Back to: The Inevitable Brexit Thread (2)

Upcoming appearances

It's April 2019, and to my surprise I find I haven't been to any SF conventions so far this year. But that's going to change. Here's my (abbreviated) calendar:

18-22 April: Ytterbium, the UK eastercon, Heathrow, London. No, I'm not a guest of honour (for which I'm kinda thankful--I've been an eastercon GoH before, it's hard work), but I'll be on a few program items and hanging out in the hotel bar.

7-9 June: Cymera SF Festival, Edinburgh: not an SF convention so much as a literary festival specializing in SF/F; in particular I'm part of a double-header dialog with Jonathan Whitelaw on Saturday, June 8, 7:00 PM-8:00 PM.

5-7 July: Finncon, Jyväskylä, Finland: it's Finland's national SF convention, and I'm one of the guests of honour this year.

15-19 August: Dublin 2019, the 77th world science fiction convention, is held in Dublin, and I'm going to be there.

23-25 August: Titancon, the Eurocon (European SF convention) is in Belfast, and as I'm driving/taking the car ferry to Dublin 2019 and Belfast is on the road home ... nope, not even slightly kidding! (Doing conventions on consecutive weekends is normally one of my no-nos these days--it's exhausting--but I can hardly say no.) Program not finalized, but I hope to be on it.

I don't have any definite plans after Titancon, other than a provisional "let's go to the worldcon in New Zealand in 2020 (I have air miles to spend)", but doubtless stuff will come up.

Finally: no book launches this year, because 2019 is a gap in my publishing schedule. But that's going to be fixed in 2020, which should see the publication of both "Invisible Sun" and "Lost Boys", both of which will hopefully get launch events.


| Leave a comment

Great stuff. I can't justify taking the cost of Worldcon admission/membership out of the household budget, but I'd be honoured to buy you a pint around the fringes while you're in the Republic.

... er, especially if it increased my chances of finally getting my hardcover copy of Accelerando signed...


There aren't any specialist SF bookshops in Dublin so I won't be doing a signing/reading there outside the convention, but I'm likely to announce at least one public pub session after the con (before driving to Belfast).


It's fair to say what Dublin lacks in specialist SF bookstores, it makes up for in public houses.


Yes, but most of the beer is fizzy keg shite. And I include Guiness in that category (cask conditioned Guiness hasn't been a thing in decades).

This has changed in the past ten years or so, and there are even a few microbreweries with their own pubs these days, but there are still relatively few real ale pubs in Dublin: honourable exception to the Porterhouse.

(In this respect Ireland is a bit like Australia for beer.)


Can you sing? Or do you know anyone that can play an instrument? Does your favorite bar allow
filksinging? I've got a new song about spacex landing the first stage, and a couple others like "it gpls me" and "Rhysling and me", that I do at cons in the USA. First time I've ever been on this side of the water for a con.....

I won't saturate this post with links, but I just did "one first landing" at IETF104, and my voice was shot, but, it came out ok... ( )

I've long meant to write a filksong about one of your books, but coming up with good rhymes for cthulu has been hard.


I was just thinking exactly that too. Even finding draft Austrian, Czech or German lager in Dublin is hard.


Things have definitely come on a long way in the last 10 years. The craft beer revolution has left Ireland awash with exciting indigenous zymurgic experiments, and even the most traditional of pubs will generally have a selection of microbrews, in the fridge if not on tap.
It's true you won't find 'real ale' in too many bars, but in fairness cask-conditioned hand-pumped beer is really something of a British regional specialty these days- you have to be (aha) conditioned to drinking it, and the Irish market just doesn't have a taste for it.


I've long meant to write a filksong about one of your books, but coming up with good rhymes for Cthulu has been hard.

"Eats you" and "breaks through" both come to mind, as does "green goo."

And "fhtagn" rhymes with everything, but only if you have the right number of mouths.


Well, if it's be a filk, I also need a backing song to modify... and a story to tell, or retell. I love bob howard (who's not a coward), and persephone hazard (and her bodyguard), and the armory guy, the vampire bankers and "death by powerpoint" still reduces me to hysterics (because it's true! Powerpoint DOES create zombies, I've seen it happen!) and so many other characters of the laundry, but I think it would require beer to put any story or sub-story to song.

Totally open to crowd sourcing the idea. Anyone have suggestion for turning a laundry story into song? an epic poem?

I've been burning up prague with my guitar for a couple weeks... and am heading to bristol on the 15th, then dropping on at Ytterbium con in london for a couple days... (totally didn't know charlie was there also til an hour or three ago)...

this is the longest version of rhysling & me I've ever done (sorry) that goes into the backing story a lot. Tons of SF (mostly heinlein) references ( )


I've written a number of filks, and folk-processed several songs, as well (my most recent was Battle Hymn of the Republic, v2). Of the filks, the one I'm proudest of (and Steve MacDonald, the filker, thinks I should be) is one I call Outbound Passage, using Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage.

Wrote that in '12, after both Neil Armstrong and my late ex, the former NASA engineer died. The chorus is

One more time, we'll rebuild the Saturn rocket
And I'll climb to the top, and light the candles off
Leaving one bright line, through a sky so wide and open
And take that outbound passage to the Sea.

(Last verse, the final line after the chorus)
And take that passage to Tranquility.


I'm coming to Ireland and Scotland in August and September from Australia and be at WorldCon and Titancon and then driving through eventually to Edinburgh.

Trying not to sound like a stalker, but hoping to catch up with you sometime during the trip.

I saw you and your good lady when you came to Melbourne in 2010 and looking forward to hearing you in person again.

Any suggestions as to spots to visit once we are in Scotland and/or near Edinburgh?


REPOSTING for Dave. Here's my Cthulhu Rap from last year. Feel free to use anything that entertains.

The idea behind the song is that eventually every technology goes from the high-tech spies to the street - which finds its own etc. - so someone from the Laundry goes into this maker dive bar where everyone is muttering over a Raspberry Pi or Arduino and the entertainment sounds like this:

I’m squamous and rugose
And soon I’ll be batrachian
Pray Yog Sothoth Neblod Zin
The world will get on track again!

I’m gonna go beneath the waves
On the day I get my scaly skin
But for now we’ll worship Dagon
And I’ll pray in Old Enochian

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh
The Old One Lies Dreaming
Cthulhu R'lyeh
In His home beneath the waves
Wgah'nagl fhtagn
But he’ll be back one day!

From the basalt fortress of G’harne
To Leng in the dusty desert
The ancient ones abide and wait
Tell you to live for pleasure!

You are a scar on the eye of God
But you gotta still be nice
So give up your very human pain
To the rite of sacrifice!

Ph'nglui Mglw'nafh
The Old One Lies Dreaming
Cthulhu R'lyeh
In His home beneath the waves
Wgah'nagl fhtagn
But he’ll come back one day!


I didn't notice the bit about a backing song. How about "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson? The original lyrics discuss a mob hit, so it should translate very nicely to a Laundry Story.

I've just wrote my own set of lyrics to the song, based on the idea that Bob saves Mo from some Elder Things by summoning a Shoggoth to fight on his behalf. I might post them here in a couple days, but I was curious what everyone else would do with the idea!


A general note for anybody thinking of going to Ytterbium who has not yet joined: membership is close to capacity, and they're likely to close registration on Sunday (i.e. about 48 hours from now).

I strongly suspect on-the-door registrations will be very limited.


I'd advise you to avoid Edinburgh in August—it's Festival month. Which means the population doubles, and hotel/BnB rates more or less triple, and you can't move without a machete. (It's about five different simultaneous arts festivals flying in loose formation, the largest public arts festival in Europe.)

The rest of the time, it's not so bad as long as you remember it's the UK's #2 tourist city after London (which has ten times the population).

I have no idea whether I'll be in town in September, at this point: probably, but it's not guaranteed.

(Also, September in Edinburgh will be similar in climate to Melbourne in July, i.e. mid-winter, only probably colder. Although it's still summer in Scotland.)


actually given all the political nonsense (brexit, assange's arrest) and how much charlie's piece on beige democracy affected me, I feel something lennon-like coming on.

and "waist deep in the big muddy" keeps going through my head:

but I don't feel much like changing those lyrics around much.


