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Crib Sheet: The Delirium Brief

Shockingly, it has been drawn to my attention that The Labyrinth Index is nearly in print and yet I have failed to issue my usual crib sheet for The Delirium Brief. This cannot be! So without further ado ...

The eighth book in The Laundry Files (a title pinned on the series by marketing fiat at Random Penguin—sorry, Penguin Random House, Inc., who decreed that all series of more than three novels had to have a series title, and by an editor who wanted to leverage the brand name recognition of another urban fantasy author she edited, Jim Butcher) was written in early 2016 with a very specific goal: to deal with the aftermath of The Nightmare Stacks, which in turn had decisively broken the doldrums that nearly becalmed the "big picture" series story arc between books 3 and 6. That story arc is, loosely speaking, the story of the Lovecraftian singularity: in which vast, transhuman, and unsympathetic intelligences disrupt humanity's tenuous position of terrestrial dominance (but note they're not artificial intelligences but godlike alien ones—yes, it's also an alien invasion narrative, if you squint at it hard enough.)

The Nightmare Stacks ended in a version of April 2015 that had decisively split from the one we're all familiar with, as an Elven combined-arms battle group crashed through the English county of West Yorkshire and came to rest in the wreckage of a major city, with a death toll in the tens of thousands. That was a very explicit smackdown for the classic urban fantasy trope whereby the things that go bump in the night—vampires, zombies, elves—always seem to know their place, and that place is well away from the rolling global 24 hours cycle. It's a trope I've had increasing difficulty taking seriously over the years: it strikes me as lazy world-building. (Similarly, the emergence of a world like our own where magic nevertheless exists also demands explanation: there is such an explanation for The Laundry Files—history is mutable and has, in fact, been tampered with extensively—but it's largely implied, although future stories may deal with this aspect of the setting which is, if anything, one of the most horrific aspects of the series.)

Anyway, by the end of The Nightmare Stacks, it was glaringly obvious that the djinn could not be recaptured and put back in the bottle: contained incidents, even mass casualty incidents, could be suppressed if they took place in a single building (as in The Annihilation Score), but not when airliners are shot down, cities are explosively remodelled, and the All-Highest of the Host of Air and Darkness appeals for political asylum in from of the news cameras.

So, with The Delirium Brief, I set out to ask, what happens next?

Only life comes at you fast, and I was writing the first draft in spring of 2016, to a background of rolling news coverage of the Brexit referendum campaign ...

The first draft opened much as the final published version opens, with a hapless Bob Howard—now seemingly consigned to middle management, because he's pushing forty and now moderately senior—wearing a suit in front of the TV cameras as a thinly-disguised rendition of Jeremy Paxman grills him lightly on Newsnight. (Note for non-British readers; until Tony Blair jerked the BBC's choke-chain circa 2003-07 over funding and brought it to heel for its not-entirely-positive coverage of the Iraq invasion, Newsnight monstered cabinet ministers in a manner most other journalistic cultures can barely conceive of, totally lacking in deference to power and willing to badger politicians relentlessly with uncomfortable questions and to crucify them if they refused to answer. Today's BBC is a sad parody of this era, which is what Bob was subjected to a mild version of ...)

But the narrative continued in like vein for somewhat longer, following a plot that was somehow less vibrant and effective than the final version: one in which the Laundry, now exposed to the full glare of public scrutiny, is set up for privatization along the usual lines pioneered by successive British governments in the 21st century (and described in detail in the current draft). Subjected to successive private sector managers, budget cut, morale leaking out, increasingly outsourced to the usual contractors (the companies from which those private sector managers are borrowed and to which they return, fully informed of the agency's business so they can tender for the contracts to provide those services). It was a very 2015 novel. Against this backdrop, an increasingly put-upon Bob and Mo underwent a gradual raprochement, bonding over a pile of broken relationship counsellors (you can find the off-cuts from this sequence on Archive of Our Own, as their case files). And, finally, the bad guys were defeated, sort-of. It was all a bit limp, but I wasn't sure how to make it work any better, so I threw it at my editors to figure it out and left it alone for a while. That was in May.

In June, I was in London when the results of the Brexit referendum came in and all hell broke loose. In the space of a week both major UK political parties experienced leadership challenges, it became evident that two constitutional crises had broken out, there was a run on the pound, and I got a ringside seat at the sort of clusterfuck that ensues in British politics when a truly major crisis erupts—not as destructive as the one in The Nightmare Stacks, but similarly all-engulfing. And it became glaringly clear that in the initial version of The Delirium Brief I hadn't gone nearly far enough.

With Brexit to provide contrast, it became obvious in hindsight that the events of The Nightmare Stacks would result in a witch-hunt and an institutional bloodbath. Forget public enquiries: entire agencies would be axed, employees might well face criminal charges, and—oh look, waiting in the background since book four, the Prime Minister's friendly relations with the wrong cultist might well come back to bite the Laundry. The Laundry had always relied on secrecy (being a spin-off of the wartime SOE) and used rigid obedience to keep things quiet. Rather than controlling physical assets and documents, which multiply inordinately and can be leaked, they used the capability to compel obedience in their employees by means of a geas, thereby reducing the number of points of control. Which worked as long as only their employees and a limited number of contacts were in the know. Once their activities came into public view the game was up, and the organization was unable to effectively defend itself against institutional predators—political lobbyists, private sector contractors, frightened cabinet ministers, and actual hostiles like the Reverend Raymond Schiller (now making a very unwelcome re-appearance after his earlier defeat in The Apocalypse Codex).

The point at which the published version of The Delirium Brief departs from the pre-Brexit draft is the moment when Bob is arrested—and, subsequently, the entire agency is shut down and goes on the run, with Continuity Operations in effect. None of that featured in the first draft (nor the tank-v-Mercedes chase on Salisbury Plain). It gave the post-Brexit draft a degree of tension and jeopardy that the earlier draft lacked, and a lot of added foreboding and darkness: the re-appearance of The Mandate, the rehabilitation of Iris Carpenter, and the ghastly hospitality suite at Nether Stowe House all emerged fluidly from the new sense of impending catastrophe.

Because, yes, this is the Brexit Laundry novel; not in the simplistic voted-to-depart-from-the-EU sense, but in the context of how the UK deals (or fails to deal) with what Iain Banks called an Outside Context Problem, "the sort of problem most societies encounter the way a sentence encounters a full stop."

Things of note:

Continuity Operations is modelled, very loosely, on the remain-behind plans European governments (presumably including that of the UK) drew up for continuing resistance in the aftermath of a successful Soviet invasion—Operation Gladio. Second world war resistance movements were largely ad-hoc and set up under occupation: post-1945 plans were drawn up in advance and relied on stay-behind teams of motivated and trained security service personnel who would conduct operations against the occupier. These were historically co-opted by far-right-wing groups and in some cases destabilized their host country: the history of the Propaganda Due Masonic Lodge in Italy is one notorious example, which led to an escalating conflict between right and left wing terrorist groups during the 1970s. The Laundry doesn't have P2 levels of behind-the-scenes influence, but there are parallels—notably their willingness to release notorious criminals in order to deploy them against the admittedly hostile regime, and their belief that they know what's best for the nation.

The Constitutional Reform And Governance Act referenced in early chapters is entirely genuine and caused considerable head-scratching in the more secretive corners of HM Government when it was brought in. It was arguably necessary insofar as it regularized certain legal oddities: for example, when it is legal for a soldier, spy, or police officer to be ordered to use lethal force, and when is it murder? Under what circumstances can the machinery of law enforcement commit acts that break the law? Bringing the Laundry into compliance with CRAG is an obvious requirement for the government, once they realize the Laundry exists ... but it brings a whole basket of new problems with it, for the Laundry deals with classes of entity which are not entirely human or have their existence recognized in law, and while the courts tend to take a pragmatic approach to hitherto unrecognized situations and types of person, there are limits to what can be expected of them without legislative guidance. (How does the law deal with gods, for example—beings who can bend or break the constraints of reality?)

The Mandate, Fabian Everyman, is the tip of an occult iceberg: he's increasing in power exponentially and is already extremely dangerous. We'll see more of him in The Labyrinth Index and subsequent novels, as the avatar of N'yar Lat-Hotep, the Black Pharaoh. There is explicit overlap in the Laundryverse between the elder things ranted about by H. P. Lovecraft (the series' equivalent of the author of the Anarchists' Cookbook—he's a very unreliable guide to the occult) and some of the nastier human pantheons, including the ancient Egyptian and Aztec ones—any religion with an obsession with human sacrifice and skull-reaping was probably echoing the preoccupations of the elder gods, after all.

Originally the Laundry Files seemed to be about Bob Howard, geek and agent. However, as with all series that don't hit an implied reset button at the start of each episode, Bob gains experience and power as the series progresses. By The Delirium Brief it is becoming quite clear that Bob is the Eater of Souls, having inherited all of Angleton's power. He's not a human being, any more than Angleton was: but while Angelton was a monstrous being that dreamed itself to be an English public school teacher, Bob is a monstrous thing that dreams himself to be a lovable sandal-wearing hacker-geek nerd (with the ability to slay everyone within a half mile radius if he loses his temper). His wife Mo's concerns for her personal safety are entirely justified, even though she is herself an extremely powerful sorceress, right up until the end: the question of what precisely she is, after this novel, is as yet unanswerable, but she may or may not be more human than Bob at this point.

We will see more of Bob and Mo in future Laundry novels, but not in The Labyrinth Index, which is Mhari's story. (Neither Bob nor Mo quite understand Mhari, which is probably a good thing for all three of them.) Similarly, we may see more of Alex and Cassie and the others in future books---but not all at once. But Bob in particular has "leveled up" so far that he's quite hard to use as a sympathetic viewpoint character in a work of fiction: we're already three books past the point where he could wander through a nest of vampires and come out the other side with his dignity mostly intact. So this is no longer the Bob series; it's more like Discworld, which fissioned into about five disparate series with a shared setting and different viewpoint characters who grow and change over time.

I'm pretty sure that Spooky the Cat is just a cat, though. (Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.) And that burst condom? Again, sometimes shit happens (and Mo, in any case, is around 40 years old, an age when human fertility drops off a cliff-edge).

Any questions? Ask below! But bear in mind that the immediate aftermath of The Delirium Brief is explored in The Labyrinth Index, coming out on October 30th.

289 Comments

1:

I'd like to ask if anybody else shared my reaction to the idiocy of shutting down the old organisation while its replacement was only in the planning stage: "None of the people in charge ever watched Ghostbusters?"

2:

Yes there are a few things that for plot reasons where ignored.

Main one is the dread eldritch tome also known as "Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006" as amended by the "Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations 2014". (1D6 san Loss).


The laundry's lawyers could spin that out way beyond schillers runway faster than you can say judicial review.


The other one was why would not the Service and SIS want a piece of the action - I could see the civil service unions doing a deal - maybe at the races at chetenham :-)

3:

Bo Lindbergh @ 1: I'd like to ask if anybody else shared my reaction to the idiocy of shutting down the old organisation while its replacement was only in the planning stage: "None of the people in charge ever watched Ghostbusters?"

Too the extent that chaos ensued, I'm not sure that was an unintended consequence, at least from Schiller's faction.

The politicians likely didn't even consider consequences other than how how it was going to affect their future prospects for graft.

How this affects Bob & Mo is less confusing to me (because it seems both are committed to making it work somehow) than what will be the relationship between Bob & Iris. Both have plenty of reason to hold a grudge against the other even though I do feel Bob's are the more valid.

4:

Real life examples of such political sabotage would be derailing at this point - but I expect most of us can think of them.

5:

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday and getting you to sign my very own copy of The Labyrinth Index.

How many books is it polite to ask you to sign?

6:

Just looked at your Twitter. Happy Birthday!

7:

Perhaps I didn't read the previous books in the series as carefully as I should have, but I thought N'yar Lat-Hotep was the Sleeper that Reverend Schiller was trying to free from that giant pyramid in the parallel universe So it was quite a surprise to find him a prisoner of the Laundry — that's assuming that Fabian Everyman *is* the Black Pharaoh (and since Iris refers to him as her lord, I can't interpret this any other way).

Anyway, I've reread the relevant passages several times, so I believe he is. It all seems rather deus ex machina to suddenly introduce N'yar Lat-Hotep into the game without giving us any foreshadowing that he's cooling his heals in the Tower of London, playing Go and watching cable TV. Be that is it may, I'm not sure if there were hints that you may have dropped in earlier books of him residing in the Tower. But questions remain (at least for this reader), what's the backstory of him being imprisoned, and why wasn't he banished from our universe (after all if you have the power to imprison him, it seems perfectly reasonable that you can banish him if you can't destroy him)? My apologies if I'm being overly fussy as a reader, but I'm hoping that this will be cleared up in your upcoming TLI.

8:

Question for our dear host, and the room:

"Mo's concerns for her personal safety are entirely justified, even though she is herself an extremely powerful sorceress, right up until the end: the question of what precisely she is, after this novel, is as yet unanswerable, but she may or may not be more human than Bob at this point."

Where do we see Mo be an "extremely powerful sorceress"? She's very good at understanding magical-type mathematics, but does she actually practice "sorcery" with it? When? The invisibility? The ability to control Lecter? Anything else? I recently re-read Brief in preparation for Index. I haven't read the other books in a while, so I am no doubt forgetting lots of things.

9:

How many books is it polite to ask you to sign?

Standard answer: three at a time, then go to the back of the queue. (If there's no queue, this rule doesn't apply.)

10:

what's the backstory of him being imprisoned

You missed his introduction in "The Annihilation Score", right?

11:

“I'm pretty sure that Spooky the Cat is just a cat...”

Right.

Just a cat...

As in “just a strongly god-like AI” or “just a multi-megaton thermonuclear device”, or “just a functioning FTL drive”...

12:

OK, I'll agree that Mo is a powerful sorceress, but more powerful than Persephone Hazard?

13:

Too the extent that chaos ensued, I'm not sure that was an unintended consequence, at least from Schiller's faction.

The politicians likely didn't even consider consequences other than how how it was going to affect their future prospects for graft.

My reading was even more fundamental than that. During the GWB era there was a theory floating around that "small government" need only concern itself with things that could cause disaster within the next 90 days, and let the lobbyists, special interests and invisible hand of the market guide the longer term. That, unfortunately, has stuck (hence the ridiculous lack of procedural rigour prior to the signing of Article 50, for example) and indeed worsened (in Trump world the horizon is now more like 6 days, and it's only a potential disaster if it doesn't affect predominantly brown people).

To MPs blooded in this short-future approach, already dealing with the weirdnesses of superheroes and the Albert Hall incident, being suddenly told that there's a whole secret organisation whose job it is to deal with these things leads to 2 conclusions:
1. They can't be that good if they're not preventing these disasters (the larger disaster of CNG/CNR being beyond their cognitive horizon), and
2. They can't be that important if I'm just hearing about them now.

Therefore ditching the Laundry and assuming the private sector can take it on, especially if Schiller's lobbyists are loudly and repeatedly telling them they can, is just SOP. Except unlike your average privatisation move, in this case it has the effect of handing a vital pubic resource to an organisation that has every interest in burning it to the ground and stamping on the ashes.

Sorry, that was a typo. Should have read "Except like your average privatisation move..."

14:

The sleeper in the pyramid is not Nyarlathotep, it's something else. Nyarlathotep is the black pharaoh (this name pops up several times in Lovecraftian works) and is what Iris and her sex cult were trying to summon in The Fuller Memorandum. At the time it seems like their ritual was unsuccessful as Bob performed a spell/calculation in his head that resulted in his own soul being ejected from his body and then immediately brought back in by the summoning ritual (alternatively a part of Angleton was brought in, Bob's soul has long been digested and the entity walking around as Bob was just a role playing Angleton shard).

In the Annihilation Score when the transhumanist task force is interviewing for candidates one walks through the door with a natural class [dialled to 11] glamour. Everyone falls weak at the knees in the face of his magical charisma. He calls himself the Mandate and charmingly insists that he's not just there to interview for a job but take over the whole organisation. Mo's ward is almost entirely overpowered but through force of willpower she breaks the geas and the Mandate is overpowered.

These seem like two very separate events but as we find out in Delirium Brief they are not. Turns out that Iris's ritual partially succeed; it summoned the Black Pharaoh but as Bob's body was occupied by a shard of the Eater of Souls it couldn't get in. But either at that time or later it landed in the body of a random man in London; Fabian.

So Fabian is the result of the botched-but-not-completely summoning ritual but he isn't fully Nyarlathotep. He's an avatar that's been growing in power since he was possessed, presumably as fast as his mortal body can cope with. IMO this explains his stupid front-door attack in Annihilation Score as well as the Trump level of mental impairment we saw in the chapter teaser OGH recently posted.

