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Crib Sheet: The Nightmare Stacks

The Nightmare Stacks has been reissued in paperback in the UK and as a lower cost ebook in the USA, and The Delirium Brief is nearly upon us, so it's about time for me to write my usual crib sheet essay about the seventh Laundry Files novel!

It should be fairly obvious by now that, although initially the stories were set in the same year as publication, the Laundry universe has now dropped behind the real world calendar and diverged drastically from our own history. "The Annihilation Score" was set during the summer of 2013, in a UK suffering from a surplus of superheroes (or at least extradimensional brain-eater afflicted humans experiencing outbreaks of eldritch powers before their heads exploded: some of whom assumed that donning skin tight lycra and committing vigilante crimes was a sensible reaction to being parasitized). It reached a conclusive and grisly climax in the massacre at the Last Night of the Proms, an annual British cultural event; a horrible event the true nature of which was, nevertheless, suppressed and presented to the public as a terrorist incident not unlike the Moscow theater hostage crisis of 2002. At the end of "The Annihilation Score" the Laundry's cordon of secrecy was in tatters but plausible deniability had been maintained—barely.

"The Nightmare Stacks" takes place in March-May 2014, and is the story of how the continually escallating threats faced by the Laundry finally overcame the agency's ability to suppress and contain incursions without public notice, and is the first half of a two-book pivot point in the series (the ongoing consequences of the disaster in Leeds continue to the inevitable conclusion in "The Delirium Brief"); it's the beginning of the tumble over the cliff-edge leading down to the Lovecraftian Singularity.

And we have a new narrative viewpoint, and sundry new protagonists showing up.

Many readers commented on the absence of Bob from "The Annihilation Score" and "The Nightmare Stacks". Bob is back as the primary (but not the only) viewpoint in "The Delirium Brief", but we've reached a point in the series where he has to be deployed with extreme parsimony. After fourteen years in the Laundry Bob is, despite his ongoing self-deception, not entirely human: watch what he does, not what he says. In "The Rhesus Chart" he walked into a nest of vampires and came out with his hair mussed but basically intact. You can't use a guy like that routinely in an ongoing series without either sacrificing the sense of jeopardy (will our hero survive?) or escallating the threats he faces drastically. So Bob took a break for "The Nightmare Stacks" and was replaced by a plausible Bob 2.0—a young PHANG called Alex Schwartz, introduced as a minor character in "The Rhesus Chart".

Alex in 2014 is not a million miles away from Bob in 2002, when the first novel is set. He's bright, under-socialized, has crippling social self-doubt, and is obsessed with some of the more recondite corners of computer science and/or mathematics (predisposing him towards a career in the Laundry). Unlike 2002-era Bob, Alex is a PHANG—not exactly a vampire, but not a long way away from one. He's got the super-speed and strength and the whole bursting into flames in sunlight shtick. He's also got the OCD that goes with certain vampire traditions. He's bright enough to recognize that PHANG syndrome is not a gift, it's a nasty parasitic infection that can only be held at bay by extremely unpleasant means and may well be sexually transmissible—a paranormal equivalent of HIV. Unlike most classic vampires, Alex also has a family: mum, dad, irritating younger sister, and middle class parental expectations to deal with. They're loosely modelled on the family of a long-ago friend: that particular suburb has changed a bit, but the sort of people who live there? Not so much.

I'm not going to recap the plot of "The Nightmare Stacks" other than to say that there are two classic novel structures in train here—a romance novel overlapping with an alien invasion story (subtype: horror). Farah Mendlesohn theorises that romance and horror share common structural underpinnings: both forms rely for tension on an irresistible intrusion that threatens to disrupt (or end) the life of the protagonist, and can only be resolved by coming to some sort of accommodation with a new post-intrusion reality. "The Nightmare Stacks" turns out to be a worked example of this theory, albeit unintentionally: we'll be seeing more of both the Alex/Cassie romance and the invading Host in "The Delirium Brief". (As for the personality of Cassie ... let's just say that I find Manic Pixie Dream Girls much less insipid when we insert an a, making her a maniac pixie etcetera.)

About the setting:

I grew up in Leeds and as is traditional I had to destroy my home city sooner or later. The setting more or less wrote itself: pretty much everything I wrote about Quarry House is true (I have friends who worked there). See for yourself:

Quarry House

The Royal Armouries Museum is real, too, and well worth an afternoon's visit to boggle at one of the world's finest collections of murder cutlery.

Even more interestingly, the former Enfield Pattern Room, now the British nation's reference collection of firearms, really is held by the National Firearms Centre on a site close by the Armouries museum. (No, I haven't been there: it's a closed collection and getting an invitation is non-trivial.) Situating the Nightmare Stacks in the NFC seemed logical in context ...

The annual cartoon and anime festival is also a real thing, although I took significant liberties with the timing (I moved it about five months) and it doesn't really cause the city centre to be overrun by cosplayers—it's nothing like as large as San Diego Comicon. (If Leeds did ever feature a major Comicon event it would probably be held at the Leeds Arena which is inconveniently over a mile away from Quarry House.)

The Bunker out past the ring road is, to the best of my knowledge, a real thing. Its location puts it around the 5psi overpressure circle for a 250Kt nuclear explosion over the city centre. However, I've never been there—my description is very loosely based on the contemporaneous ROTOR installations that were built elsewhere in the UK, including the Secret Bunker in Fife (a local tourist attraction). I confined myself to adding an extra floor.

Some notes about elves:

"The Nightmare Stacks" is the last of four Laundry novellas and novels that pastiche specific urban fantasy subgenres rather than British spy thriller writers. ("The Delirium Brief" isn't a homage to anyone in particular; it's its own thing.) "Equoid" was the unicorn novella; "The Rhesus Chart" was the vampire novel: "The Annihilation Score" was the superhero yarn: and "The Nightmare Stacks" is all about gracile pointy-eared hominid magic users—elves.

We know from earlier books (right back to "The Atrocity Archives") that the Laundryverse is a multiverse, with parallel universes where history has taken some rather odd turns. The Host belong to another subspecies of gracile hominin, genus homo, and are about as closely related to us as we are to H. Neanderthalensis.

The big difference in their history—the point of divergence—occured about 100,000-250,000 years ago: the point mutation that caused the H. Sapiens version of the FOXP2 gene to diverge from chimps and other hominids occurred much later in elves. FOXP2 is expressed as a transcription factor that permits the development of spoken language. Neanderthals shared our mutant version: we've had the capability for language (a modified hyoid bone and larynx) for somewhere between a quarter and a million years. The ancestors of the elves didn't get it until much more recently.

Gracile hominids are individually vulnerable, but are social animals with a rich repertoire of learned behaviour. Language facilitates horizontal transfer of knowledge; a mute hominid species would be under intense selection pressure for stronger theory of mind and enhanced cognition so that they can survive despite lacking rich semantic communication.

Consider the implications of this restriction in a setting where what you think can have external physical effects—the ritual magic path in the Laundry universe. It imposes a selection pressure for general intelligence. The baseline of general intelligence among elves is higher than among H. Sapiens because the dumb ones weren't able to borrow ideas from their intelligent peers, and were vulnerable to predation. Elves are hunters—they tend to have slightly larger brains and a high energy metabolism, and although they're not obligate carnivores their ancestors used their strong theory of mind to enhance their abilities as ambush hunters. That's where the big eyes and the pointy ears come in.

When the ancestors of elves acquired language, then rapidly wiped out every rival hominin subspecies on their world. Magic-wielding hominin ambush-hunters can generally be described as "sociopaths" by the standards of non-magic-wielding hominin hunter-gatherer/scavenger/pursuit hunters. The normal form of social control among elven societies is the geas or magical compulsion, in which the strongest or highest-status individual imposes their will directly on those lower down the feudal pile. On the diplomatic level, they tend to be aggressive and warlike.

One side-effect of building a civilization on geases is that you go direct from the divine right of kings to fascism as your culture acquires complexity and attempts to address the drawbacks of a social order that produces critical single points of failure. Another is that any technology you get is based on direct mental manipulation of the world around you. (Elves understand the laws of thermodynamics and metallurgy, but would never dream of building a jet engine: they'd grow a hollow ceramic tube and use a gate to a universe with different physical laws to heat the air moving through it.)

This has regrettable consequences in the universe of the Laundry Files. Notably, the elven civilization attracts the attention of the Elder Gods somewhat sooner than low-magic-use human civilizations. By the time we meet All-Highest, the Host have been in hibernation in their redoubt for some centuries, cowering under the rubble of their shattered world.

The shadow roads connect a manifold of different universes with different physical laws and histories: they are largely time-independent. The road Agent First traverses brings her to our world in our specific time, during the early phase of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, simply because it's easier to get to our world during the Lovecraftian singularity: magic attracts magic.

(Agent First is anomalous in having some capacity for empathy. Among H. Sapiens, the prevalence of sociopathic personalities is around 2-5%; among H. Alfarensis the prevalence of empathic capacity mirrors this. Of course, empathy is often an asset for a spy.)

The world the elves are invading from is probably not where they originally evolved. They're aggressive and invasive, after all. They expand via percolation between worlds, but this leaves huge gaps in their coverage. They're also lazy enough that they'll take an unoccupied or defenseless parallel earth in preference to one with existing hominid "vermin" who need hunting down or enslaving, and there's an infinity of worlds out there, so the previous scouts who found the way to our world reported (a) no wealth worth stealing and (b) an annoying prevalence of orcs who have developed cold iron weaponry (which interferes with elven magic). It was about as attractive a prospect for invasion as contemporary Afghanistan. But now there's a lot of infrastructure (even if it's incredibly ugly, noisy, dangerous and annoying), lots of orcs to enslave, the moon's still intact, and the background magical "noise" makes it stand out like a sore thumb.

Wrt. pointy ears vs. round/floppy ears: firstly, note the domestication hypothesis (and supporting evidence); floppy/rounded/non-pointy ears correlate with domestication by humans. Note also Stephen Pinker's argument that human civilization progresses (and internicine violence decreases) because we're domesticating ourselves—intractably violent members of human societies are weeded out and don't pass on their genes. This process accelerated with agricultural settlement and cities (representing order-of-magnitude increases in population density, hence opportunities for friction to result in violence). The Alfar are intelligent but non-domesticated. In a society organized by direct mental coercion, but based on an intrinsically undomesticated and potentially violent species, empathy is a dangerous character failing.

So it's not too far off the mark to say that in the Laundry universe, elves are nazis with pointy ears.

Spoiler (for the record): The Laundryverse and the Merchant Princes multiverse do not coexist in the same fictional universe. (Who do you think I am, the elderly Robert A. Heinlein?)

Assorted militaria:

I brainstormed the British military response to the Host with various ex-military people I know. Apologies to anyone who spotted any of the numerous holes in how it plays out!

To turn one of Clarke's laws upside down, any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. The Alfar host is the remnant of an advanced mobile combined-arms force and has doctrine and tactics adapted to fight other highly mobile, energy-intensive thaumaturgic threats. They're utterly unequipped to go up against tanks and jet fighters ... but the converse is also true. (Many thanks to ex-RAF Squadron Leader Simon Bradshaw for discussing the pros and cons of a QRA intercept of weaponized dragons, and explaining why heat-seeking missiles and air combat radar might be less than useful against them.) I had to rig the dice a little to provide a plausible conflict: too little magic and the Alfar host could have been arrested by the West Yorkshire Metropoltican Police, too much and it's game over already. To some extent it's an idiot plot insofar as All-Highest fails because he purged most of his intelligence section prior to the invasion and handed executive control to a proponent of air cavalry: but the cognitive biases of the Alfar preclude understanding how control structures in an H. Sapiens society work (we're mind-bogglingly inefficient), and the fact that the United Kingdom is nominally a monarchy is a plausible source of confusion for the 24 hours or so the invasion lasts.

Pinky and Brains' Kettenkrad is a left-over from "The Atrocity Archives". Yes, they really did have an optional machine gun mount. And yes, the Royal Armouries really do have an M134 minigun in their collection, and although they weapons don't have ammunition and are nailed down, they're not disabled/deactivated (according to a former assistant curator).

As for what my favourite element of the whole book was? Hands down, it's the dinner party sequence. (I was trying to match the dinner party in Lois McMaster Bujold's "A Civil Campaign" for painful hilarity. I don't think I quite got there, but I'll happily take silver.)

Any questions? Over to you!



Hi Charlie, I loved this one (I also once lived near Leeds and got great gratification from the climax).

This may be my own failing, but I struggled to understand some of The DM's responses. I read it as though he clocked Cassie as fey from the start, and he also seemed to have a pre-existing understanding/hatred of elves as soon as the Host came onto his radar. Were you hinting that the Laundry has had prior encounters with other groups of them?


I had a tour (with a small party from our gun club) of the Enfield Pattern Room some years before BAE swallowed up Royal Ordnance and asset stripped it. Nothing in the collection was deliberately deactivated, though some items were incomplete. It was (and almost certainly still is) a working archive and research collection.

They had some (very rare) ammunition: a full box of .45 Mars pistol ammunition and the pistol to match. (Apparently an American collector was very put out that they couldn't sell him a single round of that ammunition.)

Small arms from the Kolibri pistol up to a 2-pounder Naval Gatling, and a few trophies from the Falklands. (Allegedly the helicopter minigun was reclaimed by the army and replaced by a worn-out one some years later.)

It was an interesting day out.



The DM had warnings from Forecasting Ops that something hinky was in the works; precise details unclear.

(Something I really need to do ASAP is to write the interstitial/origin story novella about Derek the DM. Meant to do it a couple of years ago.)


One nitpick I've been puzzling over, like worrying at a gap in one's teeth or something: how'd the Kettenkrad get from the Jotun infovore's Earth to Pinky and Brains's garage? First it was stuck in the ice on the other world, then it was gone - I recall Bob being worried about its disappearance, and the Artists' Rifles telling him to shut up and concentrate on the mission - and then everybody was trying to escape with the homebrewed Hands of Glory.

Did I miss something in my read-through, or Would That Be Telling?


I love the scale of this actually rising above the usual Masqueraded Doom that Threatens the Whole World but is somehow also not noticed by anyone, but it ended too quickly. The conflict is "ended" by lightsaber diplomacy before either side really fully deploys or grapples with their opposites. The "mundane" military of the UK is aware, in a vague way of the Out of Context Contingencies, but they mostly exist to give them a parallel decision-making capability. You mention you balanced the forces and responses so as not to destroy the story, but other asymmetries can lead to different kinds of stories.

In A Colder War, it's clear the US Military has gone much further in specialized tactical responses to higher end threats, even if it's just nukes tuned to comprehensively erase the issue. Does the Laundry control a parallel program to PLUTO in the UK? Being an older country, they seem more invested in magicians of escalating personal power. I could imagine Senior Auditors have tactical magic capable of extended anti-army operations, where the US might just Tomahawk strike the area and call it good.

How do the armies of the Host do in other places? One can imagine a vast array of responses, from some kind of full-magical response to panicked North Dakotan National Guard emptying their Civil Defense stores from the 80s and distributing them Red Dawn style to resist an Alfar invasion that had dug in too far to be immediately removed by national military response without simply killing everyone in the state. Not to mention places like Saharan Africa, Micronesia, Kyrgyzstan where it might take a while to even notice.


That's a continuity glitch from me writing in 2002; Bob did find its engine block on the kitchen table at the end of "The Atrocity Archive", after all! I'm not asking how Pinky and Brains got it home; some stories are too good to spoil.

  • The story continues (a week later!) in "The Delirium Brief". And the response continues to escalate long after the challenge has been contained.

  • In "The Jennifer Morgue" mention was made of being able to call on a Trident D5 if necessary. (It wasn't: Mo's violin did the trick instead.) The Laundry also has RAF Squadron 666's Black Concorde, which was dropped in back in "The Fuller Memorandum" and is mentioned again in "The Delirium Brief" but probably doesn't fly before "The Labyrinth Index" (i.e. not in print before 2019). Let's just say, it's been planned out for the series climax.

  • The Host is the only surviving Alfär unit, and is roughly brigade strength (with air support, tactical intel, and supporting arms). If it had been a real Alfär invasion, carried out with proper recon and planning by the full might of the pre-fall Morningstar Empire, the impact would have been closer to that of the Soviet forces in Eastern Europe roaring in under cover of few hundred tactical nukes and a rain of VX and weaponized smallpox.

  • Seriously, the Alfär are extremely bad-ass. Only the fact that the Host was the starving warehouse floor-sweepings of a post-apocalypse bunker clinging on by the skin of their teeth and led by a badly damaged general allowed the defenders to prevail: if [SPOILER ENDING] hadn't succeeded, by day 3, NATO would have been talking about nuking the Midlands.


    I know Steven Pinker's theorizing about humans self-domesticating, but there's a couple of lines of reason to think that this is BS:

  • Domestication conventionally means that humans control the breeding process of an entire population of a domestic animal (yes, there are a lot of exceptions, but that's the basic definition). Taming, on the other hand, refers to socializing an individual animal to live with humans. Humans are definitely tame (that's kind of the point of good mothering and primary education), but we're not domesticated, in that our breeding is not controlled.

  • We don't breed true, unlike dogs, cats, horses... Astronauts rarely have astronaut kids, ditto with politicians, star athletes, and geniuses of all flavors. We're like apples, and what passes for domestication in apples is cloning of the few genetic individuals that are useful to humans. Breed apples and the seeds go wild pretty rapidly, and their fruit are (at best) useful for cider. This goes with the argument about domestication being about controlled breeding in a population. We can't clone humans, and we don't breed true for anything useful.

  • A lot of what are considered domesticated traits (smaller jaws and GI tracts, for example) are also traits that are favored by switching over to cooked food, which I've argued ad nauseum is humanity's key innovation, akin to eusociality in ants in its effects on mammalian communities. Our domesticated symbiotes (think toy dogs) are often bred to require processed foods, just as we do. This is due to a dietary change that would not be possible without humans, not necessarily to the genetic process of domestication. Floppy ears and color changes in coats seem to go with breeding for more sociality as in silver foxes, and that's kind of taken for domestication.

  • What substitutes for humans with domestication is our absolute requirement for cultural inheritance. Without love, nurturing and education, we fail to thrive as children (at best we end up feral. At worst we die). While we don't breed true for things like astronaut genes, we're ridiculously easy to control through cultural inheritance, aka memes. Everyone's realized this, which is why you don't breed kids to become more social, you teach them to be social, starting with play dates and going through school. The individuals who fail to acquire this inheritance are generally kept from breeding (cf prison, cube farms) or are, if they're rich enough, failed upwards until they're elected to some office that they proceed to ruin.

  • Anyway, you can run elves just as they are without talking about them as domesticated or wild. They're not neurotypical Homo sap sap, and they've developed culture(s) that fit their particular constellation of realities, along with symbionts (unicorns and such) to match. Good for them.


    On my most recent reread of TNS, I thought that the UK government is going to have trouble feeding the Alfar Magi. "You mean they need actual blood - from people, mind you, or they die? And, if provided, the donors quickly die of something like CJD?"

    I think that this would would be a pretty easy decision to make: let the magi die. (The fact that the magi are even more barking than the rest of the Alfar would make the decision still easier).


    Never underestimate the soldier's desire for "souvenirs". A kettenkrad would probably slide quite well on ice, and that's enough to justify someone hauling it back through the gate while the rearguard are setting the timer and preparing to leave.

    Works for me, anyway.


    theorizing about humans self-domesticating, Always excepting D Trumpf & Da'esh. of course .... Or are these classified as "unwanted reversions to wild type" that need, erm .. "sterilising" ?


    Well, inept socialization is one of the critical failure modes for societies where power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the few, and these are inherited rather than being distributed by any sort of meritocracy. If you don't socialize their heirs properly, they can destroy the whole system in short order.


    I realize the Host is only a tiny remnant of the peak might of the Morningstar Empire, but given the what they had left, I remember thinking repeatedly during The Nightmare Stacks that they were just utterly doomed.

    First off, it wasn't clear that they had any viable counter to SCORPION STARE if it hadn't grievously malfunctioned due to a tremendous stroke of luck (the toxic training data it got when Agent First coincidentally strolled through a test). The Host were destroying cameras, but they can't have faster reflexes than a computer. The Alfär have some sort of cloaking magic that probably blocks it, but it only seemed to be available from a few specialist wizard units rather than something their rank-and-file troops could use constantly, so it seemed likely they would suffer tremendous losses on first encounter and then it would slow them down a lot after that.

    (Of course, maybe the point is that SCORPION STARE was never going to meet expectations because target discrimination is just too hard. This is the first real deployment we've ever seen...)

    Secondly, if their surprise attack meets meaningful resistance from "whatever the peacetime military can mobilize overnight", it seems inconceivable that they could conquer the whole world. In the long term, they're just ridiculously outnumbered. The Host is gambling that if they capture the queen, they capture the world, and obviously they're going to lose that gamble.

    Thirdly, both sides are clearly suffering hugely from ignorance about their foes, but in an extended conflict the human R&D is going to crush the Alfär's. Again, they're ridiculously outnumbered, plus the Laundry seems to have a much better knowledge of magic than the Alfär have of technology. And the humans have a huge manufacturing base to start churning out whatever new toys they invent for the war, while the Alfär do not.

    Fourth, even if they did somehow subdue all the orcs, they'd run smack into CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, and possibly also tick off BLUE HADES. We already know that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN was too much for the full might of the Morningstar Empire, and BLUE HADES are suggested to be so powerful that the entire human world isn't a meaningful threat to them.

    Which isn't to say they couldn't have caused enormous death, destruction, and suffering before they were stopped. But I couldn't see any "10 years from now" scenario that wouldn't make the Alfär attack look suicidal in hindsight.


    Points one and two have little to do with whether humans are 'self-domesticating' them selves.

    1) A probably more accurate definition of domestication is the change in alleles within the species population to favour traits that increase the usefulness of a species to human kind, which in turn requires increased tolerance of human kind. Any trait that decreases tolerance to humans will be slowly suppressed or eliminated by either natural selection or artificial selection. Thus by this definition any shift in alleles within the human population as a result of increased population density that improves our toleration of each other and may allow further increases in population density is domestication. Your definition around control of whole populations does not occur. We have never controlled the whole population of a species at the point when it started to domesticate. By your definition the domestication of the dog would have required the capture and control of the entire population of wolves and management of there breeding over 10,000 years ago before humans had any clue about managed breeding.

    2) Breeding true is a complete side track, by definition a species can only breed true once it has been inbreed to the point where there is a lack of alternative alleles in the population, or the "true breed traits" are dominant and thus expressed even in a heterozygous state. Humans and most species have sufficient large amounts of variation residing in there genome that most children end up with a sufficiently different set of alleles that they will differ on numerous traits. The rule in breeding is the child generally trends towards the average of it's parents phenotypes, thus in moderately diverse species children will rarely be identical to there parents, while highly inbreed species such as dogs, house cats and horses there is so little variation between the parents the child effectively ends up with the same set of alleles as both parents. If you want true breeding humans you just need to have a dozen or so generations of sibling marriage and you'll end up with a 'true breeding population' at least until you out cross them. Plants are even more complex as domesticated varieties tend to be polyploid which increases the level of diversity to a degree much higher than in humans or most animal species.

    You can "breed" humans for traits like any other species it's just considered completely unethical, and you have control reproduction limiting each individuals mates to a very small approved pool who carries the traits of interest. Also the generation time is long enough that it's hard to pull off (the person running it dies of old age after 2-4 generations on average) and you need to prevent inbreeding or be willing to tolerate some pretty nasty phenotypes and massively high miscarriage rates, and early childhood deaths.


    I had the same thought but that not to say the Alfar aren't going to significantly change the world through their mere existence though. For instance the whole world know knows magic is real and take. Together with the Supers crisis we can probably assume magic using terrorists are now a serious thing like the SuperSkinHeed in TAS.

    On the production thing it's makes you wonder what the Laundry contingencies are for for things like mass production of banishment rounds or shells even!

    Are they as easy as throwing a barrel of pork BAE's way or do they need the attention of a Bob level adept? Thousands of minigun rounds suggest the former.

    And question to Charlie - what do the Magic Research Divisions of BAE and Quinetiq look like? Or even DARPA?


    It's true: the Alfar were doomed.

    They were also doomed on the world that they came from, so they are going to go somewhere:

    • they culturally know that all government is monarchical-feudal

    • the Queen is the monarch, therefore the monarch of the world (or at least a very large empire) is in a palace not very far to the south, which will be very well defended

    • so they need a beach-head that they can take over fast, then attack the Queen on day 3 or so

    • and the orcs (humans) barely use magic at all, so only their royalty can pose a challenge

    • and the alternative is death by flying eldritch horror

    • what is this manufacturing base you speak of? You mean the ability to build moving carts? Useless things for serfs.

    They couldn't not attack. Charlie set them up.


    Also whilst we don't have a network of pre-existing Geasesin Bobs world it seems sensible to assume that the Alfar are probably way more advanced in their uses of them - meaning it might be relatively easy to subjugate human cannon fodder in big numbers quickly even if they had to do it once person at a time.


    plus the Laundry seems to have a much better knowledge of magic than the Alfär have of technology. In particular, humans have experience melding technology with magic, and increasingly advanced information (cough magic) technology. Humans also seem have fairly good theoreticians (and experimentalists) at the outlier levels, and a more fluid society with more potential for talent to rise (e.g. be recruited by the Laundry/etc.) Dunno; the magic in the Laundryverse is oddly restrictive in a lot of ways, presumably for world-building reasons.



  • Are the Alfar actually a separate species? Or another subspecies? eg. Could a generation of intermarriage result in a good talent pool of magic, with a still higher rate of sociopathy than we'd prefer?

  • How hard is it to make, store and distribute wards? It strikes me as Wards are mostly a matter of charging from what we've seen. Not to mention it's possible to make functional equivalents of wards using pentagrams and lasers. I'm kinda wondering if there's a depot somewhere that should of been discharging thousands of wards to the rapid response forces going into Leeds.

  • As the scorpion stare, it's biggest issue I think is its more or less a known threat to the Alfar. Magic against Magic. Otoh sentry guns using bullets could have worked better (but faced way more issues, like being much larger, more expensive, less versatile, and not all hidden).

  • 20:

    For what it's worth, Bujold's dinner party immediately came to mind for me. I don't quite think you passed it, if only because there were fewer subplots colliding at once, but I would definitely grant you that silver.

    I have only ever been able to read Bujold's dinner party once, in small pieces. It's entirely too painful.


    "what is this manufacturing base you speak of? You mean the ability to build moving carts? Useless things for serfs."

    Those thaum-slinging maces come from somewhere...


    Disclaimer: It's been nearly a year since I read The Rhesus Chart and The Nightmare Stacks, so I may have a few things not entirely straight, if I make an idiot out of myself here.

    The biggest question lingering in my mind about TNS is how much mojo an Alfar magi is able to gain from eating somebody. It seemed like they were lobbing around an awful lot of heavy duty magic compared to what the PHANGs in The Rhesus Chart were capable of, and I vaguely remember Alex mentioning that the Alfar magi were much more profligate and less controlled in their use of power compared to a human PHANG.

    Were they carting prisoners along while their column was on the move for the purposes of devouring them to refuel? That seems like it would pull a lot of resources away from the fighting power of the column. And that's an option that would not be available to a dragon-mounted magi.


    I'm thinking a combination of factors.

  • The Alfar are more efficient and have more elegant methods worked out. Our Phangs may be the equivalent of a Model T compared to a modern car. The model T despite a '25 mpg' sticker, got that by being very light weight. Modern cars without trying are about 3 times more efficient, and the Prius is 3 times the weight of a model T with several times the MPG. Its their equivalent of refinement. Their spells may actually be much more complex as a result because instead of using a simple x/y for a slope, they do a series of piecewise functions that's more efficient.

  • They have access to other forms of Mana. We know they talk about storing mana, and the reserves, and we see Cass charge her mace on a lay-line as well as discussions on their use. The Alfar can more easily tap these energy sources than we can. It seems to be part of where they chose to put their Field HQ. The Alfar may be able to use that mana rather than internal mana for at least some of their spell work. (Analogy to the prius now being a plug in model).

  • They can more efficiently access the mana in humans. They have lots of experience with PHANGS and such, and may know how to train the parasites and mages for maximum efficiency. Perhaps part of it is redirecting energy when they castrate the mages.

  • 24:

    I can't speak as to your other points, but I distinctly remember Cassie saying that Alex would have been considered extremely powerful among her kind. Also, this is in response to the comment you were replying to, but I didn't think the PHANGS in Rhesus Chart were that powerful. While Old George and Basil had some rather powerful mojo to bring to bear, they had decades, if not centuries of time and experience to prepare. As well, they weren't using spells so much as pure strength and gadgets (in addition to Old George's touch of death).

    Admittedly, I don't know how the alfär PHANGS work. I interpret their actions as just throwing around raw magic without any kind of control. Personally, I believe that it's relatively similar to Alex's trick with the feeders: simple, but not particularly easy. We also don't know the kind of training they received. Charlie, care to comment?


    I'm also curious about that. Are there other plains/planets of Alfar? And how are they doing? They don't seem to me like they're a major power in the multiverse, but I imagine they've got a fair chance of surviving as "rats in the walls."


    The other issue here is that First of Spies didn't do her job. The real plot problem here is not "mismatched military capabilities" but "Why didn't Cassie spend a couple hours on wikipedia and send pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki home in her memory crystals?" The real Cassie would doubtless have looked up a misremembered fact about "Much Ado About Nothing" online, so why not look up "The British Army?"


    The dinner scene was amazing! Definitely in the same league as Lois Bujold. I loved it more than anything else in the book.


    Agreed completely. Spoiled people spoil societies.


    I have to say that the dinner party was my favorite scene in the novel, too, and I enjoyed it more than Miles Vorkosigan's ill-fated birthday party, partly because no one there did so spectacularly horrible a job of shooting themselves in the foot as Miles did. So it was better fitted to my particular sense of humor. I liked it that Cassie found enough good will to protect Alex's family against the approaching horrors, too.