Well, I used to live near Glasgow (about 50 miles from Edinburgh), and the closest I've come to "going to Edinburgh in August" is once being taken to the Military Tattoo aged about 8. Even then we drove through, went to the Tattoo, and drove back late the same day.

You may want to note too that some Edinburgh residents actually holiday in August, and finance their holiday by renting their property to festival goers.


We are booked to fly out of Edinburgh on 15th of September and are driving over from Ireland after the cons, so we might keep away from the big smoke until the last few days (and remember to rug up).

Charlie etal, how long do you recommend we spend in Edinburgh to get a sense of the place, but not get too touristy?



They must be planning for an inevitable convention split into "Erbium", "Terbium", and "Yttrium".


Hopefully not this Lennon? Because I'd be kind of sad if you turned out to be a Nazi supporter.


At least a week. Bear in mind that hotels are never cheap, but there are loads in the city centre, and the core is entirely walkable, being mostly mediaeval/18th century—with good public transport to outlying areas.

Don't even think about renting a car in Edinburgh: that way lies madness (even though you're already used to driving on the correct side of the road).


And anything else coming from the small Swedish village of Ytterby1 ...?

The convention is named Ytterbium because it's the 70th Eastercon and Ytterbium is the 70th element. There was a predecessor named Dysprosium. You can tell there's a shortage of clever names.

1Yes, we were nearby, so visited. Very undistinguished.



*John* Lennon dang it...

... because a working class hero is still something to be.

That other lennon is disgusting, I never heard of that nutcase before now.

I freely confess to being a little nutty on three subjects - bufferbloat (which my project has largely fixed on *everything*, see pretty graphs in this as one example: ), and I'm in a major conflict with the cable industry right now: - secondly, asteroid exploration - and thirdly, good science. From where I sit the entire beige democracy and MIA complex has converted to bokononism.

we both worked for SCO, btw, I've read all your books and read your
blog regularly. you speak truth to power. esr's a good friend so long
as we avoid certain subjects.... and jon corbet of lwn says hi and
wishes you'd schedule an appearance at some linux conference someday.

Does that comfort you at the prospect of raising a glass with me, and
maybe smashing it in the fireplace?

You still haven't told me if you can sing or not. :)


There was a predecessor named Dysprosium.

And we know cos we were both there! I still use my Dysprosium mug for breakfast coffee.


I don't sing, don't dance. (Neither my voice nor my knees are up to it.0

I am … not amused … by the way the beige dictatorship has broken, to say the least!


"Imagine" is the Lennon song which came instantly to mind, but maybe it's too easy too rewrite as a Cthulhu song.

I'd assume that by now you've heard "Hey There Cthulhu."


...and jon corbet of lwn says hi and
wishes you'd schedule an appearance at some linux conference someday.

Hey Charlie, you should come to the Southern California Linux Expo. (After the 2020 elections of course.)


Hadn't thought of that alignment for Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, but *boy*, is the Big Fool pushing on.

Actually, he may have finally started going over the line - four GOP deserted, so Cain's not going to the Fed, and threatening to release migrants in sanctuary cities....


I am … not amused … by the way the beige dictatorship has broken, to say the least!
You ASKED for it, you got it ... NOW you complain!

There's a very old saying about being careful about what you wish for!

P.S. log-in has gone screwey - I'm trying to re-post on the other htread & should be past the timing limit, but it doesn't want to know ... WordPress glitch?


"That's nothing by a cheap, two-bit ring from a crackback jocks!"


Actually, I was referring to theresa may with "waist deep in the big muddy"... hmm... maybe some new lyrics are needed.....



But I didn't think the Themes was that muddy. Now, the Walbrook... (Been doing research for my silly story.) Y'know, it strikes me where all the Brexiteers should be staged... at the waste transfer station at Walbrook Wharf, to go onto barges with the rest of the waste.


Ok, total change of subject: I need an opinion; if you were summononing Cthulhu, would you a) be at the ground level, just above the Thames, or three or four floors up, where you could see what you were doing to the Thames?


...and the core is entirely walkable...

Yeah, but it's uphill both ways.


WRT "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" (great song), and Filking: I first learned of Filksinging in an autobiographical music book by Pete Seeger where he talks about it being a portmanteau of Filch and Folksinging, but no mention of a connection to SF cons. Of course the idea of putting new lyrics to old melodies has been around forever.


If I only have two choices I'd go with 3-4 stories up, but ideally I'd be in a helicopter 10-20 stories up. The helicopter would be flown by a fellow cultist (who is not so fanatical they want to be eaten) plus a copilot who could take over piloting duties. If I had a budget I might use drones for real-time reporting and be miles away.

The big issue is that I'd keep the evil overlord's list carefully in mind.


If you're summoning Cthulhu in mid-air, I presume the idea is to see if he can get his wings working before he splats into the ground and reforms, rather cross? Remember that he's basically a demonic starship, not an aquatic being. He's kept imprisoned underwater, and the one time he got out, he did a front crawl through the water, wings and all, while he pursued the last witnesses to his embarrassment of being decanted prematurely. And possibly he chased them because he found that humans tasted good and he was peckish or something. Summoning him into water is, perhaps, insulting.

Personally, were I hell-bent on summoning one of Them, I'd create a bunch of legal cutouts to hire a bunch of actors to carry out the actual summoning* while telling them that they're filming a cheesy YouTube video. Meanwhile I'd be on another continent with excellent deniability. It's the same thing you'd do if you use a weapon of mass destruction for terrorism.

*This assumes that what's required for a successful summoning is a perfectly enacted ritual, instead of special summoners, special in the sense of having their acupuncture meridians clear, or having a specific level of some chemical in their body, or a particular allele of some gene, or whatever.


That seems an extremely odd source. Pete knew all about "the folk process"; filk is well-known to have allegedly been a typo in a program book of a con in 1963.


Well, shoot (to be polite).
As usual I should have looked up the source, and not relied on my memory—it’s been a while since I read it. Apparently what I said above must’ve been my own etymology of the word and/or mixed up with other things I’ve read. Here’s what he says in his book, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”:

For several decades a group of science ficton fans who like to write satirical verses to well known tunes have exchanged mimeographed (now photocopied) song-sheets which they call “filksongs”.

This was in reference to “Ole Time Religion”.


Actually was a damn powerful version of "waist deep in the big muddy". (I've been repeating it all day trying to learn how to play it) A few days later cronkite broke with the official policy on vietnam...

Perhaps this shared moment on broadcast television was really one that broke it all loose. Sadly, today, we lack such shared simultaneous experiences.


if you were summononing Cthulhu, would you a) be at the ground level, just above the Thames, or three or four floors up, where you could see what you were doing to the Thames?

I would summon Cthulhu in the Thames estuary from low orbit. Low Mars orbit, that is, preferably aboard a starship with its FTL drive already warmed up.


hire a bunch of actors to carry out the actual summoning* while telling them that they're filming a cheesy YouTube video

You haven't by any chance been reading an early draft of LOST BOYS, have you?

(No, didn't think so, but there's a remarkably similar incident in that book …)


Nope, but do go on...

Where I'm coming from is a history of theories of how magic spells work. From Pre-Roman times to at least the Renaissance, the idea was that the magic happened when the rite was performed perfectly. The state of the performer didn't matter. There's something of this in old Catholicism too, that the moral state of someone praying (or performing any other ritual) matters less than if the rite is performed perfectly, so a priest who hasn't been faithful to his vows can still baptise someone, for example.

This is the theory I'm using for Lovecraftian magic, mostly because that's where ol' Purple Prose seemed to go with his stories. Reading a spell correctly could get some scholar in deep trouble.

Later ideas of how magic works have focused on the spiritual state of the practitioner being important, and IIRC some of this came up in the Reformation as a response to the corruption in the Catholic Church. Latter on, this got blended with things like spiritualism, Chinese concepts of chi, and so forth as people innovated on magic explanations with getting away from spirituality as a moral force and tried explaining it mechanistically. All this was in aid of explaining why spells normally fail and occasionally seem to work (yes, it's randomness, but try explaining that to a would-be magician or someone whose prayer was answered. Weird stuff happens).