15:

"I'd like to ask if anybody else shared my reaction to the idiocy of shutting down the old organisation while its replacement was only in the planning stage"
Insofar as it seems like a utterly stupid and backwards thing for a government to do, it seemed very true to life to me.
For a real example from the last week, the company (Motorola) that currently runs the UK's emergency services network (called Airwave), is also responsible for it's much-delayed replacement. Thus, whilst being paid bonus fees to keep Airwave running past it's planned shutdown date they're also being paid to create it's replacement. Giving them approximately no incentives to hurry up, or do a good job.

16:

This is a bit of an aside to this thread, but the line 'Neither Bob nor Mo quite understand Mhari, which is probably a good thing for all three of them.' reminds me that that triumvirate of relationships is one of my favourite aspects of The Laundry Files and, in my humble opinion, a quiet triumph. (It is very like , in that aspect, Lois McMaster Bujold's portrayal of Ekaterin's marriage in Komarr -- which is such a brilliant pen portrait of a toxic relationship, but done so deftly that it's easy to miss how precisely she draws it).

17:

the Trump level of mental impairment we saw in the chapter teaser

Minor nit here.

Some of Trump's defenders last year were asserting that he looks bonkers and arbitrary because he's playing eleven-dimensional chess in his head; his detractors reply that he's putting the chess pieces in his mouth and chewing them instead.

The Mandate may look as if he's chewing the chess pieces, but as we discover later in the book he is in fact playing eleven-dimensional chess; it's just that he's multi-tasking so fast that he looks like a magic 8-ball to mere human onlookers, and his event horizon is way further out than our own.

18:

"Vital pubic resource" is an actual, real typo. Whoops.

19:

The most recent occurrence of dismantling an organisation without engaging brains on its replacement is the Invasion of Iraq. Admittedly it was a time of "war" but similar principles apply.

20:

It seems that a lot of new/changed characters have been successfully introduced, and that's a good thing-- there's a real risk of killing off too many of the original crew. I'm not too happy with the Senior Auditor fading into the background, though. He's looking rather fragile, and he has a difficult job.

21:

Charlie: "But Bob in particular has "leveled up" so far that he's quite hard to use as a sympathetic viewpoint character in a work of fiction."

Based on the last things we've seen of Bob, I'd disagree -- from my personal reader's perspective, which is not the same thing as your perspective as someone with specific literary and esthetic goals for the series. fwiw, I like Bob a lot as a person, regardless of his power, and I particularly like the way that his relationship with Mo grounds him and reinforces his mortal roots. I find the results deeply compelling. The best "superhero" comics retain the hero's core humanity no matter how powerful the hero becomes; the power, per se, is not the interesting part. Thus far, I think you've achieved that admirably with Bob and Mo.

It's clear that there's a spectrum of bad guys out there, ranging right up to the Big C itself and all his (canonically more powerful) cadre of Lovecraftian nasties. Bob isn't yet in their league, and probably will never be. As Jim Butcher has done (imho successfully) in the Dresden Files, it's always possible to invoke plausibly more powerful opponents with each new book, among other things because the really powerful bad guys tend not to notice you (they've got bigger fish to fry) until you become sufficiently powerful to threaten them. At Bob's power level, powerful things can plausibly start popping out of the shadows -- assuming that doing so meets your goals for the characters and the series. Left unanswered is the key question of whether Bob can maintain his humanity in the face of his growing power, or whether (à la Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen) he chooses to or is forced to leave it behind.

In summary: Lots of room for Bob to grow as a character, imho.

22:

I'd agree your base point that it's about the writing, not the "raw power". Worked example:-

Superman and Samaritan in Kurt Buseik's Astro City series have very similar raw power (disaster relief etc), but in stories I can remember Samaritan has:-
1) stopped to rescue a cat from a tree and let the girl cat owner actually see him, as a result of which he nearly failed to prevent an airliner crashing and he blamed himself for that.
2) gone on a date using his aka so as to not get special treatment, or harassed for autographs.
3) had to seek treatment for a sleep disorder.

The overall result of this is that Samaritan is a much more interesting character (and IMO OGH is a better writer than Kurt is too).

23:

The Laundry doesn't have P2 levels of behind-the-scenes influence, but there are parallels—notably their willingness to release notorious criminals in order to deploy them against the admittedly hostile regime, and their belief that they know what's best for the nation.
That brings up some interesting parallels, indeed. There was a GITS:SAC 1st season, where the specially established novel security bureau has encountered a deep-laid government/corporative conspiracy and in result was marked as rouge terrorist group. The repercussions were more severe and actionized than mere dissolution - their HQ was stormed and blown up to shreds (that was a first layer of ruse, which was uncovered pretty easy), their property seized, human assets violently arrested and the leaders (advanced cyborg shells, that is) liquidated by a group of local Navy Seals. THEN it was revealed that the entire operation was a plan to make this organization even more secretive to avoid a blowback from the scandal of tectonic proportions.

Bob is a monstrous thing that dreams himself to be a lovable sandal-wearing hacker-geek nerd
Eater Of Souls (Aura): Enchanted creature gains "Legendary creature: Horror" in addition (and powers appropriate)
Seeing him as Non-Player Character might be more to the point as we can't really assume what is happening within his new inhuman soul despite all of his humanlike appearances. Not unless we stretch some definitions.

24:

Charlie,

there's one things I've been wondering for a while.

In TFM, some people who really should know what they're talking about (Angleton, Panin) seem to be convinced that the Eater of Souls can be used to to awake the Sleeper in the Pyramid, and THAT in turn will pave the way to Nyarlatothep (I prefer the classical spelling); Iris' goal would thus be to bind the EOS to her service in order to dismantle the Wall of Pain and awake the Sleeper.

However, in TDB we discover that Nyarly and the Sleeper are actually enemies, or at the very least strong rivals, and Iris knows this well ("there's no love lost between my Master and the Sleeper"). This completely contradicts what was said in TFM.

I of course acknowledge that we don't (and possibly can't) actually know what those entities think and want, and even people well versed in the occult field like Angleton, Panin and Iris could be misguided; my headcanon is thus that Andleton and Panin were just wrong and Iris never actually wanted to awake the Sleeper. That, or events were just retconned away without explanation (and that would be Bad Writing).

What am I missing here?

25:

Ryan,

the cultists were not trying to summon the Black Pharaoh; they were trying to summon the Eater of Souls, which is a completely different (and much less powerful) entity; I don't think the Mandate has any relationship with their ritual... or does he?

26:

I figured Mo was scarier than Persephone Hazard because of her connection with the violin, Lecter.

27:

It’s been a few years since I’ve read TFM so you could be right. Weren’t they called the brotherhood of the black pharaoh? Maybe their summoning ritual helped that way. Or maybe nyarlathotep just came through on their own power as the walls between reality became thin enough for transhumans to manifest.

28:

Thank you. So I'm not the only one who thought that. ;-)

29:

Yes Ryan, they were indeed the BOTBP, and Iris is a follower of him. But it was said you couldn't just summon up good old Nyarly, you need to go trough several lower steps before an Outer God could answer your prayers.
Although, this too seems in contradiction with how easy would it have been for Bob to summon him with his clever rendering algorithm and "landscape Wolverhampton"; but it's a well known fact in the Laundryverse that ritual magic is horribly unoptimized and computers can do a lot better.
What the Sleeper has to do with all of this, though, is still open for debate...

30:

Yeah, I was going to chalk that up to authors' preference. However, there are ample precedents, from Superman to Pratchett's Death, of superpowered characters working admirably well in stories where they are, by far, the most powerful characters in the piece.

It's not worth overanalyzing this. Still, OGH has made a family with cats that he insists are in charge, and it's worth thinking about the real power imbalances there. The cats might be bossy, but who gets to take who to the local medics for involuntary sterilization?

31:

I think there are are 3 options here:

1. Charlie lost track of a good million words and accidentally did a retcon.
2. Bob is an unreliable narrator and he wanted us to think Narky, BP and the Sleeper are all connected (which is functionally equivalent to 1.)
3. Its a pyramid scheme of n-dimensional Eldritch horrors and just because the minions and their ant-like slaves and worshipers think they understand an entity doesn't mean they do. ie both the Mandate and the Sleeper could be competing bootstrap routines for the same ultimate horror thing.

It maybe just easier to give up and assume the Laundryverse is eldritch horrors all the way down.

32:

One point I dont believe anyone has raised yet is the purpose/function of Continuity Ops. (Am I the only one who mentally substitutes IRA for Ops?)

On the one hand it looks like a desperation play on the part of the SA when he realises Schiller&Co have the upper hand.

On the other the Laundry is a bureaucracy and whilst the Govt might not be good at handling Out of Context problems or planning for them this one is the laundry's job. Plus theres Alex the DM and the rest of the prediction dept.

Squinted at in the right light ConOps gets all the drones/deadwood out of the line of fire whilst preserving all the DSS's etc of Mahogany Row to fight another day.

33:

Like Massimo, I was originally under the impression (from TFM) that the Sleeper and Black Pharaoh were either the same entity or allied entities.

To unravel my Fabian/Mandate/Blackie confusion I just purchased the Kindle editions of TAS and TDB so I could use the search function to find the passages I had overlooked or forgotten. And, yes, I see now that it was mentioned twice in TAS that Fabian Everyman was the name of character who, posing as a superhero, took the alias of The Mandate. When Fabian was reintroduced in TDB, that went right over my head that he was the Mandate "superhero" from TAS, though. Of course with search function hindsight, I'm seeing it now (using keyword Mandate) that he is also labeled as The Mandate in TDB. I tend to polish off your novels in single 3- or 4-hour sitting. Sorry if I'm not connecting the dots like I should. ;-)

But was it ever revealed in TAS that Fabian/Mandate was the Black Pharaoh? When did the auditors become aware of his true identity? I'm not finding it, but I'll continue to punch in keywords.

34:

I can see an opportunity for a really horrific moment as the scales fall from “Bob’s” eyes as he both realizes the reason he is the Eater of Souls is directly related to the original algorithmic incantation he made accidentally before even knowing about magic. If it ties in with a moment where he gets to interrogate what is left of his actual soul “Bob 1.0” and that leads to him realizing he is truly not “Bob” anymore, it could be truly horrifying for him (and possibly any minds in a half mile radius).

Having our unreliable narrator realizing he’s been lying to himself all this time, and putting that at the worst possible moment of realization...lot of potential there.

35:

Heteromeles notes: "...there are ample precedents, from Superman to Pratchett's Death, of superpowered characters working admirably well in stories where they are, by far, the most powerful characters in the piece."

Definitely. Different strokes for different folks!

Heteromeles: "Still, OGH has made a family with cats that he insists are in charge, and it's worth thinking about the real power imbalances there. The cats might be bossy, but who gets to take who to the local medics for involuntary sterilization?"

I have my assumptions, but it would have been impolitic to ask OGH to confirm them. We've seen in Twitter the arcane and terror-full power he has over trains, and I want to be able to continue taking trains in the future...

36:

I am me because my memories of the past are about me, there is a continuity of existence as me. Bob may well be the Eater of Souls but he's still got continuity of memory as Bob, he thinks like Bob and believes he's Bob. Eater of Souls is something he does, Bob is who he is.

It's possible, like Last Tuesdaysim, I was someone else in the past and my memories were overwritten with the new me at some point but I think that's unlikely. Given the Laundry diaries Bob wrote before he was seconded to the Soul Eating division of the SOE he's not changed that much personally. Angleton was the result of a deliberate overwrite of an existing human being to embody a psychic entity, Bob was and is still Bob, assuming his memories are intact and the diaries haven't been messed with.

37:

I agree. Bob hasn't been eaten because soul eating is the destruction of information. He might be running as a subsystem of an interdimensional horror that happens to be connected to his meat head but he is still Bob.

38:

vital pubic resource

I thought that was a typo, but then realized you had references Schiller. Nice one, sir. :-)

39:

OGH has made a family with cats that he insists are in charge, and it's worth thinking about the real power imbalances there.

And then there's the family with Aineko, a single cat shaped AI interface that presumably likes posting Funny Human Videos to ai-youtube.

40:

C @ 8: Question for our dear host, and the room:

Where do we see Mo be an "extremely powerful sorceress"? She's very good at understanding magical-type mathematics, but does she actually practice "sorcery" with it? When? The invisibility? The ability to control Lecter? Anything else? I recently re-read Brief in preparation for Index. I haven't read the other books in a while, so I am no doubt forgetting lots of things.

There are certainly hints from her discussions with Dr. Armstrong in The Annihilation Score about what her future roll will be after "Lecter" is put back into storage or another carrier can be found.

41:

Ryan @ 14:

(alternatively a part of Angleton was brought in, Bob's soul has long been digested and the entity walking around as Bob was just a role playing Angleton shard).

So Fabian is the result of the botched-but-not-completely summoning ritual but he isn't fully Nyarlathotep. He's an avatar that's been growing in power since he was possessed, presumably as fast as his mortal body can cope with. IMO this explains his stupid front-door attack in Annihilation Score as well as the Trump level of mental impairment we saw in the chapter teaser OGH recently posted.

There are a couple of things I disagree with. I think Bob is still essentially there. He's living in symbiosis with the "Eater of Souls" perhaps in somewhat the same way Alex and the other PHANGS are living with their symbiotes.

Nor do I see Fabian Everyman as mentally impaired. It's a physical limitation of the human body. N'yar Lat-Hotep's mental processes are just running at a faster rate than human vocal processes can keep up with; his cognition is outrunning his articulation.

42:

gordycoale @ 19: The most recent occurrence of dismantling an organisation without engaging brains on its replacement is the Invasion of Iraq. Admittedly it was a time of "war" but similar principles apply.

It is perhaps the most egregious example in recent memory, but there have certainly been more recent incidents. That was, after all, fifteen years ago.

43:
I am me because my memories of the past are about me, there is a continuity of existence as me. Bob may well be the Eater of Souls but he's still got continuity of memory as Bob, he thinks like Bob and believes he's Bob. Eater of Souls is something he does, Bob is who he is.

This seems like a good time to remind people of Charlie's 2006 novel Glasshouse. About two-thirds of the way through the book, the first person narrator died. The first person narration continued without a hitch....

44:

beowulf888 @ 33: But was it ever revealed in TAS that Fabian/Mandate was the Black Pharaoh? When did the auditors become aware of his true identity? I'm not finding it, but I'll continue to punch in keywords.

I think that occurs off-stage in between The Annihilation Score and The Delirium Brief.

45:

One thing that I don't understand about the Laundry's organization is who is in charge of operations - in (US) business-speak: the Chief Operating Officer. The most senior person we've seen direct an operation (I think) is Dr. Armstrong, but his title is Senior Auditor. The Laundry has a board to set policy, but in a typical (US) organization, boards do not carry out operations, and I think that is supported by the book in the section where a board member talks with the PM.

Are auditors normally in the operations chain-of-command (my medical job has both operational and auditing tasks, for example), or have we seen that in the books only because we are reading about an emergency situation outside of standard operating procedure? If auditors are a separate group, why haven't we met or heard a reference to the COO or other senior operating executives?

46:

It's mentioned several times that the auditors have an unusual role in the Laundry. They clearly have the authority to command Mahogany Row and to audit/interrogate any member of staff.

I think OGH was just having fun in the early installments with alt meanings for "Human Resources" and other businessy words (maybe the Accounts dept was for bringing people to account, I don't recall, it was funny though :))

47:

There's a sleeper named Cthulhu tangled into this mess somehow. Inside or outside the pyramid???

48:

Speaking of "Fabian Everyman," I do wonder if channeling Nyarlathotep induces K syndrome at some point? Probably not, but I guess we'll find out.

49:

SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Channeling Nyarlathotep Causes K-Syndrome, Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and may Complicate Pregnancy.

Discontinue channeling Nyarlathotep if any of the following occurs:
* itching
* vertigo
* dizziness
* tingling in extremities
* loss of balance or coordination
* slurred speech
* temporary blindness
* profuse sweating
* or heart palpitations.

(with a tip of the hat to the Happy Fun Ball)

50:

I wouldn't think so. Bob's immune. The vampires are immune. Surely a god (incl. avatar) is immune. Other people (e.g., Persephone) don't seem to worry about it. I suspect there's more than one way (or even two, or three, or four ways) to bypass K-Syndrome. Since non-humans seem unaffected, I wonder if humans can find a workaround as well (aside from losing their humanity).

Anyway, institutional bloodbath, dissolution of the Laundry, Continuity Ops....what I want to know is, what ever happened to the old DSSs at St. Hilda's? Can't wait to see what they're up to.

51:
both the Mandate and the Sleeper could be competing bootstrap routines for the same ultimate horror thing.
Now you're getting into the spirit it of. :-) Imagine a world where such bootstrap routines sometimes end up with something other than an Elder Horror-Deity. Perhaps even something "good". Perhaps even something benevolent. And/or something roughly analogous to a factory-pattern for creating(/awakening/resurrecting) deities by bootstrapping them. Hypothetically. :-) Is it time to spin up a new deity?
52:

I still like to think of Bob as human, too. He's Bob! He's still in there, in my headcanon.