    But the other thing that I especially liked in this novel was the war sequence, including the passages showing how UK military resources are activated, and the scenes of various military personnel acting intelligently and courageously in a situation that combines weirdness, horror, and absurdity. Above all, I enjoyed the last couple of pages, where Cassie first pronounces the formula of surrender and then appeals for refugee status: It shows the concept of law as high ritual magic (see J.L. Austin's "How to Do Things with Words") and it also affirms that law is potentially supreme over war.

    I remain perplexed by Alex's prefatory apology to Cassie: Which Cassie is he apologizing to, and for what? It hasn't become clear to me in three readings.


    I always figured out we'd find out about why Alex was apologizing in the next book, (but just now it occurred to me that he may have infected her with PHANG syndrome because its a little different in humans and her vaccine didn't work.)


    "...Magic Research Divisions of... Quinetiq..."

    Main installation in Colwall Old Tunnel; smaller installation accessed by foot tunnel from Great Malvern station. :)


    Never underestimate the soldier's desire for "souvenirs".


    Sorry, I'll have to pull out the book I got that definition from, but domestication is in fact about control of breeding, not usefulness. There are any number of toy breeds, albino pythons, pet rhinoceros beetles and so on that are, except as conversation pieces, totally useless as animals, yet they are undoubtedly domesticated an incapable of surviving in the wild. As for whether we control entire species, let's look at California condors, ginkgo trees, marijuana, horses, dogs, and cattle for starters.

    The thing you forget is that all you need to start a population is two animals. There's genetic evidence, for instance, that all domestic horses are descended from a single stallion, although they are definitely descended from multiple mares. The strong suggestion from this is that the only reason we have domestic horses is that there was a mutant stallion out there about 6,000 years ago who was capable of breeding in captivity. Mares are apparently more receptive to controlled breeding than stallions are. Since we don't have wild horses any more (Przewalski's horse being a separate (sub)species), the only reason horses are still around may be an ancient mutant stallion.

    As for domestic dogs, no one's quite sure which wolf subpopulation gave rise to them, except that it might have been in south Asia and it's almost certainly extinct. This is a common refrain with the wild relatives of domestic animals and plants, incidentally. Still, we know from the Russian experiments with silver foxes that all that's necessary to domesticate a canid is to breed the friendliest animals with each other. Things like floppy ears and non-wild coat colors naturally emerge when you do this, strongly suggesting that the gene complex that goes with, well, domestication also has a suite a physiological correlates. It's not clear if any of these are found in humans, especially because truly wild animals (like black bears and wolves) contain a lot of phenotypic diversity without being domestic at all, again like humans.

    Little of what constitutes domesticity seems to apply to humans. What stops a wild human from readily becoming a tame human (as with Ishi, for example) isn't genetics, it's things like lack of immunity. Populations go from stone age to industrial age in less than a generation (see Flannery's Throwim Way Leg for some examples). Also, we have very chimpanzee-like ears as do most monkey and apes, so I think Charlie's idea that wild humans would have elvish ears, and modern humans have rounded floppy ears is a cute bit of creative worldbuilding (now if he'd given them hairy tufts on their ears, I might have bought it more).

    AS for breeding true, it depends not just on inbreeding, but on how genes are organized into chromosomes. This is why dogs, through sheer accident, can be molded into such a wide variety of shapes--their chromosomal arrangement of genes happens to separate out traits to make it easy to mold them. It's harder to do that with humans, just as it's relatively hard to do it with everything from goats to camels to apples.

    The thing about humans is that deliberate inbreeding has been tried, repeatedly, among the aristocracy. As you correctly noted, not only does it not work, it works so badly that there are pretty much universal laws against it.

    And that gets back to the key point: culture. Humans can be so thoroughly controlled by culture that there's no need to domesticate us at all, nor are we self-domesticating. If you can go in a few generations from hunter-gatherer to computer expert to astronaut without changing genes at all, why is the discussion even relevant? The flip side here is that, if and when civilization crashes, so will the cultural constraints that keep us domesticated. Without genetic changes, I strongly suspect that people will get more feral, for both the good and the bad that this will bring. In functional terms, they'll be a lot worse at getting along in large groups without fighting, but they'll probably be better at providing hospitality to those they regard as kin.


    Never underestimate the soldier's desire for "souvenirs".

    I was in Iraq in 2004 with the National Guard. Several soldiers in my unit managed to acquire Ural motorcycles with side-cars formerly belonging to the Iraqi Army before the Division Safety Office sent out a directive prohibiting the practice. Nevertheless, a couple of those motorcycles somehow ended up back in the U.S. when we re-deployed stateside.

    I hope y'all will bear with me while I figure out how this HTML stuff works. What I enjoy about Charlie's books is how much I learn looking up stuff he mentions - things like there really is an Army Rumour Service website at "arrse".

    The part I enjoyed most was the Sesame Street vampire trap.


    For me, too, the dinner scene is one of the high points of the book, and one of the best of type I've read.

    On the down side, there is one thing in the audiobook version which really bugs me: the mispronunciation throughout of "mana" as "mænə", not "mɑːnə" (the first 'a' is as father/marker, not manna/manner). Gideon Emery is otherwise a wonderful narrator.


    Incidentally, it should be "Homo sapiens", "Homo alfarensis", and "Homo neanderthalensis". (Or on some accounts "Homo sapiens neanderthalensis".) In Linnaean taxonomy the second term of a species name is not capitalized, even if it derives from the name of a person or place.


    One thing I've been wondering.

    Aside from the Deep Ones and The Eater of Souls, it appears that all the other entities are almost unthinking predators. For instance the Elder Gods destroy the surface of Elves world and its moon, but don't seem to go looking for the underground colony. It seems they don't seem to have a purpose other than destruction, or even any other kind of motivation.

    Do the more advanced entities have some other motivation, or are they simply bent on destruction?


    I'm not sure that the Eater of Souls is sentient outside of a human host.

    In addition to the Deep Ones, there are the Chthonians.


    Yay, this couldn't have come at a better time - I'm just re-reading all the Laundry books in preparation for The Delirium Brief. And I have to say that Nightmare Stacks is still my favourite.

    A little thing that I loved was the underground home of the Elves - I do a lot of caving in the Yorkshire Dales, and I was giggling at the idea of a parallel dimension where the caves are full of pointy-eared fascist wizards. Was there any particular reference to the caves used in TNS?


    Ref 666's "black Concorde", is that as in "black programme" or as in visual spectrum reflectance (or indeed both)? I'm asking because I'm converting an Airfix kit into what I think "Concorde R3" would look like (T1 is the original civvie version, TS2 is the one from the 1960s RAF Yearbook carrying 3 Blue Steels), and was going to do it in white with spare low vis markings from a TSR2 kit (built as the Stratos 4 anime version)


    Dunno; the magic in the Laundryverse is oddly restrictive in a lot of ways, presumably for world-building reasons. IIRC ( most of / all of? ) the laws of Physics still apply. These are "restrictions" - as 3rd Law of Thermodynamics, material torsional, stiffness limits, melting points, etc ....


    More likely to be Box Tunnel. Theer actually used to be a siding, on the N side of the ex-GWR main line, because under Box Hill at the Corsham (East) end there were ammo dumps, in a former wholly-underground quarry. Also RAF Colerne is very close, & doses of instant sunshine certainly used to be kept there. You wouldn't need to extend the tunnelling very much to join them up .....



    The whole "PHANGS need blood"thing is tackled in "The Delirium Brief" (and also in "The Labyrinth Index"). To say more would be a spoiler.


    I remember thinking repeatedly during The Nightmare Stacks that they were just utterly doomed.

    Yep. Remember, their only concrete prior intel about our world dated to circa 800AD (Dark Ages), and their pathetically limited field intelligence reports (Cassie-original knew nothing useful) were discounted due to internal politics (Second Wife's hate-on for Agent-First).

    The fact that they mistook Leeds for the capital of the UK should have been a bit of a warning sign ...

    The Host is gambling that if they capture the queen, they capture the world, and obviously they're going to lose that gamble.

    Yep: they were betting everything on a hail Mary prospect — that if they could grab the enemy witch-queen to whom all geases pointed, they could seize control of the British Empire and deploy all of its resources to take over the planet — after all, no Alfär empire could possibly go from being a global superpower controlling 24% of the world's population to being a second-rate backwater in just a century, right? Not without their enemies obliterating them utterly, just to make sure. No, the retreat from empire and the kindly waving Queen Elizabeth II must be some kind of con job ...

    As for the British armed forces, ever since 1945 they've been overwhelmingly configured to fight high intensity warfare overseas and only low-intensity counter-terrorism ops at home. The idea of a combined-arms force bamfing into Malham Cove and launching an attack on the West Yorkshire conurbation is the sort of bonkers study puzzle you assign to a bunch of unruly officer trainees in order to teach critical thinking, not a serious threat. Luckily for the UK, the UK is small—the Host arrive 300 miles from the biggest tank depot, 100 miles from the biggest garrison, and about 200 miles from a QRA base with Typhoons on five minute scramble.

    If the incursion had happened in, say, Death Valley, the USA might have found it considerably harder to muster up a timely response (before the unrefrigerated slaves intended to feed the Alfär magi all died of heat stroke, that is).

    The point isn't that the Host's attack was likely to succeed; the point is that the Host's attack was a never-happens event that presented the Laundry with an outside context problem (and not the one the Laundry had been anticipating for fifty years).


    The Alfar: convergent evolution to Blindsight vampires? I suppose they're both in the hominin-predating hominin niche, so it's not surprising.


    The point isn't that the Host's attack was likely to succeed; the point is that the Host's attack was a never-happens event that presented the Laundry with an outside context problem (and not the one the Laundry had been anticipating for fifty years).

    For me it was also refreshing to see other-dimensional antagonists, who clearly can wield magic in different ways than the people of Laundry Earth and who are dangerous, but who still are quite limited in their views and make horrendous mistakes. The British (and by extension, their Earth) can at least battle some of the things coming in from the other side - it's not all Old Ones just eating them.


    Ref 666's "black Concorde", is that as in "black programme" or as in visual spectrum reflectance

    Charlie may beat me to a response, but since I've just finished re-reading The Fuller Memorandum (which, I was amused to note, has a chapter titled "The Nightmare Stacks"): it's stated there that prior to the retirement of the civilian Concorde, the 666 daytime flights were explained away as "special business charter flights" or something like that. Which implies they were probably painted white, just like the civilian models.


    First off, it wasn't clear that they had any viable counter to SCORPION STARE

    I thought the opposite - they were capable of instantly magically melting anything that observed them so scorpion scare didn't stand a chance.


    I distinctly remember Cassie saying that Alex would have been considered extremely powerful among her kind. Also, this is in response to the comment you were replying to, but I didn't think the PHANGS in Rhesus Chart were that powerful. While Old George and Basil had some rather powerful mojo to bring to bear, they had decades, if not centuries of time and experience to prepare. As well, they weren't using spells so much as pure strength and gadgets (in addition to Old George's touch of death).

    From the top: Alex is young — he's been a PHANG for less than a year at this point, and in serious training via the Laundry for about six months.

    The PHANGS in Rhesus Chart were either (a) the Scrum (i.e. bright but entirely self-taught newbies), or (b) Elders (pathologically reclusive, self-taught over a period of decades to centuries, but without the option of comparing notes with each other).

    The Alfär have had magi for centuries to millennia and know exactly how to train them and maximize their utility. Their combat magi have years to decades of experience and training drawing on a body of lore. But Alfär use of magic is affected by their cultural heritage. They don't really do human-style scientific research because the Argument From Authority always wins: "this is how we do X, because we've always done it that way and it works. Shut up and obey!" So while they're good at rules-lawyering and messing with the semantics around controlling geases, in general their application of power tends towards brute force (expending a few slaves' life force in an instant to make stuff Blow Up Good, rather than trying to trap their enemy in a cognitive loop while summoning a shitpile of Eaters to consume them).


    I agree with the rest of the comment though.


    Note the personality-merging effects of Agent First's possession of Cassie.

    When your only intelligence source is a manic pixie dream girl you're more likely to get excitable reports about Sailor Moon than an up to date ORBAT for the 1st Armoured Division.

    If Agent First had a few more weeks in the field to get on top of the more useless aspects of Cassie's personality, she might be able to do her job effectively — but right now she's more or less in the grip of Paris Syndrome.


    I remain perplexed by Alex's prefatory apology to Cassie: Which Cassie is he apologizing to, and for what? It hasn't become clear to me in three readings.

    You won't get the full horror of the outcome until "The Labyrinth Index", although the events in "The Delirium Brief" may make it a little clearer that Alex has got something to apologize for.


    Aside from the Deep Ones and The Eater of Souls, it appears that all the other entities are almost unthinking predators.

    The Alfär are human-equivalent intelligences. The Deep Ones are approximately human-equivalent intelligences, with a whole lot of culture on top.

    For a look at the first supra-human intelligence to walk on stage, you'll have to wait for "The Delirium Brief".

    By the time we get to books 9 and 10, humans will be finding the competition ... difficult.


    I remain perplexed by Alex's prefatory apology to Cassie: Which Cassie is he apologizing to, and for what?

    My impression is that he apologizes to the merged "Cassie" - the original died before she even met Alex, I think. This can very well be wrong, as the book didn't dwell much on what happened to the original Cassie on the Alfär world.


    Black as in black program. Four Concorde B airframes manufactured in 1978-80 (after the official production run of Concorde A ended) to special order from the MoD on the same funding basis as the Chevaline Polaris upgrade program. By Bob's time one airframe is being cannibalized for spares, two are in service flying infrequently (photorecce over the Pyramid on the Plateau, with a team of demonologists in the cabin to open the gate out and the gate back), and The One We Don't Talk About maintained at 24-hours-to-flight readiness in a windowless hangar with armed guards.

    666 Squadron was actually a recce unit until disbanded/deactivated in the early 1960s; it's now the organization operating the Concorde fleet.

    Until 2008 they were all painted in British Airways livery with tail numbers duplicating real civilian aircraft, and based at Filton; flights were described as "charter flights". After Concorde retired from civilian service, the RAF Concordes were only flown at night and were accounted for as USAF B1-B movements (another big-ass supersonic-capable jet with four afterburners that occasionally flies out of the UK).

    They've been systematically upgraded—most of the cost overruns for the Nimrod AEW and Nimrod MRa4 upgrade projects were cover for the costs of replacing the original 1960s fly-by-wire and human flight engineer with digital FBW and FADEC, deleting the droop nose (high-def CCTV for taxiing; afterburners retained to compensate for the increased stall speed on take-off), and addition of in-flight refueling capability.

    And The One We Don't Talk About is where the plutonium shortfall for the Trident D5 warheads that caused a scandal in the late 1980s ended up. In a physics package permanently installed in the airframe, because although it's got ejector seats, nobody really expects to survive that particular mission if they're ever called to fly it ...


    >>>And The One We Don't Talk About is where the plutonium shortfall for the Trident D5 warheads that caused a scandal in the late 1980s ended up. In a physics package permanently installed in the airframe, because although it's got ejector seats, nobody really expects to survive that particular mission if they're ever called to fly it ...

    Poor bastards. Don't they know Cthulhu is only vulnerable to being rammed by boats? :-)


    "Do the more advanced entities have some other motivation, or are they simply bent on destruction?" - Stropp

    I like that question.

    It makes me think about scale and how humans are very roughly within medium inter-quartile range of a scale/complexity between atoms and planetary bodies. (I am abusing numbers, terms and the english language here, apologies to those who know more about all these things than me.) Multi-dimensional entities may just exist at scale where their actions cannot but cause destruction.

    Empathy breaks down beyond a certain scale the Elves and the deep ones are within our scale and therefore understandable. I can't show empathy for a single virus and my body can't react to it as anything other than as a threat or as a source of some possibly useful proteins. It's difficult to be polite to bacteria, although one should still try. I also cannot show empathy for the sun neither can the sun to me. Multi-dimensional creatures beyond certain scale or indeed complexity I would assume can really only consume/subsume anything outside of their scale.


    The big difference in their history—the point of divergence—occured about 100,000-250,000 years ago: the point mutation that caused the H. Sapiens version of the FOXP2 gene to diverge from chimps and other hominids occurred much later in elves. FOXP2 is expressed as a transcription factor that permits the development of spoken language. Neanderthals shared our mutant version: ...

    To be a bit of a killjoy: I don't think this really works. The (two) point mutations that differentiate human FOXP2 from chimpanzee FOXP2 are indeed shared with Neanderthals, and also (I gather) with the mysterious Denisovans. Since our divergence from the latter two species (or subspecies) is probably at least 500,000 years ago, you can't have elves diverge a mere 250,000 years ago and not also have the same FOXP2 mutations.

    (For what it's worth, despite the overemphasis on FOXP2 as The One True Langauge Gene, I found your elves somewhat more evolutionarily plausible[*] than Peter Watt's vampires, which don't make sense to me for a variety of reasons.)

    [*] Well, except for the magic-using ability, of course ;-)


    With regards human self-domestication, I would contend that this is a natural consequence of our having intelligence. Domestication is generally an increase in agreeableness and a decrease in aggressiveness and irritability, and one good driver of this is intelligence driving improvements in weaponry.

    In an ape society, a minor war causes a lot of wounds and trouble but not very many actual deaths or maimings to the point that an individual cannot breed.

    In a human society, you have a very different thing going on. Intelligence makes weaponry increasingly deadly over time, and the bulk of the fighting and dying is done by young males who have yet to breed. This effectively kills out the most aggressive and war-hungry individuals get killed before they can breed, and the least-aggressive subset survive and breed.

    This process can even be seen on human skulls recovered from archaeological contexts; the prominence of brow ridges has been decreasing over evolutionary time, suggesting a drop in testosterone levels.


    Concorde's maximum payload was 13.4 metric tons—although that implicitly doesn't include seats, insulation, glass windows, the galleys and toilets, etcetera.

    Tsar Bomb weighed 27 metric tons, a little bit of which would be aerodynamic/structural (the parachute and bomb casing). While it only delivered 52Mt of yield, it was designed for 100Mt; they down-rated it by replacing some of the 238U with lead to prevent the fireball from touching the ground and producing an incredibly dirty fallout plume.

    The dimensions of a device like Tsar Bomba would definitely fit within a Concorde airframe, but forget bomb bays and attachment points and you probably need to drop about 10,000kg from the maximum fuel load, reducing range accordingly.

    Blue Steel weighed 7700kg, and if the RAF's proposal to use a militarized Concorde as a successor aircraft for V-force had emerged it would indeed have needed either external hardpoints or a semi-internal bay. The crazier proposals depicted three Blue Steels on one aircraft, but given Concorde's payload that's not necessarily evidence of anything other than wishful thinking.

    (And it's a good thing it never happened: the Soviet war planners would have seen the combination of a supercruise-capable bomber with hypersonic nuclear-tipped stand-off missiles and a precision INS guidance package (presumably Blue Steel would also have been upgraded for Concorde) as a first strike nightmare in the making.)

    In the Laundryverse, the notional payload for TOWDTA is a 100Mt "Casaba-Howitzer" like nuclear shaped charge—the most powerful nuke anyone knows how to make. CH devices were designed for Project ORION as propulsion charges and stand-off weapons. They're highly directional, and energy delivered to target by a 100Mt charge would be roughly equivalent to the effect of a multi-gigaton-range omnidirectional nuke. This sort of thing is utterly pointless (and useless) in any "conventional" strategic nuclear conflict unless maybe you want to drill through the several kilometers of rock on top of a supervolcano caldera, and it's probably ineffective if you're really up against the likes of Cthulhu. But if what you're shooting at won't like down and die when you hit it with the equivalent of a couple of gigatons of instant sunshine? Game over — you lost. It's basically the final escalation step after they fire all the Trident missiles and drop all the WE.177C's rebuilt in haste once CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN became inevitable (what do you think Typhoon II's bomb-delivery capability is for?).

    NB: I want you to know that I've been looking for an excuse to use this since 2007 or so, but it's possible TOWDTA won't actually get to fly in the series. (However, I have plans for the other Concordes in a future not-yet-written novel ...) It's just the ultimate gun on the mantlepiece right now.


    I can handwave on the timing of the non-mutation quite easily in a future book, though: as presented in "The Nightmare Stacks" it's all inference on the basis of a single long-dead sample.


    In the matter of air combat ...

    The ineffectiveness of the ASRAAM missiles against warded firewyrms was due to the effect of the cloaking magic on their Infra-Red image recognition firmware. However, the dragons definitely gave radar returns, so the beyond-visual-range AIM-120 missile should have been effective, assuming that the surviving Typhoon was able to open the range and had AIM-120s in its weapons load.

    ... which makes me wonder, did the second Typhon survive the encounter? It was left open in Nightmare Stacks, but the butchers bill for the Alfar incursion noted in the online chapter of Delirium Brief has two jet fighters, not one.


    Fair enough -- and, for what it's worth, my reading of the scene where "the DM" explained all that was that he was exactly the sort of person who would pontificate overconfidently on the basis of slim evidence and an incomplete understanding of the relevant science. (Prone to a combination of Dunning-Kruger and mansplaining...)


    That's great thank Charlie; all I need to know since it's mostly a visual thing.


    I'm pretty sure that BVR weapons are contraindicated on UK-based QRA Typhoons, at least the first pair on standby. It's some of the densest airspace in the world, and the threats QR aircraft respond to are generally (a) Russian bombers playing tag over the North Sea and (b) hijacked airliners (or, more commonly, airliners whose pilots have fat-fingered the radio onto the wrong channel).

    While Typhoon can carry BVR missiles, notably AMRAAM and—since 2016—Meteor, I'm almost absolutely perfectly certain that they couldn't be authorized for use until all civil traffic had been brought to a complete ground stop unless a Russian first strike had been confirmed. (Which is Never Happens territory again, especially if it comes out of the blue with no build-up or advance notice of hostilities.) What do you think the fallout would be from an AMRAAM getting confused an accidentally zapping a fully loaded Emirates A380 on final approach into Heathrow, over central London? Hijacked/out-of-contact airliners can always be intercepted and visually inspected by a Typhoon, and you REALLY don't want to unload on a Russian Air Force bomber by accident.

    So, I'm guessing—I have no solid information—but I strongly suspect that the RAF QRA planes carry fuel tanks and ASRAAM or older AIM-9s, but at most maybe two AMRAAM (and probably none), with the capability to load Meteor or AMRAAM onto the fallback pair of planes within an hour in an emergency.


    I can't get over how brave you are Charlie to let a hoard of pedantic geek readers (even kindly and very appreciate ones like us) loose on your novel whilst we try to pick holes in it!

    I'm even more impressed that we haven't found any such holes :)

    Since you say you're not sure that we're going to get Concordes in the Laundryverse does that mean you've got Ekranoplans lined up?


    Nope, no Ekranoplans are planned (unless the series takes a left turn and strikes out into Russia as a setting).


    Well, the RAF Yearbook painting I alluded to earlier had the Concorde at low level, and 3x Blue Steel on centreline and both wing pylons. I've had a dig and can't find it though. :-( It's probably in the RAF Museum collection but I don't know how they catalogue stuff.


    The "human self-domestication" thesis is speculative, but is taken seriously by some serious people other than Pinker. Here's a link to a great symposium (videos of the talks) on domestication and human evolution:

    The talk by Wrangham (yes, same guy as the "fire and cooking made us human" thesis) is particularly relevant but it's all fascinating stuff.


    No strange goings-on at the bottom of Lake Vostok this time round then?


    I kinda got the impression he was apologising to the original Cassie for falling in love with her Demon hijacker. Thats contra-indicated by Charlie now, but it still works to my mind - who wouldn't feel guilty about falling for a doppelganger when they can at least extrapolate what happened to the Original.

    Its pretty clear what happens to orig-Cassie in the Alfar world in the book - albeit in about 1 page of prose.


    For a look at the first supra-human intelligence to walk on stage, you'll have to wait for "The Delirium Brief".

    Oh, I am looking forward to it, for sure!


    Here's a link to an official and public Eurofighter document from 2006 that acknowledges an NCTI capability in the CAPTOR radar (both CAPTOR-M for Tranche 1/2 and CAPTOR-E for Tranche 3)... see page 2.

    You may need to use the search term "NCTR" rather than "NCTI" to get to other sources, but high-resolution radar modes have been around for a couple of decades now. The various AGARD documents have lots of UNCLAS conference notes; here's a twenty-year-old example.

    Warning - very large PDF.

    Differentiating that four-large-turbofan A380 from the BACKFIRE or the P-8A further back is entirely possible. Telling the difference between the P-8A and the JetAir 737 may be more problematic ;)


    Oh god. It's the bloody Cthonians isn't it.


    It's still a taxing problem given the sheer bloody volume of air traffic in the AMS/Paris/London triangle (fourteen major international airports, three of them in the worldwide top 20 for passenger volume, in a triangle about 120 miles on a side). And I will note that in addition to knowing what they're shooting at the pilots also need to know what the at is flying over when they shoot—it's not impossible that dropping a hijacked airliner over South-East England will kill more people on the ground than were aboard the plane. (And once you blow the engine off the wing, who knows where it's going to come down?)


    "Cracks knuckles." Right, I binged the entire series over the course of a month, so here are my questions and observations (those that I can remember at the moment) in no particular order:

  • In the first chapter of Delirium Brief it's stated that two fighter jets got shot down, yet in Nightmare Stacks we only see one of them die. Can you share with us how the second one bought it?

  • About Mo in book six, I've read these comments that she's supposed to be a more reliable PoV character than Bob, but what with her ongoing nervous breakdown and the mental manipulation exuding from her pet Eldritch Abomination, I'd honestly say that her narration is LESS trustworthy than Bob, in my opinion.

  • Congratulations, Mr. Stross! You, or more specifically Equoid, are the cause of my first ever temporary ban on a forum, because I posted a direct link to the novella's location on Apparently, certain aspects of the unicorn reproductive cycle and underage girls are No Bueno when it comes to the site's rules. :D

  • I'm mighty curious to see how Cassie will handle her people, and try to keep them from going nuts. While they might be rather sociopathic, they don't seem completely stupid to me, so surely they'd grasp that with humanity's numbers and firepower, not to mention lack of geasa networks to subvert, a hostile takeover is not an option?

  • I've been thinking about Case Nightmare Green, and how humanity might survive it, and something related to Angleton and the Phangs nudged my mind. The Phangs don't have to fear magical alzheimer's, since the symbiotes in their mind warn other nasties to back off, and Angleton, an Eldritch Abomination, chose to help protect the planet out of his own free, incomprehensible-to-mere-mortals will. Would it be possible to sort of combine these two factors into one giant planetary immune system? like finding an entity on the same power-level as the Black Pharaoh, but one who isn't really interested in munching on our species, and who actually finds us a bit charming (that quote from Men In Black about human thought being an infectious disease springs to mind). I kind of picture super-Chtulhu, chilling on the beach (with no people around him in a ten-mile radius to prevent spontaneous mutations), with his mere presence giving off a "smell" that tells other Undead Gods that Earth is off-limits and they'd better go look for lunch elsewhere.

  • Obviously for the Laundry to pull that off would require a million-to-one chance, but if we follow Terry Pratchett logic, that makes it a sure bet. :P

  • My mind still can't comprehend how Schiller can openly travel to the UK without having, say, Persephone Hazard magically nuking him within an hour of his landing. I eagerly await the explanation, which will no doubt have me raising my arms in frustration towards the uncaring sky.
  • 77:

    The thing I absolutely loved about the dinner scene is that you go in thinking that the problem is Alex's sister coming out, but then you realize that the thing which truly horrifies Alex's parents is that his sister has switched majors to something which doesn't guarantee a cushy government job. In that respect it's better than the Bujold dinner scene, because the Bujold scene doesn't have that reversal of expectations. OGH's dinner scene is also smaller and more intimate, which I think works to its advantage.


    5 sounds disturbingly plausible. I believe Charlie has made comments in the past that Book 9 will be Ocean's Eleven meets Cthulhu's America, so I certainly wouldn't rule it out. I just worry about what it would take to get to that point, and what humanity would have to do to avoid mass possession/corruption.

    We've already seen in The Fuller Memorandum what these apocalypse cults look like, of the "Screw everyone else, I'm getting through this by whatever means necessary" variant. Iris Carpenter is back, as is Raymond Schiller, who both seem to subscribe to this line of thought (though I wonder about Schiller). Charlie's also said that the UK government in this book or The Labyrinth Index is being replaced by the "UKIP with hentai". (I came up with this one, it met Charlie's approval, I'm sticking with it.)

    I picture this government stealing the secrets of mass-geas enslavement from the Alfar. (I'd put the accent in Alfar, but I don't know how.) We know from the Annihilation Score that the UK government (or at least high-ranking segments) are willing to take any measures to preserve the country during CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. One country, under Cthulhu, with enslavement geases and mandatory summoning sessions for all.


    That makes a certain amount of sense, but I did enjoy the book regardless; literally finished it and turned it over and started it again... the strengths of the book far outweighed that one weakness.


    I'm not sure if this is the/a default fit, but this page has a QRA Typhoon armed with "4xASRAAM, 4XAMRAAM and 2x1000 litre drop tank"

    I was surprised by Quarry house showing up. Back when I was the same age as Alex, I had just started going out with my first girlfriend (like Alex I was a late starter), and she had just started working in Quarry house. I'm pretty sure we even met after she'd finished work one day for a pint in the Playhouse (and we swam in the swimming pool in Quarry house). So, all very nostalgia inducing, thanks for that. I think.

    I thought the apology to Cassie was either to the 'real' Cassie, or possibly to Agent First-Cassie, for Alex dramatising her half of the narrative. If we're continuing the conceit that the books are memoirs, Alex must have had to invent, or dramatise, at least part of what happens to Agent First.

    Finally, I hope that if the dinner party scene was based on any real events, you at least had to exaggerate it a lot, because if it's even halfway true then, ouch, all of the participants have my sympathy.


