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Brief interlude

It's Mancunicon 2016, the British Eastercon, this weekend from Friday through Monday, and I'm off to Manchester tomorrow (by road, to beat the bank holiday rush). Blogging will be entirely contingent on me having any spare time, and as I'm also working on a book-related project (see the past three blog entries if you want a clue) that's looking fairly unlikely.

I'm on a small number of program events—search for me by name and you'll find me. And if you can't make the kaffeeklatch I'll probably be in the bar! Because all that deep and furious thinking about space opera finally rattled something loose, and now I need to chill for a little while.

(I have a few more SF convention appearances scheduled over the next three months, and will add the details here when I have the energy: they are, Conpulsion (gaming convention, Edinburgh, April), Balticon 50 (general SF convention, Baltimore, May), and Westercon (general SF convention, Portland OR, June).



See you up there then.

(We're driving up on Thursday, but will be taking a chunk of that day putting the registration packs together.)


I'm just not going to Mankinicon, because it's in Personchester ;-) my least favourite city in the UK.


Have you been to Bradford/


And yet you've been to London ...

Any city that has trams has an automatic upvote as far as I'm concerned. It's also the city in which my then fiancée and I threw our engagement party, in the main program room of the first Discworld convention. But that's sort of coincidental.

My least favourite city is the one where I spent four months unemployed — Derby. I'm sure it's got some good features, but living in an uninsulated flat in a winter cold enough for pipes to freeze was ... not nice.

(And electricity from a meter that ate coins)


You're dissing Bradford? The home of the wonderful Kashmir basement restaurant?

(And yes, paws has been to Bradford, I've seen them there.)


NOTHING worng with Manchester, says this Londoner. It's Brum that's one of the arseholes of the planet ....

Talking of aresholes, do we discuss the religious nutters latest excess - hitting the check-in queues was err "long overdue" isn't the right phrase, but ... Or do we just grieve & carry on?


If Charlie wants a thread on what happened, then he will start one. But unless he does, it's grieve and give thanks for those who haven't been taken.


Bill Bryson got it right. "Bradford’s role in life is to make every place else in the world look better in comparison, and it does this very well. Nowhere on my trip around Britain would I see a more depressing city. Nowhere would I pass more vacant shops, their windows covered with tattered posters for pop concerts, or more office buildings covered with TO LET signs. At least one shop in three in the town centre was empty, and most of the rest seemed to be barely hanging on."

I visited it many time while I was living in Leeds and it always lived up to the quote.


To be helpful, Charlie's programme items are here:

I can't make the kaffeeklatsch because I'm helping count the BSFA award votes (unless we count a lot faster than I expect us to) but I'm sure I'll see Charlie around.

And do enjoy your visit to our fair city. We're currently only anticipating rain on three of the four days of the con, so if you want to see the place, then the Friday is probably your best bet.


Manchester is okay-ish. Bradford gets two thumbs up for the Kashmir, one thumb down for having lived there in grotty student digs.

If you want bad cities, Dewsbury and Halifax (and to a lesser extent Wakefield) are the small-town arse-ends of West Yorkshire. But they're all better than some of the worse corners of Leeds, where I grew up. Also, Leeds gave me an abiding and permanent fiery hatred for Football (US usage: Soccer), because who wouldn't (if you grew up Jewish in Leeds in the 1970s).

There is a reason the seventh Laundry Files novel, "The Nightmare Stacks", is mostly set in Leeds.


I think a Brussels discussion would be in bad taste right now. It's unlikely to offer up any new insights at this point, and I'd rather keep the blog for happy fun things like SF conventions and real ale pub crawls right now.

Oh yeah: iPad Pro 9.7". I'm still conflicted over it. On the one hand, no screen resolution bump. On the other hand, double the RAM, double the FLASH, double the CPU horsepower, and the really high quality display panel. I've got four books' worth of page proofs to mark up over the next year. A full-sized iPad Pro is a bulky, excessive beast, but the 9.7" one might do the job ...


We're currently only anticipating rain on three of the four days of the con

My wife is from Manchester. Hence the gill slits, webbed digits, and Innsmouth Look.


"Birmingham is Mordor, with underpasses." attr. Dave Lermit.

I should know, I live locally.