Regarding backups and your talk of Glasshouse, though, I absolutely agree that this may be a copy of the "Bob Howard soul" rather than the original. Still Bob. Maybe not exactly the original Bob. But still Bob. On that topic, I've never understood the appeal of "backups" in sci-fi. Often discussed in the stories themselves, I know, I know, but I think Iain Banks expressed it well: "Others . . . die happy feeling they continue to exist elsewhere." But the casual, "Kill me. I'm backed up"--yeesh! Never. Anyways.

53:
(Similarly, the emergence of a world like our own where magic nevertheless exists also demands explanation: there is such an explanation for The Laundry Files—history is mutable and has, in fact, been tampered with extensively—but it's largely implied, although future stories may deal with this aspect of the setting which is, if anything, one of the most horrific aspects of the series.)

I would read this. I would read the FUCK out of this. Indeed, I would love to read a book that is JUST this; it used to be de rigeur for any longrunning series of this nature to publish a setting sourcebook or history book of some kind. (David Eddings made a fair amount of money publishing what were essentially just his notes and his retrograde political views in a slim volume, for example.)

More seriously, it's hard to evaluate some of the top-level stuff that happens in the Laundry Files without having a baseline to work from, and it's been getting harder as time goes on.

Continuity Operations is modelled, very loosely, on the remain-behind plans European governments (presumably including that of the UK) drew up for continuing resistance in the aftermath of a successful Soviet invasion

Given they just got invaded and a hostile power is occupying Number 10, one hopes that Continuity Operations is operating in the same swift, forceful, effective way in which they dealt with the previous occupying force.

(How does the law deal with gods, for example—beings who can bend or break the constraints of reality?)

By definition, isn't this is impossible? If something can be done, it is in fact part of reality.

There are beings who can do amazing things in the Laundryverse, but from my perspective they are no more "breaking the constraints of reality" than an orbital launch vehicle "breaks" the laws of gravity.

Bob is a monstrous thing that dreams himself to be a lovable sandal-wearing hacker-geek nerd

Monstrosity is a matter of agency and action, not of nature or of power. Bob so far has not done anything particularly monstrous, at least by most rubrics (he is a willing member of the upper management of a deeply fascist organization, after all) ergo, he is not monstrous.

54:

Ah... a nice email from that large river...


We have good news! One of your pre-ordered items is now eligible for release date delivery and has been upgraded at no additional charge. Your new delivery estimate is:

Stross, Charles "The Labyrinth Index (Laundry Files)"
Estimated arrival date: October 30, 2018

55:

what ever happened to the old DSSs at St. Hilda's? Can't wait to see what they're up to.

That's one of many dangling plot threads that I really need to revisit at some point — along with Derek the DM's origin story, what Bob got up to in Tokyo, and a bunch of other smaller details in the background.

Suffice to say, the DSSs have a role to play once they are discharged from St Hilda's.

56:

This seems like a good time to remind people of Charlie's 2006 novel Glasshouse. About two-thirds of the way through the book, the first person narrator died. The first person narration continued without a hitch....

You might also want to look at "A Colder War", also from OGH, ( http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/stories/colderwar.htm ) which is a different take on this...

57:

You mean, they're not the server this madness is running on? Or, conversely, the Laundryverse equivalent of Tom Bombadil?

58:

I'm really interested in what Continuity Ops and Mandate think of each other.

Laundry apparently decided it needed Mandate to kill Schiller and maybe they also decided they couldn't take over the country themselves.

But now that Mandate is in power does Continuity Ops have any way of keeping Mandate to its side of the deal?

Does the Laundry as was really believe that putting an alien god in charge is the best long-term plan for the country?

59:

Colin
I thought it was made fairly clear that "the Laundry" or at least Dr Armstrong et al belived, very reluctantly, that putting that particular alien god in charge was the ... least worst option of those available - none of which were actually "good".

60:

It feels to me that the old Laundry worked like a university department. The tenured faculty have nominal power and actual, fiat authority via infrequent committee meetings, but the day-to-day control is exerted by the departmental secretary and his/her staff.

This fits with the Laundry having evolved from the Invisible College.

61:

I did wonder, when I read the bit about the failed rubber. Surely Bob would have had the snip by now?

62:

As of this blog entry it seems to be canon that the Bob-the-narrator is EoS-- rather than Bob++. At some point his dream will end and there will be an awesome reveal of the underlying Preta.

I've been assuming that the end of the last book would have Mo expending Bob as a munition to win the last battle. (Possibly preceded by them finally mending their relationship, and followed by half a chapter of embittered weeping from a woman who has given up absolutely everything to her cause.) Forcing the EoS to wake up and lose the Bob-is-a-human delusion would be the mechanism.

It would be a lot more interesting if instead OGH could continue "Bob's" viewpoint through the transition and let him be the final narrator, so that we actually get a look inside the mind of the Preta. There's a dry run of that in TDB, but it's framed as "dream-Bob is scared of his reality", so not the full transition. I don't know if it is feasible to write from the point of view of a Preta with introspection, but it were it done it would be a great accomplishment.

63:

So I'm convinced that Dr Armstrong et al feel like Mandate is the best way out of the immediate crisis, but not convinced that the Laundry has just given up all initiative to Mandate.

I think the Laundry would be (if possible) aiming to create or maintain some kind of influence over Mandate and would probably like to have a removal option if Mandate does start mass sacrifice of British or foreign nationals, for example.

64:

I'm sure the laundry like to think that all those things are true. I suspect that they are in for a rude awakening.

65:

I suppose I did want to double check we weren’t supposed to connect the Mandate, Iris, wossname-hotep and the “black pharaoh is not the sleeper” any earlier than the point where all these line up in TDB. I went back and re-read TFM and TAS just in case, and I’m still not sure it isn’t just me (being slow on the uptake).

I guess there will be more to come on the constitutional situation regarding the geas of the organisation and a connection between that and the right of certain hereditary figures to initiate a nuclear strike.

66:

I’m assuming that the Auditors’ power is that they hold the keys to all of the geassa of the ‘ordinary’ members of the Laundry. Some, but not all, are also sorcerers but not quite Mahogany Row powerful.

With evidence of one (Persephone), I suspect that most of the Mahogany Row have never been part of the Laundry and the one of the purposes of the Laundry is to ensure that no one becomes that powerful. Until, of course, they do at which time Mahogany Row takes it out of the Laundry’s hands and invites their new peer into the club (or tries to make them go permanently away).

There are infrequently a few of the Laundry, including the Auditors, that make it to that rarified level. I guess that two of the qualifications are that a) they can remove or completely bypass their geas of office, and b) they can afford to live without a Civil Service salary.

And b may be more difficult than a.

67:

Charlie @ 55

I've always liked the fact that you've kept the powder dry in regards to St. Hilda's. It showed up relatively early in the series, revealed little, and left a lot of questions - perhaps starting life as a MacGuffin? Whatever it is now represents a tremendous self-sacrifice on the part of a group of sorcerers: to be effectively cut off from society, technology, and immediate utility to the Laundry, for so many decades. Whatever inspired such motivation can't be anything less than a game-changer if deployed.

On the other hand, it could be a technology that's less than effective under current circumstances. I'm expecting something completely surprising in any case! If for no other reason that they wanted to be re-institutionalised when the Laundry was being legally dismantled.

68:

There was a bit in TDB about the gears I didn't get, from memory it was implied that the geas had transferred (by the SA) to the Mandate before he actually became prime minister. But it was also implied that ultimately it traced all the up to Lizzie herself, which is what the Elves assumed, they were just unlucky to end up in Leeds not London.

So am I right in thinking the Auditors have a lot of control over the geas? And if so greases the geas Controllers?

69:

Bob is a monstrous thing that dreams himself to be a lovable sandal-wearing hacker-geek nerd

To be fair, that could be said about a lot of middle-aged men...

with the ability to slay everyone within a half mile radius if he loses his temper

Ok, that not so much...

Anyway, it's a pity Bob's been retired as a POV character. I liked the bloke and whilst always a little unreliable as a narrator at least it was self-deception rather than bullshitting.

70:

Imagine a world where such bootstrap routines sometimes end up with something other than an Elder Horror-Deity. Perhaps even something "good". Perhaps even something benevolent.

I don't have to imagine; I've already read Friendship is Optimal. What could be wrong with telling an AI to satisfy human values (through friendship and ponies)? Even the side effects are obvious in retrospect - such as universal immortality, paradise for everyone, and robots eating the Earth for computronium.

71:

What could be wrong with telling an AI to satisfy human values (through friendship and ponies)?
That was fun, and short, and a far better narrative than the boring paperclip maximizer tales.
I was particularly amused by the (allowed, even encouraged) attempts by one of the characters to investigate game physics through active probing.
Game physics in our reality(ies) is(are) far more strange.

Host's Antibodies.[0] is topical.[1]
I won't snippet any of it because the ending might not be obvious to everyone.
[0] baen.com has the text but it's not linked in the list of stories on this site.
[1] is a deity bound to a single timeline? The Mandate, for instance, as desribed by Charlie in #17? Or is the Mandate+ doing something else? (I have ... theories. :-)
Looking forward to staying up all night reading soon.

72:

Oh dear, Amazon now won't even let me download "kindle content" without giving them ownership of a computer. It's strictly no device, no service. And of course they still refuse to tell me whether what I'm renting is epub or some DRM-infested horror.

On balance I'm more likely to buy an actual kindle than hand over a computer that I already own to them. It's bad enough having Steam (although I am likely to dump that soon, I think. The one game I play that requires it is losing its appeal)

73:

The one game I play that requires it is losing its appeal

Not Civilization by any chance? That's the reason I have Steam (not that I play much these days).

74:

Not Civilization by any chance?

No. The last version of that I bought came in a box with a CD, but after I accepted the license agreement I discovered that I'd actually bought a Steam key. That was the first hex-tile Civ, but it was before they'd worked out how to make hex tiles playable. I gave up pretty quickly and uninstalled Steam back then. I still have Civ 3 and 4, plus GoG versions of Alpha Centauri and a few other things.

Recently I got introduced to Mashinky, a train simulator that's in pre-release and it's kinda fun. But Steam does not like some of the embedded software development tools I use, so I have to have two machines. And I'm not having a good day with the machine that has Steam on it, the firmware/motherboard and Windows update do not get on well, then when I finally got it going Steam had a hissy fit until I uninstalled and reinstalled the video drivers. So I'm in that "is this really worth the hassle" mode. I feel that I've got my moneys worth out of Mashinky and I'm now just playing it because I'm trying to avoid other things. hence... time to uninstall Steam and do other things.

75:

Ah, yes I did that too. Then ended up just buying and downloading the new one through Steam. But like you, I have things to get done and open ended disctractions are meh. Read all of Digger Friday night and yesterday morning, but at least I knew that was finite. I may well not sleep much on the 30th, as I have deadlines on the 2nd and the 4th but don’t think I’ll be able to resist just reading TLI.

76:

Why do you assume there must be a CEO? That's not the only business model and, in particular, Whitehall departments did not traditionally operate that way, though I don't know how they are currently structured (in reality, not theory). I agree that the senior management of the Laundry is thoroughly murky, and there obviously has to be more than has been revealed, but OGH is letting such things out in dribs and drabs.

"Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait."

77:

It's been SOP in the UK government for a couple of decades now. Transition planning is the third thing to be cut from the original plans (the first being fallback planning and the second contingency planning). Brexit has merely exposed the catastrophic excuse for a government we have grown used to, in a rather more spectacular fashion than anyone except the extreme cynics expected.

78:

I shall be very disappointed if I discover that you have NOT been using smoke and mirrors w.r.t. one of the principals you mention above :-) Whether I have correctly guessed what's behind that is another matter entirely!

79:

That's because its a civil service organisation and run along the lines of the original MI5 and 6.

It doesn't seem to have a C or M figure but seems to be run by a committee that goes back to before the English civil war and only part of the Laundry is actually "proper" civil service.

80:

"I'd like to ask if anybody else shared my reaction to the idiocy of shutting down the old organisation while its replacement was only in the planning stage"

You've never worked for the Civil Service then? :)

81:

The head of a Civil Service organisation is often a person with little or no experience of the the work of the organisation they head - in the same way that the current Head on the NHS has no medical training nor nursing experience. They are administrators and figure heads - not practitioners.

Interestingly though, it would be expected that where there is a Senior Auditor post there would also be a Principal Auditor post above it.

82:

Read all of Digger Friday night and yesterday morning, but at least I knew that was finite.

I also binged through Digger in the last few days. It was completely worth my time, for the story, the characters, and the out of context quotes.

"It’s a squash. I’m being attacked - or possibly romanced - by an angry squash."
"What good is a god that doesn't fossilize?"
"Well, here we are. It’s getting late and we’re up on a rooftop freezing our butts off. I hope your destiny hurries."

83:

Been thinking through the OP.

I'm pretty sure that Spooky the Cat is just a cat, though. (Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.)

Maybe, but that doesn't mean it is what everyone thinks it is, either. Ceci n'est pas une pipe and all that. I'm just assuming someday we'll discover Spooky can talk (just perhaps not with humans).

And that burst condom? Again, sometimes shit happens (and Mo, in any case, is around 40 years old, an age when human fertility drops off a cliff-edge).

Not sure how many people here have read Anne Rice's The Witching Hour, but in terms of expectation setting, this scene in TDB brought that novel to mind. There's worse in Poppy Z. Brite, I guess, but I'm not sure this is the sort of place OGH wishes to go. But I guess we're about to see the second PHANG-viewpoint novel, and the potential for ick therein.

84:

I suspect Charlie's hinting that ordinary statistics will apply wrt that burst condom, but just a reminder that statistics are a lie in any individual case. Something I thought of when my sister aged 40+ got pregnant on her first cycle of IVF despite the endometriosis which had stopped her getting pregnant w/out, then as if to prove it wasn't a coincidence she did so again.

85:

That would be a hell of a Checkov’s gun to leave randomly cluttering up the narrative scenery, but on the other hand there’s plenty of dramatic potential In somebody *not* being pregnant, particularly given the allusions we’ ve already had to Mo’s age and society’s expectations and treatment of women around that age...

86:

In the UK, it depends on exactly which tradition you are following. Until a few decades back, the head of a civil service department usually came from within the ranks of that department, but they are now often appointed from outside. This has done wonders for the civil service's loyalties :-(

The Laundry definitely does NOT follow the management model or structure used by most of Whitehall at present, though I have no inside knowledge of the structure of MI5, MI6 or GCHQ.

87:

they were just unlucky to end up in Leeds not London.

Of course they had to turn up in Leeds: the Host travelled across dimensions, not spatially, and their home was in their own version of Yorkshire because the limestone region there (as in our world) has the geology for caves that the Host had retreated into to survive. (As a caver frequenting the Yorkshire subterranea, I loved this bit in TNS.)

88:

Are there any sf stories featuring Leeds as the new capital of the UK after the destruction of London? On the other side of the pond, Denver sometimes gets to be the new capital of the USA.

89:

Are there any sf stories featuring Leeds as the new capital of the UK after the destruction of London?

As with many countries, the lines of communication all converge on the capital; Leeds is geographically central in England but not in the GB as a whole (it's a long way from central in relation to Cornwall, Wales, or Scotland), and while it has good communications (canal, railway, road) and is in a good position to mess the fuck up with any forces coming out of the regions it's not exactly designed as a capital (until the 1830s it was just an overgrown village).

Furthermore, in the era of the H-bomb, there is nowhere in the UK that's safe from a bomb on a major city. Leeds used to have the M62/M1 junction, the Vickers tank factory, a major depot on a spur of the East Coast Main Line, and a major intersection with the A1(M) as H-bomb targets — even if the city wasn't an actual target, we had about zero chance of survival in event of WW3 in Europe. (As it is, the south-central area took a hammering during the Blitz.)

However.

Quarry House (featured in "The Nightmare Stacks") was built on the bones of Quarry Hill Flats, a giant concrete apartment block from the 1930s overlooking the city centre, which was so defensible that the Gestapo identified it for use as their England Headquarters after the Nazi invasion in 1940. So there's that.

90:

classic urban fantasy trope whereby the things that go bump in the night—vampires, zombies, elves—always seem to know their place, and that place is well away from the rolling global 24 hours cycle.

Can you explain what exactly is the trope and what about it bothers you? Vampires combusting in the sunlight, and their activities hence limited to night hours is a well-established trope, but it seems you are talking about something different.

91:

You're a LITTLE unfair on Leeds! It was a significant (if not important) town by the 17th century, and was as substantial as most by the end of the 18th. It was the sixth largest town in England in 1750!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_towns_and_cities_in_England_by_historical_population#Rankings_by_year_2

As a capital, I agree that it fails dismally, but I vaguely remember that it was one of the locations planned for use as a 'capital' in the case of London having to be abandoned in WWII. Can you remember any more definitely?