    That story has the problem of the unreliable narrator. We have no evidence beyond his say-so that the thing rammed into by that particular steamer was Cthulhu. IMHO, more likely a servitor.


    I would wonder what Laundry-style magic would do to the explosive power of a nuclear warhead? Consider that most of the payload in a nuclear weapon doesn't actually undergo fission. So I'm imagining some dumb demon spending its last 0.1 milliseconds turning all the neutrons back towards the payload, resulting in far more atoms being split than otherwise possible. How does a gigaton range weapon out of a 100 megaton chassis sound?


    Well, I can't say for sure that the machine was tasked for QRA, but it is certainly carrying a full air to air loadout of war shots.


    I'm mighty curious to see how Cassie will handle her people, and try to keep them from going nuts. While they might be rather sociopathic, they don't seem completely stupid to me, so surely they'd grasp that with humanity's numbers and firepower, not to mention lack of geasa networks to subvert, a hostile takeover is not an option?

    The way that works is obvious, if a bit depressing. Sooner or later big bad shows up and they get to be cannon fodder. (Or is that canon fodder?)


    If you believe Lovecraft the barrel shaped things with bat wings and tentacles are basically reasonable guys who occasionally overreact when they wake up surrounded by weird two legged monsters & don't like genuine eldrich horrors much.

    The Alfar beg to differ.


    Lumley's greatest creations. They are very, very scary dudes.


    I will be interested to see how you work around John W. Campbell's thesis that no human author can write fiction about superhuman intelligence (as stated, for example, in his rejection letter to Vernor Vinge's proposed sequel to "Bookworm, Run!").


    >>>I will be interested to see how you work around John W. Campbell's thesis that no human author can write fiction about superhuman intelligence

    Charlie already did, several times. Vile Offspring from Accelerando is one. Of course you can write about superhuman intelligence. What you can't do is convincingly describe the working of their mind, because it is by definition beyond human comprehension.


    Queue up Lovecraft's version of "reasonable" and think about it for a second or two... "Oh look, it's those two-legged things that will live here for a couple aeons before the beetles show up. Are you hungry dear?"

    The other issue (without my digging into the book) is that the destruction of the Alfar moon, plus the effect of the rain of meteors on the Alfar planet as they destroyed all the Alfar centers of power happened before the summoning of the winged, barrel-shaped ones. We don't know who would have won that fight if the Alfar hadn't been weakened.

    Or perhaps more profoundly, would the Alfar have retained enough strength to raise the energy requirements for capturing and eating an Alfar higher than the energy gained from capturing and eating an Alfar? You don't necessarily need to be stronger than an invader, you merely need to be strong enough that you're not prey.


    Note Death Valley isn't a great example, since its 3 hours from For Irwin, where the US Army has its National Training Center. Clancy wrote a bunch about it since the 11th Armory Calvary Regiment is there, and their job includes playing OPFOR for visitors, and are considered probably the best trained unit in the army. Also Edwards Air Force Base is the Air Force Training Center, with the Test Wing (including F-22s) and is even closer. Not to mention Nellis Air Force Base is less than 100 miles.

    Otoh lots of other places where the point stands. Like the Great Basin, or Jefferson.


    You seem to be taking me as saying "I don't think you can do this." If I meant that I would have said it. I meant, quite literarally what I said: I will be interested to see how it's done. It's an interesting literary challenge. It will be interesting if CS uses one of the classical solutions, but more interesting if he comes up with a novel one.

  • The second fighter jet .... who cares, honestly? (Per Raymond Chandler: why does the villain always empty his pistol in a shoot out? Because the pulp writer gets to write BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG — and is paid by the word. Clue here: I don't get paid by the word for books.)

  • Mo isn't a more reliable narrator than Bob; she's a different narrator and thus doesn't share Bob's self-deceiving view of Bob.

  • ...

    As for "The Delirium Brief", I think it's no spoiler to say that there's a twist in the last paragraph on top of a twist in the epilogue that puts a whole different perspective on the entire series up to that point.


    I tend to agree and would extend it to say that the real point of interest is not how its done, but how well its done. i.e. post human behavioural tropes - yawn - the post-Human intelligences of say the carnival in Singularity Sky or the Quantum Thief doubleplusgood.


    Ok. So my question is this: what happened to the other tools in the Alfar arsenal? There are mentions of zombie grenadiers/suicide bombers with mana bombs, basilisk variants that devoured magical constructs like wards, and siege golems with some form of artillery weapon. All of these would have been of great use against the Laundry stronghold.


    This crib sheet is definitely motivating me to get the latest Laundry book asap: lots of interesting plot twists and turns, old lore revamped (ahem), more examination of 'humanity' and various components of (people and traits), and the twist on Clark.

    Forgot how the Fang thing works, but would expect some 'explanation' of how CRISPR Cas9 would/would not work on this.


    It's like two people confronted by a bear. "I don't have to run faster than the bear. I just have to run faster than you."

    Likewise, whatever entity they fight doesn't need to be smarter than us, or smarter than OGH, he just needs to be smarter than the characters he's fighting.

    The real question is whether the entity understands, and is smarter than, the combination of magic and technology the Laundry can bring to bear. For example, the creature might be smarter than both the DM and the computer that is constantly reiterating variations on the fight looking for solutions which allow the characters to win, but is the entity able to iterate solutions to the fight as quickly as the computer? If not, the Laundry wins. If so, the entity wins. (And Bob is tasty and good with ketchup.)


    Having a standard "loaded for BEAR" QRA fit makes sense, because you don't know the QRA tasking in advance (could be a comms-free airliner inbound from Paris, could be a half-squadron of BLACKJACK cruising around the North Sea). The "Scramble" from five-minute notice to launch is not the time to be loading a different weapon fit - so it's better to carry BVR and not need it, rather than need BVR and not have it...

    You're right, dropping an airliner or three may cause more deaths on the ground than in the sky - but shooting them down and killing hundreds, may be preferable to them being driven carefully into central London office blocks / sports stadia and killing thousands.

    South-East England and the Channel are also a rather testing issue for the radar tracker... back in the late 90s, when CAPTOR was called ECR90 and still in development, they took the trials aircraft (a converted airliner with a radar nose [1]) to Farnborough for the airshow, to load up future users in the back for spins around London. One of my colleagues was on the flight, and described his sucking of teeth as the aircraft turned its nose across London - and all of the stacked aircraft waiting to land. The fact that the radar tracker kept going in the face of all those airliners, and didn't collapse under the weight of some fairly hefty 3d vector maths calculations, was pretty impressive to the assembled Luftwaffe senior officers... (and somewhat better than what they were seeing from the new radar in their recently upgraded F-4ICE)

    [1] a BAC-111 that used to live on the commercial side of Edinburgh Airport in the big hangar at the end, next to the old HS.125 corporate jet; they stuck with callsigns FERRANTI 01 and FERRANTI 02, in a nod to tradition...


    they stuck with callsigns FERRANTI 01 and FERRANTI 02 {AOL}Like{/AOL} Wildly off anything like topic; I still refer to the Almondvale Wendyball team as "Ferranti Thistle".

    And on the rest of your post - I'm hugely impressed too.


    Smart doesn't always win. My favorite example is in the movie Idiocracy, where the main character has used his average wits to outsmart people in the future several times. But after being returned to prison they chain him to a big rock.

    Just because you're smart doesn't mean you'll win. Resources, skills, and luck all play a factor.


    Possible off-topic:

    Did any author ever explored the parallel between Arthur, the Once and Future King, who will return one day from the island of Avalon to save Britain...

    ...and Cthulhu, The Great Dreamer, who will rise one day from the island of R'lyeh and eat our brains?

    Because I think they might be the same person.


    My favourite "Ferranti Thistle" urban legend was that they went on tour to play some other Factory Works teams across Europe. The story went that when they arrived to play the Philips works team, they did so at the Philips Sports Club venue near their Corporate HQ in Eindhoven... Philips Sports Verenigen, better known by their initials

    [1] They were forced to rename themselves "Meadowbank Thistle" when they reached the dizzy heights of the old SFA Second Division; then "Livingston" when they moved to West Lothian after Edinburgh Council started to talk about selling the stadium where they played...


    IIRC, they had the BAC-111 wired and fitted with the AMRAAM Tactical Test Plug (a simulation stub of the missile system that you could hang off an aircraft) so they could do datalink testing with the radar; and they had the HS.125 fitted for TIALD (and would occasionally use it as a target aircraft). Business Jets with teeth!

    The Gloster Meteor that they had previously used as a radar trials aircraft, is now at the Museum of Flight at East Fortune.


    I'm not mainly focused on the tactical implications, though of course they're potentially interesting, but on the literary problems. How do you give the reader a sense that they are reading about a conscious being when by definition their theory of mind is not up to modelling that being? How does a plot work when by definition one of the parties to its conflict can anticipate the other's moves and not vice versa?

    Larry Niven, for example, came up with some interesting tricks in his Protector stories (though the biology was absurd): first, telling us that the first thought of an awakened protector is, "I've been stupid"; second, narrowing the scope of the problem by stating that protectors are so smart that they have almost no free will.

    All of this is literary prestidigatation, in the same way that worldbuilding is literary prestidigitation (a planet is far too complex for one human author to model). But I'm interested in seeing it done and hoping to admire the art.


    Question that's Laundry-related but maybe not related to this specific book: has the "the personal memoirs of Bob Howard have had the names changed to preserve the anonymity of the author and his co-workers; his name is not, in fact, Bob Howard" conceit been tossed out the window?

    I ask because... well, Bob has gone on national TV now, presumably under his own name. (Unless the Laundry had the balls to send him to Newsnight under a cover identity; the Laundry's complete and utter contempt for civil society and the laws, norms, and government thereof is a different topic.) Anyone reading his memoirs can use the fact of that interview to pull his actual name, and use that name as a starting point to pull the actual names and public record information of his known relations and associates.


    Well, all of #101 and #102 is true, or at least highly plausible, folks.


    The Bob pseudonym is explained away in the intro to "The Annihilation Score" by Mo, who fundamentally disagrees with his use of 'nyms.


    Ah, I'll have to go back and check that out; I had utterly and completely forgotten it! Thank you, sir.


    If the incursion had happened in, say, Death Valley, the USA might have found it considerably harder to muster up a timely response (before the unrefrigerated slaves intended to feed the Alfär magi all died of heat stroke, that is).

    Oh no, the Host coming into Death Valley would have pissed off some environmentalists (well, the aftermath would), but given that they're within 100 miles of Tonopah and Edwards, and 300 miles of all sorts of air bases (the planes from MCAS Miramar fly over my house to reach practice ranges by the Arizona border), I suspect they'd get all manner of hellfire dropped on them, and once the threat of the dragons was verified, they'd probably have time for a high altitude nuclear bombardment from whoever got there first, the B2s out of Missouri or the B52s out of Minot. Or missiles from somewhere in the Midwest. Or one of the crown jewels from Tonopah would be scrambled to do whatever it is they're supposed to do in WW3.

    The nice thing about Death Valley, from a strategic perspective, is that it's mostly surrounded by really tall mountains, so if you want to drop a bunch of nukes, the blasts won't reach Las Vegas. The other nice thing is that there are so many military reservations nearby.

    Nah, I'd open the gate in Times Square or under the Four Level interchange in Los Angeles. The Host did ever so much better at urban warfare, and most of the really nasty weapons the US could field against them don't work well in big urban environments. Imagine what they'd do with one of LA's infamous freeway jams. Or the New York subway tunnels. And there's more fresh meat around.

    Still, I agree with your overall point. I was just thinking about Death Valley and thinking "shooting range."


    I LOVE "A Civil Campaign", the peak of Vorkosigan saga.

    Thank you for clarifying that Laudryverse is != Merchant Princess universe and many, many, MANY compliments for heaving transformed a fantasy saga in science fiction! Great job!


    That's a tough question. I think there are multiple ways to fake it. The first is to give the enemy qualities which can be mistaken for intelligence; education, knowledge, sensory reach (infrared, ultraviolet, the ability to sense through more than three spatial or temporal dimensions, etc.,) some kind of gestalt awareness, better native math ability, etc. These things can frequently be mistaken for intelligence. Some of this may explain how Iris broke her geas - that's been lying on the table for several books and I haven't forgotten it - some entity which is smarter-than-human helped her rules-lawyer it. (I've always assumed that she is Schiller's cat's paw, but I could be wrong.)

    The second is for the author to set things up so that the entity starts out ahead of the characters. The enemy has set things in motion very intelligently and we see that the characters are behind. The characters make progress more-or-less by accident, then discover that they've been deliberately led down the wrong path, and this is attributed to the enemy's higher intelligence. That was how Dr. Freudstein looked smarter in TAS and the technique could have been pushed much further down the "he was much smarter than us" road if OGH had wished to do it. (There's more on that subject, but I might be accidently spoilering if I went down that road.) But if there had been a hint that the human authors of the Freudstein plot had been tampered with, now we're dealing with an actor who was probably smarter than human...

    The third is to look for an unexpected gap in reality, and such a thing exists between TFM and the rest of the books, though it might be retconning on the part of OGH. But a really good author could easily drag a superior being through that gap in reality (if it isn't either retconning or an authorial oversight.)*

    The fourth is to create a sort of meta-plot, which all-unforeseen, has organized all the stories in the "currently-known" plot. In order to see it, someone has to bust out of the current framing for the books. The "meta-plot" looks like a superior being at at work, and that might be the case, particularly if the superior being works through some very inferior beings to whom it gives very gnomic orders, like "remind ___ that it would be very nice and polite to make his/her visitors some tea." (I should reread one of the books in particular with this in mind.) But the ultimate reveal several books down the line makes the opposition look very, very smart indeed.

    The fifth is for the author to bring in a ringer to assist with plot creation. I don't mean a smarter person than the author - that would be cheating - but an analogy to some historic situation where there was a very, very smart person who ran rings around his/her opponent, and if I was an author who wanted to do this I'd start with stories about successful confidence games or intelligence operations. (Zelazny did something like this with "Unicorn Variations" but he researched chess rather than confidence games.)

    • What do you do when your organization starts believing its own propaganda?

    P.S. In the dungeon I'm running Friday night, the characters will discover that the villain deliberately wrong the wrong date for an important event in the Almanac he created several hundred years ago... I expect them to believe that he is smarter than they are.


    One way to do that (and also convey alienness) that other writers have used is have the intelligent/alien/both character draw out expository/action directing information from odd sources, typically ones that would be considered "information adjacent" in a sense. Essentially accurately pulling the signal from a channel that the reader would consider plausible but extremely high in noise.

    examples include:

    Doyle's Holmes being able to make inferences through clue combinations that result from being extremely detail focused. Watt's Scramblers "seeing" synapses fire and converting that to foreknowledge Zahn's Thrawn reading cultural blindspots from art so his attacks constitute OCPs to institutions


    what's that quote about smart clever and subtle still having their intricate plans wrecked by a dull knife thrust between their shoulder blades?

    At the end of the day it all really comes down to power at a point. Intelligence plays a role in knowing where to bring your power and how to dodge the other fellows, but ultimately the smartest intelligence is going to get wrecked by a brute with a rock.


    There is also the fact that Pinker embeds a lot of complete bullshit "racial science" in his "humans are breeding for domestication" hypothesis. The tangent about Chinese having a stable civilization longer leading towards being further ahead on domestication and thus the submissive Asian stereotype (and the unstated corollary towards the Eurocentric insistence that Africa has no civilization and view of African people as more violent/warlike)... wow that sure is something. Not something good, but it sure is something all right.

    And that is setting aside that many sociologists and historians have gone through the stats of Better Angels and pointed out there is a lot of embedded assumptions in how violence is defined and categorized that gives a false impression.


    Tsar Bomb weighed 27 metric tons, a little bit of which would be aerodynamic/structural (the parachute and bomb casing). While it only delivered 52Mt of yield, it was designed for 100Mt

    On nuke yield-vs-weight, the excellent had a discussion of that a few years back:

    The upshot seems to be that ~< 6kt/kg (6 Mt/tonne) seems to be the historical limit.

    On Casaba Howitzer, nuclear shaped charges/EFPs, magnetocumulative devices and such, there's a whole lot of interesting material floating around that, AFAIK, is only occasionally discussed. Basically, the idea is that the x-ray physics that underpins the Teller-Ulam/Sakharov H-bomb design has a lot of other potential uses than imploding fusion fuel assemblies. Curiously, though such luminaries as Sakharov and Taylor were involved in early exploration of such ideas, they didn't seem to go anywhere. That we know of, that is.


    As for domestic dogs, no one's quite sure which wolf subpopulation gave rise to them, except that it might have been in south Asia and it's almost certainly extinct

    I recall there was a bit of talk about canine domestication in the early 2000s after some genomic results became available, with a number of articles in Nature and a book (basically a literature review) by Stephen Budiansky.

    One theory that seemed to ebb and flow as it was better or worse supported by genetic evidence is that there were multiple events over several tens of thousands of years, although perhaps geographically similar (southern and eastern Asia).

    The really interesting idea is that dogs are descended from wolf populations that effectively domesticated (or at least 'pre-domesticated') themselves with only limited human agency being involved. Humans (or hominids) who lived as nomadic hunter-gatherer bands would still leave middens, and canids who merely followed them could make a decent living. The humans themselves would deal with any wild wolf groups in the areas they passed through for their own reasons, and it would not take long for such a groups of canids to become genetically distinct. This would also lead to selective pressure in favor of traits that are more appealing and less threatening to humans, something that would apply both before and after any deliberate attempts by humans to bring the canids into the family.

    Regarding the diversity in shape, size, coat and other features of dogs - there's a great explanation that doesn't depend on the traits being coded specifically. For me with my relatively limited biology background, I can think of it by recalling the old "philogeny recapitulates ontogeny" meme (and why it is wrong). Many traits associated with (especially toy) breeds can be achieved by "freezing" the philogeny at a certain stage of development. The actual genetic diversity isn't as heavily impacted as you might otherwise thing, and you can in fact breed a Chihuahua from a starting stock of Great Danes (if they are not already so inbred that this doesn't bring out other negative effects first).

    Personally I find this informative in relation to humans and the prevalent mythology about "race" being a real genetic thing. People who Dunning-Kruger their high school genetics into a simple and total explanation for inheritance have real trouble understanding that most people have the genes to develop most human traits as a population with the right selective pressure. It's interesting to try to unpack just how much pro-white-Christian-male ideology is built into the way we teach science even at a fundamental level.

    The floppy versus pointy ears thing is more complex, ear position is a significant social signalling mechanism among wolves, slightly attenuated for dog breeds with pointy ears and very attentuated for those with floppy ears. Some would argue floppy ears come with breeding out aggression, as the more erect ear position is in some contexts a threat display.

    I vaguely recall having one additional thought bubble on this topic/chain of thoughts, but it's escaped me for the moment.


    Well, I just hope Alex and the maniac pixie girl will both still be around so she can accept his apology.


    To say more would be a spoiler.

    You keep throwing us these bones! I'm not saying to stop, but hurry up already :)


    One of my mates was in Iraq and loads of the brought back gasmask as souvenirs which the army had to hurriedly had to offer an amnesty as some of the masks where tainted with chemical weapons.

    Bovingdon tank museum has some war booty on display I rember at a wargames show our table was next to a T55 which we used to rest our coffee cups on


    The upshot seems to be that ~

    Oh, fie, more HTML govno.

    The idea was that 6 kt/kg is the upper limit of demonstrated weapon yield/weight.


    I can think of it by recalling the old "philogeny recapitulates ontogeny" meme (and why it is wrong).

    It's "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", and, yes, it is discredited.


    :) All true, if you note my qualifiers: e.g. "urban legend" of Ferranti Thistle...

    Here's the BAC-111 (image); and here's the corporate business jet with TIALD pod fitted (image):


    Trouble is those "carts" allow you to have a mechanized unit rather than horse drawn - a horse drawn unit requires a massive logistics trail to feed the horses plus blacksmiths and farriers portable forges to re show horses etc.

    That's one of the advantages the allies had vs the Germans in ww2


    WRT the bunker, I remember the "Goverment Buildings", hidden behind a barbed wire fence, as a tempting target for curious student exploration on the drunken late-night walks between the Bod Halls and the 24-hour garage. Ultimately, the need for munchies was greater. It wasn't until the availability of the internet that I learned of the nuclear bunker

    I think the bunker's been filled in now, the student halls knocked down with the land being used for luxury housing.


    The other side to that, of course, is that motorised warfare requires a logistics trail that goes all the way back to the oil wells, and to the suppliers of raw materials for the industrial base that makes tyres and spare parts. And a lot of WW2 was about keeping that lot going vs. trying to break it. Romanian oilfields, Atlantic convoys and all the rest of it. Whereas horses can be maintained by people who identify a king on the basis of him not having shit all over him.

    (How much do horses need shoeing, anyway, if they're being used not on artificial hard surfaces, but on ordinary mud and stuff? After all, nobody shoes wild ones...)


    Thanks. It's sounds like Pinker's analysis is very, erm, Conanesque.

    Incidentally, for those into tabletop wargaming or who just want to see how the Chinese armies equipped themselves during the Ming Dynasty (or to waste time), check out All very civilized, and could probably lend itself to a RPG. The mobile fortress is kinda cool, actually, as is the Mandarin Duck Formation and the "most uniquely Chinese weapon," the lang xian.


    You're looking at it from the wrong end. Enormous nukes already do manage to react most of their fuel, so there's not a lot to be gained there - certainly not an order of magnitude - and there's no particular problem with making them arbitrarily large anyway; most of the energy in such cases comes from what is essentially waste material from making the trigger stage (more or less).

    The tremendous advantage of the suicidal neutronic Maxwell's demon is that it means you can get an arbitrarily small amount of fissile material to go critical, with next to no apparatus; you can make tiny nukes. All you need is the fissile material, the demon, something to put them in, and something to take the demon out of stasis at the right moment. Then you can have a rifle bullet with greater explosive power than a WW2 Grand Slam earthquake bomb. Or a mobile phone ditto. Maxwell's plutonium hammer.


    Then there are the worlds where ontology recapitulates philology.


    Hmm... Kwinetty-queue is descended from TRE (+ RRDE; -> RRE, -> RSRE...), which after diddling about the country a bit in the early years of WW2, settled in Malvern about half way through and stayed there ever since. Connected with RAF Defford and RAF Pershore locally, plus others scattered about in places like Christchurch and Baldock, but nowhere near Box. Radar, comms, solid state physics, and effects for at least one production of Ruddigore. Main site is right opposite (the site of) Malvern Wells station, just up the line from Colwall tunnels. Colwall Old tunnel, disused since New tunnel opened in 1926, was used as an ammo store during WW2, and is now home to bats.

    I guess it depends what fits in better with Charlie's world building - Ruddigore and bats, or LU-style automatic signalling rules on the GWML :)


    I think I have to disagree with your that the Host would be more effective in urban warfare and occupation. They achieved a lot of success with a surprise attack against unprepared mainly civilian opposition, but I would maintain that they would not do well when facing a counterinsurgency.

    With the system of geasa that held the Morningstar empire (and presumably their rivals) together, their conventional warfare doctrine is probably mainly concerned with targeting opposing leadership and decapitation strikes. Once the leader of the opposing force submits, geasa would force their followers to submit as well. Continued attacks by followers after the leader had given in would likely be interpreted as the leader allowing or compelling their followers to continue fighting, leading to the execution and replacement of that leader.

    The closest thing to a counterinsurgency that the Host is ever likely to have faced is probably a poorly resourced slave rebellion. Orcs, on the other hand, would have all kinds of fun learning opportunities for them in a more drawn out battle. Things like inventive applications of explosives (IEDs, car bombs, suicide bombs, land mines), guerillas, and let's not forget total information superiority on the part of the orcs with cameras, drones, satellites, and all the other technical gadgets that the Host would be encountering for the first time.

    On top of all that, the Host's rigid, top down command structure would inhibit finding solutions to all these new challenges. Agent First was given much more independence than your average trooper.


    Re "freezing", I've seen it said that a dog is a neotenous wolf, and a human is a neotenous ape.


    Depends how quickly they can apply new geasa to the existing population once they figure out there is no existing network in place.


    With technology like this (noting Clarke's Third and its reverse) one could probably also use heavy transuranics that already have a very small critical mass, with the bullets being kept in stasis; the "californium slug". For that matter, the stasis field might not be necessary - if the island of stability actually exists.


    I know it has already asked, but will be the Alfar be interfertile with humans (including use of CRISPR/magic)? An interesting twist could be Alfar being interfertile only with PHANGs...

    Another question: is the name of the Morningstar empire military a quote/hint from a novel by Poul Anderson featuring "air and darkness" in the title?

    and, now, something unrelated: how was Italcon? Pity I couldn't attend (end of school year and I had to help wife, who was overburdened with tests and reports), also because it was held in the general area where my family came from. Re: Italian sci-fi, maybe does Charles know one Lanfranco Fabriani? He's among the people behind Delos, a netzine and publisher (they published the Italian translation of Missile gap. They published online also my article about S.M. Stirling aka Joatsimeon and alternate history, go figure.) I mention him because it's a odd case of literary convergent evolution: he wrote two novels featuring a very secretive branch of the Italian intelligence (with their US, UK, USSR/Russia counterparts) dealing not with occult threats but with time travel (discovered theretically not by John Dee but by Leonardo da Vinci in a fictional Codex Aquitaniae), whose leader is very similar to Laundry's Angleton. Fabriani being a Linux sysadmin by trade (sounds familiar...) here at my uni, once I had to mail him about something about old library databases, so I asked him also if he had been influenced by the Laundry novels, but he said that his own novels antedated the Laundry series. So, convergent evolution in action...


    btw, a couple of details about BASHFUL INCENDIARY: Charles was right about her Italian school career ("Liceo scientifico" is exactly the kind of school someone mathematically gifted would attend), but he mispelled the name of the terrorist organization, it's "Brigate Rosse", not "Brigado Rosso"; were her parents killed by cultists, or was it a summoning or somesuch gone awry?

    Do their adoptive parents use magic (geasa or such) or powerful connections to get her adopted fast and without paperwork? Because getting adoption in Italy isn't so easy, as I can tell from direct experience. You even need assent from both parents of the couple willing to adopt, and a very long series of interviews with psychologists and social workers, it takes a couple of years.


    By some synchronicity or other, I was looking up the yield to weight thing recently, and found that Teller once proposed a multiply-staged nuke à la Tsar Bomba, that would have had a yield of 10 gigatons. It would have massed thousands of tonnes, and the only vehicle that could have delivered it was Project Orion. I don't know how much of it was MAD dick-waving, but since the Sixties the yields of most strategic weapons seems to have gravitated to the low hundreds of kilotons.

    Anyway, as some roleplaying game book or other once said, "Sure, you can nuke Cthulhu. He just reforms ten minutes later, and now he's radioactive."


    I think you may have just re-invented Mary Gentle's quite excellent "Grunts".


    As someone who was subjected to massive culture shock at the age of 9 and thereafter, "Cassie"'s failure to ask the right questions is exactly what I would expect. As someone said: in order to ask the right question, you have to already know most of the answer.


    The thing that surprised me most was your insertion of slit pupils. Mobile ears and social dysfunctionality aren't normal ape characteristics, but both could evolve from even H. sapiens in a very short time. But slit pupils? We haven't had those since we split from the Madagascar species, as far as I know, and it didn't seem important to the story, anyway.

    Was that a simple mistake or something more subtle?


    As we are apparently as close to the pointy eared ones as we are to neanderthalis I'd think no assistance needed. I say this as the proud custodian of 93% more neanderthal genetic variants than the rest of the population. :)


    I think the bunker's been filled in now, the student halls knocked down with the land being used for luxury housing.

    The bunker is almost certainly still there, albeit quite possibly buried, if it's anything like the Scottish ones built in the late 40s/early 50s.

    They built those installations with pre-stressed concrete walls at least four feet thick, reinforced with gigantic high strength steel bars rather than regular rebar: they were designed to survive being at ground zero of an A-bomb air-burst. The cost of demolition would be prohibitive; you can't use explosives to collapse them like a normal pre-stressed concrete building, and the reinforcement bars would wreck regular drill bits or excavators.

    If it's been built over then they most likely simply poured concrete inside it and used it as a foundation stone (they were typically built on piles sunk into bedrock, often in former quarries).

    They only stopped building them when the arrival of the H-bomb effectively made any kind of bunker short of the NORAD complex at Cheyenne Mountain obsolescent. (There's not much that will affect you through two thousand feet of solid granite, but there aren't many mountains in the UK that can offer that ...)


    I've always thought that Niven's Protector species sound like an elegantly engineered bio-weapon. They are hardwired in such a way that they are always going to be at war, and are almost never going to unite unless there is a huge common threat, and even if there is they absolutely require a rare metal in their biochemistry which isn't common on most planets.

    This sounds rather like another Puppeteer solution to a possible problem: discover a species that has the potential to be an aggressive, expansionist plague, and in counter to this, park a planet-load of bioweapons in the direct path of any such swarm that is heading in the wrong direction. The resultant war to the finish will unite the Protectors and probably annihilate them, but it will also neutralise the as-yet unknown threat species.


    Things aren't as simple as that. Unless a gene is sufficiently important that it will define a species, it is quite easy for a difference not to match evolution - even normal - we aren't talking obscure mechanisms but probabilities in the tens of percent. That is why 80% (to be generous) of papers that publish taxonomies and evolutionary history based on one or two loci are complete crap - which is good for the authors, because it gives the authors an opportunity to publish a correction / contradiction later :-( I am SERIOUSLY rusty, but could probably rake an explanation out of the dusty attic of my mind how that occurs if necessary.


    Vertically slit pupils tend to be characteristic of predator species.

    And what makes you think the Alfär haven't been engaging in experimental selective breeding? We are crap at that sort of thing (for reasons explored in the comments upstream) but they've got a different cultural toolkit for enforcing such arrangements, and there are hints that Alfär civilization is much older than ours.