It also has Mount Doom: the Packington Landfill which used to be clay pits for the local brickworks, then the council granted them a licence to dump waste without specifying any kind of limit. The result being that it now has lights on top to warn off aircraft.


So it's a mixed marriage - Jewish and EOD?


If she vouches for you, then you can't be all bad then, in spite of being born wrongPennine.


I should know, I live locally.

Speaking of which -- eastercon?

And does anyone know if there's a real ale bar at Mancunicon?


We compromised and met in the middle -- atheism. Because the alternative would be to embrace Cthulhu!


If it's anywhere remotely near the city centre it won't matter .....


I thought that UK fandom had decreed years ago that the armpit of the nation is in fact Blackpool..



Nice mythological pun :)


You know how some small kids seem to have perpetually sticky fingers, and leave a film of sugar on everything they touch? So if you're in a house inhabited by one of these monsters you end up washing your hands after opening doors because all the doorknobs are contaminated?

In Blackpool everything is like that. The entire town is sticky. Then dirt and grit stick to the sticky, but not in sufficient quantity to overwhelm the stickiness. So everything is dirty and sticky.

Blackpool is vile.


You know you're living in the future when a 2048 x 1536 handheld display isn't good enough :-) When I were a lad...

I'd suggest you hold off until both iOS itself and app developers have caught up with Apple's sudden enthusiasm for the stylus. A PDF reader designed specifically for stylus input would probably be much quicker and nicer to use - but will Apple allow or even encourage such?


There was an Eastercon there, several years ago. At one point, we were walking back to our hotel in the company of Feorag, when we commented that it was the first, and hopefully last, place we'd ever seen the seagulls eating human vomit.

We left early.


Yes. And yes. I'm just not sure where.

I expect something similar to last year's.


And electricity from a meter that ate coins

Wow. Never heard of that one. I wonder if it's legal on the left side of the pond.


20481536 = 3.110^6 But good old film, even colour film was at 34.56*10^6 pixels, back in the 80's .... For B&W you would have to multiply by another 40 000 ( = 200^2 )[ 24x36mm x400 lines per mm ] But, of course, that's a fixed display & film requires 4-photons per "spot" to react, whereas CCD's need only one - which is how they got started - lousy resolution, superb sensitivity.


Blackpool has one tiny, redeeming feature: TRAMS. But even so, it's a horrible dump. What's the Lancashire equivalent of Dewsbury, incidentally, picking up from Charlie's comments in the other thread? Bacup? Warrington? St Helens? Accrington?


I'd suggest you hold off until both iOS itself and app developers have caught up with Apple's sudden enthusiasm for the stylus.

Stylus APIs turned up in iOS a couple of years ago, actually -- there are a whole raft of third-party bluetooth styli, and they range from execrable to quite good. However, they all suffer from the slight lag we're used to with most styli on screens that aren't dedicated digitizer tablets. Similarly, there are plenty of apps out there that support them. Apple one-upped them all with Pencil by building the iPad Pro screen with a variable refresh rate that can boost way high in the vicinity of the pencil's tip, giving it an illusion of extreme responsiveness, and by also adding a digitizer layer to it. I've tried Pencil in the Apple store and it's rather amazing, and the apps I'd need to mark up PDFs are already on my current iPad (just a bit slow and laggy).


Ahem: I was enquiring if Chris would be at Mancunicon. I know you guys will be there.


Ah, I was being too elliptical. "And does anyone know if there's a real ale bar at Mancunicon?"

'yes, I know', and 'yes, there is'.


Just read the tasting notes. My liver is already aching ...


Not all of Wakefield is armpit-like. (Disclaimer, I live in leafy WASP retirement-ville Ossett). I drive through Dewsbury and Batley on way to work most mornings. Very high Pakistani / Bangladeshi population levels, feels somehow sad and ground down - I don't know if there's much racism and/or racial tension there, but it wouldn't surprise me much. (note: I am very much in favour of multiculturalism, mutual understanding and suchlike good things. Am not loony Farage-follower). Equally, I have been subject to racial intolerance from a particular 'muslim' subset playing race card, so I am very aware that being a dick is a common feature across all peoples.

Halifax: my kids used to love Eureka museum - last time I went a few years ago it looked positively worn out, most likely due to poor funding.