I figured it was a safe joke, because in the Laundryverse of kilothaums and fungible souls, it appeared to me that the state of the performer mattered to the outcome of the ritual in a mechanistic way, so merely handing someone a script, a set, and some choreography would presumably be as insufficient as if you got actors to wire up a fireworks display using the same minimal guidance.

Incidentally, I think the Romans (or any preliterate people) were right, if you assume that the ritual was less about summoning supernatural aid, and more a way for someone to remember how to do something complicated without written instructions. For example, if you wanted to teach someone how to boil an egg without a timer, you teach them a song that lasts, say, 6.5 minutes if they sing it perfectly at the right speed. They sing this song once if they want a soft boiled egg, and sing it twice with a pause (perhaps another little ritual) for a hard boiled egg. And if you're really clever, you include some other information in the timing song to help them remember how to toast bread over the fire or something similar. It all looks like sympathetic magic to an ignorant anthropologist who's writing the thing down, but it's completely functional. When you're using a performance as a substitute for timing something (or even clapping to keep track of time), perfect performance really does matter.


Take off and summon Cthulhu on the site from orbit.

It’s the only way to be sure.


« From Pre-Roman times to at least the Renaissance, the idea was that the magic happened when the rite was performed perfectly. The state of the performer didn't matter. »

My understanding is that science and magic were not distinguished. The actions of the tinker, sailor, smith, alchemist or brewer are what matter, not their state of mind.

Only after we start to get modern(ish) science do we start to have something like modern(ish) ideas of magic, defined as ways of influencing the world that transcend the ´natural’.


My understanding is that science and magic were not distinguished. The actions of the tinker, sailor, smith, alchemist or brewer are what matter, not their state of mind.

I was going to address Hereromeles's oversimplification myself but I like your approach better.

Sailors and priests, what's the difference? You learn the mystic language of spar, spinnaker, keel, and rudder. You memorize the legends of tide, sandbar, and lee. You practice the rituals of galley, cargo ship, and lighter. If everything is done right you can go where you wish - and maybe you don't, because the sea and the gods only listen to mortals so much.


At the time, Science was theology and some other subjects. Not what we think of as science. Magic was not science.

As for sailors and priests, one is dealing with a natural personification or supernatural manifestation, the other isn't, generally, ideas about sea beings or gods aside.


Well theology is posh and a suitable preoccupation for the gentry, while the forms of ritual that have practical purposes, including things that we’d see as being pastoral care for a small community, typically are not. We know so little about ancient engineering practice and what they actually knew, because this knowledge wasn’t posh enough to write down, mostly, Vitruvius notwithstanding.

The same applies to Science as opposed to craft. Faustus is posh, and summoning Mephistopheles is just as much an act of knowledge as prosecuting a legal matter, or an alchemical transformation. A physician was expected to know about astrology, while a mere surgeon just had to know trivial, low-status things like how to keep the patient alive while you cut their arm off. We still have that in the MBBS degree, where Medicine comes before the bachelor, but surgery comes after it.

Crafts are rituals that involve small gods, adapting these to monotheism the things that come to mind are St Elmo’s and St Anthony’s fire - different contexts but saying something about how to think through what is happening.

Lots of our modern distinctions are quite recent, and many are more arbitrary than we like to believe. The way they constrain ways of thinking, especially when people simply disregard forms of knowledge that would otherwise be understood to be important, is dis-comforting.


There's a couple of other things going on you're missing.

First off, the idea about the definitions of magic changing over time came from Ronald Hutton's Triumph of the Moon: a history of modern pagan witchcraft. Hutton's a pretty careful scholar, so I think he's onto something when he charts the different ways magic was explained over time.

The second thing goes back to Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy, which picks up on the different ways people who are nonliterate and people who are literate deal with the world. This is something people who live in a literate society get largely wrong, and Ong and others are correct that literate vs. nonliterate is a much bigger chasm than science vs. magic and their predecessors. Unfortunately, Ong's work is a lot less well known than Frazer's old notions about sympathetic magic, so the standard discussion about how magic works defaults to 19th century and Frazer (magic vs. science), and less to Ong's 1970s discussion of how literacy radically changes the way humans interact with the world.

A lot of what I'm seeing above as "oh, they didn't separate magic and science back then," is probably better translated as, "before the printing press, rather fewer people were literate, and books were a lot less common, so there was a substantial amount of knowledge that was kept in verbal form, maintained through the usual kinds of mnemonic songs that today only a few people (like doctors) learn for their professions."

The problem for us moderns is the backwards filter of trying to understand nonliterate actions through a pervasive veil of literacy, where we're used to knowledge being a overabundant commodity rather than a scarce treasure. We see ritual behavior as inherently magical, following generations of anthropologists who were shaped by everyone from Frazer to the modern preoccupation with shamanism and psychedelics. Someone who paid more attention to what Ong was saying might well see rituals as mnemonic devices, and much less about the supernatural. Probably Ong is closer to right, at least according to the Australian Aborigines and others who still practice "primitive magic" and know it as a living tradition.


Having embargoed it for a couple days, here's my version of a Laundry Filk, sung to the tune of "Smooth Criminal." I'm Open Sourcing this one, so if anyone wants to use it, all or part, feel free. Just send me a copy of whatever you produce.

They were built for slave labor
Did Bob Howard a nice favor
He walked into Mo’s apartment
Saw the slime trails on the carpet
Mo was sitting at her table
Paralyzed and unable
Bob ran into the bedroom
To see what had caused her gloom
She’d been hexed by
A smooth tentacle

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!

Hey Mo, are you OK
Will you tell us that you’re OK
Elder Things broke the window
And they came through
Flew into your apartment
And left slime trails on the carpet
Bob ran into the closet
And he summoned
A big shoggoth

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!

She’d been hexed by! She’d been hexed by… a smooth tentacle!

Shoggoths started a rebellion
Because they were natural hellions
So Bob made his introduction
“Elder Things need destruction!”

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!

And Mo, she was OK
She told us that she’s OK
Cleaned the slime by the window
Elder Things they knew
Such woe. Shoggoths!
Summoned to the apartment
Dragged the Things to the carport
Tried to fly back into the gloom
They were chowed down
It was their doom

Shoggoths they are OK, they are OK shoggoths!
She’d been hexed by! She’d been hexed by… a smooth tentacle!

Hey Mo, are you OK (oh no)
Will you tell us that you're OK (oh no)
Elder signs at the window (oh no)
Then it hexed you (oh no)
Shoggoths summoned (oh no)
It slimed into your apartment (oh no)
Dragged the Things to the carport (oh no)
Bob came back from the bedroom (oh no)
You were safe now
Life could resume!

Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!
Shoggoths they are okay, they are okay Shoggoths!


Yeah I kind of forgot to point out that I don’t believe this high-brow v low-brow distinction I am making aligns with the science v magic one. I’m sort of casting a broader point that the idea of there being different types of knowledge, religion v science v magic, is a modern one and I think that sort of restates the point you’re making. But I think that this social-class distinction is important too, and may influence how we understand non-literate cultures. I guess though that I am definitely aligning writing with high-brow, since that appears to be historical.


I'm really enjoying this conversation about "primitive" cultures. It ties in rather deeply to some of the issues I'm thinking about right now.


Agreed. Literacy has traditionally been a high-class skill, again until the printing press brought literacy to the masses. It's weird to read someone like Ong and get the idea that seeing words is deeply abnormal in terms of human history, and that for most of the history of our species, words were evanescent events that happened and were lost.

@53: Well, you've got some references to have fun with (and yes, I'm exploring exactly the same ones). Walter Ong's book is available as a pdf if you don't mind cheating. The other book I'd recommend is Lynne Kelly's Memory Code.


Talking of SF & fact
TRY THIS YouTube longish clip of Falcon Havy lift-off & recovery/landin of all three boosters. Most impressive.
It's time to railroad, maybe?