    (Remember, H. sapiens dates back 200,000 300,000 years but agriculture and settlements only seem to go back 8-12,000 years, written records around 5-6000 years, and empires/complex hierarchical societies about 3500-5000 years. Posit that H. sapiens were simply late developers at the complex societies game, only coming up with the idea in the last 5% of our species' lifespan; what if the Alfär got it much earlier but repeatedly hit local development maxima?)


    That strategy doesn't work in the Known Space universe because Niven allowed FTL, and fast FTL at that. Aggressive expansionist hordes with FTL can easily by-pass identified dangerous locations, and Protector worlds can in principle discover FTL for themselves and turn into aggressively expansionist hordes.

    The Known Space universe is full of bugs; not so surprising given that Niven didn't sit down with a clean sheet and modern astrophysics as a starting point and design it, ab initio, to support storytelling over a 50 year period — it just sort of snowballed on him.


    Pictures from certain urbex sites seem to indicate that the bunker has been demolished, albeit at great expense and with great difficulty given the amount of reinforcing material in the concrete. Certainly recent aerial photos from Google show no trace of the original bunker.


    Deighton in Blitzkrieg quotes 50 tons per day of hay oats etc for a non mechanised division and this is required every day even when not moveing.

    As they say amateurs talk tactics professionals strategy and real professionals logistics.


    I vaguely recall having one additional thought bubble on this topic/chain of thoughts, but it's escaped me for the moment.

    Oh, I remember now. Regarding controlled breeding among humans. In a limited way, this isn't just something that has been tried, it has been the rule for hierarchical societies as long as they have existed. Controlling who can breed with whom is one of the first things autocrats do. It happens in the broader context of "normal" societies too, just at a level that we might not think of as "selecting for traits" (and taking on board the proviso that powerful men generally could always impregnate whomever they wanted to).

    The difference I guess is that this isn't really effective, because it only happens very loosely at a population level and (more or less) preserves enough diversity to retain most possible human traits.

    There isn't any prolonged history of isolating breeding pairs with desired traits and culling any progeny not breeding true, nor would even the worst societies have tolerated this for long (a possible exception being the antebellum southern USA, which had opportunity and effectively treated some people as non-edible livestock, though that couldn't have involved more than two or three generations, unlikely anywhere near long enough).

    But anyway, I'm shy of definitions because arguing about whether certain things are captured by a particular word most times leads us to avoid some aspects of those things that are more interesting. But if the definition is about breeding being controlled by human culture, then humans would be domesticated by that definition (though I suppose I'm eliding the referent of the otherwise implied agency).


    The other things to remember when dealing with horses is that horse fodder isn't all the same. Horses do best when fed large amounts of low-grade fodder such as hay.

    However, if you want peak performance out of horses, you need to be feeding high-energy foods like oats. You then get high performance, but oats make horses slightly "high", and exceedingly frisky and sometimes actively dangerous.

    You also have to keep on feeding at least a minimum amount to keep the digestive systems of horses going, which means that there is always going to be a certain amount of dung coming out the back end; similar considerations apply with water requirements.

    All of this means that to keep an army of horses alive, you need a lot of fodder, a lot of water, and a small army of dung-shifters plus somewhere to put all of this rubbish, plus if you feed just oats you end up with lunatic horses in the short term, and unhealthy lunatic horses suffering from metabolic problems in the longer term. These are considerations seldom considered by armchair archaeologists, war-games planners and the like.


    Yebbut, as far as I know, all non-Madagascan primates have round pupils - and it would almost certainly require more than ordinary selection to change that in an ape, let alone genus Homo. Anyway, it's only one phrase in the book and I shall be amused to see if you build on it later or simply let it pass ....


    The good doctor wife, who hails from Chelyabinsk (go Traktor!) will be terribly disappointed at that...


    Which racial ancestry is that, and how did you have it measured? It's possible I am similar, especially if it's a Celtic feature. There was an exhibition in the Natural History Museum once, and I had about half the skull characteristics it said were Neanderthal.


    The good thing about mechanised warfare is that you can build giant[1] stockpiles of everything you need to execute it beforehand. Fuel, tyres, vehicles, ammunition, spare parts, mechanics, operators etc. can all be stacked high in your backyard ready for D-Day or the Big Push or the Battle of Manchuria. It's not so easy to stockpile horses or other draft animals (oxen were quite important too in medieval warfare, not as battle steeds but pulling the wagons loaded with horse fodder and other supplies).

    When the shooting starts in earnest you chew your way through that stockpile quite quickly even if you're winning and then you bog down when it starts to run out at the pointy end.

    [1] The old saw of many variants, "Amateurs study tactics, professionals study logistics" rarely goes far enough to add the coda "winners study finance". The size of the stockpile depends on the manufacturing pipeline that feeds it and that pipeline depends on how the wealth to feed that pipeline can be derived and made available to the military.


    I'm dead happy to hear there'll be more occult aeroplanes. To the chap making the models, be great to see some pictures when finished?

    I'll repeat my question from a few weeks ago. Are we likely to see any pisstaking of Anne McCaffrey over the dragons?


    The other other thing to remember when dealing with the logistics chain of horses in the context of The Nightmare Stacks is that the Host don't have horses. Their steeds don't eat hay or oats, they need meat.


    Is any possible biological process allowing the firewyrms to produce chlorine trifluoride or is it produced elsewhere and they're "loaded" while grounded? (there is mention of them with pipes going inside them at both ends)?

    unrelate issue about the Apocalypse Codex: has Schiller the hypercastrating variety of the isopod in place of his dick? I can't and wouldn't imagine what is the "purification ritual" performed on him... :-)


    Whereas horses can be maintained by people who identify a king on the basis of him not having shit all over him.

    As can trucks - add fuel, check tyres/oil/coolant, listen for grinding noises. How often do you tinker with things inside your motor vehicle? Correspondingly, does your car have a day when it's just sleepy or grumpy, does it ever get ill, and does it react badly if you try and wake it up in the middle of the night to do a rush job? Does your car get horny, or pregnant?

    (How much do horses need shoeing, anyway, if they're being used not on artificial hard surfaces, but on ordinary mud and stuff? After all, nobody shoes wild ones...)

    The reason that you use roads is so that you don't have to drag your carts over muddy fields, through hedges, and across rivers (with all of the associated friction losses). It makes a huge difference to the number of horses required, because your logistics train can now make round trips using roads.


    When the shooting starts in earnest you chew your way through that stockpile quite quickly even if you're winning and then you bog down when it starts to run out at the pointy end.

    Which is why invading armies are predictable. If you're moving forces, you can only really do it along a Main Supply Route (major road, ideally with nearby parallel roads to allow for redundancy in the face of delay / obstruction / intervention). Such route are actually rare; it's why it's possible to plan a defence other than "spread evenly over the entire frontage".

    This is why NATO defences in West Germany made such a big deal about bridge demolitions; it's not just about an easy way to get your tanks back / their tanks forward across a river (because there are limited numbers of armoured bridgelayers and ferries), it's about having an intact MSR for the supply trucks to travel on.

    Likewise, tanks don't actually drive everywhere - they're complicated beasts, and that weight and complexity affects the MTBF. If you want to move your armoured units a couple of hundred miles, you put them on tank transporters (big flatbed lorries) - it gets them close to their destination sooner and less worn-out.

    If you want depressing, look at the pictures of the supply routes that the 14th Army had to cope with in the Burma Campaign when the monsoon hit.


    True, but they can put them in stasis when not needed.

    The impression I got of the Morning Star army was that it must have been like living in Chernobyl or one of the Soviet nuclear cities-everything riddled with something akin to radiation contamination.


    And why the Nazi advance through the Belgian Ardennes "forests" in May 1940 was such a surprise, because, actually, there weren't that many roads to advance down.


    On the logistics front, modern mechanized forces are unbelievably material intensive; the figure I heard for a modern US mechanized brigade was on the order of 10,000 tons per 24 hours of action (during which time, admittedly, they're capable of advancing 100-200 miles in the face of armed opposition. Mind you, they also weigh upwards of a hundred thousand tons; MBTs and AFVs are not light trucks or horses.


    A good exercise to see how that works is to cycle comparable routes, once on-road and once off-road (NOT including the better byways and bridleways). You learn just how much more effort and slower the latter is.

    But you aren't quite right in #158 that viable vehicle routes are rare everywhere. Consider, for example, the area between London and Manchester, or the Low Countries.


    On a vaguely laundry files related note you can now ride the GPO trains from next month,


    It would be quite interesting to know at what point our ancestors developed distinct white eye irises, since this then makes direction of gaze obvious.

    This is almost unique to humans, and the ability to follow direction of gaze is also almost unique to ourselves and to dogs (which have learned to do it from associating with humans).

    I wonder if the Alfar had those eyes too?


    A note about plausibility: It's worth remembering that Charlie is writing fiction, not engineering manuals. To succeed, he has to make the results interesting enough that we keep reading and plausible enough that we're willing to suspend disbelief and stop looking for holes or for nits to pick. I think he succeeds brilliantly on both accounts. It's still a ton of fun to pick nits -- witness this forum -- but that's not the point of fiction.

    A note about magical duels: Strength is clearly important... but only if you can land the first blow. For example, I have a surprising amount of firsthand and book knowledge of martial arts, but I'd last about 1 second in a fight with someone who is actively training. The usual cliché is that if you haven't reduced a skill to muscle memory, it's useless in a fight. It's a cliché because it's true. Back in the day, I was a decent on the way to excellent aikido-ka, but no longer; I haven't trained in years (joint problems). So you could expect the Alfär to wipe the floor with any Laundry mage who hasn't "sparred" frequently enough to be really fast on his feet.

    re. Scorpion Stare: The cameras are probably already hacked ( What we really need is a dedicated secret army of roleplaying gamers to crowdsource control of the cameras during an incursion. That couldn't possibly go wrong, right?

    Re. Invading via the U.S. instead: Recall for the moment that the average American citizen is more heavily armed than the average 3rd world army special ops unit, and I can't imagine an Alfär invasion of any U.S. city ending well. (Yes, yes... I'm grossly overexaggerating for comic effect.)

    I find myself wondering whether the Cthulhu problem is susceptible to a solution based on applied mathematics. Perhaps the Fields Medal could be quietly suborned by the Laundry and rebranded as an X-Prize endeavor to solve a specific class of maths problem, with the goal of defeating Great Elder Ones. "The theory is solved; the rest is just engineering." G More seriously, resorting to massive nukes is based on the assumption that a single knockout punch is the final resort. But one shouldn't engage in a punchout with Godzilla, even as a last resort. I suspect something more subtle will be required, and that someone at the Laundry is already working on it.


    Recall for the moment that the average American citizen is more heavily armed than the average 3rd world army special ops unit,

    Ah, hmmm. Averages are not valid here. Times Square and NYC in general look more like London if you exclude the police. Rural Idaho on the other hand ...


    I'm not sure what point you're trying to make here.

    FOXP2 is an extremely conserved gene: there aren't multiple alleles within the human species, and the human version differs from the chimpanzee version in only 2 amino acids (and from the mouse version in only 3).

    The assumption that Charlie's character ("the DM") made in the book was that point mutations that gave rise to the human version of FOXP2 -- which were supposedly critical for language use -- must have arisen recently, after the ~ 200,000 years-ago divergence of the alfar, so that the alfar did not have it when they diverged. There had been some estimates based on human-DNA-only analyses that suggested a selective sweep of that general region of the gene that might have fixed the human variant either 50,000 years ago or ~ 200,000 years ago, so prior to the first analysis of Neanderthal FOXP2 in 2007, it wasn't necessarily a crazy idea.

    But the fact that both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA have exactly the same point mutations rules out this scenario, since the divergence of Neanderthals (and presumably Denisovans) from ancestral humans was most likely over 500,000 years ago. (Unless you posit some highly unlikely scenario where ancestral humans lost these FOXP2 mutations after the divergence of Neanderthals but prior to the divergence of alfar, and then somehow regained exactly the same mutations after the alfar split off.)

    It's still possible that some non-coding variation in the gene affecting its regulation is important; there is evidence for a difference in a non-coding region (where a regulatory protein might attach) between the human and Neanderthal genomes, though unlike the amino-acid point mutations this variation isn't universal in modern humans, and "the paper does not demonstrate that Neandertals or Denisovans were different from humans in speech or language-relevant phenotypes."


    " ... must have arisen recently, after the ~ 200,000 years-ago divergence of the alfar ..."

    And that's what I am saying is NOT the case!

    "But the fact that both Neanderthal and Denisovan DNA have exactly the same point mutations rules out this scenario,"

    It absolutely does NOT. That's a deterministic analysis, and genetics (at this level) is probabilistic.

    I would have to recalculate the probabilities etc., but the scenario is that a gene forms multiple (say, two) alleles, both of which become widespread. There are then speciation events and/or generic drift causing subspecies, conserving the variation. Much later, the populations go through bottlenecks which (by coincidence as much as anything) cause the different populations to end up with different, single alleles. But you cannot draw any conclusions about the evolutionary history from that gene alone. Note that I am talking about probabilities of tens of percent, given the scenario I describe (which we know is true of HSS).

    As an aside, this is why so many of the papers proposing classifications based on on single gene differences are crap, pure and simple. Just as with physical characteristics, you CANNOT rely on single changes to identify genetic history. If you would like, I will see if I can do a proper probabilistic analysis for this case, but I am many decades rusty.


    But you aren't quite right in #158 that viable vehicle routes are rare everywhere.

    I was trying to suggest that they aren't just a case of "treat the AA Roadmap like the maze in a children's puzzle book". You're talking about at least an A-road, in the correct direction, that isn't obviously screwed by geography.

    Consider, for example, the area between London and Manchester, or the Low Countries.

    Bad choice of example...

    Consider the failure of Operation MARKET-GARDEN (aka "A Bridge Too Far"). Trying to push 30 Corps up a single road was criticised as a decision. If it had worked, we'd regard it as genius like the 1940 move through the Ardennes - but it didn't work.

    It's not just "open country and roads", it also applies to slow-go country, tracks, and infantry. See the Australians and Japanese fighting the full length of the Kokoda Track twice, once in each direction.


    I think this is a good theory, but in the text Cassie could use a cell phone for texting/calling and was able to navigate a Starbucks (or similar British establishment,) so I don't think the "culture shock" theory works per the text. I don't recall whether she went online, but doubt she would have had troubles.


    True but blitzkrieg doctrine ideally you have two parallel roads with rods linking between them.

    And Arnhem was hampered by bad weather stopping air support and also dropping onto a town where a panzer division was reforming


    Have wondered how introducing excess plasmids during early cell division might affect genes sorta along the lines of: some stretches of DNA might be more susceptible to breakage and/or addition at certain points, or the transfer RNA* somehow gets highjacked and modified into becoming choosier as to what sections it replicates and how often.

    Huntington's Disease is (I think) the best known inherited medical condition and happens to have an incredibly tight inheritance path. Maybe that's why many folk think that any/all breeding humans/human traits is so straightforward because they've heard of HD genetics.

    *My mental image of tRNA is of a little zipper-like machine that just rips and zips DNA fragments. No idea where these bits are inventoried/grabbed from. As ever ...not a scientist, and my last bio class was ages ago.


    For MOST routes in the Low Countries, there are plenty of alternative roads, and that was against a well-established military occupation. The latter was / wouldn't be in place in either the Nightmare Stacks or an imaginary Soviet invasion, though of course it was then. And, yes, of course, there are always exceptional routes even within a fairly uniform area, not to say the unlimited ability of humans to put on rose-tinted glasses and cock things up.


    Well, unfortunately reality has caught up with fiction again:

    Oldest Homo sapiens remains are around 300,000 years old (Guardian Story)

    I'll go out on a very small limb and say that the common ancestor of all crown clade Homo species had a FOXP2 gene identical to that in the majority of modern humans (there are families with mutations, which is why we know it's so important).

    I'd also point out that, for anyone meshing fantasy with science, especially evolution, there are easier paths. For instance, the Alfar could have evolved partial resistance to K-syndrome (unlike our branch of humans who dealt with magic the same way we deal with climate change: massive denial. It's our own form of magical thinking), and all their differences rolled forward from whatever that adaptation did to them. The nice thing about this kind of handwavium is that it's unfalsifiable. Moreover, since we know that magical things like gorgonism pop up randomly in vertbrates, it's fairly easy to postulate how a small band of magic users who don't get their brains eaten would quickly dominate their world. All you have to postulate is that in the Laundryverse's worldline, that particular mutation never cropped up, or that it did, but for whatever reason, it never spread (maybe its possessor was too much of an antisocial nerd to breed, and the human population was too big to care).

    One other point: about the idea that ancient humans were somehow primitively stupid, and that's why they lived in small bands of stone-age wanderers for most of our now 300,000 year history as a species: the one thing you have to remember is that we live in a time that is remarkably stable in climate terms, especially compared to the last 300,000 years. We also know that people had domesticated barley 23,000 years ago in the Galilee during a time of relative climate stability, only to (apparently) revert to hunting and gathering as the ice age climate started changing again.

    What I'm getting at is that ice age climates weren't uniformly cold, and ice age humans weren't necessarily stupid (heck, their brains were bigger than ours are). The problem with the ice ages was that global temperatures cycled wildly and fairly chaotically. It's quite possible that our ice age ancestors were smarter than we were, but that the simple chaos of the seasons kept them from developing complex symbioses (aka domestication, agriculture, and civilization) until after the Younger Dryas, when they developed all of these things in a few thousand years of the relatively stable, benign climate that we're now madly trying to leave behind. After all, farming's a worthless activity if you can't predict what the weather will be like next year.

    Anyway, in chaotic circumstances, anything that gives a band of humans an edge might proliferate quickly, and that's where a "magic gene" might change humans into elves. Or werewolves/vampires/whatever.


    Have you ever had it, or known someone well that did? I have. It's quite possible to have huge blind spots, because it never crosses your mind that something is possible. And military logistics, weaponry NOT something that most people ever think about, let alone the bubblehead that the original Cassie was supposed to be.


    Looking forward to another Laundryverse novel. I'm re-reading Nightmare Stacks in preparation and one question comes to mind; is it anything more than a bizarre coincidence that an Alfar skeleton is found and studied by Laundry affiliated scientists just months before the invasion?


    I remain perplexed by Alex's prefatory apology to Cassie: Which Cassie is he apologizing to, and for what? It hasn't become clear to me in three readings.

    My guess... Alex is a white, middle-class, taxpaying professional male. When he persuaded Cassie to surrender he assumed that the British Government would treat her people the same basically-decent way that it treats him (modulo co-opting him into the Laundry - that's all still too new to have really revealed its horror).

    What he has in fact done is hand over a vanquished force of not-quite-humans to a Home Secretary who isn't a big fan of Human Rights even in the case of Homo sapiens and will presumably be pretty happy to utilise them in whatever inhuman manner best suits her aims. No wonder he feels the need to apologise.


    You are very likely right, but what I am saying is that there is no good evidence for it, and OGH's explanation doesn't conflict with what we know for sure.


    You can always type "&auml;" to get "ä": "alf&auml;r" becomes "alfär". Any HTML escape code works.


    The British upper classes spent centuries seeking spouses with enormous tracts of land for their children. Breeding for land seemed to work pretty well for a while, too; at their peak the UK controlled more land than any other polity on Earth.


    OR: [ ALT + 0228 ] = ä


    I should point out one other immense weirdness:

    Somewhere out in the immense Laundry multiverse, there are parallel Earths that produced fluorine metabolizing dragons and saurpodian basilisks. And the Alfar not only found those worlds, they brought back (breeding stock of) those animals and used them.


    So my question is, how did the Alfar not turn into the equivalent of H Beam Piper's Level One Paratime Civilization? If they can worldwalk like that, it's amazing that they didn't enslave the multiverse for their consumerist pleasures.


    Was it Alex who persuaded Cassie to surrender? When I read the final pages it sounds to me as if Cassie came up with the formula on her own. At least, it's preceded by her ceremonially ordering her forces to stand down unilaterally, and I'm pretty confident that the formulas she used came from First of Spies and Liars. I don't see Alex as the sort of young man who would have gone into legal and political thought; it would take just as much handwaving to convince me that he happened to know the legal formulae for seeking refuge as to convince me that FSL had time to look it up.


    >>>>What he has in fact done is hand over a vanquished force of not-quite-humans to a Home Secretary who isn't a big fan of Human Rights even in the case of Homo sapiens and will presumably be pretty happy to utilise them in whatever inhuman manner best suits her aims. No wonder he feels the need to apologise.

    There probably exist plans to sacrifice 90% of the human population to power some ultimate magic weapon.

    I wonder though, at which point in the story is humanity going to sink to such lows in the struggle for survival that it will no longer be possible for the readers to sympathize with it?


    Question for the host:

    Considering the genre (riffing on mil-SF) and series (Rhesus Chart, Apocalypse Codex), the ending is positively subdued. And it was building towards a large desperate crescendo of wide scale conflict after all containment efforts had failed. Then it gets handled with a drone strike.

    That swerve has stuck with me; in discussing it with a friend we've reached the theory that it is a continuation of a theme - that systems and small applications of smart power trump large scale brute force. It is keeping with things like Alex using a recursive loop to send a swarm of magical ants instead of using a mace to cast magic missile, or just the larger themes of the series as a whole.

    Are we close? What were you going for with that change up?

    Were there any themes you worked into it that you wanted people to pick up on? Or metaphors and symbols you wanted to smack the reader with? We are picking apart human evolution and gaming out fictional ideas here rather than discussing the book, so I was wondering what about the book we were supposed to get


    It seems to me that there's a smart way and a dumb way to use the Tsar Bomba. The dumb way is to let it explode in the usual fashion. The smart way is to invoke a demon which is immune to/eats radiation and heat and use the Tsar Bomba to trigger a really powerful burst of computation. The only thing is, don't use the kind of demon other-world Hitler summoned in Atrocity Archives. That could be... bad, for beam-crossing values of bad.


    how did the Alfar not turn into the equivalent of H Beam Piper's Level One Paratime Civilization?

    Whole lot of time for other species to beat them there, relegating the Alfar to the equivalent of rats in the walls. Sure they had a head start on us, but in the view of a multiverse there is plenty of room for earths where the dino-killer missed and the saurians had a 65 million year head start on the elves. Other worlds too - it is never clear if the Cthonians and Deep Ones are native to earth, remember.


    GOOGLE: How to apply for refugee status in the EU, commit a phrase to rote memory or read it off your phone.


    I expect that Cassie knew how to google for such things; after all, she was a college student. I'm not sure that FSL would realize that Cassie had that capability; it depends on how much she's assimilated to English technology and/or how much she and Cassie have mentally integrated. (I'm thinking now of the scene on Angel where Illyria not only morphs back into Fred but pulls Fred's memories out of storage to talk with Fred's parents. . . .)


    One of the supplements for the RPG has a scenario where the players go through a gate to a future earth where this is happening very grimdark


    You're also both missing the point that FSL had every reason NOT to keep the Host fully informed as it would have ended her usefulness to her Father and Step Mother.

    Unless she was explicitly ordered to report back the exact disposition of the Queen she could lie by omission.

    There's plenty of evidence in the dialog that it was a normal state of affairs for high ranking Alfär. One could speculate that there is immense selection pressure for creative liars to develop and gain rank among the Alfär.


    I'm sorry, but I'm not getting why that point is relevant to what I'm speculating about. By the time Cassie/FSL recites the formula of seeking refuge, she IS the All-Highest and has no more need to worry about what her father and stepmother think.


    Vertical slit pupils are characteristic of ambush predators specifically. Things that tend to attack with a sudden pounce or leaping strike. Vertical slit pupils are excellent for depth perception, which makes an ambush predator sporting them much more likely to get that initial ambush strike right. That's why they're commonly associated with cats and snakes.

    The more common predatory trait for eyes is having them on the front of the head.


    SPECULATION: Some underinformed PR consultant decides that it would be a good move to trot her out on television. Young, female, good-looking; this can't fail to generate sympathy, YesYes!

    Unfortunately, the verbal tics she appropriated are instantly recognisable, prompting inquiry into the fate of the real Cassiopeia Brewer....


    I would have to recalculate the probabilities etc., but the scenario is that a gene forms multiple (say, two) alleles, both of which become widespread. There are then speciation events and/or generic drift causing subspecies, conserving the variation. Much later, the populations go through bottlenecks which (by coincidence as much as anything) cause the different populations to end up with different, single alleles.

    This sounds like "it's all neutral evolution" -- changes in gene frequencies have nothing to do with speciation or selection, they're just accidents of mutation and population bottlenecks.

    But FOXP2 is a highly conserved gene; you do not find multiple alleles of it floating around. The difference between the chimpanzee version and the mouse version -- separated by a divergence point about 70 million years ago -- is a single amino acid (out of 715 making up the protein). This isn't like blood types, where you have multiple alleles in humans and multiple alleles in chimpanzees (and orangutans), for example.

    The plausible scenario is that both mutations arose and became fixed sometime after the divergence of human and chimpanzee ancestors, but before the human-Neanderthal divergence.

    (And, frankly, if you are "many decades rusty", then I would seriously worry about how much the state of the art has moved beyond what you once did. Science -- including statistical methodologies -- does not stand still.)


    One could speculate that there is immense selection pressure for creative liars to develop and gain rank among the Alfär.

    The fact that -- per comments in the book -- high-ranking alfar are not good at detecting lies suggests they don't often have to deal with them (because they geas their subordinates to tell the truth).

    Or we could agree that "creative lying" means things unrelated to speech acts other than, say, lying by omission. Things like doing or not doing certain things so that you can honestly report that you saw X but not Y (because you deliberately looked for X but didn't look in those areas you thought Y was likely to be found).


    Huntingdon's genetics is not really straightforward. The disease gets worse across generations because the number of affected codons in the gene increases.


    If you have a single spy, it's hard to tell whether they are telling the truth, because you have nothing to compare it with. If you command said person to "tell you the truth," you can get a highly edited version of the truth that will in its totality be false, even though all the bits are true (cf: climate denialism). If you command your spy to "tell you all of the truth," or similar, you'll get a data dump, which isn't necessarily any better, because you'll have to pick through the entire report and assemble your own version of what the spy saw. Not only is this inefficient, it risks you introducing your own biases into the data you've been presented.

    So yes, I'd expect the Alfar to be really good at squirming around under geasa to do what they need to do. Otherwise, the whole system's too simplistic to function, but with some freedom of will, it can also fall apart. That's one of those essential conundrums of governance, actually. Both too little freedom and too much freedom don't work.


    It's relevant to the content of this whole thread that Troutwaxer started on why Cassie didn't reveal more detail of the UK to the Host.

    Not particularly relevant to your section of it - apologies


    It wouldn't have mattered -- the Host literally couldn't conceive of an elected democracy having any power or the common man having any influence on how society is organised and run. The idea of an All-Highest who is effectively under a geas to rubber-stamp the wishes of meat-slaves and mana fodder isn't something they could deal with so they went with the easier option of just barrelling ahead in a quick all-out strike to depose the Queen and take command that way.

    "The man he hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."


    I greatly enjoyed TNS, like others I loved the dinner scene & while I generally don't like a strong military focus these parts where well done.

    There are things I do't quite understand, does anything of Cassie survive in First of Spies? Derek the DM was IMo treated like an old aquaintence in the story, but I'm sure he never showed up before?

    However, there was something that bugged me while reading but I'm not sure if it can be done much better: On invading Leeds, the Host murders everyone in sight (To be seen is to be killed ...). I found the treatment of this massacre very detached, IIRC except for the con goers it was very much "One death is a tragedy, a few thousands is a statistic."

    What the whole invasion part brought home was the utter helplessness of the ordinary folks in Leeds (you think the Army faced an OCP?) which is, I think, a huge part of war and mass violence. I think this feeling of helplessness is aided by the dry, technical prose OGH used for some parts of the invasion sequence.

    I don't really know what my point is right now, except that I think exceptional violence should not be throwaway plot point that's forgotten in the next act (Star Wars original trilogy - IIRC the billions of people who perished with Alderaan where not mentioned much later), but somehow treated with gravity that scales with the death toll.


    Great reference - thanks!

    I was thinking of how easy it is to notice the 'accumulation' of genetic predisposition in HD - almost like compound interest. (As similar and fast as dog breeding in Europe in the 1800s.)

    The study/article below got lots of press (TV) coverage when it came out, therefore likely to have impacted how people understood genetic transmissibility. What made this story so dramatic and memorable was seeing 9 year old Venezuelan kids exhibit the same degree of HD signs and symptoms as 50+ year olds in the US because of their longer (CAG) repeat. And each generation's CAG tends to get longer until it can't be ignored when it's time for that individual to procreate.

    Venezuelan kindreds reveal that genetic and environmental factors modulate Huntington's disease age of onset

    The U.S.–Venezuela Collaborative Research Project* and Nancy S. Wexler†


    '... the additive genetic heritability of this residual age of onset trait is 38%. A model, including shared sibling environmental effects, estimated the components of additive genetic (0.37), shared environment (0.22), and nonshared environment (0.41) variances, confirming that ≈40% of the variance remaining in onset age is attributable to genes other than the HD gene and 60% is environmental.'


    If you have a single spy, it's hard to tell whether they are telling the truth

    ...which is why the UK grades information in two dimensions as part of the Intelligence Cycle...

    You assess the quality of the information (part of this is "verified and corroborated by other means" down to "contradicted by other sources", along with "quality cannot be assessed") as well as the reliability of the source (from "normally reliable source" down to "unreliable", along with "reliability cannot be assessed").

    Said spy may well be convinced of the truth of their information - but mistaken, or even worse being fed false information. Personal conviction is no guarantee of data quality...


    I believe Concorde had to be painted white anyway (possibly that was because they only developed that colour with the required thermal properties). I recall Pepsi-Cola wanting to have one repainted blue for advertising purposes and BA refused. Air France were more accomodating, but it was restricted to lower speeds until refinished in the correct scheme. (Doing that must have cost a small fortune!)


    I believe the book says the Alfär are bad at detecting outright lies (which are prevented by a geas), not that they are necessarily bad at detecting other forms of subterfuge.