92:

I think he's referring to the Masquerade trope.

93:

Can you explain what exactly is the trope and what about it bothers you? Vampires combusting in the sunlight, and their activities hence limited to night hours is a well-established trope, but it seems you are talking about something different.

Read enough urban fantasy/paranormal romance and a bunch of secondary tropes leap out at you — not the blood-drinking/undead stuff (which is central), but: there's a vampire ruling council or vampires live in a strict dominance hierarchy where vamps are controlled by their creators/sires. Vamps are unusually wealthy (or, rarely, they're indigent junkie/serial killer analogs). Vamps have no pre-vampire-resurrection family or social strings attached. Vampires hang out at night clubs where they graze on the well-dressed hors d'oeuvres, or a bag of type-O positive from the fridge, or they kill and drain victims indiscriminately every night or two because who the hell notices several corpses a night turning up in one city?

But most of all, there's a common underlying theme: that the world as we daylight-dwellers know it is stable and can exist as it is despite the presence of vampires, werewolves, and so on. Yes, I've tried to work this into the Laundry Files (see "The Rhesus Chart" and the first law of vampires); what irritates me is the trivialization of the conspiratorial measures it would take to maintain a blanket of silence. If it's not central to the world-building and there are more than a single-digit handful of vampires in the entire world, then it simply doesn't make sense.

94:

Re: Leeds

Good place for a back-up capital. Plus it has a university*, medical school (known for its hematology research) and assorted museums (arts & tech/sci), and alum turned novelists therefore perfect for hiding stuff in plain sight.

Still waiting for contemporary SF/F authors, scientists as well as various conspiracy nuts to figure in this story. Would be hilarious if Charlie got a few paragraphs from his SF pals (responding from their particular SF/F POV in some dire situation) as part of one of his stories. I for one could use some comedic relief just now.


* Just read that LeedsU has recently received a £520m grant. The article only mentioned swimming pools and fitness center - there's got to be tons of cash left over for other stuff. Together with the haem savvy, this locale would be perfect for housing at least two groups of likely allies. (Not sure what the elfs would think of it.)


95:

"Just"?

That assumes that your definition/view of a cat is "small furry domesticated cute (who the Inetnet was invented for), and not the reality.

Reality:
1. They're why we're here. Look, we got together with dogs 20k? 30k? 50k? years ago, and what did we do? We chased game, sat around and licked or scratched our private parts, and told stories. Then, 12k? 17k? years ago, cats domesticated us, so that they could live in a manner that they intended to become accustomed to, and the next thing you know, we have agriculture and civilization. See?
2. Many years ago, my late wife and I were moving out of the Immobile Home in the exurbs of Austin. I'd gone back in the car for one last load. It was dusk, and I started to pull out of the turnaround to go up the driveway (think 100' or more of two dirt ruts), and saw a cat, crouched down in the driveway facing away from me. I moved a bit, then a bit more, then *finally* tapped the horn.

That was when I saw the three deer he was stalking. And he turned and look back at me, annoyed... and for an instant, let the illusion slip. The illusion is one that we see cats as cute little, etc; the reality... I saw his head, full size, with the sabretooth fangs.....

96:

Oh. Fucking. Shit.

I read that, and flashed on the Stalinist purges and show trials of the mid-thirties.

97:

Thank you, Nojay, very much.

One of the serious problems I have with the Western view of reincarnation is just that. "Oh, you chose to reincarnate to this to teach yourself a lesson." (Yes, I have actually heard that uttered.) If I don't remember why I needed to learn it, how is it a lesson?

One of the *very* few good things I got from the World Religion class I took was the actual Buddhist view of reincarnation - Gautama's supposed to have said, "if you light a candle, and light a second candle from the flame of the first, and the third from the flame of the second, is the flame of the seventh candle the same flame as that of the first?"

Um, nope. No more than your kids are you. Your karma goes on, in what they got from you, but they're *not* you.

98:

Vampires combusting in the sunlight, and their activities hence limited to night hours is a well-established trope,

I always wonder why nearly everyone seems to forget, or ignore, that Dracula of the novel went out during the day. It was the only time he was vulnerable, stuck in whatever form he was in—human, wolf, etc.

All those tropes Charlie mentioned can get a bit stale, one reason I lost interest in Vamp stories a while ago (including one of my first serious writing attempts, it was bad). That, and they were everywhere at the time, serious overkill. But it’s always nice to see something different done with them.

99:

And this is from (R)J Reynolds (Tobacco?)? .

100:

Yup. It used to be, in the US, it was someone who understood the system. Now... y'all have heard me rant how the MBA destroyed the US, now it's working on the world. They think that running a software house is like running a convenience store is like running a steel mill is like running a bank.

They're morons.

101:

[W]hat irritates me is the trivialization of the conspiratorial measures it would take to maintain a blanket of silence. If it's not central to the world-building and there are more than a single-digit handful of vampires in the entire world, then it simply doesn't make sense.

This is what kind of irritates me also in the White Wolf 'World of Darkness' (and the other lines from them) roleplaying games. The number of vampires in most versions of 'Vampire' have been quite large compared to what would be "realistic." This is especially noticeable when playing in smaller countries, like for example my home country of Finland (with its 5.5 million inhabitants, even a small number of vampires is going to be noticed).

I still like the games, especially 'Mage: the Awakening' and 'Changeling: the Dreaming', but they need pretty strong suspenders of disbelief.

102:

Denver: wWhich is one thing that seriously ticked me off about KSRobinson's New York: 2140. Move to Denver? And a lot of folks who might get altitude sickness? And no infrastructure? When (if they weren't underwater), they could commute easily to a city who only lost a small part of downtown, and had ALL the infrastructure *and* transportation??

Yes, I *am* a Philadelphia ex-pat, why do you ask? Oh, and I'll note that it *was* the first capital of the US....

103:

Agreed. Reincarnation is one of those words that doesn't mean quite what people think it means, especially in Buddhism.

One real fun thing about Tibetan Buddhist thought (although I don't know if it was Buddha's thought) is the concept of Ground Luminosity: " In Dzogchen the fundamental, inherent nature of everything is called the "Ground Luminosity" or the "Mother Luminosity." This pervades our whole experience, and is therefore the inherent nature of the thoughts and emotions that arise in our minds as well, although we do not recognize it.[...] What happens at the moment of death, for everyone, is this: The Ground Luminosity dawns in vast splendor, and with it brings an opportunity for total liberation—if, and only if, you have learned how to recognize it."

This gets back to the idea of ego as illusion. Buddhism seems to be going with something closer to panpsychism than to egoic souls surviving death. For whatever reason, the ground luminosity (which is, apparently, a fundamental level of awareness that pervades the universe) thinks it's okay to curdle into egos in sufficiently complicated brains, but one could argue that this whole thing falls aparts as the brain dies, letting the consciousness decurdle and once again become aware of its actually, universal nature.

That's supposedly what is reincarnating, and it's a totally natural process. What's weird is the idea of something bearing traces of an ego jumping from brain to brain, through the whole process of a brain developing from a single-celled embryo.

Now, if you want an explanation of karma, that's maybe a bit different. Personally, I think what's going on with climate change is an excellent example of how karma can work. Even though we want to stop climate change, that karma is just going to have to work itself out.

As for Cthulhu...well, I've said to much.

104:

Dear god NO!

One of Charlie’s peers did this fairly recently with a big name of the genre popping into the series for no apparent reason, playing a big part of a plot point before disappearing again. It was totally unnecessary, destroyed my suspension of disbelief and almost completely flipped me from love to hate of the series, YMMV.

It was so blantantly uneeded I could only assume it was done for a bet, and from an author who is so super multi-talented they have successfully written for TV, Comics and books.

It was about as far from Charlie’s Paxo cameo in TDB as you can get.

105:

I was once a bit younger and pondered some about this question until I got tired of it.
Consider the following, more mechanical and systemic approach.

Suppose, what "you" is a neural map (hello Accelerando and friends) that considers itself having the memories of itself and positioning in the world according to these memories AND according to it's surroundings. It is a self-sustaining structure, both dynamic and pretty stable to maintain the sense of continuity. What are the components of this neural map, the individual memories, thought, connections between neurons? A knowledge how these memories are interacting with themselves are there, too. (I also heard, in eastern beliefs they also consider memories are a bit different from the soul as well, so there's that distinction.)

Now what the reincarnation would be? In practice, the memories and soul are securely trapped in body and cannot be extracted unless we use some alien and supremely advanced technology that reads our neurons one by in static condition. However, in some form, thoughts and memories can transfer between the bodies in the form of ideas, expressed in language. Memories are harder to extract because they are referencing to individual sensory experience, but as for feelings and ideas it is common to share them, and they do not die with people, not entirely. So after death, the host network is not there, but the ideas and feelings are still around, dispersed in the surrounding people's memories. And the reincarnation would be a situation where the certain number of ideas and feelings and borrowed memories (in the form of folklore), that can sufficiently well support the sense of identity and continuity. It is easy to see how this definition would be stretched, but OTOH it is sufficiently close - if we use such a rough and somewhat cynical wording, ofc.

In case of Bob, it is a bit different. As far as I understand it, in his world, his neural map was violently torn out of his body, spliced with some weird summoning and put back with appropriate patches so it would hold together. And then the many-angled-one, in addition to that, patched himself on top of his soul as well, creating something above and beyond original creature. Which begs the question - is there anything more to the Eater Of Souls, other than the neural map of it's facilities, or there's some form of supernatural energies bound to these structures that are commanded by him.

106:

Damian @ 65:

I suppose I did want to double check we weren’t supposed to connect the Mandate, Iris, wossname-hotep and the “black pharaoh is not the sleeper” any earlier than the point where all these line up in TDB. I went back and re-read TFM and TAS just in case, and I’m still not sure it isn’t just me (being slow on the uptake).

I guess there will be more to come on the constitutional situation regarding the geas of the organisation and a connection between that and the right of certain hereditary figures to initiate a nuclear strike.

I think one key idea to keep in mind is that in The Apocalypse Codex Reverend Schiller thought the "Sleeper" he was trying to awaken was going to be the "second coming" of Jesus Christ. Were Iris and her Brotherhood any more informed about the nature of the Black Pharaoh they were trying to raise up in The Fuller Memorandum?

107:

The TV series Ultraviolet had an interesting/useful take on the issue of Vampires. They never followed through with the series, but the basics are contained in the aired episode.

wiki - Ultraviolet (TV serial)

All six episodes are on YouTube.

Ultraviolet episode 1 Habeas Corpus
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHkBJ9dcRao

The essence that came across was that the Vampire was a single mind using many bodies. Communication was by blood. It was clear that the "blood" was a conduit to feed on the lifeforce of the person, not food itself. By feeding they could control the person.

- The main evidence for being one mind over many bodies was the times a child was "turned" or the young woman in episode two was turned. The young woman was freshly turned yet was able to find the cop and start a complex discussion with him, far beyond the young woman's experience/education.

- Each person "turned" was actually the Vampire using the body and memories of the person. The actual person was dead, only the memories were used as a mask to interact with people.

- When the Vampire was "dusted" it turned into a red powder that could be stored. The Vampire was not "dead" it was contained and could be restored by Vampire blood. What's interesting was that the Vampire was restored, clothes and all, which sets up interesting possibilities. When the Vampire was restored he was not confused, he was up to date to the moment.

- A running theme was that the Church had been hunting the Vampires for centuries. That the existence of Vampires was their only proof for the existence of God.

I'm still mining the series for useful stuff, running the characters through models and extracting key insights for future story.

108:

To put it simpler, here's a citation from Pelevin's work that illustrates an interesting interpretation of this point of view, in a short parable from "Chapayev and Void". (Did not find the source on teh internet, so here's manual translation.)

“I understand,“ said Chapaev, “I know where these rumors are coming from. There really was one person who came to me interested in how to sell the soul to the devil. Such as staff captain Ovechkin. Do you know him?“

“We met in a restaurant.“

“I explained to him how this can be done. And he performed the entire ritual with great care.“

“What happened?“

“Nothing special. He did not have any money, neither did he have eternal youth. The only thing that happened - in all the regimental documents instead of the name "Ovechkin" there appeared name "Kozlov".

“Why is this so?“

“It is no good to be a cheater. How can you sell what you don't have?“

“So what comes out,” I asked, “Ovechkin has no soul?”

“Of course not,” said Chapaev.

“And you?“

Chapaev seemed to stare into himself for a second, and then shook his head negatively.

“Do I have?“ I asked.

“No,” said Chapaev.

Apparently, there was an expression of dismay on my face, because Chapaev grinned and patted me on the elbow.

“No, Petka, I have no soul, neither you, nor the staff captain Ovechkin. It is the soul that has Ovechkin, Chapaev, Petka. About the soul it is impossible to say that it is different for everyone, it cannot be said that everyone has one. If you can say something about it, it is that it doesn't exist either.“

Er, well, this is actually a bit more complicated concept in the context of this novel, and it has many more facets here. But this interesting idea about certain "soul" that actually has many "people" and not the other way around, caught my attention many years ago.

109:

There's probably another term for them in the UK: In the US, a bait car is a car which looks as if it's ripe to be stolen. However, the police are watching and waiting to pounce if someone does steal it.

I suspect the Laundry universe (which may or may not be the same as Lovecraft's favorite universe) is a bait universe set up to entice criminals from elsewhere in the multiverse.

Dan Goodman

110:

For reasons of plot

You have to have enough vamps / where's mages etc to make a role playing game viable.

And it was certainly implied that the number of vamps in a large city like London or NYC.


Mage was a great setting but unworkable we tied a ww2 set one with a Indiana Jones vibe and it was much easier to pick up a brick and whack the Nazi guard over the head and nick his MP38 - that to disable him with magic.

111:

I suspect the Laundry universe … is a bait universe

"Don't much matter whether you catch a fish or not; once you been used for bait, you ain't good for nothing else nohow."

112:

Grant @ 80:

"I'd like to ask if anybody else shared my reaction to the idiocy of shutting down the old organisation while its replacement was only in the planning stage"

You've never worked for the Civil Service then? :)

It's not just "Civil Service" (aka government jobs here in the U.S.). I've seen business do the same stupid shit. In fact, I've been laid off from more than one job (made redundant?) in my lifetime because of it.

113:

Move to Denver? ... Yes, I *am* a Philadelphia ex-pat, why do you ask?

Denver as capital after the Big Oops was very much a thing for a while. I conjecture that someone thought that the military installations there would survive (so, pre-ICBM era); it's also vaguely geometrically central without being as boring as Kansas City. Certainly if you were trying to find a logistically connected city capable of absorbing a federal government's worth of infrastructure you wouldn't look twice at Denver.

If D.C. and Philadelphia are unavailable, I'd suggest Chicago.

114:

whitroth @ 102: Denver: wWhich is one thing that seriously ticked me off about KSRobinson's New York: 2140. Move to Denver? And a lot of folks who might get altitude sickness?

Hmmmmmm? Something I just thought of ...

So we get global warming, the icecaps melt in Antarctica & Greenland and sea level rises some number of feet somewhere between 6 inches - 200 feet. What effect does that have on the barometric pressure at "sea level"?

115:

The barometric pressure would be the same no matter what sea level is. It's all about displacement. Raise sea level a mile and it is the same barometric pressure at the new sea level. Lower it a mile and the same occurs. That's why if you drain the oceans the current sea level would be about 30k feet above the new landscape. BTW, a 747 cruises at 30k feet.

The air fills the ocean basins leaving nothing for the continents to support life.

Drain The Ocean
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83YSzkB4L7Q

116:

Of course it was because of plot reasons. It just got a bit silly when you started to think about how many vampires (or mages or werewolves) there were.

The vampires also created some more issues, like what do they do during summer North of the Arctic circle? Not that many vampires active during the summer in Rovaniemi or North of that, although can they then be active for months during the winter? This gets easier if you have only one or two vampires near the poles in the whole world, but if for plot reasons there are more than that things get interesting.

117:

whitroth @ 95
annoyed... and for an instant, let the illusion slip
Yes, well …. Even cute little “Sir” who looks as though butter would not melt (etc ) has presented me with, so far, 9 squirrels + assorted other prey ( And I reallt do not want to know where he got the Jerbil from …. )
But, years ago, there was: Hermann … Rats were FUN ( We had had unhygienic neighbours ) he terrorised dogs … & the squirrels were just moving in – he pursued one towards me, down the road & it was like watching an BBC/Attenborough movie of a cheetah or panther … the amazing sooth, silky, compact motion of a full-predator in hunting charge.

@ 100
( MBA’s = morons )
Yes, we all know that, here. But “out there” everyone is STILL hiring these utter wankers & I still don’t understand why.

whitroth/ss etc
“Denver” – no – you need somewhere central (ish) with good communications.
How far above current Sea level is St louis? - Wiki says 142 metres …. Which is considerably higher than 200 feet.