Used to work in Bradford - a major city with no bookshops is a statement in itself. However, the K2 and Sweet Centre on Lumb Lane were pretty damned good.

I have a biased view of Manchester - I was a student there for 3 years in 80's and had a great time, so rose-tinted specs on.

Had a lovely walk in Leeds at weekend on Post Hill, from Farnley to Troydale, re-treading paths I walked as a teenager many many years ago.

Not *all* of Wakefield is armpit-like.

I shared this with some residents of the West Riding.

Their responses were enlightening:

"that's true. Some of it is worse."

"Some of it is more like a syphilitic scrotum after an intense CBT session"

"there's definite anal areas, especially that bloody awful shopping mall."


Harsh words indeed. I will agree that the Ridings Centre feels like it is constructed entirely from concrete pieces and liquid despair. They got rid of the quaint old art gallery and replaced it with the Hepworth centre, which is so far up itself it can see it's own tonsils. Yorkshire sculpture park is nice (though probably nearly Barnsley) as long as you can afford to donate a kidney to afford the parking.

I'm not doing a great job of selling it here, am I? But then, neither does the fugly experiencewakefield website.

P.S. I think I might be being a bit dim: CBT?


CBT: cock and ball torture. A sexual practice, m'lud.



Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It's the latest attempt to reduce the incidence of STDs by reprogramming the infected.



Re cmt 14: you should be careful with acronyms. I read that as "Jewish and Explosive Ordinance Disposal"


I'm glad you and Feorag embraced Atheism.

I say this because I'm the product of a Jewish/EOD mixed marriage and it was a really difficult life, starting at a beach party when I was two years old and my mother – the Jewish one in the marriage – brought up the issue of swimming lessons in front of the in-laws. Suffice to say this didn't go over well, and Grandpa Marsh finally screamed, “My grandson will never need swimming lessons” and threw me into the North Atlantic. I'm told I swam beautifully that day, but I'm currently in my fifties and the incident has literally been brought up by one side or another in every argument my parents ever had.

Then there was the issue of the Bar Mitzvah. My father's side of the family initially refused to attend, as my gill-slits had not yet opened and it was, in my grandfather's opinion, “too early for a deflowering ritual*,” not to mention the issue of Hebrew school… According to Grandpa Marsh “all the world's great literature is written in Arabic” and the Jewish Bible is “...the product of land-dwelling prejudice against the seaborn.” We were in a restaurant at the time and Grandpa offered me one of his shrimp just to “prove the point” and my mother started screaming about the relatives trying to feed me trafe.

Which brings up another issue. According to all the Orthodox and Conservative rabbis Mom consulted I could not take part in a Bar Mitzvah because apparently I am trafe, at least for now. First of all, because I'm a fish without scales, and second, because of my lack of fins, which naturally hadn't come in at thirteen-years-old because the transformation doesn't start until much later in life. (The scales have come in and the gill-slits have opened, but no fins yet, though the webbing between my fingers is starting to grow. I'll be kosher in the next couple years, but it's happening forty years too late.)

We almost got me Bar-Mitzvah'd at a Reform synagogue, but my Grandfather offered to pay the Rabbi by “rescuing the Ark of the Covenant from its abyssal grave." Rabbi Bernstein decided the whole thing was just too weird and withdrew his offer to perform the ritual.

Cue yet another argument with the in-laws.

We finally found a “rabbi” who was a member of Jews For Azathoth who did, in fact, perform my Bar Mitzvah – the synagogue was in a lovely cavern - but it just wasn't the same, and Mom's relatives were really freaked out by the whole thing. The part where I danced around the sanctuary carrying The Torah in one arm and the Necronomicon in the other brought tears to my grandmother's eyes, and not in a good way.

On the other hand, there were some awesome gifts. I got a really nice bike and a Sigil of Dagon carved from a shoggoth's tooth, and by then someone had taken Grandpa Marsh aside, so one of my gifts was a very nice, very expensive fountain pen that writes under water. I have no idea what happened to the bike (did I sell it after college?) and we nailed the Sigil of Dagon by the front door of my parent's house next to the mezzuzah, so I haven't seen it for years, but I still use the fountain pen and it still writes underwater.

I'm sure this reads as funny, but most of it wasn't remotely humorous at the time, and I've skipped the whole issue of high-school – for instance, I was disqualified from the swim team when they started doing DNA testing – and trying to date human girls, particularly the skiksas, was a horrible exercise in embarrassment… I love my parents, but did they have to be so weird?