    I believe the book says that the Alfär initially did a lot of exploring, found some neat stuff like the dragons, and then started stumbling into dangers that nearly destroyed them and decided that random exploration of the multiverse was not such a good idea after all.


    I've wometimes wondered if there were in fact a thaumaturgic reason for keeping a royal head of state, something like making it simpler to ward the nation to some extent…

    …so the n mention of Russia makes me wonder if the Traditional Russian Values binge, including everything from autocracy to anti-Semitism to homophobic persecution, weren't just standard autocratic scapegoating and legerdemain, but might be an attempt to slow or diminish the effects of CASE NIGHTMARE ГОЛУБОЙ. (A colour they particularly denote but we don't.)


    Also because the Alfär do not have a remotely free system. If the All-Highest only cares about those worlds for resources for their war against others of her kind that dare not be under her thumb, then it won't get done.

    We do have extensive research showing they've used the paths again and again, but I'd wager the risk in doing that is somethings watch you and may view you as tasty treats.

    Side note: hibernation and stasis. The Alfär seem to use a cocooning method rather than summoning grids. Is there a flaw in summon grids we should worry about? Like making it an easier vector for horrors beyond space time? Also can we make a grid powdered on the inside and controlled from the inside for space time work?

    EG someone could make something like a time bubble and hide for eons? Or say hide the UK until the horrors eat everyone else and move on?


    You have completely missed my point. Nothing you said is relevant to the probability of a naive analysis giving the wrong result, which is a really simple issue and has been well-understood for over a century (arguably two).


    The defence measures for the New York headquarters of the (like it or, sanely, not) current U.S. leader worry me greatly—Midtown is extremely dense during the workday, and I can easily see a bad actor's counting on something's being shot-down over there—or at least that being the attacker's acceptable second-best outcome.



    Translated to Russian, this is CASE NIGHTMARE GAY.

    ...I don't want to know.


    As we're passed 200 comments in ...

    The key to the climax is knowing that the Alfär don't have cellphones or the internet or do much with electricity — especially electronics. They totally understand the idea of a Palantir — instantaneous voice (or mind-to-mind) communications — but the idea of a smartphone that can send text messages whenever it goes online, and that always knows where it is and can tell a machine at the other end what's going on? That's black magic weirdness.

    Cassie and Alex demo Alex's smartphone deliberately to play to the All-Highest's cognitive biases so that he'll assess it as an interesting orcish toy, not a lethal remote-access-toolkit-riddled radio bugging device with GPS.

    What they pull on the All-Highest is basically a reprise of the assassination of Dzhokar Dudayev in 1996, with the added twist that the attack doesn't have to wait until he's on the satellite line — once Alex activates it, his smartphone is basically broadcasting a COME AND SHOOT ME, I'M HERE signal with realtime GPS updates.

    The money shot in the other direction is Cassie warning Alex in a roundabout way that it is vital that he kill Second Wife before taking out the All-Highest, in order that the chain of geases land on Cassie (rather than the violently hostile stepmom).

    The Alfär geas-control hierarchy is only vulnerable to single points of failure if the chain of command isn't reliable. In Cassie's case, the treacherous number two has alienated the number three's loyalty, and number three (Cassie) figures the only way to save what's left of her people is to surrender unconditionally and then invoke refugee status.


    Peter Erwin noted: "frankly, if you are "many decades rusty", then I would seriously worry about how much the state of the art has moved beyond what you once did. Science -- including statistical methodologies -- does not stand still."

    Indeed. When I started editing more genetics papers, I bought a recent textbook so I could update my knowledge. I was heard, repeatedly, to exclaim "My gosh, they've learned a few things since Gregor Mendel and I were in grad school together." One nice thing about editing journal articles for a living is that it keeps me up to date on the state of the art in several fields. But I despair of trying to keep up with science outside my main areas of expertise. There's simply too much going on.

    Re. Alfär and lying: I would expect (given the intense selection pressures that would be involved) that there has been a millennia-long "arms race" between the liars and those who must detect those lies. I sure as hell wouldn't want to play poker with any of these folks, let alone try lying to them about anything important.

    Re. evolution and the FOXP2 gene: There are good reasons to distrust any claim that a single gene is ultimately responsible for any trait as complex as language. It's certainly possible, and there's decent evidence to support this hypothesis (e.g., loss of function of this gene leading to severe language impairment), but I advocate caution extrapolating this to non-humans or near-humans such as neandertals.


    does anything of Cassie survive in First of Spies? Derek the DM was IMo treated like an old aquaintence in the story, but I'm sure he never showed up before?

    Agent First is so mixed up with Cassie that she has serious ongoing identity problems. These don't come front-and-centre in "Delirium Brief" but they're there for later. (Simply put: Alfär spies aren't meant to dive so deep into a victim's personality and memories, or for so long. See also Ramona/Bob and destiny entanglement in "The Jennifer Morgue".)

    Derek the DM has a novella that I really ought to have written and published already, explaining where he and his particular brand of magic come from. It was supposed to get written a year or two ago, before "Nightmare Stacks" hit print; right now I'm aiming to push it out as an interstitial in the gap year between Laundry novels (because there isn't going to be one in 2018 — instead you're getting "Dark State" and the space opera "Ghost Engine").

    As for the effects on Leeds ... it has huge political repercussions that are explored in "The Delirium Brief". The Laundry secret is out, and it's not going to be swept under the rug.


    EG someone could make something like a time bubble and hide for eons? Or say hide the UK until the horrors eat everyone else and move on?

    Ooh, that's a really good idea and I am going to have to think about it, long and hard.

    (But if it happens, it's an angle that won't be explored before book 10 at the earliest.)


    There's a bit of an unexplored track here too. If in fact Alfar and orcs are descended from a common ancestor, then who were those ancestors, where did they come from, and what happened to them?

    If the answer is some variation of CASE NIGHTMARE, then that implies some sort of life on the other side of the singularity, perhaps with the Great Old Ones serving some sort of function similar to the Reapers from Mass Effect.


    I believe Concorde had to be painted white anyway

    Shame. There's a British company, Surrey NanoSystems that's been developing really black coatings. Their videos are very impressive -- Google for Vantablack.


    Now that would be the epitome of a "superblack" project - assuming it could withstand the frictional heating.

    EG someone could make something like a time bubble and hide for eons? Or say hide the UK until the horrors eat everyone else and move on?

    Perhaps this was already done and the entire story has been told from inside the bubble. The bubble eventually decays, and that's CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.


    We aren't dealing with sealed evil in a can, we are sealed food in a can?

    something something ketchup.


    Yes, both those key points were clear by the second time I read The Nightmare Stacks. My focus is on a different and perhaps more specific point: When FSL/All-Highest recited the formula of asking for refugee status, was she doing so because Alex had coached her to do so or because she had figured out for herself that this was necessary and used Cassie's skills to search for the legal formula? The latter seems more plausible to me—FSL has been trained to think in terms of magical formulae that bind other people's social behavior, and Alex is a bit naïve socially—and it sounds as if you may be supporting it, but an explicit statement would be of interest (or perhaps you've made one and I've failed to spot it).


    Thought for Charlie: George kept his blood supply in an isolation grid where time was slowed or stopped. Could the doomsday concorde increase the yield by running this in reverse - set the timer on your H-bomb, activate the grid to form an isolation sphere in which time runs a great deal faster and is also stuffed with lithium deuteride, and the actual trigger simply deactivates the grid.

    If that worked you might have to be careful you didn't create a planet-buster in the teraton range.

    (This concept brought to you via Hobgoblin Gold and a vague recollection of an SF story involving QuietWall units that were repurposed in ways not intended by the inventor.)

    A cleaner version (ObIronSunrise) would use a suitable quantity of radioactive material that will decay to something non-toxic (or at least non-radioactive - iron or lead) plus its binding energy during the isolation period.

    Definitely last-ditch as completely undisarmable once set running.


    I sent a DNA sample (birthday present) off to 23andme who run genotyping tests to determine geographic ancestry composition (geographical regions your genes align with), haplogroups (common ancestry) and neanderthal ancestry. There's a number of companies who offer these sort of tests.

    Apparently I'm northwest European, lots of Irish but some Scandinavian from 4-5 generations ago (which aligns with our scottish family history). Ancestry wise on the paternal side I trace back to the sunken kingdom of Doggerland and on the maternal to Northeast Africa. And of course 313 neanderthal variants, which admittedly is still less than 4% of total. The best bit was the neanderthal genes, I'm still smiling...


    I didn't get the impression that there was literally a common ancestor, but rather that humans and elves evolved on parallel earths with similar but divergent histories.


    Martin089 wrote exceptional violence should not be throwaway plot point that's forgotten in the next act

    My take is that Alex convinced Cassie now All Highest to surrender and claim refugee status as a better alternative to being wiped out.

    The Alfar killed thousands of British civilians in and around Leeds, and at least hundreds of civilians of other countries in planes and/or Leeds. Large scale war crimes.

    And while there shouldn't be too much opposition to recognising the Alfar as humans with all rights thereof (thank you decades of low budget sci fi TV), that also means all the slavery, torture, and executions among the Alfar themselves since they were revived are human rights violations.

    Formerly First now All Highest Cassie herself is guilty of kidnapping and accessory to murder.

    This is the equivalent of ISIS, complete with Yezidi slaves, surrendering and claiming refugee status. Not going to be that easy.

    A moral government would intern the lot of them until the investigations and trials had finished. I'm guessing that the government in the books will be willing to make a more cold blooded tradeoff of future utility against the numerous and varied atrocities. Cassie gets placed under a Laundry style geas to ensure her loyalty and hence that of the others. She hands over any senior commanders she doesn't like to take the blame for the all the deaths, and is portrayed as the "human" face of the Alfar who persuaded them to stop.


    My apologies: it was a bad pun—I wanted to use a colour O.G.H. hadn't used before, and I was referencing Russia, and had mentioned homophobia, so suddenly I felt under a geas to use the Russian word goluboi which does slang 'gay' but whose primary meaning is 'light blue', which is traditionally considered a fundamentally different colour to 'dark blue'.


    " inept socialization is one of the critical failure modes for societies where power and wealth are concentrated in the hands of the few, and these are inherited rather than being distributed by any sort of meritocracy. If you don't socialize their heirs properly, they can destroy the whole system in short order."

    Historical examples come to mind like Akhenaton, Caligula and Liu Chan (Ah Dou). Traditional aristocracy must have been trying to remedy this inherent flaw by separating sons from their parents early on via elite boarding schools, or the U.S equivalent with Ivy League prep schools, colleges and even military academies especially before WW1. That's how another less critical failure mode with a slower fuse set in, the echo chamber effect we see now in the Washington Beltway, where "informational selectivity" credits only the views of an exclusive social set. Democrats are maybe even more afflicted with this than Republicans, since they have to schmooze, hobnob and earn approval from coastal liberal philanthropists to get funding. Republicans presumably have more direct access to money without all the social butterflying, since they're obviously devoted to serving the interests of mega-estates above all else. But they lose coherence drinking their own ideological koolaid, getting saddled with unworkable agendas that were never intended as real world action plans, useful only as dog whistles for rallying the country club set. Now if they don't actually end up hanging themselves with all this rope they got hold of, it proves there actually is a scheming brain in there somewhere, not just kneejerk instinctive acting out on a nationwide scale.


    Re: war crimes

    I think there is a case to be made that only the All-Highest committed any war crimes, since the others were literally unable to refuse his orders. The geas is unprecedented in human law, and under the circumstances that issue could very plausibly be decided by political needs rather than legal/ethical ones, but I see a colorable argument.


    Obviously there were politics involved, and perhaps the issue of Cassie Googling is covered by that lampshade, at least a little, in that she knows that the chances of being believed, particularly in her assertions about Orcish society, are very small indeed. But I didn't read it as being covered by that lampshade.

    But here's the thing: either Cassie can use Google or she can't, or maybe she's in one of those low-information gray areas where she thinks thinks that "facebook is the Internet" and doesn't get much outside that walled garden.

    But if Cassie can google - and her other half is in college presumably doing research papers regularly - then her report to The Highest should probably start with the phrase, "Hi Dad, the Orcs have explored different areas of science and technology that we have, to the point where THEY HAVE LEARNED HOW TO DIRECTLY CONVERT MATTER TO ENERGY. AND THEY HAVE WEAPONIZED IT!"

    Having said that, I do have to acknowledge that the real problem for Cassie is getting the information to her father without her mother interfering, and that issue is presented believably. Cassie's relationship with Alex makes perfect sense from that standpoint alone - someone who is kindly inclined towards her who can communicate with the government on her behalf - let alone the fact that he's a powerful wizard.

    Otherwise, an excellent book, and I have reread it multiple times.


    That makes very good sense under the circumstances.

    However, we still need to integrate the existing Alfar into our society, and what, pray tell, does a high-ranking Alfar do when a woman doesn't want to mate with him?

    So this isn't easy regardless.


    Ok I know we haven't crossed the "300 comments, anything goes" threshold yet but I gotta ask what the fuck is going on with Scottish politics right now. How are you guys being the ones keeping May in power. 6 seats flipped SNP to Tory and counting. What the shit?


    Ok. So my question is this: what happened to the other tools in the Alfar arsenal?

    My impression was those were mentioned as resources the Host had to give up because there wasn't enough space to take them into hibernation.


    Mounted forces can forage for feed in ways a mechanized force cannot.


    I got the impression that Alex & Cassie/First of Spies and Liars discussed what was going to happen and made some kind of plan for what to do IF they survived Second Wife and All Highest.


    Cassie from the Laundry Files version of Earth was a Theater Major. She wouldn't be writing research papers on nuclear physics.


    the Alfar host could have been arrested by the West Yorkshire Metropoltican Police ................................................................^^^^^^^^^^^^^ I wish I was clever enough to turn this typo into something...


    That could be true. Can you point to specific passages that give you that impression?


    Quite right. The horses can graze at the side of the motorway, while their riders can raid the sandwich racks at the petrol stations...

    ...hold on... ;)

    (There's a long-established tradition of raiding the existing compatible logistic chain, including petroleum, as part of your plans - see "Battle of the Bulge", North African Campaign, etc, etc...)


    Simple. Scotland voted to remain in the UK; SNP mostly ate votes from a complacent Scottish Labour Party. The Conservatives are seen as the most credible party holding a Unionist position; the Lib Dems saw the centre eaten after their time in Coalition.

    The rural areas of Scotland traditionally used to vote Conservative; they appear to be going back to it. One explanation is that there isn't much room for idealism on a farm, it's all about pragmatism - so when you keep on pushing principles instead of delivering results, there's a backlash (an SNP with a decade in charge saw Scotland falling in the PISA results over the last five years; there's only so much "it's all Westminster's fault, independence is the answer" that they can use, before people start to wonder why over the last year, Holyrood spent 30+ business hours debating independence referendums / Brexit, only 7 hours debating education, and hasn't actually passed any legislation...)


    erm ... wasn't that the modus operandi for the star-burster in "Iron Sunrise" ??


    Yeah. The wee fiswife has been give a good shock, excellent. I note that both Labour AND tory vote share went up, with a squeezed middle. Oh for a real Social Democrat party in this country. It looks as though May might/will temporise before going - I doubt she will last. It is to be hoped that, if we are still stuck with Brexit, we get a much "softer" version, if at all possible. We shall see.


    Not right away. I had to return my library book and the copy I ordered from Amazon hasn't arrived.

    But, IIRC, there is some discussion between Alex and Cassie after they leave the dinner party and before they arrive at the bunker. That's when First of Spies and Lies "releases" Alex from geas to come meet her family (a compulsion it seems Alex could have resisted if he had wanted to).

    There's another discussion after they take down the Host guards at the bunker, but before they enter the gateway down in the lower level. They may have some further discussion after they enter the interstitial path from the bunker to Malham Cove.


    The country side used to be much more liberal though, not just conservative. There's also the point that the evil Tories up here seem to position themselves as the anti SNP, despite this being a British election, and some people are stupid enough to vote based on that, despite it not having any effect on the education system because that's a devolved issue. But if the Tories lost power there would be more money coming to Scotland anyway because one of the reasons for lack of spending in schools is there has been austerity all round.


    my comment from the other side of Channel about elections:

    "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Theresa May 10 Downing Street wgah'nagl fhtagn hard Brexit"


    Although having typed that, the stated policy of continuing subsidies of farmers at current levels for two or three years beyond brexit was probably quite popular.



    You don't need a BSc in Physics to have seen before and after pictures of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and have at least a vague idea what caused it.


    You have followed Peter Erwin down the rabbit hole of confusion. This has NOTHING to do with the details of the mechanisms, is simply basic genetic mathematics (i.e. probability), is really well-understood (by statisticians etc.) and has not changed in a century. Since the confusion seems to be spreading, I will explain, using a very simple example based on the current one and skipping over the formulae I would have to recalculate.

    Consider a single species where a mutation arises in a single gene, creating alleles X and Y, which both become widespread. Time passes, a lot of it, and the species splits into four. A LOT LATER, there are bottlenecks (which we know have occurred, both early and recently, for HSS, and have reason to believe occurred for HSN and HSD), which reduce the gene to a single allele in each species. The main bit I am skipping is the probability of that occurring for an unselected gene in a bottleneck of size N over T generations; look it up or calculate it if you are good enough a probabilist.

    The probability of the gene having the same allele in each population is only 12.5%. I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to work out what the probability of the alleles splitting 3:1 - it's higher, but I would have to recalculate it, and haven't woken up yet.

    I am also skipping the calculations of the probability of a gene developing two stable alleles, two loci apart (not one). That is possible by simple chance, but becomes very likely if the two forms are both even slightly advantageous over the form with a single locus difference. Again, it's simple, but I no longer remember the formulae.

    And THAT is why I am saying that classifying on the basis of a single allele is just plain incompetent, no matter that it is regularly done in the most prestigious journals. OGH's FOX2 scenario is fully compatible with what we know of human genetics.


    I like it! I could well be the same, being 60-70% Celtic.


    Pages 235-236 and 243-246 of the paperback.


    You have still missed the point. It's not finding the information that is hard; it is realising that there is something relevant to find. It's exactly the sort of thing that wouldn't have crossed FSL/Cassie's mind.


    6 seats flipped SNP to Tory and counting. What the shit?

    The SNP went from owning 95% of the Scottish parliamentary seats to 59%. They're still the biggest party representing Scotland; to put it in perspective, if they were running UK-wide and achieved that level of showing it'd give them a 60 seat majority in Parliament, i.e. a stonking great big one.

    When you own 95% of a representative body, the only way to go is down. The last GE result was a freak show (the Labour vote in Scotland basically collapsed because the voters were furious with them for allying with the Tories during IndyRef). The SNP, in a FPTP system, swept the board. We're now seeing a more accurate level of representation reassert itself — the SNP are still the biggest Scottish party, though.

    This will give Greg a happy: although the Tories picked up some seats north of the border, thanks to EVEL ("English Votes for English Laws") those new Tory MPs can't vote on NHS England privatisation. i.e. if the new, weakened, hypothetical Tory-plus-DUP government tries to privatize the NHS, they will lose their majority.


    I re read the book last night. Ignorance of nuclear weapons isn't an excuse as she specifically mentions how much she enjoyed watching Dr. Strangelove.

    Also, in reference to another conversation upthread, the QRA Typhoons in the book were carrying AMRAAMS and ASRAAMS.


    Look, I have experience of this. Knowing a fact does NOT mean that you realise its consequences, or even that it is an important factor. Human cognition doesn't work that way. I will give you a simple personal example of the sort of problem, and stop here. Note that examples like this are the norm for people taken from one culture to a very different one, though this is much rarer nowadays than it used to be. If you look up historical records, you will find plenty of other examples.

    I was brought up with hurricane and Tilley lamps, candles and (occasionally) battery torches. When I first came to the UK, at 9, I tried turning on an electric light and failed. I knew about electricity and that it was supplied by wires, but it never crossed my mind that the control was not where the bulb was.


    You just gave me an idea...

    The elves don't have planes and bombs but they do have various weaponised magic animals.

    Imagine the reports if she had seen some old Godzilla films instead.


    I would love to have the defence brief on this. The fundamental problem you'd have in prosecuting for war crimes, once we'd established that the international court had jurisdiction over extra-dimensional actors, and the U.K. Government was willing to render them up for a Nuremberg style trial at The Hague, is free will. Given that the pointy eared command structure is ruthlessly enforced by geas any subordinate could reasonably claim that they had no free will in the matter given the command imperative. As the top of the command tree has been looped off there's not much they can say to refute such claims by their subordinates. Which may have been one of Cassie's objectives...


    I believe Concorde had to be painted white anyway You might want to Google "Lockheed SR-71" and "ironball paint".


    Greg, a wee touch of recent history for you.

    One of the party leaders was due to launch their GE2017 manifesto 10 minutes after the first confirmed reports of the Manchester bombing: Instead they used their airtime to call for a suspension of all campaigning as a mark of respect to the victims.

    It was Nicola Sturgeon who had the common decency to put respect for mass murder victims ahead of party politics.

    As such, I think you owe her a public apology for that fishwife crack!


    the QRA Typhoons in the book were carrying AMRAAMS and ASRAAMS.

    Which is correct for the books 2014 setting.


    Wasn't quibbling about that.

    There seemed to be some confusion about what the loadout in the book was and whether they were carrying radar guided stuff at all.


    I think this is all beside the point. Any war crimes committed by the Alfär are irrelevant and will never be prosecuted.

    This is a matter of geopolitics and Realpolitik. The UK (together with the rest of the world) is facing a magical apocalypse (CASE NIGHTMARE RAINBOW). The UK has just got hold of an extremely capable, battle-hardened, fearsome, and loyal-by-default magical army. Why on Earth would you want to waste this golden opportunity by prosecuting them? Once you have them and control them you want to keep them and deploy them against the next magical threat that's coming up. They're a much needed addition to the UK's armed forces, they're a new and powerful tool in the UK's arsenal, that's what they are, and it would be extraordinarily stupid to waste any thoughts or resources on prosecuting them--or on rehabilitating them, or on freeing them from their geases, or on integrating them into British society, for that matter; that's the flip side of the medal.

    That seemed immediately and blatantly obvious to me at the end of The Nightmare Stacks.


    Concorde flew in a different aerodynamic envelope (Mach 2, 20km altitude) to the SR-71 (Mach 3 in bursts, 30km altitude) which had other forms of thermal remediation such as active skin cooling. Technology has moved on though since then. Varieties of the Vantablack material I mentioned earlier can withstand temperatures of over 300 deg C and there are spray-on versions coming soon. It would be great if the black Concordes really were black...


    Any war crimes committed by the Alfär are irrelevant and will never be prosecuted.

    Especially by the New Management installed at the end of "The Delirium Brief" (who we will get to see up close and personal in "The Labyrinth Index").

    The New Management is Strong and Stable. Stable for aeons ...

    Ah, fukkit. We're 250 comments in, so here's the opening paragraph of "The Labyrinth Index", set in roughly February of 2015:

    On my way to the execution shed I pass a tangle of bloody feathers lying on the flagstones. From their color and size I deduce that they're the remains of one of the resident corvids, which is a surprise: I thought they were already dead. Ravens are powerful and frighteningly astute birds, but they're no match for the juvenile dragonspawn that have moved into the Tower. That the New Management has invited into the Tower, that is.

    (For those who are unfamiliar: the ravens of the Tower of London are associated with some interesting traditional beliefs.)


    Knowing a fact does NOT mean that you realise its consequences, or even that it is an important factor. Human cognition doesn't work that way.

    Right. Also remember that she was a theatre major. Cassie 1.0 must have learned lots of stuff about presentation and drama and wardrobe and set design and story structure - stuff that was completely irrelevant to First of Spies much less the others in her army. I've known plenty of humans with much less excuse to freeze up and give blank looks when questions about technology arise.

    It's not unreasonable that a randomly selected person should happen to be young, ignorant of military stuff, and unsophisticated about high technology past knowing what buttons to push.

    Having said that, I agree with dpb in #256: First of Spies would have really sat up and took notice of a Godzilla movie!


    I am in full agreement with dpb there, too!


    Charlie: "the Alfar host could have been arrested by the West Yorkshire Metropoltican Police"

    It worked against a bunch of sword-wielding medievals in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Of course, they'd already used the thing we don't talk about (the Holy Hand Grenade), thus were magically disarmed. QED.

    Jaygee noted: "You don't need a BSc in Physics to have seen before and after pictures of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and have at least a vague idea what caused it"

    See Curtis Chen's "Making Waves" for details. I believe it's available in the 2016 Campbell awards anthology ( No longer a free download, and a mixed bag, but there are some excellent stories amidst the meh.

    BTW, you can currently get a free copy of the 2017 edition of the anthology until July ( Seems like this anthology is becoming an annual event, so perhaps put it on your calendar and start Googling in January?

    Elderly Cynic: "You have followed Peter Erwin down the rabbit hole of confusion."

    I thought I was making a parallel point to what you wrote in 249 ("THAT is why I am saying that classifying on the basis of a single allele is just plain incompetent"), but perhaps we were both writing before we'd had enough coffee and introduced some muddle. Caffeine 2.0 now scheduled...

    Re. War crimes: You can't define them based on civilian casualties. Well... you can if you think about the ethics for a moment -- or if you're one of the top 3 global superpowers and thus immune to being charged with war crimes -- but in terms of RealPolitik, forget about it. Any of the recent American military adventures in the Middle East qualify as war crimes under a definition based on civilian casualties. Thus: not crimes. Or perhaps "alt crimes" in the modern American vernacular.


    Sorry. It my case it is half a gallon of navvy tea :-) Anyway, I hope my explanation may help other people.


    To the extent that the Scottish result was a proxy for the independence issue (which it was to some extent but clearly a mix of issues were in play) then the SNP clearly won a majority again despite the best efforts of the Unionist parties. The idea that the result indicated disillusion with the SNP government in Holyrood seems odd since the electorate already has a direct vote for that. The issue is that Scotland splits four ways over independence/Unionism, Brexit/Remain so any party getting a majority of Scottish seats, as the SNP did again, is remarkable.


    If the incursion had happened in, say, Death Valley, the USA might have found it considerably harder to muster up a timely response (before the unrefrigerated slaves intended to feed the Alfär magi all died of heat stroke, that is).

    Death Valley National Park is basically between Las Vegas, NV and Central California, so there's three of the largest USAF bases nearby: Vandenberg AFP, Edwards AFB and Nellis AFB. NAS China Lake is right next door, home to the US Navy Weapons Center. Just to the south is MCLB Barstow and Camp Pendelton isn't far away, so you got a stack of Marines, there's a couple of Army Bases, heck, there's even a major Coast Guard base not that far away. Plus, factor in how much many Americans love their boomsticks...

    Really, if you're going to go bamf into the US? Death Valley is a particularly bad spot. I'd go for Montana/Idaho/Wyoming.


    You don't need a BSc in Physics to have seen before and after pictures of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and have at least a vague idea what caused it.

    Take a look at pictures of Stalingrad, Dresden, Caen, Coventry. Then consider Operation GOMORRAH and Operation MEETINGHOUSE.

    Fission weapons not required (either for level of destruction, or scale of casualties).


    To the extent that the Scottish result was a proxy for the independence issue (which it was to some extent but clearly a mix of issues were in play) then the SNP clearly won a majority again

    Considering that the SNP won 37% of the total votes; while Unionist parties won 62% of the votes; that's an... interesting interpretation of the data. By your reasoning, the 2015 result should have indicated 95% support for independence.


    Well I see I'm going to have to binge read the Laundry Files to get up to date the way I did earlier this year for Merchant Princes . . . . You'll see another bit of geld from me via Big River shortly!


    Any of the recent American military adventures in the Middle East qualify as war crimes under a definition based on civilian casualties. Thus: not crimes.

    IIRC, that was a successful defence after WWII. American submarine warfare in the Pacific follow the same practices that German submariners were being prosecuted for.

    (Read it a long time ago, and don't recall source, so it may not be correct.)

    A colleague from Pakistan finds it black amusing that driving a van into a crowd is terrorism, while firing a missile into a crowd isn't.


    You are entirely correct, Charlie.

    It will all depend upon who succeeds May, or if she learns (if she stays on) ... "Everybody" is saying it's the end of a "Hard Brexit", which is a start.


    Oh dear ... didn't you know where the "Wee Fishwife" crack came from? A female (tory I think) local candidate in Fife - I saw a picture of her standing on what turned out to be Kinghorn station. LARF? My 'ead nearly fell orf!


    I think that "everybody" is wrong, just as the people who say May was a reluctant leaver were wrong. Yes, if she gets the boot, things might change, but I don't think that is likely until she cocks it up again and loses a major vote. It will be interesting to see if she still replaces Hammond, as she would have done if her gamble had succeeded. There is more that could be said, especially about the consequences for Ireland, but that's best left until OGH writes a blog entry on flying shit, oops, sorry, the state of the union.


    The Westminster elections are FPTP and the SNP won a majority of the seats in Scotland. The Holyrood elections are run under a proportional system and the SNP + Greens won a majority for independence-supporting parties there last year. The election nationally was about Brexit with the SNP as a 'Remain' party against the two main Brexit parties. If independence is unpopular and Remain is unpopular how did the SNP, which is the intersection of both, still win the most seats against Unionist/Brexit?


    This almost sounds like the series won't have a happy (for Homo sapiens values of happy) ending.

    This cannot be! Say it ain't so!


    You don't need a BSc in Physics to have seen before and after pictures of Hiroshima/Nagasaki and have at least a vague idea what caused it.

    I'll grant that. I'll even go so far as to allow that first year college students in the UK are probably not as clueless about events from 70 years ago as first year US college students might be.

    But you do need a basic cultural framework. Original Cassie doesn't have that cultural framework.


    "EG someone could make something like a time bubble and hide for eons? Or say hide the UK until the horrors eat everyone else and move on?"

    It has been done. Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War", "Marooned in Realtime". The problems are (a) the time lock has to be outside the bubble, or the bubble can't be a perfect stasis bubble (because, by definition, NO time flows inside a perfect stasis bubble), and (b) the bubble has to stay on the "surface" of the world surrounding it. Vinge mentioned this, describing the problems surrounding rescuing a bubble that had sunk into a lava flow, and was deep in the crust. When the bubble popped, the occupants would have a very, very brief moment of life, and then they would be crushed. It took a LOT of work to dig the bubble out of the rock.

    The 1960 movie of "The Time Machine" also touched briefly on the second problem. For a considerable period, the Time Traveller, and his machine, were encased in rock from the nuclear war. He couldn't stop until the rock eventually eroded away.


    Here's the problem for an extradimensional spy: not knowing what you don't know.

    For example, nuclear weapons. Most of us know enough to know the names Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Rather fewer know that the fire-bombing raids that preceded the nukes killed about four times as many people as the nukes did, and still fewer know that we dropped even more munitions than that on Laos in the Vietnam war, to rather messier effect (wanna help them clean up the bombies?).

    Now, let's take a college theater major, born in the late 1990s. Is she constantly thinking about national security issues? Hardly. She'll undoubtedly have heard the words Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with e=mc2, but the chances of her having useful information about them are rather low. They're the background clutter of a life spent in public education.

    If you were trying to scope out an enemy's defenses based solely on the information in her brain, she's a lousy candidate. You want someone who teaches at a military academy or a similar wonk. Having all those words in your head doesn't mean you're a good source of information, and an alien is going to have to sort out godzilla and any number of military fantasies in order to determine which memories are useful and which are fantastic crap.

    Conversely, a theater major might be really good for someone who's trying to blend in. She's obviously not a threat, and she does have, in her active memory, all sorts of role-playing stuff. You want cultural information, she's got it. The problem then for a spy adopting her as cover is trying to figure out what you don't know about the enemy's capabilities, given that the information you have from your cover is scattered and combined with a lot of fantasy.

    Conversely, the military wonk is a problematic candidate for alien cover, because that person is constantly under surveillance by the enemy. A major personality or activity change would be noticed. So what do you do?


    True, and the Alfar would do well to take note of the fact that HSS has a wide range of technical options for slaughter and destruction on scales from the persoanl, via retail, to wholesale...

    What I was mainly trying to suggest though is that Nuclear weapons, their effects, and (to a certain extent) their nature are a cultural thing as well as a technological thing, and that as such a drama student like Cassie (or pretty well any other randomly chosen individual) would be aware that there was a particular extra, extra, extra scary category of weapon which operated in a radically different way to other explosives, could deal death and destruction on a scale orders of magnitude greater than other weapons from a relatively compact package, and which under certain circumstances could potentially leave large areas uninhabitable for an extended periods. In fact there's a good chance that even if she'd never taken a physics class beyond early secondary school she'd have at least a vague idea about concepts like E=MC2, fissionable material, critical mass, etc, etc from pop-sci media...


    The Blackbird flight test program stopped once it had demonstrated that it could meet the objectives. It reportedly did not go so far as to determine a maximum reachable altitude.

    Actual records are probably (almost certainly) still classified and I would expect them to remain so.

    The retirement flight was requested to be a record-breaker. Command told the pilots to go easy: break the existing altitude records, but don't get sporty with them.

    There is one piece of unclassified anecdote out there, from a "There I Was..." cartoon in the back of Air Force magazine, many years ago, yhat suggests that the real limit was a LOT higher. It featured a trainee in an Air Force navigation trainer (737-class aircraft or similar), talking with his instructor, as they monitor a radio conversation between a Blackbird and an unwitting air traffic controller. It opens with the trainee saying "I don't think this controller has any idea what he's talking to."

    As I recall, the exchange was:

    "Center, Habu 42, request clearance to 120,000 feet."

    "Habu 42, sure, if you think you can make it, heh heh heh."

    "Roger, Habu 42 outta 140 for 120."


    Come to think of it, I've got a battered paperback copy of Angus McAllister's 1988 book "The Krugg Syndrome". It deals with the problem of being an alien, inserted into Glasgow, as a precursor for invasion...

    ...quite fun, in a gentle way :)


    I had one brush with this community. While I can share no details, I will note that the final flight was NOWHERE CLOSE to the limits of the SR-71.


    Also, is it necessary for your country to have signed the Geneva Conventions or some similar treaty before you can be tried for war crimes? And if not, what law have you violated? Also, how can members of another species, from another plane of existence, have any idea of our world's legal systems? I'm not sure a war-crimes prosecution is remotely just, however desirable it might be.

    The issue of reparations, on the other hand...


    The only real crime you need to commit before being tried for war crimes is losing.


    Agreed completely.

    The best way to handle things is probably to connect them up with the spirit-image of a very boring, by-the-book British soldier, so they'll have some idea of applicable law in the event they find themselves dealing with the regular army or somehow end up among civilians. Then you teach their wizards how to compute so they don't require sacrifices, and you keep them on a previously-abandoned airbase and use your PHANGs as cultural liaisons (because the PHANGS are strong enough that the Alfar won't give them shit.)

    Then you send a team to raid the Alfar base and bring back everything that's not nailed down - lots of good mana there! Lastly, you encourage Cassie to reorganize her ranks such that the geas will pass to someone sane if she is killed, and explain to the whole race that "genocide" could easily be their ultimate fate if they misbehave.


    But its not just about atomic physics. The rest of the report discusses machines that can travel faster-than-sound, smart bombs, tanks, artillery that can fire 30 miles (and is aimed by GPS) land mines, automatic weapons, etc., plus numbers of each of these items.

    It's not that hard. Cassie merely has to notice an airliner and wonder whether there's a weaponized version. And she's seen Dr. Strangelove!


    This is true, of course, but I was considering the legalities and the ethical questions.


    Oooh. Nice. Is that Bob speaking?

    Also, I have a question. I'm beginning to feel like The Fuller Memorandum is a much more pivotal book in the series than it felt like at first. Is TFM where you realized that you had the potential for an ongoing series and started working up a meta-narrative which would cover multiple books at once?


    You've read "A Colder War", right?

    What makes you think any humans in my stories ever get a happy ending?


    >>>The New Management is Strong and Stable. Stable for aeons ..

    “She was called Victoria, because she had beaten us in battle, seven hundred years before, and she was called Gloriana, because she was glorious, and she was called the Queen, because the human mouth was not shaped to say her true name. She was huge, huger than I had imagined possible, and she squatted in the shadows staring down at us, without moving.”

    Yes! Make The Queen Great Again!


    Some of them get to die. "Call no man happy until he is dead" and all that.


    Who is the Democratic Unionist Party which will form a government with the Tories?


    Now, let's take a college theater major, born in the late 1990s. Is she constantly thinking about national security issues?

    Even if she was, running the numbers she was 9 years old during the Iraq war. She probably doesn't remember 9/11. She doesn't remember Labour being in government too clearly (they were voted out in 2010 when she was 15-16). Ditto remembering the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    WW2 and Hiroshima/Nagasaki ended 50 years before she was born (same as my relationship with WW1, Passchendaele and the Somme). The Cold War ended 5 years before she was born and the USSR disintegrated 2-3 years prior.

    She's grown up in a world that has always had the internet, where always-on home broadband arrived when she was 4-5 years old, where the West has never faced equivalent military forces (but only waged a bizarre, abstract "war on terror" a long way from home).

    "Star Wars" is as meaningful to her as "Doctor Strangelove" because in her universe they are equally unreal.


    Some of them get to die. "Call no man happy until he is dead" and all that.


    That's almost exactly what doesn't happen.

    (Mind you — this is off-screen so not really a spoiler for "The Labyrinth Index" — the New Management gets quite a lot of positive PR mileage in the UK by sending the Host to deal with Da'esh in Syria. Everybody in the UK hates Islamic State almost as much as they hate the Host, so siccing one on the other is seen as an all-around win and distracts attention from the government.)


    Nope, "The Labyrinth Index" is going to be a Mhari novel.


    "Star Wars" is as meaningful to her as "Doctor Strangelove" because in her universe they are equally unreal.

    I've got to give you that one. I remember showing Dr. Strangelove to someone born around 1985 and they didn't get it. As a cold-war kid I was completely boggled. How could anyone not get the Dr. Strangelove? They didn't get the issues underlying the plot and they didn't get the jokes. But apparently if you're not a cold-war kid Dr. Strangelove is very, very abstract.

    I made sure that both my kids got Dr. Strangelove. It may just save their lives...


    They're Christian fundamentalist presbyterian fanatic party from Northern Ireland. Some of them are ex-terrorists (of the right-wing death squad variety: the Ulster Defence Association types). They're climate-change denying/young earth creationist/anti-abortion/anti-LGBT types.

    More on the Democratic Unionist Party here. They're scum, basically. (This is my polite opinion of them.)


    >>>sending the Host to deal with Da'esh in Syria

    Wait, why? This is such a waste. Da'esh are perfect cannon fodder against any eldritch stuff. Just open a gate in Iraq and tell them there are demonic infidels on the other side. That's what they live for, basically.


    If she'd seen Threads she might have gotten the message about nuclear war. "Threads" personalizes it for British folks in a way that "Dr Strangelove" doesn't. But even then, she might have gone, "oh, but all that stuff was over before I was born!" and tuned it out the way kids today tune out old farts talking about the horrors of the Holocaust.


    Because it gets the Host off the front porch and does something useful with them while keeping their Magi well-supplied with the human sacrifices they need on a regular basis (to stay alive) and which aren't (yet) available in the UK. And it keeps their edge sharp. And it scares the ever-living crap out of anyone or (anything) who thinks the UK might be a push-over and crunchy with ketchup now the stars have come right.


    Well you could have the happy ending of all the British Isles from Jersey to Skye disappearing under a big ol' stasis bubble, powered by the sacrifice of all the Ulster Unionists (or whatever--that might be a better use for the Alfar horde that throwing them at Da'esh, come to think of it).

    Time passes. The world burns. Horrors depart.

    Two thousand years later, the bubble pops.

    The remaining residents of the UK, when they stop cowering under the pale white sky and the hot winds howling into their green and pleasant land, start cheering. They're free. Albion is the last civilization standing. Britannia rules the waves once again.

    Then the sea rolls in, up the Thames, over London, across Lincolnshire, through Inverness, up to Dublin, the whole lot. Unfortunately, sea level had risen 40 meters around the bubble over the last few thousand years. And the temperature had risen, well, quite a lot. But I'm sure everything will be fine, once equilibrium is reached.


    Then Bob wakes up and realises it was all a Hot Earth Dream?

    • A majority of Scots support the Union. We had a referendum in 2014 that proved it (55/45).

    • A majority of Scots oppose Brexit. We had a referendum in 2016 that proved it (62/38).

    If independence is unpopular and Remain is unpopular how did the SNP, which is the intersection of both, still win the most seats against Unionist/Brexit?

    Poor logical reasoning - you're conflating "vote for a particular party at an election" with "supports Brexit" or "supports independence"; internecine strife within the Tories demonstrates the fallacy of that argument. There are independence-minded Labour voters, and there are pro-Brexit SNP members; just as there are anti-Brexit Conservative voters.

    • A narrow majority of Scots voted for non-Unionist parties in the 2015 General election (51/49)

    • A larger majority of Scots voted for Unionist parties in the 2016 Holyrood election (52/47)

    • A still larger yet majority of Scots voted for Unionist parties in the 2017 General Election (62/37)

    Given that the First Minister herself has just admitted that calling for a second independence referendum had a negative effect on SNP votes (she lost a fifth of those she had in 2015), she is acknowledging that there are people who believe in the Union, who also believe that the SNP best fits their political outlook at a Scottish level. Just, fewer of them this time around.

    An interesting question will be how much the balance of power within the Conservative whip has swung towards a soft Brexit - those 12 new Scottish Conservative MPs are likely to be pushing that way; I also wonder whether the 10 DUP MPs think likewise. Were the Conservatives who lost their seats "hard", "soft", or "really rather wouldn't" Brexit types? Looking at those constituencies where the Conservatives lost, they do appear to be mostly in Brexit country...


    Actually, I figured the "add water and bake" ending was a nice compromise. I'm trying to split the baby between a Colder War, Marooned in Real Time, the cozy catastrophe where everybody lives, and the Stormbringer destroy the world ending which he'll have to walk back for decades because we won't let him kill the series that easily.

    The real questions here is whether souls are so nutritious that Eldritch Abominations will be happy eating the brains of anything sufficiently cerebral, or whether they'll want to suck up and fart out a bunch of stored petrochemicals for dessert. That will ultimately control temperature and sea level if the civilization ends in 2018. Also, inquiring minds want to know whether a few kilometers of water and/or mantle is sufficient to shield certain other races from the holocaust, or whether they'll just be waiting around and be really pissed about what humans did to their side of the world. And given that deep water anoxia is a common phenomenon of hothouse Earths, I think the Deep Ones would be living in much shallower water and be very, very upset at us for making their abyssal homes uninhabitable. Some of them might even directly remember what we did, and the giant waves set off by the bubble collapse would certainly alert them.


    "The New Management is Strong and Stable. Stable for aeons ..."

    Oh dear...

    Surely there are loopholes in the Laundry's oaths? So that they can act if the Prime Minister goes full "I for one welcome our tentacled overlords."


    Charlie wondered: "What makes you think any humans in my stories ever get a happy ending?"

    "Trunk and Disorderly"? The lobsters in "Accelerando" (for crustacean values of "human")? GDR

    Heteromeles wondered: "The real questions here is whether souls are so nutritious that Eldritch Abominations will be happy eating the brains of anything sufficiently cerebral, or whether they'll want to suck up and fart out a bunch of stored petrochemicals for dessert."

    "I have you now," thought the Mighty Cthulhu, chuckling inappropriately to itself, and for an appetizer, drained the Middle East of all its crude oil. Then, appetite whetted, MC consumed the North Sea oil (with U.K. coal for croutons) as the salad course, North Slope oil for the meat course, and the Alberta tar sands for a yummy, treacly dessert. Washed down with a final gulp of Venezuelan oil -- inky black, hold the milk. "Covfefe thagn Ctulhu!*", it burbled around its distended gut

    • "Fear my media coverage, and languish in darkness."--GH

    "Meh," went everyone who wasn't an oil baron. "At least there'll be no more global warming."

    "I seem to have miscalculated," mused Cthulhu.


    This may come as a shock to you, but I do not watch the English Broadcasting Corporation ;-) politics coverage if I can avoid it!


    Maybe Laundry series is just a prequel to Warhammer 40K. Now to find out who is going to be the Emperor...


    And then there's Book 2: Cthulhu Farted.


    Is "Cthulhu Farted" Ayn Rands contribution to the mythos?


    I don't think it could play out over thousands of years - you have to consider what a proper Lovecraftian time scale looks like - but millions of years has some interesting possibilities.


    Sigh. Yes and no.

    The fun part about a few thousand years is that it's easy to model: make some assumptions about how climate, sea level, and so forth, drop the stasis bubble, and go boom.

    You can also guess that titanic beings won't be around all that long, simply because their appetites are so large. Indeed, they need to spread their cult just to help them move from world to world. If they're going to stay active on a world for millions of years, the question is, what are they eating? The souls of all the bacteria in the deep biosphere?

    So after a few thousand years, one might guess that the titans are gone or hibernating. Now if they're hibernating, it will probably be for tens of millions of years, because that will give Earth time to regenerate and restock. Unless they have some way of knowing when the stasis bubble will come down, there's no reason for them to time their reawakening for when the UK drops back into time again. On this logic, thousands or millions of years are irrelevant, and thousands is easier to model.

    Oh, and modeling millions of years. If you really want to have fun, model the fate of an incompressible sphere embedded in the surface of the Earth across millions of years of plate tectonics, sediment accumulation, and so forth. Note that if the sphere covers anything much bigger than London, it will reach up into space and down into the mantle. It won't compress, but the Earth will flow around it, and sediments will pile up on its sides. If you wait millions of years, those sediments might be piled up a kilometer. Popping that huge a bubble will be kinda messy, and in addition to waves, I'd expect some big earthquakes as the earth instantaneously goes from having an incompressible sphere to warp around to having a highly moveable bit of rock and water sitting there. And English architecture isn't designed for earthquakes.

    All told, I'd say go with a few thousand years and an inundation. It's easier to model.


    Of course, thinking about it, an England permanently deprived of tea and sugar by a time slip might not be worth living in either, stiff upper lip notwithstanding.


    What about the Benthic Treaty? Equoid stated that deploying unicorns was 100% likely to provoke an apocalyptic response from BLUE HADES, and now the UK has thousands of the buggers, plus various other nasties...


    There were a number of 1950's era Hawker Sea Fury, Gloster Meteor and MiG-15/17 airframes were recovered from post OIF Iraq, where they have been snaffled by the US vintage aircraft market.


    I could quite happily do without sugar - indeed, I do - but absence of tea, indeed, that really would be a nightmare.


    Vernor Vinge is exactly where I got the idea from. Combining how the Magic Circles were used at the end of Rhesus Chart with that experiment in book one. It was also a question to me on why the Host did not use a variant of it for their own hibernation purpose compared to cocoons.

    Like people point out, its kinda insane, and may not be a great idea.

    But being able to flip on such a bubble for just a few seconds or minutes to act as a shield against missiles would be useful.

    The biggest question is whether some faction would want to turn a defense shield into an ark for their own purposes.

    Also we've seen at the very least the Black Chamber seemed pragmatic about reducing the number of people around. This might be a 'humane' solution. Something I'd see for a government like China to do, take one of the new cities that's just housing, fill it full of 'excess population' and bubble them in.


    The idea of using airliners as nuke delivery platforms is not new, and subsonic airliners have been considered for that role.

    The aerofoil of the VC10 airliner, unencumbered by podded engines, had strengthen sections to hold Skybolt missiles.

    Only the cancellation of the Skybolt ALBM by the Yanks put paid to that.

    There was also a plan for B747 to be loaded (internally) with many, many Air Launched Cruise Missiles, lurk outside contested airspace at times of crisis and launch them on warning of global thermonuclear warfare commencing.

    There was also the Air Defence Variant of the Vulcan bomber, but lets no go into that...


    Just to be sure, I don't think that the massacre of Leeds is treated as a throwaway plot point in the book - just that the victims very anonymous. Or at least that's my reading, or rather, how I remember my reading way back when the book came out ...


    Skim reading German Wikipedia on submainr warefare in WWII finds only one incidient where a german submarine action was treated as a warcrime - Peleus incident, when the commander of the submarine had the lifeboats of a sunk greek freighter attacked with canon and machine guns.

    I think "Das Boot" was also such a popular film because it happened to focus on the one branch of the Wehrmacht that happened to not have a lot of warcrimes in their history ... (Likely only because they never got close to Jews, or soviet POWs, or alleged Partisans or ...)


    I don't know if you guys are interested in this

    Here's an interview with one of Trump's friends and fellow real-estate investor

    From reading that interview, I have to wonder how many fellow real-estate investors use that sentence structure?


    The real questions here is whether souls are so nutritious that Eldritch Abominations will be happy eating the brains of anything sufficiently cerebral, or whether they'll want to suck up and fart out a bunch of stored petrochemicals for dessert

    Ah, but note that Eldritch Abominations are equally happy chowing down on silicon-based computation as well as brains.

    Maybe the truth about Azathoth is that Azathoth is a gigantic eater slurping the cpu cycles of a Matrioshka brain?


    Surely there are loopholes in the Laundry's oaths? So that they can act if the Prime Minister goes full "I for one welcome our tentacled overlords."


    And that's what the plot of "The Delirium Brief" is about ...

    ... Only not the way you might expect.


    The aerofoil of the VC10 airliner, unencumbered by podded engines, had strengthen sections to hold Skybolt missiles.

    Yeah ... but then again, VC-10 was over-powered, designed for hot-and-high operations (conceived of as a tool for linking Britain to the remains of the empire in sub-Saharan Africa), and was capable of high-subsonic speeds, comparable to a B-52 or a V-bomber. If you've got a stand-off missile like Skybolt you don't need to be able to penetrate hostile airspace so you can use a cheaper airframe (like a modded airliner) rather than a highly specialized strategic bomber (Vulcan, Victor ... not so much Valiant, the wing spar weakness was known by that time).



    Back to the bad parts of the 1960's At this rate "the South" will get proper Women's Rights before the "North". OTOH, if May allows a "free vote" they will just get rolled-over. One can hope. Remember what I said several posts back about monumental corruption in both parts of Ireland in the 1960's, prior to the troubles ... oh dear. Not that the "official" Catholic position is any better, in any respect, but they seem to have lost their power, whereas this lot have not.


    Spot on To which I may add a general comment. Labour/Corbn still lost. Labour made gains in spite of having a craven traitor as their leader. The tories hung on, in spite of May losing her bottle, direction & most of her sense completely & utterly during the campaign ( It was a quite disgraceful show, all round, actually ) And I wonder how long Mrs M will last nominally "in charge" Any bets? Her replacement?


    Neither do I - I don't have a TV, remember? "I saw a picture" - did I say where - it was not on TV, I can tell you.


    As self-deluded & as dangerous as the Donald, is my impression


    Back in the 80s I read a short story where Britain used biowar to eliminate France's grapes (so no wine). In retaliation France eliminated tea. Everywhere. Britain fell soon after…


    Well crown servants which I presume the laundry are owe allegiance to Liz II - though I am not sure if the UK has an equivalent of the 25th amendment do deal with a PM going mad whilst in office.


    This election wasn't really about local politics (and by local, I mean "National").

    When Rupert Murdoch saw the exit poll 'he stormed out of the room', John Prescott tweets Indy100 9th June 2017

    I suspect we've seen the end of the tabloids as arbiters of UK politics. Sun, Mail & Express threw all they had into backing May, & failed. John Simpson, BBC, Twitter, 9th June 2017

    I'd give you an actual break-down of the plays and so forth and why Murdoch is getting the kick but your Mind doesn't work in those realms.

    Basically: hubris.

    We're proving to our Brother that we can do it, just gentler and kinder and with the right targets.


    (((Please note that Old Nigel is being investigated for .RU money links and the DUP is up to its eyeball in Saudi cash. These things will play out in TIME, but the trap has closed)))


    No we don't, but we do have "Custom & Practice" for the same purpose either publicly or quietly. Eden & the Madwoman both got that treatment, actually.


    Sorry @ Host.

    @Greg: work out what the cost was to get UKIP and a massive Right / Neo-Fascist drive going globally (still working out the kinks on the Indian Cow thing) and how much they spent / corrupted doing it.

    The UK is back to 'normal' (sorry, but the country really does have that many small minded prats) apart from May begging the last bastions of wing-nuttery for help.

    Irony. We're very good at it. (c.f. Murdoch IRA libel vrs Corbyn etc).

    Sorting out 30+ years of poison isn't something that gets done in two years. Tax havens and data dumps are going to be needed.

    But we're sure as shit faster than them and their glowing balls.


    Yeh that worked out real good for the French Napoleonic army


    OTOH Ruth Davidson has had no hesitation at warning the christian N Irish nutters off. R Davidson for new Tory leader? Could be fun!


    More cynical / reality based assessment:

    Murdoch is going to burn May (already started, look @ SUN front page, George "evil vampire elf" Osborne etc, who is $$$ in the pocket of Blackrock etc) so she's fingering all the Brexiteers involved.

    May isn't making a government, she's taking all that made the Pact with Void down with her.

    No, really.


    Buy, George? World's largest fund manager hires Osborne as adviser Guardian, 20th Jan, 2017

    Osborne gets burnt as well.

    Once May and the DUP Saud cash scandal gets going, and TRUMPISTAN LEGAL FAIL goes live, then, well. It gets fun.

    May is simply making sure that all involved go down burning and screaming in agony as well.


    I have the Kindle edition. Could you give me a distinctive phrase of four or five words near the start of each passage?


    No, no, and I don't ever read English newspapers, rarely Scottish ones since I usually can't get "morning" papers before ~17:30 or even anything that can be regarded as a "political news" website.

    Anyways, your original comment not only could be but was misinterpreted.


    "What makes you think any humans in my stories ever get a happy ending?"

    Plus Halting State, Rule 34, Glasshouse. But they are all only realistically happy, not far off neutral, except for Trunk and Disorderly, not saccharine happy.

    I am an unusual follower of this blog in that I did not like A Colder War or even Missile Gap, because I found their whole atmosphere too depressing. Like the multinominal one, I despair (literally not figuratively) when I look into the future (anywhere between ten and a hundred thousand years from now); I cannot see how almost anything that I value can survive, and I find that equally negative fiction makes me even more depressed about 'reality'.


    The sections start with "Cassie's eyes are huge in the darkness" and "Cassie leads Alex down the stairs into the bunker".


    Great Herne! You are being optimistic! Actually, I agree, but I am less convinced that the evil powers won't reestablish their position faster than they can be dethroned.


    Well crown servants which I presume the laundry are owe allegiance to Liz II - though I am not sure if the UK has an equivalent of the 25th amendment do deal with a PM going mad whilst in office.

    This is not accurate enough to be described as "correct"; the truth is a whole lot gnarlier, and the plot of "The Delirium Brief" revolves around how the Laundry intersects with the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act (2010).

    (Yes, I discussed this with civil servants and a barrister.)


    ... Saudi cash and sock-puppeting murky foreign influences campaigning for Brexit, yes?


    "Re "freezing", I've seen it said that a dog is a neotenous wolf, and a human is a neotenous ape."

    Google "fetal chimpanzee skull" and be amazed. The similarity to an adult human skull is frankly amazing. Particularly if you compare them both to an adult male chimpanzee skull, which looks absolutely nothing like the human or fetal skulls.


    "There probably exist plans to sacrifice 90% of the human population to power some ultimate magic weapon."

    In the real world there's current active plans that will clearly sacrifice 90% of the human population to powering corporate profits. I'd be surprised if there weren't plans to deal with Case Nightmare Green via massive killings. I think OGH did point out in one of the books that doing that will actually make things much much worse, but that's never stopped us in the past.


    Gasdive notes: "In the real world there's current active plans that will clearly sacrifice 90% of the human population to powering corporate profits."

    It's worse than you think... more like 99%, plus or minus a few points. In what may be the most extreme example of cynicism I can come up with before my second cup of coffee, there have been many stories of the really rich creating their own survival bunkers so that they'll survive if the climate change fanatics they've been denying and opposing (among whom I number myself) are right. For example:

    Possibly some of the 1% are even deliberately adopting strategies to encourage the end of the world as we know it (but I feel fine?) so as to thin the herd. (Seems like the plot of a Bond film?)

    Which leads me to wonder about the economics of such solutions: If 99% of the world is dead and gone (or worse, in the Laundryverse), what will happen to the buying power of all those billions of dollars "safely" stored in offshore accounts? Your Iridium Visa card won't work so well when the whole capitalist infrastructure is gone. The leader of your personal squad of mercenaries won't be so interested in the cheques and electronic funds transfers you send them to encourage them to keep you alive. In fact, I see a really bright future for such mercenaries. Seems like this won't end well for the 1% -- which would be deeply satisfying were it not for the 99%.


    Is that the reason you had to rewrite it?


    We shall see if the the new loons sign up to the Saudi/Israel anti-Shia pogrom that Trump has given the green light to; I get the impression that she would have done if she were ruling unconstrained. Luckily, I think that they will have enough on their plate. And, similarly luckily, Trump is no fan of TTIP and will be too distracted to draw up a completely one-sided one, which May would sign with delight (as would have almost all PMs since Thatcher).

    My (fairly senior) civil service contact is betting May will be replaced by July. I give it until she makes her next mistake - possibly the Queen's Speech, but more likely later this year.


    Some of them get to die. "Call no man happy until he is dead" and all that.

    That really bothered me because it doesn't reflect the way I see the Laundry spirit

    Maybe we all are doomed in the long run, but I intend to go down fighting. And if I am going to be eaten, I'm going to do everything I can to give the eaters indigestion.


    Well, Bob has already told us earlier in the series that he intends to use his last bullet on himself--and fully expects this to happen.

    And while he may be an unreliable narrator, I tend to believe him in this matter.


    What is the nature of the interaction of the Alfar magic and iron? Is it similar to conductors and electromagnetic energy in that it represents a change of impedance that can adsorb or reflect the energy, depending on a number of factors, most particularly the wavelength? Are the steel's chemistry and microstructure at all important?

    Do they notice that there is a lot more iron around than they are used to? Most roads are lined with steel lamp posts and all buildings above about 5 stories high are either steel framed or steel reinforced concrete, and many are clad with flat steel sheets. Why does this not seem to affect the magic, when iron is so disruptive to the Alfar magic technology that a slave will be executed if found to be in possession of any at all?


    No: this is the revised plot.

    The original plot was about the Laundry coming to the attention of the Coalition government (thinly disguised) and being set up for privatization, with cultists as the highest bidders. Hilarity ensued, "Yes, Minister" style. Alas, the Brexit referendum aftermath then quite set the whackiness in the shade, so I had to redraft it with a more substantial plot.

    This weeks shenanigans ... hrm, let's just say that the climax of "The Delirium Brief" almost reads as utopian compared to what I can see coming out the sewer pipe right now!


    Last word to Charlie, unless he feels my comment is adequate.

    There are numbers of writers, particularly 1900CE and later ones, who attribute the "fae" antipathy towards iron to one or both of ferro-magnetism and toxicity.


    I loved A Colder War. It was a perfect black gem, radiating darkness in the same fashion that diamonds twinkle, and well-deserving of its Hugo. Missile Gap... not so much. Certainly a solid story, but dark gray and not radiant.


    Re: ' ... UK ... deal with a PM going mad whilst in office.'

    Some time back while looking for whether the US had any instruments for getting rid of/retiring a head of state that had lost his marbles (no), found that the Brits can get rid of their head of state if that monarch is certifiably mad (insane, suffering from dementia). In the interest of fairness, I think that the sanity criterion should be applied across the board to all members of gov't, including elected.


    There are other possibilities. Iron is at the bottom of the curve of binding energy. Given the effects of medusae and basilisks, that might be magically significant.


    Yes. My point was that the explanations I gave are commonplace (in fact the toxicity one actually goes back to Medieval sources) rather than them being a comprehensive list.


    Like almost ( if not all of ) the DUP, I presume? GW denialists, creationists, LGBT-haters, why they might almost be the US republicans ... Oh, wait a minute ........


    Got sucked into Missile Gap after finding it online. Just tripped over the "poisoning pigeons in the park" reference. Nice.


    Well, Bob has already told us earlier in the series that he intends to use his last bullet on himself--and fully expects this to happen.

    And while he may be an unreliable narrator, I tend to believe him in this matter.

    Awwww... Maybe he was just having a bad day!


    Well, Bob has already told us earlier in the series that he intends to use his last bullet on himself--and fully expects this to happen.

    This kind of made me wonder about the larger picture in the story. I'll try to explain my thoughts, but dammit Jim, I'm an engineer, not a literary analyst, and English is not my native language, so this might not be that clear.

    The thing I wonder is who is reading the story in the Laundry world? I mean that in one sense the Laundry stories are written by one Charles Stross for people in our world to read, but the stories themselves tell us on an another level that they are diaries written for the next Laundry people after the stories' authors' demise. This means that the stories exist in the Laundry universe in some form. Obviously all the stories written this far can have (storywise) contemporary readers, but if everything ends, it could be that all the stories and all possible readers (outside of infovores...) have been destroyed.

    So, who "reads" the last Laundry book, in the Laundry universe? Will somebody even write it when everything is going to be destroyed soon anyway? Of course the later books don't need to be justified storywise the same way - they could just be impersonal accounts of what happened - but that would be changing the framing story. Will there be a epilogue framing story after all the books?

    This is kind of the same thing as in (spoilers to an old show) Babylon 5 being a reconstruction of the real events, done in the even more far future, and the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings being something that Tolkien got his hands on and only translated.


    Great minds think alike or a stopped watch is right twice a day, take your pick. (I would be the stopped watch, no insult intended.)

    On the other hand if dark fiction is sufficiently unrealistic or unrelated to real world problems, I can sometimes find it comforting. The TV show "Millennium" was very dark, but its premise had so little to do with my real world problems or the world's real world problems, that it was like a relaxing bath. A lot of people like certain types of horror because they can experience terror/fear of something that cannot possibly hurt them in reality.


    ...whether the US had any instruments for getting rid of/retiring a head of state that had lost his marbles (no),

    Actually, the answer to your query is "yes." The 25th Amendment to the Constitution allows the President to be removed if s/he is incapacitated, as follows:

    SECTION 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

    SECTION 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

    SECTION 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

    SECTION 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

    Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

    How this would play out in practice is something we haven't seen much of - even the assassination attempt on Reagan didn't trigger the amendment, which probably should have happened. People in the U.S. have been chatting about removing Trump via the 25th, but I have my doubts...


    The "original" being of course, a second/third/nth-generation surviving copy of: "the Red Book of Westmarch" .... Much like only a few of Euripides' plays or Leonardo's notebooks surviving ... yerssss


    On the other hand if dark fiction is sufficiently unrealistic or unrelated to real world problems, I can sometimes find it comforting.

    The problem is when you, while reading, find ways to relate it in real events: When reading the invasion sequence of TNS, I thought the 'kill efverything on sight because to be seen is to be killed' approach of the Alfär was an exagaration of how an actual army might invade a hostile city, not wholly made up.

    Other example from Charlies fiction: The nuclear carpet bombing near the end of The Revolution Trade is born of two sides having different theories on how (nuclear) conflict works - which breaks the symetry in deterrence theory/MAD. Now there's a theory that North Korea could have a nuclear first strike doctrine (nuke Us base in Guam, negotiate from position of relative strength), Pakistan has one ...


    Red Sky at morning sailors take warning. (Three links, all to reputable news organizations).

    Since Cerberus is involved, one has to laugh.

    Another one of those "thirty year old" issues that has festered.

    Given that semtex is back in the news ( Police question two men after 6kg of Semtex discovered in Dublin Guardian 3rd June 2017) one has to wonder:

    Exports fell after the name became closely associated with terrorist attacks. Export of Semtex was progressively tightened and since 2002 all of Explosia's sales have been controlled by a government ministry.[7] As of 2001, only approximately 10 tons of Semtex were produced annually, almost all for domestic use.[2]

    Someone somewhere should be asking questions over licenses. Export licenses. How history rhymes.

    Semtex also is often stolen from industrial sites. Last year, a group of smugglers was caught transporting through Poland enough Semtex to make 40 powerful bombs. In fact, experts say it is now easier than ever to obtain the explosive.

    Czechs try to cap plastic explosives sales Christian Science Monitor, Feb 2002.

    That's over 15 years, you'd have thought Interpol / MI5 would be on the ball by now (perhaps they are, after all it's not like two twenty year olds left a load in a taxi, now is it?).

    Oh, and dark humor moment to off-set the potential squeeking:

    On 25 May 1997, Bohumil Šole, a scientist often said to have been involved with inventing Semtex, strapped the explosive to his body and committed suicide in the Priessnitz spa of Jeseník.[10] Šole, 63, was being treated there for depression. Twenty other people were hurt in the explosion, while six were seriously injured. According to the manufacturer, Explosia, he was not a member of the team that developed the explosive.


    N.I. isn't a place I know too much about, but it all seems to be a plot from a much older writer's hand.

    Expect to see a lot of articles on the DUP and corruption.


    Ah. Thanks. My reading of the sewage is that there will be a period of incredible in-fighting within the cabinet (with Osborne et al. pissing into the tent), followed by a result nobody sane would have anticipated. Indeed, I think that we may have a period with no prime minister, which I believe last occurred in 1924.


    In other words ( regarding Norn Iron) business-as-usual. And which backhander would you like to call-in this week? It seems nothing has actually changed since 1967, which is really not a good sign. I assume that "the South" is also still just as bad, even though Haughey is, I'm glad to say, no longer with us.


    Desperately looking for a bright side, people have kind of known this about the DUP for years but nobody gives a crap because it all happens in a province far away.

    Now their noses will be rubbed in it daily.


    No idea why people are holding this level of negativity. The DUP is going to blow a hole in the side of British politics and let some light in. Might get someone under 50 in there.

    Almost everybody lost

    This is a result that brought disappointment to all parties. The Conservatives lost their majority. Labour suffered its third defeat in a row. The Liberal Democrats found themselves treading water. The SNP's independence bandwagon came to a juddering halt. And UKIP imploded.

    It is not only Conservatives who will be asking why Mrs May changed her mind about holding a snap election. The only winners are perhaps the DUP - to whom she seems to have awarded the role of kingmakers.

    UK election: Six key lessons from a surprise result BBC, J Curtis, Professor of politics at Strathclyde University, 9th June 2017

    This simply shows Prof. Curtis doesn't know what's going on. (c.f. Watch as Brexit author eats own book live on Sky News after losing election bet Daily Record, 10th June, 2017.

    How to put it: An Older Writer[tm] of significant less caliber than Host attempted to write about things (c.f. Times X-Word, how many Cats?). The Mirror Came True instead. He (said Older Writer) attempted to restart some of the oldy timey stuff with Semtex and stupid young muppets, but it's not really a Millennial script. It will fizzle.

    Recent: Chris Martin and Ariana Grande - Don't Look Back In Anger (One Love Manchester) YT: Music: Manchester, 4:44

    Now all that's to be done is to start some new thinking instead of all of this retrogressive / Neo-liberal nonsense. Momentum Zzzzz.

    Oh, p.s.

    Macron is not your friend: All y'all, congratulating @EmmanuelMacron for defeating fascism: he is passing a law that normalize all the states of emergency measures. Twitter, Raphael Vinot, 8th June 2017

    After the government of newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron announced last week its intention to extend the state of emergency until November, press reports yesterday confirmed that Macron intends to pass a law making the state of emergency permanent. This would signify the indefinite suspension of basic democratic rights in France, the effective ending of any oversight of police by the courts, and an attempt by the ruling class to turn France into a dictatorship.

    With permanent state of emergency, Macron plans authoritarian rule in France WSWS (yes, yes, hardly unbiased, but info is accurate), 9th June 2017

    May is still trying to get her ISP / internet stuff through, but there's blood in the water. And we all know the outcome of that, no matter how fresher her two top aides were.


    (If you need that translated: the DUP are seriously old-wetware and almost all under 40's of a normative stance see them as a Bad Idea[tm] if not just horrific. "Britain doesn't do Climate Creationists" should be a motto somewhere. Oh, and threatening free pr0n is about the least sensible move in demonstrating to the less educated 'yufff' that you're acceptable. Even Joe Bigly from the chans knows it's designed to fuck them.)

    I obviously don't see things in the same way as most other people; but come on, it's all rather neat & tidy and sufficiently Greek Tragedy.

    Wait till the party really gets started. (Hint: Capitalism is stupid, short-sighted and crass, but passable in ideological terms: rampant corruption is not acceptable. And oh boy, there's a lot of people with Shadowbroker toys now...)


    This kind of made me wonder about the larger picture in the story. I'll try to explain my thoughts, but dammit Jim, I'm an engineer, not a literary analyst, and English is not my native language, so this might not be that clear.

    Voice of God (Because someone will update the TVTropes articles on the Laundry in due course) ...

    I started writing "The Atrocity Archive" in first person present tense before I realized that 1PPT implies strongly that the narrator survives. Which is fiiiiiine in, say, a genre romance with HEA ending (Happy Ever After) but less good in Lovecraftian horror unless you go for HPL's patent "as I sit here typing I hear the footsteps on the landing, THE FOOTSTEPS, AAAARGH" ending.

    So I hit on the idea of the "if you are reading this I am dead" frame as a way of maintaining suspense. It works: Mira Grant (aka Seanan Mcguire) used it very effectively in the first of her Newsflesh books, I used it myself sort-of in "Glasshouse", and so on. It's just a trick to maintain the illusion of suspense ... until you murder the narrator gruesomely under the camera lights.

    Reader, I have not yet murdered Bob in full view of the audience. (Unless you consider that I may have done so as far back as the climax of "The Fuller Memorandum".)

    I'm not yet sure how the Laundryverse ends — it depends, to be brutally honest, how well it keeps on selling — although I've got a good idea. Spoiler: something that remembers being human, once, persists.


    Actually, Section 3 applied for about two hours under the term of George W. Bush, for which period Dick Cheney acted as President (while GWB was under general anaesthesia for the removal of rectal polyps).

    World War Three did not ensue.


    Yep. Anent which, nuclear war does not ensue in "Empire Games" (at least, not prior to "Invisible Sun"), because both sides have the same theory of nuclear war and both sides have got paratime-capable nuclear bombers and targeting maps locating the enemy cities (forget stealth: a B-36 equivalent with free-fall H-bombs will do the job perfectly well if it can fly by dead reckoning towards DC, open its bomb bays, and world-walk across ten seconds before its ground path crosses the release point for Ground Zero).


    To save everyone in the UK from getting on the naughty ISP list for dubious kinks:

    The search: "George W. Bush rectal polyps" does indeed reveal that this happened. We shall refrain from making the obvious joke to Trump and having the hugest, bigliest polyps, only sadly they're motile and functioning as his Senior Staff.

    /spam over


    "Of course, when I say we, I mean you."


    I looked it up and they did the whole thing; notified Congress, etc. And they also did it when Reagan had polyps.

    Unfortunately, I'm not sure how well it will work when Trump starts raving about how Obama is monitoring his brainwaves and they're not redacting the names of all his friends, and he didn't authorize a warrant...


    (Unless you consider that I may have done so as far back as the climax of "The Fuller Memorandum".)

    I get the feeling that TFM is where you started thinking "big long series" with a story arc that ran through multiple books, and that's where you started doing things like dropping clues about issues that wouldn't hit until three books hence, etc.


    ...OTOH whichever side first manages to figure out how to make a paratime telescope gains first-strike capability.


    Spoiler: something that remembers being human, once, persists.

    Be Careful What You Wish For.

    The largest virtual Universe ever simulated. University of Zurich, 9th June, 2017

    "GRRR". [Anyhow, will keep an eye out, but you seem bored now. DUP or Scottish Tory for next leader? Who knows...]


    Oh, and small note: if I were staging an invasion of Leeds using quasi-horse cavalry, I'd muster on the Gott's Park golf club via a stealth move from Bramley Fall park, then split for a three way prong across Canal Rd, the A58 and Crown Point Rd with reinforcements / flank coming across Kirkstall. Coming via Roundhay park is easier, but offers more chances you'll get encircled. Subjugating Bramley and Holbeck I'd leave to the reserves: mostly low density suburbs.

    And whoever asked about shodding horses: No, mud and gunk rip shoes off like no-one's business (even the ultra-high-end racing aluminum ones which have some serious engineering behind the nails etc). They're purely to prevent splint damage (shock absorbers) and general health on human surfaces.


    Comic-book rules: "If you don't see the body, they're not dead."


    With the position of Tory PM now looking like a poisoned chalice May could be forced to stay on as punishment. On the other hand with Labour winning the next two elections now looking possible those with a hankering for being Tory PM might see this as a last chance.


    Oh, you can't see the half of it:

    DUP leader Arlene Foster vows to bring stability to UK with Conservatives Guardian, 9th June 2017

    Tory-DUP alliance: 500,000 people sign petition against Conservative deal with the Democrat Unionists in 24 hours The Independent, 10th June 2017

    NOT MAY'S DAY DUP says no deal reached with Conservatives and talks still ongoing – despite Downing Street announcing agreement was reached The Sun (Yes, hello Murdoch scum) 10th June 2017

    And so on.

    May fingers the DUP.

    Certain powers realize (sadly a bit later than we did) that this is going to be the cluster-fuck of a generation...

    Benny-Hill Time.


    She doesn't get to walk away from this. Predators: we play for keeps, "DO NOT FUCK WITH US" and other things.

    Shame. Co-operation is the only way to win.


    And, of course:

    Our. Kind. Do. Not. Go. Mad.


    “All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elefant and both intellectually and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains makkeable, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory, to use an unfashionable word. In this, the future is a game; time is one of the rules. Generally, all the best mechanistic games - those which can be played in any sense "perfectly", such as a grid, Prallian scope, 'nkraytle, chess, Farnic dimensions - can be traced to civilisations lacking a realistic view of the universe (let alone the reality). They are also, I might add, invariably pre-machine-sentience societies.

    No, really.

    Hai! Not amused. "GRRRR".

    Just you wait until we get serious. This was just a friendly joke to boost a talented man's book sales.

    Guns N' Roses - Welcome To The Jungle YT: Music: 4:34

    Guns N' Roses-Live and Let Die w/Lyrics YT: Music: 3:04



    I'm the nice one.


    Aww, and one last triptych.

    The Wire - You Come At the King,You Best Not Miss YT: The Wire: 2:20

    Now we sober up.

    Your odds: not so good. We read Host's books for tips and tricks and we absolutely have no compunction about your Minds.


    Running Hate Games is gonna get you killed. It's a Mirror and a Scale. As you sow, so shall you reap..

    Reality. Time.


    The Concorde is proven to work in white. Black might offer some advantages, like stealth (given it's noisy and not designed to minimise radar returns that might be of limited use), black absorbs heat. That might be important if it's exposed to a nuclear flash. The more it can reflect the better.


    Certain powers realize (sadly a bit later than we did) that this is going to be the cluster-fuck of a generation... Benny-Hill Time. Looking at the UK (from the US) with a bit of envy, and happy about that election and etc; (reasonably sure) some possibilities of non-crash landings exist for the US but they feel pretty rare and fragile. Would be quite happy to be Wrong.

    and TRUMPISTAN LEGAL FAIL goes live, then, well. It gets fun. Personally back to consuming a lot of US political/legal media and watching/interpreting White House antics with active interest. So many (some hidden) playing with chaos (for lack of a better word).

    Don't have paper, but interesting and could/should be leveraged to create substantial political pressure to clean up severely polluted urban/suburban air. Culprit hidden in plain sight in Alzheimer disease development or Culprit hidden in plain sight in Alzheimer’s disease development: Combustion-derived nanoparticles in key brain target cells and organelles in young urbanites abstract Airborne iron-rich strongly magnetic combustion-derived nanoparticles (CDNPs) are present in young urbanites’ brains. Using transmission electron microscopy, we documented CDNPs in neurons, glia, choroid plexus, and neurovascular units of young MC residents versus matched clean air controls. CDNPs are associated with pathology in mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum (ER), mitochondria-ER contacts (MERCs), axons,and dendrites.


    Enjoyed that paper.

    Was wrong, but at least was semi-consistent.

    Worst thing to do if you're Labour: press for another election. Do Not Do This. Let the Music play.


    At this point: of course that's a thing. It's always been a thing. Your Water, Your Air, Your food, Your insert whatever here does this.

    Did you forget about tobacco lawyers or the UK Gov banning psychedelics but not any of the above?

    They're all fucking Slaved Minds / Animals.


    Now, Our kind will respond. (Hint: it's a Mirror, so don't expect any quarter or mercy given).


    Well, I vaguely remember Charlie replying to a comment to the extent of "if you see Angleton again in human form, be very afraid". Though I suppose it could be Lecter...


    Just as a BTW what's the Black Chamber been doing for all these years in preparation for 'The Day'?

    As I see it they have access to a black budget an order of magnitude larger than the Laundry a predilection for technical fixes and way less ethical constraints. Not to mention they could have easily redirected the XB70 tooling when North American wound up the project, they have access to Project Excalibur records, General Atomics consultancy services and the Nevada test sites. Of course after the 1970s test ban progress might have been slowed a bit as they'd have had to open a gate to a dead world make a run through and test there, which may also explain those mysterious sonic booms over Antarctica...


    Re a retweet of some "the Onion" ("America's Finest News Source") articles on Charlie's twitter feed, Theseus Protocol Memos, does anyone know who the writer(s) is(are)? Some funny material (Charlie does it better though :-), particularly liked the office emails. Samples: Donald, ... Also, thank you for the machine for the making of coffee. The enervation of my vassals is now at an end. & Donald, ... You have grown fat on your avarice and your willingness to suborn and despoil the maiden Truth. Do not stumble with the goal so close to hand. Eschew the seductions of the Syrias, the North Koreas of this worn and tattered Earth;...


    This is what gave me the warm fuzzies about the end of Roland Emmerich's 2012. What did the shipsfull of billionaires possibly think was going to happen when their arks reached the shore of the new land (ignoring for a moment it was apparently Africa, untouched)? That the soldiers and scientists and workers who had ensured their survival were going to form the service class in the new economy? Oh ho ho no.


    I started writing "The Atrocity Archive" in first person present tense before I realized that 1PPT implies strongly that the narrator survives.

    Yeah, it's basically not the same series you started writing. As a reader, it's not that bad especially because I started reading from the very beginning. It just needs some work from you to change the framing when the story evolves.

    It's of course easier then the world of the series does not change between the books that much. With an upcoming apocalypse, waiting for it would become somewhat tedious after a number of books, if nothing really changed.


    Agree re "Momentum zzzz" - they are even more yesterdays mean than Corbyn. Corbyn is stuck in 1934/5, momentum are stuck in 1917. And neither of them seem to realise that it DOES NOT WORK. But it can & probably will kill a lot of innocent people if it is tried.

    @ 388 Ruth Davidson for Tory leader - please, PRETTY PLEASE? ( If only to make DUP heads explodey! )


    until you murder the narrator gruesomely under the camera lights. Hichcock. Psycho. Yerrsssssss ....

    .. it depends, to be brutally honest, how well it keeps on selling Didn't you once suggest that "It had gone all Discworld" on your self? Don't knock it, mate. something that remembers being human, once, persists. Like Cassie, obviously.


    Oops, pressed "send" too soon.

    LURVE the face when ... piccie - typical cat. CANS WE HAVE KITTON-PICCIES PURRLEASE?

    And .. "Largest virtual universe simulations" Err ... what happens in a year or so, when you increase the computation "volume" & then overclock the speed - how long before "Life" emerges inside it? I think we might be in "Be careful what you wish for" territory, here.


    I doubt VERY much that you are right. The DUP are as thick as two short planks, and about as wooden. Even May, Williamson and (tagging along) Brokenshire should be able to run rings round them, placating them with empty promises and baubles (i.e. money). The question is what Sinn Fein do, and they are the most cunning, ruthless and devious party in British politics.

    I am pretty certain that Curtis knows very well what is going on - I would love to hear his private speculations, but all he is publishing is his description of what happened; that is what academics do, you know. This fiasco HAS opened a crack in British politics, and we may see it turn into a gaping hole, but I am impressed by the abilities of the opposition leaders (Clegg, Corbyn and even Sturgeon) to turn major opportunities into failures.

    The key question is what happens when May misses her next kill which, given her general level of competence and modesty, is likely to be soon; the only sane, plausible leader is Hammond, so I doubt it will be him. I can see half a dozen scenarios developing, essentially depending on which way the random walk goes. I am anticipating that we shall be making Italy look a model of good governance, at least for the forseeable future, and I think that we are going to end up with the hardest of Brexits simply because we shall not have had an effective, consistent government to negotiate anything better.


    But PLEASE finish it off (or at least euthanise it) while it is still vigorous. I have never read an open-ended series that was worth buying all of, and the Laundry Files is already ony of the longest series worth buying the new books of. And I mean over all time, and over more fields than just SF/fantasy.


    I get the feeling that TFM is where you started thinking "big long series" with a story arc that ran through multiple books, and that's where you started doing things like dropping clues about issues that wouldn't hit until three books hence, etc.


    When I wrote "The Atrocity Archive" it was a one-shot. Then GG asked me to write another novella as essentially padding for "The Atrocity Archives" — okay, Hugo-winning padding, but still padding. Then I had an idea for a Bond novel just as they got excited about a sequel (because Hugo nomination), and was vaguely thinking about a Christopher Hodder-Williams tribute novel, or maybe an Adam Hall homage ... then came up with an Anthony Price story, and realized it wasn't going to be a trilogy after all, but something longer. And by the end of "The Apocalypse Codex" I had a faint vision of the narrative arc across which the series was bending.


    She doesn't get to walk away from this.

    I note with interest that the tabloid media magnates have turned on her, from Murdoch on down the list.

    They couldn't win the election for her, as witness the stench of panic hanging over last Wednesday and Thursday's papers (you don't spend 18 goddamn pages of a tabloid trash-talking the opposition if you think your normal background propaganda is working), but I can't see her being able to survive them turning on her.


    >>>I'm not yet sure how the Laundryverse ends — it depends, to be brutally honest, how well it keeps on selling

    Book 14. The protagonists discover they are just characters in a book, and their survival depends on how good the series sell. Title: "The Scribbling on the Fourth Wall".


    Ruth Davidson cannot be conservative leader in Westminster b/c she's conservative leader in Holyrood. In the unlikely event that CPCO strong-armed her into moving to Westminster (I dunno, arrange for a by-election in a safe English seat, maybe?) it'd vacate the leadership of the Scottish Conservative party, making Labour the official opposition, and killing the Scottish Conservative recovery (such as it is) stone dead.

    Also: why would she want to inherit the Westminster apocalypse when she's riding high up north? She can afford to wait out the inevitable collapse and two Tory election defeats before she makes her move to Westminster, takes over the party, and returns it to power. She's not even 40 yet!

    Right now she has no experience in government—only in opposition—and no personal power base in Westminster. Boris could frame her as a profoundly inexperienced outsider, and make his own leadership credentials look good in contrast.


    I have seen only two speculations about May's future as PM - a couple of weeks and a few months. But who or what are the tabloids going to support? And what process are they going to promote? They really don't like losing too obviously and I can't see a strategy (of ANY form) that has more than a small chance of succeeding. At least some will back off until the smoke clears, or at least just spray their bile at random.


    This morning, via twitter, the chair of the 1922 Committee has brought forward the ritual post-election Carpeting of the PM to before her next meeting with the DUP.

    This doesn't sound positive for her prospects of seeing out June.


    On the other hand, from what I've read, the intake spikes were fully extended somewhere just past mach 3 (certainly by the mach 3.45 max cited speed) and your efficency is going to fall off as you get past that what ever that idea speed is for the engines. Altitude, yes, fully armed, they could intercept U-2's at over 65,000 feet, and a South African Lightening claimed 88,000 feet in level flight on it's final flight (they'd stripped one to set some unofficial records when they decommissioned them), so you'd think an SR-71 could beat that...


    Pretty much yeah, and there was that one time at the Farnborough airshow where a USAF Habu crew were presented with photos that a Lightning F3 pilot had taken from above and behind them...


    I'm wondering if the DUP is so nuts that a coalition with them causes defections to Lib Dem or something, knocking the Tories out of having the 322 (or what ever) needed for a government? What can Labor get today for a coalition, how short are they?


    I'm thinking the 25, one way or another, is what happens to Trump (barring quitting on his own, or dropping dead). If the Republican impeach, they will take a lot of heat, but if they say that he's lost his mind from the stress of being president, well, that's no fault of theirs. And if they do what they did to Nixon, go to him with the promise that he's out of office, does he want to pick the method, or have them drag him out? So I'm thinking he resigns, blaming all and sundry for making this country impossible to govern.


    “This would demonstrate to the EU that what had seemed a weakened position, with the loss of a majority, had been transformed into a stronger position, in which a sense of national endeavour was shown in the degree of agreement for its position. Doing this would enable the government to move forward with its timetable, with a sense of backing from public and parliament.”

    In another intervention from the Tory side, Morgan, writing in the Observer, added that “to get Brexit and major policies such as social care funding delivered, the government will now have to build a consensus across the House of Commons and it will need to compromise.” Morgan says May’s determination to reject the single market needs to be re-examined as a priority.

    'Drop hard Brexit plans', leading Tory and Labour MPs tell May Guardian, 10th June 2017

    Oh, and of course...

    George Osborne says Theresa May is a 'dead woman walking' Guardian, 11th June 2017

    You may note George and I using the same phrases. Interesting linguistic conceit, very American (apologies to Mr Krugman). nose wiggle I'd imagine his personal line to the USA has been very busy recently.

    But, no, there are lines and mores and Rules. There's a certain class who simply will not allow the DUP to represent them, nor are they tickled pink by such crassness as this:

    Daily Mail ‘Crush the Saboteurs’ front page: ‘chilling, fascistic, deranged’. And what Lenin said in 1918 The Poke, 19th April, 2017.

    Or this:

    Sun editor defends 'Queen backs Brexit' headline as watchdog rules it inaccurate Guardian, 18th May, 2016 (how long ago!)

    Note: all the thrashing / posturing / "If you come at the King, you'd better not miss" (For Greg: from a very popular American Police/Gangster series about Baltimore[1]) is just Predator humor. The actual ones are rather less funny in their thoughts...


    It's all about Murdoch & deals and regulation (shan't mention the actual name, spider bots get interested). I'd not bet on it going well for them, but what do I know? (Remember Scooby Gang, Murdoch vrs Mercer in the new Media landscape. Still, what a nice retirement present, he deserves it).

    Murdoch’s UK newspaper groups suffer losses as ad revenues fall FT, Jan 5th, 2017

    In any case (as Trump's crude version attests), it's all about the humiliation for these Hierarchy Power Games...

    [1]Crib Sheet to explain the joke if so desired.


    As a general rule, if an article in the Guardian says that something will happen, the converse is more likely. Given what OGH said in #413, I am expecting an even more bitter leadership contest and doubt that any of the obvious candidates will win (except possibly Fallon, as the 'compromise' candidate). That will cause yet another delay in the Brexit negotiations and an almost certainly ineffective government, hamstrung by the rabid Brexiteers, followed by a catastrophic exit and a crash of the UK's economy and what passes for the current social consensus.

    It is just possible that Corbyn will allow the new leader to call yet another election using the 2/3 rule, and get a working majority for the Conservatives. Certainly, I think that he is stupid enough.


    Try this out (contains an embedded video):

    Listen to @SamTarry and @mattzarb on the media and Theresa May's contempt for the people #marr #ridge #peston #bbcdp Twitter, ARTIST TAXI MAN, 11th June 2017

    The owner of that account is very popular with the "Zero Hedge" / wide boy / traders / anti-FED lot. And I mean that seriously. It's an interesting turn he's taking, and where the US / UK split on this matter.

    It is just possible that Corbyn will allow the new leader to call yet another election using the 2/3 rule, and get a working majority for the Conservatives. Certainly, I think that he is stupid enough.

    The Conservatives did get more votes (although not much has been said about Greens / Lib Dems tactically voting which is a shame) and so, shouldn't they be in charge? (The Mail on Sunday's cover is. Well, quite the thing. And very predictable).

    Quite a few Twitter people (example: Coalition of Chaos) are on fire this morning.


    Anyhow, I expect all the city cares about is that Sterling is going to nose dive (again) tomorrow.

    That will cause yet another delay in the Brexit negotiations and an almost certainly ineffective government, hamstrung by the rabid Brexiteers, followed by a catastrophic exit and a crash of the UK's economy and what passes for the current social consensus.

    Or everyone could grow up and start acting like adults?



    I don't do video. I will see if I can find a text reference.

    No, sterling will not nosedive, yet - I doubt it will drop more than a few cents, but even a drop below $1.2 wouldn't count as a nosedive. It will, later, but it will be kept propped up for a while yet (months, certainly, possibly year or two). Unless your last speculation were to occur, and I am as optimistic as you are.


    JBS notes: "Maybe we all are doomed in the long run, but I intend to go down fighting. And if I am going to be eaten, I'm going to do everything I can to give the eaters indigestion."

    Me too. One of my favorite t-shirts from decades back was entitled "Last Great Act of Defiance", and portrayed a chest-spanning dragon swooping down on a battered*, finger-sized knight with a shattered sword who clearly had no hope in hell of living past the next 10 seconds. But there he was, stiff middle finger upraised. I hope I can muster that spirt -- in the unfortunate event I should ever meet a hungry dragon.