I wrote "one first landing" for my friends at spacex. After they had crashed their first five attempts at landing the first stage, I figured they needed a cheer-up song, and after watching scott manley emulate how NOT to land a first stage on a barge, I was filled with inspiration, and wrote this in about 2 weeks flat. I then had a merry time playing the song at various cons for about a year (including twice with scott himself)

... Then the bastards started succeeding at landing the darn things, and thus I had to rewrite the song. Then they started landing two at a time, and I had to rewrite the darn song again. Now, landing three at a time... I left myself an out, so I hope I don't have to rewrite the thing anymore!

Looking forward to getting more folk to sing along on the chorus this weekend. (and trying to come up with something in charlie's universe this week). I think it's probably an abuse of charlie's space to post those lyrics here.... and like I said, they keep changing.

3 magnificent landings, and a wonderful first test of the BFR.... Living in the future is sometimes really grand.


ROTFL! And at post #42, so I guess that's the answer.... However, in my story, the folks leading it, I really didn't say anything about fully competent....


Ok, folks, I am going to weigh in here, since I actually *do* know about magick (not to be confused with stage magic). Note that real-life psi is related....

If you actually want a clue, the first book you need to read is the late Isaac Bonewits' Real Magic. He had more credentials than anyone else: he had an actual BA in Thaumaturgy from UC Berkeley[1], and the book is an expansion of his baccalaureate thesis. The original had a bibliography about 20pp long, and the revised edition's bibliography is longer.

Feel free to read any of the bibliography... you will, of course, need to read ancient Hebrew, ancient Greek, Latin, Old French and Old English, since he went to primary sources.

Now, traditional magickal theory depended, as Sprague de Camp was well aware (and demonstrated it in Incomplete Enchanter) on several axioms: the theory of contagion[2], and the theory of similarity[3].

Lovecraft, et al, made up whatever fit their preconceptions and/or story line.

1. The original editions of Real Magic had, on the back cover, a copy of his diploma, signed (I am not making this up) by the then-gov of California, Ronnie Raygun.
2. Something that was once in contact with something else maintains some essence of that connection. It is left as an exercise for the student to show how this differs from quantum entanglement.
3. The most similar two things are, the more one can affect the other.

I can go on for quite some time on this, btw, but this strikes me as an inappropriate site for that. Drinks in a quiet corner at a con, on the other hand....


Yeah, about that: the reason that witches, and magicians, and sorcerers were so persona non grata with the Church was one of two reasons: either a) they're frauds, gulling the credible (and "leading them to the devil"), or b) it all works, and then they're unlicensed magick users (as opposed to priests, who are licensed magick users).

We won't even bring up the real goal of alchemy.


Thanks muchly, Gret. I'd missed that the other day.

Farm out, man...


You'll need to bring up the real goal of alchemy, if Charlie doesn't mind the diversion.


Lead to gold was metaphor. The *real* goal, at least of the initiates who knew what they were actually trying to do, was "perfect the soul". Since doing that would, effectively, make you like Jesus, you understand that maximum obfuscation was necessary to avoid a party involving a stake and firewood....


Ah well you see the issue there is in tying the various gnostic forms of alchemy together with the different forms, ideas and practises throughout the next 2k years. Suffice to say, it varied, and there's no evidence that most people known as alchemists in the medieval period, for instance, were actually involved in purifying their soul to return to the nous.


And you purified your soul so that you could perform miracles, like turning lead into gold, thereby pleasing your patron who would notionally be happy to support a holy man who demonstrated his worth by performing miracles that (say, for a devout patron supporting said alchemist) allowed his patron to be more charitable than he otherwise could, by having all this new gold lying around to give away.

The funding situation was similar to that for physicists and mechanical engineers: they get money to the degree that the increase the power and prestige of those giving them money. The complication was that the alchemists didn't officially cotton onto the notion that creation was anything other than God's work. Therefore, to do the work of creation and miracles, one had to position oneself closer to God. The idea that there's a natural world separate from the divine world seriously only exploded in the 19th Century (especially after 1860 and the publication of Darwin's Origin), and before that, I don't think a chemist or alchemist could disentangle the two. Indeed, I don't think many do now, especially if they teach physical sciences at overtly religious colleges.

This, incidentally, is what I was yammering on about with the history of magic. When your prayers are answered, is it because you, miserable sinner that you are, gave a sufficiently perfect performance that you pleased God, who granted your prayer? That's the old model. Alternatively, have you, miserable sinner, confessed your sins and led a Christian life to a sufficient degree that God will grant you your prayer? That's more alchemical.

If you're writing fantasy with magic in it, this kind of question matters. Although magic is normally incidental to the story, it does get annoying when authors slip between the systems. Earthsea is an example of a world that superficially appears to work on the perfect performance model, but also has a poorly defined personal power aspect that turns out to be essential to many parts of the story.


Come on down to the Decatur Book Festival (Atlanta USA)! It's the largest independent book festival in the USA.

Of course, at the same time every year, there is DragonCon, which typically scoops up a lot of the scifi and fantasy genre authors (and is also pretty amazing, though I haven't attended in quite a while).

I believe I mentioned this once before and you shot it down on the basis of our insane president - but hey, now you have a completely nutty government yourself to flee! Having lived through these inglorious times, I find I have developed a remarkable ability to zone out and tune in only when something truly hideous is being discussed - like splitting up families and caging children. Panel discussion! Coping mechanisms!
(Strike that, actually, that would be weirdly existentialist in an extremely depressing way.)

Anyway, we would love to see you here.


But the U.K. government is the devil he knows... Not Cthulhu, but Fabian Every-May


The idea that there's a natural world separate from the divine world seriously only exploded in the 19th Century (especially after 1860 and the publication of Darwin's Origin), and before that, I don't think a chemist or alchemist could disentangle the two.

The idea kept cropping up in various "heresies" for centuries but the variations in such things are of interest only to hobbyists. As you point out, it finally found a home in the 19th Century Western zeitgeist, to the outrage of traditionalists...


whitroth @ 60
Something similar came up in a pub-conversation about a month ago ...
The RC church REALLY COULD "Drive out Devils" ... when those "devils" were the effects of a whole village or town being out of their skulls on a bad acid trip from Ergot in the rye-bread they had been eating.
The church cured this, with pure WHITE bread ( No rye ) & wine & of course lots of services & holy water ....

SS @ 68
But, the idea was that the two worlds were one & that by studying the antural world, you could understand the "spritual" one.
Which has since come apart on the grounds that the spritual one doesn't actually exist, except as a sub-set of the first.
Somethiong that fervent relgious believers deny, of course.


Homeless Gargoyles are doubtless wandering the streets of Paris, looking for lodgings.
Yes, it was & is a christian church, but like the wrecked temples of Palmyra, it's also a vessel of history & culture, floating down the stream of Time ....


Atlanta in August? You do know that our Charlie is prone to heat stroke in a refrigerator and melts if he goes out in the Big Blue Room, yes?

(Also, he's doing back to back conventions in August - three weekends in a row, in three different countries yet, would be one way to wreck him. It nearly wrecked us when we did it, and we were only in two countries.)


Random note concerning a very old thread: In one of Charlie's past parasitology threads I mentioned that the idea of a Sacculina-esque human parasite appeared in some old SF work but I could not remember what.

Found it - it's "Strange Compulsion" by Philip Jose Farmer and it's here:


Well, not exactly. That would be rather, um, declassee. Now, curing the sick, raising the dead, yep. Oh, and bringing about The Millenium. Probably immortality (barring the occasional set of nails and some large pieces of lumber).

Don't know that much about eastern alchemy, but the little I know suggests that, too, was to improve the soul (short cut to bhoddisatva, maybe).

Everyone except the frauds who believed that it was about turning lead into gold knew that, in one sense or another, they were defrauding their noble and wealthy patrons.


Always wanted to make Hay (on Wye, of course).

Dragoncon can go suck a big one, after they deliberately stole the weekend that Worldcon in the US was always on (and that was my late wife and my anniversary).


Hay-on-Wye is a fine town, though my only visit actually involved attending a wedding. On the other hand the bride has since won various literary prizes including a Hugo and a Prometheus, so it was an excellent venue.