118:

So we get global warming, the icecaps melt in Antarctica & Greenland and sea level rises some number of feet somewhere between 6 inches - 200 feet. What effect does that have on the barometric pressure at "sea level"?

Essentially none.

119:

Actually, I can think of several ways in which significant numbers of vampires and (even more easily) werewolves could plausibly keep themselves hidden, but none make a good story.

As with OGH and others, I dislike almost all semi-horror or romance vampire stories because they are both implausible (even in their own context) and SO unimaginative. The few vampire stories that are much good tend to be short stories with the vampirism as the vehicle, not the payload. Werewolf ones are generally better.

120:

All a werewolf needs to do to keep itself hidden is maintain a well stocked freezer and lock itself in the cellar once a month.

A smart werewolf would figure out a way to use its energy conservation violating transformation to power the freezer.

121:

That's the easy bit. Now think about schools, employment, conscription etc.

122:

Crofters on remote islands - werewolves the lot of em! :)

123:

That's been done, over a century or more and in many variations :-) It still doesn't tackle the conscription problem, adds a severe inbreeding one, and ignores the fact that such islanders lived on fish rather than meat until recently.

124:

True.

There might be mileage in lycanthropy as rare recessive trait that is more likely to appear in inbred populations.

There are clear survival advantages under certain circumstances but likely to be fatal due to silver bullet ingestion.

Minor survival advantages for a "half" werewolf are tempting but would probably result in it being far too common.

125:

Howard Waldrop wrote a short story called "The Wolfman of Alcatraz", in which the title character had to be placed in protective confinement for 3 days every month.

Protective for the other inmates, of course.

126:

You can solve the conscription problem in two ways, at a minimum:

1. Werewolves being pack animals, they hang together and ensure their young menfolk are all classified as unfit to serve, ideally for medical reasons — but failing that, see also "Alice's Restaurant". (If they cluster in a village somewhere all it takes is for them to number the local GP, magistrate, or police chief among their number and they're safe.)

2. The army and navy already know. The Navy goes out of its way to avoid recruiting werewolves (who wants to be trapped in a submarine with a werewolf at the wrong time of the month?) while the Army has ... let's just say, "special" forces. Which, incidentally, is partly why the government is in on the Masquerade: they have a strong interest in maintaining secrecy (to prevent hostile powers realizing werewolves exist and developing coutermeasures) and, not being totally insane, they have an interest in ensuring there's a continuing supply chain of werewolf soldiers, pre-socialized as loyal citizens ready to serve the nation. ("The deal is: we cover for you, and in return you put in three years in the army. Lots of food, all the forest you could possibly want to hunt in, and designated targets. Then you get a veteran's pension and guaranteed a job with a backwoods police force or forestry service. What more could you want?")

127:

Well, sort-of. Yes, that can be done, but brings in other implausibilities that need justification.

While recruitment (and later conscription) were handled locally, from 1916 onwards it doesn't make sense that someone in London wouldn't have noticed and sent someone in to Sort Things Out. I am pretty certain that I have seen near-contemporary references to WWI recruitment statistics being collected.

The second one implies almost no leakage into public awareness in a century. Keeping a largely isolated department semi-secret is one thing (e.g. GCHQ from 1946 to 1983), but an active army unit?

Both of these are like the trope of an isolated population in the Carpathians, Appalacians or whatever (or selkies in the Western Isles) - what made sense for Poe, Blackwood etc. hasn't done in the past century. More's the pity :-(

128:

The vampires also created some more issues, like what do they do during summer North of the Arctic circle? Not that many vampires active during the summer in Rovaniemi or North of that, although can they then be active for months during the winter?

Something like this?:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/30_Days_of_Night_(film)
Haven’t seen it, just the sequel set in LA.

129:

Well, on the general subjects of lycanthopy and vampirism, with the note that OGH can't use the same solutions in the Laundryverse for reasons, Gail Carriger has managed to make both conditions generally known if differently accepted at nation level in her Steampunk series.

Part of her solution, at least in the UK, is to actually make her werewolf packs British army units.

130:

Meanwhile a B-2 made an emergency landing at the local airport/AFB last night.
https://www.kktv.com/content/news/498292631.html

Not letting civilians anywhere near it, so a good thing I’m not that into planes anymore.

131:

(or selkies in the Western Isles)

You may or may not know this, but there's a not unreasonable theory that selkie lore is based on observation of sailors who had crossed the North Atlantic in various forms of low skin boats.

132:

but failing that, see also "Alice's Restaurant"

So that’s what Group W was!

133:

I didn't know that and, supposedly being descended from one, I ought to have done :-) Thanks.

As you imply in #129, there really isn't much option nowadays but to either adopt an alternate world where such things are known about or change trope. For example, memes with some of the same characteristics as vampirism are much more plausible nowadays, but only a few writers seem to have followed that up and then only simplistically. There was a period when considering memes as infectious agents was taken very seriously, but that has faded way - clearly, that is the memes evolving to hide more effectively from our defences :-)

That sprang to mind when I read the infectious mechanism in The Rhesus Chart, but the plot line went in a different direction.

134:

No problem; I actually live in the Western Isles, one branch of my family tree is from same too, and I have the requisite interests in local history and myths to have done the research!

135:

Heh. "Ground liminosity"... And this is different than the ding-an-such... and at that point, I return to General Semantics.

I just *adore* "I'm the reincarnation of ...", and all the channeling and summoning the spirit of... to which my reply is
Cleopatra, the busiest woman in the afterlife.
"Hello, this is Cleopatra, can you hold please?"
(other phone)"Hello, this is Cleopatra, can you hold please?"....

136:

You *have* seen Bakshi's film from the seventies, Wizards, right?

137:

If the Sprawl, aka Boswash, was unavailable, we've got a *LOT* more problems.

Btw, parts of downtown Philly are 24' above sea level. That goes up *really* fast when you cross the Schulkyll to west Philly... like, 50' or more, and as you go north from downtown. I had a house in Germantown (a neighborhood in the northwest of the city), and a few doors up the block was the top of the hill...192' above sea level, according to a topographical map.

Note, also, that Philly is 90mi up the Delaware from the ocean, and was, not that long ago, the largest fresh-water port in the world.

138:

Keeping a largely isolated department semi-secret is one thing (e.g. GCHQ from 1946 to 1983), but an active army unit?

That just shows how successful it was. Before the Special Reconnaissance Regiment was put onto a formal basis, the "Special Duties" volunteer-only units of the British Army had a variety of cover names.

And yes, they were very active. It was just that soldiers mostly know when not to talk about something. For instance, the Intelligence Corps had entirely vanilla sub-units like 7 Coy (in Germany) 12 Coy (in Northern Ireland), 22 Coy(V) (reservists in Edinburgh). Adding a 14 Coy (aka "14 Int") worked for a few years before the cover name became too well-known - see also 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers.

Ask yourself what the name of the Defence HUMINT unit was, throughout the 90s. Or how many people had actually heard of Troops Hereford(*) before they took to forcible entry of Embassies...

...so, if OGH is looking for werewolf units (i.e. not the kind who briefly tried running around Germany in 1945 before they allegedly received the less-tolerant response you might expect) you should take a closer look at RAF Benbecula or perhaps Royal Artillery Range, Hebrides. With the advantage that whooshy-shooty-bangy things are a great excuse to close off "impact areas" and restrict overflights ;)

(*) They got to the final of the Army rugby championships, one year - calling themselves that name, allowed them to draw their team from all of their attached arms on-site...

139:

Interesting. So, in a way, saying that life, and intelligence, and self-awardness, is a dynamic fractal, that ends and collapses back into the background....

140:

22 Coy(V) (reservists in Edinburgh).

There was also 23 SAS(V) based in Glasgow at one time. One of their fellows was once drummed out of the Puritan forces during a Sealed Knot re-enactment event for excessive brutality. He hung around with Brighton Vike and other SFnal LARP groups back in the 80s as I recall. Excellent chap, very Weegie (nasty, brutish and short, also quite a Tolkein scholar in the bar, was wont to recite Elvish poetry when fed enough decent whisky). Wish I could remember his name.

141:

What date are you talking about? The existence of such units was common knowledge from at least the 1940s onwards - I knew that they existed in the 1960s, essentially as soon as I reached adulthood. No, I didn't know what they were called or how they were structured, but the fact that the public may not have known the exact name and organisation is NOT enough to keep a fact like using werewolves secret.

142:

They're still around - except that they moved from Port Glasgow to Hamilton in the 1990s. I had a few friends who went there to try out, I already knew I wasn't single-minded enough for it...

(Minor edit: I got the Edinburgh Int reservists wrong - they were 23 Sy Coy(V), but had elements of 29 Int Coy(V) in the same building in Great King Street).

143:

No, I didn't know what they were called or how they were structured...

...or what they did. Which is rather my point. There are units of the Army doing things that neither of us know about, have been doing them for years if not decades, ergo plausibly "semi-secret". QED.

144:

The existence of the SAS was known, their operational activities through the 60s and 70s were less well-known to the general public. The Battle of Mirbat in 1972, for example, was an action that would have garnered at least one VC (posthumous) if the facts had been more widely known but instead it was buried in the "some shooting happened in the Middle East, nothing to do with us mate" section of the papers. The SRR was even more hush-hush, a bit like the NRO in the US shielded by its sister organisation the NSA.

145:

Several examples of what they did became common knowledge - if there's one thing that you should have learnt, it is that an official denial or refusal to comment does NOT eliminate something from public knowledge. Actually, I knew someone who was in one, and was killed doing something deniable in Northern Ireland.

Anyway, you are completely missing the point. In order to be an explanation for how they weren't exposed by conscription, such units would have had to be active from at least 1916-1923 (?) and again from 1939-1963, and that failed to reach public awareness. Get real!

146:

I knew about that Oman campaign - indeed, I am pretty sure that I have a collateral relative who was in it :-) And, while it was buried in the papers, it WAS in the papers, and anyone who actually read them intelligently could join up the dots.

147:

Which was the plot point in one of the earlier series in Being Human.

The werewolf brought a cage from a BDSM supplier to lock him self in during the change.

148:

If you read some of the history's of the Afghan war it was commented while the UK and US Sf including SAD (the Cia's in house shooters) where fairly well known even down their preferred brands of boots.

The French version of the SAS is still shrouded in mystery.

149:

The SAS had a presence in Afghanistan before the events of September 2001 kicked off the Greatest Temper Tantrum ever. They were doing intelligence collection on assorted nutters and gun-runners in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, mostly. They spent several months leading US Special Forces people around the areas of interest, in part because none of them spoke the local language(s).

150:

I hadn't seen that as I haven't really had time to watch TV for the last few years.

A common werewolf trope does seem to be that they are generally reasonable people who aren't keen on trouble. Much more likeable than vampires in the main.

151:

"It was buried in the papers" indicates what the SAS were doing in places like Oman and Belize wasn't common knowledge. Certainly if the dots were joined up certain conclusions could be arrived at but few if any actually spent the intellectual effort to do so.

The SAS' rise to notoriety and prominence in the Press started during the Troubles in the mid-70s and especially when Captain Nairac was kidnapped and tortured to death by the IRA.

ObSF: "Hitman: Who Dares Wins", a short comic series later collected into a graphic novel, about a SAS brick sent to Gotham to kill a couple of ex-U.S. Marines who accidentally shot up an SAS patrol in Iraq 1. Horrifically funny in parts but the techniques and attitudes of the SAS soldiers depicted is quite on the ball. It starts with the SAS team deployed on the Irish border at the end of the Troubles, dealing with a rogue IRA operative who wasn't playing ball with the agreed cease-fire.

152:

Werewolves: Doing a search for "queer werewolf stories" turns up a large number of results. I don't yet know how this compares with the numbers of heterosexual, bisexual, etc. stories.

Also of possible interest: search for "species dysphoria" on Wikipedia.

153:

The UK was rather more clueful c. 1970 than it is now, and everyone who bothered to read the papers and think knew that the SAS were operational in Oman. It wasn't admitted by the government, but it wasn't secret and it was common knowledge.

All right, that was a minority. But a no smaller minority than knew most of the publicised information, such as the Highway Code.

154:

Anyway, you are completely missing the point. ... such units would have had to be active from at least 1916-1923 (?) and again from 1939-1963, and that failed to reach public awareness. Get real!

Sighs... what public awareness was there, in 1963, of the GHQ Auxiliary Units? Or the associated Special Duty Sections? Or sundry SOE training schools around the UK?

Or in 1973, of Operation CLARET? Or perhaps of a little-acknowledged campaign during the 1970s when the Guatemalans were sending the Kaibiles over the border into nearly-independent Belize, and they (allegedly) weren't coming back? Operation STORM has been mentioned...

Care to comment on which units of the Army would man TURNSTILE? Or PYTHON? They must have existed, and yet...

I know, it would be easier if I just gave in and acknowledged that you are an undoubted expert on everything, and never wrong, and you knew about all these things in advance (the Falklands, etc, etc) because they were so obvious, and of course none of is convenient memory and 20/20 hindsight...

155:

Skipping a bit...the big enabler of vampires and other extremely-high-on-the-food-chain types is hibernation or stasis.

That can stretch things out quite a bit, at the presumable cost of increased vulnerability.

156:

Because Fritz Murnau tried to play a fast one with the Stoker estate in 1922.

(It didn't work, but luckily one print of NOSFERATU survived the court-decreed destruction)

157:

Okay, I was going to say “Nah, blame Browning—or rather the playwrights of the play he used”. But saw on wikipedia that Nosferatu came out before the play, and footnote 10 says it was Murnau.
Ironically, sort of, from what I’ve read, the outdoor night scenes in Nosferatu were filmed during the day. I don’t remember if the film prints were supposed to be filtered or tinted to make the sky dark, but version I first saw had bright sky at night. Kinda confusing.
Time to give my copy another viewing.

158:

Here we go;
http://www.brentonfilm.com/reviews/nosferatu-unleashed-in-hd-every-blu-ray-reviewed
About the tinting - different colors to represent the time of day. And a lot of other info about the film.

159:

Well, I can vouch for the existence of the SAS (Reserve) units, and (personal account) that some of them had a "strange SoH". Like one of them, in uniform, buying an airsoft replica of an SA-80 (replica was over £100 retail) for a joke!

160:

You seem to be prepared to say anything in order to be abusive. In the past, you have said that the CIA can't have been up to any dirty tricks, because we know everything it's doing. Now you say something completely different.

AS I SAID, keeping a localised activity secret is feasible, and keeping even a generalised one secret for a short period is possible. But you are then claiming that means that keeping a generalised one secret for OVER A CENTURY is plausible. Well, sorry, that's conspiracy theorism, pure and simple.

Equally importantly, none of the examples are likely to excite (or even interest) most people, whereas the existence of werewolves and their use in the army most definitely would. You are comparing apples with yams, solely to provide grounds for your abuse.

161:

Oh, definitely. Dark humour is a coping mechanism, common to the medical profession...

When you meet someone from Them, they typically spend their time avoiding the subject, being suitably vague, or denying their membership. Anyone who claims to be in UKSF (or even nods, winks, and implies it), almost certainly isn't. The guy in the room next to me at Sandhurst was 23 (as was one of my primary schoolteachers); and a friend went from 23 to 21.

The latter's wedding was fun, because by this point he's left the TA and was a Detective Constable in the Metropolitan Police; so there were plenty of blokes with short haircuts in the reception who looked "comfortable in uniform" (yes, it's true, you can spot Squaddies and Feds). Anyway, while sitting at the table with two of them, I asked how they knew the groom; "we were in the TA together" they replied - and of course, they hadn't ever been in our mob. Gotcha.

Our table at the reception got more fun when my beloved started quizzing the iPhone user next to her (not one of Them) about the handy Apps that he'd found - for this is the iPhone 3 era, and the whole concept is new. Picks it up, goes "oooh, what's this Grindr thing?", and outs the poor lad to everyone at the table who didn't already know...

162:

Re: SF author cameo

Okay - maybe some spoofing of deceased popular SF/F authors' (e.g., Asimov, Herbert, Heinlein, Lewis, etc.) styles/POVs via avid fans and scholars?

Anyways, my point is that folks like SF authors/readers and conspiracy nuts are part of our environment and weird happenings should bring them out of the woodwork in droves likely leading to increased difficulty in communicating need-to-know info to the populace. IMO, the most compelling reason for secrecy is to ensure and maintain clear and reliable information exchange.

163:

“When you meet someone from Them, they typically spend their time avoiding the subject, being suitably vague, or denying their membership. Anyone who claims to be in UKSF (or even nods, winks, and implies it), almost certainly isn't. ”

My mother’s late partner was always extremely vague about his military service during and following WW2 beyond having “spent a bit of time with the parachute regiment” and having been in a lot of quite far-flung places...

