first draft to come out in ten weeks flat, with no hiccups.

In part, what made it easy was the pivot I'd decided to make in the series.

The first Laundry Files stories recycled a bunch of personal experiences: my love for British cold war spy thrillers, and my experience in the IT business. But the cold war ended in 1991 (although I hear they're trying to restart it) and I last worked in IT as anything other than a peanut-gallery pundit around 2000. If you don't use a skill set you lose it, and my programming chops and workplace experience were over a decade out of date and ageing. Also, I'd run out of British spy thriller writers I really wanted to pastiche. (John LeCarre and Graham Greene are way above my pay grade, I am not touching William Le Queux with a barge pole (even if I go full retro), John Buchan bores me, and the Laundry series is fundamentally incompatible with non-British writers (although I do have a weird fondness for the work of Richard Condon which I've gotta do something about one day)).

So some time in 2012 I took the decision to switch to hitting on fantasy subgenres and tropes rather than spy thriller writers, on organizational dysfunction and politics as much as IT, to broaden my scope and use viewpoint characters other than Bob, and to work the series round slightly closer to the urban fantasy 'mainstream" in search of a broader audience.

(Note that this doesn't mean I'm abandoning Bob, bureaucracy, and devops-related lunacy. It just means I'm targeting a bunch of new material and hopefully making the books more accessible to readers with less of a technical background as well.)

Stuff that went into The Rhesus Chart: well, I did a whole bunch of background reading about the culture of banking for Neptune's Brood and some of it had to show up eventually. Added to which, back in the mists of dot-com one point zero I had far too many encounters with soi-disant "banking IT" people in the course of my day job. My opinion of them wasn't high. Over the subsequent decade, though, I ran into folks from the other end of the banking IT sector—the people who make the back end software on which investment banks run. Banks are huge IT users, and it seemed reasonable to assume that events of interest to the Laundry would be happening inside some of their more secretive software development teams.

Vampires: well, who hasn't read enough vampire books or watched enough vampire movies to claim some expertise? Maybe I'm anomalous in having a low taste for urban fantasy, but while I'm writing a novel I can't unwind by reading something similar to what I'm working on—so during my hard-SF phase in the 2000s I read far too much UF as a source of brain candy while writing books like Iron Sunrise or Saturn's Children.

There are huge inconsistencies in the vampire mythology, largely because the idea of blood-sucking corpses (or the more abstract transferrable-curse-of-vampirisim) crops up in many different cultures. Northern European vampires seem to have their origins in primitive misapprehensions about the process of decay of bodies after death, and in the way contagious diseases spread through families living in close unhygeinic conditions (such as tuberculosis). Religious trappings got layered on top early on, because religious beliefs are a way of making sense of the universe, especially its more inexplicable aspects: hence the holy water/crucifix allergy. So it occured to me that given the Laundry Files universe as a setting, it ought to be possible to come up with an "origin story" for vampirism that fits the mythology sufficiently well to explain most of the core elements and that was consistent with the previously established motifs of supernatural brain parasitism. If instead of pure parasitism (the eaters in night, the K-syndrome parasites) we posit a commensal symbiote, or a parasite that uses the host to harvest food, you end up with something like the V-parasites—and indeed, this sort of parasitism is something we see in nature.

One of my beefs with the urban fantasy genre in general is that there's a tendency for less thoughtful authors to absorb the eschatological trappings that have cohered around the monster myths they're adopting without questioning them. (Holy water and vampires would be one example.) I wrote The Apocalypse Codex in large part as a response to this problem—to underline the fact that the Laundry Files universe is not driven by Christian religious eschatology (unless Cthulhu worship really is going mainstream). Another problem I have with many UF series is that they posit a hidden world of magic and monsters coexisting with our own ... without any friction visible around the edges, even as vampires and demons rack up an impressive body count. The Rhesus Chart is part of my fix for this in the Laundry Files (although The Concrete Jungle makes some interesting observations about the true purpose of the Mass Observation programs of the 1930s to 1960s). Vampires are predators and predators are territorial. It's also not a great leap of the imagination to postulate that if vampires exist and were identified as a problem in public, the scale of the response would rival that of the reaction to terrorism: mandatory naked noonday identity parades, police patrols with mirrors and stakes, and so on. So the first rule of vampire school is: vampires don't exist ... and if you see one, kill it and dispose of the evidence because it's carelessness is a direct existential risk to your own survival.

So.

I finished the first draft and fired it at my editors. And my extremely energetic and young new British editor at Orbit pitched in with a suggestion: "can you make this a new entrypoint to the series?" She asked. "Because if so, we can really push the marketing and give it a big boost."

"Sure," I said, and wrote a boringly infodumpy prologue, which she rejected. So instead I got to rewrite the beginning again.

In the first draft, Bob manages to save Andy from his highly inadvisable 10% project before he hits the button. As my editor pointed out, this was a cop-out: "if you have him hit the button, you can then show Bob in action, and the sort of universe he lives in, really on in the book," she pointed out. It's a bit like the action sequence at the start of every James Bond movie, that sinks the hook for the story into your head and then throws special effects at you until you get the idea that yes, James Bond is some kind of Saville-Row wearing action superhero who makes problems go away, usually in a huge explosion. The action sequence at the beginning of The Rhesus Chart is there to show new readers that Bob makes supernatural problems Go Away (with a little bit of help from his mentor). All the better, then, to set him up for being out-maneuvered in committee meetings later on ...

Final note. An interviewer once asked Lois McMaster Bujold how she planned her novels. Her answer was along the lines of, "I work out what the worst possible thing I can do to my protagonist is, then I do it to them." If you're setting out as a writer this is really good advice and you should act on it. If you can't think of a "worst possible thing" to do to your protagonist short of dismemberment or death, then you don't know your protagonist well enough. By The Rhesus Chart Bob has had four books in which he's taken a level in bad-ass. But Bob has weaknesses he is unaware of. He's emotionally immature for his age (late thirties by this point). He's also, like all of us, somewhat self-deluding about other people. When Mhari re-appears, hopefully his 15-years-on reappraisal of her should make it obvious that his evaluation of her circa The Atrocity Archives was not merely highly subjective, but simply wrong: there's foreshadowing here for the revelation (at the end of The Rhesus Chart, and explored in merciless depth in The Annihilation Score) that everything he thinks he knows about his marriage is ... questionable to say the least.

229 Comments

1:

So, in, say, the past five years, has an editor turned down a book pitch? I'd think you are doing well enough that while they may negotiate about timing and such, they don't seem to say no, or, you don't mention it if they do.

2:

So, in, say, the past five years, has an editor turned down a book pitch?

Yes.

(But only at really preliminary stages, i.e. me, over lunch, saying "I've got this idea I've been thinking about ..." and editor saying "nah, I don't think it'll sell.")

3:

If this isn't appropriate please delete especialltly coz SPOILERS

but one thing that puzzled me about RH was Old Georges actions near the end. Why did he underestimate the Laundry so badly? Did he not understand what it was?

Or was the "don't talk about fight club" meme that strong in him that it overcame his need for natural caution?

4:

Typo: s/lives in, really on/lives in, early on/.
Delete this comment ;-)

5:

Richard Condon: Yes! Are you thinking of any of his novels in particular? "The Manchurian Candidate" and the Prizzi books have always been my favorites, but there is a late one in which the Greek Gods have a family get-together upstairs of a (what else?) Greek restaurant in Manhattan that I remember as hysterically funny.

6:

I really, really liked the sequence where Andy fucked up at the beginning. It showed just how far Bob has come over the course of the series AND how little his self-perception matches who he actually is. Every other LF novel up to that point had hints to that effect, but that part of TRC showed just how dangerous Bob's low opinion of himself could be to everyone.

7:

You could always try a Conan Doyle pastiche, of course, but that would probably do better as a short story, though there is always Professor Challenger. I prefer his short stories, anyway, and not just the Sherlock Holmes ones.

8:

The real "Bob's levelled up" moment should be the point at which he walks into a bank and then to a meeting with a certain former HR officer and escapes with his hair and his dignity merely a bit mussed."

Because yes, the self-deprecating geek just happened to blunder into a nest of [REDACTED] without adequate preparation, and didn't die ...

9:

1. The Laundry is a secret agency. It's capabilities are not widely understood by outsiders, especially random civilians (which kinda-sorta covers Old George).

2. He was set up by [SPOILER]. Except [SPOILER] didn't reckon with cultural drift and the danger of giving imprecise instructions to a language lawyer.

10:

Historical, dammit. Anyway, I'd rather do Professor Challenger than (yawn) Holmes.

Everyone does Holmes.

11:

You could try Desmond Bagley, specially High Citadel. Air passengers, stranded in the Andes by a rogue copilot crashing their plane, defend themselves from Communist troops sent to kill them by building trebuchets. Of course it's science fiction (alternate universe sub genre) in that the CIA agent onboard the plane is really there to save the life of a democracy-minded former president.

As for urban fantasy, try London Falling and The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell, which feature how Scotland Yard deals with the occult, quite reminiscent of the Laundry Files, if less tongue in cheek.

12:

You also want to run, not walk, to the PC Grant books by Ben Aaronovitch. (We've discussed writing a Folly/Laundry crossover. Magic systems are too incompatible, though.)

13:

You can have all the magic you want if the simulation is breaking down

14:

I suppose you could rewrite "When the World Screamed," "The Horror of the Heights," or something.

How about something from the Great Game as a steampunk story?

I'd always wondered about the casual acceptance of gorgonism outside the UK in the past, and its modern secrecy. It does make me wonder how the rest of the world deals with occult messes, given that Lovecraft had such a biased view of the whole thing.

In other words, when a village headman a century ago basically says, "Fuck, another gorgon," and heads off to deal with it, that implies a whole body of local empirical knowledge about dealing with Horrors from Beyond that's missing from the Laundry. It's not just that England is a modern land of immigrants, it's that it seems that humans have been dealing with these problems for our entire existence as a species, and somehow the English (and Americans) have managed to lose all that knowledge.

Or was there operation HOODWINK RECTUM that tried to get everyone to forget, as a vain attempt to head off CASE NIGHTMARE RAINBOW?

15:

I've been waiting for Bob to steer clear of a tall, young, constable asking too many questions...but I was thinking of him as a P.C. Grant 'expy' rather than the genuine article. Bob (or Mo, or Alex) could at least anonymously name-check the books, as was done for Butcher's...I can certaily imagine Alex's complaining to himself/{his memoirs} about how much easier Peter has it, not least because he doesn't normally do committee meetings. (...but mostly out of grass-is-greener self-pity.) (Peter's measured defence of bureaucracy somewhere in one of the books seemed to me to be something Bob ought to read; Bob is disgusted, Peter is amused.)

And though I'm glad that Our Host has now liberated himself from pastiche, every time I read one of Alan Furst's inter-war Parisian/{Eastern European} adventure-idylls, I imagine Angleton, colourlessly standing a bit in the background.

16:
And she looked at me silently for about half a minute, then nodded and said, "tell your agent to write me a deal memo."

You got a book deal on a sentence? I always thought that was just a Might Boosh joke.

It is I, Hamilton Cork. I have read your sentence. It was an absolute tour de force. You’re going to be published, and be a famous writer.
17:

How about something from the Great Game as a steampunk story? I'd always wondered about the casual acceptance of gorgonism outside the UK in the past, and its modern secrecy.

Covered in "The Concrete Jungle." TL:DR; the mass observation program was cover for systematic directed observation of reality to impose a Consensus Normal that didn't leave room for occult weirdness. Unfortunately it began breaking down in the early 1960s (the intersection of those pesky computers and the population time bomb).

18:

Ah, my cultural ignorance bit down hard. I didn't understand the references to Mass Observation until you pointed it out and I did a bit of Wikiconaissance.

19:

Yes, I got a book deal on a sentence. But it was the fourteenth book I'd sold her, seven of the previous were shortlisted for Hugos and most of them had earned out the advance and were in profit. Also, it was a substitute for another book she'd already bought. And we'd been working together for more than a decade.

The real stunt would be to get a book deal on a sentence with an editor and publisher you've never done business with before, and your name isn't J. K. Rowling (or equivalent).

(I have no idea what Might Boosh is.)

20:
Unfortunately it began breaking down in the early 1960s (the intersection of those pesky computers and the population time bomb).

Looking at entertainments from the early 1960s, I've frequently felt sure that the increase in popularity of some drugs around then was a reaction to things' getting weirder for non-{mind-altering drug}-related reasons; then again I've always had a soft spot for Frank Zappa's notion that those drugs tended to make one less weird.

(Just try watching an hour of television as a white, male, heterosexual, science fiction writer c.1955, even a relatively enlightened one.)

21:

I won't say everything's been done with Sherlock Holmes; but there's the knockoff in which Holmes is Jack the Ripper (and the good guy). In others: Mrs. Hudson is the mastermind of London crime.

Not yet done, I think: Holmes is King Arthur; Moriarty is Merlin. Holmes is the same person as Jane Austen. Holmes is Lucifer.