Immortality has always been a goal of Taoist alchemy, although the definition seems to keep shifting for some reason. Hard to tell if that's because they realized that ingesting mass quantities of mercury and other preservatives wouldn't make them immortal, or because it's always been a cover story to keep the fraudsters away from the meditators.

So far as I know in Buddhist "alchemy" (Dzogchen and similar), the point is faster enlightenment. The meditation the Buddha taught works, but it's thought to generally take lifetimes, which the practitioner might not get. Alchemical methods use more esoteric means to try to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. The basic point is that breath-watching meditation teaches you how to be present in your life, which is a foundational skill for all spiritual activities. Then, once you're present in your life, you've got to deal with all the crap in your life, and this is where psychiatry and Buddhism (and Taoism) have basically the same agenda. If you're *really good* at this, you can become enlightened. If not, then alchemy is reportedly the next step beyond basic meditation. Once you get to the point that all your delusions, addictions, cravings, and attachments aren't messing up your ability to be present in the moment, then alchemical techniques are there to help you finish becoming enlightened. If you have time, skill, and can find a teacher. If you can't, well, that's your karma.

As for turning lead into gold, since people without a good atomic theory didn't really know what they're doing, both lead and gold are heavy, soft metals, and things like iron pyrite can be made to look like gold, I don't think it was necessarily deliberate fraud to try to turn lead into gold through alchemy. It was a speculative venture, but cheaper for a noble than waging war to get someone else's gold. Looking back it was wrong-headed, but we can say that about so much science now (microplastics anyone? CFC refrigerants? Leaded gasoline?) that I wouldn't condemn the old alchemists out of hand. Nor would I mock them for trying to be more God-like, if that's what their theories led them to believe would make their experiments work.


Wasn't mocking anyone, just explaining them.

Mercury... preservative.... Y'know, back in my mid-20s, years before I went back to college, then became a programmer, for a couple of years I was driving for Yellow Cab. I was drinking about four cans of soda a day. One day, eating lunch in the cab, I started reading the can label. (Fan: must compulsively read *everything*) Then I started thinking: .1% preservative. That's 2.5 days for 1%, and 250 days, that's a pound of it.

Maybe that's what the ancient Egyptians did: ate and drank so many preservatives that when they died, they didn't need any more, they were already, ahhh, well-preserved.


It's kind of strange to think that mercurous chloride was used medically in large quantities until certainly after WW2. I guess alchemists must have shat like geese.


Yup. I have been treated with calomel. Mercury has a bad reputation, but it isn't as nasty as is made out - IF used appropriately. Using it for topical treatment of fungal skin infections was and is quite sensible.


It depends which mercury compound we're talking about.

Totally horrible death-on-a-stick territory is reserved for the organic mercury compounds: dimethyl mercury, for example, is the measuring stick for neurotoxins. Metallic mercury is bad mostly because it has a low vapor pressure and if you inhale too much it can produce organomercury complexes inside you: some other forms, notably salts, are … well, they're not good for you but they're not "level 4 biohazard containment inside a glove box and two extra layers of gloves" bad for you.


Yep, saints add preservatives to us.

But actually, the Egyptians, like other desert peoples (notably along the desert coast of Peru) noticed that corpses dried out and naturally mummified if buried in sand dunes, especially if there was a fair amount of salt in the dunes. Experimentation and formalization followed, and the world ended up with mummies.

The whole mercury thing is something I more associate with the First Qin Emperor, especially with his tomb. That dude reportedly hit the cinnabar far more than was , but he was far from the only emperor to do so, or to even die from the practice.


You know, after reading about the Taoist immortality elixirs, I have this strong desire to spend days reading Joseph Needham while playing Blue Oyster Cult songs on repeat. Weird...

...Too bad I have other, more useful things to do. That's karma for you.


Yes. The danger is real, but the hysteria doesn't help. That's true of other things, like asbestos, too.


Yes, *please*. What drove me nuts was the idiocy, a few years ago, of GOTTA HAVE LEAD-FREE SOLDER.... Let's put bismuth in, that's *so* much safer (NOT).


I'm not that bothered what my solder is made of, I just hate lead-free solder because it is shite. Both for plumbing and for electronics. Fortunately despite all the noise it still seems to be nearly as easy to get leaded solder as it ever was.

Anyway, what about this carbon stuff? It seems to be pretty harmless, but look what it does to you when it bonds covalently with mercury.


Re Needham, wikipedia led to this, which I do not recall seing previously, and thence to another paper. Some readings lined up for tonight (or maybe throwing against wall):
The “Genius Germs” Hypothesis: Were epidemics of leprosy and tuberculosis responsible in part for the great diver-gence? (Shireesh P. Apte, 2009)
The concept that infectious disease may play a role in the causal chain of events that lead to “evolutionary disproportionate” increases in cerebro-diversity and cognition in cer-tain populations may be a chilling thought; but it does serve as a useful tool to explain in biochemical terms the solution to the so-called “Needham puzzle” – why the Indus-trial Revolution did not originate in China.
It is also a disconcerting thought as to what “evolutionary advantages”, cognition-en-hancing or otherwise, are being suppressed by modern medicine due to its relent-less crusade against infectious diseases.

and this which cites it (warning Deleuze mentioned, a lot):
Non-anthropocentricCreativeMechanisms in Multispecies Symbiotic Assemblages (2016, N Ivanova)
As noted above, the tubercle bacillus forms machinic assemblages (Deleuze and Guattari) and operates as an endosymbiont with human bio-systems. It is possible that these endosymbiotic assemblages contribute to human creativity and destabilize simple notions of its origin. In a double reflection, the concept of creativity itself could be revisited along alternative lines: it cannot be considered anymore only as the production of human cultural artefacts and experiences, but rather it can be understood as ubiquitous activity performed by heterogeneous highly dynamic machinic assemblages (comprising of human, animal, computational, social, molecular, bacterial, viral, and other processes), which lead to the production of novel modes of existence.


If not, then alchemy is reportedly the next step beyond basic meditation.
There are nootropics for that now. :-) (Seriously, some of them, e.g. choline and bacopa, seem to help with some meditations. I don't mean psychedelics though those are obviously potentially interesting too.)


Pigeon @ 84
Oh good ... my supply of leaded solder is running low.
Email me, please? As to where I can get decent stuff?


Ytterbium membership is closed, except possibly for a very small number of day memberships on the door (and that, depending on the day).

I note that David Täht squeaked in. Your badge will be made today, sir.


Experience suggesting that day memberships are more likely to be available on Friday and Monday than Saturday and Sunday, yes?


And that stuffs it completely ... I was thinking about coming along for maybe a day, maybe two .....


I have my doubts about that. If that's the case, then why didn't the massive amounts of TB and emphysema in the UK stop it?

I'd suspect it's partly cultural, and partly economics/politics dependent. If, for example, the Big Money are also the nobility, and they don't want their income disrupted (we've never seen anything like that in our lives, no, no, Mssrs Koch), or there's invasion or civil war....

I've also read that in Japan? China? Not sure if it was for the region, but in the west, the squeaky wheel gets greased, in East, it's more like it gets bashed down, so it *will* fit that round hole.

All of that is long since changed... but we're talking a couple hundred years ago.


I would be *really* cautious about them. It might have been Bonewits who was taking what, around '89 or so, some of the supplements touted to help your thinking, l-tryptophan... and got a bad batch, which gave him a disease, eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, that left him serious ill the rest of his life.


I'd suggest being careful with any of this stuff, quite honestly.

The problems with drugs are fairly obvious (from committing ritual suicide on the thought that you'll come back immortal, to experimenting with any chemical intervention based on someone's half-baked theory of how minds work), but it's worth noting that with Kundalini Yoga (the yoga equivalent of alchemy) the possibilities for bad outcomes are so diverse there's a group that helps American practitioners get over their bad trips, a process that generally takes years. Heck, some people have even had psychotic lapses doing safe and sane ol' breath watching.


Sorry - I did try warning though back at #14

If you are in the Heathrow area early enough, you could try anyway. There's an unwillingness to send people away if they've actually come all that way.


Can you still get weekend passes at the door, or only day ones?