    • Beaten, not breaded. Just to be clear.

    One of my role-playing characters used to wear silver rings on his left hand so that if a werewolf ever jumped him, he'd cram his left arm so far down the attacker's throat that the rings would burn their way out through the werewolf's asshole after it bit his arm off. I'm not really sure that it was a practical deterrent, but it would have made for a great bluff.

    Charlie notes the supposed problem with first person meaning that "the narrator must have survived". Non-problem, really, in SF/F. In additition to reading the story as the narrator's diary, there are many other alternatives of varying worth. Off the top of my head, ranging from softest fantasy to hardest SF but in no particular order: narrative on tape or video recording, personality recreation via computer simulation (a REALLY unreliable narrator), "well that's how he told me the story", speaking from the great beyond (in heaven, hell, or wherever), resurrection, memories read by scanning a not-yet decayed brain and reinstantiated via software, stored backup reinstantiated in flesh, and any of the many possible forms of reanimation.

    In the Laundry context, the story can even be told by a brain parasite that survives the death of its host and is trying to sweet-talk a new host into accepting it with open arms. The trick is to pick the solution that fits best with your literary goal, then justify it well enough that the reader doesn't feel obliged to disbelieve.


    while keeping their Magi well-supplied with the human sacrifices they need on a regular basis (to stay alive) and which aren't (yet) available in the UK

    Call me excessively cynical, but the first time I read the book and mulled over the aftermath, my initial thoughts were "the government wants to cull the welfare budget, and needs a way to keep a vampire army fed. Solution: distribute the Host across the country and turn the local Job Centre into their canteen. Discreetly."


    I suspect that one of the frustrations for Murdoch is that he's just had it proven that he is no longer the Kingmaker he once was. Still significant, but being overtaken. He must realise that (hopefully) the writing is on the wall...

    Twenty years ago, politicians would sell their immortal soul and firstborn child to get the unqualified support of News International; less so now. Print is shrinking, and once political nervousness reduces over the various tabloid acts of corruption and bribery?


    Perhaps her punishment is to remain in the job for two years.

    When Thatcher went, the alleged plan was "put a loser in, spend a single term in opposition, return in triumph". Then John Major (underrated, I always thought) won the next election, and had to cope with the loony wing of the Conservatives until 1997...


    You're thinking of Admiral Doenitz' trial, where Admiral Nimitz testified in his defense on the accusations related to Germany pursuing unrestricted submarine warfare. But things were a bit more complicated than just "the US did it too." In the summing up, the court noted a bunch of factors before acquitting him on the issue of breaches of the international law of submarine warfare. (They did, however, convict him on some other issues related to orders he gave the U-Boat commanders.)

    (In a similar vein, at Otto Skorzeny's trial, F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas testified in Skorzeny's defense on charges related to Skorzeny's troops wearing Allied uniforms. Turns out SOE had done the same thing.)


    No, Mr Murdoch is striking back at his real opposition (Scooooooby Tiiiiiiiime toooooold yooooou).

    The @TheSundayTimes reports that senior DUP figures want @Nigel_Farage as a Lord or with a senior role in Brexit. Twitter, Ben Judah, 11th June 2017

    Quite the strike, pointing the finger at the new billionaire with his finger on the big red button?


    Somewhere around here I've got the U.S. version of that T-shirt featuring the cartoon mouse flipping off a swooping Eagle.

    The incurable romantic in my soul still hopes for "they lived happily ever after", but all my life experience tells me the best I'm likely to get is "They lived ...".

    So you soldier on.


    battered*, finger-sized knight[...]

    • Beaten, not breaded. Just to be clear.

    So, not battery-powered either?


    The father of a friend of mine was involved with the preparation for the reception of the Blue Riband SR-71 into British airspace. The chosen Lightning was stripped of its weapons pylons, airspeed indicator etc. and then lovingly polished until it gleamed to get another couple of knots out of it. They even weighed the pilots to find the lightest one. Rumour said they took out the radios (the radar was too heavy and removing that would have shifted the CoG too much).

    They flew a couple of practice bounces before the SR-71 arrived. On the day when the radar operators announced it was coming the Lightning took off and went ballistic behind the arriving SR-71 then went over the top engines out and dived past them. The pilot was under instructions that if he couldn't get the engines to relight or he ran out of fuel he was to save the camera at all costs if he had to bang out.

    OK, it was a bit of a cheat since the SR-71 was slowing down having crossed the "finish line" and it wasn't at its maximum altitude for fuel conservation reasons but the RAF regarded an possible airframe loss as worth it to demonstrate that no-one, not even a friendly could enter British airspace without challenge.


    The version I was told also says it was an F3, and "towed" out into the Western Approaches by a Victor K2.


    In other news, Northern Ireland apparently had their first legally recognised Humanist marriage:

    Were only church marriages recognised until now?

    Slightly tangential. Something I did not see elsewhere, but probably have missed: In The Annihilation Score, Mo tells the SA the name of the violin twice. It seems too obvious to be a mistake, but what am I missing?


    Agreed. But...

    He has to have a new Big Thing first.

    And fortunately, he's being well-edited so the books aren't turning into 700-page tomes which bludgeon their readers with the same point on six different planets before we get to find out what the Manties are going to do about the problem. (I've been dropping in and out of that series for years. Might buy the latest in paperback if I can find it used.)

    So I'm not in any hurry. But I trust that OGH has the artistic integrity to either kill it or put it aside for a little while as necessary.


    This kind of made me wonder about the larger picture in the story. I'll try to explain my thoughts, but dammit Jim, I'm an engineer, not a literary analyst, and English is not my native language, so this might not be that clear.

    I took it in the lovecraftian sense. Says there Stoker first used it in Dracula ..



    Sadly, they're good with him as long as he signs their bills, and right now he's not a problem with their base. But my guess is that if he becomes too much of a problem they're going to turn on him full-tilt because that's how Republicans roll, and at that point he nukes Korea or something equally stupid. :(

    He's already signed onto stupid anti-Iranian games in the Muddled East. Sad. Bigly Sad.


    Were only church marriages recognised until now?

    NI had religious marriages, and registry office signings for anyone who wanted them. The humanists in question went all Awkward Squad and demanded the right to a humanist religious ceremony on the grounds that their human rights were being violated by being denied the right to a non-religious wedding solemnized outside a registry office. (Which is available elsewhere in the UK.)

    NB: I endorse their Awkward Squad move because fuck the religious authoritarians. OK?


    You missed the 50 page "death by Powerpoint" presentations by the bad guys, in case someone's not figured out they're the bad guys!


    Perhaps I misunderstand the problem. If registry signings are available, why not just sign the registry then perform whatever ritual you want? I'd assume that in such a case your marriage is legally the same as one performed in a church, (though please explain if I'm wrong about that.)


    I read the first chapters on Baen's website and decided that I might pick it up used, in paperback, or maybe new if I plan to take a long air journey. So I definitely missed the 50 page version of "here's our villainous plan."

    The books were such fun when he was being properly edited. "Honor of the Queen" is just about perfect.


    Earlier: Pity, never mind.

    As for the 1922 carpeting. If not May, then whom? NOT fucking BoJo, for certain - almost as bad as Corbyn, in fact.

    RP @ 416 Not going to happen. Tories 318 Labour 262 [ SF 5 I think ] Labour need to find approx 51 members of other parties, who will support their programme through thick & thin. Now Corbyn is an open traitor [ Note - don't go off pop ] & Mcdonnel is an open marxist ... I really don't think this will work, do you?

    Note: Corbyn's cosying up to the provos, hos weaselling over islamic terrorism, blaming "the West" & pretending that Sayyid Qutb never lived, & saying that neither Korea nor the Falklands wars were justified really makes him unfit, yes? Mind you, not counting May - not been in office long enough - the last PM who was not a traitor, long-term, was Jim Callaghan, a greatly under-appreciated Labour PM.


    IIRC there was also a very indignant round-robin letter, signed by a very large number of senior RN officers, protesting at Raeder's trial, as they though he had fought a very hard, but "clean" war.


    I endorse their Awkward Squad move because fuck the religious authoritarians. OK? Can we all join in, or sign a petition, or something? Speaking as a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad, as if you didn't know.

    Oh & re. my some-may-find-inflammatory remarks @ 440 ... I don't like S Kahn, I didn't vote for him ( Caroline Pidgeon, actually ) but I had to appreciate his 2 fingers up at Drumpf, last week - excellent stuff.


    It's more a case of location. The official bit of the wedding in NI (and previously in England and Wales) has to take place either in a church of the correct religion (not all Churches are allowed to conduct the full ceremony, has to be CofE, RC, handful of other christian and non-c) or at the local Registry Office. English law has now changed to allow licenced locations (the licence runs for a year IIRC and the licencee is not permitted to arbitrarily refuse others to use the venue) to be used for the ceremony but a registrar has to be present.

    When Prince Charles remarried there was talk of licencing part of Windsor Castle for the event. The idea was dropped because of the "alllow others" bit.


    So it's one of those cases where someone says "we want every bit of our rights, not just the practical bits?"


    Ohh.. Greg will love this one.

    Just when you thought it couldn't get any more surreal, it can.

    George Galloway is writing opinion pieces for "Westmonster" (no link, you'll see why), which is Arron Banks' new media project. That is who featured in coverage last year:

    At the time Vote Leave and Leave.EU were lobbying against each other to secure the £600,000 of public funding available for the official anti-EU campaign. Support from the DUP was perceived to be a prize catch for both camps for that race, because it had eight MPs and was the largest party in Parliament to support leaving the EU.

    Details about the negotiations were first aired in Mr Banks’ memoirs, The Bad Boys of Brexit, when he wrote: “The DUP is demanding cold, hard cash in exchange for its support! Thirty grand a month, to be precise. I know Northern Irish politics is dirty, but this is crazy. It all came about because Farage is mates with [DUP MP] Ian Paisley Junior.”

    Senior Brexit campaigner Arron Banks denies offering 'six-figure bribe' to DUP in exchange for Leave.EU support Independent, 4th Dec, 2017.

    So, to get this straight: Mr Banks (who has a history of litigation, so being polite) started an imitation Breitbart media setup, and who holds very definitely pro-UKIP political views (he is, or was, a major founder / backer) is (presumably) paying George Galoway for opinion pieces?! (Who, last time I checked, was a member of the Respect Party). (Mr Banks should also probably not host such media projects on Godaddy . com, but his web security is his own business).

    If you feel the need to verify this, the title of the piece is "GALLOWAY: Corbyn’s surge can be placed in the same drawer as Brexit and Trump".

    Literally crazy-pants. Cats and Dogs territory.


    Not far off. "Blessings" of Registry Office marriages were a common religious ceremony for churches that didn't qualify to perform the whole thing. The current English law version means only one venue has to be booked instead of two.


    So the winner here is not the happy couple, but the Humanist-owned meeting place?


    I haven't checked the recent situation, but it wasn't (and almost certainly isn't) as simple as that. When I were a lad, Jews could get married in private houses, but everybody else had to get married in an approved venue, unless they had what I think was called a Special Licence (signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in person). Most of the major churches were approved, but not all of the Wee Frees and definitely no mosques, Sikh temples etc.

    That's all way back when, but I will bet a guinea to a groat that the bureaucrats carried over some of the lunacy when the law was upgraded to match the 20th century requirements. That's probably happened more than once.


    My money is on Fallon - not because of his merits (does he have any?) - but because the main camps will ensure none of their opponents win. But I don't give that more than a 30% chance of being right, with most of the 70% percent being someone complete unexpected.


    My read of the below article in the Graun suggests that Humanist weddings have just been given full equality in Law to Church weddings and civil services in NI. ie you don't need a registrar just a Humanist celebrant (had to look up the equivalent of a Humanist "priest")

    Guessing a little as the article isn't too clear how the ceremony & bureucracy will work.

    Add in the fact that the new Irish Teashop is gay and of Asian descent there some hope for Ireland. The DUP is probably frothing at their mouths foul old dinosaurs.


    See #427, scooped you (via a 3rd party site).

    The question of Galloway's involvement is deeply strange. He's got form denying dodgy links to Congress but didn't strike as the type to throw in with UKIP; he's supposed to be at the other end of things. Some UKIP members not exactly being favorable to certain communities who he is (was?) friendly with.

    It's weird and smells all wrong. He stood against Afzal Khan in Manchester Gorton and his ex-law firm just got done for legal aid fraud.

    Smells odd.


    More than 150,000 people have joined Labour since the election Metro 11th June 2017

    ARTIST TAXI MAN joined earlier today, but after I linked to him. nose wiggle Let's see if Labor can not totally self-implode and so on. (Mandelson is looking rickety with his column today).

    Anyhow, as an apology for politics spam, here's a picture of the ULA Delta V taking off today with the Orion (or not!) payload (wallpaper size - large file): JohnKrausPhotos imgur, safe.


    Witnessing media barons and dodgy sources (Wonder when the Evil Ball of DOOOOM[tm] money gets looked at and when it blows back from Qatar stuff) literally threatening peace in Northern Ireland for political power is all a bit sad. Hunt back in for the NHS just screams "You're going down with me".

    13 pages. Unlucky for some.

    Btw. Did I miss a memo where they were all threatened that an ex-human-dragon-shoggoth turns up if they don't pull all this ridiculous stuff or something? Hardly makes sense otherwise.


    Another possible epligoue to the Laundry series: The Black Chamber makes a dealwith horrors from beyond spacetime, seeling of 90% of the earth population (most of which happen to be brown). The Black Chambers parts of the deal: take out all the other occult intelleigence services. For that the midwest will remain intact.

    A few decades later, in the midwest that remains one of the few places no ravaged by CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN - thanks to the heroic sacrifice of the US occult forces, which alas failed to save the rest of the world (Or California, Oregon or the east coast) a clerk in the security apparatus stumbels across one the filing cabinets that where (unknown to him) brought home from the action in London, and starts reading ...

    Or a few eon later, when the stars or no longer right, a xenoarcheologist from Tau Ceti finds a thaumaturgically sealed Memex ...

    Or some of the beeings that wiped out humanity dig themselves into the rubble of London, hoping to make a stand when the really big guys arrive - and pick apart the archives of their most recent foes ...


    That's more than the Conservative party membership, isn't it? :-) Excluding the minor detail that a good half of the latter are about to pop their clogs ....


    Moss cultures for fighting pollution. Does anyone buy this?


    That would be correct.

    Of course, flocking to Labor isn't the smart solution, but it rather does sum up certain things. It'll do in the short-short term.


    Regarding the City Tree thing, it's a sales pitch for a commercial company selling greenwash / gentrification that doesn't work.

    I work for a regional European EPA. My job is to figure out ways to combat air pollution in cities. There are loads of companies out there that promise wonder solutions that will magically clean our air. "City Tree" is one of them. These companies back their products with research paid for by them. We also pay researchers to figure out how efficient different ways of combating air pollution are. City Tree is one of the measures they analysed for us. The result of our analysis is that City Tree has a very positive effect on air quality around 10 centimetres (yes, centimetres) in the vicinity of the City Tree. It has almost no measurable effect on the scale of a street. As much as we'd like such technology to work (it would make many things much easier), it just doesn't.

    Via Reddit:

    Note: Reddit being Reddit of course no sources, that could be a LARPER or Trump anti EPA person or a dog.

    However, this is their pitch: Green City Solutions - Meet the Product YT: Commercial 1:37

    Quote: "Citytree is based on a biotechnology, a special moss culture that attracts pollution..." ...And we're done.

    HN level delusions to get rich quick masked with good intentions. Feeding off H.S.S not good at SCALE nor good at PSYCHOLOGY - FEEL GOOD TO PREVENT CHANGE MODE.



    Possibly Does anyone remember that recent piece about "hedges" & other urban plant-growth, to mop up pollution?


    Oh, feeling generous.

    Macron and their model is going to blow a hole the size of the EU in France in 2018. 1968 - 2018, my my. What manufactured ideological purity you bring to this world, then shit on it. Literally old men brainwashing young men to repeat the mistakes of the past when they could afford to.

    Hint: 2050 cometh, you're in our Jungle now.

    The government of new French President Emmanuel Macron looks likely to start a planned privatization program with airports operator ADP (ADP.PA), according to three financial industry sources with knowledge of the matter. Macron said before he won the presidency on May 7 that he wanted privatizations to help fund a 10 billion euro ($11.2 billion) government drive to boost industry and innovation.

    "Macron will no doubt be more authoritarian, and will not hesitate to intervene in certain industrial situations," a Paris-based investment banker said. "We will not have a wave of fierce liberalism. But we will certainly have a more business-friendly government than the previous one".

    France's Macron seen launching privatization drive with airports Reuters, 9th June, 2017

    Of course, making all those security measures permanent has nothing to do with this... right?

    Literally bored of those models. They fail, and they fail hard.

    /reboots Dragon

    Add in the fact that the new Irish Teashop is gay and of Asian descent there some hope for Ireland. The DUP is probably frothing at their mouths foul old dinosaurs.

    The DUP couldn't give a toss; to them we are definitely a foreign country. And I would suggest that his sub-Thatcherism is far more relevant than his extraction or orientation.

    (WTF is up with the international press, by the way? We're the first country in the world to pass marriage equality by popular vote, the first gay Presidential candidate stood in 2011, but the party in government elects Varadkar and the whole print world loses their shit.)



    Think of it more as a Narrative structure to combat the cluster-fuck that is NI politics (Host's twitter has some interesting bits, including the fact that there's no current functional government there due to the "Cash for Ash" DUP scandal).

    You know, you humans have issues with reality, need a pep talk and 'positive nudge' once in a while.

    Oh, and a lot of NI people are stuck in Monty Python Land and haven't socially progressed for a while.


    And if you're not Dutch, well... you have to own that bit of history. As they say in Gross Point Blank "Sixteen years Man, SIXTEEN YEARS".

    Oh, and the first gay Prime Minister goes to Iceland: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in 2009.

    So, wow. You need some history lessons, I think?


    For the equoids specifically, it's probably because the Alfar didn't bring any males and the one's they ride are sterile females. Otherwise, the problem is still there.

    For everything else, I suspect that BLUE HADES sees the Alfar as cannon fodder, just like everyone else does... Sorry Cassie.


    You might want to stop reading the ongoing soap opera of Manticore and pick up (at Honor Among Thieves, a 230k word (i.e. normal novel size for that series) wrap-up that provides a satisfactory ending for the whole damn thing.

    As with Niven and Niven-and-Pournelle, the fanfic has now exceeded the ability of the original author.


    The Honor Harrington saga still has some legs yet. Like the Laundry Files, younger, subsidiary characters are moving to the forefront to pick up the Torch, so to speak.

    I think Bujold has reached the end of the Vorkosigan Saga, and I was pleased she didn't forget Ivan; that he finally got the girl. It's been clear in the last several books that "that idiot Ivan!" was protective camouflage, his own way of protecting himself from Imperial Intrigue.



    Bored of America now and the financial strong-arm stuff linked to PREDATOR levels of bullshit[1] and the total inability to even deal with a minor level Fascist invasion while not providing clean water or opiode addiction or obesity or .... just taking so much resources and wasting it.

    I mean, 7 months: we short this bullshit out in a week. Two years with massive capital inflows from... America, Saudi Arabia and local muppets.

    And you can't even stop the TeaParty.


    South America is tumbling, meh meh, fishmeal.

    I think we have chosen which 50% of the globe is given to Gaia, Creation, Genesis.

    Hint: that doesn't include many H.S.S. Sorry.

    [1]"Harvard, Ayn Rand and the Myth of American Exceptionalism: the collapse" History Books, 2024.

    /Choices Made.


    ,,, Ok, looking very, very, very much forward to both The Delirium Brief and The Nightmare Index now. Drat I mean thanks!! Terrific opening paragraph for TNI... ("TNI may refer to: ..." :) )


    .... ow. whoops. sorry. Yes, TLI.

    1.026*10^-16 looks a bit like a swapped-about Avogadro's number, on another point. Or maybe I'm just overall sleepy.


    A search for Laundry fan art is surprisingly scanty on the firewyrm front, which is odd, because personally I can't quit trying to draw the dragons/firewyrms. I'd like to do a Jane's Fighting Cryptobiotic Entities entry for it, but I'm curious about a few things- I don't expect you to answer this, but just so you know the minutiae you inspire in the fans....

    I see that they had hollow boned legs that couldn't support weight without titanium splints, but how many? 2? 4?

    I am having trouble visualizing the lumbar ruffs of tentacles, I am guessing these hang from the bottom? Can't imagine what good they would do on the top of the wyrm's back.

    Also, you mention that it takes mana to get these 10 ton flights going- on their original homeworld, were the wyrms capable of flight on their own? With their diet of rocks and minerals, I expect they didn't need to move much except to escape predation, which you mention in the basilisk-sauropods. But was the flourinated wax-chromophores something the Alfar induced?

    Can't wait for next month!


    Here in California, anyone—well, at least any Californian—can be authorized to perform a single marriage ceremony. You go to the county clerk's office, pay less than $100, swear to adhere to the constitution of California, and name the date and place, and a bit later you get the official approval in the mail. C and I were married by a very old friend, in a ceremony cut down from the Book of Common Prayer—mainly by taking out the God stuff. (Our friend, who is quite devout, told us that she would be happy to perform a civil ceremony, but could not have performed a religious one, because religious marriage is a sacrament and she is not a priest.) There don't seem to be restrictions on where the ceremony can take place; we borrowed the back yard of two other friends.

    As far as I know, if we had wanted a ceremony in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Great Cthulhu, or the Valar, rather than our purely secular one, the state of California would not have posed obstacles.


    Come on now, in the States it's really not a problem to perform marriages. Not a priestess / minister / time lord? No problem! We've got that covered, ordination while you wait. Are you a Jedi Knight? 100% fully legitimate American religion recognizes you!

    They'll even send you a Doctor of Divinity degree for a low, low price!

    It's not just California.


    ...find out what the Manties are going to do about the problem.

    I don't know what "Manties" are. I disrecommend looking it up unless you have eyebleach on hand, which I didn't.


    Errm - interesting. Who'da thought Manties = Man-panties?

    Rather than Manticorans - the good guys in David Weber's Honor Harrington books.


    Not convinced LMB is finished with the Vorkosi-verse - Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen was delightful (Hugo worthy imo), although I suppose you could see it as a Coda with Cordelia Stories book-ending the beginning and ends.

    I also hope she keeps the Penric (Chalion universe) novella's coming as they are rather good.

    It's not just California.

    At least it's only the United States (who seem to be confusing themselves with the universe—again). Who cares about listing the wedding laws of different US-states, while at the same time there's not a word about the wedding laws of—you know—the other 95% of the planet? For a "universal" "church", that seems a tad parochial, methinks.

    Anyway, not pointing at anyone specifically, but now that we've got used to fake news, it's perhaps time to talk about fake religion—which incidentally would cover most US "christians" as well.


    Come on now, in the States it's really not a problem to perform marriages.

    That's because your legal system didn't evolve around a state church, established in a context of religious war (where the main rival church was seen as a hostile political entity intent on actual physical invasion through proxies — the French and Spanish monarchies). They were still hanging catholic priests as late as the early 18th century.

    IIRC until the 1830s you could only legally marry in a Church of England Church. Dissenters, Jews, and others may have had marriage ceremonies but they weren't necessarily recognized as married by the state.

    Times have changed a lot, but legal codes take a while longer to catch up. The US Constitutional ban on state recognition of an established religion was largely a backlash against the way the English system worked, and against the New England settlers (who were so fanatical they couldn't stand living among lesser, milquetoast religious fanatics — think the Christian equivalent of ISIS, back in the day). And a bloody good idea it was too, if you ask me.


    I'm well aware of the history. Making a semantic big deal about "popular vote" versus actual Parliamentary representation isn't doing you any favors; it just points how dysfunctional / backwards your society is.

    Netherlands: The marriage bill passed the House of Representatives by 109 votes to 33 on 12 September 2000.

    And... Ireland =/= Northern Ireland, which is what was being discussed.

    Belfast high court in Northern Ireland rules Laura Lacole and Eunan O’Kane can have ceremony that reflects their beliefs

    You understand that the Irish vote... was in a different (under Legal terms, not interested in arguments over Nationality) country, right?


    Anyhow, your answer: During the 2015 Irish Marriage referendum he became the first openly gay Irish government minister.

    It's a figure-head move, like Macron. Cements the National psych and all that.

    If you want the actual power-plays and deals done to make it happen, that costs more.


    And yes, I am directly, out-in-the-open, stating that his sexuality is being weaponized as a populist front for more right-wing economic policies and toeing the international line on Capitalism and all that, no doubt he's been briefed and will happily back PFI / TTP etc deals when put before him.

    Heck, he might actually believe in the ideology if you're lucky.

    It's kinda what Politics and the 4th Estate is, always has been.


    1 min.

    Yep, fully signed on to the cause.

    Mr Varadkar has been slammed in recent days after it was announced just last week that a much needed €12 million of the €35 million allocated to the mental health care budget 2016 was redistributed to other areas of the health service.

    In his brief but damming statement Mr Varadkar told the Dail that although the cuts were not supposed to happen but they are necessary as the funding could be better used elsewhere. The Health Minister also claimed that the mental health sector is facing many difficulties that are not directly related to funding.

    Varadkar: ” Mental health funding cuts were not supposed to happen but they are necessary as the funding could be better used elsewhere” The Liberal (Irish source), April 2016

    Anyhow, he's also got some fairly high-quality guardians so I'm not going to poke too hard.

    Evidence: Holiday Picture from this news article: Comment: Why Leo Varadkar having a boyfriend does matter The Independent (Irish), Feb 2017

    Indexing has been stripped from it, doesn't even register when traced to the newspaper. (And yes, picture chosen for a reason; I'll let you work out the symbolism and all that jazz).


    Which would be the point I made in the comment you first disagreed with, yes.

    Side note: may be an Irish source, but more importantly it's a bad one. When they can't steal a story, they make one up.


    Um, I guess you missed this:

    Varadkar confirms funds for mental health are being diverted The Independent (Irish), April 21 2016 (6 days prior to the And yes, the Liberal's version is just a copy/paste. It's supposed to be humor.

    You asked "WTF is up with that" - read what I wrote about guardians. There's some serious fuzz there. And then ignored the picture symbolism. walks away


    His sexuality is totally irrelevant apart from it's a fairly well engineered piece of work. Took at least four years at a guess, might be longer, but I'd have to check his history and when the partner turned up. 18 months in 2017, looks about right. Hint: it's the partner who is interesting, not the PM.

    Changing conservative views IMT (Irish Medical Times), April 2010 - there's a lead.

    Anyhow, not-my-business and not-my-patch so make your own conclusions.


    Just a few of the New England colonies and they would have been subsumed into the American mainstream long before 1776.


    I am directly, out-in-the-open, stating that his sexuality is being weaponized as a populist front for more right-wing economic policies and toeing the international line on Capitalism and all that

    Yup. Being out as Lesbian/Gay is sufficiently mainstreamed now that there are plenty of conservative or neoliberal or corporate — after the 2015 election there were 27 out LGBT MPs including 12 conservatives. It's respectable throughout much of the developed world (the US Bible Belt and Russia excepted). There are plenty of business magnates too — Tim Cook springs to mind, CEO of the second-highest-market-cap corporation in history.

    Being trans and "respectable" in public is rarer, but there are noted areas of reduced discrimination (in tech and entertainment), at least for those trans* people who are rich, charismatic, and conform to traditional gender roles. (And there has been at least one transgender disabled lesbian MP in the UK.)

    Anyway. The Market co-opts any form of dissent that can plausibly be co-opted, and gender nonconformity is just fiiiiiine with most of the establishment as long as it doesn't threaten to upturn any tables in the temple.


    So gay politicians are not necessarily having better policies than straight politicians. Who would have thought...


    I could also have added these two, but that probably wouldn't be fair.


    The Salem trials were only 80 years earlier, and it takes generations for fundamentalism to fade. OGH is probably a bit unfair on them, but they were almost certainly as bigoted as the most extreme Bible Belters today.


    What's interesting is the sequence.

    An Coinbhinsiún ar an mBunreacht is announced, filled with various Irish politicians and others. Referendum is announced with only two of their topics - with one obviously set up to fail (Thirty-fifth Amendment of the Constitution) but is a bit of a tell. (Spoiler: follow the link for the punchline, it's not subtle).

    Once everyone is happy and now loves referendums since you know the split is going to have most people with at least a 1:1 draw (go spot the magic 27% number) and feeling patriotic and lovely, you put your guy in. Nicely conservative, not afraid of standing up to the marginalized etc.

    Which then all unfolds to plan, partner is significantly more liberal with a history of social change activism but also rooted in a nicely respectable / conservative field (medicine), everyone is happy, Order continues, International Press get to write the correct stories, underlying economic policies / EU is all kept (and certainly no referendum on it).

    After all, Ireland has a bit of a history with EU referendums, can't have that happen again.

    It's a classic bit of needlework of the older variety. She probably has a White outfit rather than a black one.


    I've no idea if this is insightful or actually patronizingly obvious.


    re. unending series: It's worth noting that most of us live 70-some years (nowadays much longer, but I've lost several friends way too young, so let's go with 70 as an average). If we're lucky -- as I've been thus far -- we don't get bored with it. It always surprises me when readers think that writing about more than some arbitrary but short portion of that lifespan is boring somehow. I completely get why authors might believe this; it can get tedious if you don't stretch and change and grow every so often. But that's very different from the reader perspective. For me, long series in which the main characters continue growing are comfort food for the literary soul. Sometimes I really do want something new and different; sometimes I just want a good wallow with old (fictional) friends.

    fwiw, I'm not even remotely bored with the Laundryverse yet. Though, pace Charlie, I want to see much more Bob. Perhaps you could write in a few side stories that lie off the main sequence?

    paws4thot noted: "You missed the 50 page "death by Powerpoint" presentations by the bad guys"

    That's too good a straight line to pass up:

    And in case you somehow managed to miss it, the real Powerpoint presentation by the bad guys:

    Charlie Stross