An interesting, intelligent (very intelligent), and quite likeable (if sometimes somewhat errr... difficult) chap. He spoke more languages that I ever managed to count and prided himself on being able to pick up a working knowledge of a new one in the course of a week’s holiday, drew clear, detailed, accurate sketch maps of places he’d been to years ago from memory in minutes, loved walking in rough country and when his late wife (not my mother, that came some time later) became ill he took early retirement to spend time revisiting some special places with her which involved him (in his early 60s), unaided, getting a woman in a wheelchair to some very rugged, isolated, forbidding bits of scenery I’d think twice about going to myself.

He regularly took himself off to unit reunions but was always quite vague about where he was going and who he was reuniting with, I do know however that he can be seen receiving some kind of commemorative award from HRH Prince Charles in photographs taken at the 1994 D-Day 50th anniversary commemoration ceremonies at Pegasus Bridge...

I have very strong suspicions but I guess I’ll never know.

164:

I don't know names for sure, and I'm not speculating, but the history says that Pegasus Bridge was initially captured by the the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, who were re-enforced by men from 7th Battalion Parachute Regiment, and later joined by Lord Lovat's Commandos.

The Ox and Bucks and Lovat's are correctly portrayed in "The Longest Day" right down to the Ox and Bucks landing in Horsa gliders and the Lovats tagging from the coast in about 6 hours. (OK, named officers in the film were there)

165:

Yeah, I’ve always said if someone brags about being Special Forces/SEALs they weren’t.

I knew someone like your mother’s partner. Wouldn’t talk about what he had done in the Army. He spoke Arabic fairly well, and Hebrew, and I think a bit of Farsi. The only hint that there was more was the occasional non-specific mention of working in The Kingdom (usually in reference to being a Jew there), and one photo he had on the wall of himself and a couple other soldiers in front of a smashed Soviet made tank in desert paint, that I had the impression was not in Iraq or Afghanistan (I think he was retired by 9/11). His wife refuses to say what was in his papers that she went through after he unexpectedly died a few years ago, other than they were Classified and that she talked to DoD about them.

166:

OK, named officers in the film were there

Richard Todd being one of the very few actors to appear in a film with someone else playing him. Twice.

167:

"Yeah, I’ve always said if someone brags about being Special Forces/SEALs they weren’t."

Most of the contemporary references I have seen were from witnesses or other associated people, though there are some memoires, too. The one I knew in special forces (other than the SAS people), I didn't know until after he was killed. A policy of leaving no witnesses and silencing close friends and relatives often works in the short term, but is damned hard to cover up in the long one, even with a docile press and populace.

Even as recently as Kenya and Burma, such behaviour has come to light, and I simply doubt that any significant WWII (let alone WWI!) deniable actions are still hidden. The last one to be publicised was the work at Bletchley Park, and that was an isolated, tightly-knit community with no direct interactions with anyone outside it (except those to whom they reported).

168:

There's a recurring design pattern in cities whereby two cities grow up close together — a port/harbour city at near sea level, and a mile or so away, and way the hell uphill, a major conurbation/capital.

In the case of Edinburgh this happened because every 30 years or so the English would sail up the coast and burn the port of Leith to the ground; the good burghers of Edinburgh would meanwhile retreat inside the city walls. (This sport came to a screeching halt after the Union of Crowns.) In other cases it's to do with where it's most convenient to terminate the railroad wrt. the river/canal/sea.

But this means we have plenty of examples of how cities can cope when their port is below sea level. Gold star example: Amsterdam, where about 70% of the entire nation is below the level of the North Sea (which is inconveniently adjacent to it and wants in). You can turn flood defenses, locks, and infrastructure into a profit centre for the construction industry if you treat it seriously (as in, "we get this right or everybody dies") and impose the costs on shipping and a land tax on the protected territory.

BosWash has a tougher problem in some respects — Amsterdam doesn't often get hit by hurricanes — but it's also dense, and has the sort of GDP you'd need in order to build your way out of the situation. It's less obvious what Bangladesh or Singapore are going to do — Bangladesh because they're desperately poor, Singapore because they're basically a low-ish island on the edge of much deeper water (so you can't in-fill and build upwards).

169:

Doing a search for "queer werewolf stories" turns up a large number of results. I don't yet know how this compares with the numbers of heterosexual, bisexual, etc. stories.

There's a huge overlap between werewolves/vampires and LGBT fiction. (Less so with zombies.) Reason should be obvious: living a secret life as a werewolf/vampire is a very accessible metaphor for being in the closet.

170:

*chuckle*
My late ex, when she was young, was one of the first three or four women allowed to try out for the SEALS - she was Navy, and wanted to do EOD (explosive ordinance disposal). Didn't make it, couldn't walk on dry land with a hard suit on, regardless that I'm SURE she tried.

Did I mention she was 5' on a good day, standing up straight, and about 105lbs soaking wet?

But I assume y'all have heard references to short man syndrome - she had it....

171:

BosWash is a completely different fettle of kish, Charlie. For one thing, we're talking 441 mi. For another, it's *not* flat lowlands. I've mentioned Philly's geography; same holds true for most of the east coast. In some areas, it's not 100 mi to foothills of the Appalachians.

I can easily thing of some things that would need to be fixed - there's the main line of the Northeast Corridor, not many miles south of Philly, where the trackbed isn't far above the level of the Delaware River. But other places....

172:

...was one of the first three or four women allowed to try out for the SEALs...

There's an interesting discussion to be had on the nature of selection processes for such jobs. UKSF use a physical test as a simple and cheap method of mass separation of "determined few" from "delusional / optimistic many". Once they've done that, they can afford to invest more time assessing the credible candidates in subsequent phases of selection. Unfortunately, this leads to a confusion between "what are we actually measuring" and "how are we testing it", even for serving personnel - cue screeching from the misogynists / skeptics about how "standards are being lowered". Yes, being extremely physically fit, and capably strong, is necessary - but so is being able to think straight, read a map, plan a demolition.

Granted, there are basic physical demands that have to be met - but it seems that whenever they agree on an appropriate set of task-based and testable activities, they start failing the serving/unfit males who are patently capable of doing the job, well before they finish failing the aspirant/fit females who want to join.

The physical standard UKSF use is generally achievable - they released some statistics that suggested those who arrived at Hereford for initial selection, had prepared to the basic infantry fitness standards, and didn't injure themselves during the physical work-up training [1], had a 50% pass rate at those initial tests. The tales of "only a handful pass" happened because a depressingly large percentage of those who arrived, hadn't prepared themselves even to a basic acceptable level of fitness, for whatever excuse...

[1] And had Directing Staff who were actually competent to run a selection exercise while reading a thermometer and considering their available medical cover.

173:

every 30 years or so the English would sail up the coast and burn the port of Leith to the ground; the good burghers of Edinburgh would meanwhile retreat inside the city walls.

There's an area of Leith known as "Leith Fort"; because until the 1950s, there was an Army barracks on the site. It was only built in 1780 - because once the English had tired of "rough wooing", the Americans and French needed to be considered. I can see the remains of a Martello Tower from my desk... and I'm not too far from the remains of Leith's Citadel.

I'll confess that until I was adding the links above, I'd never heard of the Siege of Leith

174:

Similarly, I too have no idea how the organisations you mention operate.

I have however been told that Dstl has traditionally had a defence scientist at the helm until the latest boss. His background is in industry and he was, from his linkedin reference, appointed having never worked in the military or defence.

What could possibly go wrong?

175:

My mother’s late partner was always extremely vague about his military service during and following WW2...

Now you've got me thinking of my late grandfather, who did something or other during the war.

Around the time I was born my family owned a seed company that supplied our small town's local farmers, so it wasn't surprising that he could be an agricultural adviser to others.

And that was his job title about 1970, in Saigon, where he had an office in the embassy building, and rubbed elbows with some CIA guys: Agricultural Adviser.

I'll probably never know any more.

176:

"Now... y'all have heard me rant how the MBA destroyed the US"

MBA = More Bad Analysis. The idea that everything is a process and all workers are identical.

For people who do detail its so wrong its astonishing. For those in accountant land it works fine - how else could scientists be asked to deliver an 80% solution in a report?

177:

"a port/harbour city at near sea level, and a mile or so away, and way the hell uphill, a major conurbation/capital."

Like... Bowness/Windermere? :)

178:

I have an odd question:

I got into a discussion on another blog about Jules Verne and how the english translations were messed up, i.e., butchered.

I was wondering. Does Amazon France carry all of Verne's books in the original French.

If so, then I have to learn French. HA!

179:

(Unhelpful if you're not into ebooks.) Verne is sufficiently dead to be on Project Gutenberg.

(Did Typepad sign-in stop working on this blog for anybody else?)

180:

Greg Tingey @ 117: “Denver” – no – you need somewhere central (ish) with good communications. How far above current Sea level is St louis? - Wiki says 142 metres …. Which is considerably higher than 200 feet.

I don't think St Louis is that much better. It sits a little too close to the New Madrid Seismic Zone. It's a tossup whether California or Missouri will get The Big One first.

181:

JamesPadraicR @ 130: Meanwhile a B-2 made an emergency landing at the local airport/AFB last night. https://www.kktv.com/content/news/498292631.html
Not letting civilians anywhere near it, so a good thing I’m not that into planes anymore.

And at Ft. Bragg, a C-17 aircraft managed to drop a Humvee mounted on a heavy drop platform in someone's back yard in Cameron NC.

https://abc11.com/military-plane-drops-humvee-over-harnett-county-neighborhood/4548646/

They only missed the drop zone by about 15 miles

182:

Yes! Gutenberg. That would be a good start. Logic states that if they are in French, then they are the original. Why does my mind resist the idea that they are sitting right there ready to be read. It's the English translations that have been butchered.

Then there is the French version of Wiki to read more examples, and Google translate to help out. And all those DVDs I have with French tracks: audio and subtitles. I have more resources than I realized. All I need do is learn French. Yes!

Thanks...

183:

Weird test.

I couldn't walk anywhere wearing hard hat, not even in my youth. Neither could anyone else I worked with. Which is why things like wet bells were invented.

184:

re Verne: not all of Verne's books are available in English translation in the US (out-of-copyright), however. There's an explanation of this for instance in the description of the Delphi Books (almost-)complete Verne set @ Amazon - some of his books were translated into English for the first time so recently (or by translators who died so recently?) that the translations are considered copyrighted for now in the US. Similarly for Flaubert's first book, iirc, and some others. Happens.

Didn't take long for Verne's attitude in his first novel to put me off and decide to read some more George Eliot, Dickens, and others instead (and of course more recent people, e.g. IM Banks whose name I was introduced to here- thanks for that) anyway. Still, I rather like their editions for being as complete as they _are_ under the circumstances. Anyhow. Digressing as too often.

Re 119: then there's a whole genre of alien romance novels, I gather, in which the aliens once encountered just _happen_ to be compatible, making no sense. At least, so I gather- could not get through the one example I tried...

185:

"Special Forces"
A friend, who is exactly a year younger than me, was in the TA-SAS ( 23rd / Artists Rifles )
He had to give up, after injuring himself on the way down at night over Norway during an exercise.
And, no, he wasn't bullshitting, because I met most of his platoon at one point, sand-brown berets, the works ....

186:

Only the recent translations. There are English ones that are way over 70 years old - I have some.

187:

It's common for villages in many parts of the UK (the windier ones), too. You really don't want your house to be sea-washed every winter.

188:

Now you've got me thinking of my late grandfather, who did something or other during the war.

Since we've reached that part of the thread ...

My own grandparents' war records are fairly mundane, except for the angle that they date to the first world war.

My wife's grandparents, though, are another matter.

Her maternal grandfather was not that extraordinary, except for the angle that he was a Canadian paratrooper and IIRC deployed on D-Day. (And it turns out his daughter is a Canadian citizen: we're trying to chase up the paperwork for her to send off for her post-Brexit bugout passport.)

... But her paternal grandfather was a ringer.

What we know is that prior to WW2, he was a Post Office engineer (meaning: telephony). And during the war, his service record just says "soldier", no unit, no posting. Then after the war he pops up working for Tommy Flowers on the Manchester Mark One, and subsequently in computers at Marconi. Yes, that Tommy Flowers.

I smell an enigma, and almost certainly a Bletchley Park connection.

189:

Family records can be interesting. My grandfather was awarded a medal for being wounded during WWI, in 1919.

Yeah, it's not been diplomatic for a while to mention that the defeat of Germany wasn't the end of the fighting, and that various Western forces continued east to help the White Russians against the Red Russians, but some older war memorials will list 1914-1919 rather than 1914-1918

(Said Grandfather apparently also snaffled an Order of St Vladimir, 2nd class, which (according to Wikipedia) is a hereditary honour. If so, he must have been one of the last, and I wonder quite what contributions would have led to that.)

190:

Indeed. I knew someone who was later outed as one of that lot, but we have still heard very little. It's quite possible that personnel and similar records on Bletchley Park exist, buried in a Whitehall archive. Their obsessive secretiveness, over things that have no conceivable military, diplomatic or personal reasons to be hidden still makes me boggle.

I believe that the story about Napoleonic war secrets still being kept hidden to avoid offending the French, and the French response of "Les Anglais sont fous", is apocryphal. But I do know someone who was refused access to WWI era documents on the grounds of national security. And the excuses for the Bletchley Park secrecy were/are simple risible.

191:

Yes. My father was demoted from major to captain for telling a general that his men (Sikhs) needed their sleep more than to polish their brass for the general's inspection :-)

192:

Er, a quick play with on-line maps says that Bowness-on-Windermere (other Bownesses are available) is at least 50m AMSL, and may be on the side of a glaciated valley (I don't know the area as well as I do Scotland).

193:

Well, I've seen 1914-1919 war memorials, but I've seen/paused at enough that I decline to try and cite locations other than Dumbarton Central Station, which has memorial plaques for railway personnel for both WW1 and WW2.

On the other point, does anyone know if there's a Russian equivalent to the "London Gazette", which might have published your Grandfather's original "Order of St Vladimir" citation?

194:

... it's not been diplomatic for a while to mention that the defeat of Germany wasn't the end of the fighting

The Royal Scots have the Battle Honour "Archangel 1918-1919" (to go with other battle honours on Chinese and US soil; collect all the superpowers!). The 2/10th Battalion spent July 1918 to June 1919 fighting the Bolsheviks...

http://www.theroyalscots.co.uk/830-2/

195:

Given that the regime was on its way out at the time, it's quite likely that there isn't, or not that has survived. Debrett's lists it, but I don't know how reliable that is.

196:

Getting back to the OP, you mentioned in The Nightmare Stacks that Tony Blair had requested a military plan for dealing with the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine.

Who was the last PM in the Laundry-continuity to match the PM IRL?

197:

Said Grandfather apparently also snaffled an Order of St Vladimir, 2nd class
If this is true, the term "snaffle" would be more than appropriate. Such high-ranked award, according to Wiki, could only be awarded to 1-3 class in "Table of Ranks" (Lieutenant general, Vice admiral), which basically would mean that it either was slapped on a random guy for no reason whatsoever, or just properly stolen in the ensuing chaos following the evacuation.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Saint_Vladimir
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_of_Ranks
As such, one should expect no credible citation anywhere whatsoever.

On the other point, does anyone know if there's a Russian equivalent to the "London Gazette"
Not that any of them survived the dissolution of the Empire in the first place, much less the Civil War.
In general, I say, in the situation of every post-revolutionary government, the less past you have, the safer you will be.

198:

C-17 aircraft managed to drop a Humvee mounted on a heavy drop platform in someone's back yard in Cameron NC.

Oops!

But still not as potentially bad as nukes accidentally falling from bombers.
Just one of many:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Mars_Bluff_B-47_nuclear_weapon_loss_incident

199:

Who was the last PM in the Laundry-continuity to match the PM IRL?

Not sure — was Tony mentioned by name in TNS? Or just by association?

I'm pretty sure that the PM in "The Apocalypse Codex" is a thinly-disguised Blair but my recollection is hazy, and in any case TAC was written circa 2008. (Look at the copyright page: subtract one year for the submission year: then assume I was writing the year before that.)

200:

I asked a polite question about whether or not there was an identifiable collected source of medal citations.

4 lines of political diatribe as the answer says a lot about you.

201:

On page 264 of my copy of TNS:

RED RABBIT is indexed in the classified lexicon on the same page as RED HARE and RED HORSEMAN. RED HARE is the plan for what to do if and when Martian death tripods land on Horsell Common; RED HORSEMAN is the official Army plan for dealing with the Apocalypse of St. John the Divine.*
* Last updated in 2003 at the request of Tony Blair.
202:

I have to ask, how does one say this aloud: The 2/10th Battalion?
Researching for a story I found many British units with this sort of numbering. US military doesn’t do that, so I’m not familiar with it. My guess is Second Tenth?