Reply to Bill Arnold @ 85:  Needham's puzzle isn't too hard to answer plausibly, as to why the Industrial Revolution didn't happen first in China. Political disunity of the European type, where nation states compete for centuries, tends to spur tech progress. An empire like China's with centralized political and cultural control would make potential Galileos just too easy to thwart when they upset the apple cart, and face it, most tech advances DO shuffle the deck for winners and losers, it's why the highest buzzword of praise in Silicon Valley is to call something 'disruptive'.
     The interesting question is how come China's imperial system survived from 220 BC to 1911, but Rome didn't. Or Egypt, Persia, the Mughals, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottomans, or many others. My impression is that their system of writing was a cohesive force in Chinese culture, providing an advantage, over the centuries, for national unification and so helping empire builders. 

Spoken languages among the various provinces were different enough to be mutually unintelligible throughout most of recorded history, same as everywhere else in the world. But the logographic script was recognizable and understood by any literate person regardless of how they pronounced the words out loud. The meaning was associated with the written forms, even if their spoken sounds were different in various parts of the country, So Chinese high school graduates can pretty much follow the gist of stuff written centuries ago, much better than we could puzzle out the meaning of a Latin or Greek text without special training. Phonetic writing is faster to learn, MUCH faster, but it's only comprehensible among speakers of the same language. Which explains why linguistic groups are a basis for national identities in Western civilization, and why China hasn't switched to a phonetic system. They're afraid regional dialects if spelled out phonetically would be centrifugal forces tearing the country apart, besides removing their sense of  connection to shared history, another big unifying force for national identity. Maybe this isn't as true as it once was before public schooling, radio, movies and TV exposed everyone to the standard dialect, but still could cause problems if somebody from Beijing flew to HongKong and all the ads and signs were phonetic spellings of local speech.

   So phonetic script is easy to learn, which is good, but it busts up cultural and political cohesion which is bad, and that permits international competition and warfare which is bad, but that prompts technological advancement, which is good, and that helps economic development which is good, but that still doesn't solve the political disunity problem which is bad. So like Confucius said when they asked if a raven's squawk was a bad omen, "people can't tell good from bad, how's a bird supposed to know."


How did China survive (we'll ignore the khans) for all that time? Have you ever played Risk?

Southeast Asia is relatively safe, as opposed to, say all of Asia. The whole Middle East, and Italy, can be invaded from any and all directions, including sea, and the Mediterranean isn't that hard to cross.

Hell, consider how many times the UK's been invaded and conquered: in the last two milleniums, that'd be, un, three times.


As to why China's imperial system lasted, the short answer is that it didn't. If you look at any representation of Chinese history (This one for example), you'll see that the "unbroken chain" is marked by centuries of turmoil, such as the "Three Kingdoms," "Northern and Southern Dynasties," "Ten Kingdoms and Five Dynasties," and even apparently stable dynasties (like the Qing) were marked by long-lasting rebellions (The Taiping Rebellion, the largest civil war in history to date, which created an ISIS-like state in southern China that lasted for decades).

This is no different than if you read the history of the Pharaohs of Egypt (38 dynasties, Old and New Kingdoms, etc.). That "system" lasted most of two thousand years, not that you're giving them credit for it.

The problem is your education, which comes from the western Imperial tradition of Rome collapsing. Rome the actual empire didn't fall until 1453, when Constantinople, which *was* the last remnant of the empire, fell to the Ottomans. However, England traces its official history back to the Western Roman Empire, a failed experiment which was abandoned when the Roman Empire downsized and moved its capitol east under Constantine the Great. Under Constantine and his successors, the Roman Empire rebranded itself as Christian, eventually adopted Greek as a working language and cavalry as a military system, but stayed Rome.

However, in our history we talk about the fall of the western Roman Empire, how Rome collapsed, how the Dark Ages came, and so on. It's a different view of the same event: Rome downsizing and moving east. The story of the collapse of Rome and attempts to rebuild the ancient Empire (up to the Third Reich and the EU) come from the part of the business that was shed as unworkable. If we admitted that the eastern Empire continued for another thousand years, we'd have to acknowledge that the Eastern Orthodox tradition, including the czars of Russia, have a better claim on the mantle of Rome than we do.

When you look at China's "longevity," you're seeing something called the Mandate Of Heaven, which is the idea that Heaven (Chinese style, not Christian) chooses who the emperor (the Son of Heaven who conducts rituals to intermediate between Heaven and Earth) is. If the Son Of Heaven fails to do his job well, the empire gets into trouble, Heaven gets angry, and a new, unrelated emperor rises to take the old one's place, thereby founding a new dynasty. This piece of propaganda was created back in the Sui Dynasty (IIRC) by the literati to justify the fact that a usurper was busily putting together a new empire in the Chinese heartland, and also (quite importantly) to justify why this new emperor needed to work with the existing literati. If they hadn't done that, the literati would have been swept away (western style, really), and the new emperor would have started from scratch.

The bottom line here is that Chinese and European history really aren't that different: both have periods of unifiers, and both have empires that fell apart, leading to long, messy periods with no one in charge of the place. The Chinese, for political purposes, chose to create a story of unbroken imperial succession using the Mandate of Heaven, while western Europeans chose, for political purposes, to create a story of the Fall of Rome and attempts to recreate it.

As for industrial revolution, I'd look at global colonialism as a major driver of the second industrial revolution in Europe. It certainly wasn't the innovation of mass production After all, the Qin dynasty (200 BCE in China) had mass produced crossbow triggers, and the Sui or thereabouts came up with guns and gunpowder centuries before the ideas came to Europe. What is missing in Chinese history isn't the technology, it's the resources, and it isn't imperial politics or any racial traits, it's the fractious nature of Chinese politics in general. And especially, what's missing is the Chinese looting of the New World and creation of an African slave trade to create huge plantations of industrial goods like sugar cane and cotton, that enabled the mills of Europe to change western society. China, for good or ill, never went for that route, so their technological innovations stayed mostly in country and only stayed as the world's best until 1800 or so.

Until after 1800, Chinese goods were better than European goods, and they ran a trade surplus with Europe from Roman times until the 19th Century, which led to things like the opium wars (English dumping opium in the Chinese market to pay for all the tea, silk, and porcelain they bought on credit), which led to the Taiping Rebellion. Nowadays, if you look closely, you'll notice that China's running a trade surplus with the rest of the world again, and that the western world has basically lost its technological edge over China. While you may view this as a horror of the West failing to dominate the planet, I'd suggest the more historically accurate view is that China, except when it's in the throes of dynastic turmoil (which it was until the 1970s), is the world's most powerful country, and we're simply seeing it resuming its normal place in world trade.


Along those lines (and not arguing with Heteromeles' interesting historical details), although it's not a mainstream economics concept, "power diffusion" (J. Powelson, disclaimer family acquaintance) is a similar way to look at this.
One way in which power diffusion becomes relevant, as Jack shows well, is the development of civil society. When just a few interest groups dominate – or capture – the policymaking process, you get a much different outcome than in the case of civil society pluralism. In other words, Jack argued that one of the key factors underlying economic success of countries is the “balance of power among various economic groups.”
The point on power diffusion leads one to make several conclusion in regards to reform. While power diffusion does not constitute democracy, Powelson argues that it leads to democracy and democratic institutions. In the presence of power diffusion, the state takes the secondary role, responding to the interests of various interest groups, rather than driving through the agenda of several cronies (as it often happens in authoritarian countries)

CHAPTER 11 - China: The Puzzles of History
CHAPTER 12 China: Institutions and Reform


Why not? It's certainly worth quibbling about the details. I don't think it's worth arguing about long-lived empires, since it certainly looks like there's a lot of political mythologizing in every one of these histories.

Still, why China didn't own the world in the 19th and 20th Centuries? That's where things get interesting.