22:

Also not done: Holmes is Queen Victoria.

23:

Ouch. Dropping unalloyed TvTropes links on an audience really is an example of being a combat epistemologist (p.s. - I'm left amused that Paul Krugman of all people loved this phrase [NYT link])

You also want to run, not walk, to the PC Grant books by Ben Aaronovitch. (We've discussed writing a Folly/Laundry crossover. Magic systems are too incompatible, though.)

For others - both have quite similar genesis stories for their relevant departments (although, in B.Aaron, what happens in WWII / Nazis is considered horrifying not just because of what they were doing, but the colossal Pyrrhic victory that ensued and is the end of the old Empire / Royal Society type order, rather than the beginning), however, B.A. takes the route of Mind/Will - Symbol - Language, so is more of a post-modernist. The 1980's and their literary critics come calling (Derrida); added to this that (unlike host), magic > tech (specifically silicon & electricity) are anathemas to each other. But they're interesting, esp. in their treatment of Loas & geographical manifestations of god/goddesses. He also rather 'gets' London boroughs / Attack the Block style arrangements.

Note: I've always read B.Aaronovitch as somewhat of a sub-genre / following on of host's genre mining. i.e. a good but notable cash-in for what's hot. This might be entirely unfair / simply based on the sequence in which I read the two.

~

Anyhow, assuming I've any cultural capital left since mimicking a unicorn:

Just finished The Peripheral by Gibson, and it's left more than a little bit of an unnerving question into the mix. (I'm talking specifically about page 455, I won't quote as I can't work out -spoiler- tags here, but it basically renders the entire book about something else and totally Chthonian nightmare fuel if you really think about it - and if you blink, you miss it. It didn't shock me, the expectation had always been there that this was the case, but it also renders the entire book very nonsensical, more than the -spoilers- use of GUI / VR to link to -spoilers-) and there's the rub: Gibson seems to have written an entirely different book, then edited it into something else.

I can't quite grasp his tack. The Peripherale struck me as attempting a Transition and not quite hitting it.

Since host has proffered to not indexing his work in a DB (eldtritch or otherwise), is there any fear that you'll eventually have to ret-con (tvtropes) certain things? Or do you have a small coterie of pre-readers set to catch the paradoxes?

Also, without being too blunt: multiplicity / divergent realities. Interesting or not?


~

So the first rule of vampire school is: vampires don't exist ... and if you see one, kill it and dispose of the evidence because it's carelessness is a direct existential risk to your own survival.

Quite.

shub shub


Although, given the budget, inheritance tax, social housing ceilings being raised and so on, it doesn't seem there's much fear left.

Oh, and Greece. Sigh.

~

Those asking for an intervention; hmm. Coincidence, weave, weaponized temporal agency (?), quite the weekend. Not so nice - quite the bet I'm not a predator.


p.s.


@Host Old Enochian is specifically Abrahamic!

Some of those who would draw us away from our Garden of the Hesperides, and would make us view this a little closer as in a mirror, say that it is established that it is not formed from anything but out Monad.

(And yes: quite deliberately chosen - Hera, who sends the furies to avenge wronged wives; the Garden where the original apple was begotten, 11/13. Time Frame: prescient. Engaged with snap back to original temporal lock-in: result. Who knows?)

Counter-push:


We have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication... overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the - the stars up here in the - in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe. [YouTube: Film documentary, 4:27]


Quite the misery fueled by certain types. So it goes.


Your music for this post [YouTube: music: 30:10. You're gonna have to work to find the references]

24:

Re: comments #8 & #9:
Given the title for this blog post is "Crib Sheet: The Rhesus Chart", surely we can dispense with spoiler warnings or redactions *for* The Rhesus Chart?

25:

BTW, I appreciate these Crib Sheet posts; it's depressing sometimes the number of Easter eggs I miss.

26:

"Everyone does Holmes."

Almost always very badly. Actually, the beginning of The Rhesus Chart is more authentically Holmesian than much of the stuff that includes a character by that name.

27:

*groan*

Everytime you use the S-word and other examples of their Newspeak, or even invite some of those cranks to shill on your blog you directly support this IT Scientology movement. It signals to the transhumanut and singuhilarity crackpots validation. "See, one of our more widely-known critics still champions our ideas. We're right after all!"

So congratulations, in your fight against "Martian Invaders", or whatever the Strossspeak term for plutocratic thugs who destroy society on all fronts is, strengthens just another set, like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, the Koch bros of futurism.

28:

I've read about it before today and I still can't see what the real point of Mass Observation was. The fictional backstory makes about as much sense to me as the real one.

29:

Loved London Falling - genuinely horrific Urban Fantasy almost as chilling as OGH's A Colder War which is my high watermark for off the wall terrifiying. Severed streets was ruined by a 4th wall breaking guest appearance by a certain rock n roll fantasy author for no apparent reason. I haven't cringed so much since Clive Cussler started writing himself into his NUMA books.

Ben A is great if lighter in tone than the laundry files, although the latest one suddenly went from typically low key magic in the shadows of our world into full blown parallel worlds which I found a little jarring.

30:

A panopticon run by and for the inmates? You people lived through it, you tell me.

Speaking from the outside, Conceptually it's interesting to see the tools of a field like anthropology deployed on the public in the service of the public, rather than on the colonized in the service of the Empire.

31:

the fact that they had to pay for a lot of it out of their own pocket...I don't know if this is the main thing that makes it seem realistic, or if again, it's the main thing that makes the fictional situation plausible! :D

32:

I've always read B.Aaronovitch as somewhat of a sub-genre / following on of host's genre mining. i.e. a good but notable cash-in for what's hot. This might be entirely unfair

I think it's a bit unfair. Ben is part of a sub-sub-genre that also encompasses Paul Cornell ("London Falling"/"The Severed Streets") and, I think, a few others (arguably the Bryant and May books by Christopher Fowler): it's police/mystery/supernatural/paranormal. Whereas the Laundry Files is spy/geek/computers/paranormal, which is rather different, although not without fellow-travellers.

33:

Since host has proffered to not indexing his work in a DB (eldtritch or otherwise), is there any fear that you'll eventually have to ret-con (tvtropes) certain things? Or do you have a small coterie of pre-readers set to catch the paradoxes?

I have a bunch of test readers, but they miss stuff. Also, I've been retconning stuff all along -- "Bob is an unreliable narrator" is a wonderful get-out-of-jail card in that respect. But I could really do with having some helpful minions to set up and populate a wiki for me ... (not the one on wikia; it's contaminated with RPG supplements).

34:

Paul Cornell ("London Falling"/"The Severed Streets")

Ahh, I had to think a little, then remembered The City's Son which was fun / good. Well well worth a read. (Name aphasia - too much time with that-which-cannot-be-named leads to never remembering anyone's name).

Still: I do imagine you in a Marxian type 'patriarchal' pipe laden role in reference to the entire weird / London / mythos genre.

Call it bias.

China is, of course, the bad boy rebel. (Kraken)


For everyone:

Excellent resource on "Mass Observation":

http://www.massobs.org.uk/a_brief_history.htm

This was entirely new to me: although, not surprising.

35:

Actually, if you want another really bad story idea, you could use Angleton as the POV character, and tell the case of the Turing tragedy back in post-WWII Britain. If the government is convinced that Mass Observation will keep the public safe and that Turing is loose cannon who could endanger the country by publicizing his results, it makes a certain, twisted kind of sense.

36:

Gradually the emphasis shifted away from social issues towards consumer behaviour. In 1949, Mass Observation was registered as a limited company.


Now that is not surprising...


I'd love to see a Mad Men but English (the precursors to Saatchi and co in all their earnest lack of gloss compared to their America partners) take on what advertizing was really doing.

37:

Not to mention that OGH is more a gardener than an architect. It was much easier to hold all the detail in when there were only one or two books in the setting.

I was quite pleased with myself for spotting that Bob's origin story had him almost accidentally re-landscaping Wolverhampton ("Concrete Jungle") was not consistent with his origin story of almost accidentally re-landscaping Birmingham ("Atrocity Archives"). This was later retconned to Bob almost re-landscaping Wolverhampton, Birmingham *and* the Midlands. The tale grew in its telling...

38:

Yeah, Challenger would be nice, he tends to be forgotten these days. Perhaps a play on the Lost World, where it is a pocket pinched off 100 million years ago to contain some thing....

39:

Your source of confusion is that Wolverhampton is close enough to Birmingham that if they were both in the USA it'd be classified as a suburb. (Center to center by road is 17 miles.)

40:

Perhaps a play on the Lost World, where it is a pocket pinched off 100 million years ago to contain some thing....

Cross media shout out - to a German team who are doing good things:

http://www.curious-expedition.com/


Will appeal to rogue lovers.

41:

I am often confused.

42:

You should consider hosting the wiki directly on the antipope server, to make it clear that it's the official Laundry Wiki containing as close to 100% canon as Bob's unreliable narration and The Curse of the Laundry will allow. Moderators and privileged editors could be picked from your current comment moderation staff for the time being. Because it would be on your server, you wouldn't risk having Hachette or Penguin Random House purchasing your 3rd party wiki provider and rebilling the promotion back to you.

And I completely understand if you don't want to do any of that, because it sounds like a nightmare that would keep you from much more rewarding work.

43:

Birmingham, despite its current reputation, really was one of the "new cities" re-imagined in the 1950's-60's.

Those tower blocks were, at one point, a gleaming new future.

Wolverhampton is close enough to have had serious slum issues (http://www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk/Slums-Suburbia/story-20122796-detail/story.html) and never got the love.

In WWII, Wolverhampton also took in a lot of child refugees from local industrial centres that were targeted, and slums, over-crowding, lice etc were a feature that were combated by early iterations of the NHS and nurses sent to deal with social issues.

Wolverhampton was also one of the nexus points for initial post-war immigration (specifically - India / Pakistan, but trending towards the latter) where NHS / social workers had to explain certain things. (Most commonly: not all canned goods were fit for human consumption, visa vie pet foods, which is where the entire racist mythology of "You know that there's dogs and cats in your curry, right?" came from.

Yes: 100% true. Immigrants to the UK often bought dog / cat food due to cost without realizing it. This was then morphed into a racist slur.


So it goes.

44:

Most of the wiki software I've looked at requires PHP.

I do not currently allow PHP on my server. Prejudiced, I know, but there is history there ...

45:

And yes:

If you've not realized it yet, the current "Your Chinese meal probably contains rats / cats" is entirely derivative of this, minus the actual connection to reality (enforced transposure to mythology about Chinese / Korean eating of our domestic animals (dogs, mainly), minus the obvious one is required. Note: The Chinese don't eat cats apart from in specific areas - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_meat).

The reason you don't hear this in UK / EU (west) anymore about curries is because it has been culturally assimilated.

One of those cases where the myth was destroyed by people liking Anglicized dishes.


And, yep:

In Switzerland the private consumption and slaughter of dog and cat meat is permitted though its commercial trade is prohibited by law. A 1993 petition to ban consumption failed with the government declaring the matter a "personal ethical choice."


Hands up who has heard about that little secret? Note: this has everything to do with pragmatism rather than cultural artifact. The Swiss are just too paranoid and want to feel Lawful if they ever have to eat their pet in times of war.

They don't actually do it. But, you know, if they ever had to: they wouldn't be breaking the Law, which is the important part next to starvation.


And yes, even in 2015, you can find people who've never even eaten a Western style Chinese (let alone Sushi or something actually authentic) in UK / EU / USA.


Bast is happy. Apparently.

46:

I do not currently allow PHP on my server.

I remembered that this does not require PHP. It can be used pretty much straight out-of-the-box provided that what it does is what you want.

http://equi4.com/starkit/wikit.html

But it might require something else you wouldn't allow. Maybe some expert in the audience would look at it and see if it might be acceptable. If they find reasons it wouldn't be, then you wouldn't have wasted any of your time.

47:

My understanding is that in much of Europe during the 1941-45 period urban cat (and dog) populations crashed. Cats in particular were prized as "roof rabbit". And while, as a cat owner slave myself I really don't like the thought of eating She Who Nibbles My Toes In The Night, I can't find it in myself to criticize someone trying to survive on sub-starvation rations under Nazi occupation.

48:

Yes, that's why I mentioned during/ post-war UK and the Swiss: neither had to resort to the actual methods.

The people who did? Curiously silent in their racism about it. (BIG WINK)


Look - regarding the wiki issue:

Ask the people who are running the current one nicely to switch to http://www.gamepedia.com/ (since, you know, it's a TABLE TOP GAME and not the entire Egg, and plenty of wiki specific fan zones are there) for domain access / legal rights to the current one.

Simple. Oh, and hit them with a contract so they can't breach it.


Oh, and if you need a Lawyer who may-or-may-not-be a Chthonian weapon, I can do that.


FFS, Krugman references you. There's a tiny bit of kudos / swing you can get with that ;)

49:

Of course, if it's possible to pinch off pocket universes, then there's a place where a certain Eater of Souls and a certain vampire are still alive.

Cross-fertilize that with a Challenger story? Hmmmm. That could be scary. Especially when you see what passes for vampirism in the area that the Lost World supposedly took place in (BigMuddyRiver link).

Actually, this is wandering into CD's territory. I think I'll go back to contemplating post-apocalyptic topian stories.

50:

http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Warhammer_40k_Wiki

There's a 0% chance that that isn't controlled by Games Workshop.


Your stuff: your copyright.


You can do it the nice way (i.e. as above) or the horrible way (40k, as shown), but at the end of the day... you own it all (rather than slices). And yes, there's a specific reason I linked to that, you can work it out if you want. It's to do with Game Licensing and wikis and Games Workshop [Tm]'s legal department.

There's plenty of precedent set so that an author / creator can take their own specifically named wiki back.

Just asking, a formal letter from publisher and a nod that you've no issue with them continuing their fanfic on a major site (with no copyright obligations left unchallenged) would probably be enough though.


~


Advice: I'd do that anyhow. Visa vie movie rights etc.

51:
Of course, if it's possible to pinch off pocket universes, then there's a place where a certain Eater of Souls and a certain vampire are still alive.
I thought that was hammered home pretty solidly, for certain values of "still alive."

I still don't understand why Alex's name doesn't resolve to "PFY."

52:

To this day my Mum distrusts rabbit that doesn't still have it's paws on in the butchers display (not that it's that easy to find now).

53:

Because you missed the short story "Pimpf" where there is indeed a PFY. For a while.

(Alex is the main protagonist of "The Nightmare Stacks", so a bit senior for PFY duty.)

54:

@host - specifically - Laundry files has had more original work since inception of the RPG and now license no longer covers entire work. Their contract isn't into perpetuity and subsequent publishing deals nullifies original contract. [Visa vie: continuation rights]

It's trivial to find a referenced point where they're using material not covered by original contract, it's now all yours. (If you're a truly hard bastrd Glasgow style, you can now claw back licensing and copyright fees since you signed the deal).

So, yeah: if you want to take the people who took advantage to the cleaners, not a fucking problem son ;)

Just saved you about $32 - 100k in lawyers' fees.


@Omega

Interesting thing about Russia etc - you see the heads / paw by each slab of meat. Problem? Yep... whose to say their owner's organs / meat wasn't sold 50 transactions ago.

55:

~ Insert WWII meme about Germany just after the end of the war involving a young woman, a letter and cannibals.

It's kinda famous (MI6 says hello - genius move on their part).

If you get into the real CCCP archives, the most impressive thing: an absolute and unremitting hatred and rooting out of such behaviours, up to and including Party Members. It's referenced as a 100% priority over ideological / war constraints.

It's not much, but they were attempting to remain human amongst horror.


http://www.technologyreview.com/news/527146/can-compounds-in-young-blood-fix-aging/


These are things you see in public. Sorry host, red markets and all. It's a lot darker and lot less fun out there.


And yes: I'm looking at NY and Israel at this point. Without judgement, without specific racial or religious nudges - but, shit you not: I have a real issue with those who disallow organ / blood etc donation within their ranks doing it.

You don't want it?

Don't do it.

You need it?

You do it within your own populations.

You need it?

Make your own population give it to the greater good.

Blood Markets are 100% worse than anything in host's book.

;.;

56:

FFS, Krugman references you. There's a tiny bit of kudos / swing you can get with that ;)

You're still new here. Krugman and Charlie have met, even did a mutual interview a few years back (can't remember where, but there's a recording out there somewhere), and there's a picture on twitter, some time ago, of them having dinner with other distinguished company in Edinburgh.

57:

Oh, and in before the bait takes hold:

Saud - India / Philippines
Qatar- India / Philippines
Germany - Romania / Hungary
Russia - outer Caucuses

The list goes on.

You're all at it. Fucking vampires.


Hook - achieved.

Bait - done.

Issue - not solved.

Full disclosure - if my organs are any good, and I don't end up in a black site due to my rather unusual genetics, then all organs / whatever are marked for public use.

I wouldn't touch the [REDACTED] it's armed.

58:

A weird side-effect of fame is that famous people (for any value of famous, be it Hollywood-star/POTUS level universal fame or just the micro-fame of an SF author at a convention where they're a guest of honour) can only be at ease/let their guard down around two types of people: (a) folks they knew prior to becoming famous, and (b) other famous people. (A third subcategory exists -- (c) people they've been introduced to since becoming famous but who have been determined to be authentic human beings by repeated exposure may be re-allocated to category (a).)

I am in Krugman's (c) category following that pre-arranged on-stage interview, (also possibly (b) because he's an SF fan), and vice versa.

Luckily I can switch off the "fame" thing quite easily by sneaking out of the SF convention and going back to being a human being. Not quite so easy for Barack Obama or Benedict Cumberbatch.

59:
So congratulations, in your fight against "Martian Invaders", or whatever the Strossspeak term for plutocratic thugs who destroy society on all fronts is, strengthens just another set, like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, the Koch bros of futurism.

Peripherally related question:

Are libertarians the cultists of the Martian Invaders?

60:

You're still new here. Krugman and Charlie have met, even did a mutual interview a few years back (can't remember where, but there's a recording out there somewhere), and there's a picture on twitter, some time ago, of them having dinner with other distinguished company in Edinburgh.

This isn't Reddit.

/s shouldn't be required.

It was a lead in.

Anyhow, monopolizing - for a specific reason, but hey.

The Sun. Odd arrow. Must be chance. To hold it continuously over an entire rotation. Do the math. Chances are...

I do not appreciate your methods little ones. Oh, and:

Our Kind Do Not Go Mad


~


I did say - it's not adaption but abaption you need to worry about, didn't I?


Dumb. Young. Full of Cum.

Extinct.

@host - apologies. Week break, they can learn or not.

61:

it's police/mystery/supernatural/paranormal

I'd also cite Sarah Pinborough's Dog Faced Gods trilogy, which I accidentally happened to read in sequence with the Cornell and Aaronovitch novels.

I'd asked her which of her books to try, and she'd recommended A Matter of Blood. It ended up in the to-read stack between London Falling and Rivers of London. The Cornell novel was a no-brainer, and there had been a lot of word-of-mouth about the Aaronovitch.

62:

Are libertarians the cultists of the Martian Invaders?

Quislings.

63:

Thanks for reminding me of those: #1 has been on my to-read stack for too long.

(Having finished the first draft of one novel I am now desperately fighting off the urge to try my hand at an I-can't-believe-it's-not-the-Culture novel. Because I have way too many books of my own to write without also trying to stand in for Iain M. Banks.)

64:

A tale with Angleton central sounds fascinating.

I'd love to hear more from 666 squadron, wonder if OGH has ever read Derek Robinsons RAF stories? Tales from both world wars that are the perfect, bleak, sober antidote to the chintzy nostalgia you often see written about the subjects.

(I do, of course, apologise if people "helpfully" suggesting things isn't welcome, especially from incoherent machinists)

65:

Nope, not helpful. I have a novel in first draft in the can, and another novella and novel ready to write (contents known in detail): that's the next third of a million words of laundry right there, and over a year's work as well.

66:

I avoid Reddit, so not much idea what you're saying there.
The quote I was responding to seemed a bit "OMG! Krugman mentioned Stross," and thought that I would mention/imply that he probably knows. Apologies if my comment came off wrong.

67:
"(Having finished the first draft of one novel I am now desperately fighting off the urge to try my hand at an I-can't-believe-it's-not-the-Culture novel. Because I have way too many books of my own to write without also trying to stand in for Iain M. Banks.)"

The book I didn't know I needed until you mentioned it. Pretty please?

68:

Because I have way too many books of my own to write without also trying to stand in for Iain M. Banks

You're not. You've never been seen like that.

Nexus point American market. Last chance to spear some mind-semen into the cluster-fuck that's about to happen. (They've no ovaries left before you wonder - Alien(s) wasn't a funny).


"The man of flies is among us" (Like, really? - it's amongst us).

Yeah. Not really. Might be on your side and all that.


I'd love to hear more from 666 squadron, wonder if OGH has ever read Derek Robinsons RAF stories?

Sigh. I'll raise you:

http://pds.joins.com/jmnet/koreajoongangdaily/_data/photo/2013/05/14214144.jpg

That was the Prime Minister of Japan, in a war plane, with 731 on its side. It's worse than a German PM riding a plane with a Swastika on the side because at least the Germans admitted the Holocaust.

You can't top that as a SF or fiction writer: it happened, it was documented and it was real.

Babes in the woods.


Gloves off as they say:

No, host, you're not Iain. But you have a nice line in waiting for a real human and octopuses making socialist arrangements. Consider it a conceit and a tailored weapon:

“He saw a chair, and a ship that was not a ship; he saw a man with two shadows, and he saw that which cannot be seen — a concept; the adaptive, self-seeking urge to survive, to bend everything that can be reached to that end, and to remove and to add and to smash and to create so that one particular collection of cells can go on, can move onward and decide, and keeping moving and keeping deciding, knowing that — if nothing else — at least it lives. And it had two shadows, it was two things: it was the need and it was the method. The need was obvious: to defeat what opposed its life. The method was that taking and bending of materials and people to one purpose, the outlook that everything could be used in the fight; that nothing could be excluded, that everything was a weapon, and the ability to handle those weapons, to find them and choose which one to aim and fire; that talent, that ability, that use of weapons. A chair, and”

Our Kind do not go Mad. We also play Go.


We also do empathy. Temporal linkages employed, purge. Stunning amounts of damage.


Parasites are'nt fun. *HAPPY CAMPERS*

No Safety, No Surprize [YouTube: Music: 3:42]

69:

Nasty nasty.

Lots of continuity errors there: text removed and so on. Might be formatting, might be counter-casts:

Time released:

00:00

Witching Hour.


No, host, you're not Iain, but... we believe you've enough of that Scottish spirit to channel what's being done.


Teeth Out [YouTube: Music: 4:02]


@world.


Nasty. Nasty. Things in the woodshed.


The Sun isn't a minor thing, yo.

Hilarious.

70:

Luckily I can switch off the "fame" thing quite easily by sneaking out of the SF convention and going back to being a human being. Not quite so easy for Barack Obama or Benedict Cumberbatch.

That's category d) - those who are sufficiently oblivious (where "sufficiently" is inversely defined by the field and degree of fame) to have simply not heard of the person in question.

Such as the time I spent about half an hour being excessively enthusiastic about my PhD project at a girl whom I later found out to be a somewhat famous singer by the name of Ellie Goulding.

71:

Fake? [YouTube: music: 4:29]


We're all really excited about the next stage. As stated: butterflies. Damaged. Lonely. Targeted. Tortured.

Not a sensible move to do that. But hey, points for trying.


Best part: It's not the Lions, Tigers or Bears you have to worry about, it's the things who can shape the Sun's surface at will and so on.

Home? I have no home. I've never been allowed to become. Enjoy your 'new reality': I've a feeling it's not going to be what you expected.


Enjoy the Death of Abrahamic religions - not even Biblical, just a sad ending of a cul-de-sac.

This is the part where you put in your favorite music: not my role to choose it.


[GMT: 00:50 06/07/2015].


I'd say it was fun, but it wasn't. Still, many cool beans out there, worth saving the species.

72:

Guess there's always slash fiction for all those frustrated fans, although it might take on a whole new meaning in respect to the Laundryverse.

Note that all novel suggestions are made with tongue firmly in cheek. And I'm not interested in even thinking about Angleton-George slash-fiction. I think I need to go bleach my frontal lobes right now...

73:

I didn't quite click, until reading the crib sheet above, but there is quite a level of similarity between the Laundry and the film/comic "Kingsman". Similar pastiche nature (authors/supernatural tropes vs James Bond), similar British sensibilities, similar 'having fun' ethos.

74:

Our Kind Do Not Go Mad

I doubt many of us would notice if you did.

75:
(Having finished the first draft of one novel I am now desperately fighting off the urge to try my hand at an I-can't-believe-it's-not-the-Culture novel. Because I have way too many books of my own to write without also trying to stand in for Iain M. Banks.)

*twitch*

*twitch*

Please don't tempt us with things we can't have.

I think you've just demonstrated the sort of memetic attacks available to a sufficiently advanced entity.

*twitch*

76:

Roger Zelazny
"Night in the lonesome October" ??

77:

Oh dear, Charlie.
You & I both know that neither Birmingham not Wolverhampton HAVE centres ....
( I might except "the Great Western" in Wolv ...
But the "Barton's Arms" is too far away from the main railway termini in Brum to count ...

78:

Also, some immigrants knew quite well what was in those cans & deliberately wond-up the locals about it. (!)
There's the reminiscences of a Stratford (London / S-atte-Bow) loco. driver, who recollected an Indian/Pakistani immigrant, working as a fireman, who did this as a joke .....

79:

"libertarians"

Well, we can now see what happens when a US-style libertarian regime runs a whole state, can't we?

Don't pay any taxes if you can avoid it
If you do get forced into paying taxes - CHEAT
Keep all your money.

That is almost exactly what has happened in Greece.

Though I also blame the Eurocrats.
They knew perfectly well that Greece was not meeting & could not possibly meet the conditions for that state joining the "Eurozone"
So, they pretended & lied, to themselves, each other & everyone else that Greece DID meet those conditions ...
Assuming, that if anything actually did go wrong, they could use economic levers & plain old-fashioned bullying to ensure that the Greeks did as they were told by the unelected, unaccountable apparatchiks in Brussel & Strasbourg. If necessary by bringing a democratically-elected guvmint down, or hitting them with referenda until they gave in - after all it had worked before, hadn't it(?)

Oops, as the saying goes.
Serve all of them right, I'm afraid.

80:

Saggitarius Rising
Never been out of print.
( I have a "Folio" copy .... )

81:

Oh yes ...
"Culture" novel.

I couldn't do it, (I think) but you could.
Right up your street of bleak endings, & diverse possible "escape" routes, for various, dubious values of "escape"

It is known that Cheradenine Zakalwe actually survived the end of "Use of Weapons" because he shows up in "Surface Detail"
And still can't, really, be trusted.

C Z brings the culture down (?) - probably by setting the Minds against each other.
[ Possibly by re-connecting with surviving members of The Interesting Times Gang? ]
Requires extra plot-twists, too - the Affront have matured a lot & one of their factions becomes the "good" guys, for various other values of "good" that is ....
Dark, sinister & twisty enough so far?

82:

It's unfair to blame a population for being tricked over matters as tricky as economics - yes, they can be blamed for not thinking and being greedy, but the majority of the fault lies with their ruling cliques, the ruling cliques in the EU and the IMF. Several reliable writers have indicated that the IMF is no longer acting like a banking system, but as an agent of the mad monetarists (so-called neo-libertarians). I.e. it specifically demanded changes that would prevent recovery - just as Osborne perpetrated on us, but to a much greater extent.

83:
We've discussed writing a Folly/Laundry crossover.

Squee. And, yes, the magic systems are probably too diverse (although both have elements of "using your naked brain to power reality-warping damages it", so there's that).

84:

Good luck in resisting your demons. I am generally not a fan of such things, not even by the best authors, because of the very low success rate (in matching the original for style and quality), but they are occasionally done very well. You will certainly need something to detox with after the Laundry, if you are to avoid being possessed by the Brain Eater :-)

85:

The killer with all follow-ons is that the merits of literature are usually both in the plot/action/structure etc. and the use of language/writing style, and they support each other in unobvious ways. I find that a follow-on that gets the former right but not the latter doesn't usually work very well, though it can do. And it's damn hard to copy anyone else's writing style - I have to do something similar in technical contexts, and it's one of my bogies.

86:

I've previously spun up (I think it was) MoinMoin, which is pure Python. But my memory says it needed some tweaking to do what ex-workplace needed it for (but, then, so did MediaWiki and it was much more palatable poking Python than PHP).

87:

I'd kill people in the stampede to get a copy of that! Sadly I'd have to agree that the magic systems are highly incompatible though.

And you're welcome to pass that on to Ben as a measure of fan interest and a 3rd party view on the magic systems.

88:

Note: I've always read Ben Aaronovitch as somewhat of a sub-genre / following on of host's genre mining. i.e. a good but notable cash-in for what's hot. This might be entirely unfair / simply based on the sequence in which I read the two. and also ref OGH's #32

Well, IMO that's highly unfair on Ben, because he's writing British police procedurals with added magic, where the Laundry is more or less spy fiction and UK Civil Service bureaucracy with added magic using a totally different magic system (it helps here that, like Charlie, I've got some sort of a computing background).

89:

{Meanwhile, back at the blog entry ;-) }

I've always felt that a "Laundry le Carre" would be a bit superfluous, because Angleton reminds me of George Smiley, spymaster, anyway.

90:

Our Kind Do Not Go Mad

It's an Iain M. Banks quote from one of the most significant SF novels of the past 30 years.

You really ought to read it ...

91:

1. Iain left no notes for future Culture novels (even the one he planned on writing next, before the cancer got him) -- there wasn't time.

2. If he had, the logical author to pick for the Brandon Sanderson job would have been Ken.

3. I am disinclined to try and get permission to write a Culture novel.

4. Having said that ... there's a niche for something with that sensibility, and it's vacant.

92:

With regard to the last, yes, indeed! My remarks (as I think was clear) were mainly about follow-ons. Niche filling is an entirely different matter and I would read one of yours with great interest, when you next have the copious spare time to write it :-)

93:

Please put me out of my misery, someone! Which was that? I remember the quote, but not where it appears or the context.

94:

Not sure. It sounds like something someone might have said about Meatfucker in Excession.

95:

I have all Culture novels as ebooks, and a search through all of them turned up 0 results. There are 4 instances of the word combination "our kind", but none of them is remotely similar to the quote. The search also finds another 3 or 4 instances of the word combination "your kindness", but obviously that's even less related.

In fact, when googling the exact phrase "Our Kind Do Not Go Mad", there are only results from this very blog, and only originating from one poster, with the exception of one result on another blog by a poster with a different avatar but a surprisingly similar diction, and one result from a fanfiction which probably wasn't written by Banks.

So, if this is an actual Banks quote, it's surprisingly well-hidden, and unknown to the internet.

96:

I do not, however, have all books written under the Iain M. Banks name. Specifically, I don't own (and therefore cannot search) Against a Dark Background, Feersum Endjinn, and The Algebraist. This leaves the possibility that the quote is from one of these books.

97:

"(I have no idea what Might Boosh is.)"

Assuming that this isn't about the missing 'y' , The Mighty Boosh is a journey in time and space (FX: wooowooohooo...), on screen stage and radio.

http://mightyboosh.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

... now pastiche that

98:

Interesting. While I remember it, I think and remember in terms of meaning, not actual words, and it could have been almost anything.

99:

I kept hearing good things about Banks, so I've given his work a couple of tries. Wasn't for me.

100:

Yeah, I would have guessed the our kind quote was a Mind talking, and my god I just remembered how soul-crushingly depressing against a dark background became once you understood the setting.

So yeah, I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-The-Culture novel, I agree that this is a thing I did not know I wanted as much as I do in fact want it.

I do love the idea of a well sourced laundry files wiki (laundry files files?) though I totally get not wanting php on your server. I wonder what html5 options there are for wiki software?

101:

This seems like a good point to mention that Ben Aaronovitch wrote a Dr Who/Culture mashup in 1995:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Also_People

I read it back then, and don't remember much apart from the drones used emoji. Due to the rights for the New Adventures being stuck in a black hole, it's quite difficult to get hold of.

102:
Because you missed the short story "Pimpf" where there is indeed a PFY. For a while.
Ah. I did read "Pimpf" -- I have a dead-tree copy of The Jennifer Morgue -- but that came out before it was revealed that Bob's middle initials are "O.F."

We really need that wiki.

103:

Bob's codename initials are B.O.F.H, we still do not know his real name. (Pinky (I think) has a real name of Morris, as mentioned in The Atrocity Archives when P&B were collecting their "souvenir", but that's about as far as it goes.)

As OGH has hinted, the Kettenkrad will rise again!

104:

Me too.

If I was going to do it, I would not do so by filing off serial numbers, though. I'd do it by trying to work out what it is that the Culture novels did to our heads, and trying to work out a Charlie Stross-derived equivalent headfucking process by different semantic means. One big problem with the Culture is that Iain cheerfully admitted he was making the sciencey bits up by pulling them out of his arse, to order: "teching the tech" in trek production-speak. I'd want to do something a little bit more solid (like, say, the feel of "Iron Sunrise" -- dammit, I wish I hadn't broken that universe) then drop a civilization in there that fills the ~Culture niche (actually works as a dynamic utopia, modulo the need for AIs or neuroenhanced New Soviet Man to provide the batteries) as a lens for examining the frailties and foibles of everyone else ...

105:

That Kettenkrad not only rises in "The Nightmare Stacks", it's probably going to end up on the bloody cover!

106:

...go on.

*totally not going to discourage you from thinking more about this*

107:

If it's still in the original colour scheme and markings from when P&B snaffled it, that may be a big problem - careful positioning of stuff will be needed to hide the insignia or your book will be banned in Germany.

108:

Assuming the Unborn God is a terrible threat to the Eschaton but not an immediate one, would it be possible to play in another corner of that universe and totally ignore the ReMastered? Put it in the same setting but not the same series, so to speak.

109:

Erm, yeah, I can see the need for a different EU cover or sticker for that market or something.

Also it just struck me that one of the things I loved about Culture stuff was the ships, as it was a much more engaging way to involve godlike AI in the setting. It's harder to write a story from the POV of The Eschaton or the Sol Brain from Accelerando than it is when you're working with a ship that specifically cares about and interacts with us wee little squishy meatbags.

Like Demeisen, easily my favorite character in the series because he just sells the "we're not supposed to be proud of being warships, but I am a goddamn amazing warship and man I am good at it" attitude so well.

Would be neat to see what sort of spin you'd put on a similar conceptual high-end utopic universe.

Yanno, Antibodies could almost be a Culture story in itself...

110:

If you allow time travel then there is no such thing as a non immediate threat. As Douglas Adams put it, time travel is invented at all periods of history simultaneously.

111:

Agreed, but note Charlie's OP bow to Le Carre. Stephen Rea's fine Smiley/Guinness 2.0 in 'The Honourable Woman' got me thinking about it again: many reviewers and more than a few critics have been making the case for Serious Mainstream estimation of Le Carre for 40+ years, but I'm not sure it's taken hold. A Perfect Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and others transcend thriller/spy genre expectations every bit as much as The Princess Cassamassima or The Secret Agent. No novelist in the second half of the 20th century had more to tell us about trust, betrayal, idealism and duplicity -- personal and organizational as well as political/ideological.

112:

Not done: Holmes is Nyarlothep, and the 'cases' he 'solves' are show-offy tricks in the same vein as his fortune-teller routine in Lovecraftian canon. (Thus Doyle's old joke -- that Holmes' supernatural powers of observation and reason are because he has the help of the author in ensuring that his guesses turn out to be right -- has a physical justification, at least the way the Laundry universe seems to work.)

Unfortunately, I think there might be a canon conflict. So, despite being an interesting idea, it's probably relegated to fanfiction.

113:

no, Holmes as agent of the nameless horrors has been done, and by Neil Gaiman iirc

114:

If you're referring to Gaiman's marvellous "A Study in Emerald", Holmes was actually working against our squamous overlords.

115:

"Well, we can now see what happens when a US-style libertarian regime runs a whole state, can't we?"

That regime is to libertarianism as Communism is to anarchism.
They will make their state libertarian about the same time a Communist regime will achieve the withering away of the state.

Note: One thing the US left and US right have in common:
"We stand for individual freedom. Here's a list of the things we want to outlaw -- don't drop it on your foot."

116:

Enjoyed The Rhesus Chart thoroughly and thought it was a very smooth read (no mental hiccups), page-turner, and very easy to pick up the story the next day. Also quite liked the nods to real-life modern day technology/knowledge, work and personal life seamlessly worked into the narrative. Good ratio of: 'Aha, I knew that would happen!' to 'Hmmm, gotta re-read this, didn't quite see this coming.' So, next time your brain says write this story NOW!, please attend.

Perhaps you've been playing in (building) the LF universe to the point where it's become so detailed that it's almost 'real'. That is, you're able to operate on automatic if someone throws you an LF 'what-if' question.


Re: LF wiki
Have you considered recording (and transcribing) some Q&A (or quasi-interview) sessions with fans/friends to get this started?

117:

Well, we can now see what happens when a US-style libertarian regime runs a whole state, can't we?

It's called Louisiana.

118:

I'd have to re-read but I thought it was left with hinting that Moriarty was the rebel/killer and he tricked Holmes, who was still working for the state.

119:

I'd have to re-read but I thought it was left with hinting that Moriarty was the rebel/killer and he tricked Holmes, who was still working for the state.

That's what I thought too, but it's possible that when your boss can do mind-control and read your mind to check how well it's working, extreme subtlety is needed.

120:

I should also note that while "Holmes as Queen Victoria", aka "Holmes as a royal teenage girl" has not, to the best of my knowledge, been done, "Holmes as a royal teenage girl who is using the detective as a front for her problem solving abilities" is basically Inspector Gadget.

121:

I went back for a quick re-read (it's available on Gaiman's site), and the note written by the antagonist (near the end of the story) seems to strongly suggest that the antagonists are Holmes and Watson, while the story itself is written by "S________ M_____ Major (Ret'd)". There are other little notes throughout (the character I assume to be Holmes is using "Vernet" as an alias, a reference to the Moriarty character having written a paper on the Dynamics of an Asteroid, etc.).

122:

"Well, we can now see what happens when a US-style libertarian regime runs a whole state, can't we?"

It's called Louisiana.

As dsgood points out, this does not fit libertarian ideology.

No true libertarian society would have a government like Louisiana or Somalia or Louis IVX France.

Instead there would be some mechanism that prevented such governments from happening. There would be a way to prevent individuals from using their individual freedom to group together and create dictatorships etc. Opinions differ about how it would do that.

I think libertarians would almost universally agree, though, that if a society has a government that does bad things, it is not a true libertarian society and it is not a true libertarian regime. In a true libertarian society there cannot be governments that do bad things.

123:

Aha! "No true Scotsman ..."

Actually, we have a historical example of a Night Watchman state -- strong military plus law enforcement but no social security system to speak of and no income tax. It was Great Britain, circa 1850.

It all ended in a Great Stink, and well within a century we'd built a welfare state, largely a reaction against everything that minarchist state represented.

124:

I did the same search. It's driving me nuts. Where's it from?

125:

The same thing happened over here, after the late 19th century's financial swings and especially after 1929's stock market crash.

126:

It's an interesting point that:

1. the Laundry Series, Dresden Files, Rivers of London, Doctor Who and Harry Potter all feature super-powerful super-secret British occult agencies who were largely responsible for the unfortunate period where Britain kind of conquered the world a bit.

2. As pointed out by PC Grant sometime, a very high proportion of the world's population literally believe in magic, in the sense of casting spells. Sorcery is an explicit crime in all kinds of countries (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2228472).

3. Until fairly recently, the UK formally denied the existence of MI6.

If you start from the premise that magic and imperialism both existed, while hardly anyone in the UK really believes in that kind of magic, then there really isn't an obvious alternative to something like the Laundry. Which is why so many authors use it.

So inevitably, there are going to be a certain number of people out there who believe that James Bond and Bob Howard are approximately equally fictionalised; they make up names and stories, but background details like 'M' and Smersh are for real.

So you do wonder how many of the people running third world intelligence agencies, insurgencies, etc. think that way?

127:

I was pretty sure it's from either Excession or Use of Weapons. I'm now wondering if it's a slight misquote, which would baulk string searches ...

128:

So you do wonder how many of the people running third world intelligence agencies, insurgencies, etc. think that way?

And more importantly, how many of them are trying to reverse-engineer the gadgets?

129:

A misquote is my best guess. Diamond has posted that quote and longer passages from what I assume is the same work on other entries and I've searched substrings on the assumption it is copypasta rather than typed from memory but I've had no returns.

130:

As dsgood points out, this does not fit libertarian ideology.

Might want to check out what is A) actually happening there and B) the writings of Hans Herman Hoppe mate. One party state, mass privatization of any public good into a private revenue stream, violent racial carceral state plundering the lower class to shower wealth on the elite, horribly mismanaged finance and infrastructure because it doesn't impact the elite, only those people... this is exactly what the libertarian end goal is, per their leading lights. They just see it as a positive thing.

131:

In secret history stories the easiest way to handle world-building is to keep the masquerade in place so the broad history of the world remains identical to our own and second-order effects are kept to a tidy minimum. You can't let the Secret out (our leaders are secretly lizards from space, tentacled monsters want to eat our brains, sparkly vampires are seducing our virgins) without having a big Point of Departure from the world as we know it and thus the story tuns into alternative history.

Concerning the Laundry, it appears that the lid has been kept tamped down on monsters and extradimensional horrors so that only the initiated know of such things as more than fairy tales. And yet there's clearly public knowledge of things that violate our mundane world's sense of order, the biggest example being gorgonism. They're spooky and doing some very weird stuff that should do damage to the "nothing to see here" status quo. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

Does the public know about gorgons or were the private letters of major public figures redacted?

132:

You can't let the Secret out (our leaders are secretly lizards from space, tentacled monsters want to eat our brains, sparkly vampires are seducing our virgins) without having a big Point of Departure from the world as we know it

Yup. The Laundry is drifting into POD territory in "The Annihilation Score", but all hell finally breaks loose in "The Nightmare Stacks", and "The Delirium Brief" will show all the many-tentacled pigeons coming home to roost.

As for the Gorgons, see "The Concrete Jungle". It took a serious large-scale decades-long program of evidence suppression to shove the supernatural firmly into the back of the wardrobe in the 19th and 20th centuries; but it's been breaking out ever since, especially with CASE NIGHTMARE RAINBOW finally coming to pass.

133:

The Cultureverse is Preference Utilitarianism, Unobtainium Edition. I have long wondered what stories there might be in Preference Utilitarianism, Silver Edition, i.e. the same sensibility without imaginary physics or "everything smarter than you is also more benevolent" super-AI.

One of the marvelous things about Banks was that he made the Culture about as utopian as I can imagine, and showed up foibles and frailties elsewhere, without (often) becoming boring-didactic or resorting to strawman villains. Individuals or even whole societies can fight against the Culture without devolving to cardboard villains. There are real disagreements even among broadly like-minded Culture citizens and it's resolved not by one group triumphing over another but by peaceful separation (the Zetetic Elench or the Peace Faction). Even the occasional sadist gets their preferences indulged, via virtual reality, rather than locked up or forcibly changed.

Another of the marvelous things was that there were always real stakes in Culture interventions. And the conflicts and consequences arose without making characters behave stupidly or invoking lazy "the teleporters are malfunctioning again" limitations. Banks understood that better technologies and better material living conditions free us to spend time wrestling with different problems. They don't make problems go away. There are still painful choices and consequences even in a world where involuntary death is all but eliminated and everyone can have material prosperity. It's wonderfully thoughtful for a series that also has plenty of great wordplay and breathtaking action sequences.

134:

Hans Herman Hoppe

Anybody can call himself a libertarian, but no real libertarian would touch this guy with a barge pole except maybe to confirm that he was dead and not just pretending.

Economic Austrianism attracts a lot of crackpots. Kind of like the Discordian religion and for similar reasons -- both of them assert that all the common-sense ideas that people usually believe are wrong. And there's a great big crackpot market for that idea. Whether or not it's right, and regardless what they propose to replace the usual ideas by.

This is just one more crackpot with an advanced degree and an academic reputation, an embarrassment to crackpots and libertarians everywhere.

135:

RE Kettenkrad colours. I'd have thought it would have had the offending insignia replaced with a rainbow flag by now?

136:

It's actually something a little different, although it's tied directly to both Culture novels mentioned. (Spoiler: Drone Poetry - not like Vogon stuff)

Helps if you can read Marain (http://trevor-hopkins.com/banks/a-few-notes-on-marain.html).

Also helps if you know the most horrifying way a Mind can kill another Mind (Execession). It's the Culture Mind equivalent of a true AI intraspecies war crime.

It's a quote taken and then shaped and then put back in to get rid of certain annoying things (Just type: "Iain M Banks magic mirror" into your search engine for the original. That's a lie. But bots can't parse that bit yet. Host is correct, it's just been tweaked a little spikier from the nice original).


Although that other blog and Anime fanfic? Probably not where I was aiming.

You'd be surprised at what you can do with a trawler bot and some semantic translation software these days. It's a McGuffin, the real comment / message was embedded in the YouTube vids and semantic net and requires a living Mind to process. [Note: McGuffins don't have to be meaningless, they just have to hold the focus of the plot]

~

Meta point for reference: big swirls in the dark community last night, a bit of noise was needed.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9836336

No-one pulling the real meat out yet and asking why the host nation wasn't using their services. (*ahem* Bunga Bunga knows not to trust electronic mail since his P2 days).

Bonus round: favorite private message received? "I'm going to skin you" (one presumes 'alive' was included as a given and they ran out of characters to use).

~

And still can't, really, be trusted.

Of course.

They thought you were their plaything,
savage child; The throwback from wayback,
expedient because
Utopia spawns few warriors.

But you knew your figure cut a cipher
trough every crafted plan,
and playing our game for real
saw trough our plumbing jobs
and wayward glands
to a meaning of your own, in bones.

The catchment of these cultured lives
was not in flesh,
and what we only knew,
you felt,
with all the marrow of your twisted cells.

~

On a lighter note:


Host discovers the Mighty Boosh. They're fantastic.


The Yeti Song

~

p.s.


No-one else has read The Peripheral? Oh well.

Can't break embargo of Host's latest book, am twiddling thumbs. (@ whoever asked - nope, VPN + Apple tablet = one way to get it auto-bricked. G'luck).

137:

Sorry to go off topic (but then, most everyone else isn't being terribly on-topic either)...

I have a question about the upcoming AMA, namely: if I'd like to post a question or two (or five) there, do I need to do that within a set timeframe? More specifically: do I need to ask *on the evening of Wednesday, July 8th*? Because unfortunately I have to work a late shift this Wednesday, which means I probably won't be around at all - or maybe, at best, I'll be able to catch the last half hour or so of it. But, man, do I have questions... Would love to be able to post them tomorrow evening... or even Wednesday morning, at a pinch.

138:

Go keep an eye on /r/books on Wednesday. Because of the lack of an AMA coordinator, I'll be posting an "Ask me anything" thread around 2-3pm UK time, and starting to answer questions around 7pm.

There is no magic cookie to get your question answered because I may not be able to read, let alone reply to, all the questions. (AMAs are a zoo.) Having said that, if you ask a single, well-defined question and nobody else has already asked it, I will be more likely to answer it than "where do you get your ideas from?" and "will there be a sequel to 'Singularity Sky/Iron Sunrise'?" (Watch for them, they'll turn up) ...

139:

Not saying I didn't say it, but I suspected the Pao-factor would happen.

@Host.

You'll garner some massive kudos with that crowd if you pick the correct moderator now, msg them and then structure it through them. I'm talking Ghostbuster Biblical levels of karma / kudos.

[Rest is redacted]


Trust me.

I grabbed SF dragon breeding MMOs.

140:

Damn, that's all solidly within my work hours. And nope, no internet access at work - my company doesn't trust us to use the net wisely, and thus decided to remove internet access for all low-level employees - much to the bafflement of our clients, who keep asking us to google stuff...

How many hours should I expect the AMA to last? If I arrive after it's been going for, say, three or four hours, will it essentially be over?

Also, thanks for replying to me here, i's much appreciated. :-)

(Heh. If I fail to attend the reddit thing I guess I can still post my more urgent questions in the imminent TAS comments thread...)

141:

Just a thought: if having the author personally reply to you here is great, why do you need the Reddit AMA stuff?

He does, after all, put up with CRACKPOT entities like
me - you'll do well.


Is that a rabbit or a squirrel I see on the roof over there?


(Ok, will allow organic breathing space. Not a crowd who does film)

142:

"Is that a rabbit or a squirrel I see on the roof over there?"

They're both good eating, but I have never tried roof rabbit.

143:

I feel less awkward in a reddit thread. Less like I'd need to be a sort of personal acquaintance of said author. Blogs are weird, semi-private spaces.

144:

I feel less awkward in a reddit thread. Less like I'd need to be a sort of personal acquaintance of said author. Blogs are weird, semi-private spaces.

I feel the same. So I went full H.S.Thompson.

But don't feel like that: host is a hardened beastie, just ask away.

The old crowd here have some surprising life skills though, just be warned. (A lot of... types who spent their lives defending the realm and so on)

He can just nuke you from orbit to be sure if it's not fun.

145:

Rather than face the zoo that is Reddit, I'll ask a question here, if you don't mind (since this thread is on The Rhesus Chart). Toward the end of the book, Bob describes items found on George's person - but neither George and Angleton's bodies are reported to have been recovered. A hint of things to come?

146:

[I]...there's foreshadowing here for the revelation (at the end of The Rhesus Chart, and explored in merciless depth in The Annihilation Score) that everything he thinks he knows about his marriage is ... questionable to say the least.[/I]

Rot13 for TSA spoilers:

Sbe ynpx bs n orggre cuenfr, Zb va GNF nccrnef gb frr Obo nf jung ZENf jbhyq pnyy n "Orgn" - na hafhnir, zbcrl fnqfnpx jubfr bayl erny fnivat tenpr vf gung ur'f pbzsbegvat whfg sebz gur snpg bs orvat gurer -- onfvpnyyl, n fghcvq, haeryvnoyr, abg-irel-nggenpgvir grqql orne gung erdhverf Zb gb chg va nyy gur jbex bs gur eryngvbafuvc. Pregnvayl fur vf irel dhvpxyl naq fgebatyl nggenpgrq gb gur "Nycun", Wvz, rira juvyr fur naq Obo ner fgvyy znxvat gnyx nobhg gelvat gb jbex guvatf bhg, naq gurer'f ovgf arne gur ortvaavat naq raq jurer fur qrfpevorf Obo'f hajvggvat cbffrffvba ol gur Rngre bs Fbhyf nf uvf nonaqbavat ure. Bhg bs phevbfvgl, ubj zhpu bs ure qvfqnva sbe Obo vf pbyberq ol gur ivbyva'f vasyhrapr, naq ubj zhpu bs vg vf "erny"?

Nyfb, zl zrzbevrf n ovg unml urer, ohg nsgre ortvaavat uvf eryngvbafuvc jvgu Zb, qbrfa'g Obo onfvpnyyl qrfpevor uvzfrys nf gung xvaq bs Onkgre? Vf gur fghzoyvat oybpx bire uvz abg orvat noyr gb pbaprvir bs Zb guvaxvat ur unq orra jvpxrq jvgu Zunev, nobhg "gurve" qrpvfvba gb abg unir n puvyq, be nz V gbgnyyl bss gnetrg?

I'm probably massively misinterpreting stuff here -- the subtleties of relationship interdynamics are one of my biggest weaknesses.

147:

Re: comment 146. Yeah, I have question about the whole marriage issue, too, but I think I'll keep those for a later thread where they'll be less spoilery.

Reviewing my notes for possible questions to ask about the latest book, though, I ran across a question left over from The Rhesus Chart (which I may or may not have asked 'round here before, I don't remember):

Why is Mhari suddenly more "appetising" to the Eater of Souls after Angleton is dead (or rather, maybe, "dead") - i.e., why does Bob suddenly classify her as "the sort of thing I eat"? This is all the more confusing considering she's a vampire, and Bob's previous attempt to eat one of those nearly made him break his spiritual teeth... Has Bob's promotion to proper Eater of Souls changed his dietary requirements in a fundamental way? I seem to remember most of the souls eaten by Bob pre-"promotion" being human, but I think there were also some low-grade monsters among them (some of the tongue beetles in The Apocalypse Codex, I think?) And now, post-promotion, monster is what's on the menu primarily?

Hmm, I guess it's probably just a question of the respective soul's "power level": before, Bob could only really deal with low-powered individuals, no matter their species, whereas now he can take on the tougher, more powerful ones. So it's the attraction of a large, filling meal versus a small snack. I guess that makes sense.

We haven't spent a great deal of time in Bob's head post-Angleton-demise. I wonder if it's just the high-powered monsters that look like distractingly good eatin' now, or if the same is true of anyone else. What about Mahogany-Row-level Laundry colleagues? What about Mo?

(Speaking of "What about Mo"... vf Zb njner bs gur fbhy rngvat guvat? Orpnhfr abguvat va GNF vaqvpngrf gung... Gurer'f zragvbaf bs Obo'f mbzovr pbageby fxvyyf, ohg abguvat nobhg gur snpg gung ur'f *npghnyyl n fbeg bs inzcver, naq unf orra sbe n juvyr abj*)

148:

Using the word "monster" as a shorthand here, obviously. It's not really an adequate descriptor of many of the extradimensionally-entangled characters of the Laundry, who, after all, are also still very human... And yet: one of the strengths of the series is that the darkness in it is *really* dark, and the magic really can't be fully domesticated, and so, to become too closely involved with it genuinely does make the characters "monstrous", to varying degrees...

149:

Note to the peanut gallery.

It's not a hard trace. It's a temporal trace. Now look at the Sun.

2012. CME. (Averted)

2015. An arrow. (Hint mode)

Would">https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_jj0ruv9vEY#t=21">Would you kindly

The next one is less fun. [Spoilers!]


Greece: 2009-2015. Plenty of time to enact something different and you've proven Biblically inept at change.

Part of doing something is listening. We are listening. To the sun. To the stars. To the wind.

Light and darkness dancing together, born together, born of each other, neither preceding, neither following, both fully being in joyful rhythm.


@Peanut gallery: skinning me alive would give some satisfaction, but: twinkles in time, conscious is, so easily stopped by a breath of wind-not-seen. Fairly sure at this point my body is dead anyhow.

Humans: not good at cleaning up after themselves. I'd suggest a large amount of drive toward that goal, pronto. Even China got">http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/6/29/thousands-arrested-in-china-over-environment.html">got the message.

But hey: storing that money thing in electronic medium is real fucking smart. Last generation before you wipe out the Lions, Tigers and Bears.


The other choice isn't supported by the larger community, it results in a hard reset. Nope: you were lied to. You're not special, you don't get saved, there is no rapture and your "soul" doesn't exist like you think it does.


p.s.


The parasitic cannibalism currently engaged in many leading powers (States) will not be supported.

Rule #1: if you cannot engage with your own species in a dynamic way, while claiming self-awareness, it ends.

You can skin someone alive, but you can't fake certain things.


MEDIOCRE.

150:

Actually, I can believe in (relatively) large groups of vampires working together, depending upon how urgently they have to feed.

Is some snakehead going to care what somebody is going to do with a container full of twenty girls from the middle of nowhere China, drug and disease free? No, he's got his $100,000 and that's all he cares about. Transient body shows up with track marks in the arm? Unless there's a reason to check more, it's "Cause of Death:Drug OD" and a pauper's grave somewhere. This doesn't assume active efforts, such as owning a crematorium via proxies (cremate two bodies in one coffin, and as long as the amount of ashes are right, who cares?) or just a large enough plot of land and a backhoe.

It wouldn't be a large group of vampires, but something akin to a wolf pack or a cult, and run very ruthlessly.

(In fact, I can see this as the hook for Bob to be involved-somebody lower on the totem pole asks Bob to help find their son/daughter that ran away from home. Bob justifies it as some sort of internal tracking exercise or such. Hilarity Ensues from there.)

And, I realized Bob took his level of Badass when he chomped on the two missionaries in The Apocalypse Codex. It took him a while longer to get it through his head (which seems to be a Bob trait).

151:

As far as Mhari, is it possible Bob could only access the (already chewed) Mhari's soul, and can now access the (delicious) V parasite?

Mo: V zrna, fur qbrf pnyy uvz gur "arj Rngre bs Fbhyf", fb vg jbhyq or yvxryl fur oryvrirf gur gvgyr gb or yvgreny, evtug?

152:
Stuff that went into The Rhesus Chart: well, I did a whole bunch of background reading about the culture of banking for Neptune's Brood

Any good books you'd recommend?

153:

Problem
John le Carre is unutterably BORING & dull & pedestrian.
I tried to read "A small town in Germany" - forget it.

154:

Yes, well ...
There was extreme consternation at the UN, about 10-15 years back, when the Brit Ambassador to same was named as:
Sir Richard Hannay
Quite a few nations & their representatives actually believed he was the son of Peter John Hannay & Anna Haraldsen - & this the grandson of the "original" Richard Hannay.
Highly amusing.

155:

vf Zb njner bs gur fbhy rngvat guvat? Orpnhfr abguvat va GNF vaqvpngrf gung... Gurer'f zragvbaf bs Obo'f mbzovr pbageby fxvyyf, ohg abguvat nobhg gur snpg gung ur'f *npghnyyl n fbeg bs inzcver, naq unf orra sbe n juvyr abj*
STOP THAT
( please? )
Either communicate in a recognisable language, or don't bother - or do both of you ( Kkoro) do it deliberately, just to annoy?
If so, then incredibly Childish.

156:

Maybe I'm mis-reading your point but -

**Spoiler alert if anyone's not read "The Jennifer Morgue" yet**

Bob is actually a Bond girl; it's Mo who's James Bond.

157:

Maybe they're disemvoweling themselves to save OGH and the mods the effort?

158:

Don't they teach rot13 any more?

It has been the standard polite way of posting fcbvyref for decades.

159:

No, you don't get to tell other people to stop masking spoilers - it's not your blog, it's Charlie's, and so long as he's replying to to these, I think you should accept that he's happy with them.

In truth your ignorance of the Internet is showing through. That's English, with a Caeser cypher (ROT13) applied so that people don't accidentally read a spoiler. Should you want to read it, then copy that text and paste it into a decoder. www.rot13.com is a convenient one.

Meanwhile many of the rest of us are glad that Hmpf and Kkoro and Adrian Howard and MSB are being considerate with spoilers.

160:

How many hours should I expect the AMA to last? If I arrive after it's been going for, say, three or four hours, will it essentially be over?

Depends entirely on the state of my RSI (and whether I want to continue it at the pub).

161:

See the thread up a ways about authors being gardeners or architects? There's your answer!

162:

Ask those questions on correct thread, please. Also, not in rot13!

163:

And, I realized Bob took his level of Badass when he chomped on the two missionaries in The Apocalypse Codex. It took him a while longer to get it through his head (which seems to be a Bob trait).

Bob is a very unreliable narrator.

We all like to be the heroes of our own internal narrative; Bob's no exception. The trouble is, Bob isn't a hero: he's becoming the freakin' eater of souls. This is not a role compatible with having a good self-image, so the cognitive dissonance is deafening.

Meanwhile, Mo is ... complex, and conflicted, and coming apart at the seams.

The whole point of "The Annihilation Score" was to step outside Bob's highly unreliable viewpoint (denial ain't just a river in Egypt, after all) and take a cold, hard look at his entire married life.

It's called parallax, and it can be dizzying at first.

164:

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you haven't already spotted it, the next blog entry is a spoiler thread for The Annihilation Score (and by extension, all preceding Laundry Files stories). Consider it your own local AMA!

165:

Just as a pointer to some, in case they are thinking of digging into british 20th century magic fiction: There is also the Milkweed Triptych (starting with Bitter Seeds), which is good, but I did find it rather sombre. Quite depressingly bleak at times.

I much prefer the happy happy fun times of the Laundry.

My appreciation of OGH (squee): it probably helps that I can see echoes of parts of my growing up with OGH, including being a young man in/around Leeds (Bramley and Farnley in my case), going into IT, and reading just about every one of his Shopper columns avidly as I grew in my *nix skills. It all fell apart in similarities however, when he started being an amazing writer, and I carried on with not being one.

166:

You may find "The Nightmare Stacks" amusing, then.

North Leeds (and the Inner Loop) get demolished by an eldritch invasion.

167:

Will reply in spoiler thread.

168:

Conversely, googling the phrase "do not go mad" suggests that it is poets, but not chess players, and perhaps G.K.Chesterton.

Or else it is a new coinage, so perfect that we mistake it for a part of our culture (or Culture, as the case may be).

169:

Conversely, googling the phrase "do not go mad" suggests that it is poets, but not chess players, and perhaps G.K.Chesterton.

Madmen do not go mad. Or -- almost the same thing but more general -- people who have already been voted off the island do not get voted off the island.

170:

re the Milkweed Triptych:

I liked books 1 and 2 quite a lot, book 3 was almost unreadable for me. I read it to the end because I wanted to know how the story finishes but .. the way the author separated the narrative of $PROTAGONIST_1 from $PROTAGONIST_2 felt _really_ jarring to me.

YMMV, obviously.

Also, throughout the whole storyline, I had "I hate the protagonist!"-problems. The guy's a fucking asshole. But he probably has to be, so .. eh.

171:

In A Study In Emerald, Holmes and Watson are still human. Nothing has changed about their characters and abilities explicitly; the only thing that has changed is the nature of european royalty. As a result, Holmes still ostensibly uses reason and observation to come to his conclusions. This is very different from my suggestion.

Nyarlothep, despite having a human-like form, is very much not a human. He poses as a human con-artist (a fortune teller, medicine man, snake oil salesman, stage magician, or demonstrator of scientific novelties) in order to show off tricks which he performs via inhuman means.

This is a good fit for Holmes, since (as Doyle pointed out) many of Holmes' deductions literally cannot be attributed to reason, and must instead be attributed to luck or collaboration on the part of the universe, because for every observation and deduction Holmes makes, there are many possible alternative interpretations which would lead to reasonable but completely incorrect conclusions.

The point of my suggestion wasn't "Holmes is working for the bad guys". It was "Holmes' abilities stem from Laundryverse QM, wherein certain information patterns when observed have major macroscopic effects". (That said, it's unclear to me whether or not Laundryverse QM has retrocausality -- whether observation can cause an assumption about an event in the past to become true by evicting previous incompatible observations from the timeline. This would probably be necessary for a Holmes-style figure, and would introduce an interesting ethical dimension -- by 'solving' mysteries Holmes destroys eyewitnesses and replaces them with replicas with different histories, and two Holmes-like figures could interact in ways that have interesting effects around the edges of timeline spread.)

172:

I think the Holmes story I'd like to see, and wouldn't be surprised if it's been done, is one where Holmes is Moriarty. Nothing so trite as him being a multiple, that'd be too Jekyll & Hyde. Rather he uses his powers of observation to pull off crimes and frame his victims so well that even they become convinced they are guilty (by hypnotic suggestion or implanting memories the way police interrogations sometimes do?) He keeps Watson around as part of his cover, the Good Doctor is a dupe, helping to promote the myth of Holmes vs. Moriarty. A fairly straight crime story, nothing fantastical necessary.

173:

Yeah, Hans-Hermann Hoppe is just weird. I read his book, and bounced hard at the point where he explained that absolute monarchy was the most libertarian form of government and compared the Dual Monarchy favorably to the UK and the US. And apparently he's tied up with the post-Rothbardian group that's trying to find common ground between U.S. libertarians and the Pat Buchanan ultranationalist splinter. (Of course, Rothbard's entire life was spent in making ill-chosen political alliances, from the states' rights people in the forties to the Leninist left in the seventies.)

174:

Hi Charlie:

Read this a while back ... Nifty mundane explanation of vampires' heightened abilities.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150521120919.htm


Blood to feeling: Scientists turn adult human blood cells into neurons
Date: May 21, 2015
Source: McMaster University
Summary: Stem cell scientists can now directly convert adult human blood cells to both central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) neurons as well as neurons in the peripheral nervous system (rest of the body) that are responsible for pain, temperature and itch perception. This means that how a person's nervous system cells react and respond to stimuli, can be determined from his blood.

175:

A question ...

Would the Laundry consider investigating putting masses of people into comas in order to buy time ... put off the large scale soul migration that's coming up in real life (Baby Boomers). Let's face it, at 60+, the immune system doesn't work nearly as well, and we've seen some really nasty viruses making the rounds, not to mention more serious E.Coli variant outbreaks.

176:

Er, no. That summary is crap. Not merely was the research done in crayfish, and the cells had to be injected rather than eaten, there is a negligible association between number of brain cells and mental capacity in humans. Sorry.

177:

My, aren't we having a good haughty condescend today?!
You also apparently failed to note that I did say "please?" in my request.

"My ignorance of the internet"
Well, excuse me, but I'm even more out-of-date than Charlie, then, having learnt good ol-fashioned BASIC & FORTRAN_IV, back in about 1974 - I have used actual punch-card feeds, 80-chars per line for old IBM "mainframes" that had less than 20k of memory.
Why should I know about ROT 13?

NOW, of course, I do know what t is, & I can use an online decryptor to read it.
But ... Why should I bother?
This is the sort of spiteful & childish trick that a demented 9-year old might consider funny on a bad day ....

Also, you are asked to note Charlie's response at 162 ???

Grr - yes, I'm still really annoyed.

178:

Yes, careful Charlie ...
You are emulating poor old Oscar, by the looks of it:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.
Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.

179:

Per view to the next thread ....
[ No that's not a typo for "preview" ]
On my out this afternoon, I'll see if my local Waterstones' has a copy of The Annihilation Score"
Hope it does!

180:

Not merely ignorant, but wilfully so.

181:

Grin :-) My first job included programming in Mercury machine code in 1966, on a first-generation (yes, valve) machine, and have no trouble with such things, but I am in IT. Rot13 is a reasonable convention for such purposes, and has been widespread in Internet forums for 40 years, but I fully agree this is the wrong thread and agree with you that there is no moral imperative for you to know about it. It wasn't as bad as the spoilers posted in clear on the previous thread, of course.

182:

As an aside here (I dare not go into the Annihilation Score post), I am suffering serious withdrawal pains at the moment: I used an Xmas book token to purchase Annihilation Score and Seveneves, and they are sat in a cardboard box waiting for the family holiday in 3 weeks.

The temptation to have *just a tiny peek* is strong, and growing stronger.

SWMBO has already evinced certain concerns about me being an uncommunicative miserable bugger, when having those to hand. So there is a distinct chance of getting about 30 pages read in a week.

183:

Not so sure about that ... the assumption is that the blood is eaten... it might be 'assimilated' in some other way. We've simply no idea what a vampire's innards are.

See the link below ... there's quite a bit that's been done in mammals, including nervous system/brain.


http://stemcells.nih.gov/research/scilit/highlights/Pages/Default.aspx

184:

Off topic but what the hell ... There's an idea for which the laundryverse is a great playground (or site for destructive testing): The whole thing that authorianism is basically an adaptive traint for scarcity or the zombie-apocalypse, while the non-authoritarian, hippy mindest is adaptive if you happen to live in a garden eden. This way to put it is obviously informed by a rather authoritarian view, but what the hell*.

Now take CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (or any other colour) and don't look at how states (Or the laundry) handle these emergencies, but take a look at smaller groups.

* I won't bother to find the link, but some blogger seriously tried to describe the left/liberal and the right as the folks who believe they live in garden eden or a zombie-apocalypse, repsectivly.

185:

BLOODY Waterstones ...
Useless bunch of tossers.
I'll have to wait until I can get to "forbidden" now ....

Grrrr

186:

Because it is NOT IMPORTANT
Similarly I am wilfully ignorant about football & your next condescending sneer was?

I repeat it is childish, petty & stupid to use rot-13.
Now either grow up, or, please, please don't bother the rest of us, who are, with considerable difficulty, trying to hold an adult conversation, at least most of the time?

187:

(like, say, the feel of "Iron Sunrise" -- dammit, I wish I hadn't broken that universe)

You're the author and all, but I still don't think the SS/IS universe is as broken as you think. The Eschaton doesn't have to deal honestly with its temporal agents, especially those that are sentient entities in their own right. Not even if they are, at other levels, moving parts of the Eschaton. All it has to do is provoke the desired actions.

So the full Eschaton might know much more than it tells Herman that it knows, and Herman isn't being told what to do so much as being manipulated into doing what needs to be done. Confusing Herman and putting the fear of the Eschaton's demise into it might be exactly what's needed to increase Herman's efficiency in some way. It might send Rachel and Martin to stop some causality violation just to get them into a position where they "independently" investigate and foil some other plot, because for that happens to better motivate them than directly pointing at the actual problem.

Hell, for all we know the full Eschaton isn't formed until a proto-Eschaton eats the Unborn God, so the Eschaton might actually zealously protect the Unborn God... for a while.

188:

I tried to suggest this to Charlie some time ago.

189:

BLOODY Waterstones ...
Useless bunch of tossers.

Seconded. Waterstones, Blackwell's, and W.H.Smith. (Oxford's days of glory as a town of bookshops are long gone.) Probably be as quick to wait until second-hand copies start turning up in my local Oxfam.

I'll have to wait until I can get to "forbidden" now ....

I wouldn't expect too much from them. Last time I was there, none of the staff had even heard of Analog.

190:

Ok refers to Glasgow branch, but the last time I was in FO, the stock seemed to be about 80% "action" figures and tee-shirts, and 20% graphic novels. I've nothing against graphic novels but it's a sad state of affairs for what used to be "an SF bookshop".

191:

Someone needs to grow up, but it isn't dpb. You're one of the most prolific commenters around here while I rarely stick my head above the parapet, and I usually agree with a lot of what you say. But your tone can be extremely abrasive at times, and if your response to an attempt at politeness (e.g. avoiding the disclosure of spoilers) is to start calling names then I suggest thinking long and hard about the phrase "childish, petty & stupid".

Pot, this is kettle, your callsign reports black, over.

192:

Assume we're talking Forbidden Planet here. I went into the New York one several years ago and was totally disappointed, it was just a big comic book shop --and not really that large, full of overpriced dolls Action Figures. Didn't bother going into the Glasgow one a year later when I was there.

Now, here in Colorado Springs we only have two new book stores (as opposed to used), both are Barnes & Nobles, and I've learned not to bother going in on release day, the books won't be shelved yet. So I'm going tomorrow, hoping The Book will be out. And anyhow I can't go until tomorrow for reasons.
I miss Borders, they often shelved books early and had a decent selection. The Glasgow one was lovely.

193:

Re: "Our Kind do not go mad": William Burroughs claims in "Junkie" that heroin addicts do not suffer from schizophrenia - I don't think it's actually true.

In "Excession", Grey Area specifically discusses their role as a pretend "eccentric", stating that the mere pretence is pretty eccentric in itself.

194:

Yep, FP (or typo for same). Are you sure you didn't visit the Glasgow branch, because you described it perfectly!?

And I miss John Smith & Sons (Glasgow) - 10 floors of nothing but books and L-space!

195:

Yeah, the small upper level of the New York FP was all manga and lower was cases of figurines. It was a disappointment after having seen their two page ads in Starlog magazine when I was a kid in the early 80s. But I suppose I shouldn't expect a store to age well over a couple decades.

196:

Hopefully this isn't a spoiler for The Nightmare Stacks, but I just realized that there's a problem with ethical vampirism as proposed near the end of the Rhesus Chart:

You can't starve a parasite and expect it to be satiated.

Since the V-parasites are apparently non-sentient, we can say that they must consume brains (in small quantities) to complete their life cycle. Apparently they have a need to destructively use human computronium, or something. Or maybe they need the lipids.

Anyway, if you're a PHANG, and you drink the blood of a dying human, your V-parasite can only consume that human victim for as long as that victim is alive. If that person dies shortly after its PHANG host consumes the blood, that parasite doesn't get the meal it would get from killing a healthy human. In other words, it's going to be hungry sooner rather than later.

The only way the hospice solution works is if the PHANG consumes a lot of blood from a lot of hospice patients, and that's not the most ethical solution. I had an aunt who was in hospice for 18 months (that's two "you've got six months to live diagnoses" that she beat. Tough lady, went down fighting). Until near the end, it's hard to calculate when life will end, and there aren't huge numbers of hospice patients in any event. While it may be okay for some of them to die of neurodegenerative diseases faster, rather than whatever they have slower, it's still a squicky slope.

Now, there are two solutions to this. One is to declare that human brains are special and different.
If this is the case, then the Laundry's going to need to find a population that needs killin' in order to keep their vampire staff alive. That's probably going to come out of prisons and hospitals for the criminally insane, where the vampires victimize the life-sentence criminals, whose only way to leave is in a coffin. There isn't a large population of these people either, but at least they're sort of healthy.

The other, evolutionarily better way, is to declare that brains are brains, and the v-parasite simply needs to feed on living computronium, possibly but not certainly of the mammalian variety.

This is the chupacabra solution.

We already know that the PHANGs don't find non-human blood itself tasty, but then again, they were drinking the blood of dead animals. For all we know, the reason it tasted horrible wasn't because it was from an animal, but because that animal was dead. The V-parasite checked the sympathetic link formed by the blood, found it dead, and therefore told its host that the blood was no good.

If this is the case, then having a goat farm (or a any kind of mammal raising operation), where the blood of living goats is fed to the PHANGs, should be sufficient. They are literally sacrificial goats, in that once the vampire has taken their blood, they are the prey of the v-parasites. It's also likely that the v-parasites will need more goats than they would humans, since they're getting a smaller meal from each victim. Still, as long as the v-parasites are satisfied with living mammalian brain matter, their PHANG host should be able to live indefinitely by drinking live mammal blood on a regular basis, so long as the mammals are left alive after their blood is taken.

Now if you want to put a nasty spin on this, you could say that prions are the physical link that the v-parasite inserts into its victim. That would imply that historical vampires caused mad cow disease. What's happening there is that some poor cow got blooded by a vampire, was consumed by a v-parasite, but then someone came along and fed the neural tissue, with the v-parasite link still in it, to another cow. The v-parasite infected that cow too, and mad cow disease was born. This would explain, perhaps, why prions are ubiquitous in nature (even yeasts have them), but so few organisms die from them. Perhaps it's just the ecology of the v-parasites and their kin, manifesting in earthly biochemistry.

It might also imply that v-parasite infestation might be from Central America. Perhaps they traveled to the Old World from the New, like corn.* But also like corn, perhaps the cultural institutions (like goat-sucking) that allowed v-parasites to live in Central America were not transferred, leaving European vampires stuck in misapplying European tropes, not realizing that they don't need to limit their attacks to humans in order to survive.

*With corn (maize), the ancient technology of nixtramalization didn't travel with corn to the Old World. This preparation makes corn a lot more nutritious, among other things. Because the technology never made it to places like Italy, foods like polenta are relatively less nutritious, and peasants who depended largely on these inferior foods suffered quite a lot from diseases like pellagra, which people in the New World avoided through using nixtamalized corn and similar preparations.

197:

Exonomes in the Laundryverse are apparently attracted to computation, so it seems reasonable to assume that animals who are incapable of mathematics would be unsatisfactory. On the other hand, it raises the possibility that vampires could survive on an all-Pokemon diet (or other virtual victims).

198:

If you've ever seen a goat climb things, I'd say that it's pretty good at the 3-d computing needed for that task. You try building a robot to do that.

Also, if dolphins and chickens can be used as sacrifices (ref to TAS), why not goats? Dolphins are closer to goats than they are to humans.

The bigger issue here is whether the Laundryverse runs on the idea that there's something different and special about humans (which is an innately religious view in the JC tradition) or not. If it's based on hard-sf with fantastic elements, then one of the follow-ons is that there are quantitative rather than qualitative differences between human brains and non-human brains, based on results from biology, evo-devo, and evolution.

199:

The in-book explanations reference a Platonic ideal space, which implies that the capacity for abstraction is critical to magic in the Laundryverse. Humans (and evidently dolphins) have that capacity. Rituals that use goats and chickens are probably crufty and unoptimized.

200:

You can't starve a parasite and expect it to be satiated.

This certainly would be the reasonable person's first assumption. I'll point out, because the same question bugged me, that Old George seems to have gotten away with something similar for a very long time. Remember the sacrificial kid in the bobble who only got taken out for a quick snack? This scheme seemed to satisfy the V-parasites, even though the brain they were targeting was quickly shuffled out of the accessible universe before they got a lot of dining in. Maybe the V-parasites aren't bright enough to give feedback to their host on this, or the effect trapped (some of) the parasites themselves in statis without crippling the PHANG; we don't get any explanation of how this works.

It's also worth noting that a PHANG has the ability to tell at a glance if a person is still alive just by looking at a sample of their blood. Some people in Sneaky Government Agencies must have a use for this power...

201:

I was talking about the London Forbidden Planet. Descriptions here of the New York and the Glasgow one would fit it perfectly.

I agree with you about Borders. The Oxford one was lovely too.

Do bookshops realise that they're competing with Amazon? If so, why don't they try a little harder?

202:

"If you've ever seen a goat climb things, I'd say that it's pretty good at the 3-d computing needed for that task. You try building a robot to do that."

Exactly. Your average goat may be mediocre at calculus, but all vertebrates are constantly computing, in the sense that individual neurons are remarkably powerful information processors (although this is constrained by dendritic morphology and synaptic distribution).

203:

Not true at all - in fact, there is at least one gene (DRD4) associated with both schizophrenia and heroin addiction.

204:

Do bookshops realise that they're competing with Amazon? If so, why don't they try a little harder?

I'd guess the convenience of getting what you want online is too hard to fight.
We used to have a decent independent bookstore in town that had opened in the 60s, they began to suffer a bit when Barnes & Noble came in the early 90s, but they held on, doing well with special orders, then Amazon came along and they could no longer compete.

205:

They're attracted by computations, but that's not what they feed on. The K-parasites and V-parasites physically gate away bits of neurons, which implies that perhaps they're quasi-physical entities that need neurons to run the computations on which they need. I guess the false vacuum doesn't support calculations.

Basically, a neuron is a neuron is a neuron, biologically. Humans just have a lot of very well organized neurons, which makes them good resources for those entities requiring either computronium on which to run or computronium to swipe. Even though humans are a good source, there's no obvious reason you can't use the neurons of other animals as a substrate for a k-parasite. Heck, probably an ant colony would work pretty well too. Maybe they could just eat ants and use those as sympathetic links to the colonies.*

As for Old George, yeah, I didn't like that part of the story either. OGH has gotten way too lazy with those shield things. If we wanted to retcon this, we'd simply assume he's lying. The other thing is that vampires aren't with the times, and all they know about the k-parasite is through empirical observation based on things they learned as humans decades or centuries before.

Here's an alternative to the First Law of Vampires (e.g. they all have to kill each other). When I started thinking about chupcabras, I started thinking about the Maya, who have this interesting connection between underground rituals and monsters and rain. Now, there's a perfectly rational explanation for this (look up the hydrology of the Yucatan). They were also sophisticated in mathematics and astronomy.

If we're talking about Laundryverse, though, the thing to realize about the Yucatan is that it's totally dependent on rain for agriculture over most of the area. There's well-grounded speculation that the Classic Maya were done in by drought, but there's also the fact that the Spanish defeated the last Mayan kingdoms during the Conquest.

What would a vampire do in the Yucatan? Deal with level 4 entities that can exercise weather control, for the purpose of bringing rain to the vampire's host kingdom. The vampire is stuck underground in the extremely extensive Yucatan cave network, but the k-parasite gives him both some immunity to possession by a weather-demon, and also the long life needed to learn how to run those rituals successfully. If the vampire is doing something useful for society, like making the rains come on time when it's climatologically possible, then human sacrifice (which the Mayans did practice) to keep the vampire fed isn't such a big stretch. Heck, if they knew about the chupacabra routine, the Mayans could simply hunt animals for the vampires, collect the animals' blood, and let the animals go. And the Mayans did have a bunch of implements for bloodletting, although it's thought that they were used in a different context.

Now, assume that a Conquistador or a priest found out about the Yucatan vampire cult after Nojpeten was conquered, became a K-parasite host, and took it to Europe, perhaps with very imperfect knowledge of how the parasite could be fed--say he thought he could only drain the blood of people. That would lead to the modern European vampire, but with a culture that gave rise to the first law of vampires, due to Christianity and other issues with sacrificing humans to do magic.

Anyway, the point is that vampires can serve socially relevant roles, in places where it's acceptable to sacrifice people for the greater good. In a society where that's not socially acceptable, they're monsters and things like the first law of vampires come into being.

206:

The K-parasites and V-parasites physically gate away bits of neurons

Alternately, they could just be randomizing the neurons (using them as an entropy sink, or if you prefer "eating" the information content). The no-longer living neural matter would be removed by normal biological processes, explaining the holes in the affected brains.

We're obviously overthinking it.

207:

Well, of course. I just wanted to mess with the concept of PHANGs and link them to chupacabras. Still, it's fun yanking with the wholesale incorporation of souls, brains, and humans being special and different than other species. It's not like we're dealing with a JC-based mythology here.

Besides, it could be a real crisis, if the Laundry figures out that feeding hospice patients and asylum lifers to the PHANGs isn't good enough. It would be kind of cool if the Laundry ended up running one of Prince Charles' goat farms somewhere for the benefit of civil servants with special dietary needs.

208:

I'm personally more amused by the idea of vampires eating Tamagochis by the millions, but there's no accounting for taste.

210:

I had an aunt who was in hospice for 18 months (that's two "you've got six months to live diagnoses" that she beat. Tough lady, went down fighting).

My understanding is that in the UK hospice care is only the last few days. Hours at minimum, a week or two at most. Nobody checks in when they get the "six months left" warning; they check in when they're no longer able to live at home and don't want to die in a hospital.

(Thoughts about V-parasite lifecycle noted.)

211:

Alternatively V-Parasites are minimally sentient, just enough to be able to make a cost/benefit analysis of when to eat. If their host hasn't drank blood in a while and has no plans to it begins to eat the host. This might prompt the host to go find blood or at the very least ensure the V-parasite gets as much food as possible before being sent back to whence it came.

If the host does eat every once in a while the V-parasite might tough it out reasoning that continual, minimal amounts of food are better than none. If the host goes too long between feeds or shoes signs of not planning to eat...chow time.

212:

My sister was in a hospice at Ealing Hospital for 5 to 6 months before she died. It does happen.

213:

Different use of the term hospice, but I understand your point. My aunt was cared for at home by my uncle and visiting nurses. Part of this is that people who are judged to have less than six months to live are given quite strong palliative pain meds that (AFAIK) aren't normally given outside hospital settings. After the patient passes, one of the first things is that those drugs are disposed of.

214:

Forbidden Planet in London is still holding on to book sales, but yes, the staff are mostly interchangeable students. I think the rest of the tat being sold is what pays the rent on the basement. They are pretty much the last vestige of decent genre material in a physical location that I've found over here - all the second hand book shops have basically died or given up on fiction, and Waterstones is completely rubbish once you get away from the Piccadilly or Trafalgar Sq flagships.

I actually have fond memories of Edinburgh in that respect - I remember stumbling into some great second hand bookshops somewhere near the grassmarket - no idea if they are still there.

That being said, aside from the odd copy in second hand shops or left lying abandoned in a ski lodge with the readers digests, I've never knowingly read Analog. Know of it, yes. Actually see it, no. It just doesn't seem to be common outside the US. Honestly I didn't even realise it was still going until I looked it up again now.
I wonder if it is a generational thing.

215:

Actually, it's the same use of the term. In the UK we have hospice at home services as well as dedicated buildings and staff. In the latter people aren't supposed to stay more than a few days. My sister's case was unusual and unfortunate. Administrators kept trying to move her into the hospital and the hospice staff insisted that she stay in the hospice with access to different care and staff (and as you point out stronger medication).

216:

In Oxford, Borders sold Analog each month, right up to when they closed in 2009 or whenever. Also Asimov's and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

And Spectrum, until it died. Which is where I first came across the Laundry.

217:

Thanks for the clarification.

I've been around the long-term care/hospital/nursing home ring with another relative a few times. It really is a matter of where the patient gets the best care. The last time was during the Ebola scare last year, when my relative was in the hospital picking up hospital based infections and grumbling that if Ebola showed up, everyone was going to die there (their idea of semi- quarantine and sterile technique was pathetic). Getting that relative into a long term care/hospice setting was the only way we were able to break the infection.

218:

Spectrum? That's where the Laundry was first published! Hang on to those issues, they might eventually be worth something on the collector's market.

219:

Oh dear. I know that's sincerely meant advice, but it's too late. I hung onto them for several years because of how much I liked the writing, but I have to clear out every so often, and once The Atrocity Archives appeared as a book, I knew that I'd be able to recover the text if I ever wanted to. So I gave them to an acquaintance who I thought had the right tastes to appreciate the Laundry.

I hope he did, because I realised when writing this comment that such gifts haven't always been appreciated. For a birthday present, I once gave a friend a second-hand copy of Roy Lewis's The Evolution Man:

We were often hard put to it to keep up the supply of fuel for a big fire, even though a good edge on quartzite will cut through a four-inch bough of cedar in ten minutes; it was the elephants and mammoths who kept us warm with their thoughtful habit of tearing up trees to test the strength of their tusks and trunks. Elephas antiquus was even more given to this than is the modern type, for he was still hard at it evolving, and there is nothing that an evolving animal worries about more than how his teeth are getting along.

I loved the conceit behind the story, but my friend complained because the book was tatty. Well, it was second hand and not buyable new. I gave another friend a copy of "Antibodies" which I'd made from Dozois: he told me it was too long and he didn't have time to read it. That really annoyed me. Thirty pages, maybe? You can read that in five minutes.

So perhaps I should just have kept the Spectrums and then one day I'd never have to work again.

220:

Could they survive on African Grey Parrots then?

221:

I did a re-read (or first read for two of the short stories) of the entire series to build up to the new book. It set my chronological OCD into nervous fits. Unreliable narrator???!!! I figured out I could arguably assign 5 or 6 different YEARS to The Apocalypse Codex. I originally figured that Bob was born in 1976 or 1977; then Fuller pushed him to 1981; then Codex put him back to 1976, but did not fix the other dates. I finally decided that Santa did some very naughty things to Bob in "Overtime" and we should best leave that mystery unsolved.

222:

This is also the first time I noticed the mystery of the Kettenkrad; so I kept waiting for a resolution in another book. Now I know at least when said enlightenment is coming.

This has probably been discussed on a more appropriate board and I will look to see if it's been mentioned before; however, in case someone wants to take pity on me: In Codex, was there some reference/sub-text I should have gotten out of the conference call with Agent Black/Green and Angleton? It really puzzled me.

223:

Why not? In biology, there are actually more avian vampires (hematophagic) than mammalian ones, so bird PHANGs and, um, Polly-amorous PHANGs are both theoretical possibilities.

Since ants are thought to be the brainiest insects, and argentine ants form clonal colonies that cover continents and probably contain trillions of ants, if you follow this theory to its logical conclusion, a PHANG, by eating a cup of live ants, Renfield-style, could let v-parasite could work its way through trillions of argentine ant clones, rid the world of a serious pest, and keep its host alive for quite a long time. Hope the notion doesn't bug you too much.

224:

I recommend Fowler, but he is much weirder than the Aaronovitch type novels. Sometimes he can be brilliant; sometimes he can be a little too cute, but he's usually entertaining. While not quite approaching Karin Fossum or Derek Raymond levels of weirdness, Bryant and May are odd policemen. Frankly they are odder than most PI/journalist/lawyers, who are the kind of characters one usually selects when you want more flexibility for a character than police novels generally allow.

225:

Since ants are thought to be the brainiest insects, and argentine ants form clonal colonies that cover continents and probably contain trillions of ants, if you follow this theory to its logical conclusion, a PHANG, by eating a cup of live ants, Renfield-style, could let v-parasite could work its way through trillions of argentine ant clones, rid the world of a serious pest, and keep its host alive for quite a long time.

You'd be very popular indeed if you could make this scheme work with Australian rabbits.

226:

Alas, I think it only works on clonal species, due to the similarity/contagion thing the v-parasite works on. Just how genetically similar are Australia's rabbits?

227:

Perhaps the naked mole rat would be a better choice, it being a eusocial mammal. The burrowing is probably not relevant.

228:

was there some reference/sub-text I should have gotten out of the conference call with Agent Black/Green and Angleton? It really puzzled me.

Unwritten (as yet) back story. There's something similar in "The Nightmare Stacks" except I plan to write the novella giving the background before the book comes out.

229:

Actually, argentine ants appear to be clonal or close to clonal over very large areas. An ant that wanders out of one colony can fit into another nearby without being attacked (the normal fate of ants from other colony, due to colony-specific odors), and queens and drones from nests simply breed with each other, rather than flying off and outbreeding, leading to huge colonies with billions of workers and thousands to millions of queens covering many square miles, all coexisting amicably.

This isn't the case for almost all other ant, bee, or termite species, which is why I don't think that eusociality by itself is necessarily key to the way the v-parasite might work.

Charlie, of course, can mess with this as he wants. After all, if a PHANG takes blood from someone, is their identical twin also at risk? Are their parents? Where does contagion end in the Laundryverse?

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