Anyhow that story ended up going in another direction, but could still use this sort of information.

203:

Excuse me? It is a century-old history, what's "political" or "diatribe" about that?

204:

But did Blair make a request only for the Apocalypse of St. John, or did he request that all the unusual scenarios be updated?

205:

Yup. A lot of people don't know abuot the British and American armies during the Civil War in the USSR in 1919 and into 1920, I think.

But, I dunno, I can't *imagine* why the USSR/Russia is so paranoid* of being invaded....

* per Catch-22, justified paranoia is when everyone realy *is* out to get you...like driving anywhere the week between Christmas and New Years....

206:

One of the most evocative War Memorials in London is that to the Royal Artillery - it sats "1919" see this picture

207:

There are two reasons why units end up with this kind of numbering; one is the numbering of battalions within a Regiment, where that Regiment is numbered; this is the mechanism that you see within the US Army; or in the British Army, e.g. the 1st and 2nd Battalions of 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles.

However, the other numbering happened when the British Army had one of its periodic over-rapid expansions caused by the German Army going on an uninvited tour of Europe. While the newly-created "Kitchener Divisions" of the New Army got individual numbers, e.g. the 15th and 16th (Service) Battalions, The Royal Scots) the Territorial Force expanded its battalions by forming "First Line", "Second Line", and even "Third Line" units composed of differing levels of deployability. OGH lives just along the road from the old Drill Hall of the 9th (Highlanders) Battalion, The Royal Scots; the 1/9th fought on the Western Front, 2/9th stayed in the UK as did 3/9th, and served as training units for the most part.

So, the 10th Battalion had a first-line unit (1/10th) on coastal defence duties; and a second-line battalion (2/10th) who drew the short straw and spent a year fighting the Red Army; even though many of their troops were of limited fitness. 2/10th were almost unique in being a second-line battalion who fought on operations, and earned a Battle Honour.

I'm not sure what the pronunciation would be: "First-Tenth Battalion" and "Second-Tenth Battalion", I suspect. It would probably not be "First of the Tenth"...


209:

Thank you.
One of those times when having only read about something doesn’t give an idea how a character, or anyone, would talk about it.

210:

It would be the latter, given Blair's record.

One of the scandal rags had an August article about the scandal of undertakers shagging corpses (total bollocks, of course). When Blair discovered that bestiality and necrophilia were not explicit crimes, he demanded that they be made crimes, though not necrophiliac bestiality (yes, I read the Act). The main effect was to encourage one Northern Ireland idiot to shag a sheep either on camera or with witnesses; I don't know what happened after that.

There is also a reference in one book to a PM's predecessor "the vicar", which was pretty clear!

211:

It was a joke ;) (Same basic layout that Charlie described, but on a lake rather than on the sea, rather more recent, and for different reasons.)

212:

Y'know, folks, there's one thing bothering me about the Laundry universe: all these 'Orrible Nasties just *waiting* to eat us, and all these Sekret Groups calling them up... I find it *really* hard to believe that there are no groups calling up *good* deities....

Paging Sam! Paging the Lord of Light! (Or maybe the Tuatha de Danaan) Hell, Ganesha! (I'd *really* like to sic Ganesha on the Malignant Carcinoma....)

213:

There is no such thing as a good deity.

Once you have reached that level of power if you are invoked to solve problems, you will keep solving them. It's like eating peanuts. Try just eating one. You can't help yourself, and it's hard to stop. You have to write off at least one generation before you allow freewill to be the rule again, and realize that bad as things were, things were better off before you stepped in.

"People should not fear God, God should fear people."

That's the heart of so many great stories.

214:

Blair only wanted the Apocalypse of St. John plan updated.

~oOo~

Re: good deities. A while ago on Twitter (it may have been retweeted by Charlie) I saw something apropos. To paraphrase:

You're outside, working on something. Gradually, you become aware that a *huge* number of ants are surrounding you. The closest ones are 1.5 metres away - the farthest are 2 metres.

You realize that they're making sounds. They're saying your name over and over again! How are they making these sounds? Rubbing their legs together? Scraping pebbles on the ground in just the right way? Who knows?

Really weird. Anyway, you say: "What's up?"

They begin making different sounds: "Human. We have summoned you and bound you. You will do our bidding."

This is going to be a really strange story to tell your friends. You get out your phone and take a few pictures. "What do you want?"

"You will provide us with 1/2 a cup of white sugar, delivered to the anthill 3 metres northwest of your current location."

You feel no particular compulsion to do so. However, you say "OK, sure, no problem." You go into the house, get a half cup of sugar and sprinkle it onto the anthill indicated.

The ants disperse. Really strange.

You check online. Nobody else seems to be having ants talking to them. Your friends can see the ants in the pictures you took, so you know that you're not hallucinating.

Time passes. The ants periodically make other requests of you. Since they're not following you into your house, and they're only asking for things like sugar, apple cores and the like, it's no big deal to humour them. However, just in case things head south, you read up on how to destroy ant colonies. You pick up specialized insecticides.

Eventually, you get a circle of ants saying: "Human. Our workers are falling ill. We wish you to cure them."

"I really don't know how to do that."

"Human. We command that you cure our workers."

"What do you want me to do?"

"You know what must be done. Do not make us punish you, mammal."

So you say "Sure, no problem," go and get all the insecticide, bug bombs and ant traps that you've been stockpiling and wipe out the troublesome colony.

And you go about your life with an interesting anecdote to tell at parties. So: you're a good deity for these ants. Until they got stroppy, that is. Then you lowered the boom.

215:

I find it *really* hard to believe that there are no groups calling up *good* deities...

... Hell, Ganesha! (I'd *really* like to sic Ganesha on the Malignant Carcinoma...)

Power fantasies are tempting but some days your budget only stretches to a statue of Ganesh and a misplaced wombat. (Yes, it's a shameless plug for Digger.) As came up during Bob's Colorado trip, there are plenty of Things out there happy to pretend to be friendly deities long enough to get their pseudopods in the door...

[Hm, the spell checker doesn't recognize "pseudopod" - which seems improbable here.]

216:

The Laundryverse is a Lovecraftian multiverse. If there are "good" gods, their idea of morality doesn't necessarily correspond with what humans imagine to be "good." One of Lovecraft's main ideas was that proximity to an advanced being could be really, really harmful to your mental health. What makes a good advanced being better than a bad advanced being? Spend another 100 million years evolving and you'll figure it out!

Meanwhile, don't summon anything bigger than your head.

217:

JamesPadraicR @ 198:

C-17 aircraft managed to drop a Humvee mounted on a heavy drop platform in someone's back yard in Cameron NC.

Oops!

But still not as potentially bad as nukes accidentally falling from bombers.
Just one of many:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Mars_Bluff_B-47_nuclear_weapon_loss_incident

Had one of thse too. A B-52 came apart in mid-air over eastern North Carolina and dropped two "Mark 39 nuclear bombs"** over Faro, NC (about 19km from Seymour Johnson AFB where where the aircraft was assigned).

The Air Force figures one of the bombs hit the ground at 700 mph and buried parts of itself deep in the earth. The fins were found about 20 feet deep and part of the device was recovered. The "pit" was not recovered. Scientists at the University of North Carolina estimated the missing component had buried itself at least 180 feet down. The recovery attempt was abandoned due to uncontrolable flooding by ground water.

The other device had three of the four arming mechanisms activated, "causing it to execute many of the steps needed to arm itself, such as charging the firing capacitors and, critically, deployment of a 100-foot-diameter (30 m) parachute."

Local legend has it that ALL FOUR arming mechanisms activated and the Air Force doesn't know why it didn't go off.

**3.8 MT Teller-Ulam design

218:

JamesPadraicR @ 202: I have to ask, how does one say this aloud: The 2/10th Battalion?

Researching for a story I found many British units with this sort of numbering. US military doesn’t do that, so I’m not familiar with it. My guess is Second Tenth?

Anyhow that story ended up going in another direction, but could still use this sort of information.

Shorthand would be "Two of the Tenth" - Second Battalion, Tenth Regiment** ... at least that's how it was in the US Army. And the US Army most certainly did use that kind of unit designation. First number is the Batallion & second number if the Regiment.

During my time in the NC Army National Guard one of the units I served in was the 1/130 AVN aka First of the 130th; First batallion, 130th Aviation Regiment. I also served in the 30th BCT where our units were 1/120 INF, 1/252 AR and 1/150 AR.

**The first "company" (or troop or squadron) in the battalion would be Alpha 2/10 ...

219:

Goldsboro is what I was thinking of when I was looking for a link to post. I counldn’t remember the name, and was thinking that it happened in Georgia. Like I said, just one of many. After all, if you have enough incidents that you have to come up with a term like Broken Arrow you might have a problem.

220:

Thanks. I haven’t seen that in the US Army, but then my mother was a MEDDAC Health Physics Officer, after having been a Chaplain’s Assistant in the mid70s-80s. So I didn’t grow up around infantry units.

221:

Cheers Greg; as well as its primary function as a war memorial, that also qualifies as "good art" in my mind, like the Cameronians Memorial in Kelvingrove park, beside the museum and art gallery, and river Kelvin.

https://www.istockphoto.com/gb/photo/cameronians-war-memorial-kelvingrove-park-glasgow-gm458538471-16548340

222:

OK. The humour didn't come across, at least not well enough to stop the geologist and land use geographer in me taking over. (rule of thumb on this site - There's always someone who knows a useful amount about $subject)

223:

Well, it's about politics, so that makes it political :-)

But I can't see anything that doesn't at least try to be factual. Whether Wikipedia is correct is a good question, especially since chaotic revolutions tend to have 'authorities' that break such rules. And how do you know that Bellinghman's grandfather wasn't a general or an admiral :-)

While your last paragraph LOOKED purely political, the penultimate sentence is almost certainly true, and the ultimate one definitely is (and has been throughout history).

224:

So: you're a good deity for these ants. Until they got stroppy, that is. Then you lowered the boom.

And therein lies one of the plot threads in "The Labyrinth Index"! (Except in my metaphor I use bees, not ants. Because the Mandate likes his honey ...)

225:

That is a nice one*, unfortunately we missed it when I was there with my brother and father 12 years ago**. The museum was closed at the time so didn’t go near it. Though we did see the Kelvin statue with a traffic cone on his head, very wizardly.
Funny, I was thnking about it after I saw this article:
http://cmanews.net/naziyah-mahmood/

*so much better than the Confederate crap we’re trying to get rid of over here.
**gaah, can’t believe it’s been that long.

226:

Well, it's about politics, so that makes it political
Only strictly speaking! I did not intend make any particular political statements, if only expressed a sarcastic remark. I hope Bellinghman won't get particularly upset with it - it is better to treat this as a moment of our common history, mistakes were made, and there was a lot of stirring at the time, etc. A very interesting time, in many accounts (and the aforementioned "Chapayev and Void" is also set in this period, at least partially, since it is a fantastic literature).

And how do you know that Bellinghman's grandfather wasn't a general or an admiral
Maybe he was high enough to receive it, I don't need to know for real, I just suggested more plausible version out of common knowledge. I mean, the central government crumbled for good at this point, so what is the point of issuing awards in the name of it?

227:

nor the tank-v-Mercedes chase on Salisbury Plain

Did you move the Alfar internment camp at some point? The book is now very clear about it being on northern Dartmoor, but first time through I could never work out where the tank encounter was supposed to take place. The obvious location for the camp is south and east of Okehampton Battle Camp, but you'd be needing a Land Rover or better rather than the road cars to get onto the Moor past OBC and the access road from memory runs through Okehampton itself. I can't remember if there's now a mystery "works traffic only" access road on the A30 bypass these days.

228:

Thanks mate. There is a lot of public sculpture in Glasgow, mostly memorials to groups or to famous people, but including relief maps, cartoon characters http://www.discoverglasgow.org/statues-lobey-dosser/4572885054 characters from legend https://www.caingram.info/Scotland/Pic_htm/great_western_road.htm ...

I think you mean "The Duke of Wellington mounted with a traffic cone on his head"? In front of GOMA in Royal exchange Square. There is actually at least one statue of Lord Kelvin too.

229:

Oh, come on. If humans could come up with Jainism....

And then there's the idea that they may have *uses* for us. Y'know, you train a dog (but take orders from a cat)....

There was a story, good one, I like it, can *not* remember the title or author, where an interstellar organization of aliens have put a humongous space fleet together, and they're trying to find out what happened to all the humans (who'd given a lot of them space travel, and started the interstellar organization).

SPOILER

At the end, they contact The Human... and there's this deity, who's busy fighting a truely *nasty* deity, and was barely holding his own, so he fell back and created intelligence. Humans were the first race to get far enough to respond to him, and we've joined Him in the fight, outside the universe, and would the rest of you please move along the evolutionary path, we could use some help out here.....

Me? I still merely want to be Dick Seaton.

230:

Edinburgh recently got a nice statue of a heavily-armed bear[1]. It's in Prince Street Gardens.

[1]Wojtek the Polish Heavy Mortar Bear. Adopted as a bear cub by Polish forces in Iran it was smuggled into Italy and as it grew it was trained to carry heavy mortar ammunition for the Polish soldiers. After the war the Poles were demobbed in Scotland and Wojtek went to live in Edinburgh Zoo. I don't know if he got his beer ration on a regular basis after that, though.

231:

One wonders whether there's a link with the right to arm bears :-)

232:

Nope, it was seated Kelvin in the park. Here’s my father’s picture from FB, he was looking a bit rusty at the time.

Has also a picture of Wellington without cone. Most of his FB pictures are of his various Deerhounds over the years.

233:

He was a smoker too. I believe the soldiers who also had to stay around used to visit him with supplies when they could. As a child I had a copy of his biography - it's probably on a box somewhere!

234:

Except in my metaphor I use bees, not ants. Because the Mandate likes his honey ...

Making the Mandate - Mahogany Row desperately hopes - a beekeeper who knows how to use modern hives.

To unpack the second metaphor, just in case:

For thousands of years humans housed bees in fixed-frame hives, wood or clay cylinders or woven skeps (the rounded cone that's the classic beehive shape). This was easy to make - but it was hard to inspect the interior and harvesting the honey and wax often meant crushing the whole hive. Some keepers would just kill all the bees before opening the hive.

Only in the 19th century did we figure out how to make movable-frame hives, the boxes you'll see in orchards today. Those are easy to inspect for trouble and let us harvest honey and beeswax by lifting out single frames. The queen and the swarm as a whole survive just fine, and harvest time is a nuisance rather than a bee apocalypse.

235:

To add to that metaphor:

A hive is like a body made of many cells. Individual bees die, but are replaced, just as the individual cell in the body does.

There is a recurring thing called "colony collapse" that is actually the natural death of that particular hive/body.

"Colony collapse" has been around since industrial beekeeping started, just under different names. Each time it is "discovered/studied" again it is given a different name, thus it appears "new" and a "problem" when it is perfectly natural for the hive to age and die, just like humans.

BTW, "Apocalypse" means "Revelation" not destruction.

That is a useful chain of thought. Each link coming together to make something greater. I can use that.

Thanks...

237:

The queen and the swarm as a whole survive just fine, and harvest time is a nuisance rather than a bee apocalypse.

The Bad News is that if infection or disease or an outside agent not directly under the control of the beekeeper like a fungus hits a hive then the only solution is the destruction of the colony and sterilisation of the hive. In some cases the hive is burnt to destroy a persistent source of infection that could affect all the other hives in the apiary. Worst case the entire apiary is destroyed in this fashion to avoid affecting other apiaries within flight range.

The beekeeper can always replace her bees and even her hives. The bees get no say in her decision.

238:

My most favorite group (I do have some other favorite groups, but this is the greatest) - UK "Hybrid" ensemble - recently came up with new album, and it seems to me that they've been responding to certain worries too. Like, verbally - just look at motives, names, texts... Maybe it is just a coincidence, though.
Music is on YT, if you want to look at it. I think it is called "new classical".
Distinctive records.
Light Up (Loadstar Remix)
I Won't Back Down

Any opinions? I wish more people heard of them.

239:

Re: 'UK "Hybrid" ensemble'

Interesting sound - thanks! 'I Won't Back Down' has an SF/Action sound track quality to it.

240:

related to werewolves, closet:

I recall reading online a wiccan talk about "coming out of the broom closet."

241:

So is a secret werewolf in the dog house? *grin*

242:

Wasn't speaking of all Verne's books, just the few not cheaply available in English because the only existing published translations (according to Delphi?) are from 25(?) or fewer years ago, iirc. Something like that! Unless we're still talking about the same thing.

243:

I'm not offended: I'm a little sceptical about the claim myself, though given the regime was in the last stages of collapse and my grandfather was an officer with their allies, it is not completely implausible.

Admiral or General? Nope.