Here's one for instance (from greatmingmilitary): Chinese guns and military weapons. China didn't have a central armory in the imperial capitol, at least in the Ming Dynasty. While it certainly had a need for armed soldiers, due to wu kou pirates and Mongols hitting from opposite sides, the generals it sent out had to get their arms from the local magistrates they were protecting, and from the local blacksmiths. As a result, guns in particular were a hodgepodge of everything from primitive fire lances to matchlocks and flintlocks, all of wildly varying quality. After all, they weren't being made by specialist arms manufacturers, they were being made by local blacksmiths of greatly different skill levels. The great military genius Qi Ji Guang, in his warfare manuals, even specified how many guns to expect to fail in battle, and it's something around a quarter or more. Hence the Chinese went in for massively mixed weapons troops, including archers and gunners along with people with polearms and great swords, and hence we get the modern kung fu weapon diversity, which is very similar to the late Medieval weapons that the West largely abandoned during the Renaissance, due to European improvements in gun technology, which in turn came from smiths specializing in gun manufacture and innovating furiously.

The lesson here is that imperial politics did drive some Chinese technologies, but not in the most obvious way.


"Hell, consider how many times the UK's been invaded and conquered: in the last two milleniums, that'd be, un, three times."

Charlie often quotes the line about treason: when it succeeds, none dare call it so. When invasions of Britain succeed, none dare call them "invasions."


Give me a break - show me anyone who doesn't refer to
1. the Roman invasion of Britain
2. the Anglo-Saxon invasion or
3. the Norman Conquest

as "invasions".

We will, of course, ignore the "we'll buy the whole thing up, and raise prices, and you peasants can go pound sand" conquest....


Apparently, the only evidence for the Anglo-Saxon invasion (as opposed to settlement and trade) is sparse (two sources, one being Geoffrey of Monmouth) literary, polemical, and written centuries after it supposedly happened.

However, you forgot the vikings, so that evens it out.


Hm, Britain has the debatable distinction of having been conquered by the Belgians, err, Belgae...

I somewhat wonder if the fun with the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution counts...


Which makes me wonder why Afghanistan or Switzerland failed to conquer the world, they have plenty of different interest groups.

Problem is, the only real answer to "which drives technological progress, unity or disunity?" is "mu". And an look at the agenda the author is trying to push, right libertarians like disunity, statists prefer unity...


Er, no, not even remotely. There is strong genetic and linguistic evidence for the 'anglo-saxon invasion', amounting to proof. We don't know exactly what form the invasion took, and it was more generally germanic than anglo-saxon, but it assuredly happened.

And then there was the replacement of the existing population (who built Stonehenge etc.) by the beaker people, which was near-total but very poorly understood.


Oh, I agree there were plenty of Anglo-Saxons coming in. What's missing, like evidence that King Arthur existed and fought off the Anglo-Saxons, are the graves from all the battles that took place when the Anglo-Saxons forcibly conquered the Brits and subjugated or replaced them.

I get the same problem in California, where we could talk about either the American invasion of Mexican territory (technically correct, because there was a war of conquest in 1846), or the Latino invasion of American territory (not incorrect, especially if you're a Republican or a white supremacist). Aside from tiny little battles, you're not going to find good archaeological evidence that the Nation of Mexico forcibly invaded California in the last 150 years or so, nor are you going to find good archaeological evidence for the conqeust by the US (not many shots were fired). However, if you look at our genetics and language, the prevalence of people of Hispanic ancestry (including in my own family) makes it look like a conquering army came through and raped the women or something, even though neither side did that. Genetics and military history don't always gibe.

This isn't a new problem. Apparently written accounts by the Babylonians of barbarians sacking cities and ruling as usurpers run into awkward archaeological evidence of the names of the so-called barbarians living in those very same cities well before the time of the "invasion," and the people writing the polemics about the invaders lived well after the "sacking" was supposed to have taken place and could not have had personal knowledge of the events.


Is there a charliefinder at this con, or do I have to track network congestion and slashdotting to dig him up?

(I am just arriving around 11:30)


"What's missing... are the graves from all the battles..."

Similarly, there are no massive piles of red squirrel skeletons from when the grey squirrels turned up. Excluding the mingling/interbreeding part, the two cases are much the same - the invaders didn't really fight the indigenes, the indigenes just buggered off somewhere they didn't have to hear the invaders' crappy music. Invasions aren't always storming military cataclysms, it's just that that sort make better TV.


Actually, there were LOTS of graves and well-documented slaughters, by the vikings, which were about half of the 'anglo-saxon' invasion (see below). The southern germanic invasion seems to have taken a different form, but was most definitely an invasion, and its social consequences are well-documented in contemporary writings.

As I said "We don't know exactly what form the invasion took, and it was more generally germanic than anglo-saxon, but it assuredly happened."


We also know from more recent history that mass graves can be made very hard to find. It requires labour, but not much ingenuity, nor any technology more advanced than fire.


You've personally magically searched the entirety of south England in order to prove such graves don't exist? I mean come on man, given how limited archaeological coverage is it's nust to expect to be able to find them. not to mention I've not read anything about any mass graves being discovered from more recent battled in central Scotland circa 1300, for instance.
Of course the invasion was likely far more peaceful than e.g. 19th century historians like to think things were, but come on.


I haven't, but there's enough skepticism that it even makes it onto weeknight PBS:


Uh huh, lets generalise one small area to the entirety of the UK. The stuff about thofsands of bodies only 2% having damage from weapons is more persuasive, except of course that the key point about archaeology is that you work with what you have found. For instance, in my experience, the small pewter and copper alloy later medieval objects that turn up reported in the finds database is very different from the percentages, numbers and so on of the town digs that have been carried out.


Of course having said that, you might like to enquire as to why King Arthur is such a legend and it was necessary to portray the anglo saxons as invading hordes...


I can think of multiple reasons, from a reasonable attempt to portray history to straight up propaganda to early attempts to reclaim a "celtic identity" in a predominantly Anglicized system.

Or it could be the same reason that US politicians portray Latinos as invading hordes, to exploit the politics of difference and to justify discrimination or violence.

From a different angle, why do folk Taoists literally idolize characters from The Journey to the West and The Water Margin as divine, even though they're known to be fiction? I'm bringing this up, because stories of Arthur Pendragon and the Grail Quest could be (or are) as equally fiction, but that hasn't stopped modern pagans from claiming they are divine as well.


In most invasions, very few of the conquered people are killed directly by the invaders (there are, of course, exceptions), so 2% is a very plausible figure, anyway. There are a zillion other reasons to be sure the Anglo-Saxon invasion occurred, though it was probably not one of the ones that created piles of corpses. For example, I saw one reference to Anglo-Saxon law requiring a higher weregild for the killing of an Anglo-Saxon than a Celt.

What is really weird is how little Welsh (being the main language spoken in England in 500 AD) has got into modern English. It's everywhere in place names, but there is more Hindustani in at least southern English than all Celtic language. The genetic evidence is compatible with the usual pattern of invasions (e.g. more Y chromosomes corresponding with the invaders than DNA generally).

To guthrie: the modern legend of King Arthur etc. is a fantasy that was created several hundred years after the invasion had transformed England and in a far country (largely western France). There are contemporary and celtic originals, many of which were based on historical people in Cornwall and Wales, but they are very different.


Possibly Celtic words are a class/status marker? Proper people speak French English?

Interesting speculation from Aotearoa that Maori loan words are a cultural/status signifier...


That's a given, but not my point.

The normal pattern from invasions is that the conquering males take some of the local women as wives, concubines, nurses etc., which is what the genetic evidence indicates. Because children are brought up initially by their mothers or nurses, the children use the 'proper' language for formal purposes, but use some of the conquered language between themselves and informally, which then gets into the language.

And, as I said, a lot of English place names are Welsh (e.g. Avon, Coombe) - though there is at least as much Scandinavian and one does get things like Pentor Hill :-)


Yes, the Angles and the Saxons (and whatever other Germanic groups) were invaders.

Let's see, we *know* the Romans fought them. We know of the Romano-British. Then, in a relatively short period of time, we have mostly Angles and Saxons, and the British and Romano-British have been pushed west.

Will anyone argue that (I mean, other than just to argue)?

So it was an invasion, and we do have names to put, people like Vortigern, who is mentioned both on the British side (and the Welsh Triads) and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.