So anyway Charlie, you and Feorag made a very good decision - the problem of finding a minyan down in the watery abyss is not easily solved - I don't know if you have kids, but hopefully you'll a better job with them than my parents did with me!

  • Per Grandpa Marsh, "human women are just for practice." Fortunately, this was the only opinion he never expressed in front of my mother.

Esoteric Order of Dagon. The Church of the Deep Ones from "Shadow Over Innsmouth."


They do, of course, also have the delightful habit of congregating over the ends of sewage outfalls and scarfing down the turds that bob up. But possibly they regard the alcohol content of vomit as a bonus.


I'd nominate Blackburn. Hideous dump with no redeeming features whatsoever. I once found a bottle of methadone on a bench in the station. I guess you need that to cope.


I'll be kosher in the next couple years, but it's happening forty years too late

It's never too late to be B'nei Mitzvah. My mother had hers 15 years ago (for 53rd bday, she said "like Moses it took her 40 years")) along with a friend of hers. Some of the goyishe relatives were a little confused by the invites, apparently thinking it was a lesbian wedding. Technically it was my Bar Mitzvah too, since she insisted I do a Torah reading - the minimal requirement. Or you can wait till you 83, like Kirk Douglas, though I guess that was more of a renewal.


I may have burst out laughing reading that, but I'm not admitting to doing so.


That was rather enjoyable, a light-hearted counterpoint to The Litany of Earth. Any chance of more where that came from?


Rudy Rucker was kind enough to publish something I wrote under my real name a couple years ago. That story owes an enormous debt to OGH. I might also turn the material above into a real story at some point.

If you like the combination of Judaism and science fiction, there's also an old Harlan Ellison story which covers some of the same territory I covered above. I think it's called "I'm Looking For Kadek."


Eastercon: regrettably, no. Much though I'd like to visit the science museum again, the hotel room rates were ridiculous, I'm on call over the weekend, and I have to move house due to a pair of treacherous little shits.


I might also turn the material above into a real story at some point.

Yes, please. With all the new Lovecraftianas coming out lately; African American and Feminist, etc., I've been wondering if anyone was doing Judaica. Since I'm not a fan of H.P.'s, more of what he's inspired, I'm not the one to attempt it.


I was thinking about structuring the story as the answers to a questionnaire about mixed marriages and telling the story of the protagonist's life that way. Or maybe the very standard narrative of a Jewish person addressing his/her therapist.

BTW, Charlie, if your blog isn't the place to discuss this please let me know and I'll take it to email. This was originally intended as a couple paragraphs of Deep One/Bar Mitzvah jokes and when I started writing the stuff just came pouring out - you know how it goes - so please let me know if I'm getting out of line.

49: 3) Yes. Good curries, can walk the streets at night (which is several steps up on Personchester where I didn't feel safe during business hours)... 4) True, I've been to London (and even to Sarf Larndarn ;-) ). The Manchester, and indeed Edinburgh and Nottingham systems are "light railways", not tramways IMO. 6) See response to #3, plus my Godmother lives there... 10) Can't comment on Dewsbury and Halifax since the closest I've been to being in either was passing on the M62? (trans-Pennine). Leeds I've made a few taxi trips through but that's all.

I'm not staying in the con hotel -- it was sold out when I tried to book, but more to the point, I can get a whole damn' suite in the Malmaison on Piccadilly for the price of a twin room there (and the Malmaison is two tram stops/a twenty minute walk away).

But yeah, I feel your pain: moving house because of someone else's fuck-uppery is no fun (even if the on-call can be finessed).


No, feel free to discuss away! That was a lovely story. I'm just glad you didn't start with the bris.


Err, Black Chamber false flag operation underway ?


As I'm off to Warwick University to give some graduate lectures in a couple of weeks, I would like to nominate Coventry. I made the mistake of staying there the first time I gave this course—it's part of a week-long residential school for particle physics PhD students—and suffice it to say that by the end of the week I understood why you wouldn't want to be "sent to Coventry."

(Staying in Kenilworth this year as usual!)


My French is almost nonexistent and my Spanish very rusty, but somehow MALmaison doesn't sound very inviting.


I'm just glad you didn't start with the bris.

I wasn't going to ask about that. Though of course the thought occurred.


Nah, afraid not. Just Springtime in the Rockies. We get at least one blizzard every March.


I presume the hotel chain takes its name from Napoleon Bonaparte's chateau, but where that got its name I don't know.


Greg, I found this one interesting:

The different institutional reactions are interesting. How much can be attributed to a loss of institutional memory, how much to a different generation with different experiences… good for a discussion over a pint, anyway.


Sorry, just read your comment. Delete my recent post if it's the wrong place & time…


Is Leeds the one that doesn't have a twin town, but is in a suicide pact with Grimsby?

Disclaimer: lived in Leeds for eight years, initially as a student, very cautious about going anywhere near Elland Road.


Should I ever write the long version I'll cover the bris(es) during the discussion of dating in high school.

And discussing the eighties will be fun. "We've just passed legislation that will outlaw R'lyeh forever..."


If I recall correctly, Warwick University student accommodation had student bunks that were exactly like the sleeper accommodation on whatever it is called now, except slightly shorter and narrower. Probably intended to enfore celibacy, or something. I don't mind 2" mattresses, but I am over 6' and intensely dislike beds where I can neither lie out straight nor curl up.


Perhaps fortunately, Warwick university student accommodation isn't sub-let over Easter, so this is an experience I am not destined to, er, "enjoy".


Leeds is twinned with Dortmund.

Dortmund is nicer.


Remember it well. I believe our mouse acquisition metrics were around 5 per person-day, including one mouse which committed suicide by jumping into a trap with a few seconds of it being set.

Good curries though, and very economical. I also loved the market hall, great meat and vegetables.

It's also the only place I have ever witnessed a police officer telling a drunk off for using bad language.


It kind of makes you wonder if there is Tinder for city twinning ...


I forgot to ask, which part of Manchester is "F" from? [ I hadn't realised that's where she originated ] Like the man up-thread I also spent 3 highly beery years there, also photographing a lot of the last years of steam traction ...


I was born in Bury (my family lived in Heywood) though we moved to Scotland when I was eight.

Small world.


As in Bolton St & Knowsley St? And, yes, I have been from Bolton to Rochdale by train, & up to Bacup & over to Accrington, before it all closed ... somewhwere I even have photos of a steam-hauled railtour at Bacup, just before it shut....


Eh, you lucky git :)


I'm on call over the weekend, and I have to move house due to a pair of treacherous little shits.

Internet Over-Empathetic Mind.

First read:

OMG, it's about Harry Potter - poor guy got moved from Gryffindor or out?

Ok, that's dumb of me.

Second read:

It's about cats. 100% it's the cats fault. They're total amoral assholes. (with reference to Landlord)

Third read:

On Call... Ah, it's about politics! I knew it! Its about the recent cuts and protests! Junior doctors' strike: Patients must take some responsibility to save the NHS Independent, 12th March, 2016

Hmm. Pretty sure he's past that point now.

Fourth read: it's about children and how they ruin your life!

Let's not go there.

Fifth read:

You wouldn't believe the amount of "House" based psychic and dream based and political based and real world shit I've seen.

From the destruction of beauty, the symbolic leaving of statues, the WWII house destroyed and feast staved off (and buried, natch - watch out for evergreen sprouts), the dousing underwater realm of forest idyllic, fire depths and broken roofs, to all of that Jazz and on and on and on.

Bottom Line: "It's not what you did, son, it's who you did it to". YT: film: 3:08


But, in reality: I'm finding it hard to relate to a situation where two humans could force another out of their home.

Call me.

I don't play nice. Last Law suit I played with cost them £250k+... over a £4k desired payout.


And yes: 100% of that cost was against the Ambulance chaser Law firm.

Turns out you shouldn't threaten our kind.


Contact Host etc. If it's a case of the meta-V, then I can't help.

Apart from saying it might get better.


Err ... neither of those "Custom Model" links works - HTML failure, somewhere, I think?


It always tickles the ol' schadenfreude to see a spammer who is so dim they can't even post their spam links correctly.


Spam deleted, spammer account banned.


That's two in a couple of days or so. Are the bastards getting more inventive, AGAIN?



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on March 22, 2016 3:14 PM.

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