244:

:-) Cheers; as I say there are a lot of public sculptures in Glasgow, and the GOMA Duke of Wellington with traffic cone is a meme in itself. Sometimes the horse has its own cone as well!

245:

I haven’t seen pictures of the horse with a cone. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that!

246:

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/duke-of-wellington-statue-glasgow.html with anything from 1 to 3 cones on the statue and up to 5 more on the plinth!

247:

Skimming back to see what I've missed... and this hit me: "there is no such thing as a good deity"....

So, perhaps, to paraphrase a vile old American line, "the only good deity is a dead deity"?

But, surely there must be *some* deities out there who really, *REALLY* don't like Yog or Cthulhu, and would happily discommode them?

248:

The cone on the horse's head needs holes cut in the base to fit over the horse's ears. It's usually one of the very big ones usually used on major road works rather than the 50cm-high street works cones and the big ones are very heavy and difficult to lift into place.

Glasgow Council would like to repair the statue, a number of bits like the General's sword and saddle details have taken physical damage from people climbing up on it, not to mention corrosion from Glasgow's past bad air quality but they're loath to do so if people insist on climbing up to put a cone in place after it's been removed. It's also a long way to fall onto hard flagstones if something goes wrong during a cononation (as it's sometimes called in Glasgow) especially since alcohol is usually involved.

249:

Thanks, though I think more than 3 might be over doing it.
And that relief of the wounded soldier looks like he’s about to get a trepanning. Ouch.

250:

Now fighting the urge to do something similar to our local equivalent statue of the city founder. Okay, not really, not worth getting a fine or arrested—I’d rather not find out which.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Colorado_Springs_General_William_Palmer_by_David_Shankbone.jpg

251:

whitroth @ 247: Skimming back to see what I've missed... and this hit me: "there is no such thing as a good deity"....

So, perhaps, to paraphrase a vile old American line, "the only good deity is a dead deity"?

But, surely there must be *some* deities out there who really, *REALLY* don't like Yog or Cthulhu, and would happily discommode them?

But would the human race be any better off?

252:

From stories I've heard back when I was living near Glasgow and spending a lot of time in the city the usual method of cononating Lord Wellington these days involves a very long fishing rod or pole of some kind and some cord in a noose at the end rather than climbing up a wet slippery plinth and pigeon-shit-covered bronze statue at dark o'clock while Under The Affluence of Incohol.

Dronezzzz would make cononating Wassname in Colorado Springs a piece of piss, assuming you can get one with sufficient load capacity. Sudden though, I wonder if amazon.com sells traffic cones and are willing to do a drone delivery to a specific location? You could use gift vouchers and a fake name...

253:

If anyone is in Brooklyn and has a chance to decorate one of the Trump dog urinals, get a picture for the amusement of others.

254:

Dronezzzz would make cononating Wassname in Colorado Springs a piece of piss, assuming you can get one with sufficient load capacity.

My father and some college buddies worked out the logistics, but not the funding, for using a weather balloon to deliver a beanie to the golden statue atop the Oregon Capitol Building. We can mourn the lost pranking opportunity but they would have been the obvious suspects and surely would have been rounded up and yelled at.

255:

A pole would certainly make for quicker getaway.

256:

ss @ 253
AT LAST - somoenone i the USA seems to have developed a UK sense of humour - lurve it.

257:

I assume you *do* know about the decades of MIT hacks, including a real VW Beetle on to top of the University's famous dome?

258:

>So this is no longer the Bob series; it's more like Discworld, which fissioned into about five disparate series with a shared setting and different viewpoint characters who grow and change over time.

Actually, you're closer to the same problem David Weber has had with the Honor Harrington novels. When a character keeps growing in power, you hit a certain level where they're management and not getting away from HQ, and thus present an issue when the series bread and butter is action. Weber's original plan was to Kill off HH in book 11 as she hit the rank of fleet admiral, resetting the series in two parts a generation later with her offspring who are thus very junior, and on different tracks (one naval, the other a spy so switching from Horatio Hornblower IN SPACE to Aubery-Martin IN SPACE). Fearing it would kill his golden goose, he blinked, killed another character, and then cooled his heels for 5 years while he developed two side series building up other view points, turning his 22 book series into a 14 book series with 7 'side story books'.

259:

Regarding the masquerade, it's just super easy worldbuilding here. It's just like the real world, plus zombies. Or just like the real world, plus vampires.

The first time this really struck me was with the War of the Worlds TV series in the 80's. The idea is that the 1959 movie was history and now it's the 80's and everyone thinks the Martian threat is old news. Only they're developing a resistance to human bugs and are now ready to take over again. Naturally, it's set in the 80's and everything looks 80's but there's a remarkable lack of any impact from the invasion. Just think about going through the major cities of Europe and even if the rubble is cleared, signs of WWII are everywhere. It was just unimaginative writing.

My desire to see writers blow up the world doesn't stem so much from a perverse desire to see the apocalypse as to see them write past it. It's the end of the world as we know it? Great. Now tell us of the world to come. Everyone writes the zombie story as an outbreak in the world as we know it or we end up sliding immediately into the apocalypse with no central government and it's all wandering bands and bandits. Lazy. Show me the world where civilization has adapted to the zombie threat. Show me people trying to hold down jobs and put food on the table and maintain their domestic life while everything has changed. Couples don't sleep together anymore. If someone dies in his sleep, he can eat his partner. If you sleep in the same room you have to cuff yourself to the bed, something only a live human can unlock. Any zombie remains in place. If you don't cuff yourself to the bed the bedroom door must remain locked with a combination lock no zombie could accidentally solve.

Everyone wants to keep riffing on the same old tropes because it's expected, easy and not as big a challenge. That's why I'm happy to see the Laundryverse blowing up. Not because I want to see the world end but because I want to see how you'll write through it.

260:

The first time this really struck me was with the War of the Worlds TV series in the 80's...

Now I'm imagining protagonists who can't get useful support from anti-Martian politicians because the fear of Martians is a great way to excite the base and get people backing whatever thing the politician wants to fund, but actually fighting Martians costs money and if done right doesn't make any headlines.

We can all find real world examples of this behavior.

261:

Weber and HH: ugh. I stopped around book 5 or so.

This is why my late wife and I built a universe, and then wrote stories in it. The novel that I'm looking for an agent is complete in one book. I've got a sequel, that needs 6 mos-yr of work, but that's 20 years later, elsewhere in our universe, and has nothing to do with the first.

Come on, you've got a fascinating universe, and you want to be tied to the tiniest bit of it?

Actually, a short that I mentioned writing a few months ago (really need to contact Amazing Stories, we're almost up to two months; but then, I need to talk to Analog - it's been since July, and not rejected....)... anyway, I realized I had a real universe to explore, farther future, and ways to relate... and I've started what may be another short (oh, Ghu, not a novelette, please...) that leaps from about 150 yrs in our future 11,000 years into that future, with a lot bigger view of what's going on; I s'pose I now have a second interesting universe to play in.

So, yeah, if you've got a world, or universe, explore more of it. No one hero's going to begin to see it all.

262:

the War of the Worlds TV series in the 80's

I was still watching a bit of TV in those days and caught a couple of those. Pretty ignorable, though I did like the "Angel of Death" episode. The bad Martians find they're being visited by something way badder and, in one instance, a Martian jumps down an elevator shaft in preference to facing it. Then the final minute or two was good too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaaV0oOks1g

263:


I just rewatched a little of that and find that the acting is even more atrocious than I'd remembered. The plot, though, is ok.

264:

The problem with Harrington is that she started out as a plausible, competent character with flaws and turned into a Mary Sue. "Her only problem is she just isn't aware of how awesome she is." Plus there was the tendency to make the villains liberal strawmen.

I understand his fear of killing the golden goose. Few people wanted to read anything by Doyle that wasn't Sherlock. I think the only way to avoid that fear is to keep the series always evolving so that there's never a status quo to get stuck in. But that's
easy for me to say when my livelihood isn't dependent upon writing fiction that sells.

I haven't kept up with what's gone on in that series. Might be worth a wiki perusal to see if I feel like I've dodged a bullet.

265:

Eh... unoriginal *sniffs* Cambridge got there first with an Austin Seven on top of the Senate House.

266:

I like the premise of the show but there's only so much they could do on a budget like that back in the day.

What I always thought would be interesting for the next War of the Worlds story is showing what happens years down the line. You can either have it as a followup to the Victorian invasion or something that happened later. Think about what comes next. What would the nations of the world do after a Martian invasion?

If you are a dismalist you'd say they'd reverse engineer martian weapons and get on with having a world war or two.

If you are hopeful then you could imagine setting up an international agency to investigate and combat the martian threat. And in this scenario I'm imagining that the Martian threat was a last gasp from a dying world and there are no subsequent invasions. So the decision is eventually made to mount the first interplanetary expedition to travel to Mars and counter the invaders there. What they encounter is pretty much the ruins of that civilization and the story comes from the exploration and discovery in said ruins. Possibly they might find a few survivors hidden away and there's the possibility of developing an actual dialogue with the Martians. My preference would be to keep them starfish aliens where they aren't just humans with bumpy foreheads or look odd but are basically a mental human in a different body. Little in common between humans and Martians aside from existing as physical beings in the physical world who have the essential needs of food and shelter. We'd have to develop a whole new way of modeling Martian psychology because it would have to be very, very alien to our own way of thinking.

That does make me wonder, what are the best scifi stories for exploring proper starfish aliens? Blindsight was horrifying.

267:

I can give you the quick 2 bits.

The big thing is the strawmen political got dialed back, and overtime the main conflict became good people on both sides stuck in a war they don't want but can't end. It really helps that Eric Flint comes on board for some co-authoring as Eric Flint is a former union organizer and socialist workers party member.

Eventually the conflict becomes about an additional looming conflict which is being engineered to bring down the Solarian League, which is really more political skulduggery than any thing else.

268:

Do you consider any of the rest of the series worth reading? The Rob S. Pierre character was not so much on the nose as up it. (French Revolution parallels, I get it! Sheesh.) What killed me is when the whole revolution happened basically off-screen. You do not get to pull that!

I think the very last one of these books I read was the revolution one. From internet discussion it sounds like something else happened after that, operation Oyster Bay where Manticore basically got colony dropped. Zillions dead, major stations destroyed, etc. But no assurance over whether the writing is readable. The earlier stuff was good for what it was and could be enjoyed on that level.

269:

@ 268 & earlier
Agree that the "Villains" have evolved & changed & become more normal - there was always the distinction between "good" "Peeps" ( Navy officers usually) & "bad" ones - politicos.
Some of the politicos on the Manticore side are pretty unpleasant, too.
I also think that one reason Weber stopped writing direct "HH" novels for six+ years was that he'd painted himself into a corner.
The Treecats are empaths ... & they are going to Haven, where they will if not immediately, then very quickly spot & point-out the Mesa/Alignment ( Space Nazis ) "Plants" & spies present there.
Then what?
Also the Treecats have NOT signed any interplanetary treaties on wasting their opponents ( Massive nukes, dropping large meteorites on their heads, etc ) & don't believe in leaving live enemies behind them.
Um.

270:

I'll probably read the current tome after it comes out in paperback, or if I can find it used/cheap. I find that reading every other HH-related book that drops works very well for me.

271:

Please. Rob S. Pierre wasn't just a cardboard villian (Weber did avoid having him twirl his mustache, but just barely), he was a strawman where you could see the strings. And Weber's whole attitude about him and his planet was about equivalent to the view of someone on NewsMaxx towards Obama.

That's just bad writing. He was closing in, real fast, on Rand's Anthem, pegging the good-read/bad-read meter on bad, and bending the post.

Agreed, though - she did become a Mary Sue, and in only about three or four books. Not really interested in rereading them, when I can read, oh, the latest by Czerdena, or this Scottish guy....

272:

A sequel? To War of the Worlds? But... who would they get to write it, and what time period...?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison%27s_Conquest_of_Mars

(Serviss, 1898).

Actually, I have a copy. In an anthology in the early seventies, Forry Ackerman mentioned that he knew the shortest horror story in the world, but knew there was a shorter, but couldn't remember it. He also mentioned the above book.

I sent him a letter, with the Shortest Horror Story in the World, Shorter by One Letter than the Shortest Horror Story in the World, and mentioned Edison's.... and he'd just reprinted it, and sent me a copy in appreciation.

273:

The interesting thing is the later novels kinda rehabilitate him as he more than anyone else messed up a generations long plan of the secret true villains.

Bit of a spoiler: The Men behind the Men are would-be transhumans. Extreme genetic mods are taboo in the honorverse as a result of the multi-sided final war on earth (It's also made a taboo of nano-tech beyond that which is controlled in a space based fab isolated from everyone else). The secret folks have been planning a very long gambit to kill the Solarian League and bring about their preferred society, with their curated lines on top.

Honor's mary sueism is eventually explained as the family founder being from a rogue line of these supermen, with generations of Treecats having add on effects.

Anyway, Rob S. Pierre's revolution and restructuring of the Haven Economy broke their plans, causing the secret supermen to do more and more over actions which eventually out them.

The novels really are about the space combat mostly. But around book 6 or 7 he gets better about avoiding strawmen and grows as an author. It really gets better after book 9 or so when he gets a co-author whose a liberal. Eg. there are actually intelligent liberal politicians who aren't dupes or traitors.

But well, I read it for space battles.

274:

Weber changed his stance, visbly, after the Okalhoma City bombing ...he even mentions this in one preface, where he imagines an atrocity in a book, which was at the publishers when McVeigh set his truck off .....

275:

I think he's a decent guy, politics aside. He adopted a couple of Cambodian girls several years ago, and if you read his books I think I could vote for some of the people he presents as heros. IMHO he smoked the right-wing Kool-Aid, but he didn't inhale.

276:

I thought the Sleeper was Hastur....

277:

It reminds me a bit (likely through sheer thematic coincidence) of the 'millenarians' from Neal Stephenson's book Anathem-- people who deliberately sequester themselves away either to avoid intellectual cross-contamination while working on "long now" problems or to preserve knowledge and provide a means of rebooting things after a disaster.

278:

Or possible the Laundry isn't always clear on which elder god is which.

279:

Raise your hand if your mental image of Fabian Everyman is Rik Mayall doing Alan B'stard.

281:

I was thinking of something more like "The Smiler" from the Spider Jerusalem comics.

282:

Not far off: my mental image is a horrible cross between Rik Mayall's Alan B'Stard with the (regrettably real) Jacob Rees-Mogg, with added eldritch mojo and just a touch of the Joker (not sure which version but obvs. one of the scarier/more psychotic ones).

283:
That does make me wonder, what are the best scifi stories for exploring proper starfish aliens? Blindsight was horrifying.

A lot of Stanislaw Lem's books deal with attempts to explore alien worlds that turn out to be inhabited by starfish aliens, and with the multiple ways the human protagonists are capable of messing up the encounter despite their best intentions. Let me quote Wikipedia:

"One of Lem's major recurring themes, beginning from his very first novel, The Man from Mars, was the impossibility of communication between profoundly alien beings, which may have no common ground with human intelligence, and humans. The best known example is the living planetary ocean in Lem's novel Solaris. Other examples include swarms of mechanical insects (in The Invincible), and strangely ordered societies of more human-like beings in Fiasco and Eden, describing the failure of the first contact. In His Master's Voice, Lem describes the failure of humanity's intelligence to decipher and truly comprehend an apparent message from space."

284:

Case Nightmare Plaid, Hastur is another name for the King in Yellow: the entity behind the pale violin.

285:

I heard a report that "Jacob Re-smog" wants to repeal the Clean Air Acts! :-)

286:

I am unfamiliar with this person, either because he's obscure in the US or I've just not happened to read of him before. Wikipedia makes him sound bland, if stiff. Is he actively counterproductive or just hopelessly super-conservative?

287:

ss @ 286
Jacob Reess-Mogg
Criminally insane, politician on the British extreme right ( i.e. a moderate Republican ) raving Roman Catholic, believes in & practices unrestricted breeding, very very rich, stands to profit hugely from Brexit, whilst crapping on the rest of us ( "All for our own good" of course ).
Makes my skin crawl.
Thorougoing all-round shit, in fact.

288:

I promoted JRM from harmlessly eccentric and largely irrelevant young fogey to outright dangerous when I heard him arguing against mitochondrial DNA treatments.

He can camouflage it as concern over unforeseen long term effects of novel treatments all he likes but I can recognise the sound of a religious fundamentalist sacrificing unborn children on his god’s altar when I hear it, and I’m assuming it’s only a matter of time until a recognisable equivalent turns up in the laundryverse...

289:

J R-M
I forgot to add that he is a really stinking hypocrite.
He raves on about Brexit & freeing ourselves from the shackles of foreign influence & the European COourt ( & all the other stuff ) but he, himself publicly grovels to an absolute foreign prince - the Pope.
Oops, as the saying goes.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 18, 2018 9:51 PM.

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