Ok? Can we drop this "oh, maybe it wasn't an invasion..."?

I always thought the real Arthur was a Dux Bellorum: a Romano-British war leader, not a king, so all the petty kings of the British didn't feel they should complain that the *other* kind was pumping himself up.... Someone of Roman ancestry wouldn't be in the king lineage, so....

Personally, I am completely convinced by Geoffrey Ashe's book from the late seventies, and his archeological evidence - documents from a Procurator in Gaul, who'd begged for help from Britain, and a leader of the British came over with something like 10k or 12k troops. In that time period, and that area of the world, that's a *lot* of troops, more than any one petty king could muster.

And so, Arthur.


Please... that's not a good argument for Arthur. By your logic, if in 200 years, someone writes a history of Zorro The Gay Blade being the homosexual leader of the Mexican resistance against the American invasion, would that mean that Zorro existed as a real human? Actually, he didn't, but the Indian he's somewhat modeled after (Estanaslao, namesake of modern Stanislaus County) has been largely forgotten. And neither of them were homosexual, but due to the change in meaning of "gay" over the last 50 years, I can easily see some future historian screwing that up.

As for genetics, again, if you're going to argue that "Anglo-Saxon DNA in Britain" shows an invasion, then California's being invaded by Mexicans, and Trump's right to shut down the border. That's about the level of logic you're working on right now. For your next iteration of said argument, you might want to notice on maps of the iron age tribes of Britain how many tribes, like the Belgae, already had relatives on the mainland well before Caesar got there. It's not like people hadn't been going back and forth across that channel since the mesolithic, after all. What does the DNA show, if you can't match a date to the gene?


Um, nope. "Mexicans invading California"? And here, I thought it was the other way around, since they were there first....


That's a given, but not my point. ... but use some of the conquered language between themselves and informally, which then gets into the language.

Right, so the normal 'given' reason that subject languages don't get into the conqueror's language doesn't apply, but you haven't said what reason does. Or perhaps the normal reason explains why that hasn't happened, but you're still treating the result as remarkable. That's why I'm confused.


That's kind of the point.

To add to the "invasion" story, it looks to a lexicographer who gave a talk I attended that Spanish is becoming more prevalent in California, not less, and more people are becoming functionally bilingual. Heck, there's all these towns with Spanish names near the border: San Diego, El Paso, Calexico, Los Angeles... Obviously the Mexicans conquered and renamed the towns closest to the border, except where the whites resisted in places like Phoenix and Tucson, right?

The point here is not that Mexicans are invading and displacing Americans, it's that you can read genetic and linguistic evidence of a long history of traffic across a fluid border as an invasion story, if you want to. After all, the same kind of evidence that you're touting as supporting the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England makes it look like California's being invaded by Mexico.

Now run California through a bunch of big earthquakes, and crash or ten and a major language change, lose most of the records, rely on hearsay, and you can come up with the story of how Zorro fought on the American side against the corrupt Mexicans who invaded California, with his lover Don Diego de la Vega and Ritchie Valens as his sidekick. And yes, I do think it's entirely possible that this is where Arthur came from.


"Um, nope. "Mexicans invading California"? And here, I thought it was the other way around, since they were there first...."

That's not really true for California (or Texas). When people use that saying, they're mostly referring to New Mexico. Short history of California:

It wasn't colonized by Spain until 1770, relatively late in the colonization game. For decades, most of the colonies in question were Spanish priests and enslaved Indians. Non-priest settlers arrived towards the end of the Spanish period. In other words, the ethnogenesis of what we call "Hispanic" did occur there, but was far more muted since

"In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence gave Mexico (including California) independence from Spain. For the next 25 years, Alta California remained as a remote, sparsely populated, northwestern administrative district of the newly independent country of Mexico."

In short, the ruling class was more likely to think of themselves as Spanish and the natives maintained their identities. Think of Ontario after the US War of Independence, if Ontario had been incorporated into the US.

During Mexican rule, California was opened up to settlers, mostly US citizens. During the Mexican American War, the settlers revolted on their own, established a short-lived republic, and voted to join the US.

PS: I don't if the landowners preferred US rule over Mexican rule. Many of the families weren't around that long until the war.


Here are some thoughts about the fall of the Roman Empire and the Saxon invasions

1. You can make an argument that the Eastern Roman Empire fell in WWI, not 1453. You can make good arguments that the Ottoman Empire was a continuation of the Byzantine Empire (in the same way you can argue that the Soviet Union was a continuation of the Russian Empire). The borders of the Ottoman Empire were very similar to the borders of the Byzantine empire. Both "disintegrated" in a very similar fashion. If that is the case, a continuous Roman Empire has so far outlived China (753 BC - 1919 AD vs 220 BC - present).

2. I'm not that well versed in these matters, but wasn't the TFR of the Western Roman Empire below replacement level within the 5th century?

3. I previously posted an article claiming that DNA tests had detected that only about 20% of English people had Saxon ancestry, clustered mostly the Southeast. The articles below show that the picture is far murkier:


No, the normal reason doesn't explain what happened - that is precisely my point - and we don't know exactly what did. The first link that Ioan posts summaries the genetic situation, so it remains puzzling that so many place names are Celtic but so few English words are. Confusion is justified.


Having read those two links

To me that was completely unsuprising, given what little I know of my own ancestry.
I don't like this fake "Anglo-Saxon" racism that seems to be bubbling up - reminds me too much of the "Blut und Boden" of the Nazis.

Oh yes, really unpleasant statement by Trump, if I can find it ...
Trump has just announced that he is a Nationalist. There is a "United States Nationalist Party."
This has been intepreted as a dogwhistle for "A White Nationalist Party"
And, quoting again, from a USA source:
The ONLY thing that separates Trump from classic fascism, in the original ideological sense that Mussolini developed (Nazism was really quite a different beast in many ways) is his lack of ideological and philosophical coherence. He's more reactive. But the instincts are the same.
He's preparing to burn the house down if or when he finds himself being pushed out the door. Nothing like a good fire to create a smokescreen. And because his basic instincts are fascist, the tinder he uses will all be of that flavour. Expect to see, over coming months:
Promotion of an extreme nationalist agenda
Development of a ‘stab in the back' narrative
Acceleration of the ‘us and them' divisions
A lot of ‘enemy within' themes
A significant ramping up of racial rhetoric — further demonisation of immigrants, and an increasing extension of this to non-immigrant people of colour
Appeals to his base (especially those of them in the military and law enforcement)
An increasing disregard for anything outside of his base.

Scary, or what?


Wrong end of the stick. There have been several successful conquests of England since 1066, but no one characterizes them as such. And as other people have pointed out, you've missed a few even from the first millennium.

Some people even think the Britons struck back from Brittany at one point, but I don't pretend to expertise on the subject. And the evidence is fairly sparse.


By the bye, this morning, the Malignant Carcinoma has demonstrated to the world that he really, truly knows NOTHING.

He talked about going to the Supreme Court if the House starts impeachment proceedings.

For those of you over the Pond, the Constitution, not even an Amendment, specifies that the House can impeach a President for "high crimes and misdemeanors", giving the House full authority. The Court, a different part of the government, has *no* control over what the House can do, only rule if there was something that violates the Constitution.

For that matter, the Finance, or is it Oversight Committee chair, having issued a subpoena for the Shitgibbon's tax returns, could, if they think of it, order the Sergeant at Arms of the House to arrest Mnuchin and the head of the IRS, and jail them until they produce the returns.

That, of course, terrifies the Idiot.


I have no idea whether you found him or not. He was certainly around, particularly in the real ale bar, and he was on some panels, but I do know what he looks like which makes it easier to spot him in the crowds if I'm looking for him.

I didn't notice your badge (well, not being worn, it was certainly made and placed into its envelope) so I don't know whether you made it. I hope you did and that you enjoyed it all.

Leave a comment

Here's the moderation policy. If this is your first time, please read it before you post.

If you need to sign in and want to create a local account on this blog, select "Movable Type" from the "Sign in ..." menu. You will need a working email address.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on April 11, 2019 10:45 AM.

The Inevitable Brexit Thread (2) was the previous entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog