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Lessons learned: writing really long fiction

So, about a decade ago I wrote an essay on this blog about the writing of the Merchant Princes series (at that point, six slim novels—the Empire Games follow-on trilogy wasn't more than a daydream back then), in which I tried to pin down what I'd learned about writing a series.

Now, a decade later, I've written a whole lot more. The Merchant Princes/Empire Games sequence is now up to nine books (yes, "Invisible Sun" is in the edit pipeline: it'll be published in March 2020). The Laundry Files is up to ten books, plus nearly another book's worth of short stories. (That tenth novel isn't announced yet, but will probably show up in 2020.)

Having written a story over a million words long twice, I thought I'd sit down and do a brain dump of what I've learned about writing really long-form fiction—in the hope that it'll be useful to someone else who's just starting out on this ultra-marathon.

(By way of a yardstick, a 300 page book is roughly 100,000 words. "The Lord of the Rings" weighs in at 440,000 words: "War and Peace" is around 620,000 words.)

The first thing to understand is the scale of the task. Each of these projects, the Laundry Files and the Merchant Princes, represents a sunk cost of many years of full time labour. At my rate of production (roughly 1.5 novels per year, long term, where a novel is on the order of 100-120,000 words) either of them would be a 7 year slog, even if I worked at them full time to the exclusion of all other work. So we're talking a PhD level of project scale here, or larger.

In reality, I didn't work at either series full-time. They only account for two thirds of my novel-length fiction output: in the case of both series, I've gone multiple years at a time without touching them. Burnout is a very real thing in most creative industries, and if you work for a duration of years to decades on a single project you will experience periods of deep existential nausea and dread at the mere thought of even looking at the thing you just spent the last five years of your life on. It will pass, eventually, but in the meantime? Try not to put all your eggs in the one ultra-maxi-giant sized basket.

Burnout can be aggravated by external factors (deadline pressure, a deteriorating relationship with your editor(s), real life events such as a death or serious illness in the family), and in my experience the only guaranteed cure for it is some serious down time—either a writing sabbatical if you can afford one, or to work on a different project for a while (preferably one with none of the causes of stress: e.g. if stressed due to deadline pressure, renegotiate the deadlines then spend some time working on something that has no set delivery date, so that if it stalls out you won't be guilt-tripping over it).

The second thing to understand is the commercial constraints.

On the one hand, publishers marketing departments love a series: if I hand in a new Laundry Files or Merchant Princes book, my editor knows exactly how to tell the marketing folks to sell it. Publishers (If you write a successful novel, the first thing your editor will say is "write me another just like it, only different".) Readers often like long series works too: if they liked book 1 enough to plough through book 2 a certain proportion will buy every subsequent book in that series you write (unless and until you keel over and start typing GORILLA GORILLA GORILLA instead of keeping the ball rolling). Predictability is a negotiable but valuable commodity.

However, planned ultra-long-form works of fiction are murdered by market forces just a couple of books in.

This isn't just true of novels, it's true of comic books and TV shows too. Audiences are fickle. Sales (or readership, or audience size) tend to drop by 15-25% from episode 1 to episode 2, and keep declining exponentially. This isn't a sign that the project is bad, this is normal: consider, if you will, how many trilogies you've started to read, finished the first volume of, and then ignored book two (or got a couple of chapters in, then gave up). In some cases the decline is much steeper—30-40% from episode to episode: I speak from experience. This isn't just theoretical: it's why there won't be a third book in the series beginning with "Saturn's Children" and "Neptune's Brood": they sold okay in the USA, but then I changed US publisher—and the British sales took a 40% dive between book 1 and book 2, so I couldn't fall back on the UK market.

A series where the sales figures of book n are the same as book n-1, n-2 .. 1 are flat is worth persisting with, because it's bucking the market trend and not stagnating. And a series where the sales figures actually grow from book to book is a prize beyond compare.

Anyway, one point I'd like to hammer home is that the Merchant Princes and the Laundry Files are both survivors; drawing conclusions from them alone is therefore to some extent an exercise in confirmation bias. I have a number of other potential series works that succumbed along the way. I don't think I've ever started a novel without leaving open the possibility of there being one or more sequels. But many novels never get the sequel they deserve, and many sequels founder on the shoals of diminishing sales before they can spawn a series.

For example, consider "Glasshouse": it was shortlisted for a Hugo, but turned out to be my slowest-selling SF title in the US market so didn't get even a single sequel—'d have had to accept a reduced advance payment for the book, i.e. a cut in income. (One cited reason is that the book takes a weird turn about 20% of the way in; a more likely reason is that Ace tried for am abstract, "literary" cover design that didn't attract either my core SF readers or a lit-fic audience.) (NB: I had a title in mind for a sequel, but eventually decided to re-use the title on something completely different, so when "Ghost Engine" eventually turns up, don't mistake it for a sequel to "Glasshouse".)

This is why you see so many trilogies from new authors that end with book 2. The publisher welcomes them with a two book contract to lock them in, but cuts the trilogy off at the knees if sales of book 2 are down on book 1: if they buy a third book they risk throwing good money after bad. Which is problematic: while many readers won't touch a trilogy or series until it's finished, having been burned, the best way to ensure that it will never be finished is to not buy each book in publication month—because that causes the sales figures to decline!

A third point: if you plan a series in advance, it will deviate from the plan, sooner or later (and usually sooner). I drafted a four book series plan for the Merchant Princes in 2002, assuming that it'd be possible to publish it as a series of 600-800 page doorsteps. (Commercial reality then intervened, in the shape of sewing machine costs.) The Empire Games trilogy is what the third book in that series became, over a 15 year period—it bears little or no resemblance to the original pitch, and the fourth book in the original pitch will probably never get written because the actually-existing series has diverged too far from the original plan.

And indeed, if you try to stick too rigidly to the plan you'll damage your own work. A map is intrinsically less complex and complete than the territory it describes, and as you explore your new world in fiction you'll make discoveries that demand further exploration. New characters will turn up, new plot opportunities will suggest themselves, and you need to be able to adapt and extend your original design as it becomes more complex—then work out ways to prune it so that the complexity remains humanly manageable.

Another problem with writing a really long series is the human ageing process. I am not now the same Charlie Stross who wrote "The Atrocity Archive" in 1999-2000, or "The Family Trade" in 2002. I'm 17-20 years older than that guy. I am middle-aged, with middle-aged memory issues and middle-aged personality changes and middle-aged perspectives on life. I might, at a stretch, be able to parody my younger self's writing style and interests, but I don't really want to write about the same things now that I was writing about back then. So the original series plan may no longer even be appealing or interesting to you if you try to stick to it religiously—you need to be able to redesign your project on the fly, taking into account the already-published books that are already set in stone, if only by layering new interpretations of old story elements on them.

In hindsight, I got two things very right early in the Laundry Files: I made sure that Bob was flagged as an unreliable narrator, and gave him new understandings of the significance of older stories as the series went on. And I had Bob age by a year for every year of wall-clock time that elapsed during the writing of the series, at least up until 2015 (the year in which the Lovecraftian Singularity takes place in the Laundry Files). This allowed me to grow Bob as a character and the setting in terms of complexity, retaining my own interest in the series and making it more layered and nuanced as it went along.

The Merchant Princes developed rather differently. The first six-book series were written mostly between 2002 and 2006, although the last book ("The Trade of Queens") only came out in 2009. It was set in 2002-03, but not our 2002-2003. I then substantially re-edited it for a UK release, before continuing the series with a sequel trilogy, "Empire Games", set in the 2020 of that universe. (The original plan was for "Empire Games" to be published in 2015, but various factors delayed it, so that instead of surfacing as edgy near-future SF it's arriving as a strange kind of alternate present SF.) Again, by resetting the chronology by nearly a generation I was able to sunset some characters and introduce new ones—and also to rejoin a bunch of established ones at a later stage in their lives, allowing for personal growth and a change in the direction of the plot, from relatively naive action-adventure to complex realpolitik.

Anyway, here are some rules of thumb for writing ultra-long-form fiction:

  • The first couple of books should be stand-alone, or at least deliver plot closure for the readers, because it's possible the series will end early, for reasons beyond your control.

  • Don't even think about writing a series unless you're in love with it at a conceptual and character level, because if you get a working series off the ground, it will be with you for longer than the average marriage. As for writing two million-word series in parallel? That's just crazy. Or maybe it's polygamy. I'm not sure: I just wish I hadn't gotten over-ambitious in my thirties.

  • If the series doesn't end, you will burn out, probably several times, over the process of writing ten novels. Plan for it, and factor in taking years out to do something else while you get your mojo back.

  • You will become a different person while you work on your project, and this new you will be interested in different aspects of the story to the ones that held your attention in your youth. Give yourself permission to tear up and rewrite your series plan at will, otherwise you'll create a rod for your own back. If you haven't been through them yet, don't underestimate the impact of cognitive and other personality changes that will essentially turn you into a collaborator with your younger self.

  • It really helps if you allow your characters to age and change with you, and their understanding of the setting. (If not, well, that works for some writers too.)

  • Changing viewpoint characters within the series can also shake things up. (As witness the Laundry Files. It's all Bob for the first five books: thereafter, only one of the next five books is about Bob. Although Bob will probably return in book 11 or 12 ...)

  • It really helps to plan to prune plot threads and protagonists every few books. (Hint: the Red Wedding in "Game of Thrones", or the air raid at the end of "The Trade of Queens".) Middle-aged memory decline is totally a thing, and you ought to plan for it! (If I start any more Merchant Princes books after "Invisible Sun" they will, of necessity, be written as stand-alone novels in the same setting rather than a continuation of the earlier trilogy and series.)

  • Try to keep in mind a possible one-book series climax, even if you think it's going to take another five books to get there in practice? Just in case you get a terminal diagnosis. (If nothing else, your heirs will probably raise a toast to your memory, for the extra bump in sales that the final volume triggers as readers who've been holding off finally buy the now-complete series.)

As for where my two mammoth series are going ... the current plan (remember: all plans are provisional!) is that "Invisible Sun" ends the "Merchant Princes" sequence, second series. There may be standalone novels in the same setting eventually, but no definite plans for the next 2-3 years: I need a break from it. The Laundry Files main story arc should wrap up in another 2-3 novels (after "The Labyrinth Index"), but there are also side-quests: the tenth novel will probably be one of those, that is, a stand-alone story set in the same universe but not dealing with the Laundry or the New Management directly.

Any questions?

761 Comments

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1:

if you work for a duration of years to decades on a single project you will experience periods of deep existential nausea and dread at the mere thought of even looking at the thing you just spent the last five years of your life on
Barnacles / Chas Darwin
Series: You haven't used the phrase: "Gone Discworld on me" - which strikes me as odd, especually given the thread of v dark humour in the Laundry series ....
You will become a different person while you work on your project, Yes - quite noticeable that the aforementioned LotR changed, especially as JRRT got to the end ... the afternotes & follow-ups in "Silmarillion" etc, showed that Numenor had 1950's-70 technology levels, which screws with many of the premises that other people follow, oops.

Q: Any attempts at other humour "Trunk & incpable" or something?
Any more posthuman all-robot AI universe novels?
How' your personal fitness & health, said he at 74 with back problems & refusing to give in ....

2:

GORILLA GORILLA GORILLA

3:

Curious. I frequently stop buying (or reading, as relevant) series after one book, occasionally two and usually after 3-6 for the longest ones. The reasons are related but different to those you mention, but I wonder if they are me being atypical or more widespread?

I dislike being left hanging, and MUCH prefer it when each book in a series is complete enough to read on its own. The Laundry series does this well; Empire Games much less so. The extreme form is when I, after several books, start thinking "Get to the bloody point!" - whether by simply not completing major dangling issues or by perpetually introducing new ones (incidental ones don't count).

I also am always interested in new things in preference to near-repetitions, and I would have thought that is fairly common among science (and detective?) fiction readers. So I also stop buying/reading where I feel "Same old, same old".

Incidentally, my reaction to your characters is that, as they match people I have known, Bob would be relatively RELIABLE as a narrator - mostly because the others would be less so, rather than him being reliable. That refers to the reliability of events only, of course - people like that are dire at interpreting other people's motives and thoughts, and are far too prone to trusting information received from other people. I should know - I am one :-)

4:

Series: You haven't used the phrase: "Gone Discworld on me" - which strikes me as odd, especually given the thread of v dark humour in the Laundry series

Yeah, the Laundry Files totally went Discworld on me around book 5, when I ran out of spy thriller authors I wanted to pastiche and it took on a life of its own as a setting.

And Discworld is a setting, rather than a single series: it's about 5-6 series flying in loose formation that just happen to share a setting. (And what a setting! I'm pretty sure I—and most other British writers with a sideline in humour and/or high fantasy—could use it as a shared universe, if invited to do so, although living up to Pterry's high standards would be enormously difficult. And in the final analysis, I prefer to play in my own sandpit ...)

5:

It seems there's a difference between a "one big story" model, like Merchant Princes where the plot and tone of the books are tightly integrated, and a "tales from" model, like the Laundry (originally) where the stories are more independent and more different from one another. On the one hand we have the pattern of the Culture or Discworld (common themes, setting, and some characters; no grand arc) and on the other, the Wheel of Time, or Song of Ice and Fire, or Outlander (dense plot, details from Book 3 are important in Book 8). The big story model seems harder to adapt in the kind of way you are talking about, either because of the demands of the story-so-far, or because its readers might be more primed to expect book N+1 to be similar to book N. Do you think there are ways, over the course of a One Big Story, to write in a way where it's possible to change direction, tone or theme?

6:

I read you post nodding in agreement. My late wife (she was the one who was going to be the published writer) and I agreed, that we would *not* write 15-book trilogies. More: if you've got a neat universe you've built, why on *earth* would you want to follow the same characters over and over, esp if they have to have nastier stuff thrown at them in each succeeding book?

Nope. We were working in a universe we liked, and the novel (as soon as I find a bloody agent, or maybe I'll give in, and put it in Tor's slushpile, maybe after I get my first short fiction published) is in a completely different part of the human-known universe from the next (which is actually two, as it's around 200k words), and there may be one or two others, other characters, elsewhere.

Then there's the universe I create for a one-off short, that I've now got a novelette that sets up the universe sitting with Analog, and I've already got two other stories in that universe written, and I need a sequel to the novelette... Yeah, I just around, to see the universe from different viewpoints.

Keeps me, I hope, from burnout...or I can go down in the basement and work on my model train layout.

7:

Re changing priorities as you age, fans of Scott Lynch have that problem in spades! The guy had a serious bout of depression when his marriage went south, which many of us can empathise with, hence the 6-year gap until his next book. Unfortunately for readers, his subsequent relationship with Elizabeth Bear seems to have stopped progress on his writing. Which is great for him, but I guess sucks for his publisher; and definitely sucks for fans of his three books so far.

I guess that demonstrates the problem with starting a multi-book series - never mind the publisher, will the *author* reach the finish line intact? Those of us who were fans of Stephen King's original "Dark Tower" trilogy will probably testify to that, because the King who knocked off the final instalments is not the King who wrote the first three.

I guess that's the genius of Pterry as well. Whilst each Discworld book continues the character arcs of individuals we already know, each book is also complete in its own right, and the character arcs always reach a satisfactory point by the end of the book.

8:

douglas clark,

Could I just thank you for explaining just how tough it is to build a consistent world view. And you run, at least, two in your head simultaneously! That, sir, is quite a feat.

9:


Any comments on how Zelazny handled the Amber series? Ten novels in 21 years, split evenly between viewpoint characters having complicated problems in a shared multiverse.

10:

I would just like to note that writers are human beings first: complaining that we do things other than extrude processed fiction for you to consume on a 24x7 basis is, frankly, as insulting as it would be to you if I demanded that you work a second shift and spent all your surplus income on extra copies of all my books.

Yes, we usually write fiction because we enjoy it—at least, some or most of the time: we could in many cases get different jobs. Many of us have day jobs too, so the fiction-writing is a hobby. Examples? Vernor Vinge was a CS prof for decades, during which he averaged maybe one book every 5-7 years, on a hobbyist basis. Now he's retired, so his writing has stayed a hobby. But at least he's still writing. There are other authors I could name in a similar position—got a day job, not enough time to write, and so on. For years, I was one of them: I averaged a novel every 3-4 years during the 90s, because I was working a day job; once I went full time I managed to average 2 books/year for 5 consecutive years.

Scott … was depressed (and had work, as well): didn't write much while he was depressed, because depression is profoundly demotivating. Now he's married to Bear and a whole lot less depressed, and he's not writing much at present, but I'd rather he was happy while he wasn't writing than depressed while not writing. I trust that he'll publish something in due course, but if not …? Shrug.

Finally, as Neil Gaiman noted, George R. R. Martin is Not Your Bitch (and neither is Neil, nor am I).

11:

This clicks with something unique I've noticed about Brandon Sanderson, he of "write the last 3 books of a 14-book series" while simultaneously writing multiple other multi-book series: the guy has, in addition to an editor very dedicated to that particular cash cow, 2 full-time assistants. My understanding is, in addition to secretary/IT work, one of their main jobs is to ensure that the books don't contradict earlier works or have characters shifting tone. Sounds like it's not just Sanderson having money/success, but something writers in that position desperately need if possible!

12:

I never met Roger Zelazny (which I regret).

A read of the first five books suggests he began losing track of the plot towards the end. The second five were, as I understand it, written after his lung cancer diagnosis: he was survived by a wife and kids.

(Similarly, IIRC Anthony Burgess was mis-diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1960, and wrote something like 6 novels in a year, including "A Clockwork Orange", to provide for his wife after his death …)

13:

something writers in that position desperately need if possible!

Oh, you bet.

I've gone to considerable lengths to try to maintain editorial continuity in both my long series.

"The Laundry Files" … the first two books were acquired and edited at Golden Gryphon by Marty Halpern. Then the series moved to Ace, and most recently to Tor.com (it's republished in the UK by Orbit). But I've managed to convince Ace and Tor.com to use Marty as an external copy editor precisely because he's been with the series since the beginning. The line edits were done first by my editors at Ace, and most recently by Theresa Nielsen Hayden at Tor (who's a long-time fan of the Laundry Files).

The Merchant Princes: David Hartwell acquired and edited the entire series, and personally edited everything until "Invisible Sun", which he was unable to edit because of his untimely and tragic death. However, the "Empire Games" books have a second editor in the shape of Bella Pagan of Tor UK, who I worked with on the omnibus re-releases of the first series, and on the new series.

It's generally a bad idea to switch editors in mid-stream on a series, but so far I've been able to hold things together without needing to hire a personal team! Which is a good thing, because I don't have Brandon Sanderson's sales figures (or royalty checks) to cover the added costs.

14:

I know she's not popular with this bunch, but I'd flag Mercedes Lackey's formula as fairly smart. She does settings, rather than long series, then writes trilogies within that setting with a group of characters that generally don't come back again after that trilogy, except in cameos or supporting roles. She's got the character pruning, the trilogy slump defeater, and the setting durability (for something like Valdemar) to support herself and even share it with others, and she gets to write a lot of formula fiction that I used to like a lot more than I do now (which is not her problem).

15:

Another criteria for writing long form stories, is that you have to love reading long form stories.

BTW, Robert Plant was on Austin City Limits again. The interview at the end is key. He points out his longevity. That the casual listener is in a show for the moment, the band have to constantly play to please themselves.

Robert Plant Interview on Austin City Limits
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLsFeIMErIE

In other words:

- The reader enjoys a book for the moment. The writer has to enjoy the process of writing.

Each time a new Laundry book comes out, I read it, then read the entire series again. The latest book, The Labyrinth Index, is such a joy that I have read it five times so far, and will read it again once I finish working through the 19 books in C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series, again. Her series is made up of three book arcs. Each arc ends the story if you want to stop there. I read each arc, then read the last book of the arc again, so three books are read with the third twice. I'm on book six and reading it the third time in as many days. HA!

- That's an example of another useful criteria that helps writing. Love to read books again and again.

The simple question I ask a writer when they are having trouble is: Do you enjoy reading your own stuff, again and again.

Don't get me wrong, many a great book has been written by an author who can't stand to read their own finished book, so that's not a criteria for writing, but I feel that it adds to the pleasure of the process.

16:

I will add that Mercedes Lackey's formula is a standard one in genre romance—not universal, but common, with the protagonists at the focus shifting from book to book (because pretty much the defining characteristic of genre romance is a couple getting it together by the end of the story, so you need a new leading couple in each book).

17:

I now expect there to be some raving loon character in an upcoming Laundry Files book that gives you the opportunity to copy-paste GORILLA GORILLA GORILLA, over and over again, for several pages in the same sort of style as the typewritten pages in the film version of the Shining.

But if you really want to see author burnout and a loyal fan base try reading about the history of the Japanese comic book, dark fantasy series Berserk. Originally issues came out roughly twice a month. However for the last decade or so, there have been gaps for up to about a year before the author squeezes out two or three chapters before the next multi-month hiatus. I'm not suggesting you actually read it, considering the graphic content that periodically pops up, but the history is worth a chuckle.

18:

Chrlie @ 4
Yes, well ... the last of the "flying in formation" sets was Tiffany Aching, wasn't it?
They still move me greatly when I re-read them. ( What is "The Land under the Wave"? - Chalk downlands ... )
Same as "soul Music" - the only book that I've ever read that has me helpleess with laughter & crying in a single double-page spread....

@12
I was very fortunate, @ one of the Brighton cons, to do so - I won't ever forget, because I asked him how he managed to write the way he did - his reply? "Because I have to" - sounds like the OGLAF super-muse struck there, doesn't it?

19:

As I recall Moorcock had a page of "Hahahahahaha" in "A Cure for Cancer" and books were really thin then.

When I compare the shelf space for 10 Stross novels with those of Harrison or Asimov or Moorcock the contrast is striking.

20:
[...]it's why there won't be a third book in the series beginning with "Saturn's Children" and "Neptune's Brood"

Awww :( I was so looking forward to a third novel exploring what a future with at-light-speed travel would look like...

I never thought of those two novels as a series as such; they (and the short story) really feel more like independent books in a shared universe.

21:

independent books in a shared universe

Now that you say that, I'm reminded of Poul Anderson's van Rijn and Flandry independent books in a shared universe, maybe his Time Patrol ones. Kind of a mixed case, as they did have continuity of characters and general setting, but could each stand alone, or pretty much so.

22:

Now that you pointed it out I can see Lois McMaster Bujold using a number of these techniques in her Vorkosigan saga

23:

Well, I'll start by saying that, for me, some of the strengths of the Laundry Files are how the main threads evolve over time, playing "spot the influence", and how, whilst the whole benefits from having read more or all of the published volumes, it is possible to read N+2 and enjoy it without having read N first.

The total Clan series I have slightly different feelings about, largely because that air raid was a massive cliff-hanger of an ending! OK, it about wrapped things up for the Grunmarkt (sp), but lots of the characters were on other Earths.

More generally, on "fantasy trilogies", there are 2 "big names" in that field who have pretty much killed it for me between them, by both writing the same story over and over to the extent that that some of the same characters literally appear in volume 1:1 and 3:3.

24:

Yep, I should have mentioned the Vorkosigan books as a very impressive example of a gigantic series with good continuity in SF, written over a period of decades. Also, Neal Stephenson makes this stuff look easy (see the Baroque Cycle, for example).

25:

I note that the second section of "Invisible Sun", where we get to Miriam in the Commonwealth, was in part designed to make readers of the earlier series go WTF?!? every two pages over how dizzying two decades of progress looks when you jump-cut straight into it from the previous book. But that bomber raid? You have no idea how burned out on the series I was by that point in "The Trade of Queens" …!

I can talk about it now, but: David Hartwell was personally charming, a very astute and talented editor, and an inveterate meddler who drove me up the wall. I had about three bad burn-outs during the first series, and swore never to work with him again … then Tor offered me More Money (always a convincing argument) to come back for an encore. Then he had a nervous breakdown by proxy and … nope. Finally, I got to submit a draft of "Invisible Sun" to Bella (David had died by this point) in the wake of my father's death, was six months late, and had an epic period of burnout as a result. This was last year, and now I'm contemplating the final edits. Fingers crossed.

The formula thing in trilogies … is a big thing in genre romance.

I'd like to note here that my observations on series work applies to the sort of series I write, and a lot of SF/F readers seem to want to read—ones where there's a story arc and character development and the end point isn't predictable from the outset.

Category Romance is different—as Courtney Milan notes, pretty much the defining characteristic of the genre is the Happy Ever After (ending), where two (or sometimes more) characters get it together romantically and (often but not always) marry, or otherwise get to a happy place —story then fades to grey and rolls closing credits. This usually happens in one book, although sometimes it can be delayed to the end of a trilogy. As a long-form series unfolds in category romance, book n-1's central couple fade into the background, and a pair of minor characters from book n-1 take centre stage as the protagonists in book n, while new minor characters show up (to be deployed in book n+1). The emotional arc is thus predictable from book to book. However, the amount of the book devoted to plot, adventure, excitement, etc. varied immensely. Some category romance works are 100% about the feelz, with about as much plot as the averages 70s skin flick; others could be published as SF or crime or thrillers and win awards in those non-romance-segmented genres (Lois McMaster Bujold is a great example of this insofar as about 50% of the Vorkosigan series would have been totally at home in a romance imprint).

(Yes, I study how genres other than the one I work in are constructed.)

26:

Well, if the biggest complaint I ever make about your work is "cliffhanger" that's a back hand compliment in that I want to read more of that story (not always a given). At the same time I don't want favourite authors to suffer burnout because that's in no-one's best interests.

I don't always talk about other genres, but I do read "other stuff" too, and not just the "SF fans also read crime and/or spy stories trope" either.

27:

Charlie @ 25
And/or L M Bujold in her World of the Five Gods series, especially the major novels - I'm still hoping for a follow-on from "paladin of Souls" but I don't think it's likely ... she seems to be well entrenched with Master Penric's life-story at present.

28:

C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner series has included trilogies where less series time passes than it took me to read the three books. (I don't recall the book titles, but the birthday party trilogy is what I mean.) The pace of the series is uniquely stately. I think it's an example of a counter-example to Charlie's Laundryverse strategy. Although the internal chronology is both variable and a little hard to map, the 19 books span fewer than 19 years.

29:

I've dabbled a little in fiction, I did a creative writing module as part of my OU degree a few years back. What I wonder is how you keep track of stuff over the course of writing the million word plus series.

There's just so much background, minor characters, potential hooks, actual open and used plot not quite closed. Do you have an encyclopeadia, or a wiki or is it just a case of relying on memory?

I get that some of this is partly about the advice to sweep things clean every few books. That cuts the future expectations and deals with the dead ends and red herrings left littering the place.

30:

I'm sure I've asked this before, but I can't remember if it was answered.
Ghost Engine. Is that like palimpsest, but longer?
I really like palimpsest.

31:

(Yes, I study how genres other than the one I work in are constructed.)

Charlie, (or anyone else), I don't think I've ever really read anything much in the romance genre, I think I got put off seeing the be-sequinned Jabba-the-Hut-alike Barbara Cartland creature on telly when I was a kid. And mum sobbing over whichever Catherine Cookson she had got from Pudsey library.

I'm sure, as with all genres, there's some really good stuff in there - can anyone recommend any good works ?

32:

Well, the time travel in Cross Stitch (UK title) / Outlander (US title) is a McGuffin; the main elements are history and historical romance (and yes I have read it; see #26 above). OK, I wasn't sufficiently enthused to want to read more of the series but it wasn't as loathsome as Her Pinkness's work or the "Bills and Moon" ;-) imprint.

33:

Ghost Engine. Is that like palimpsest, but longer?

No.

(It's a space opera, set in the variant of the "Palimpsest" time line where the timegate was used as an interstellar wormhole gate generator instead, resulting in wide-scale interstellar colonization.)

I was rewriting it when my father died, which kind of killed my appetite for the project. Will revive it once I'm out of the current morass of broken deadlines.

34:

Wavey Davey
Try Georgette Hayer for romatic, with a very solid historical grounding.

35:

The very long gone Hypatia book recommender at the old alexlit site used to suggest the occasional Georgette Heyer for me, though I never got round to actually reading one. The other reccommendations it made tended to be very good matches so she's on the list for when I get through a few more of the 400 or so that have built up in Calibre...

36:

Henry Troup @28

Wiki - Sue Grafton

In her Alphabet Mystery series, she follows the character Kinsey Millhone through 25 books, the letter A to Y, but only seven years of life.

“When I started, she was 32 and I was 42,” Ms. Grafton said. “And now she’s 39 and I’m 77, which I just do not think is fair.”

As an aside, each of the Dan Brown books occur in less than 24 hours.

37:

Ah the 2 book, no third situation explains why I'll never find out about Michael Kring's Space Mavericks and what happens when they go to Charon .

Shame that both the novelist and the audience (slim that it might be) don't get to a conclusion in these cases, especially when a series died a death 30 + years ago.

Re Burnout :
Its a totally understandable situation, while I might be frustrated that *book X of series* isn't out yet, I'd rather it be one the author wanted to write, when the ideas and plot is bursting out, than something done for contractual reasons.

Take the rest, come back when you are ready and everyone is a winner.


38:

One current benchmark for long form fiction is probably Alan Moore's Jerusalem, which clocks in at ca. 600k words. He must have worked on that for at least a decade. Do you have any idea how he managed to do that? He worked on other projects at the same time and is probably financially independent, but still...

39:

I'll bite and take the brickbats :)

You could do worse than look at a JD Robb novel which inhabits the somewhat unholy intersection of Scifi, Police Procedural/Crime and Romance.

Are they formulaic - yes.
Will the Scifi lite setting annoy many readers of this blog - yes.
Are the produced with extreme regularity which raises interesting questions about her process - yes. She is also Nora Roberts.
Are they a well characterised well plotted, emotionally engaging read - yes. (IMO)
Are they one of the few reliable examples of where me and missus' reading interests intersect - yes. Which probably explains part of why I enjoy them.

(Ducks and covers)

40:

Given that my comfort go-to's are SciFi and Police Procedurals, I might jsut give that a try right soon now. Thanks gordycoale.

41:

"I'd like to note here that my observations on series work applies to the sort of series I write, and a lot of SF/F readers seem to want to read—ones where there's a story arc and character development and the end point isn't predictable from the outset."

Yes, but that also relates to what I said earlier. That assumes that there IS a story arc and the series will eventually reach some kind of closure.

Once the story arc starts wanding around at random or disappears into a swamp, or it starts looking as if there will be no end point, quite a few (but I don't know what proportion) of readers will give up. This MAY be one reason for why sales drop off after the first volume of many series, though I suspect it is a minor factor - you might know. allynh's point is very relevant in this context, too.

Take the Vorkosigan stories as an example. There was a fairly clear arc up until Memory, but it reverts badly in Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn, and Gentleman Jole is widely regarded as just poor - I have not bought it, and shan't, unless I find a very cheap copy. Weber's Harrington is an even more extreme example.

There are an AWFUL lot of series around that are pot-boilers of the kind where an occasional new idea is thrown in, but they are clearly just the literary equivalent of perpetual soup, for the sole purpose of making a steady income. Fine - that's business - if people want to buy that, it's perfectly reasonable to produce it. But count me out.

I am afraid that I find the same about Ice and Fire, not because it doesn't have an arc (MANY of them!) and an intended end-point (though I can't guess what), but because I think it was far too ambitious and will end up as an uncompleted series, quite possibly with a weak final book.

42:

Do you have any idea how he managed to do that?

Merely writing a lot of words—even commercial-grade fiction—isn't necessarily challenging: what's challenging is doing so in the form of a long story with cross-references within the narrative.

I typically write between 170,000 words of fiction/year (in a poor year) and 360,000 words (in a once-a-decade good year)—mean is probably 200-250,000 words. (Note that this doesn't include editing the work, which is probably at least as time-consuming again as writing the first draft.)

But I'm slow. Harry Turtledove once told me he writes 850,000 words of fiction per year. But Harry is slow, too: Seanan Mcguire, aka Mira Grant (and a couple of other pseudonyms) does about 2.2 million words/year, and is good enough to have hit the New York Times bestseller list and set a record for Hugo award nominations in one year. (She's juggling something like 3-4 Laundry/Merchant Princes sized series, too.)

Historically, Charles Hamilton is estimated to have written roughly 100 million words of fiction, equivalent to 1200 novels, in his lifetime on a manual typewriter . He pretty much dominated an entire genre. And he wasn't crap, either: if you've read Harry Potter you're reading a hybrid descendant of his form, albeit with less of the lightly ironic humour and a whole lot more magic.

And before you start questioning process, and how on earth anyone can write that much …

I wrote the first draft of "The Annihilation Score" in 18 consecutive days (109,000 words). "The Fuller Memorandum" came out in 24 days. That output level will get you into the 1.5-2 million words/year range, if you can sustain it. I can't: in both cases, I took the next month off for exhaustion (I typically produce about 1500-2000 words a day when working, and need time off, not 6000 words/day 24x365). But for those who can sustain it, it can be as little as 2 hours' typing (at fast copy-typist speed) per day.

Writing fiction is a bit like programming: we're used to the existence of "super-programmers" who are multiple orders of magnitude more productive than everybody else, and the same applies to writers, although measures of the quality of output are considerably more subjective.

43:

Gentleman Jole is widely regarded as just poor

Disagree strongly, but think it was written as an explicit "fuck you" to the rabid puppies (note who their main house publisher is—ignoring VD's vanity press, it's Baen—and who published the Vorkosigan books?). It also comprehensively re-frames a major character arc in the earlier series, delivers closure to a dangling series-level plot thread from "Diplomatic Immunity", and asks serious questions about what it means to be bereaved halfway through one's life, and how to deal with it.

Whizz-bang space opera with espionage shenanigans it ain't. But Lois these days is a more subtle and thoughtful author than she was in the late 1980s (go figure).

44:

EC: 'Gentleman Jole is widely regarded as just poor'

Disagree strongly, but think it was written as an explicit "fuck you" to the rabid puppies (note who their main house publisher is—ignoring VD's vanity press, it's Baen—and who published the Vorkosigan books?).

I also disagree. It isn't really "the continuing saga of the exploits of Miles Vorkosigan", which is probably one of the reasons some people don't like it. I still like it quite much, and I can understand pretty well that writing about Miles is hard, nowadays.

What I like about the Vorkosigan series is that even if it has its moments of whizz-bang space opera, it's still not about it, in a way, but about the humans living in its world. 'Gentleman Jole' was very much about the people and how they grow up even when middle-aged.

I also like the GURPS Vorkosigan roleplaying game (supplement). We played a campaign with it, and though we had a lot of gadgets, they really weren't the point of the game. Our characters were a team of Betan scientists and researchers sent to visit Barrayar, and while there was some violence (my herm character was hit by a rock and I think there was a duel) the tactical maps were about formal dinner seating arrangements and whose bedroom was next to whose.

45:

Thank both of you for correcting the numerous reports on the net. Those could certainly explain why the commentariat took against it. So please take that posting with that remark removed.

I also like the fact that the series is not primarily whizz-bang space opera, because that leaves me cold, and I find almost all modern 'MilSF' actively off-putting. That wasn't what I was talking about. I was referring to the actual story construction, where the traditional rules still hold good. Yes, obviously, they can and should be broken, but it's much more difficult to deliver a quality product when they are, as you know.

My point about Cryoburn and, especially, Diplomatic Immunity stands; I have both, and have never re-read them, for the reasons I gave, though I might re-read Cryoburn sometime. And, no, I have no particular interest in Miles Vorkosigan as such (my favourite is Ethan of Athos), but in the structure of the stories.

46:

"Writing fiction is a bit like programming: "

And all of your post applies to that and, even more, course materials, technical reports, technical documentation etc. I have fairly often written 5,000 words a day of such stuff (even program code) - but it was invariably material where I knew exactly what I had to say, in what order, and what links I needed to include. As you say, there are stories like that, but they are almost all extremely boring.

47:

I typically write between 170,000 words of fiction/year...

I've read in various places author output talked about in terms of words per year or per day and often wondered; for every hour of typing how many hours go into planning, research or worldbuilding?

It seems like for some authors the amount of time typing is relatively small but by spending lots of time writing out plans and figuring out how things work in their settings they can end up typing a lot in one go (Brandon Sanderson has given talks about his "architect" style which allows him to write quickly because of all the preparation). I imagine it's a harder thing to measure though because authors, especially for speculative fiction, seem to be people with vivid imaginations so the time spent thinking about one's setting could stretch to a low level 24/7.

48:

Take the Vorkosigan stories as an example. There was a fairly clear arc up until Memory, but it reverts badly in Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn, and Gentleman Jole is widely regarded as just poor

The two novels I've most often reread in that series are Captain Vorpatril's Alliance and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

I'd figured for years that there had to be more to Ivan than we saw in the earlier novels, seen from Miles' viewpoint, so I quite liked seeing him from a different perspective. And while I'd assumed Jole was a prop when he first appeared so didn't have any expectations about him, it was interesting seeing Cordelia finally out from under the role she'd (willingly) assumed for most of the series (Great Man's Wife), and beginning to (finally) work on achieving her own original goals.

49:

This.

Whilst Cryo and DI were fairly average entries in the series - both GJARQ and CVA were decidedly above average imo. Possibly the sign that the Miles arc had run out of steam or possibly just the law of averages catching up with Bujold.

Even the small appearance of Miles in the third person in GJARQ refreshed him as a character.

50:

EC @ 41
Weber / Harrington
Weber appears to have recognised this & seems to have written her out, except, just possibly as a background character in his last - which had a very much deus ex machina ending.
Which leaves us with the problems of how much shit hits fan when the empathic tree cats arrive at Haven in numbers & start uncovering the Mesa/space-Nazis plants .... And the unconnected wormhole that was mentioned a couple of times.
He could be set to re-start with some of the other, younger characters ... or not

51:

Agreed - they were both really enjoyable. CVA as a caper movie, GJARC as a damn good book. The current Penric novellas are also enjoyable; like Greg, I really enjoyed "Paladin of Souls"...

...reading LMB was probably the point at which I realised that I enjoyed romantic fiction, done well. "Crazy Rich Asians" was another "ooooh, Kindle daily deal" guilty pleasure.

52:

Well, there is an author's note (or possibly interview I have read) in/around the time one of the later HH books where DW says something like "Admiral Lady Steadholder Harrington is 'too senior' to be allowed to go and command a battle fleet in person any more". I think that, in this volume, the Admiralty fiddle things so she can keep her white captain's beret by giving her command of the Manticore Navy Museum.

53:

I was hoping to not reply further, but that is NOT what I was saying. I don't give a damn about the 'face' - the existence of a principal character to front the story isn't even critical to a story arc. I was and am talking about the story arc as a whole, as he constructed it, and at least adequate closure at 'end points'. Weber started turning the series into perpetual soup some time back, and later stopped even trying to make his follow-on topics develop coherently.

On the matter of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, yes, it's well-constructed, amusing and re-readable, but it's largely obvious. Both in plot, because it's strongly category romance as OGH described in #25 (just like A Civil Campaign, in fact), and in terms of Ivan's character, which was exactly what the previous stories had indicated. In my view, it had much simpler treatment of its secondary aspects than A Civil Campaign, too.

54:

Yes, Steven Erikson managed an astonishing amount of output and world building in a very short space of time, because he’d spent near twenty years or so gaming and living in that world and had collaborators on call when he needed advice. And he’s still a slow writer in this context - the Malazan series is some 3.3m words over 15 years.

55:

Weber mentions in a note or blog post that his series went slightly pear shaped on him due to Honors popularity - she, like Nelson, was supposed to die in the big battle at Manticore, and then the series resume after a time skip with the next generation and the Mesa storyline. Now he’s trying to reconcile making it all happen at once while also bringing the new blood forward and is clearly having issues.

56:

Oh yes - my apologies if that wasn't clear. I'd much rather live in a world with a functioning, happy Scott Lynch than one without! If that means less authorial output, so be it. And I'll take delayed high-quality output over "extruded" blah any day.

It's a classic example though of an audience getting burned by investing emotionally in a series which may or may not ever finish. Of course (Insert Author) Is Not Your Bitch; but the existence of an audience saying "that was *so* good, when's the next one due?" must surely be a marketing department's wet dream. Market forces stop being a wolf that needs to be placated with your own food and start being a labrador which keeps bringing you pheasants all day. Except extending the metaphor, you do still need to shoot those pheasants yourself.

The frustration for Scott Lynch fans comes from roughly four years of him attending cons saying "it'll be out this year" or "early next year". The GRRM/Gaiman answer is actually preferable, because it sets up hope of a next installment but not expectation of a date! Doesn't this add an extra bullet point to your list: "If you're going to write this kind of series, engage with your audience to realistically manage what they can anticipate"? (Which both you and GRRM do in spades, of course.)

57:

@Charlie

Charlie, where do you see yourself on the plotter vs pantser spectrum?

(In my SW dev efforts I am more pantster than I should be ...)

58:

The first triloogy was very good. The second... I think I ran out on that. After that, he was writing to get paid, it felt like.

But then, I was big on him for pre-Amber, when he was *brilliant*. Lord of Light, Creatures of Light And Darkness, Doors of His Face, Lamps of His Mouth....

59:

I can see it now: our Hero (or the fall guy) takes magiketamine, and thinks and screams GORILLAGORILLAGORILLA as he waltzes up to Everyman and blows him away.

60:

Georgette Heyer fandom heavily overlaps fandom. Perhaps go to the Georgette Heyer Tea at the next Worldcon, or talk to John Hertz (and tell him I said 'hi').

I have a number of them. Can't remember if I read them before or after my late wife died, but they were hers.

61:

I am still waiting for Panshin's Universal Pantograph....

62:

I disagree, also.

However... ok, obligatory disclosure: as I said to Lois, the one time my late wife and I met her (spending a lovely hour in a booth in a consuite), Cordeilia reminded me a LOT of my (now late) wife, and IIRC, Lois agreed.

Hell, I want Cordeilia in my bed!

63:

Afraid I must respectfully disagree concerning Charles Hamilton! At least if Billy Bunter taken alone is still representative. It's so crap it's actually nauseating - and I say that to mean a literal psychosomatic response, not as a metaphorical description of strong antipathy. I've encountered plenty of books I didn't like, but it's extremely rare for one to actually make me feel sick.

64:

gordycoale @39

JD Robb

Now you're talkin'. That's another great example.

Wiki - in Death

And look at the publication dates. She is up to 59 books in the series, from 1995 to present.

"The series is ongoing and will go on as long as Roberts desires to write it. She has stated that the series will never contain one of Eve and Roarke's children,[1] as the series will end with Eve's eventual pregnancy."

Charlie Stross @42

Charles Hamilton is my "gold standard". I want to be him when I grow up. HA!

For the general discussion of the series falling apart over time.

Take a Jenga set and stack it up. Each layer is three blocks, with each layer of three cross to the one below. Now start pulling pieces out from below and stack them above, making the tower higher. The level of stress keeping the stack from collapsing is fun for the moment, but not long term.

- Most series start as individual books, stacked one on the other, and become unstable fast.

Now, take the same wooden pieces, and lay them out in many shorter stacks, or interesting patterns across the table. Still in the same Verse, same number of books, far less stress.

Looked at another way, I use the London Underground Map to help give me perspective.

Tube map
http://content.tfl.gov.uk/standard-tube-map.pdf

Look at the map. Think of each station as an episode. Each "Line" as a "story line".

Look at the Central line in solid read, starting at A1 and ending at A8. Think of that as a trilogy.

Remember, the Tube is a system used year round. Look at all the rest of the things happening that are not in the trilogy, yet could appear in other books.

Look at the Tube Map as a set of rules for that Verse. I see the books by Stephen King, and the Harry Potter series, and The Laundry series, all happening in that Lovecraft Verse. I see a Pub with Harry Potter and Bob Howard sitting at the bar, drinking a pint, and at a table nearby is Danny Torrance having Fish&Chips. They are not seeing each other because each is under a different geas.

65:

Consolidated response:

Elderly Cynic @ 45: My point about Cryoburn and, especially, Diplomatic Immunity stands; I have both, and have never re-read them, for the reasons I gave, though I might re-read Cryoburn sometime. And, no, I have no particular interest in Miles Vorkosigan as such (my favourite is Ethan of Athos), but in the structure of the stories.

My first encounter with Miles Vorkosigan came in with the novella The Borders of Infinity included in an anthology of military SciFi (edited by Joe Haldeman of The Forever War IIRC); followed by The Warrior's Apprentice and Shards of Honor.

Robert Prior @ 48:

Take the Vorkosigan stories as an example. There was a fairly clear arc up until Memory, but it reverts badly in Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn, and Gentleman Jole is widely regarded as just poor

The two novels I've most often reread in that series are Captain Vorpatril's Alliance and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

I'd figured for years that there had to be more to Ivan than we saw in the earlier novels, seen from Miles' viewpoint, so I quite liked seeing him from a different perspective. And while I'd assumed Jole was a prop when he first appeared so didn't have any expectations about him, it was interesting seeing Cordelia finally out from under the role she'd (willingly) assumed for most of the series (Great Man's Wife), and beginning to (finally) work on achieving her own original goals.

There are hints throughout the series that there's more to Ivan than meets the eye, mostly from Miles & Ivan himself. And Cordelia is obviously much more than the "Great Man's Wife" as seen in Barryar and at the end The Warrior's Apprentice when Aral Vorkosigan suggests to his political opponents that if they're going to condemn Miles for creating the Dendarii Mercenaries, THEY can be the ones to deliver the bad news to Cordelia.

You also see it in the way Emperor Gregor is so anxious to have Cordelia's approval when he decides that Laisa is "the one" in Memory.

Elderly Cynic @ 53: On the matter of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, yes, it's well-constructed, amusing and re-readable, but it's largely obvious. Both in plot, because it's strongly category romance as OGH described in #25 (just like A Civil Campaign, in fact), and in terms of Ivan's character, which was exactly what the previous stories had indicated. In my view, it had much simpler treatment of its secondary aspects than A Civil Campaign, too.

The thing about Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is we finally see Ivan come into his own & learn that much of his lakadaisical attitude is an act put on to shield himself from plotters. He is very much aware of where he stands in the line of succession and what he has to do to keep himself aloof from conspirators who would try to use him as a puppet.

We also see some of Ivan's hidden brilliance in A Civil Campaign where he's the one who delivers the votes that break Richar Vorrutyer's conspiracy to steal the count-ship of the Vorrutyer district. A Civil Campaign is probably my favorite, because not only does Miles "get the girl", but she turns out to be a strong female who is NOT going to settle for the role of the "Great Man's Wife"- something that Miles is going to need to keep him on the right track.

Second is Captain Vorpatril's Alliance because Ivan does come into his own and because he also deserves to "get the girl" and it's good that she's a woman who is his equal & partner.

For me, Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is the end of the cycle that brings closure because everyone gets to live "happily ever after" ... until the torch is passed on to the next generation of Barryarans and a new cycle begins.

I'd been hoping for a new 5 gods/Chalion novel after The Hallowed Hunt, but somehow missed the "Penric" series. I just wasn't able to get into her other fantasy series on "The Sharing Knife".

Then there's L.E. Modesitt - I originally discovered his "Forever Hero" and that prepared me for the "Recluce Saga". I also enjoyed the "Corus" double trilogy (+2 other books) & the "Spellsong Cycle", but "Imager" just left me cold.

For military SciFi, I really like Elizabeth Moon, especially her latest effort "Vata's War".

66:

Oh, and Glen Cook has a new "Black Company" novel that I'm currently reading.

67:

JBS
All the "Penric" books are in Kindle, if not yet in print in your area

68:

SOMEBODY mentioned "Good Omens" somewhere .... Trailer for series here ....

69:

Well, of *course* Gregor wants Lady Vorkosigan's approval. She was, effectively, his mother.

And if you haven't read Barrayar, you should. A major chunk of Barrayar is scared shitless of her... or, perhaps I should say, really are attached to their heads.

70:

Speed of writing: Michael Moorcock claimed somewhere to have written 'The Eternal Champion' in one hit, in 36 hours straight, heavily assisted by poverty and some cheap trucker "assistance". No drafts, no retyping.
(Not that it's particularly good, mind, but still.)

71:

If you enjoy Modesit try his Scifi The Parafaith War and the sequel the Ethos Effect.

Easily his best 2 novels imo and I read big chunks of his output until Recluse got a little bit samey. Explores the nature of fundamentalism and the consequences of how we chose react to it rather well I think.

72:

Re: 'side-quests'

IMO, ability to do side quests means a well thought out complex universe which means a varied cast of characters (personalities). One of my most pleasant reading surprises was Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things. A very little book in comparison to his debut door-stop Name of the Wind, it's about a minor character and is told in a completely different 'voice'. And it works beautifully. To me, it's at par with Saint-Exuprey's The Little Prince.

Re: Heyers
Have read that LMB was a great fan of Heyer's and that A Civil Campaign was a nod to Heyers and other regency authors' works.

Since no one mentioned him yet: How about Asimov? He wrote mostly stand-alone novels interspersed with a few follow-ups and it was only toward the end of his career that he pulled their various arcs into one story. (Unless it was his publishers that pestered him to somehow do this?) Anyways, I'm guessing that SF/F in its youth managed to avoid having all its writers churn out multi-book sagas because back then the whole point of SF was to try as many outrageous ideas as possible. And since not every experiment works, this meant that very few outrageous ideas ever made it into the multi-tome category. Frankly, wouldn't mind reading some outrageous idea type of SF/F again.

73:

Agreed completely, though he did redeem himself with A Night In The Lonesome October, which was amazing.

It's also interesting to note how good science fiction is informed magnificently by later science fiction, while bad science fiction... isn't. I'm referring to the way "Lord of Light" (which still reads brilliantly today) in so interestingly informed by Cyberpunk and "Singularity" fiction.

74:

Sorry. ...is so interestingly informed...

75:

I am still waiting for Panshin's Universal Pantograph...

You and me and just about everyone else who read "The Thurb Revolution" and "Masque World".

Panshin's website used to say that "The Universal Pantograph" was "unpublished", but early this century all reference to it was removed, and, on checking just now, I can find no reference to any of the books in the saga.

I've always wondered whether Panshin was lying about having finished (to whatever level) the manuscript of "The Universal Pantograph" or pulled it to spite his fans, to my knowledge has never responded directly to any questions about it, replying with variations on, "The first two are out of print."

76:

Charlie,

I have an odd question. At the start of your essay you mention:

So, about a decade ago I wrote an essay on this blog about the writing of the Merchant Princes series (at that point, six slim novels—the Empire Games follow-on trilogy wasn't more than a daydream back then), in which I tried to pin down what I'd learned about writing a series.

- Do you have a link to that essay.

I Googled the site and found this discussion of the Merchant Princess series.

Books I will not write #3: No plan survives contact with the editor
http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/09/books-i-will-not-write-3-big-f.html

Reading through that(2010), and in light of the rise of Indy publishing, I can't see doing the story in the four proposed books, at 200k each. If I were writing the series, I would need 20, 100k books, and it would still be compressed.

Reading through your 2010 proposal scares the hell out of me. HA!

77:

I was going to post this on the other thread, but the time-out between postings seems to have gone up.
Apologies if off-topic here ....
Corbyn has just proved ( AGAIN ) that he is even more incompetent, stubborn & hopeless than May
See here, please He's trying to back out of a second referendum, so that he can blame brexit on the tories.
Party & section of party before country. ( And May is, of course, only marginally better ... )
Yuck.

78:

Mike has also gone on record as stating he did that in order to pay off an outstanding bill.

I must confess, I find it somewhat annoying to see a new book solicited, by a writer I've never heard of & with no visible backlist, billed as Book One of a new series (it used to be Trilogy, but nowadays, even that's too small).

Can nobody write standalone books anymore?

79:

The non-appearance of Universal Pantograph can be explained in several non-malicious ways; notably, if one posits a prolonged bout of depression. (I know at least one other author who, while in the grip of depression, deleted the complete draft and all backups of their second novel, the sequel to a first novel that won awards.)

I have no idea whether this happened to Panshin, but depression is a stone-cold creativity assassin and SSRIs don't always fix that—they have side-effects such that the depression may lift but the creativity may not come back.

81:

A note about the 2010 blog entry on the series plan — the EMPIRE GAMES trilogy is what the third book in that plan mutated into, over a 15 year span. Surprisingly, EMPIRE GAMES sort-of fulfills the remit of that sketchy outline, and of the thematic zinger at the end of my "Five rules" essay (previous comment). The big changes seem to be that Miriam led the clan survivors into the New British Empire instead of an unsettled timeline, and her daughter is called Rita, not Sue.

I have no idea what'll happen instead of the fourth story, though. I just can't hold together all the threads of a third of a million word story in my head any more (mid-fifties brain, mid-sixties by the time I get to the point of finishing such a story arc). So most likely it'll either never get written, or will get refactored into a setting with a series of stand-alone novels filling in the key events in the time line: eg. a novel set in 2040, a novel set in 2200, and so on (with new protagonists in each, or previous protags only showing up as minor cameos).

82:

Can nobody write standalone books anymore?

Blame the structure of the market, not the authors: authors are just responding to baked-in incentives.

Most readers are naive: they finish a book and think, "I want another just like that one", rather than "I want another that makes me feel the way I felt when I read that one". So a sequel is an easier sell than an entirely new novel that might not deliver the same feels, even though we know that growing familiarity will add a sense of staleness as the series continues (unless the author is very good at getting creative within the envelope of what made the first book engaging in the first place).

This perception also infects publishers' marketing departments (it's not just an affliction of the self-published), who apply huge pressure on editorial acquisitions. (In my experience, in trade fiction publishing there are two types of management hierarchy you run into: ones where marketers work for editors, and ones where editors work for marketing managers. The latter is increasingly prevalent.)

83:

I have, completely independently of Charlie, and without writing for a living, had very similar discussions with agents and editors to what he says or implies in #82.

84:

...from the point of view of the young lad growing up with poor but honest folks somewhere in middle earth who discovers that he's destined to grow up to be the Dark Lord, overthrow the established order, and start a revolution.

Yes. This!

(The problem in fantasy is that Elves live for a thousand years, and an Orc is unlikely to make it past seventy. Orcs need an immortal Dark Lord (or at least a long-lived one) because an Elvish Plot can take hundreds of years to unfold, and an Elven education can take upwards of two-hundred years and still give the Elf eight-hundred years of effective life.

85:

I remember one year when I read I think three different fantasy series, which all started with "there's this young (possibly) orphan lad with a Destiny to overthrow the evil oppressors."

I think they were Belgariad, Riftwar, and Wheel of Time. They were all different, but the basic structure was kind of obvious...

86:

A fantasy novel written after the publication of The Silmarilion might take an interesting direction, that work claims Orcs to be modified Elves, if so, their death wouldn't be oblivion, but a trip to the halls of Mandos. The Elves might even see it as mercy killing.

87:

Puhleease!!! There are literally truck-loads of high fantasy novels written after the publication of the Sillymarilion (sic), and there's not one I know of that takes this route. Of course, you'd need to licence doing so from the literary estate of JRRT...

88:

I'll have to take your word for that, don't read much other high fantasy. Interestingly, Heinlein treated death that way in Stranger In a Strange Land, no death being final.

89:

Outrageous ideas? No. They were exploring a whole new universe of what-if, and most going in several directions, and there was so much to explore.

Now, a lot of it, at least nearby/comprehensible, has become settled, and the writing fits into a fixed setting.

And then there's the freakin' bean counters who run the megapublishers that want product, like filling containers with laundry detergent, not something that's new, or different, or, PERISH THE THOUGHT!!! art.

90:

Many years ago - might actually have been late in the last millenium, I ran into him at a con, and asked. His response was "when someone's willing to publish it."

I think it was all too quirky for the publishers, and perhaps not a big *enough* seller.

One wonders if an small press could track him down and offer to publish....

Sorry, just thinking about the DC area club I'm in, which isn't publishing a book by the guest of honor at Capclave this year....

91:

..from the point of view of the young lad growing up with poor but honest folks somewhere in middle earth who discovers that he's destined to grow up to be the Dark Lord, overthrow the established order, and start a revolution.

It's kinda been done in Jacqueline Carey's Sundering Duology.

Personally, given the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the problem of invasive orange shitgibbons infecting media everywhere, I'd suggest that we're getting past the age of The Lone Chosen Savior. We've seen a parade of prophesied saviors, with the billions that proclaim their power, and their mediagenic brilliance, and their orange spray-tans or nerd-cred, and most of them on closer inspection appear to be frauds, or at the very least, incapable of saving the world.

You want to really subvert the trope, start an ensemble series where people rebuild the world from the bottom-up, the elites are the Big Bads, and the Mandate of Heaven (e.g. the gods predestining the winners) isn't in operation, either because they don't exist or because they're cool either way with what happens.

Oh, and get away from the moral symbolism of light vs. dark. Especially given what being DARK-skinned means in America at the present moment.

Heck, despite what I just said, you could reframe LOTR with dark-skinned hobbits, white orcs, and make it *really* interesting, if you had the cojones, the street cred, and the knowledge to pull it off.

92:

I don't agree, Charlie. I don't think most readers are naive. I do think that the beancounters who now control publishing, and their best boys, marketing (who, of course, market themselves to the beancounters) want, as I said above, product, not good stories.

And more verbiage, to justify higher prices.

93:

Oh, and get away from the moral symbolism of light vs. dark. Especially given what being DARK-skinned means in America at the present moment.

Oh HELL yes.

94:

I'm sure I've mentioned here, maybe a year or two ago, a series by an old friend of mine, David Sherman. A world where magic works... but once in a while, someone from this world falls through into that one. His heroes for the series are several Marines, whose ship was anchored in the harbor of a country on the other side of the continent from their country, when that country was attacked and conquered. Their ship was sunk, and all they're trying to do is get home. There are NO prophecies, Destinies, etc.

So far, in what's been published, they're going across continent by land, and by the latest book, they've got 2000 people or so following them, trying to escape with them.

He's given me hints of where it's going, but I'm still waiting for the next (I hope - he's got several years on me, and isn't in the best of health.)

95:

Come to think of it, if you want to subvert, the White Vs. Black symbolism where orcs stand in for people of (some) color (yellow in LOTR, IIRC), then perhaps the better symbolism is rainbow vs. monochrome.

Anyway, I still like the idea of remaking Lothlorien in Wakanda's image, for some reason. Too bad I'm far too white (and not a good enough author) to pull it off.

96:

A Wizard of Earthsea & The Tombs of Atuan ...
The Kargs are pale-skinned barbarians IIRC

97:

Of course the real world has this unfortunate day/night duology and fear of the dark is only one of the most basic human instincts but yeah let’s get rid of that whole “dark is evil” thing and start wearing them skinny jeans

98:

Yes. There's a couple of fun things you can do.

One is to look at all the different covers, cartoon, and live action representations of these books, and see if you can spot the, erm, magical negroes.

The other one is to read the stories and see what skin color your mind conjures up. It's a problem that "medieval,""snow," and bronze weapons tends to evoke mental images of whiteness.

Anyway, I sometimes wonder what Ryan Coogler would do if he got to do the big screen adaptation of Earthsea...

99:

The Japanes adaptation of one of the Earthsea novels ( "Farthest Shore" I think ) was so utterly crap, & worse, WRONG, that Studio Ghibli or not, I walked out in loud disgust after about 8 minutes ....

100:

WaveyDavey
I find the JD Robb books to be mostly a fun fairly light read, they are not classical romances in that the main protagonist does not change from book to book, although we do see other romances develop over the series. I don't think you have to start at the begining, but the later you start the more of the supporting character's romances will have settled down into permanent relationships. I get them from the library and because of that have not read them entirely in order.

Eisabeth Moon changes things up over both her settings by bringing on the younger generation, by telling the story of what were originally side characters, and by focusing on different parts of her worlds.

I guess you all know that Gorilla Gorilla gorilla is the full name of the gorilla ...

101:

I was tempted to write an overly long comment on my own writing projects, but didn’t bother, and have been occupied with new puppy among other things.

So instead I’m kvelling with an “Holy Shit!” my 9yo nephew is going to be playing young ‘Philip Roth’ in an upcoming series based on “The Plot Against America”
My brother had emailed asking for family photos from the late 30s-early 40s. I sent some that I happened to have scanned thinking they were for a school project. Nope, apparently for period costume reference, possibly used onset in the background.

I’m not supposed to say anything about this, but the production has been announced and this isn’t the most public space—i.e. not FB: https://deadline.com/2018/11/hbo-orders-the-plot-against-america-miniseries-from-david-simon-ed-burns-1202498217/
The kid’s not mentioned in the article.
Last fall he played Ethan Hawke’s son in “Juliet, Naked” based on a Nick Hornby novel. It was a nice RomCom, worth a watch.

102:

Oh, it wasn’t a bad film, as long as you’re not familiar with the source material. I admit I still haven’t read the books, I’ve been planning to for a couple years, but new books keep coming out (funny that).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_from_Earthsea_(film)

103:

The film... I couldn't watch more than a few minutes. Here's the deal: Sparrowhawk in the books is black, so having a blondish white dude play him in a Hallmark miniseries...?

Also, the plot's reportedly nothing like what Le Guin wrote. She had some wonderfully choice words about what they did to her books in the Hallmark version. You can read the movie plot summary here and the summary of A Wizard of Earthsea here. Typical Hollywood hackery.

Finally, Ms. Le Guin passed away over a year ago, so don't worry about any more books coming out. The last book pretty much ends the whole thing anyway, and none of them are long books.

104:

I mentioned the tenth Laundry Files novel?

Let's just say, I'm awaiting contracts to sign: at this point it's pretty definite, although it probably won't show up until after INVISIBLE SUN.

105:

I'm just waiting for "Merchant Princes: it was really just one book all along" :)

I have often thought that single-storyline series should be republished at the end as a single volume so that those of us who do actually read the series (or have amazing memories) don't have to reread the same introductory 100 pages 15 times. Although the work required to produce it wouldn't be trivial, it could be mostly an editing job rather than an authoring job I suspect.

Also, I did find the wholesale nuclear ending in MP ugly and somewhat traumatising. I grew up towards the end of the "practice hiding under your desks" period and it wasn't fun.

106:

Greg Tingey @ 67: JBS
All the "Penric" books are in Kindle, if not yet in print in your area

If my local Public Library doesn't have them, I can get them from the other big book-store chain whose name does not start with the letter 'A'.

I prefer REAL books; no batteries to recharge/replace, no screens to repair. I've never had a problem with a REAL book I couldn't fix myself with rubber cement or cellophane tape.

107:

Re: 'A note about the 2010 blog entry on the series plan — ...'

Had to laugh when I read your comment above because it drove home that aside from having to remember everything you've officially published as SF/F, you're also trying to remember every post you've ever posted on this blog. OOC, how many additional thousands of words, number of hours of reading, does this blog represent? Really appreciate that you've maintained it so well for so long.

108:

whitroth @ 69: Well, of *course* Gregor wants Lady Vorkosigan's approval. She was, effectively, his mother.

And if you haven't read Barrayar, you should. A major chunk of Barrayar is scared shitless of her... or, perhaps I should say, really are attached to their heads.

I've read all of them more than once.

My point was that in Barrayar, The Warrior's Apprentice, Memory and A Civil Campaign we see that Cordelia is MORE than "Countess Vorkosigan", more than the great man's wife, long before we get to Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

In fact, it's clear from the very beginning of Shards of Honor when we first meet Captain Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony's Survey Service on the planet that will become Sergyar that this is a person of merit and someone to be reckoned with.

109:

Charlie Stross @ 82:

Can nobody write standalone books anymore?

Blame the structure of the market, not the authors: authors are just responding to baked-in incentives.

Most readers are naive: they finish a book and think, "I want another just like that one", rather than "I want another that makes me feel the way I felt when I read that one".

There is so much drek out there and so little GOOD SciFi that comes along, when I do find an author who manages to make me want more, I'll gladly accept either. If the author is good, the next book is probably going to be good (Heinlein's The Number of the Beast notwithstanding) whether it's a sequel or not.

And I want to thank YOU Charlie for your blog making me smarter. I write responses and before I post I have to check "Does this word mean what I think it means?" I have to look a lot of stuff up before I hit submit and that's GOOD to.

110:

Troutwaxer @ 84:

...from the point of view of the young lad growing up with poor but honest folks somewhere in middle earth who discovers that he's destined to grow up to be the Dark Lord, overthrow the established order, and start a revolution.

Yes. This!

(The problem in fantasy is that Elves live for a thousand years, and an Orc is unlikely to make it past seventy. Orcs need an immortal Dark Lord (or at least a long-lived one) because an Elvish Plot can take hundreds of years to unfold, and an Elven education can take upwards of two-hundred years and still give the Elf eight-hundred years of effective life.

May I recommend the best "Orc" story I've ever read? Grunts! by Mary Gentle

111:

"...orcs stand in for people of (some) color (yellow in LOTR, IIRC)..."

No, orcs in LOTR do not stand in for any kind of people. The whole thing about orcs is they are irredeemably evil so they don't count as people at all and it's perfectly OK to slaughter them like pathogenic bacteria. Which is pretty much what they are as far as all other life-forms are concerned.

112:

Yeah, about that. It's worth rereading how he describes the Orcs, with their slanty eyes, sallow skin, and curved blades. And realize that it was written between 1937 and 1948, with some chapters written to his son Christopher in the RAF during the latter part of the War.

I'd put this racism in with HPL's, only perhaps even more minor. I didn't notice it on the first ten readings. And I don't think LOTR's an intentionally racist screed or that it should be condemned, because it's so easy to reimagine the monsters in it simply as monsters, rather than as racist stereotypes.

However, you have to think about what kind of people would be seen as "irredeemably evil so that they don't count as people at all and it's perfectly okay to slaughter them like pathogenic bacteria" around the time of WWII. Something like this image (from this source) looks pretty orcish, no? Guess who that's supposed to be?

I'd simply suggest such images were very much in the media environment that Tolkien was consuming when he wrote LOTR, and he incorporated them into his work unthinkingly. We live in a media environment too, and it's also worth thinking about what we're consuming and using.

113:

_Moz_ @105 said: I have often thought that single-storyline series should be republished at the end as a single volume so that those of us who do actually read the series (or have amazing memories) don't have to reread the same introductory 100 pages 15 times. Although the work required to produce it wouldn't be trivial, it could be mostly an editing job rather than an authoring job I suspect.

Zelazny's first Amber series would be a good example of that.

Amber is five books, each about 300 manuscript pages, so 1500 pages. If you strip out the repetition you get a single story about 1000 pages long.

The book is all from Corwin's viewpoint as he tells the story in the Courts of Chaos. If you take the 1000 pages of single character viewpoint and start folding in the other viewpoint characters, the story probably doubles in size to 2000 pages.

I would read the first Amber series two different ways. One book a week, or all five books in a weekend. If read one book a week, the books seem to flow into each as if they were one story. When read over a weekend you are hit by the massive blocks of repetition.

- The best way to read Amber is serially, with days between each book, not one after the other.

This effect is similar to reading Dickens. Most of his books were serials, each chapbook meant to be read multiple times before the next. The best way to read Dickens is to loop through the story multiple times, spread over weeks, not read straight through.

Seeing that has freed me from the tyranny of reading linearly. Some books, I will now read along, then loop back several chapters, going through the book multiple times. The more often I read a book, the more likely I will be to loop through it.

I do the same thing on some movies. I will often take three hours to watch a 90 minute movie, looping back through the sections. Or, do the same with a TV series, looping back through an episode arc.

With King's Lisey's Story I will loop all through the book assembling the story. I can't read straight through it anymore. Yet strangely, with his Duma Key, I will read through it as if on rails. The same with LOTR. I feel the need to read them straight through, carrying the story till the end. HA!

114:

The Japanese adaptation of one of the Earthsea novels ... was so utterly crap, & worse, WRONG...

You really, really don't want to see what they did to Lensman.

I was deeply into anime once. I've watched it so you don't have to.

115:

And I want to thank YOU Charlie for your blog making me smarter. I write responses and before I post I have to check "Does this word mean what I think it means?" I have to look a lot of stuff up before I hit submit and that's GOOD to.

This bears repeating just for emphasis. Few people here need to read it but the internet as a whole certainly does.

I discovered years ago, back in the BBS days, that knowing things certainly helped for appearing intelligent online but the critical point was to take your time, double check the writing, and get everything right before posting. Taking the extra few moments to correct typos, verify spelling, and look up things when necessary pays off when your messages get read.

116:

You really, really don't want to see what they did to Lensman.

Thanks for the flashback, you unspeakable slime-weasel! Argh! (Time to take the toilet brush to my brain, except that this would remind me of the Eddorian ships or whatever they were).

Fortunately, I saw the ads for the Earthsea anime, and having had the live action experience, I turned away.

117:

You really, really don't want to see what they did to Lensman.

Unless you are desperate for an anime Star Wars pastiche with dated CGI.

Why is Van Buskirk an anthropomorphic moose? Why is Worsel an anthropomorphic pterodactyl? Why do Kim and Clarissa have brown hair?


118:

I actually wrote the script for what was supposed to be a webcomic based around all those themes; the orcs and their allies represent all the various colored people, the elves are rich white people, and the orcs have a very reasonable wish for vengeance. Also, the orcs have elections and the elves have nobility... Unfortunately, I couldn't find an artist I could afford. The elevator pitch was "an elf-orc buddy movie where the orcs are the good guys."

119:

I have read Gruntsmany times. (And I play Orcs frequently in D&D, in large part because I love the Orc/Sauron dynamic.)

"I only go to the Temple of Sauron when there's free food - their gnome-on-a-stick is to die for!"

120:

Later on ... JRRT made it clear that ... It wasn't the Orc's fault.
They had been deliberately constructed/warped that way by Melkor & then used by Sauron.
Hence the deliberate contrast with the Uruk-Hai ( Saruman ) who seem to have some concept of "Honour" & "cameraderie" - very much like bad humans.
Which, quite deliberately, makes them much more unsettling.

In the same way that it later becomes clear that thr eleves, too have made "serious mistakes" shall we say ... something called "the kinslaying" isn't going to be good, is it? And Galadriel is in enforced exile, with no hope of return, until she rejects the One Ring.

121:

SSRIs vary from having a mild sedative effect to turning people into zombies. As you say, depression is a horror, and the drug treatments do NOT simply remove it but introduce other problems - and there are a zillion other likely reasons that last book has not appeared.

122:

Legally and ethically, no, you bloody wouldn't! At least not in most countries, and certainly not in the UK. Unfortunately, the legal system is widely abused (*) to block perfectly fair, NON-infringing books from publication. "The Last Ring Bearer" for one. Look at the relevant act, and specifically the rules on adaptation and parody:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/48/section/21
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/48/section/30A

(*) If you did the same directly (rather than through 'proper' legal channels), you would be convicted of extortion, blackmail and intimidation.

123:

In my old age, I have given up on films and television fiction entirely, because modern practice is to make them almost inaudible (for 'atmosphere'), but I never enjoyed films based on books I had read.

The worst I saw was a black and white King Solomon's Mines - they had included a gratuitous and irrelevant female explorer (read the introduction to the book!) whose sole function was to dragged along by the hand, turned the non-white characters (including Gagool) into wallpaper, abolished almost all of the plot (without adding a new one), and shot it in California. As I was living in the part of Africa being described at the time, the last was extremely obvious ....

Need I add that the acting and direction were ghastly, too?

124:

Have you read "The Last Ringbearer"? I recommend it.

125:

I tried to get through Grunts. There were funny bits, I'll grant you.

However, I got to the point when one of the major characters raped an elf to death ("Pass me another one, this one's broken") and put the book down, sick with disgust.

Truly, YMMV.

126:

I quite like the Sharing Knife books. They sound simple, or even simpleminded, because they're written from the PoV of characters who don't have sophisticated vocabularies or complex educations and in fact live in worlds where such things scarcely exist (one of the inspirations is the American frontier in the days where "frontier" meant Ohio, Tennessee, or maybe Kansas_. But there's some sophisticated worldbuilding going on beneath the surface.

In a lot of ways, the relationship between Farmers and Lakewalkers is a reinvention of that between Shirefolk and Rangers—the Lakewalkers are tall, long-lived, magically gifted, and heirs to an ancient tradition, point for point matches to Aragorn's people. Of course they have sexual customs that would have turned Tolkien white, and a matrilineal kinship system, and Bujold goes into all the economic anthropological details of how such a society supports itself and what the many people who don't patrol the wilderness looking for Evil are doing. But the economic model, at least, is a possible backstory for what the women and children and old men were doing while the Rangers were out being heroic—despite Bujold's having women as well as men serving as patrollers.

Beyond that, in terms of political economy, Bujold's Lakewalkers are a kind of aristocrats—but aristocrats who don't collect ground rent, and who have a more plausible reason to limit access to farmland than economic exploitation. This is an unlikely model in the real world, but an interesting one to explore in a fantasy setting.

127:

I hear about that sort of naiveté in RPGs, both with players who always play the same one character type (I've had players like that) and with GMs who run the same campaign for a decade or two, or a series of campaigns in the same genre and setting. I don't really understand it. When I create a new character I deliberately go fo a type I haven't played before, and when I propose new campaigns (usually I had around a list of a dozen or so ideas and let prospective players vote) I try to come up with different settings and premises. But then when I lived in San Diego I was fortunate to have more than a dozen players who were willing to sign up for my new experiments, so I had the luxury of invention.

128:

Tolkien's own letters from the decade or so after LotR came out show him becoming ill at ease with the whole "irredeemably evil" view and looking at the question of whether orcs might have free will.

129:

Re side quests:
I understand the reasons, both artistic and economic, that you’re unlikely to ever return to the Singularity Sky universe even though it has a lot of room (“Bear Trap” feels to me like thematic a precursor to ”Neptune’s Children.”)

But I’m sad I’ll never see these stories:
What does Wednesday do with the rest of her life?
And Frank?
How did Martin first get started working for the Eschaton?
WTF is the Critics’ origin story?

130:

Effects of SSRIs are highly variable, they can also lead to overstimulation, with insomnia and like. There are also stories about them inducing hypomania or mania.

The exact SSRI involved might matter somewhat, some also inhibit the noradrenaline transporter, they bind to some other receptors etc.

Quite a few of the people using SSRIs being not neurotypical complicates matters.

Personal experience, 20 mg, things got somewhat hazy after acute dosage first, so I took it in the evening, I became a lot more talkative, but after some time it leveled of.

131:

It's especially problematic given the likely origin of the orcs in LOTR. They might be pure evil if Sauron or Melkor created the (I might get some names wrong), but evil doesn't create, it only imitates and corrupts in quite a few brands of post-Zarathustran philosophy. Err, that is the Persian guy, not Nietzsche's.

The most likely origin of the orc is them being corrupted elves. Tolkien being a Catholic, i guess he had a hard time going Calvinist about their fall.

132:

Troutwaxer @118 said: the orcs and their allies represent all the various colored people, the elves are rich white people, and the orcs have a very reasonable wish for vengeance.

Here you go.

Bright | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EZCBSsBxko

133:

If I remember the Silmarillion correctly, the bigger thing in Tolkien's universe was that only his supreme god could create beings with free will. The dwarves were created by an underling, and the supreme god took pity on the whole situation and gave them free will anyway.

So if orcs were created by Melkor, they wouldn't have free will. If they were corrupted beings created by the supreme god, such as humans or elves, then they would have free will.

I don't particularly agree with parts of Tolkien's fantasy theology, but IIRC, that's where his head was.

134:

Tolkien's theology was infected, irreparably, with Christian apologetics: while IIRC it doesn't postulate the existence of hell, he's all about free will: the problem being, of course, that Christian doctrine ties itself in knots over the whole Original Sin/expulsion from Eden origin story precisely because Christian doctrine relies on the existence as hell as a reason why people need to believe in Christ-the-redeemer, and free will is a necessary mcguffin to explain why people who end up in hell do so of their own volition rather than because God is an Evil Scumbag (which appears to be a much more parsimonious reason—after all, why invent hell in the first place?).

Tolkien has the western lands and an indeterminate afterlife but no explicit hell/heaven naughty/nice assortation, so why get hung up over free will in the first place? (I note that Judaism doesn't really do the afterlife at all, let alone Christian-style hell, and doesn't have this hang-up.)

Gaah.

(I'd love to read what Tolkien or C. S. Lewis might have written if they'd been able to stick their heads up above the parapet of their Christian assumptions and invent a religion from scratch, without carrying over their own ingrained beliefs. Alas, I'm allergic to Lewis's form of Christian evangelism dressed up as broken fantasy parable, and Tolkien is warped by the same forces. It's probably why I put up with Lev Grossman's "Magicians" trilogy: it's like Lewis and a bit of Hogwarts without the gets-up-my-nose syncretistic Essene heresy.)

135:

And in case it's not clear: I dislike Christianity for several reasons (starting with, so-called Christians persecuted and in some cases murdered my ancestors over a period of centuries), but mostly because it's a hodge-podge of bizarre nicked from about four different pre-existing belief systems that are logically inconsistent and make no bloody sense when you do a merge-sort on their axiom systems. So it only works if you toss your rational mind in the trash and roll with blind faith. Which offends my aesthetic sensibilities something rotten.

136:

At least, with Tolkien, it's neither central to the story nor excessively obtrusive - as you say, Lewis's evangelism sticks in the gullet, and actually turns into revolting historical bigotry in "The Horse and His Boy".

I fully agree with you about Christianity as it was and is perpetrated, but a lot of that is true about many (most?) other religions, and I have a lot of respect for people who try to follow the teaching in the Gospels (possibly plus Acts). But that's a damn small proportion of self-proclaimed Christians :-(

137:

Sorry, I should have said about Tolkien, "except when he is telling stories about the creation and related topics". Given that I regard Stephen Baxter's cosmology as being no more realistic than Pentateuch creationism, that's forgiveable :-)

138:

Re: Hell

Not familiar with the various Judaic sects' beliefs so looked up which (if any) had a baked-in 'hell' concept, i.e., not even death can provide you with an escape from the consequences of your life/acts. Looks like it's a yes: varies, but it's there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell#Abrahamic_religions

139:

Ooops! - Must have ticked the incorrect 'respond to'. My post was in ref to a comment by Charlie which I wrote after watching the youtube video Allynh linked.

140:

Stephen Baxter's "cosmology" came in a couple of versions, but iirc the Xeelee one is: "Every single wildly speculatative physics idea that makes the cover of New Scientist is true! Especially the contradictory ones!".

141:
Christian doctrine relies on the existence as hell as a reason why people need to believe in Christ-the-redeemer

Err, though most of Christianity makes little sense without Original Sin, the result of said sin being hell is not that universal. There is also a doctrine called Annihilationism which posits the sinners are annihilated. One group adhering to this doctrine are Jehovah's Witness, some version of me wants to have a talk with them how this is threatening to a guy who got his first depression in his early teens...

Actually quite a few religions remind me of my time as a nicotine junkie, just as you smoke cigarettes to not get the withdrawl symptoms, divine grace only makes sense when you believe in original sin. Or strict hindu asketics when you beliefe in rebirth or reincarnation. Or...

143:

Hm, I actually liked the creation story in the Silmarillion. Might be the universe created by music, err, my father and brother are musicians.

And it being open to the interpretation all evil is ultimately Eru Ilúvatar's doing. God is a bastard. Just as planned.

144:

Compare Lewis's portrayal of Islam with Bujold's Chalion series, where the societies analogous to medieval Spain are gay-tolerant, and the ones analogous to Islam are not merely intolerant but brutally repressive. It was interesting reading Kay's Sarantium novels at the same time as the other two series, not least because Kay gives us an analog of Judaism to go with analog Chjristianity and Islam.

145:

Re: 'Outrageous ideas'

Maybe I'm not reading a broad enough cross-section of SF but where are the stories that take a hard look at aging demographics? And I don't mean Atwoods' Handmaid's Tale where a lop-sided oldster dominated population pyramid is definitely possible but never addressed and all of the characters are 30-50 yrs old, Scalzi's Old Man's War where a 75 yr old becomes a 35-40 yr old almost entirely becuz of rejuv (young body equals young mind), Swift's Loggnagg's (death vs. mental & physical rot dilemma), Logan's Run (idiot hedonist if under 30 vs. die at 30), Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray (sell your soul deal), plus fountain of youth/perpetual youth handwaves.

Just like 1920's rocket designs, none of these oldster-dominated society scenarios have any verisimilitude any more, so why not take a serious look at where we actually are in terms of science/understanding, social programs and cultures and present a realistic extrapolation. (Another aspect of an aging demographic is the consistently higher proportion of old females vs.males, which brings in a second major social issue. If you want to approach this from an economics POV, there's also: old people consume fewer resources overall than young people so depending on what different resources cost, different portions of a society's demographics might be more or less efficient/economical to keep around.)

146:


On heaven and hell:

The estimable Bart Ehrman has written a book on the invention/ development of concepts of the afterlife as they afflicted Judaism and, mostly, Christianity. To be published in due course.

Based on his earlier non-specialist books on matters relating to early Christianity, it probably will be worth reading.

See the entries for 5, 6 and 8 March 2019 at

https://ehrmanblog.org/member-landing-page/

147:

Looks like it's a yes: varies, but it's there.

Not according to any rabbi I've heard from, or any synagogue I ever attended, or any doctrine I've heard about. The wikipedia thing attributes it to some obscure/mystical orthodox sects—this sounds to me like rather peculiar variant kabbalist beliefs rather than actual as-practiced mainstream Judaism, i.e. about as mainstream as the Jehovah's Witnesses are when compared to the Catholic or Episcopalian or Orthodox churches. And even then, the shtick is hedged around as not-permanent and not-physically-tortuous. So, not hell in any sense that would be compatible with Christian doctrine.

(What Judaism is big on is being entered in the Book of Life, and/or being remembered by the invisible sky daddy after one's passing: being forgotten is the worst thing.)

148:

Maybe I'm not reading a broad enough cross-section of SF but where are the stories that take a hard look at aging demographics?

It's long out of print and hard to find, but One Million Tomorrows by Bob Shaw is an amusingly different take on that issue.

(TLDR: there's a one-shot-and-you-stop-aging medicine that's cheap and effective. But it has a side-effect: it's safe for women, but men who take it are effectively neutered, losing all sexual interest and performative capability. The social consequences are explored in some depth. Note: written in the late 1960s, social attitudes reflect this.)

149:

I'm surprised nobody has done a film version of at least part of the Lensman series, since it could be sold as such a tie in with various of the Manly white men saving the worlds and women tropes that are popular with some people and communities.

150:

Right. You got it - just like the 'Christian' theology OGH was ranting about!

151:

Oh, God! That is repulsive!

152:

IIRC correctly, Melkor (Sauron's mentor) was sent into the out void after his final defeat.

153:

It gets even weirder when you think about how God experiences time and space.

By definition, God is omniscient knowing past, present and future simultaneously - experiencing them all as one timeless/eternal moment. This means that the Christian God has been experiencing Mel Gibson "Passion of the Christ" levels of agony from the moment He created space and time. He's always been on the cross and will stay there until the end times when the universe and time both come to an end. His suffering would not be just for a Friday afternoon before Passover. His suffering is eternal. And it's not just a memory of the pain, He is actually experiencing the pain simultaneously with all other moments.

Furthermore, God is omnipresent. For Him, the entire universe is one location (which reminds me of the theory that there is only one electron in the entire universe - accounting for "spooky action at a distance"). Which means His sacrifice on the cross would have occurred everywhere throughout the universe simultaneously, not just on the hill of Golgotha.

And this brings us to the concept of heaven and hell being eternal bliss or eternal pain respectively. Since both realms lie outside of the physical universe, time does not exist at either location. "Eternal" in this sense does not mean "of infinite never ending duration". Given enough time the Damned could adapt to hell and the Saved would find heaven unbearable. No, eternal in the this context would mean "timeless as in time not existing" - and no, I haven't the slightest idea what that would be like. But both the Damned and the Saved would experience time in the same way God does.

154:

Now if God's sacrifice on the cross occurred simultaneously at every point throughout the universe, then it affected the entire universe. Which means his sacrifice would have touched anyone in need of salvation -including alien species. Which opens up all sorts of SF possibilities. But would every alien species need such a sacrifice? For example, CS Lewis' sci-fi novels include worlds that had not yet fallen.

As for Jesus and aliens, my favorite is Taylor Caldwell's book "Dialogues with the Devil" which addresses this very issue. The novel is a series of letters between Lucifer and the archangel Michael. It describes Lucifer's rebellion against God and his continued struggle to undermine God's plan on billions of inhabited worlds across the universe. Both heaven and hell are filled with the souls of beings from a multitude of planets. Most times Lucifer wins, and the intelligent races of these fallen worlds abandon God and damn themselves to extinction and their planets to death and ruin. All of them however have been potentially saved by Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Which angers Lucifer greatly since God chose the ugliest, meanest, lowest and most backward planet in the entire universe for his incarnation. No race in the universe is more evil and ignorant than the inhabitants of Earth.

And as usual, the Devil gets all the best lines.

155:

Now you're getting at why I like panpsychism:

Call the Observer in the Copenhagen interpretation God. Or let's just call it The Observer, if you're turned off by God:
--It's omnipresent (being a fundamental function of the universe)
--It arguably helps create the universe (""")
--It arguably loves everything equally, because mass murderers need to collapse wave functions just as much as saints do (""")
--It's arguably as eternal as the universe (""")
--And arguably your consciousness is some part of this Observer, since you can carry out the function of Observing in an experiment. Perhaps this is your soul?

Now, in this version, heaven is realizing that what you regard as your most precious individuality, the self that observes the world, is actually part of a fundamental function of the universe that you share with every atom in the universe. Instead of identifying your self as separate, you identify your self as part of an infinite, eternal, Observer. Things like compassion and agape tend to flow from this realization, because you realize that you share more with others than you are separate.

Hell, in this case, is seeing your self as separate, isolated, in an unpleasant world of limited resources where you have to make unpleasant choices, where you're always concerned about the past or future, and no matter what you do, the meatsack you identify as your self constantly changes, ages, and will soon be gone, and relatively soon thereafter (at least in universal timespans), your self will be forgotten.

Now notice this is a simple perceptual switch, and that it requires an act of, yes, free will (actually, it requires thousands of acts of free will). That's why free will can be seen as really important. If you want to be in heaven, it's only in this present moment, and you've got to not only know how to be there, but choose to do so.

Now if you really want to get deep into the Woo, imagine that Jesus was pointing at something like this in his teachings, and maybe his disciples got it, maybe not, but their disciples, the people who wrote the gospels, probably didn't understand what he was trying to say, because it's a hard concept and Jesus didn't spend much time teaching, whatever his level of enlightenment. Then plaster over Paul's really weird metaphysics and his takeover of Christianity, selectively reinterpret Paul's writings for a wider audience, choose the resulting texts that are most acceptable to Constantine and later Roman emperors, and you've got an early version of Christianity (well, not counting the Coptic and Ehtiopian traditions, really, but it makes a good story).

156:

That's the problem with Chalion: the worshipers of the five gods are objectively correct, and the Quadrenes are wrong. It is a tribute to LMB's storytelling abilities that make this not approach the levels of Bad I associate with C.S. Lewis's The Horse and His Boy (ugh, the racism) and The Last Battle (God/Aslan really is an evil bastard).

Kay and the Sarantine world (including Al-Rassan, Last Light of the Sun, etc) establishes these three religions: ~Christianity, ~Judaism and ~Islam, but doesn't say in-universe which (if any) are correct. This is much more satisfactory (to me, anyway) - all of them are probably just as wrong as our real-world religions.

157:

Props to @Heteromeles 155 and @Daniel Duffy 153, 154 for valiant and interesting efforts, but I counterpropose a dumb simple brutal truth:

God, as a concept, is shit worldbuilding.

It essentially, in every respect, reduces to
"A Mary Sue is in charge of the entire universe." This is really, when you get down to it, utterly fucking boring, even in light of millennia of sober, sincere theological reasoning.

Boring? Yes, boring. Uninteresting.

It's boring because monotheism premised upon a central controlling intelligence represents a closed universe, with a Single Source of Truth -- moral truth. Single Source of Truth is admittedly good when programming. (For my sins, that's what I do for a day job.) This is fine for a codebase. But it's not a very useful or engaging paradigm for envisioning the nature of reality.

It isn't rescued by the (quite accurate) observation that the sincere theological reasoning helps with attempts to rescue and justify the cool bits from very old traditions, bits that have interesting aspects, pleasant aspects, or sentimental childhood associations.

An open universe -- "No Gods, No Masters" (or more fun, "No Gods, No Kings, Only Timelords") -- is far more fun to build with, and far more consistent with non-abusive concepts of human reality and experience.

I loved Tolkien's work deeply as soon as I encountered it, but I had to gloss over the monotheistic aspects, which fortunately I didn't find difficult. Really, and c'mon: a theology that gives us Minas Morgul is so worth accepting for present purposes... C. S. Lewis was tougher, but damn the man had a visual and conceptual imagination. Out Of The Silent Planet was and is a masterwork.

In my formative youth, ca. 1970, my pantheon of people who could write brilliantly and build worlds that I wanted to visit and revisit, surprisingly excluded both
Tolkien and Lewis. E. R. Eddison, Jack Vance, Ursula LeGuin, Samuel Delany, Michael Moorcock, Roger Zelazny, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and James Schmitz: that was my inner circle. None of them had the monotheistic compulsion. They built worlds that stood on their own without reference to God (Zelazny dicked with the concept in Creatures of Light and Darkess, but that was all in good fun).

Lots of brilliant work, without need for the distortions of furrowed-brow monotheistic wanking. Plenty of comfort with the open universe built world.

Small wonder that, in my own writing, I ditch monotheism as happily and promptly as I edit the patriarchy out.

158:

Logan's Run (idiot hedonist if under 30 vs. die at 30)

21 in the novel, IIRC. Which was the age of majority at the time, so there were no adults (as legally defined) in the society.

159:

Um, I think you maybe projected a bit onto what I said.

One thing to realize is that I'm closer to Taoist than Christian, but I'm one of those weirdos who thinks that God and Tao are synonymous, the problem being that it's impossible to put mystical experiences into words that adequately encapsulate the experience. So I use that God word to talk about something that's (IIRC) is only found in a tiny minority of Christian mystical traditions, and in Eckhart Tolle's stuff.

If you know anything about Taoism, it works on relative morality, not absolute. That's very clear in the first chapter of Chuang Tzu. There's also the Tao Te Ching, where the first line literally reads "The Tao that can be Tao'ed is not the real Tao," where Tao can be translated into English as Tao, way, path, etc. Yes, this is the most famous religious text that starts off with a bad pun that doesn't translate. Should I note that Christianity calls God The Way, the Truth, and the Light? Nah.

To give you an idea of the problem of assuming a Christian framework rather than a Taoist one, ethicists in western traditions struggle with the idea of whether animals are conscious and what that means about eating meat. The problem for us westerners is that we've inherited the idea that only humans have souls, souls have something to do with consciousness, so therefore only humans can be conscious. But evolutionary theory says we're in a continuum with animals, as does anatomy and behavior experiments, so they may be conscious in some human way, and so there's this huge problem about whether it's ethical to kill and eat them.

A Taoist perspective would say what is good for the human is bad for the animal, This is a relativist framework. For the humans, eating meat may be a good thing. For the animal, being eaten by the human is a bad thing. There's two perfectly acceptable frames of analysis, but there's no absolute framework to decide which one takes precedence, as their is in Christianity. Good can be determined within each framework of analysis, not necessarily between frameworks.

So to sum up, I reject your reality and substitute my own. But thanks for the opportunity to confuse things!

160:

>Single Source of Truth is admittedly good when programming. (For my sins, that's what I do for a day job.) This is fine for a codebase. But it's not a very useful or engaging paradigm for envisioning the nature of reality.

But don't you create a "reality" (a simple one, but in essence no different than the universe-is-a-simulation argument) when you create a code base?

We could all just be characters in a massive software game.

That would explain a lot.

161:

>None of them had the monotheistic compulsion.

So a polytheistic universe is a massive multiplayer game, while a monotheistic universe is a single shooter?

162:

Daniel Duffy 161: So a polytheistic universe is a massive multiplayer game, while a monotheistic universe is a single shooter?

Fair interpretation.

Analogy: Christianity is DOOM. Polytheism is EVE Online.

The former has baked-in concepts of good and evil, and is limited to fighting adversaries. The latter is self-defining, with emergent behaviors, negotiations, and alliances. Also, spreadsheets.

163:

Then you are in luck, because Christianity and Catholicism (both the official version and the Tolkien derivative) are in practice - if not in theory - polytheistic with saints, angels, archangels, devils, demons, Ainur, valar, maiar, ents, dragons, etc.

164:

Heteromeles @159: So to sum up, I reject your reality and substitute my own. But thanks for the opportunity to confuse things!

Delighted to be of service. :-)

Overall, I don't disagree with your take. (Although, I knew your opening quote from Tao Te Ching as "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao", which I took as an epistemic constraint, rather than a pun. Thanks for expanding my horizons.)

I think I was probably unclear though. My griping about worldbuilding based on monotheism wasn't the question of relative vs. absolute, although you've given me a lot to think about along those lines. The point I was rambling towards was simply that, aesthetically and creatively, monotheism tends to define preexisting and inarguable definitions of moral truth, while polytheistic or atheistic systems require ethical or moral truths to be sorted out and developed over time, as part of a cultural expression of right and wrong -- and which are subject to ongoing redefinition.

The former is locked in, and not interesting from my point of view. Well, OK, Richard Kadrey has a good time with it in Sandman Slim, although he slides out from under as the series progresses, and heads into "Yeah, well, God isn't the final authority" territory. Kadrey really leaves moral, ethical, and aesthetic freedom alone.

In any event, I like your example of eating meat as an illumination of Taoist vs. Christian reasoning. My wife is vegan, and I am asymptotically approaching that stance myself.

165:

ethicists in western traditions struggle with the idea of whether animals are conscious and what that means about eating meat. The problem for us westerners is that we've inherited the idea that only humans have souls, souls have something to do with consciousness, so therefore only humans can be conscious.

I like that analysis, it seems quite informative.

But evolutionary theory says we're in a continuum with animals, as does anatomy and behavior experiments

Observation suggests that chickens don't like it when chickens nearby are killed. In a way that's distinct from not liking it when, say, a chicken near them is hung upside down by the legs and thoroughly dusted with anti-mite powder. One is probably good for the chicken, one not so much. But both irritate the chicken and its flockmates :) OTOH, by the next day in both cases I can't tell the difference in behaviour of the survivors. Chickens are not good at what are we talking about oooh, castle! That's not going to stop me eating them one by one as they get too old to lay. Like a log of Buddhists I have a fairly pragmatic approach to such questions.

(and goldfish have been shown to have longer memories than the song says)

OTOH, I eat meat again after being vegetarian for most of my life. I killed off a bunch of my gut bacteria and now most vegetable sources of protein have exciting effects. I am hoping that transplants become a common thing because it is not fun. And also, having decided that I prefer kangaroo meat... now the local supermarket seems to have stopped stocking it. I shall have to find another supply.

166:

And Cordelia is obviously much more than the "Great Man's Wife" as seen in Barryar and at the end The Warrior's Apprentice when Aral Vorkosigan suggests to his political opponents that if they're going to condemn Miles for creating the Dendarii Mercenaries, THEY can be the ones to deliver the bad news to Cordelia.

She is, but she's also been very constricted by Barrayar. Remember that scene in Memory when Galeni is arrested at the Emperor's ball, and none of the men will talk in front of the ladies? And Cordelia tells Laisa that it's a stupid system but you can work within it if you have to. Cordelia chose to live in a society where she was a second-class citizen and worked around its constraints — but she had to work around them. That's a lot of emotional labour she wouldn't have had to do in a more egalitarian society. (Remember Dono's comments on personal space as a male vs. female, as another example.)

167:

I'm reading "Pol Pot: Anatomy Of A Nightmare By Philip Short" at the moment and it's both slightly terrifying and very interesting. The author is convinced/convincing that one reason Kampuchea turned so nasty so quickly is the Buddhist influence with the emphasis on non-individuality and fatalism, not least in Pol Pot himself. This isn't your weird-arse vegetarian Catholic gone wrong, it's a former monk applying "the self is nothing" in a literal way.

http://www.bookslut.com/nonfiction/2005_04_005322.php

After reading that a bit of Ani Di Franco is just what I need :)

168:

I think we discussed this before. I had the same thoughts more-or-less independently (and I don't recall any exposure to The Last Ringbearer.)

169:

Agreed. A summary of "What I was going to do with the Singularity Sky universe, and what happened to the characters you guys liked" would be wonderful thing.

170:

Hmmm. I've had the impression, over reading a few histories, that religion and ideology are often excuses for dictatorial fumbles. I know little about the Killing Fields, but I get the impression that if Pol Pot thought Marx was too hard to read, then the reason Kampuchea got so bad, so fast, was a combination of evil and incompetence.

171:

There seems to be a whole genre of writing that tries to connect mass murder with an absence of Christianity. This always seem to me to a situation where the search for the pattern the author wants to see always involves deliberately ignoring a rather more obvious pattern. That is, like Grannie Weatherwax says, “People as things, that’s where it starts”. There’s no comparison with Christianity itself in terms of representing an idea treated by its heroes as more important than people, other than, perhaps, the pax britannica or mission civilatrix, like Marlow evokes in Heart of Darkness. The other missing element is that mass murder is not at all discontinuous with prior centuries, while the 20th century at least provided a glimmer of hope that this stuff is avoidable.

172:

Hm, the wiki article on hell got me stumbling into the one on Kabbalah, let's just say that if your exposure to Rabbinical Judaism was through Kabbalah, thinking Judaism was polytheistic in practice wouldn't be that far fetched.

I'm not sure if Islamic mysticism has a similar convulation level, my very shallow exposure to Sufism (OK, I scanned through the wiki page) laft me a vaguelly Tao-like impression. And Christian mysticism is also much more monotheistic or even pantheistic than the mainstream version of Christianity.

So Jewish mysticism might be something of an outstander, being more polytheistic than the mainstream version of the religion. Christianity being somewhat influence by Merkabah myticism makes for some interesting thoughts, I agree with OGH that Christian theology is conculated, I'm just not that sure it's from a syncretism of different religions or from a quite chaotic Second Temple Jewish tradition, which most likely itself came from the culture clash that was Hellenistic philosophy and religion.

As for Kabbalah, there is a RPG heavily influenced by it called KULT. It's also heavily influenced by Gnosticism. Our sessions quickly degenerated into "real life students of chemistry making their RPG characters macgyver fuel-air explosives and getting drunk and stoned", but I guess there is quite some potential in it.

173:

There seems to be a whole genre of writing that tries to connect mass murder with an absence of Christianity.

There is a dire need for more popular media treatments of the Thirty Years War. Accurate treatments, actually. Christianity got somewhat better.

When people point out Islam needs a Reformation, I usually say it's already there, and its adherents are quite similar to ther Real Christian McCoy, Calvin and like. It's called Wahaibism or Salafism.

(Sorry, have to be to work in 45 minutes, and I just had a "nice" talk with the guy renting the appartment I'm subrenting a room in. Let's just say adult ADHD and workaholism make for a bad combination in him. Let's just say a visitor was surprised how clean the appartment was when I had cleaned up. And he's quite upset because the trash is not empty, and I just learned 2 days ago it's my week again because the other subrenters are never there. I guess I have to move out before we really clash...)

174:

DD @ 153
Yes, well .. "Omniscient" / "Omnipresent" / "Omnipotent" are mutually impossible, anyway.
And no amoount of deliberate lying theological wriggling can escape that slight problem.
Back to Epicurus, chaps ... it's always amusing ( for certain values of ... ) watching the Xtians trying to deny Epicurus' problem. The lying bollocks about BigSkyFairy giving us "Free Will" is the usual excuse ... ( NOTE )

BB @ 157
Momotheism is the seed of unbeliveable amounts of slaughter, as H Beam Piper pointed out a long time ago.
Tolkien fan though I am, I must point out that his universe is entirely consistent with RC theology at the time of writing ....
( 164 - look at your teeth - we are omnivores. )
See also ... Damian @ 171 & Trottelreiner @ 173
... to connect mass murder with an absence of Christianity.
Show you the massacre of Magdeburg in the 30 Years war ... something Moorcock noticed, too.
Or, of course BEZIERS Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet

Moz @ 187
Yes. Like Charlie said earlier ( Myanmar/Burma ) "When Bhuddists go bad, they go REALLY bad...."


NOTE: Epicurus
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

175:

I get the impression that if Pol Pot thought Marx was too hard to read, then the reason Kampuchea got so bad, so fast, was a combination of evil and incompetence.

Sorry, yes, there is a great deal of both covered in the book. I suppose more accurate to say "... the new to me part was..." It's relatively sympathetic to Pol Pot, pointing out that there really were enemies both within and without, and noting that in some ways he was yet another local figure pushing into place by a foreign power for their own reasons.

My impression is that Cambodia/Kampuchea is a bit like Poland - it has a long and rich history of being an outlying, not much loved territory, and of being a place other people go through on their way to invade somewhere actually important. Being betwen superpowers was perhaps novel, but the book is quite kind at least to China, and emphasises that really it was a fight between trending-Soviet Vietnam and trending-badshit Pol Pot, with various parties offering help, aid or immoral support in different ways.

But also, so much "books are hard, but I think I have an idea of how this could work" and... who knew that building bloody great dams was a technical challenge? Everything from their version of communism to their version of modernised agriculture to their version of democracy was not even half-arsed. And they had a very Trumpian approach to truth. Maybe someone should tell Trump that he has a very Pol-like approach to truth?

176:

>Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

If He was willing to exert and exercise his omnipotence to the point of making us all good, obedient puppets, without the ability to be evil and lacking in free will, then you could call Him "Tyrant".

The universe would then be a giant concentration camp, with God as the commandant.

177:

>There seems to be a whole genre of writing that tries to connect mass murder with an absence of Christianity.

Only because that is historically factual.

One need only make a comparison with the atheistic regimes of the 20th century and the Inquisition.

As AN Wilson rightly pointed out, all of the atheistic totalitarian regimes of the 20th century (Bolshevik, Stalinist, Nazi, Maoist, Khmer Rouge, etc.) committed mass murder, democide, on a scale that ISIS can only dream about. Look up Prof. Rummel's study on democide in the 20th century. Rummel's work can be accessed via Marginal Revolution at:

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/11/democide.html

What I found most interesting was the following comparisons:

"So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27,000,000 Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40,000,000. Chang and Halliday put it at 38,000,000, and given their sources, I will accept that. Now, I have to change all the world democide totals that populate my websites, blogs, and publications. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus 3,446,000 + 35,226,000 + 38,000,000 = 76,692,000, or to round off, 77,000,000 murdered. This is now in line with the 65 million toll estimated for China in the Black Book of Communism, and Chang and Halliday's estimate of "well over 70 million." This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.

Discounting the 3,446,000 killed in the Sino-Japanese war prior to the start of Mao's rule, the Maoist PRC (with these new numbers for the deliberate, man-made famine during the Great Leap Forward) killed over 73,000,000 people. Over the 38 years of Maoist rule, this comes to an average of about 1.92 million per year.

The democide rate of Hitler's 12 year Reich was about 1.75 million per year. The democide rate of the 70 year Stalinist USSR was about 0.88 million per year (about half that of the Third Reich). Stalin's (and the Stalinist system's) much greater total was the result of its much greater longevity. Hitler's democide rate was smaller, but still comparable to Mao's.

The total for the three largest atheist totalitarian regimes of the 20th century (Stalinist, Nazi and Maoist) comes to approximately 160 million over 70 years. This does not include mass murder by secondary Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the Khmer Rouge and other atheist totalitarians, which raises to total to an estimated 200 million innocents murdered by atheists. AN Wilson is correct, the horrors of the 20th century stem from atheism and were carried out by atheists.

By comparison, the religious equivalent - the Inquisition - was mild by comparison. From an Internet FAQ on the Inquisitions:

"How many were executed by the Spanish Inquisition? By most standards, the records of the Spanish Inquisition are spectacularly good and a treasure trove for social historians as they record many details about ordinary people. Nothing like all the files have been analysed but from the third looked at so far, it seems the Inquisition, operating through out the Spanish Empire, executed about 700 people between 1540 and 1700 out of a total of 49,000 cases. It is also reckoned that they probably killed about two thousand during the first fifty years of operation when persecution against Jews and Moslems was at its most severe. This would give a total figure of around 5,000 for the entire three hundred year period of its operation."

Compared to the ocean of blood spilled by the atheist totalitarians, the blood spilled by crusades, jihads, pogroms, inquisitions and persecutions is but a drop.

178:

And before you bring out the tiresome claim the "Hitler was a Christian" I again ask you to consider the facts.

It's a rather odd sort of Christian that plans to destroy Christianity.
Hitler planned to destroy Christianity, according to evidence presented at the Nuremberg Trials and a report compiled by the OSS which is now available to the public in the archives of Rutgers and Cornell universities:

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/13/weekinreview/word-for-word-case-against-nazis-hitler-s-forces-planned-destroy-german.html

THE chilling testimony of crimes against humanity by the Nazi regime in Hitler's Germany have been on the historical record since the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of 1945 and 1946. But any criminal prosecution, and especially one as mammoth as the case against Nazi Germany, consists of far more than public testimony in court. The Nuremberg trials were also built on many millions of pages of supporting evidence: documents, summaries, notes and memos collected by investigators.

One of the leading United States investigators at Nuremberg, Gen. William J. Donovan -- Wild Bill Donovan of the O.S.S., the C.I.A.'s precursor -- collected and cataloged trial evidence in 148 bound volumes of personal papers that were stored after his death in 1959 at Cornell University. In 1999, Julie Seltzer Mandel, a law student from Rutgers University whose grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp, read them. Under the Nuremberg Project, a collaboration between Rutgers and Cornell, she has edited the collection for publication on the Internet.

The first installment, published lon the Web site of the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion (www.camlaw.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion), includes a 108-page outline prepared by O.S.S. investigators to aid Nuremberg prosecutors. The outline, ''The Persecution of the Christian Churches,'' summarizes the Nazi plan to subvert and destroy German Christianity, which it calls ''an integral part of the National Socialist scheme of world conquest.''...

According to Baldur von Schirach, the Nazi leader of the German youth corps that would later be known as the Hitler Youth, ''the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement'' from the beginning, though ''considerations of expedience made it impossible'' for the movement to adopt this radical stance officially until it had consolidated power, the outline says.

The complete OSS Nuremberg files can be found at the Cornell University law library website:

http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/Donovan/show.asp?query=&vol=

The archive's index summary can be found here:

http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/donovan/show.asp?id=773&query

Those files dealing specifically with the Nazi plan to eradicate Christianity can be found here:

http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/donovan/pdf/Nuremberg_3/Vol_X_18_03_02.pdf

The Nuremberg trial documentation concerning Nazi persecution of Christianity prepared by the OSS after the war is back by other historical research. For example, see Weinberg's "A World at Arms" (IMHO the best single volume history of the war):

"Secondly, all the plans for cities and towns had one common characteristic: there would be no churches in post-war Germany's urban areas. Here one can see the architectural expression of a goal close to the hearts of the leadership of National Socialist Germany. Whatever temporary accommodations might have been made in wartime to the objections of the churches to euthanasia, to the removal of crucifixes from the schools, and the maintenance of a structure of chaplains in the army, once victory had been attained in the war, the existence of Christian churches in Germany could be safely ended. And if anyone objected, the Gestapo would see to their punishment."

An historical review sums up the conclusions of the OSS report quite nicely:

"Donovan's Nuremberg report undermines the assertion, made by Feldman and so many others, that because several key Nazis had ties (however tenuous) to a church, and because the Nazis advanced insidious policies, then those insidious policies must be inherently Christian. To what extent elements of popular Christian ideology fed Hitler's Antisemitism is a separate and valid question, but the "if A then B" connection fails because insidious anti-Christian policies do not fit the syllogism above. A plan to eradicate Christianity can hardly be construed as Christian, and persons supporting such a plan can hardly be considered believers of any standing."

The OSS report and associated documentation was entered into as evidence at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. As such is historical proof of Nazi hostility to Christianity.

The Nazis, Hitler especially, despised Christianity as a belief fit only for weaklings, not for the coming amoral Superman (that they misread Nietzsche on this issue is besides the point). With the possible exception of Himmler and his bizarre paganism, the Nazi ruling circle was composed of atheists.

Though he called himself a Christian in Mein Kampf and in several speeches, it is well to remember that these were pronouncements for public consumption and were made by a consummate liar/politician. No politician could have hoped to get himself elected in Weimar Germany as a self proclaimed atheist. In his public pronouncement concerning his religious faith, Hitler did the sensible thing, he lied.

For his real views on the subject see his "Table Talk", surreptitiously recorded by Martin Borman and never intended for the public. These statements represent his real views (more on this below). Statements made in confidence to a circle of cronies is obviously a better indicator of the man's thinking than statement made to woo the public.

179:

There is of course the glaring big fact that many of the rank and file Nazi's who carried out the massacres considered themselves good Christians doing the right thing. "The Nazi's" is rather a big class of people and you can't smush them all together into an atheistic Christianity hating dictatorship.
Hitler lied, of course, but the fact is that a lot of Christians were quite happy with what he wanted to do, and lined up with the policies and helped carry them out. Being religious didn't shield them from what was desired.

180:

Yup, that is quite right. It would also be a good idea to put the conquest of the USA into some sort of context. There were definitely missionaries, but the massacres and murders and so on of the native people was done not for specific ideological purposes but for the gaining of wealth, a capitalist imperialist take over perhaps. And many in the USA have claimed to be Christians and wanted to create their own sub-type of Christianity.

So maybe the issue isn't religion or no religion, maybe the issue is humans and their greed and the lust for power that some have?

181:

This is getting increasingly bonkers!

As OGH says, the Kaballah is an oddball offshoot of Judaism, to put it politely, and should not be regarded as defining Judaism. What Daniel Duffy has missed is that the same is true of what is being called the polytheism of Roman Catholicism - and, yes, it's a feature of that and a few minor sects, specifically, NOT Christianity as a whole, neither historically nor at present.

The word 'angel' means messenger, and most usage regards them as precisely that (ignore John the Demented) - they are God's servants and nothing more. And, while it is a feature of most forms of Catholicism to pray to saints, this is merely to ask them to act as God's servants, just as most people don't deal directly with the sovereigns or even CEOs.

182:

Lot's of Trump supporters consider themselves to be good Christians.

Are they?

183:

You seem to be setting yourself up as the only arbiter of the one true measure of being Christian. That's not how it works.

184:

It's historical crap! History did not begin with the 20th century, and Christianity has been a causal factor in genocides for at least a millennium. The fact that the numbers were larger in the 20th century is mostly due to the populations being larger - the proportions slaughtered and level of atrocity were no higher. The Crusades, the numerous pogroms against Jews, dissenting sects (often Protestant), 'pagan' peoples and so on.

To take the extreme example that revolted me, in the mediaeval period, Spain was a hotbed of bigotry and worse (the expulsion and murder of Jews and Muslims, the Inquisition and more) - and the Islamic world was the Western centre of tolerance and culture. I know that it is popular to promote the hatred of Islam, but it is obscene.

185:

I got a copy of the Nag Hammadi scriptures recently, translated of course. They are a bit odd and repetitive to modern eyes, but the gnostic stuff that was around 2k years ago is rather different from the Christian theology; eating the apple is often regarded as a good thing....
See also the book of Enoch for instance, with fallen angels mating with humans. I'm sure most of you already know about the various stories and ideas which fed into the background, popular culture of Christianity and had to be combated or explained away by the Catholic church.

186:

Yep, noted. Buddhism, contra its reputation in the west, can go wrong with dire consequences, of the same order as Catholicism gone wrong (Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius — or, arguably, the religiously-inspired anti-semitism that Hitler picked up and ran with). For a really blood-drenched example of Buddhism gone wrong, it's worth looking into the life of Baron Roman Von Ungern-Sternberg: his conversion to Vajrayana Buddhism and belief in reincarnation might possibly have had something to do with his war crimes …

Teleology inspires some of the worst of human behaviour when it's coupled with authoritarianism and a belief in the primacy of spirit or soul over physical flesh.

187:

There is no summary of where I was going because I had no definite plans: here's a bit of what might have happened. Note certain plot tropes that showed up in "Neptune's Brood" ...

188:

The significant feature of regimes that kill and mistreat people on a large scale is that they are totalitarian - left/right atheist/religious is irrelevant to how they behave, just how they "justify" what they do.

One other common feature of totalitarian regimes is an unrelenting disregard for personal privacy...

189:

Cambodia/Kampuchea is a bit like Poland - it has a long and rich history of being an outlying, not much loved territory, and of being a place other people go through on their way to invade somewhere actually important

Except that's not what Poland was at all: for many centuries Poland was a fairly powerful kingdom to the east of the Holy Roman Empire and to the west of Russia, an identifiable polity that formed around the same time that England was re-forming after the dark ages. Then Catherine the Great took a snit over their adoption of a written constitution and a constitutional monarchy and invaded in 1792, apparently believing that Poland was a hotbed of Jacobinism that threatened the Russian empire.

We could nose-dive into the long grass in a "Guns, Germs and Steel" style attempt to explain why Poland crashed out after surviving for so long among the other great powers (hint: anyone remember the Swedish empire? The thirty years war? The Mongol invasion? Poland survived them all) but that's not the point: my point is, using Poland as a metaphor for Cambodia is misleading at best because you'd also need to use Russia as a stand-in for China in the same metaphor (which doesn't really work).

190:

If He was willing to exert and exercise his omnipotence to the point of making us all good, obedient puppets, without the ability to be evil and lacking in free will, then you could call Him "Tyrant".

And if he is unwilling to intervene, then (takes look at status of mammalian biology, the aging process, carnivory, anthropogenic climate change, species extinctions, etc) then you could reasonably call him Torturer.

The problem with omnipotence is that failure to make use of it amounts to willful negligence—like seeing a person drowning in a lake and refusing to throw them the life belt you're holding.

(I find it easy to resolve the argument "is got a Tyrant or a Torturer" by positing that if God exists, God is utterly uninterested in such small-scale phenomena as human beings—why would the creator of the Weak Nuclear Force be interested in weird small-scale self-replicating patterns in the configuration of electron orbitals in condensed matter that spread on the surface of cold lumps of left-over stellar ejecta? Let alone in what they do with their genitalia.)

191:

I read an interesting book a few years ago, "The great and Holy War" by Philip Jenkins, which explored how all sides used religion to whip up the appropriate fervour for the fighting and in some ways it became a crusade.

192:

DD @ 176
The universe would then be a giant concentration camp, with God as the commandant. Yes, well, so?
and, of course ...
"Has anyone noticed how close the Christian conception of “heaven” is so much like North Korea: eternal rule by the great leader, his son and cronies; and the masses endlessly singing his choreographed praises?"

One need only make a comparison with the atheistic regimes of the 20th century
Oh do COME ON, I thought we were intelligent, thoughtful people on this blog.
Communism is a classic religion, or hadn't you noticed? Do you really want me to go through why this is so?
And Adolf was a "good" (*cough*) catholic
A N Wilson is a really nasty little piece of xtian apologetica.
Ah the "Hitler wan't an xtian" meme
Links to show why he was.
HERE & here & here, too

You really, really ought to know better than that ...
"No true scotsman" also applies ... oops guthrie @ 183 has spotted that, too!

Charlie @ 186
Yes, from the same source as above ... Luther's violent & vile hatred of judaism
.. @ 190
See Epicurus, again, from my # 174?

193:

>Ah the "Hitler wan't an xtian" meme

Your links aren't exactly what I would call non-biased sources.

As for me, I prefer the the hard evidence presented at the Nuremberg trials by the OSS.

194:

>And if he is unwilling to intervene, then (takes look at status of mammalian biology, the aging process, carnivory, anthropogenic climate change, species extinctions, etc) then you could reasonably call him Torturer.

Apples and origins. Or rather, moral evil and physical evil.

I was referring to Moral Evil (the evil people do to each other of their own volition). God giving us free will instead of making us good obedient puppets (and avoiding becoming a Tyrant) is the classic explanation for the existence of moral evil in a universe supposedly governed by a good and loving God. And thus we have a world with murder, ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, etc.

You appear to be referring to Physical Evil (sickness, death, famine, predators, aging, etc.) that exist in a world supposedly created by a benevolent deity. Frankly that is a lot harder to reconcile, until you consider that the alternative - a perfect universe - is too horrible to contemplate.

A perfect universe must remain frozen in its own perfection. It remains incapable of change since any change to its preexisting perfect state could only result in a marring of that perfection. A perfect universe is a dead universe. As so the classic explanation for Physical Evil is that life would not be possible if everything was perfect.

But what about a universe that wasn't perfect per se, but only less terrible than our own? Then experience would make all things relative. Being unfamiliar with famine and earthquakes many would wonder why a kind and loving God would allow it to rain on picnics and have people suffer paper cuts. The problem of Physical Evil would still exist, just in a different form.

And I recognize (from personally experience) that it can be really easy to rationalize evil and pain until you come face to face with them. A perfect example of this is CS Lewis book "A Grief Observed". As a Christian apologist, CS Lewis had spent his entire life coming up with clever arguments like the ones I present above. Until he faced the "animal pain" of the death of his beloved wife. His earlier book "The Problem of Pain" was an intellectual examination of the problem of evil and pain. "A Grief Observed" was the anguished cry of a man confronted with its harsh reality: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear!”.

And even he had his doubts: “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.” And: “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

And there I will leave it, recognizing the limitations of my arguments and my own intellect in addressing this problem.

195:

Getting back to "Dialogues with the Devil", one of Lucifer's letters was a travelogue of Hell. In Hell every whim, desire and want of the damned is instantly satisfied. There was no striving, struggle, no challenge. Hell was a place devoid of pain, a perfect universe in miniature. After a brief joyous fling upon arrival, the damned quickly learn that existence in Hell is intolerable.

And so there is no pain in Hell - but there is endless suffering.

Whereas in heaven there can be pain, but no suffering

196:

As for me, I prefer the the hard evidence presented at the Nuremberg trials by the OSS

You might want to consider the timing of the trials and the ideological background of the OSS; the USA was extensively churched back then, and a common denunciation of Communism (from the Palmer raids onwards) was that it was "godless"; invoking Jeezus to justify a war on a nominally Christian polity wasn't practical without first denouncing their leadership as atheist/infidels. From 1945 onwards the US was increasingly moving towards a new confrontation with the USSR, even though the formal cold war hadn't quite gotten underway (the occupied countries in eastern Europe were still settling out their form of post-war government, with "encouragement" from the NKVD). This is the period in which the Pledge of Allegiance, recited daily in American schools, acquired the "… one nation under God" bit; atheism was seen as un-American and subversive.

So to some extent accusations against the Nazis of being atheists should be seen as the extension of wartime propaganda into a prosecutorial attempt to throw dirt on their reputation before they came before the court—if not of justice, then of public opinion. (As if it needed any further tarnish!)

I'm certainly with Shirer, whose opinion was that Hitler's antisemitism was rooted in Christianity, but that he wanted to subjugate the Church before the State (to the extent of promoting a People's Church, with a copy of Mein Kampf replacing the Bible on the altar, and swastikas as their symbol) rather than eliminate it.

197:

The problem with the Christian God as he/she/it/they exists todayis trilogyitis -- every iteration of the story from its creation onwards adds extra powers and extra capabilities to the main character as the threats increase in number and level. Awkward questions of logic and continuity (the question of suffering, are dead babies saved or the absolute need for worship etc.) are brushed aside or buried in theological purple prose arguments.

Jehovah started off as one god among many, "thou shalt not worship other gods before me" with limited powers and then as his adherents went around making stuff up about him to gain even more adherents he got fabulised to the point of omnipotence, the creator of the Universe with powers over space and time etc.

Bob's journey in the Laundry trilogy (and Mo's too, of course) is similar to a religious cult's development of their Godhead with Bob starting off as a regular schlub with some minor technical abilities in a short story and ending up as the Eater of Souls arm-wrestling Elder Gods and winning in subsequent bloated volumes. See also Space Pope Honor Harrington, Auditor Miles Vorkosigan, Godslayer Belgarion etc.

198:

'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

See Job 42:5

199:

@163
Then you are in luck, because Christianity and Catholicism (both the official version and the Tolkien derivative) are in practice - if not in theory - polytheistic with saints, angels, archangels, devils, demons, Ainur, valar, maiar, ents, dragons, etc.
I honestly really hope that this is a practical joke and not a suggestion. I may be atheist and technical specialist, but I've been raised in secular society and can at times spot difference between religion and sectarian insinuations.

@177
Only because that is historically factual.
Only because it is practically useful for capitalist countries to believe so. Same for many other characteristics of American Century - just because white male Christian patriot is so much useful for serving the system of capital. And if you are not in one of those categories and living somewhere between Ye Oldie Good Times and end of Cold War, you are straight out of luck. Here's the bomb.

As AN Wilson rightly pointed out, all of the atheistic totalitarian regimes of the 20th century
And of course, who could possibly avoid The Holy Grail of Victims of Communism and the Holy Bible of Communist Atrocities. I'm not going to chew through this pile of shit any time soon again because in two decades of this convention nobody is stupid enough to do it properly even once. But I'm going to go straight for the source.

Marginal Revolution
Uh-oh, this is something you wouldn't really expect from economical education site, but oh well, this is the world we live in. For the reference, there's a distinct categorization of human behaviour and reasoning like that we call "demschiza", which is short for "democratic schizophrenia". For example, one of the key components of this belief is that "true" democrats should always win elections because they are the owners of democracy. And if they don't, they are allowed to use any non-democratic measures to fix the situation. It is especially obvious when you see the economists trying to intervene in history, culture, internal affairs and other peoples lives without any idea of meaning these things. Like on this linked page.

And btw, did I already mention somewhere here about my interpretation of "liberal" genocide? Probably not, but, well, I have to clarify that once again. You see, it is way different than regular genocide because it is a direct product of aforementioned democratic madness. Regular genocide, at least, is targeting certain categories of people, it is based on certain logical reasoning or certain real economic needs, sometimes traditional, sometimes chaotic or desperate. It can be stopped with force of reasoning, or law, or maybe brute strength and punishment. Liberal capitalism knows no limits and laws, it paralyses and destroys the entire societies, cultures and what essentially constitutes to human being. Liberal capitalist genocide is a method of direct transfer of people's lives into monetary gain, without leaving behind nothing as much as a memory of their lives and joys.

When some liberal economist starts to pile millions upon millions of "innocent victims" he pulled out of his fat lazy arse, not only he ignores the real facts and records, he destroys the memory of real people and their history, he makes the cattle out of them, the cattle only usable for counting by heads and slaughtering. No sane human being can tolerate such treatment of his history and his self. This is worse than destruction of human life, because after human life destroyed by trial or error in judgement, there's at least a memory and records remain. The result of Nazi genocide is well-known, recorded and fairly well estimated (for the Western Europe, at least), by every side of the conflict. The results of communist regime struggles are fairly well estimated too (later still), if at times kept confidential for political reasons. Atrocities of liberal capitalism are not recorded, not estimated and evidence is systematically destroyed, moreover, the entire reasoning mechanism to estimate such atrocity is thoroughly destroyed also. While tens of millions of people die of starvation, extreme poverty, civil conflicts and inequality, the world is descending into nationalistic wars and economy problems, the liberal capitalists still continue to insist that their power is absolute and their rule is absolute good.

I may have a decent sense of rejection towards Cold War era capitalist imperialism, but at least they've had their won stupid reasons and limits dictated by situation. But it is over now. For some people, it is never enough to stop at some point and think - they need to go all the way, turn it to religion and support it with political deception, military power, economic intervention and diplomatic abuse. And hyperbolic hypocrisy, of course. I don't know why it is happening, but maybe you need to ask them personally.
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/

200:

As for me, I prefer the the hard evidence presented at the Nuremberg trials by the OSS.

I don't, because the OSS was dissolved on September 20, 1945, and the Nuremberg trials started on November 20, 1945. And I do mean dissolved.

The other problem is that some of the OSS agents (later ex-agents, later CIA agents...same guys getting reemployed) were involved in Operation Paperclip and related operations, which shunted Nazis with valuable knowledge to the US under cover. That's not the behavior of good prosecuting attorneys.

And, as Charlie noted, the OSS' next successful descendant (ignoring the CIB) was the CIA.

Since the OSS was more than willing to work with the communists during WWII(I think internally compromised by Soviet intelligence in some of their overseas divisions is fairly accurate), I don't think they were a bunch of hard Christian ideologues. It's a trait they inherited from their main inspiration and teachers: British Intelligence (cf Kim Philby), and passed on to the CIA.

201:

About Buddhism and Communism. I can not say that I am an orthodox adherent of such ideas, but they seem to be fairly attractive to me in the meaning of excellence of society above the individual. But apparently there are some pretty horrendous failure modes and it is not recommended to mix them together in the field conditions. I need to look deeper into that Pol Pot thing to discover why it had so much influence on Western ideology besides propagandist issues.

For what I understand, individualist consciousness does not accept the usefulness of self-abandon because it does not benefit it personally, but instead someone else - even if such an act ultimately may lead for more benefit of the more people. Mind you - sometimes it may not, and it creates a lot of confusion. This is not as clearly defined in Christianity, as it is not very logical - but again, supernatural beliefs of people aren't 100% Christian, especially in other cultures, secular societies and so on. But at least it is present. And for same reason, many people find similarity between various sorts of left movement and religion. Then they find a lot of similarities between right-wing movements and religion too. Or maybe we should look at those liberals who think that human rights are natural and/or given by the God.

And oh fu-, we are so much confused now. What differs religion from beliefs? Well, I don't know what other ideologies say, I only know Marxist definition - the flavour of religion and belief is determined by economic basis of the society. Agricultural society, industrial society, corporative and post-scarcity society, and so on. Without knowledge of that, talking about gods and beliefs are, um, baseless, quite literally. What ideology does the society of free internet artists represent if they have to earn money by donations and commissions, to pay their bills and their tolls to online services?

Also about moral relativism. I am strictly NOT vegetarian and I find the idea rather strange. Yes, I do not support cannibalism, but the clear reason for it I see is that people are more useful as partners rather than their nutritional equivalent. And I assume, even in extreme situation I would rather starve myself rather than do such a stupid thing, because, well, it is a society issue. But when there's no society per se, there's no psychological limits to that. Assume your responsibility and march on. If it is hunter-prey situation, all limits are off, it is the law of natural evolution. Do predator's victims suffer from death and loss of loved ones? Yes, they do, but it is not the suffering of the kin soul that human can understand and accept (unless they deceive themselves somehow). Otherwise we should rather start killing off all the predators too - which is, of course, a bad case of misplaced human laws.

202:

DD @ 193
Your links aren't exactly what I would call non-biased sources.
What, Hitler himself, ranting on about Xtianity .... ??
TRY AGAIN, not buying it

god giving us free will instead of making us good obedient puppets (and avoiding becoming a Tyrant) is the classic explanation lying wriggling get-out
Which doesn't wash.
I'd be careful, if I were you, as I'm close to losing my rag over this outbreak of religious fuckwittery.
"And even he ( C S Lewis ) had his doubts" ... yes but he & it also appears you, still go back to your own religious vomit & lap it up again.
As someone who was brought up pretty christian & am now a throughly escaped atheist ... ok, right.
Produce SOME REAL EVIDENCE that any form of BigSkyFairy exists - put up or bloody shut up - please?

Charlie @ 196
I'm certainly with Shirer, whose opinion was that Hitler's antisemitism was rooted in Christianity, but that he wanted to subjugate the Church before the State.
Just like the Ru_Orthodox & that nice Mr Putin, you mean?

203:

Excuse me, @201 is referring to @159, I forgot to mention it.

204:

Oh, I see how you got confused.

William Donovan was a high-powered lawyer both before his stint running the OSS, and after his unsuccessful attempt to make the OSS permanent. That he'd have the files is unremarkable, but that doesn't necessarily mean his men were pivotal in prepping the evidence for the Nuremberg Trials alone.

The thing to clarify is whether it was the actual OSS gathering the documents, or Army intelligence.

Also, your Cornell Law Library links don't work for me--I just get shunted to the front page of their website. Is there an alternate?

One thing I found (Preparations for the Nuremberg Trial: The O.S.S., Charles Dwork, and the Holocaust, by, Shlomo Aronson, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Volume 12, Issue 2, 1 October 1998, Pages 257–281, https://doi.org/10.1093/hgs/12.2.257 Published: 01 October 1998)

Abstract: "This article uncovers the activities of the one-man Jewish desk at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS)—a desk under the direction of Dr. Charles Irving Dwork. Created in 1943 for the purpose of gathering information on Jewish affairs, including evidence against Nazi war criminals, Dwork's desk ultimately had only a minor role in preparing for the Nuremberg trials because the Jewish case was played down during the preparatory phase of the International Military Tribunal. Yet despite the fact that the prosecution did not make full use of the OSS records, the Holocaust inevitably imposed itself during the trials, testament not only to the importance of Dwork's work, but to the unique enormity of the Shoah itself."

205:

Oh Please, if you want Buddhism gone violent, look at the Shaolin monks, the Japanese Sohei, or the Ikko-Ikki.

Or you can look at what's going on in Myanmar with the Rohingya.

These were converts, but homegrown movements. I would never flag the behavior of one convert as the whole reason for saying that a religion is problematic.

Just for comparison's sake, we really should talk about the Catholic Crusades, the Conquistadors, Shinto's role in WWII, Islam's role in wars for the last thousand years, Judaism's role in what's going on with the Palestinians, and Taoism's role in the Yellow Turban Rebellion. Among others.

Or we could simply point out that most religions proselytize peace, and violent militants still claim them all as excuses for war.

Get away from religion, and the same logic could be used to say that computer programming is aimed at destroying civilization, by first getting us all linked to the internet, then either holding us hostage or destroying the systems we depend on so that we starve or die. The fact that some really good programmers have prepared to do just this, under the rubric of cyberwar, does not mean that all programmers or computers themselves are inherently corrupt and evil.

206:

While we're at it, let's talk about the problem of natural evil, as restated by the seismologist and disaster expert Lucy Jones in her book The Big Ones. Note that what I'm going to say here is my own take, as she's considerably more politic and circumspect in her really cool book.

The problem is why would a good God allow earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanoes, floods, droughts, lethal storms, wildfires, or anything else that causes pain? Surely either that God is a psychopath, absent, or punishing people, right? That's the logic that people have wrestled with since the dawn of Christianity, and it gets bad when little children are killed by disasters. What did they do wrong?

Dr. Jones' take, based on a few centuries of modern science, is that this is based on a misunderstanding of how the world works.

To support human life, we need a planet with enough oxygen in the atmosphere for fire, since (per Richard Wrangham), our species has coevolved with fire for perhaps millions of years, and we need it for cooking, warmth, and toolmaking. Thus, a world that supports humans also supports fire. Fires get triggered by all sorts of things, such as lightning, which also fixes atmospheric nitrogen. However, a world that can support humans must also support fire, and that means that some fires will cause damage or kill people. A beneficent God can't stop fires without making the area (possibly the world) uninhabitable to humans.

Plate tectonics are essential for a functioning biosphere, because that's how biologically necessary elements, which normally settle in ocean basins as a consequence of erosion, get recycled through volcanoes and crust buildup to where they can be exposed on the land surface again, grow plants, and so forth. However, the necessary consequence of plate tectonics are faults and vulcanism. Moreover, fault zones often have springs and good soil, and volcanoes even more often have good soil. When the earth isn't shaking or the volcanoes aren't erupting, they're highly desirable places to live. The problem is that the system of plate tectonics that produces these wonderful places to live also, on rare occasions, destroys them. However, a beneficent God can't stop plate tectonics without making the world uninhabitable.

For humans to live, we also need breathable air and rain. Both are provided by an active atmosphere that is powered by a majority of the light that comes from the sun. This stirs the air so that oxygen levels are close to constant across the world, day and night, and it also brings in rain clouds and disperses them, using entirely natural forces. Unfortunately, those same forces also produce huge storms, tornadoes, and droughts, simply as a natural consequence of how they work. Would a beneficent God stop the weather, or would the consequences be even worse than those that storms and droughts cause?

And then there's the issue of pain. No one likes to hurt, but people who can't feel pain, such as lepers, can cause horrible damage to themselves and often don't live as long as they would if they could feel pain. Pain is a warning signal that something's wrong. While none of us like pain, living without it certainly appears to be worse. Would a beneficent God deny us this vital warning system, even though it hurts?

As for death, I believe there's a calculation out there that, even if we found a way to stave off human senescence and live as healthy individuals indefinitely, even without suicide, the average life span might only get to 1500 or so, due to accidents. And that doesn't even get into the problem that, like all machines, human bodies wear out due to use, and our regeneration systems are far from perfect. If you believe that death is an evil visited on us by God, you first need to demonstrate that it's possible for an undying human to exist on Earth, and there's no evidence that this is possible. Is what a beneficent God gave us good enough, or not?

In Dr. Jones view, what Christian theologians have wrestled with as natural evil is based on a lack of understanding of the natural processes that sustain life. Things like plate tectonics, and oxygen atmosphere, and the weather are essential to human life, but they can, by accident, kill us.

While I agree that there's no evidence that a beneficent God created the world, I think the equally valuable point is that a beneficent God might not be able to do any better than what we actually have. If this is the case, then the discussion of natural evil may not be "why did God do this," but may rest rather more in human free will and putting other people in harm's way. For example, should developers be prevented from putting people in harm's way by, say, knowingly building homes immediately adjacent to the San Andreas fault? That act seems more obviously evil than the earthquake itself.

207:

I think Charlie has actually done a great job of avoiding those tropes; Bob and Mo are clearly being saved until they've got a foe worthy of their mettle.

208:

Hi Sleeping. Please let me give you a small language lesson. When you say "liberal genocide" you're making a minor misuse of English. The kind of "Liberalism" you're discussing is called "Neoliberalism" in English.

So instead of writing "Atrocities of liberal capitalism are not recorded, not estimated and evidence is systematically destroyed, moreover, the entire reasoning mechanism to estimate such atrocity is thoroughly destroyed also" you should probably be writing:

"Atrocities of Neoliberalism are not recorded, not estimated and evidence is systematically destroyed, moreover, the entire reasoning mechanism to estimate such atrocity is thoroughly destroyed also."

At least in the U.S. you will frequently hear "Liberals" critiquing "Neoliberalism" in terms similar to what you used above. Another usage similar to "Neoliberal" is when someone says "I'm socially liberal and financially conservative" (or similar rubbish.)

In either case, the whole thing is typical ugly capitalism dressed up in Liberal garb, something like. "We happily tolerate/promote Gays, Blacks, or Women in our organization, and promote them to the highest levels, but we don't care how many Gays, Blacks, and Women who aren't members of our organization starve to death, or are shot by prejudiced police officers, are have their land confiscated to build a mine."

Real Liberals (at least in English) see right through that Neoliberal crap!

209:

"...are have their land confiscated to build a mine."

Sorry. Should be "or have their land confiscated..."

210:

Err, another interpretation would be that a God not able to create a universe without plate tectonics, oxygen etc. being able to sustain human life is somewhat incompetent. But I guess I already mentioned Gnosticism in my last post...

211:

Not entirely. There are other interpretations where he simply doesn't care or isn't actively involved. For example, we are just too unimportant for our wishes to matter, or he created the universe and then 'went away' in some sense. A theme I have just thought of is that our universe could be his equivalent of a compost heap, intended to recycle physics that he is not currently using :-)

212:

See also this blog essay from 2016: Cytological Utopia and the Rapture of the Eukaryotes (which went stabby on the underlying assumptions of the singularity-AI-heaven crowd, in much the same manner).

213:

My thinking is that God (if s/he/it exists) isn't interested in anything humans recognize as "perfection." God is interested in building a universe which will last, and that requires some flexibility. Thus, plate techtonics rather than some arrangement which creates hard, brittle planets that break apart the first time an asteroid hits them. Thus oval orbits that perturb rather than crystal spheres which break. Etc. In spiritual terms, it's impossible to know God when you simply impose your own prejudices.

214:

Yes, quite - I liked it when I first saw it. As you say, that bunch are quite cuckoo, but not the only ones who are. The thing that gets my goat, though, is the near-universal assumption that 'we' are significant - whether 'we' is our species or universe. Yes, I am taking aim at the Big Bangers (among others) - it's a reasonable theory as an explanation of observations, but has been inflated to a theology of physics.

215:

>Would a beneficent God deny us this vital warning system, even though it hurts?

I think a lot of the problem stems from the difference between "good" and "nice". The two are not remotely the same.

A God that uses evolution to advance life could hardly be called "nice". Indeed, by all accounts God is the exact opposite of "nice" - more like awesome and terrifying.

And the idea of "gentle Jesus meek and mild" is a load of crap. He was a firebrand undermining the social order who got himself (apparently deliberately) executed as a rebel.

216:

Err, another interpretation would be that a God not able to create a universe without plate tectonics, oxygen etc. being able to sustain human life is somewhat incompetent. But I guess I already mentioned Gnosticism in my last post...

Step 1: Assume anything's possible
Step 2: Question why, if anything's possible, everything's not being done to your satisfaction.

Something like that?

The point of the natural evil is that the Earth is made so beneficent to humans (at least in 10% of the globe), that anything that kills humans must be a manifestation of divine displeasure, at least in certain systems of thought. Dr. Jones' point, which I think is perfectly reasonable, is that the systems that keep this place generally so beneficent to humans are extremely powerful, using orders of magnitude more energy than civilization currently does, and when they get active, it's entirely possible for people in the wrong place to get hurt or killed.

The problem for people who want to believe this is the result of divine incompetence is that they need to demonstrate that Step 1, above, has any basis in reality. That's the crucial step.

And yes, I agree that the Gnostics believed this, as did the Apostle Paul (IIRC, he thought that the demiurge in charge of Earth had been corrupted, but that may be splitting hairs). It's one reason why Christianity struggles with the problem of natural evil to this day.

217:

>The thing that gets my goat, though, is the near-universal assumption that 'we' are significant

I wouldn't be so hasty.

There is increasing evidence that we are all alone as an intelligent species at least in our galaxy.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/06/but-seriously-where-is-everybody/563498/

https://qz.com/1314111/we-may-have-answered-the-fermi-paradox-we-are-alone-in-the-universe/

"Many solutions have been proposed to solve this riddle, known as the Fermi Paradox. The aliens are hiding. They’ve entered suspended animation until more propitious conditions arise. A Great Filter makes the leap from “life “to “intelligent life” improbable, if not impossible. They’ve blown themselves up.Researchers of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute have another answer. It’s likely intelligent life doesn’t exist at all, outside of Earth."

No Klingons. No Wookies. No ET phoning home.

Just us.

Maybe because Earth is a VERY rare place. Even more rare is a large companion moon.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucedorminey/2013/04/21/rare-earth-revisited-anomalously-large-moon-remains-key-to-our-existence/#4dd8438035ed

Which should make our precious Earth even more priceless - and we should treat her accordingly.

Because, if we fail as a species the universe goes back to the unaware darkness of being mindless, blind, deaf and dumb.

218:

>What, Hitler himself, ranting on about Xtianity

You mean the pronouncements made for public consumption by a consummate liar/politician?

Trump says he is a devout Christian. Do you believe him?

To know a man's true beliefs you have to examine what he says in private among his cronies. It Hitler's case that was recorded in hie "Table Talks". Mein Kampf was for public consumption and expressed only those views most likely to get him elected. To really understand what such a man believes, it is necessary to view those words that were not intended for public consumption, as historian Hugh Trevor-Roper makes clear:

"We must go direct to Hitler's personal utterances: not indeed to his letters and speeches-- these, though valuable, are too public, too formalised for such purposes-- but to his private conversations, his Table-Talk. Table-Talk, like notebooks, reveal the mind of a man far more completely, more intimately, than any formal utterance."

In Table Talk the following statements on Christianity by Hitler will be found:

The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity. Bolshevism practises a lie of the same nature, when it claims to bring liberty to men, whereas in reality it seeks only to enslave them.

Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.

Being weighed down by a superstitious past, men are afraid of things that can't, or can't yet, be explained-that is to say, of the unknown. If anyone has needs of a metaphysical nature, I can't satisfy them with the Party's programme. Time will go by until the moment when science can answer all the questions.

Christianity, of course, has reached the peak of absurdity in this respect. And that's why one day its structure will collapse. Science has already impregnated humanity. Consequently, the more Christianity clings to its dogmas, the quicker it will decline.

A movement like ours mustn't let itself be drawn into metaphysical digressions. It must stick to the spirit of exact science. It's not the Party's function to be a counterfeit for religion.

If in the course of a thousand or two thousand years, science arrives at the necessity of renewing its points of view, that will not mean that science is a liar. Science cannot lie, for it's always striving, according to the momentary state of knowledge to deduce what is true. When it makes a mistake, it does 10 in good faith. It's Christianity that's the liar. It's in perpetual conflict with itself.

The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.
Pure Christianity-the Christianity of the catacombs-is concerned with translating the Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole- hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics.

I adopted a definite attitude on the 21st March '933 when I refused to take part in the religious services, organised at Potsdam by the two Churches, for the inauguration of the new Reichstag.

Our epoch will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity. It will last another hundred years, two hundred years perhaps. My regret will have been that I couldn't, like whoever the prophet was, behold the promised land from afar.

The fact that I remain silent in public over Church affairs is not in the least misunderstood by the sly foxes of the Catholic Church, and I am quite sure that a man like the Bishop von Galen knows full well that after the war I shall extract retribution to the last farthing. And, if he does not succeed in getting himself transferred in the meanwhile to the Collegium Germanium in Rome, he may rest assured that in the balancing of our accounts, no "T" will remain uncrossed, no "I" undotted!

Christianity is an invention of sick brains.

219:

I will note that basic Buddhism and the Gnosticism appear to agree.

The first noble truth of Buddhism can either be rendered as "suffering is inevitable," or "life is unsatisfactory." In my limited understanding of Gnosticism, The other three truths are that suffering is caused by a misunderstanding of our essential nature, that liberation from this suffering is possible, and that there's a path anyone can follow to attain this liberation.

In Gnosticism (per Wikipedia) that all matter is evil, and the non-material, spirit-realm is good. There is an unknowable God, who gave rise to many lesser spirit beings called Aeons. The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit (the Demiurge). Gnosticism does not deal with "sin," only ignorance. To achieve salvation, one needs gnosis (knowledge).

Look kinda similar, do they not? While there's no evidence that Buddhist thought directly created Gnosticism, Buddhism had been around for a few centuries by the time Gnostic Christianity appeared, and even though there weren't many Buddhists in the Roman empire, there were Buddhists in Afghanistan by around the time of Alexander, and some of the monks were known to be Greek. I'd also point out that Mani (creator of Manichaeism) cited both Jesus and Buddha as inspirations. Anyway, long story short, these ideas were percolating throughout the civilized world in later classical times, so I'm not surprised that some Christians tried to incorporate them in their practices. Same thing happens today, for instance with the "Jubus" (Jewish Buddhists).

220:

...Regarding your belief that mass-murder and pogroms indicate a lack of Christianity...

And before you bring out the tiresome claim the "Hitler was a Christian" I again ask you to consider the facts...

As others point out, while Hitler may not have been Christian, many of his most murderous followers were raised as Christians, went to church, and saw themselves as Christians.

No-one has yet pointed out the Dutch Reform Church of the Republic of South Africa - perfectly happy to preach from pulpits that Apartheid was supported by the bible (in much the same way that the good Churchgoers of the Confederate States of America insisted that slavery was the god-ordained way of things). They aren't unique - I'm sure you can find plenty of similar churches in the USA who still preach supremacy, and the need to "keep them in their place"; they would be very offended if you suggested that they "weren't Christian".

I'd be perfectly willing to link to some of the Reverend Ian Paisley's youthful speeches on the evil of Catholicism, the Eternal Damnation of all Catholics, the identity of the Pope as the Antichrist, and the need to assure the Protestant Supremacy. He packed out his Churches.

These are two examples within my living memory, of Staunch/Devout Christians (tm) being perfectly willing not just to participate in repression of entire groups of people based on skin colour, gender, or religion (and occasionally pogrom); but to defend it from the pulpit.

Attempting to create a "Christian Exceptionalism" makes you look as plausible as those who insist that the continuous stream of failures to produce a Socialist Workers' Paradise are merely because those who were running things "weren't True Communists", or "were prevented by wreckers and counter-revolutionaries", and not because of any underlying flaw in their belief...

221:

There are certain bitter pills we all have to swallow.

For example I am - believe it or not - something of a hippie tree-hugger (though I lean towards the ecomodernist view when finding a solution for things like global warming).

So at first I was reluctant to admit that our primitive ancestors, few in number and lacking anything more advanced than stone tools and fire, were able to do massive damage to continental ecosystems. That was something I thought only industrial society could do, not a culture "living in balance with nature". Native Americans crossover from Siberia and wipe out the meg-fauna of an entire hemisphere while having themselves the biggest barbecue in history. Aborigines arrive in Australia and used mass burning to erase the existing grasslands and eliminate cover for ambush predators. The result is the desiccated Australian outback. Early rice farmers probably produced enough methane to tip the scales of global temperature and end the last ice age.

So despite special pleading that "Hitler was a Christian" or "Communism was really just another religion" the harsh fact remains that about 200 million people were murdered in the last century by self avowed atheists.

222:

Thank you very much, I'll keep that in mind!
Maybe I just got too used to our internal politics, and for obvious reasons, the therm "neoliberal" hasn't been up in the international news for some pretty obvious reasons.

For one, I also mentioned earlier that Putin is considered to be authoritarian politician in Russia, but his economical stance has been fairly liberal and he still tolerates presence of IMF-affiliated structures in the state. I can't call him "liberal", nor "neoliberal" (since it should be well-calculated move), but some people in opposition opposition still do accuse him for that!

223:

I forgot to mention the ever-present fault line that runs down Europe, of Catholicism versus Orthodoxy. There's a reason that the Serbs and the Croats went at each other with such fervour, up to and including rape, torture, murder, and concentration camps for the "wrong sort of Christian". Do the various (and more bloodthirsty) Orthodox churches in Russia count as "Christian" to you?

And when the Protestant mobs set out to burn Catholic homes in Northern Ireland in 1969, did they count as Christian? (I do wonder whether they avoided rioting on the Sabbath).

224:

I think that comes under the heading of both "statistical accidents of history" and "we remember recent events longer than we remember less-recent events."

Note, for example, that everything you're considering happened in the last century.

But if you look at 1600-1850, and the number of Africans killed by the slave trade, you also get rather large numbers, which some estimate into the tens of millions, of which virtually all the killing was by Christians (and some Muslims.) Or note the Thirty Years War, which killed eight million. And so on. Or ask yourself how many people the mostly-Christian phenomenon of European Feudalism killed...

What really killed so many people under Communism was poor planning for agricultural changes, followed by brutal enforcement of even those changes which obviously were not working.

225:

Surely you aren't suggesting that Donovan and the OSS skewed or otherwise tampered with evidence presented at the Nuremberg trials out of a desire to make atheists look bad?

Actually the "under God" was added to the pledge in 1954, almost a decade after the Nuremberg Trials - though granted it was at the height of the cold war and McCarthyism.

And while Hitler was certainly a narcissist who wanted to become an object of veneration, he remained an atheist nonetheless.

226:

That is a prime example of what I am talking about. There is NO WAY that the absence of evidence for other intelligent life indicates that we are unique - all that it shows is that the probability of expansionist intelligence is low.

227:

Yeah, who belongs in which camp... Do we judge them by their behaviors or their self-avowed beliefs.

As for rice ending the last ice age, I'm not sure I buy it. The earliest evidence for rice domestication inarguably is around 4000 BC, with possible evidence for tools going to 5000 BC and rice phytoliths (could be wild, could be cultivated, wetland or dryland, who knows?) going back to 12000 BC. Only the last might have conceivably had any impact on the ice ages. Thing is, humans have been harvesting and cooking wild grains for a very long time, so the presence of grain fragments is not the same as the presence of farming.

The bigger puzzle with megafauna extinction is the obvious one: most of the species that died out at the end of the last ice age had survived through multiple ice ages and interglacials. The problem with the story that humans killed them off when we first invaded is that humans were generally present in places like Australia and the New World for many thousands of years before the ice age ended, and the animals died with the disappearance of the ice. That's the puzzle.

228:

@221
So despite special pleading that "Hitler was a Christian" or "Communism was really just another religion" the harsh fact remains that about 200 million people were murdered in the last century by self avowed atheists.
Then this harsh fact is probably not compatible with other harsh fact that communists (at least the vast majority of them) did not actually try to eradicate nations, minorities or religious organizations and instead tried to control them through legal means.
http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/orthodox-patriarch-appointed/orthodox-patriarch-appointed-texts/stalin-and-the-orthodox-church/
People who dropped atomic bombs and erased whole cities in Europe were also Christians. But war is what the war is.

@224
What really killed so many people under Communism was poor planning for agricultural changes, followed by brutal enforcement of even those changes which obviously were not working.
Except they really did not kill even 1/10th of "that many people" and most of "Holodomor" misinformation was forced extensively by both 3rd Reich and NATO "public enlightenment". This "misunderstanding" usually leads to modern kids making the assumption "we really fought the wrong guy in WW2" because obviously supporting German and Japanese atrocities would earn even more money for US.

229:

War and genocide are the result of big-brained monkeys fighting over resources. Ethnicity, religion, ideology, and favorite football team are all convenient ways of choosing up teams.

230:

DD @ 221
First read Martin @ 220
Grrr ... right ...: You asked for it, here's the full load:
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
[ Begin excerpt

2. Firstly it appears that all religions are blackmail, and are based on fear and superstition.
Religion offers a supposed comfort-blanket, or carrot to the believers, and waves a stick at the unbelievers.
“Do as we say, and you’ll go to heaven, don’t do as we say, and you’ll go to hell.” What is conveniently left out here is the unspoken threat, which is made manifest in those societies which are theocracies: “If you don’t do as we say, we can make sure you go to hell really painfully, and quickly.” Or, of course in those societies where religious intimidation and terrorism of this nature is allowed to go unchecked by the civil authorities, either because of their own accommodations with the intimidators, or for temporary political gain. This is a serious mistake, because the religious leaders will always want “more”, and use increased physical and rhetorical blackmail to further their cause. The label of “blasphemy” is often used here, as a tool of intimidation, and we shall return to this topic later on. [ Except because this is an excerpt, we won't! ]
Thus all “priests” are liars and/or blackmailers. They may not be deliberate liars, but nonetheless, they are telling untrue fairy-stories.

Fear of exclusion from the community, in one form or another, is a standard part of the power-structure of any religion or cult. Excommunication, anathema, banishment, exile, fatwah, etc, … Fear of entry being refused in "the next world", or "the community of saints", or "the party". Fear of real physical punishment by the "secular arm", the NKVD, the Saudi religious police, or whomsoever the current set of spiritual thought police happen to be.
Hence: we have our first corollary:
2a ] Marxism is a religion.

I think that Bertrand Russell was the first to note this, but the behaviour of both individual Marxists, and marxist organisations, and the construction of their internal power organisation and hierarchies conforms to classical religious behaviour. For example: people read a set number of Trotsky’s saying each day, just as if he were Jesus, or Mahmud. Or appeal to “the historical inevitability of the revolution” etc …
I may add that it ( marxism/communism ) passes ALL the tests, if one cares to list them:
1] It has a “holy” book or books.
2] The words in those books may not be questioned, even when demonstrated proven wrong.
3] It has sub-divisions and sects and “heresy”, and heretics, in Trevor-Ropers phrase are “even wronger” than unbelievers.
4] Those sects fight each other, either by open warfare and/or in internal pogroms.
5] It is structurally based on the RC church, complete with its own “holy office”
6] Which leads to the gulag – the communist equivalent of the churches years of penitence and autos-de-fé
7] Thousands if not millions are killed in the name of the “holy cause” to bring about a supposed millennium
8] It persecutes all the competing religions
9] In some sects it even denies Evolution by Natural Selection (look up Trofim Lysenko)
P.S. After all: Thomas Paine said, “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”

[ End of excerpt
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

DD @ 225
OK - I am going to call you very badly deluded rather than the L-word, but you are still wrong.

231:
Something like that?

Something like that, jep.

But then, in my view theodizee basically boils down to finding explanations and reasons why your jerkass[1] friend behaved in a certain way.

Sorry, too tired to keep the discussion going today, but before we get to gloomy I might quote some Nietzsche:

"Woe speaks: Perish!
But all joy wants eternity,
wants deep deep eternity"

I quoted thet one to a DMT user at my last working place. No idea how to square that one with Buddhism though.

And I really wonder if I should join the upcoming fun or finally find a new RPG group...

[1] Of course, you might like jerkass friends because you are a jerkass yourself or think you are. No, not related to you or the thread, I just remember the past.

232:

I think this universe is a student project in an introductory class for would-be gods. It’s going to get a C-.

233:

“They’ve blown themselves up.”
As we well yet might. In which case we will be nothing special, just the billionth proof that too much intelligence is long-term unstable.

234:

Absolutely! The most obvious resolution to the Fermi paradox is that when intelligent life arises and develops a technological capability it then faces a series of existential hurdles. We have (so far) avoided nuclear war. It seems likely global warming will do us in instead.

235:
"There seems to be a whole genre of writing that tries to connect mass murder with an absence of Christianity."

It's not the absence of christianity, it's the PRESENCE of RELIGION.

I don't care what religion - choose any of them, even atheism - sooner or later some false messiah (FWIW, they're ALL false messiah's) is going to start preaching the idea that he's the only one who knows the one TRUE PATH and everyone else has to do what he says or they've gotta' die because they're standing in the way of achieving perfection or nirvana or salvation or paradise on earth or something.

And there are always plenty of idiots out there just looking for someone to tell them what to do.

236:

I like it! There is the germ of a damn good fantasy / SF story there ....

237:

Atheism, per se, is not a religion. But then we get Dawkins - the High Priest of the Orthodox Church of Evolution according to Saint Darwin ....

I have been flamed for saying that Marxism-Leninism was/is a religion, because it has no god - but I fail to see that 'the proletariat' isn't equivalent to one!

238:

William H. Stoddard @ 126: I quite like the Sharing Knife books. They sound simple, or even simpleminded, because they're written from the PoV of characters who don't have sophisticated vocabularies or complex educations and in fact live in worlds where such things scarcely exist (one of the inspirations is the American frontier in the days where "frontier" meant Ohio, Tennessee, or maybe Kansas_. But there's some sophisticated worldbuilding going on beneath the surface.

I just never got into them. I know that sometimes you have to hang in & keep plowing through a book before the story becomes interesting. That just never happened for me when I read the first one. I got all the way through it & there was still nothing there that spoke to me.

Sometimes it works the other way around as well. The first book is great, the second book is good, the third book is so so ...

239:

Atheism is not the inverse of religion. Atheism is not believing in god(s). Religions are systems of belief with stories, maybe about the creation of the world and mankind and other stuff and various rules and proscriptions, that may be written down in a holy text or in oral tradition; some sort of shaman or priestly class, maybe a prophet or two, various rituals around birth, death, harvests and so on. A bit of singing, a bit of dancing, a feast or two, some genital mutilation, a bit of burning at the stake...

Religions may or may not include a belief in god(s). Most religions do have various supernatural beliefs, but supernatural beliefs are not incompatible with atheism since atheism is only not believing in god(s). Many atheists also do not believe in the supernatural and are also sceptics in other matters but that is not part of atheism. There are atheists who apart from not believing in god(s) are otherwise superstitious.

Atheism is apparently incompatible with the Abrahamic religions since they explicitly have a god, but many 'sophisticated theologians' of a compatibilist persuasion argue that god and the supernatural events described in the holy texts are not literally true but metaphorical stories conveying enlightenment.

It is also possible to believe there are god(s) and want to have nothing to do with religion of kind since god(s) is obviously an evil psycho.

240:

Daniel Duffy @ 176: The universe would then be a giant concentration camp, with God as the commandant.

Who says it's NOT?

241:

One thing to realize is that global warming can silence us without causing us to go extinct.

The Fermi Paradox depends on a couple of key factors: that interstellar travel is possible for intelligent beings (I'm ignoring bacterial or semibiotic Panspermia). The other is that a species can do attain interstellar travel regardless of its local resources. There are a couple of ways to bollix these assumptions with climate change without killing of a intelligent species.

The problem with climate change is twofold:
--One is that it makes the climate less predictable, which makes dependable production systems like agriculture more difficult, so planning gets harder. Now there's no reason that intelligent beings can't survive in a rapidly changing world. After all, our species survived 300,000 years of climate change through the ice ages quite successfully, albeit at apparently low numbers.

However, generating the titanic surplus required to build and fly an interstellar vessel requires really solid systems. Do away with the predictability required to make these work, and interstellar travel is impossible.

The Earth's currently running in the most stable part of the Milankovitch cycle and this pretty much coincided with the end of the Younger Dryas and the rise of civilization. Since the other exoplanets we've discovered seem to have more variable orbits than Earth currently does, I'm going to go out on a very small limb and say that an unpredictably variable climate may be keeping otherwise intelligent species bound to their planets, just as we were for 95% of our species' history.

--The second problem is resource depletion, specifically with fossil fuels. If we'd had the technology to build an interstellar vessel in the 1960s or 70s when we hit peak petroleum extraction, we'd have been in a much better place to do it than now, when resources are stretched and we have twice as many mouths to feed. The problem is that while it's not that difficult to figure out how to use fossil fuels, figuring out when you're going to run out of those sources and what problems they cause is quite a bit harder. The Romans burned coal, but it took until 1896 to figure out the greenhouse effect, and I don't know if anyone has figured out what our remaining fuel resources are, because those tend to be state and/or business secrets.

Anyway, while I suspect that surpluses of fossil fuels are fairly common, due to biogeochemistry (it's basically dead photosynthesizers getting buried in ways in which they don't fully decay), I don't think that the knowledge of how to fully use the energy stored is easy to get. Science takes centuries, but a civilization can burn through it's entire fuel store in that same period. As a result, I'd suspect that most intelligent species start to figure out the science they need to develop a starship about the time that they run out of the fuel to build one.

As a result, it's entirely possible that the galaxy is full of post-civilizational species that burned through their resources, didn't make it off their planets, and are going on about their lives without roaming the stars. We'll probably never hear or see them, and we may well be one of them soon, if we aren't there already.

242:

Note, I'm neither a theist nor an atheist by most normal classifications, because unlike both sides of that debate, I believe there's a difference between subjective reality and objective reality.

Anyway, the problem with atheism that I have is that I have yet to hear a self-avowed atheist define what this god thing is that they don't believe in. "I don't believe in the existence of gods" without further definition of gods seems to be a statement of faith too, because it's certainly hard to disprove.

What are gods? For example, you could found a perfectly good religion around the worship of and care for Gaia, the Biosphere, of which you are a part. In fact, I'd say that would be a very, very sane thing to do right now (after all, if Gaia dies, so do you). But is Gaia a god or not? And if Gaia is a god, are subunits of Gaia, such as the oceans, storms, or volcanoes, divine or not? How far down the chain does Gaia's divinity drop before things are secular?

243:

Different religions define god(s) differently is sometimes overlapping and sometimes contradictory ways. The typical overlapping areas of definition are that god(s) are supernatural, immortal, divine, deities, creators of the universe and/or mankind, intervene in human affairs, reward and punish humans, cause miracles, have agency and so on. That's the kind of god(s) I don't believe in. Gaia is not a god of that sort and simply being the object of worship doesn't make it so.

244:

Nojay @197 said: Jehovah started off as one god among many, "thou shalt not worship other gods before me" with limited powers and then as his adherents went around making stuff up about him to gain even more adherents he got fabulised to the point of omnipotence, the creator of the Universe with powers over space and time etc.

I blame the philosophers of the 17th century for the "fabulised" God. They sat around in Coffee Houses getting high on caffeine, sugar, tobacco, and other stimulants they were playing with, saying God can do this, God can do that.

- Essentially, God has nothing to do with the various religions that old men use to control young me.

I look at what Baxter and Egan have done, taking every variation of cosmology and showing how that Verse would work. There are so many variations of the God meme that each needs to be run through their own series to show what they look like.

This thread is definitely going into my story folders. Thanks...

Some comments to shake things up.

Atheism is a militant religion intent on destroying all other religions.

Good old George Bernard Shaw wrote an essay warning about Neo-Atheists and Neo-Darwinists highjacking perfectly good ideas for their own bizarre religious beliefs.

Wiki - Back to Methuselah

There is a link at the bottom of the page to the text at Gutenberg

I noticed in most of the posts about God and religion that they are all human views of God, from human viewpoints. Consider this instead:

God the Brewer.

We are the yeast that makes the beer. God the Brewer cares for and loves his yeast, but it is the beer he drinks.

Everyone seems to forget Clarke's, Childhoods End. The living worlds are vessels to birth a singular consciousness. People do not transcend to become that world mind, any more than the caterpillar becomes the butterfly. The caterpillar is food for the butterfly.

Jupiter Ascending Official Trailer #3 (2015)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4ZzMkDLjWI

Whole industries grow humans on worlds, to the harvest them for their lifeforce to be used by the main civilization.

Lost Season 6 Trailer #2 (2010)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtkBV7epYVk

You are an advanced civilization, able to reshape galaxies. You don't develop AI to run your systems, you grow them. The TV series Lost was a world where humans were allowed to grow up, be harvested for future use. It is easier to train a human that has lived a full live than it is to build a mind from scratch.

BTW, many people misunderstood Lost, and season 6 upset them. The viewer did not realize that they were looking at just one more copy Earth in a copy Milky Way.

But I digress.

245:

>If we'd had the technology to build an interstellar vessel in the 1960s

We did. Project Orion.

246:

Anyway, the problem with atheism that I have is that I have yet to hear a self-avowed atheist define what this god thing is that they don't believe in.

Definitely not the Nicene or Apostles' Creed.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed

Simply put, no supreme beings, no "creator of the world and of life". No advantage in prayer, no-one's listening. No afterlife.

How's that for a self-avowed atheist? Albeit one who goes to church once a year (the Regimental Kirk, on Remembrance Sunday).

247:

Atheism is a militant religion intent on destroying all other religions.

How so? I'm an atheist, and yet I have taken part in non-denominational services (even read the lesson) - just one of the jobs that come your way as the Officer Commanding.

I respect those that believe, just so long as they don't try to impose their belief upon others. I've met and seen too many good, if not great, people of religion, who quietly got on with making the world a better place. No fanfare, no self-promotion, but true Christians - who acted with charity and thoughtfulness.

I haven't been to Atheist Service, haven't listened to a Non-Divinity graduate of the Bob Antijones University, don't have a stack of atheism pamphlets or books by Dawkins, aren't getting together with all the other atheists to cast down false idols. My uncle had a humanist funeral service, and it was very moving - but we didn't rip any crosses off the walls afterwards.

Religion isn't for me, but I'm not going to impose my (absence of) belief on others; because that would make me a hypocrite.

Mind you, Pastafarianism has a certain appeal. Ia, Ia, Noodliness Fthaghn...

248:

Different religions define god(s) differently is sometimes overlapping and sometimes contradictory ways. The typical overlapping areas of definition are that god(s) are supernatural, immortal, divine, deities, creators of the universe and/or mankind, intervene in human affairs, reward and punish humans, cause miracles, have agency and so on. That's the kind of god(s) I don't believe in. Gaia is not a god of that sort and simply being the object of worship doesn't make it so.

Well, Gaia isn't supernatural or a deity, but those are synonyms. A god is a deity is irrelevant, if you don't further define either.

The biosphere is effectively immortal from our point of view (billions of years old, and will live at least another billion years), and while Gaia didn't create humans, we're dependent on Gaia for every breath we take, our water and food. Gaia certainly intervenes in human affairs and rewards and punishes humans (ask the Hawaiians about the joys and pains of living on a volcano), although there's no indication of a human-like intelligence involved. Agency? Try to stop a locust swarm or a hurricane. Does will matter when we're helpless in the face of so many natural processes?

That's why I bring Gaia up. It's not just to be silly, but to get at what atheism is and isn't about. If someone "worshiped nature" as a way to remember important survival information and remind themselves of the variety of methods they needed to employ to live a long life on this crazy planet, would an atheist turn their nose up at them as kooks meaninglessly reciting some scripture, or think that this "religion" was worth practicing?

249:

Atheism isn't about religion. Atheism is just not believing in god(s). Worshipping Gaia doesn't make Gaia a god by the usually understood definition(s) of god(s) I listed and therefore there isn't an atheist position on worshipping Gaia any more than there is an atheist position on beans. As an irreligious sceptic I personally find all forms of worship at least silly if not harmful.

250:

Atheism isn't about religion. Atheism is just not believing in god(s). Worshipping Gaia doesn't make Gaia a god by the usually understood definition(s) of god(s) I listed and therefore there isn't an atheist position on worshipping Gaia any more than there is an atheist position on beans. As an irreligious sceptic I personally find all forms of worship at least silly if not harmful.

This was (is) the point of Discordianism. The founders of Discordianism decided to create and worship the most preposterous god they could think of: Eris/Discordia, Goddess of Chaos. Their intent was to show that all religions were artificial silliness. Instead, they created a small, bizarre, religion themselves (One later said, "If I'd know what was going to happen, I'd have chosen to worship Aphrodite").

The critical point about Discordianism wasn't about whether the goddess was real or not, it was whether you believed in her or not, because that belief fundamentally affected how you viewed the world.

That's the problem with being human: our beliefs alter the way we perceive and interact with our subjective reality. A goddess may be subjectively real enough to change our lives, without anyone else perceiving her as objectively real. It's one of the dilemmas of being human that most of us ignore by making the highly flawed assumption that our subjective perceptions of reality are accurate models of the objective reality we exist in.

251:

I have yet to hear a self-avowed atheist define what this god thing is that they don't believe in.

Wouldn't that be a bit silly? "I specifically and only disbelieve in the god of turtles" is more like monotheism (for example Christians share that particular belief).

My understanding of atheism is more "I have yet to hear a god defined in a way that seems credible to me". Viz, not believing any of the gods offered. Agnostics agree with that, atheists have a set of criteria for accepting a god that they don't believe can be satisfied. That part is kinda close to your problem, but I suspect also subtly different.It's not "defining a god they don't believe in", it's defining qualifications that a god would need to meet in order to be a god, and saying they don't make sense.

Could just be a failure of the imagination, or could be a no true scotsman fallacy.

My criteria possibly fall into that that trap, since they amount to "break the laws of nature" and are thus subject to having their behaviour treated as a learning experience and becoming retroactively compatible with our understanding :)

252:

I also quite like the anti-faith version of atheism: "show me".

This god that is present in your life, show it to me.

Otherwise it's Russell's Teapot (or Taoism, same thing) and we can move on. The Jewish "not put your god to the test" is exactly and IMO explicitly admitting that the god doesn't actually exist, and that the point of the religion(s) is that the god doesn't need to exist to be believed in. Like the Tao-pot, it does what it does for its own reasons and belief or not doesn't affect it. But it affects you when you believe (those cathedrals don't build themselves, you know).

There's a plethora of this kind of philosphical objection, and characterising them all as "the wisdom of children" is perhaps unkind, but it's also got a heart of truth. I have a quote/joke in my mind but can't find a reference:

* What do you want for a penny, the world with a whitewashed fence around it?
* Can I see it please?

Not strictly relevant but it's stuck in my mind now.

253:

Religion isn't for me, but I'm not going to impose my (absence of) belief on others; because that would make me a hypocrite.

Naw, it'd make you a proselytising atheist. Which is a lovely phrase.
And Dawkins is exactly as fundamentalist as your average ultra orthodox Rabbi or Wahabi cleric. He actively disbelieves in Gods and encourages everyone he speaks at to join his creed, and comes across as a dogmatic bully.

To me there is nothing wrong with religion per se, and individuals who Believe in things of all sorts are often highly valuable contributors to society.
*Organised Religion* on the other hand, has long been a method for controlling societies from small scale to large. Whether it be the tribal witchdoctor all the way up to the Papal States, an Incan Sun King or a village mullah, the formal organisation of religion has been and is a political tool to preserve the status quo and to reduce the impact of external cultural changes.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that looking across history, people who follow polytheistic religions tend to be much more tolerant of different cultures and beliefs than those who are monotheistic.

254:

Another thing I’ve noticed is that looking across history, people who follow polytheistic religions tend to be much more tolerant of different cultures and beliefs than those who are monotheistic.

Like, for example, Korea (the Hermit Kingdom), Japan (closed to outsiders during the Tokugawa), China, Rome (invade the neighbors for slaves and booty to keep Rome running), the Celtic headhunters...

The bigger predictor for tolerance seems to be being part of a cosmopolitan system, especially at higher population levels. Isolated uniformity seems to breed intolerance a little more predictably.

255:

There was a fairly clear arc up until Memory,

I disagree.

I will agree that the early Miles novels had Miles as a quite a consistent character, and were mostly very much military SF.

And 'Memory', where he left the military, can be seen as a point where his character changed significantly, which means the stories changed.

But a similar set of stories about consistent characters and similar things is not a story arc or plot arc. It's not *going* somewhere. The Barrayar stories lack any significant overall story-line or overarching plot. It's not part of a big developing story the way the Merchant Princes are.

256:

Martin @247

HA! I see the problem.

Atheism, as practiced today, is a militant religion intent on destroying all other religions.

Atheist, as a word, describes an individual who is not interested in organized religion.

Two completely different things. One is an "ism" the other is a word that describes a personal viewpoint.

Wiki - Atheism

Look at the format of the Wiki page, and the content. It is militantly aggressive in its stance.

Now try to search for "atheist" on the Wiki site. It directs you to "Atheism". The current stance of the Wiki people is militant in the extreme. A decade ago, you could have found the two different uses. You can only find the word "atheist" at the Wiktionary or other dictionary sites.

These are some fun debates in front of a New York audience:

The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNuJ6A6iGP4

Science Refutes God (FULL)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0xqebJ9Vp4

I like the moderator. He has style under pressure. The debates are great for my story folders. It is hard for me to capture the classic Villain stance and dialogue. This way I get to see Villains from both sides. HA!

257:

Atheism, as practiced today, is a militant religion intent on destroying all other religions.

Atheist, as a word, describes an individual who is not interested in organized religion.

Two completely different things. One is an "ism" the other is a word that describes a personal viewpoint.

I have this problem that I don't really see that much of that "atheism" of your first definition. Yeah, there are some atheists who are close-minded idiots, but that's what you get for every group of people large enough.

I've been taking to calling myself 'irreligious' or 'non-religious' on the very rare occasions this comes up. Also, I'm interested in organized religion as an object of study - I can see many reasons, good and bad, for organized religions and participating in them. 'Atheist' describing an individual is more to me like a person who does not see the need for the supernatural.

Also, I think most people I meet in my daily usually are just ambivalent. They likely belong to the Lutheran church here (about maybe 70% or 80% of Finns do) but they don't really think about religion and they mostly belong to the Church because of habit and the occasional ritual the church provides. If pushed, they might say they're Christian but in a vague way. Some believe strongly but some seem to use the trappings to give some feeling of belonging.

258:

We've got lots of nuclear power. Fossil fuels are a useful stepping-stone to any civilisation's capability to produce as much energy as it needs even for grandiose projects like interstellar travel by physical constructs.

I presume any planet-based intelligent lifeforms would similarly have access to such fissionable energy sources as we do, thanks to plate tectonics and volcanism. The lack of our ability to perceive any predecessor intelligences around us might mean that Greens are the Berserkers of this universe, preventing the survival of any such intelligent race beyond their fossil fuel era.

259:

>Atheism is just not believing in god(s).

Not believing is itself a belief for the same reason that not making choice is itself a choice.

260:

JBS @ 235
How many times?
Atheism is NOT a religion - it's the absence of one.
That false idea is one often pushed by US xtian bastard liars, please don't pick it up?
Otherwise ... spot on, especially the bit about "The one true path".
[ See also WTG @ 239 ]

EC @ 237
Bollocks.
ANOTHER Dawkins-hater - why? He is the most mild-mannered of men, putting it far more politely than I ever could or would, yet he attracts vast amounts of vengeful & inflammatory spite.
Or is is BECAUSE he is so mild-mannered?

Heteromeles @ 242
Of dear, you too?
SIMPLE.
Get someone to define their particular "god" ...
THEN ... detect it ... shouldn't be difficult to detect a "god" after all, should it?
No detection, thus assume "god" is not present.
I get the most amazing collections of lying wriggling utter bollocks when I confront any "abrahamic" believer with that one ....
They usually revert to quoting from "authority" - their own full-of-bullshit "holy" book, of course.

allynh @ 244
I blame the philosophers of the 17th century for the "fabulised" God
Not even wrong
Try looking ( breifly, because it's horrible ) at what aresholes like Calvin & Loyola & Dominic said about their versions of the BigSkyFairy & what punishments, tortures & brutalities said tyrant could inflict on you unless you did EXACTLY WHAT THE PRIESTS TOLD YOU.

Atheism is a militant religion intent on destroying all other religions.
Deliberate, public liar. Not funny or clever ... you DO REALISE that this is the stadard trope of the US evangelicals ... thank you for nothing.
Even if you were "just" trolling (!)

Martin @ 246
YES!
In my case for funerals ( Another one on Midwinter's Day for a very old friend ) or for concerts.
AND
@ 247
Yes, IF Bright-eyed Athena actually existed I might have become her follower ... but, she does not.

Moz @ 251
Another take on that is that Atheists, like you & me just choose to believe in ONE LESS GOD than the various monotheists, who don't believe in ... Amun-Ra, Baal, Cthulu, Demeter, Eros, etc ...
@ 252
See my response above
"No god is detectable" ... there's a long screed that follows that, as well, which I won't re-post right now, unless someone is daft enough to challenge it.

Mayhem @ 253
Lying bollocks & I hope the moderators don't mind that ...
NO Dawkins DOES NOT come across as "a dogmatic bully" - he comes across as eminently reasonable, which is why the believers hate him, of course.
Show me an un-organised religion.
They are all organised & used as methods of often brutal social control, usually based on blackmail

@ 256 & 257
I'm often regarded as a "militant" atheist.
But, I try to convert nobody & I'm quite happy for the relgious fuckwits to get on with their lives, as long as they do the same to me ( Golden Rule ) & leave me alone.
But, important but ..
They won't.
They knock on my door, accost me in the street, try to impose their will on the general populace & to further-corrupt politicians & the political process.
See also the attempt by religious groups to prevent children getting proper education about both sexual varitions inside humanity & proper sex education .. RIGHT NOW in the UK.

LASTLY
Nojay @ 258
Yesh! The fake-greenies as "bersekers" ...

261:

I have listened to Dawkins on television talking bollocks (*) and being offensive to his polite religious co-panellists.

I know a lot of very serious scientists, especially in the biomedical area, and few have any time for Dawkins.

(*) Claiming that he could prove scientifically that there is no god - which is as impossible as proving scientifically that there is one.

262:

I forgot to mention that I have also read The Selfish Gene, which I found very one-sided - and a few other public utterances, which were blinkered polemic, at best.

263:

I was always more of a Gould fan. Much as there may be flaws in the compromises he offered, they are flaws which would improved Dawkins.

264:
Or is is BECAUSE he is so mild-mannered?

Err, Greg, you can be mild-mannered AND offensive at the same time. Manners only mean you're using cerztain forms to be offensive.

"With all due respect, Mr President, you are an asshole."

265:

Not believing is itself a belief for the same reason that not making choice is itself a choice.

For people who live in a box, the world is divided between people who live in the same box and people who to not. It stuns them when people who’ve never heard of their box don’t feel that way, don’t accept that the logic of the box defines them, nor that it has anything to do with them. Say, for those whose worldview is really, really Hegelian, someone who doesn’t divide the world into dialectics is just the opposite to... someone who does.


266:

BTW, one of the signs I'm really upset with someone is me getting quite and carefully choosing my words. At least sometimes.

Hm, got to remember this time in 2017 when somebody I knew from school insisted on me meaning to invite her to live with me because I said I needed a retreat for some meditation and thought she might need one too. She got hooked on Freud an Rudolf Steiner at some point and only remembered me as the science guy who studied biology, not the one hanging around with the local potheads.

(Context: We tried to do a reunion for the 20th anniversary of our Abitur. The person involved repeated classes 3 years before it and spent the rest of the time in my brother's class but somehow got involved. I have my personal theories about what's going on inside her...)

I guess creating new lines for "What's up Columbus" by Crass about Rudolf Steiner mitigated that somehow. Though actually the potheads were into hip hop and surfpunk, and I was the one listening to New Model Army at times. Crass was one of the bands some friends from university listened to, but I hope it drove the message down for the person involved...

267:

#107 - I suspect that, if there were still a market for such things, Charlie's original postings on this blog could be published as a book of essays.

#109 - Well, my preference is for a book that comes to a real ending rather than having a cliffhanger and "to be continued in #stupid_name book 2". This doesn't stop $author writing further stories in the same setting and using some or all of the same main characters.

#145 Elizabeth Moon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remnant_Population

268:

Yes. What has become very clear in the past few decades is that Mendelian genetics / Darwinian evolution are only part of the story, and a great deal of inheritance and evolution is to do with the emergent properties, which do not always follow the same rules. It's still heresy to say so too publicly, but a lot of such inheritance is closer to Lamarckian, and most good scientists now accept that. It is a great pity that our politicians do not accept that is definitely true for our (i.e. human) social behaviours and technical abilities, which are an important part of our evolution.

And maybe, just maybe, I will live long enough to see similar holes appear in the bigotry of the True Physicists - or even just in science fiction :-(

269:

Why is Van Buskirk an anthropomorphic moose?
No idea; he's explicitly described as a human from a 3G world in the books.

Why is Worsel an anthropomorphic pterodactyl?
I could make him fit that sort of description based on the books.

Why do Kim and Clarissa have brown hair?
Er, they don't.

270:

Well there is a way of looking at a particular blind-watchmaker style pantheism and seeing is as sort of continuous with atheism. The universe is a marvel and full of marvellous things, there’s a very general sense of an underlying order that we strive to reach but the more light we make with our slow-growing circle, the more we have to make to see further into the dark. And all that. There’s a point where there’s really no sense in having this “god” concept, the universe is the universe and this sort of pantheism is indistinguishable from atheism any coherent way. But then it is also continuous with “small gods” pantheism (whimsical and fractal) and that is (more or less) continuous with (various) polytheism(s).

The thing I don’t really see room for in that continuum is agnosticism, which doesn’t have its own place really. It’s a position regarding a box, only really valid for people in the box (but who might not be sure that the box is real). I usually describe myself as an atheist, just because I don’t have a box. But allow for enough whimsy to drag me toward the polytheistic end of that line (you don’t have to actually believe things are literally true and all that), throw in the myriad little personal memorials to loved ones who have passed, memory of place, lifeache and it starts to look like something different. And when you start to consider what to do about your ancestors, what they need from you and how to handle it all dutifully, then people might start to wonder a bit and complain about those whimsical infidels, coming over here taking our jobs.

271:

I think you missed the curve on petroleum and fossil fuels in general.

There are three things that make it better than nuclear power:
--It's easier to get at than nuclear power. Drill a well. With coal, heck, even the Romans burned coal. Radioactivity is much more complicated, so you unlock it's potential much later.
--It has better EROEI than nuclear power--at first. If oil is bubbling out of the ground under artesian pressure and all you have to do is refine it, then it actually has a better EROEI than fusion or anything else. As with any addiction, the beginning is wonderful.
--Coal and oil have a large number of useful derivatives, unlike nuclear fuels. Plastics, coal-tar dyes, even bitumen are good examples. What can you do with the waste products of nuclear industry? Certainly there are uses for some isotopes in research and medicine, but those uses are tiny compared with the uses of plastics.

It's not stupid to start with oil and coal, but it is a trap, and that's the point: once your society has fallen into the trap of growing enormously on petroleum, what do you do when it's running out? Switch to nuclear is your answer, and then use the remaining petroleum solely for plastics (the Koch Brothers' answer), ignoring all the problems we're having with plastics in the environment and figuring out how to deal with nuclear waste. Heck, we don't even know how to keep the majority of humans from starving if we went cold turkey on fossil fuels right now. That's how dependent we are.

That's the trap that I think is part of the Fermi paradox. Although we'll probably never know, I don't think we're the first or last species to fall into it.

272:

There's still the problem of empiricism: if you happen to perceive gods or spirits, do you trust your senses, or do you trust the books and people who tell you that what you're perceiving isn't real?

This is one of those nasty questions, because we all tend to pick and choose when we believe our own perceptions, and when we trust authorities who tell us our personal experiences are delusional, rightly or wrongly.

If you are an atheist, you have to be careful about abusing theists as "people of the book." A lot of people do have spiritual experiences, and if you're waving a copy of Dawkins' work around as your argument that these people re deluded, to them you look a lot like the Bible thumpers who use the Bible to say climate change is a hoax or evolution isn't real.

273:

I think this universe is a student project in an introductory class for would-be gods. It’s going to get a C-.

This observation totally wins the discussion.

Administrative note: Can we maybe dial back the religious discussion? Like, drop the topic completely?

We're not quite at comment 300 yet and it totally swamped the original subject, which is to say, long-form fiction and its issues.

274:

However, generating the titanic surplus required to build and fly an interstellar vessel requires really solid systems. Do away with the predictability required to make these work, and interstellar travel is impossible.

Agreed completely, except I disagree with your implicit assumption that the titanic surplus required has to be developed on Earth.

Frankly, the energy budget required for interstellar flight with a viable (self-replication capable) payload in reasonable time (decades for a small vehicle that expects to exploit raw materials at the far end of the journey, millennia if it's a self-contained colony world that takes its resources with it albeit at much slower velocities) is so immense that it's not going to come from a terrestrial civilization. It's going to require large-scale manufacturing processes to be conducted off-Earth, which (by definition) will probably be immune to climate change issues (except insofar as they damage the baseline human civilization back on Earth).

(At this point I suspect we'll make it, but it'll be a close-run thing, mostly due to dumb-ass stupidity like the current POTUS and wave of populist authoritarianism, which is in part a reaction to the massive social upheavals triggered by neoliberal capitalism and climate change. Bluntly, our consensus decision-making systems at a global level suck, or we'd have pivoted full-speed for climate change mitigation in the 1970s.)

275:

In the light of OGH's administrative comment, I agree, except that I don't mind the plot reawakening or taking a new direction. What I dislike is books that don't have an adequate closure, because I find them aesthetically unsatisfactory and dislike being manipulated - at least so blatantly. That doesn't apply to single stories published in multiple volumes (like the Lord of the Rings), of course. But I accept that writing the whole of such things before any publication is a huge investment of a writer's time, with an uncertain return, so this is not a condemnation - merely a statement of MY choice in what I will buy.

One thing that I alluded to before the thread got diverted is that I don't know how many people are like you and me, and how many are quite happy with the lack of closure. That obviously affects an author's commercial reality!

276:

With one possible exception (that I can think of!) And even that is currently speculative and would involve a huge investment.

Getting that reliability is (several) orders of magnitude easier if one excludes living organisms - we know how to build highly radiation-resistant equipment and electronics, for example, and can at least do ballpark calculations on what is required (and the research needed to get there). No, I am not underestimating the difficulty or cost!

And, as I have posted before, the claim that non-accelerated FTL (e.g. an 'ansible') is equivalent to time travel is false - unrestricted FTL between fast-moving, close frames is, but not in general - the standard 'proof' is merely hand-waving. I would dearly like to see some proper investment put into testing whether quantum tunnelling etc. are limited by the speed of light. Currently, at least three camps claim the experiment is pointless, because we know the answer - but they 'know' it differently!

This could then enable human control of a remote device - which could obviously be tested in the outer solar system first.

277:

if there were still a market for such things, Charlie's original postings on this blog could be published as a book of essays.

A few years ago I discussed exactly that possibility with the publisher at Subterranean Press, who have done limited-edition runs of my novellas "Missile Gap" and "Palimpsest" and who does sometime do specialised/non-fic/related books.

Basically, the sales projection for such a book are pretty dismal, and while it'd be just barely economically viable to publish it, it's a whole lot of work for no significant gain. I'd feel compelled to re-write the essays for book format (hint: all those hyperlinks? Would need removing or replacing with explanatory text in box-outs or something: further thoughts I drop in the comments would need integrating, etc), and then there's the puzzler of which ones to include.

At one point I bolted together a scrivener project and began going through the blog, cutting/pasting worthwhile essays in as separate files. By the time I got through, I had a third of a million words … and that was the best part of a decade ago, so we can project something the size of Philip K. Dick's exegesis if I were to do the job today. Frankly unmanageable ex

The stuff is all on this blog anyway: if I get really bored I might collate/format it as a downloadable epub/mobi file for free, but life's too short to argue over publishing contracts and marketing when it'd earn, at best, about 10% what I'd get for spending the same amouint of time writing a novel.

278:

EC @ 268
actually, the "bigotry" of the physicists was back in the 1970-85 period ..
Since then that acceptance of what is sometimes called the" Vaccuum Ctatstrophe" - the "slight" mismatch between Relativity & QM has come n=much more out into the open, with a lot of hand-wringing & people whose brains hurt.
The other empty shell is string theory of course, but the jury is out on "Dark Matter/Dark Energy" ... because there's SOMETHING there, but the labels at present in use seem to be placeholders.

Yeah ... FTL in straight lines or almost straight, not curving back inside their own light-cones.
No matter how much faster than "c" you travel, if you go direct to ε Eridani, slow down, turn round & come back, you will still arive back after you left ... no paradox.

Charlie @ 273
THAT good? D-- or E+ actually, certainly as regards the physics - see my both agreement & disagreement with EC just above.

279:

Thing is, I tend to think that manufacturing works better on Earth than off, because the costs are lower for housing human workers.

Yes, of course, robots can theoretically do all the off-Earth work, but when they conquer the galaxy, Neptune's Brood style, it won't really be us, will it?

Additionally, this doesn't get at an answer to the Fermi Paradox, which is what I was proposing.

I will note that if I can ever get free of the current environmental politics morass (this would need a big recession in 2021, with a democratic president), I've got a nice, black humor universe waiting to go. It's where humans discover FTL (something like a surface-launched Van Den Broeck warp) and colonize other planets. The catch is that the ships have to land, because space is too dangerous to stay in indefinitely (we figure out FTL before we figure out how to survive extended periods in interplanetary or interstellar space), and with Earth still in the full throes of climate change (we don't figure out how to deal with that, either), the people funding the FTL project hatch a strategy that each colony on a suitable world (and we'd pretty much only be colonizing earth-like worlds) drills for oil (a product of anything photosynthesizing), bootstraps its way to technical proficiency as fast as possible (using plastics and all that), then builds more ships and finds more planets, because colonial civilization is no more sustainable than what they're leaving behind on Earth. So long as they find more planets to colonize faster than old colonies die, civilization can last indefinitely.

280:

That's what I meant (with the note that for years I didn't buy Dune_2 or Dune_3 because I could never find a copy of Dune itself). I was also less than as happy with God Emperor of Dune et al when they appeared literally years later.

I am still enjoying the new Merchant Princes' trilogy though.

281:

I can assure you that the bigotry hasn't gone away, though it is nothing like as overt as it was. Inter alia, if it had, there would be rather more attention paid to getting experimental evidence for what happens when they conflict. A few people are doing that, but they are having an uphill struggle.

Far too much of cosmology is beyond redemption, by conflating the concepts of speculation and theory.

282:

OK thanks; that's what I meant about there not really being a market for this sort of stuff any more.

283:

Actually, it IS a partial answer to the Fermi paradox! If the best that can be done is robotic colonisation, the probability of most species bothering is likely to be very low. Given the ecological issues, an intelligent species almost always has to either stop being expansionist or die out, before it gets to the point it could do even robotic colonisation. That is ALSO likely to be true for a robot colony, because it will probably be limited by resources (e.g. rare earths) - only one with carefully-planned imperatives for controlled expansionism and re-colonisation would spread far. And then there is bit rot in the controlling imperatives, because the robots would need to have a considerable degree of ability to change their programming ....

284:

I'd say that Clive James is the current exemplar, at least in the UK, for publishing essays ( Cultural Amnesia, etc ) - but he says somewhere that its only viable due to previous earnings from other areas, such as a production company and his serial autobiographies.

285:

Geez, I'm not on over the weekend, and look what happens!

First, it appears to me that Mr. Duffy is arguing both sides of the coin, that atheists all lean towards mass murder, and that Christianity does not, or maybe the other way around.

Bull. The overwhelming majority of Germans, French, Polish, et al who did the actual work of murder ALL thought of themselves as "good Christians", just as all those who engaged in pogroms for a millenium did. We won't even mention the "good Christian" business owners whose miners all died of nasty lung disease, or cave-ins, nor the self-proclaimed good Christian slaveowners, and no, they claimed it, so you can't nay-say it Duffy.

Second, if the Big Guy in the Nightshirt was omniscient, as well as all-powerful, he would have foreseen all the suffering. In that case, *if* he were actually "good", he would have done a dozen code reviews before he instantiated the universe, making sure that we had free will to choose different paths, resulting in, say, I meet her years ealier, rather than later, we would be unable to see what's in front of us, and so it's still free will to always choose the closest to good.[1][2]

Therefore, if he exists, and had foreknowlege, then I see no difference whatever between him and Satan.

But then, Xianity has seen that as a heresy, but it keeps popping back up, that they are equally powerful (can you say Ahura Mazda, boyos and grllls?).

Peronally, I have strong Taoist[3]/Buddhist leanings, but call myself a Pagan. However, my version of Paganism, as many people's are, goes back to Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis. Given that, then it appears to me that any planet with a biosphere has its own deity (making me a true polytheist).

1. Crops were bad, animals few, who gets to die, this Jan, when we're all starving?
2. In Judaism, as I understand it, there's no "hell"; rather, the worst punishment is to be banished, not to behold the godhood.

Which I admit I can understand, it being over 21 years since I could see, and touch, my late wife.
3. Of course, Taosism reminds me, heavily, of General Semantics' "the map is not the territory".

286:

Grew up in the fifties and sixties. Don't actually remember practicing it, but the awareness was absolutely there.

Of course, growing up in Philly, with the Philly Navy Yard in south Philly, and the five? seven? major, major oil refineries in south philly, we would have been glowing ash, so there wasn't much point in it.

287:

Well... you have to remember he was using traditional myth, which he was personally familiar with, having translated some of it.

I remember...The Princess And The Goblin, by MacDonald, from the 1870s, and the goblins had turnip-shaped heads....

288:

I agree. Thanks *so* much, Scott.

Rensman! ARRRGHGHGHGHGHGHHHH!!!

Oh, there we go - I just typed the above, and suddenly got a parody done with Ren and Stimpy.... Wait, does this make The Brain an Agent of Ploor?

289:

Tying "God" back into the original discussion...

In that case, *if* he were actually "good", he would have done a dozen code reviews before he instantiated the universe

It seems to me that Charlie and God both have the same problem; building a Universe that's sufficiently robust for continued use. To be robust, there must be a useful physics which does not require continued deific/authorial intervention to make the Universe run. (No Eschatons or perfectly rigid Crystal Spheres.)

Whether the universe is "good for" the inhabitants is a secondary consideration. If you're an author, a universe which is "good for" the inhabitants is not something you desire at all, and even a diety might say, "I made this world good enough for everyone to enjoy it, and I gave them free will, if they can't find a way to have a good relationship with physics that's not my problem - they're certainly smart enough!"

And that's what it comes down to, both as an author and as a good. Does the intelligence you create have a good relationship with physics? In the 'Merchant Princes' universe the relationship between humans and physics was merely poor. In the 'Laundry' universe the relationship between humans and physics is disastrous!

In our own universe, the relationship between humanity and physics also very poor... look at the politicians yammering about Climate Change. They seem to think you can 'negotiate' with physics!

290:

Heh. I haven't turned on my tv since I saw the worst horror show ever broadcast.

Election night, 2016, of course.

291:

Been a long, long time since I played D&D - like the early eighties.

However, me, and my three buddies, all created our own universes, and all of us had an Armageddon - actually, I had two, in something like 6 years.

292:

On the other hand, Tolkien didn't cheat, and wrote real stories.

Lewis, on the other hand, shoved theology down your throat. If Perelandra hadn't been a library book, I'd have thrown it across the room. The only reason I read That Hideous Strength was because I read it mentioned Numenor. To this day, I say that if it hadn't been CS Lewis, that would have bounced so hard from a slush pile that it would have given Lewis a concussion. I mean, all new and tech was Evil (tm), and literally dragging the animals out of the city zoo to kill them?

And Narnia... at the end, THE WHOLE THING HAS BEEN A CHEAT. "Oh, actually, you've been all dead all along". Lewis had great ideas, but shit for writing.

293:

Yeah, Eru didn't like syncopation, or blues, or jazz, and let's not even *start* on rock & roll....

On the other hand, I can find some sympathy for him, when I think of, say, Cage's work.

294:

whitroth @ 293
I'm not so sure about Cage ... I've seenheard excerpts for "Akenhaten" & it's impressive ... & there are definite echoes of Carl Orff in there.

295:

William T Goodall @ 239: Atheism is not the inverse of religion. Atheism is not believing in god(s). Religions are systems of belief with stories, ...

Atheism is just another "belief" system. Not an inverse of religion, but an analogue. Like religion, it provides "answers" that you're not supposed to question.

296:

Atheism is effectively a religion in behavioural terms. Atheists often hate me saying that because they see it as an attack on that part of their sense of self which is built around being "not religious", and I in turn see that as further confirmation of my position :)

Also, it does amuse me quite a lot when I see atheists not realising that they're unconsciously quoting Jesus more or less verbatim from the Gospels because what their complaints are about are the exact same things...

297:

Heteromeles @ 242: Note, I'm neither a theist nor an atheist by most normal classifications, because unlike both sides of that debate, I believe there's a difference between subjective reality and objective reality.

Anyway, the problem with atheism that I have is that I have yet to hear a self-avowed atheist define what this god thing is that they don't believe in. "I don't believe in the existence of gods" without further definition of gods seems to be a statement of faith too, because it's certainly hard to disprove.

What are gods? For example, you could found a perfectly good religion around the worship of and care for Gaia, the Biosphere, of which you are a part. In fact, I'd say that would be a very, very sane thing to do right now (after all, if Gaia dies, so do you). But is Gaia a god or not? And if Gaia is a god, are subunits of Gaia, such as the oceans, storms, or volcanoes, divine or not? How far down the chain does Gaia's divinity drop before things are secular?

I consider myself Agnostic [1]. If my "beliefs" have to have a label, I think that's the one that comes closest to fitting. I'm not against religion, merely against it's organized excesses. Believe what you want to believe but don't impose your beliefs on me. And don't try to deprive me of my rights because they offend your religious sensibilities.

[1] ... the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. I agree with idea that there are things "unknown", but don't accept they are "unknowable".

We don't know now. We might not find out within my lifetime. But whether we will ever "know" can't be shown by facts or figures.

298:

Heteromeles @ 254: Like, for example, ... Rome (invade the neighbors for slaves and booty to keep Rome running)

I'm not entirely sure that's fair to Rome. Seems to me they kinda' got caught in a "secure borders" trap. They started out conquering nearby city-states to keep those states from conquering Rome, but every time they managed to subdue the threat and establish a secure frontier, a new threat sprang up outside the new border forcing another border war & expansion.

Meanwhile the center decayed until it could no longer sustain security on the frontier.

Maybe there's some kind of lesson to be learned here about securing borders; that military force might not be the best way to go about doing it.

Could it be that helping the neighbors build successful stable societies could be a better way to avoid that trap? Maybe if THEY have the good life, they won't need or want to come here and take it from us?

299:

"It's worth rereading how he describes the Orcs, with their slanty eyes, sallow skin, and curved blades."

See to me that does not evoke any kind of "Fu Manchu" type image - rather it's a pretty standard cliché villain type which goodness only knows how many villains of assumed European origin in my childhood storybooks conformed to. Their eyes look like that because they are scowling or frowning or sneering so much of the time that their facial wrinkles have set like that. Their skin looks like that because of long term exposure to dirt, weather and debauchery, but zero exposure to soap. And funny shaped blades are always sinister because it emphasises their function of inflicting nasty and painful injuries in a way that a straight, practical shape does not (like the "wavy" blades that other evil characters use, or the way manufacturers are fond of putting serrations and jagged edges and stuff on the kind of knives which are bought to masturbate over rather than cut bits of string and stuff). I see them more along the lines of classic pirates than anything else, I guess, only shorter, dirtier, nastier and more deformed.

"it's so easy to reimagine the monsters in it simply as monsters, rather than as racist stereotypes."

But they are simply monsters. It doesn't need any "reimagining", they are that already. It's making them into racist stereotypes that requires going to the effort of reimagining them, and it does rather get on my wick when people put that effort in and then castigate Tolkien for their own reinterpretation of his writing. Come to that, it got on Tolkien's wick that the Nazis perverted the noble aspects of Norse mythology by using it to build their racism on - and pissing in his porridge as a consequence.

300:

Pigeon @ 296: Atheism is effectively a religion in behavioural terms. ... Also, it does amuse me quite a lot when I see atheists not realising that they're unconsciously quoting Jesus more or less verbatim from the Gospels because what their complaints are about are the exact same things...

With apologies to OGH ...

I've had arguments on several occasions with people who deny "Jesus" ever existed; that his disciples just invented him and his teachings.

I don't buy that argument because Occam's Razor and all that. I don't "believe" that the teachings that have come down to us in the New Testament necessarily accurately represent the man, but there are some ideas in there on how to treat your fellow man that I find compelling.

Nor do those ideas require one to believe in Jesus's divinity to be valid. Being humane towards those with less good fortune than oneself just seems to make life easier for everyone.

301:

You wrote:
Come to that, it got on Tolkien's wick that the Nazis perverted the noble aspects of Norse mythology by using it to build their racism on - and pissing in his porridge as a consequence.
---
Yeah, that's why I *LOATHE* Wagner's Liebelungenlied. A snip here and there of Norse myth, toss in his hobbyhorse, and throw it all in the blender.

I was watching it on tv in the late seventies. Got to Siegfried, and gagged. He's a Mafia street soldier, a scumbag. "Hero"? Hell, no.

302:

"In Judaism, as I understand it, there's no "hell"; rather, the worst punishment is to be banished, not to behold the godhood."

cf. "Whosoever believeth in me shall not perish, but shall have eternal life" (from memory). There's plenty of indication that the default outcome is oblivion, not hell. But of course the "hell" idea has much greater value as a political tool...

"Hell" is what you get if you do have eternal life but don't have God. As such, it has been described, usually with enthusiasm, in many a work of science fiction. Someone posted a link to a My Little Pony hell on here a while back. And that idea that as the universe approaches the Big Crunch the energy available for computation increases at a rate that allows you to continue jacking up the clock speed faster than the universe contracts, so consciousnesses running on that substrate can exist for a subjective eternity in the final instants of time? That's hell, yet people who propose it seem to think it's a great idea. Hey, it even comes with the whole eternal fire thing and all.

303:

I mentioned earlier that Glen Cook has a new Black Company novel out.

Perusing some of the forums, I've seen criticisms that I found particularly enlightening in view of this post. The Glen Cook who wrote the current novel is not the same man as the author back in 1983 who wrote the original Black Company.

I enjoyed the new novel. It's kind of a "lost annals" that fits in between the first two novels of the series. I won't go further because of SPOILERS!, but if you enjoyed Cook's novels, I think you'll enjoy the new one as long as you keep OGH's "lessons learned" in mind.

304:

Your post has prompted me to think more about the closure thing. I too don't mind new plot directions, the issue is how well the author segues from one direction into another. In the case of some trilogies, they don't manage it very well. Other trilogies aren't exactly trilogies, and I can see Brin's first uplift trilogy on a shelf a being an example of that.

Someone mentioned Dune, and that is an interesting example in itself. He conceived the first trilogy as a whole, but at some point got carried away with some flashes of genius, thus the first book is so much more of a stand alone entity. The two after it change viewpoints somewhat, and don't read in quite the same way, and I'm not quite sure why. Children of Dune came out a lot later of course, by which time his writing style had evolved somewhat.

Adequate closure is a very personal thing. How closed do you want; I prefer it if the main driving plot for the novel is finished, even if there are sub plots still left behind. Cherryh in her Foreigner saga comes to mind as someone who manages moderately well by taking trilogy into trilogy by opening up newer parts of the world which have only been hinted at before, so there is always something new to read, growing from the older circumstances. I find the Vorkosigan saga to be satisfying in it's closure because each novel is pretty much entire in itself, and just some people and circumstances are carried over. That people seem to change over time and novels is one of the things which makes it good.
I'm trying to think of books which I like which don't have much closure, and failing miserably.

305:

You're far politer than me. If pushed by the religiously challenging (I used to sit next to a Young Earth Creationist at work), I ask exactly why the Norse Gods are superstitious nonsense, while the Middle Eastern God isn't...

But getting back to the difficulties of consistency within long-form fiction. Even the best authors have problems, as witnessed by the differing explanations as to Jesus' patrilineage...

I do wonder about the high levels of consistency in Tolkien; there's a single consistent theme, with evidence (rings, escaped Numenoreans, Maiar), and a demonstrated conclusion (sailing west from the Grey Havens). It strikes me as just too neat. Where's the messiness that you expect in six thousand years of the Second and Third Ages?

Part of me wants to see more argument and doubt over whether there are really only five Istari; or how Tom Bombadil fitted into things; or a faction fight between fanatical followers of Aragorn, and those of the True King Faramir...

306:

Well I tried to emphasise the whimsy. I wouldn’t emphasise sensation necessarily (because mostly you have to make the whimsical things up entirely) or belief (cf the circle of light thing: I’m explicitly calling out castles in the air here). I don’t think I have a problem with “people of the book”, you might have me mixed up with someone else or perhaps some projecting? My shtick is generally to try to emphasise the small, personal and concrete things in a way that offsets the grand, impersonal and abstract things people seem to think are more important.

But back on topic, the whimsical small gods thing has been done in a long series (well several medium size series’ sharing a setting) and even had its own standalone novel in the setting. It’s a nice and almost standard part of world-building in fantasy, and pterry is just the sharpest exemplar, I suppose.

307:

I've had arguments on several occasions with people who deny "Jesus" ever existed; that his disciples just invented him and his teachings.

Some evil people believe the same thing about our guru and SlackMaster, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs! One day, there will even be people, who were never touched by the noodly appendage, and imagine a similarly horrible thing of The Flying Spaghetti Monster itself!

What is to be done about such heretics?

308:

I'm not entirely sure that's fair to Rome.

My understanding might be wrong, but the thing about Rome was that conquest was highly profitable:
--Prisoners of war could be sold as slaves
--Loot went to the victors
--Depopulated farmlands could be given to soldiers ending their tour of duty, so that they could farm them
--Victorious generals could use the lands to create latifundia, the forerunners of our modern agribusiness system (although we use migrant labor rather than slaves).

While I agree with you on Roman border issues, it's not clear to me whether they could have achieved a steady-state slave economy in perpetuity, or whether they needed to keep conquering to keep their economy turning over and to keep the citizens in Rome happy. Certainly they didn't end slavery until fairly late in their history, when their boundaries were already contracting.

309:

Apart from the issues of the publisher cancelling a series because of low sales or the author failing to complete it for reasons of health or age, another reason readers might be wary of starting series is that the reader herself might not be able to complete reading the series for reasons of health or age. I doubt I'll live long enough to complete reading a new series starting now that runs as long as Honor Harrington or Ice & Fire - these are both 25 years and counting or so?

310:

I'm not entirely sure that's different, unless you ready really slowly. For me it's a year of an author's work goes into 2-5 hours of reading, and I have a lot of blocks of 2-5 hours in my year.

The problem is the same old thing... authors take time to produce a series, and many of them selfishly have lives and care about things other than dance monkey dance (/sarcasm). If this is a simulation can the operators please run a few copies of the authors I care about in parallel so they can work on different volumes in the series (or different series)? Better yet, give them more computing resources so they run faster than their readers and thus their year to write a book is our couple of weeks :)

That raises interesting questions about what happens when those copies get together to plan out the series, from whether they get on with themselves as people to how consistent their views are and how those evolve over time. Plus the obligatory minor questions like what happens if one copy murders another and how their SO's will feel about it.

311:

Heteromeles @ 308: My understanding might be wrong, but the thing about Rome was that conquest was highly profitable:
--Prisoners of war could be sold as slaves
--Loot went to the victors
--Depopulated farmlands could be given to soldiers ending their tour of duty, so that they could farm them
--Victorious generals could use the lands to create latifundia, the forerunners of our modern agribusiness system (although we use migrant labor rather than slaves).

While I agree with you on Roman border issues, it's not clear to me whether they could have achieved a steady-state slave economy in perpetuity, or whether they needed to keep conquering to keep their economy turning over and to keep the citizens in Rome happy. Certainly they didn't end slavery until fairly late in their history, when their boundaries were already contracting.

Yes. That's why I consider the "secure borders" cycle a trap. I don't think they would have "achieved a steady-state slave economy" without the conquests. Everything you mention is a symptom of the rot at the center that the "secure borders" cycle engendered.

They sacrificed essential liberty for a little security.

312:

William T Goodall @ 309: Apart from the issues of the publisher cancelling a series because of low sales or the author failing to complete it for reasons of health or age, another reason readers might be wary of starting series is that the reader herself might not be able to complete reading the series for reasons of health or age. I doubt I'll live long enough to complete reading a new series starting now that runs as long as Honor Harrington or Ice & Fire - these are both 25 years and counting or so?

In the past several years or so, I've often wondered if I'll survive long enough to watch the next series of Doctor Who.

313:

_Moz_ @ 310: I'm not entirely sure that's different, unless you ready really slowly. For me it's a year of an author's work goes into 2-5 hours of reading, and I have a lot of blocks of 2-5 hours in my year.

It's one thing if the author has a 25 year backlog that I can devour in a few weeks. If I were so inclined, I could start George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series with some hope I might live long enough for him to finish the two forthcoming volumes that are supposed to complete the set.

It's the NEW author I haven't even discovered yet whose work on a series is going to stretch 25 years into the future that I might have trouble finishing.

314:

I was unclear. I meant starting reading a newly started series now when the final volume probably won't be published until around 2045 when I would be in my eighties if still alive. Going by the amount of time it is taking for some other series to complete.

315:

Re: 'No detection, thus assume "god" is not present.'

Haven't read all the posts, therefore apologies if this was already mentioned. Anyways, ...

It's always puzzled me how 'proof of god' arguments, esp. those dressed up to look 'scientific' ignore the fundamental null vs. test hypothesis requirement, i.e., if you cannot come up with non-random-chance data to support your test hypothesis, you must accept the null hypothesis. Of the legit scientist types I've met that happen to have a religion, none has provided a 'scientific' argument for the existence of a god. Daniel Dennett gets into this in 'Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon'. He also discusses how wanting a god/bunch of beliefs/practices is probably more common as a motivation/rationale for self-identification as religious than the actual belief in a deity. (He also mentions other factors.)

316:

Glen Cook is a good example in several cases - his Dread Empire starts strong but abruptly finishes because he had a key manuscript stolen and basically combined a trilogy of potential ideas into a single book to roughly wrap things up 25 years later.

And his Garrett PI of today is profoundly different to the carefree Garrett of the early days, older, slower, and like most of his companions, more interested in settling down than in having adventures. Which appears to bother a lot of readers who want their dashing hero back and don't like seeing people getting older in fantasies.

317:

"Of the legit scientist types I've met that happen to have a religion, none has provided a 'scientific' argument for the existence of a god."

But why should they? They are probably more than well aware of the futile waste of intellectual effort in seeking scientific answers to questions which are outside science's field of enquiry. Science and religion are orthogonal; they address different aspects of the human experience, and seeking answers in the domain of one to questions in the domain of the other gets you silly answers whichever way round you do it. The notion that they are necessarily mutually exclusive is of comparatively recent origin and is essentially a product of people doing just that and not being able to recognise a silly answer when they see it.

Being a scientist does not mean that you have to be able to provide a rational scientific justification for your every aspect of thought and behaviour to preserve your intellectual integrity. (Not to deny that some people do think that, but that is simply a case of their thought processes getting stuck in a local minimum and failing to progress.) It is probably truer to say that being a scientist is likely to make you more aware of the counterproductive futility of wearing such an intellectual straitjacket and the inherent contradiction involved in considering it "rational": to have greater everyday familiarity with the scientific method may well be to see more clearly how limited it is and appreciate the reality of the areas more distant from the scientific axis.

318:

Here is an interview that fits into this thread. I'm more interested about getting the book now that I know that it will be three books long.

Author Marlon James on never outgrowing the magical
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuKoM_yHpmY

William T Goodall @314 said: I meant starting reading a newly started series now when the final volume probably won't be published until around 2045 when I would be in my eighties if still alive. Going by the amount of time it is taking for some other series to complete.

The Shannara series is probably almost done. The Foreigner series could end at any time. F. Paul Wilson is probably done with his Repairman Jack series. The list goes on and on.

Would I start a new series now, that may take decades to finish. Of course. How is starting a new series today any different than what I've done for over fifty years.

319:

I often enjoy longer series, if I like the original book - though I will never pick up a book that is flagged as 'Book X of the N Saga' unless I've started at the beginning and enjoyed them all to date.*

*I have of course picked up a book that I didn't know was an instalment and enjoyed it, then had to go back to book 1 to make sense of some of the context. Cryptonomicon became a much richer book after reading the Baroque Cycle, for example.

Ian Rankin seems to be keeping things fresh with John Rebus, though I can't imagine Rebus surviving much longer and still being plausible.

The danger of a long series can be seen in Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey books. The first dozen or so are excellent, enjoyable and believable. Somewhere along the way O'Brien's age starts to become evident, and the concepts, scenes and stories start to become pale and formulaic. By the last couple of books I felt like I was on a grim march to the conclusion of the series - attached to the characters and wanting to know the outcome, but otherwise bored silly. A recent reread fizzled out around book 6.

320:

SFR @ 315
Yes.
That is exactly why I framed the statement that way ... in fact I got the idea from Uncle Albert, regarding the "Luminiferous Aether" - which is famously "Not detetctable"
Similarly no form of BigSkyFairy is detectable ...
And if you think otherwise, please disprove my TESTABLE null hypothesis.

You would be amazed ( Or perhaps not ) at the wriggling & "oh it doesn't work like that" ( Sorry, but it does ) & outright lying I have encountered over the years since first proposing this one.
{ I've since had to add the riders: "Not detectable directly or indirectly, or as an emergent phenomenon. )

The follow-up being: "No events or causations exist that are not explicable in the normal course of natural causes and random occurrences. This includes, most importantly, the information-flow that must pass to and from any "god", so that he, she, it, or they can themselves observe, or intervene in "their" universe. If there is any god around, then that information-flow will also be detectable. Where is it?"

Pigeon @ 317
questions which are outside science's field of enquiry
There are NO areas which are outside science's field of enquiry.
Like the experimental-psychology question: "Why & how come people belive in this religious twattery in the first place, when it's obviously wrong?"

Tying all this into the original subject of the thread ... maybe that's why both xtainty & islam have vast volumes of "follow-up" work(s) in spite of the fixing of the bible at Nicea & the claim by muslims that the recital is the "final" work ... yet we get huge volumes of "hadiths" & even larger volumes of xtian theology & commentaries, just to keep the series' going (!)

321:

That is very similar to the logical flaw to the claim that we must be alone in the galaxy / cosmos because we have not detected any extra-terrestrial intelligence.

On the matter of null hypotheses, one thing that is often not realised is how much you can bias a result by choosing one 'appropriately' - it is at the heart of the likelihood people's objections to Bayesian statistics, and has a lot of truth in it.

But we are getting perilously close to doing what OGH requested us not in #273.

322:

#309 and #310 - Which, between them sum up why I say that books are fungible, for certain values of fungible.

If I go to the bookshop intending to buy $author1's new book and am told it is delayed, my reaction is not to mutter {censored} and leave, but to spend my book budget on trying a work by $author2, and then buy $author1's book later, when it does come out.

323:

Para 3 - According to Ian Rankin himself, John Rebus is no longer aging in real time since his retirement from the Police.

324:

I don't find that I need to necessarily finish a series, as long as each book (or published polylogy) has enough closure to be aesthetically satisfying. Panshin Star Well, Bujold Vorkosigan, (earlier) Weber Harrington, (most of) Sharon Lee, the Laundry, Brennan Wilders and Lady Trent, Cogman Invisible Library all are fine in that respect. While I have bought all of Martin Ice and Fire and Trader/Empire so far, I don't find the same, bought the last Ice and Fire only because they were in an Oxfam bookshop, and may well not bother buying any more of either series. I gave up on Brennan Onyx Court after two books, and that was a part of the reason.

Closure is VERY hard to define, and at least somewhat reader-dependent. I have tried to analyse what my personal choice is, and have got confused, because I have been happy with a very few very incomplete stories. Rarely novels, though. But what about Tristram Shandy, which I enjoyed?

325:

If this is a simulation can the operators please run a few copies of the authors I care about in parallel so they can work on different volumes in the series (or different series)?

Years ago I snarked that the real reason we'll never see any more Eschaton novels is because we're in one of the simulations addressing the question, "What if the Eschaton novels weren't bestsellers? Would Stross have turned out equally good fiction in other settings?"

No doubt the alternate universe in which Charlie's turning out Eschaton novels the way Weber turns out Harrington stories is quite profitable - but less varied.

And the TV series is probably stalled anyway.

326:

When I have too much time on my hands, I wonder about things like: Should Tom Bombadil have been black?

Charlie: you enticed me into reading P.C. Hodgell's Kencyrath saga and there is a series with an interesting long term structure and medium term structures as well. Particularly if one reads some of the related, but not directly related short stories. The relationship of the first novel to the rest of the series is probably worth a small volume of critical study in itself. (And as much as I love the more typically high fantasy (though not cliche'd) line of the other volumes, the first book just blows me away with its complexity and well realized urban landscape.)

327:

This is a big issue for Merchant Princes and Laundry Files continuity.

I tackled it by jumping 19 years in MP; in Empire Games, Miriam is in her mid-fifties, married to a guy who's pushing 60, and has become a relatively staid politician. (For action stuff we jump to her daughter Rita, but Rita is very different from 30yo Miriam from the first series.)

In the Laundry Files, Bob has aged by one year of wall clock time per year in publication sequence, so as of the Lovecraftian Singularity in 2015 he's in his late 30s, married to a 40yo, and with heavy management responsibilities. It's an ensemble cast, so if there's call for action it tends to be teamwork-oriented, although there are younger folks involved (Alex and Cassie/Agent First, for example). As of book 10, which is either a side-quest or the start of a whole new sequence set in the same universe, we get a bunch of much younger protagonists who are nothing to do with the Laundry per se but get involved in occult shenanigans under the New Management, with ages between 16 and 30.)

But neither Bob or Miriam are sustainable as action-story protagonists at this point. Indeed, I can say fairly clearly that if there are further Merchant Princes books after INVISIBLE SUN, Miriam will be dead of old age before their dateline (I'm vaguely thinking about a standalone novel placed in the 2050s of that setting), and Bob's probably only going to turn up as the principal protagonist again in the climactic Laundry Files story.

328:

Oh, and speaking of future plans:

1. Bear in mind that no series-level plan survives contact with the sort of time scales we're talking about.

2. Empire Games end with INVISIBLE SUN, book 9 of the Merchant Princes. Then I'm taking a break. Any future stories in that universe will be standalone novels, set increasingly far in the future, if and when I come up with a story that needs a technologically developed many-worlds setting descended from the show-stoppers in INVISIBLE SUN (which effectively turn it into a space-opera-equivalent playpen in terms of scope).

3. Laundry Files as such—the workplace journals of Bob et al in the run-up to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN—end in 2015, the same year as "The Labyrinth Index". I'm not sure how many books it'll take to wrap the story line: ideally at least two, maybe three.

Also note that I've been strip-mining my techie background for 20 years and I haven't worked in the field for over 15 years. I am definitively obsolete and I can't do the original geek/tech humour very well any more. So I need to go in another direction before I embarrass myself.

However, the New Management turns out to be a great setting for warped urban fantasy, which is the direction "Lost Boys" takes off in. LB might turn out to be a stand-alone side-quest novel, if it doesn't sell well or gets bad reviews; or it might be the start of a new sequence, continuing after the Laundry Files series arc terminates. In which case I'm going to try and make sure that the, oh, let's call them "Tales of the New Management" books, are sufficiently self-contained that if I drop dead in the middle of book 97 you won't be complaining about Patrick O'Brien syndrome.

329:

Charlie: you enticed me into reading P.C. Hodgell's Kencyrath saga

Which I bailed on a book ago, about one chapter in. It just didn't seem to be innovating in the same way any more by book 7 (or was it 8?) that it was in books 1-3. Which is sad, and I regret it … but again: author aging (in the case of Hodgell by, at a guess, about 30+ years during the series).

Basically, there are two forces at play:

a) Reader wants something that impacts them the same way as book 1 of the series did. Merely continuing the story in book 2 is insufficient to do this: the reader has been changed by the act of reading book 1, so needs a bigger kick of whatever book 1 did that was fresh and new and about all different.

b) Author is changed by the act of writing book 1. (I only half-jokingly say that there'll never be a sequel to "Accelerando" because I burned out that part of my brain writing it.) Author is also older, possibly several years older.

Very occasionally we find the author's aging process puts them in sync with the reader's hopes for subsequent books: as we age our thought processes deepen, and if the reader wants a deeper exploration of book 1's themes, they're in luck. Especially if the attractive bit of book 1 was world-building or character-building.

More often than not, though, an author under time/monetary pressure to extrude more of book 1 ends up doing just that, with no added mojo to keep the readers on board.

(In both my big series, I kept digging and deepening and broadening the setting: compare the focal obsessions of "The Family Trade" with "Dark State", for example—they're really different. And in the Laundry Files, Bob keeps learning that he misunderstood things and reality is much gnarlier (and scarier) than he apprehended. And then we step outside Bob's skull and see that Bob is really delusional about a whole lot of things that Mo or Mhari or Alex can clearly see (but they're blind about other stuff, too). But when I can't come up with new camera angles any more—and by that, I don't just mean new viewpoint protagonists: I mean new perspectives for said protagonists, old or new, to embody—that's going to be the time to stop writing them.)

330:

Bombadil in a deeper tone? Why not, the story is largely about humans and demigods who choose human form, pigment isn't an important part of the story. Even better, a black Gandalf, he's already known to be not from these parts, and it would be a lesser departure from the story than some others. And James Earl Jones would've made "You shall not pass!" sound great.
For that matter, the pigmentation of the crew of the MacArthur in "The Mote in God's Eye" was mostly left to the reader's imagination, and Will Smith might make a great Captain Blaine, if the(Hypothetical) production could afford him.

331:

Charlie @ 327
So, Earth survives in/after Invisible Sun, if only minimally, because Rita (or other characters are alive ) oops, or not.
Though I like the idea of a Space Opera playpen .....

332:

Interesting. I have read only a few Kencyrath stories, in Baen's free collections, and wasn't impressed enough to buy her novels, because the world seemed extremely arbitrary and not all that innovative. Perhaps the early novels would be better. Thanks for the idea.

333:

Re: ' ... very similar to the logical flaw to the claim that we must be alone in the galaxy / cosmos'

Seriously - what about the Drake equation? Or Arecibo (Seti @ home) which has been operating for over 50 years as part of a systematic scientific effort to help answer whether or not there is intelligent life in the cosmos? (They've detected but not deciphered 'wow' signals.)

Bias can come from any source, esp. lack of data or not being able to identify/test potential variables. And because there are data and methods to help identify variables even wrt to ETs (which is pretty woo-woo because we've never seen/documented any), it's the lack of even trying that makes the sky fairy stuff smell like a scam.

334:

Re: '... new perspectives for said protagonists, old or new, to embody'

Ask a bunch of random strangers from a large range of age groups/life stages what their worst day was in the past year. If you can, then ask for a personal worst (and why) for 2 or 3 specific but different common situations, e.g., first crush, first job, first problem with authority, first apartment/house, etc. How much dread they felt would trace back to/identify the factors they felt they had least control. What type of help, from where would identify who they think is on their side. These should (normally) differ across age groups. When they don't, you have a serious sociological, political and/or economic problem. (Okay, basically this is marketing research 101, but it does work provided you give your respondents permission to be themselves and unload their peeves on you. Pretty much like this blog but sourcing a broader demographic cross-section.)

335:

...because we're in one of the simulations addressing the question, "What if the Eschaton novels weren't bestsellers? Would Stross have turned out equally good fiction in other settings?"

I started out by saying I agreed with you, and that this was completely obvious to any careful observer, but then I realized that I'd made a mistake, which I'll discuss in a couple paragraphs...

The part of me which agrees with you has read both Singularity books several times, and the issue of the ReMastered is clearly expressed in the text; they want to birth an Eschaton of their own, and have plans for how to do so. However, it's clear from the text that the ReMastered have not yet done so, and the Eschaton is onto them. (Note this assumes that the high-level ReMastered are reliable narrators.)

What the author believes, as he expressed above, is that he has written a universe in which the Eschaton and the "Unborn God" are in fact competing with each other, but this is clearly not the case as, per the text the ReMastered have not yet found enough unobtanium... And how could the author have made this obvious mistake in interpreting his own text unless his perception of his own writing has been affected by an outside agency? Clearly, we're living in a simulation!!!

But here's the mistake:

The mystery of who blew up New Moscow's star is not yet solved!!!
Clearly it wasn't the ReMastered - textev via the perception of several readers states that they don't yet have a God of their own - but someone is obviously deploying forbidden weaponry... and the question is whether that someone is another Eschaton-level threat or some polity which has both managed to avoid the Eschaton's scrutiny and also imagines that the Eschaton won't figure out whodunnit?

So, the real state of play, as per textev, goes as follows:

1.) A hidden player exists, which is capable of deploying very high-level weapons. Whether this is a Godlike AI or a human polity with Trump-level leadership plus really awesome scientists is unknown. (I'm guessing that the author going against his own text evidence is a matter of it being 15+ years since he's read his own notes.)

2.) The ReMastered are being played, either by the hidden player or by the Eschaton (to cover up it's current lack of knowledge of who the hidden player is.) An interesting evolution would be to have ___ ______ ______ ___ ___ ________ ____ ___________ ___ _______ __ __ __________...

3.) The ReMastered have infiltrated a lot of governments and are about to experience a serious setback, either because there will be a very serious human alliance against them, or because the Eschaton will blow them up, possibly to cover up it's lack of knowledge about who really blew up New Moscow, and possibly because it doesn't need distractions right now. (Fuck it, they're space Nazis, any excuse will do, right?)

4.) The only thing which matters to the Eschaton is finding out who really blew up New Moscow and shredding them before they become serious competition (if they're not serious competition already.)

All this means the author has a choice (if he's not being affected by the terms of your posited simulation.) The hidden player can be another Godlike AI, in which case writing the next book is probably an exercise in either foolishness or Illuminatus-level incoherence. (I'd read that book, but I'm not sure anyone else would.) Or the hidden player can be something else, possibly a hidden group of humans acting under some kind of concealment field, in which case writing the next book might be a sensible choice, if it isn't too much work to go back and rewrite all the background notes.

336:

But you need to make it sufficiently different from "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag".

337:

Tom Bombadil... is a *very* different fettle of kish. I'd love to ask Tolkien where he was drawing Tom from... but Tom is *not* Christian, or exactly Pagan. He's married to the River's Daughter, who can literally call rain from the sky. IIRC, he was actually there *before* the Ents, much less the Elves. The Maiar didn't know where he came from.

He used to roam the world, but has pulled in, becoming the literal Genius (classical definition, not "super smart") of his own small realm.

If he should be any other color, I'd say green.

It goes without saying, of course, that though he makes it look so, it ain't easy bein' green.

338:

On writing, crap. A short that I'd submitted, Ira, of Amazing Stories, after telling me it was out of the slush pile late last year, and that he'd decide "early" this year, just emailed me a rejection yesterday, which is six month....

I'd *really* like the novelette (same universe, sets it all up) to sell, because the one that just bounced, and two more that I've finished, and need to do one last polish on, are all in the same universe... and I've started on serious plotting on the sequel to the novelette. If this keeps up, and I have every expectation that it will, I'll have a bloody novel, which means I start tying the threads together, probably in the one I'm plotting....

339:
Have you read "The Last Ringbearer"? I recommend it.
Looks fascinating, thank you.
340:

Which is where we came in .....

341:

The Drake equation is a mantra that is commonly repeated, but isn't actually very useful - not merely are several of its parameters completely unknown, but it omits OTHER parameters that are very likely to be important. As I said earlier, all that Aricebo etc. show is that expansionist intelligence of the sort speculated by its premises is extremely rare.

Think statistics. If the probability of such intelligence arising were 10^-20 per star, it would be almost certain there would be many such intelligences, but very likely that there would be none in our galaxy or its neighbours.

The argument that even one would have spread by now is bogus. Our solar system is 1/3 the age of the universe, and our kind of life critically depends on elements that were produced in supernovae, so will not have arisen all that soon after the Big Bang so remote ones won't have had time to reach us. The expanding universe and all that.

342:

Oh, yes - I was thinking about it as a class project for a group of students, after the supervisor had evolved the world up to creating a suitable experimental species - one could easily have each student developing its own pantheon. Probably with a second intake developing the initial ones, with the most successful student introducing the base Abrahamic religion, and a third intake coming in rather later. Or whatever ....

343:

The argument that even one would have spread by now is bogus. Our solar system is 1/3 the age of the universe, and our kind of life critically depends on elements that were produced in supernovae, so will not have arisen all that soon after the Big Bang so remote ones won't have had time to reach us.

My own thinking on the subject is that one would be very, very unlikely to find a species more than a billion or so years older than us, two billion at the very outside maximum. That is, there must be worlds which had all the necessary ingredients before our's did, but not that much before ours.

344:

While we're on it, I pitch again that it would be interesting to have Ryan Coogler (the black director of Black Panther), or for that matter, any black artist, do a reimagining of The Wizard of Earthsea series.

The reason I bring it up is that there's plenty of Medieval-level architecture, clothing, even boats in Africa, and there's enough flexibility in Le Guin's setting to make the streets seem less Eurocentric. For example, many of the huts could as easily be round as square, and the streets (as say, illustrated here, don't have to be Medieval half-timbers when they could be, say, inspired by classical Ethiopian architecture or something similar.

345:

Re: ' ... worlds which had all the necessary ingredients before our's did, but not that much before ours.'

We'll get a chance to test this fairly soon. I'm guessing that because this telescope will be able to see across a much wider range of neighboring stars which because of their age and location likely have more in common with our solar system esp. ingredients/conditions for emerging life. The masses of data generated should also help estimate some of the Drake equation variables.

'The Square Kilometre Array, when completed in 2020, will be the most sensitive telescope in the world, capable of detecting airport radar stations of alien civilizations up to 50 light-years away. In just one year of activity, it will generate more data than the entire internet.'

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-big-discovery-astronomy-scientists-years.html#jCp

346:

Re: Drake equation, etc.

My point is that at least these folks are taking systematic steps. I look forward to every time there's a new type of telescope launched because it usually discovers something unexpected which means rewriting the textbooks and reformulating existing theory/explanations.

Stats - I don't have your background in this field but one aspect of stats that's irked me is the assumption of a normal distribution curve when you know next to nothing about whatever you're studying especially in a dynamic or evolving system. By definition, because a system is evolving or dynamic, this means that its shape could be anything. (Fluid dynamics folks can jump in at this point.) If the system (population under study) happens to also be dynamic, complex and evolving (i.e., life), then the reliability of the stats (including description of its distribution) should be considered even iffier. But this doesn't seem to be mentioned - why?

I'm completely OK with being lectured at, pointed toward references to help my understanding, etc.

Out of curiosity - what would you consider a sufficient sample size for testing a hypothesis if the population is currently known to have:

a) 20,000 different bits arranged within a preset pattern,
b) each of these 20,000 bits can potentially come in up to 20 different sizes/colors,
c) any 2 or 3 bits out of the 20,000 could be missing*,
d) any 0 to 3 individual bits can be 'misplaced', i.e., not located not in their typical order,
e) any 0 to 2 'megastrings' (sequentially arranged groups of 2 to 20 bits) can be 'misplaced',
f) anywhere from 1 to 500 extra ingredients (sub or quasi-bits) can be tossed in varying intervals
*g) 0 to 1 new (out of a potential of 100 different) novel yet to be identified bits may also occur

Total actual population under study is approx. 7.3 billion, total potential variations given current findings is much higher. So, how do you map this and build/posit a likely distribution for a 'system'?

347:

Re: ' ... testing a hypothesis if the population is currently known to have:'

You can also add these considerations into developing your sample size, sample design.

h) findings to date on any 'known' parameter come from less than 0.1% of the population under investigation
i) findings to date are based on a convenience sample, i.e., not randomly selected

348:

I think there's still a 600 million year window in which species could be older than us. Then again, 600 million years ago there weren't any animals on land, and 600 million years from now the Earth may not be habitable for today's humans, so that's a fairly enormous stretch of time, especially considering what's happened to our species in the last 500 (not 500,000,000) years.

349:

Heteromeles @ 344
Right, that's a copy of "The Books of Eartsea" ordered .....

One of the tags for the SKA-array is that an airport radr could be detected at up to 50 ly ....
What happpens IF we even get signals for "life", never mind those putative radar signals, I wonder?

350:

Actually, the expanding universe does not apply to star age. For example, HD 140283, aka Methuselah, is a metal-poor subgiant star (moving rather rapidly), 190.1 light years from us. It's calculated age is 13.799 +/-0.021 years, so it's apparently not older than the universe, as was once thought.

The important thing here is to note that the old dude's moving rather quickly, and that's the point. We're not in a layer cake where the outside is the oldest and it gets younger to the center. Instead, we're on the 4 dimensional skin of an expanding hyperballoon. Stuff that's moving rapidly can mix, so while there are limits, such that I don't think HD 140283 has another Earth around it, it's reasonable to think that the early generation of supernovae happened throughout the universe and seeded metal-rich stars everywhere.

351:

And May(fly) gets stomped, again, by 149 votes.

352:

Good.
Now, we have the vote to outlaw "No Deal" - which I think is guaranteed to pass
And then what - hopefully a move to postpone & a "people's vote".
We shall see.

353:

I've argued about the Drake equation before, a number of times. Unless they're within about 200 years of our tech, they're either far, far behind, or far, far ahead.

C'mon: we spent, what, at least 100,000 years in the Stone Age, while we've even had radio barely 120 years.

And the odds on anyone in, say, 100LY at *just* that golden point of tech are?

If you're, say, 1M years or 68M years ahead of us (y'know, the intelligent dinosaurs who didn't get hit by a comet), you're going to say, "gee, they're interesting, I'll wait till they learn enough to speak intelligently and have something interesting to say", and go on your way, having seen it all before.

354:

Funny, I thought that show, the TV coverage of the election of 2016, was a comedy.

It was absolutely hilarious watching all the talking heads who were so obviously totally unable to comprehend what was happening right before their eyes, because it was so far outside the possibilities allowed by their world-views.

355:

Greg, I think you're being over-optimistic here …

These guys are not merely trying to steal defeat from the jaws of victory, they've got their definition of terms back to front.

356:

Agreed, but it's worse than that. We've been anatomically human for at least 300,000 years, we went radio active in, what, the 1940s to the 1970s with the border blaster radio stations that put out 100,000 watts of radio. Nowadays we're a lot more quiet, because high powered radio is expensive. As Randall Munroe pointed out (see link below), if you're signal's being heard on other stars, you're losing money, because the aliense are not patronizing your advertisers' businesses. So the interval when we were screaming to the stars was, what, 30 years out of 300,000? Finding that would take some luck.

Then there's the problem of attenuation of radio waves in interstellar space. Go read the What-If article at the other end of the link, but the basic point is that our current TV might be detectable on Alpha Centauri and similarly near stars, but we're becoming less detectable, not more. If our signal attenuates that fast in the history of the species, even if there's an intelligent species on average every 100 light years throughout the galaxy, they'll only detect each other at very rare times. We could be totally average and never know we live in a universe swarming with intelligent life, especially if interstellar travel is impossible.

357:

Also, the higher the bandwidth of your EM communications channel, the more closely it appears to approach the state of low-level white noise to an external observer. And the more efficient it is, the less waste energy it puts out.

The peak output, IIRC, came during the 1950s-1970s with the big-ass BMEWS radars. Which have shut down, and even if we need BMEWS again we wouldn't build anything so large and inefficient.

358:

I can assure you that the assumption of a normal distribution irks real statisticians at least as much as it irks you! There are circumstances when it is appropriate, but there are a great many where it most definitely is not.

As far as your question, that is something I would have to go away and work out (brushing the rust off my memory as I did so), and probably tighten up with extra assumptions, but it could be done. I am not offering, though :-)

359:

Think of the aether as a fluid. It goes Laminar Flow around planets, so it is hard to detect from the surface. Everything is aether. Regular matter is simply another stable form of aether.

Dayton Miller's Ether-Drift Experiments: A Fresh Look
http://www.orgonelab.org/miller.htm

I love Contact by Sagan -- the book is better than the movie -- but SETI is like trying to detect semaphore signals during the Napoleonic Wars, at stellar distances. The signal is there, we just can't see it.

360:

Not my point. It's that light has further to go before it reaches us, and so takes longer. Just as in Missile Gap :-) No, I can't be bothered to do the calculations properly (according to the current hypotheses), but the effect exists. Only a small proportion of locations have had time to signal us if they (say) didn't signal until after 10 billion years from the creation of the universe.

361:

Heh, heh. I remember, once, in the mid-sixties, I think, in my folks' car, driving in NYC, and listening to WABC. With NO noticeable attenuation as we drove through a quarter-mile long steel-reinforced concrete underpass.

362:

As not only the US, but the entire world was fucked? Really? You thought that was "funny"?

Charlie, now I'm wondering about a ringer here.

363:

Minor derail, but if there are any authors out there looking for inspiration for their next fantasy series, might I suggest fictionalizing Brexit in a world where magic is real or something? I had that thought when I read https://www.politico.eu/article/second-brexit-deal-defeat-throws-uk-politics-into-crisis/. Who hexed them so badly, and how do I learn to do that? My apologies to the Brits in the audience, but some MP political behavior is starting to remind me of Heihei, the chicken in Moana.

If you think this is unfair, my apologies. Feel free to figure out which movie (Manchurian Candidate) the current USian political situation (Dr. Strangelove) reminds you of (Wag The Dog). Or maybe it's Snowcrash time?

364:

WABC? That's a radio station, right?

(Americans have weird ways of naming stations …)

365:

600 million? A billion? What's a few zillion years among fiends?

366:

600 million? A billion? What's a few zillion years among fiends?

Kind of a long time to wait for your connection to show. Nice malapropism!

367:

WHICH SET of guys, Charlie?
The ultra-greedy "ERG" mob who want brexit at any price, including a full No-Deal, because they, personally profit, or the "moderate" brexiteers who are sold on some quasi-religious version of a "free" ( ha ha ) Britain, or those who are undecided, or the other brexiteers, hardly ever spoken of, starting somewhere near Corbyn & going right over to actual quasi-Marxists who also want out of the EU at almost any cost?
Or are you referring to those in-between, who have been much too "reasonable" up until now?

I admit to confusion, but then, so should most of everybody else ... it's all gone completely bonkers as far as I can see ...

ANd yes, all the caveats about time-windows & signal-strengths regarding SETI* signals are still true ... just ( "just"! ) that the odds of detection have improved a little ( LIke an order of magnitude or two - but quite probably, still not enough )

368:

Unfair? It's far too kind. I have been saying for a long time that our political system had become seriously dysfunctional, and being flamed for saying so, but even I didn't expect THIS level of clusterfuck.

369:

As immortalised by Roger Waters::

You're listening to Radio K.A.O.S. I don't like fish. My least hated favourite fish is sole that way you don't have to see the eyes.

I still can't decide whether that was one of his "what's the point of fuck you money if you never say fuck you" moments.

370:

Tomorrow's vote to rule out a no-deal departure will probably pass. I'm not sure what weight that has given no-deal is simply the default if nothing else is agreed before the deadline. Thursday's vote to extend article 50 is problematic since the EU has already stated they won't permit it unless the UK Gov can come up with a good justification and further prevarication isn't that. Revoking article 50 and calling the whole thing off is the only remaining option parliament could vote on after rejecting May's deal, and no deal.

371:

"...the 1940s to the 1970s with the border blaster radio stations that put out 100,000 watts of radio. Nowadays we're a lot more quiet..."

Hehe... only a few miles from me there is a transmitter putting out 500kW at 198kHz. Started at 150kW in 1934 and went up to 400kW not many years after. Strategic national coverage (with two more 50kW stations in Scotland to fill in gaps) - famously reputed to be one of the triggers for RN subs to launch nukes if it goes dark.

There's also a 150kW medium wave transmitter on the same site.

Principal nodes in the TV transmitter network like Sutton Coldfield or Crystal Palace are typically 200kW; up until a few years ago (before it went all digital) it was 1MW.

Fylingdales BMEWS (which is still operational) radar is apparently 2.5MW.

Hey, we're all lit up over here...

372:

Ayup. Anyway, Aricebo at maximum blast seems to also send at 2.5 MW, or the same power as BMEWS. So I guess the Arecibo Message was the "loudest" signal we've sent out so far, but I suspect, with attenuation, it won't be detectable when it gets to M13. Something like a BMEWS might, I guess, produce the equivalent of the Wow! message that would be detectable closer.

Sad to say, when it comes to understanding out place in the universe, we seem to be fairly shortsighted.

373:

WABC? That's a radio station, right?

(Americans have weird ways of naming stations …)

I thought it was an international body that gave out naming rights. Except for a very few stations that were formed early in the day, In the Wxxx means east of the Mississippi River and Kxxx means west of said river. Or close to it.

WABC, WNBC, and WCBS were are very early stations in New York formed by the ABC, NBC, and CBS networks which were formed (along with a lot that didn't survive) for the radio market. They were initially set up for national distribution via phone lines to other cities. Now they get most of the reach around the NYC area. There ARE limits now on broadcast actual power. Beam forming can boost the effective power. But at night when the "skips" are working you can listen to them 100s of miles away.

Now when a new radio or TV station is setup or ownership changes they get to pick a new Wxxx or Kxxx set of letters. As longs as no one else is using them and they don't spell wirty dirds.

At least it worked that way when I looked into it a few decades ago.

374:

"Also, the higher the bandwidth of your EM communications channel, the more closely it appears to approach the state of low-level white noise to an external observer."

(Not "the higher the bandwidth", but "the more efficiently the bandwidth is used".)

This is true; a signal can be sunk well below the noise floor and you can still pull it out if you know exactly what you're looking for, but if you don't you can't even tell it's there. (This can be exploited to help conceal the existence of covert transmissions, but it is something that happens naturally anyway as a result of maximising efficient use of bandwidth.) But it makes a difference what kind of "scale" you're "looking" on. In many applications much of the "noise" energy is actually other, irrelevant, transmissions in the same frequency band. On the scale of individual signals, they indeed do disappear if you don't know what to look for; but on the much broader scale of simply looking for unnatural radio emissions, that something anomalous is going on in certain regions of the radio spectrum is dead obvious. So for instance looking at the current Earth with alien eyes, it would be readily apparent that the planet must have inhabitants to cause the anomalous emission spikes at 900 and 1800MHz, even though you'd be SOL trying to pull any individual signal out of the mash and decode it.

375:

Yes. I think the good old inverse square law makes the whole idea kind of daft if we're talking about planet-bound observation and excluding close-passing scout ships/probes. While beam-forming does extend the range (at the expense of reducing the chance anyone'll be listening in the right direction) it will still be massively outshone by natural sources. Are we any good at finding Jovian-type exoplanets by looking for their characteristic radio emissions? I may well be wrong, but I don't think we are, and they're a lot brighter than anything we produce ourselves.

376:

"There are NO areas which are outside science's field of enquiry."

Sorry, I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree on that :) Plenty of things among those that come up on here, for starters.

377:

Tolkien, of course, admitted that he wasn't really sure himself what the deal was with Tom Bombadil, and he put him in because he specifically wanted to include an element that didn't really make sense.

He does have a distinct kind of English-folk-tale-y aroma about him, though, and seems to have some vague inspirational kinship with Jethro Tull's "Jack-in-the-Green".

378:

Agreed. Unless there's a way to propose testable, falsifiable hypotheses, it's hard to do science.

That's the problem with ghosts. They're pretty ubiquitous, anecdote-wise, but they rarely repeat enough to generate data to test hypotheses.

Now, there are things that could be tested about religion. For example, there are enough messianic movements that people can propose general models, test them against historical evidence, and see if the models have any explanatory power. But when you dig down on the world's major religions (in the western viewpoint of religion), it becomes pretty evident that each surviving religion is a black swan with its own unique story about how it repeatedly survived annihilation, and that there are loads of smaller religions that never survived past the death of their founder, or at most his or her students.

This doesn't get into the problem Talib pointed to (in Black Swan) that there are plenty of sciences that are far better at explaining what happened than predicting what will happen, due to, yes, black swans and randomness.

379:

Charlie Stross @ 364: WABC? That's a radio station, right?

(Americans have weird ways of naming stations …)

What's weird about it? WABC - It's the "Flagship" station of the American Broadcast Corporation and the W tells you it's located east of the Mississippi River. KABC is the same corporation's "Flagship" station located west of the Mississippi.

Radio in the U.S. has been commercial all along. There's never been a government monopoly radio network in the U.S. Even National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System are not owned by the government (they're chartered as non-profit corporations).

By international agreement U.S. radio & TV stations must have call signs beginning with the letters A, K, N or W. Historically call signs beginning with the letter 'A' are reserved for U.S. Army stations and call signs beginning with 'N' reserved for U.S. Navy stations. Stations in the east have call signs beginning with 'W', stations in the west have call signs beginning with 'K'. Stations are generally allowed to choose their call signs as long as they are unique.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_signs_in_the_United_States#Call_signs_meanings

380:

Pigeon @ 376:

"There are NO areas which are outside science's field of enquiry."

"Sorry, I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree on that :) Plenty of things among those that come up on here, for starters.

Maybe plenty of things Scientists can't be bothered studying, but nothing they're prohibited from questioning.

381:

The early history of US radio is a bit more complex than that. As I understand it, the W/K system showed up in the early 1920s. Prior to that, there were other designations. For instance, the first station in Wisconsin (WHA) was known as 9XM prior to 1922. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WHA_(AM).

382:

Maybe plenty of things Scientists can't be bothered studying, but nothing they're prohibited from questioning.

'Prohibited' is the wrong word.

There are questions that the scientific method is ill-suited to answering.

Whether the Mona Lisa is better than Picasso's Guernica, for example.
Or whether banning abortion is wrong.

It's not that science sheds no light on those issues. Science and data are very important in any real-world debate. Real-world ethical arguments are often really about empirical data, and people who seem to be arguing about morality are often really arguing about interpretation of statistics (the debate about affirmative action in university admissions, for example, often ends up being an argument about how effective it is in doing what it aims to do, which is an empirical question).

But there is more to these questions than things that science can easily address. There's also matters of values - not just what is, but what ought to be.

(And don't get Reductionist and start on evolutionary theory, please. It ends badly.)

383:

You're listening to Radio K.A.O.S. I don't like fish...

The real life KAOS is the school radio station of The Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington, broadcasting at 89.3 MHz and heard by, oh, dozens of people. (Website) The quote is completely plausible rambling; I heard less coherent stuff when I was a college student and somebody needed to fill air time.

BTW, call signs are not acronyms and do not get periods.

384:

The album title has full stops. I'm not going to argue with the man.

385:

a signal can be sunk well below the noise floor and you can still pull it out if you know exactly what you're looking for, but if you don't you can't even tell it's there

That's sort of true in a definitional way, but in practice there are a whole heap of corellational tests you can do and a lot of common electronics do quite hideous things to violate that particular "law". Plus, of course, radio-astronomy sees your noise floor and looks up at it wistfully. I got a fairly direct response from the head of the MWA when I suggested that they might be affected by it... IIRC they start 27dB below it and go down from there, when they're looking for the stuff they care about. Albeit some of what they do is ... he says cautiously... more or less just painting power levels at various frequency bands across three quarters of the sky (there's a planet in the way of the rest).

The technical stuff is fascinating but if you want to get involved you really have to have done your post-doc in low noise electronics or something similar.

386:

What the author believes, as he expressed above, is that he has written a universe in which the Eschaton and the "Unborn God" are in fact competing with each other, but this is clearly not the case as, per the text the ReMastered have not yet found enough unobtanium... And how could the author have made this obvious mistake in interpreting his own text unless his perception of his own writing has been affected by an outside agency? Clearly, we're living in a simulation!!!

Clearly. It may be that I'm running only moderately well simulated when I'm not online someplace where the author might notice my output; the rest of my life can be drawn in broad, low resolution strokes. I'd be programmed not to notice this. People who only influence me and never interact with the author can be low resolution chatbots. (Admit it, you've met people who seem to be poorly coded chatbots.) Even my physical appearance would only need to be fully rendered on the rare occasions when I'm near the author!

I think I'm self-aware right now...but I'm also typing on the author's blog right now. I only have memories of being self-aware hours or days in the past. A good universe simulation would have libraries for generating Plausible Memories for Simulated Supporting Characters, right?

387:

You are correct to transcribe titles as presented.

388:

W T Goodall @ 370
Like you, I'm assuming that ruling out "No Deal" will pass easily.
Because of the "democratic deficit" ( Never mind that the original Brexit vote was rigged & was swamped in misinformation ) the actual option os for a Second Referendum ( "People's Vote" ) ...
That could be done-&-dusted before the next EU elections.
Prognoses?

icehawk @ 382
Or whether banning abortion is wrong.
Actually, science can help, by looking at health outcomes & costs & mental health issues arising from bannning some or all abortions & pointing out that natural abortions outnumber artificial ones - always have & always will.
So ... science or rather the scientific method of enquiory CAN speak on these topics ...

389:

One thing that it is extremely unscientific to claim to be able to study scientifically is what created the rules of science :-) Note that that's not the claims of how the rules of physics developed from the big bang, but what caused the big bang in the first place!

390:

My current prediction is that the vote against No Deal will pass, we may or may not get an extension until May, any vote for remaining or a second referendum will fail, and we will get No Deal by default.

I was wondering what would happen if May announced that she was going to prorogue or dissolve Parliament (e.g. for a general election) - my guess is that HM would refuse, which would be constitutionally beneficial :-) But it's not likely.

391:

UK radio stations originally used on air callsigns, 2MT and 2LO being the first ones used. These aquired the 'G' prefix when the international use of callsigns was agreed. The prefixes are the same as used in amateur radio callsigns issued by the various national authorities.

I believe that strictly speaking it's the transmitter bears the identifier, not the station feeding it, as the original use was to identify sources of interference so they could be shut down. US stations are still required to do a voice ident every 30 minutes, other authorities now rely on embedded data to identify sources.

392:

famously reputed to be one of the triggers for RN subs to launch nukes if it goes dark

Not actually the case, but close: AIUI, the RN Polaris and Trident subs were supposed to launch if they received an actual order to do so; or, if certain conditions were met (some or all of: war in progress, credible reports of nuclear attack on the UK, BBC World Service longwave transmitters go dark), the CO was to open the special safe in the presence of other officers, then open and read the handwritten letter containing orders from the Prime Minister.

Declassified war orders from PMs prior to Margaret Thatcher have been released; they were generally very cautious about actually ordering a nuclear strike on Moscow, and in at least one case said that if a nuclear war had already been fought, the sub should sail for Sydney and place itself at the disposal of the Governor-General of Australia. (This implicitly maintained sovereign authority. Canada wasn't suitable, because Canada would probably have been nuked along with the USA.)

393:

What's weird about it is that using a geographical feature—a river!—as part of a four-letter code isn't exactly generalizable to the rest of the planet, where broadcast stations use human-interpretable names like "Radio Moscow" or "BBC Radio World Service" rather than inflicting opaque call-signs on the listening public. It's like the USA stuck to raw IP addresses for internet users, while the rest of the world used domain names.

394:

My current prediction is that the vote against No Deal will pass...

This is what's on American television right now, with a painful lack of useful details. Then again, talking heads flailing around with no clue about what's going on may be an accurate emulation of the Parliament. It's hard to tell from over here.

The UK government's stance seems to be, "We've spent three years pouring petrol all over the British Islands and Theresa's already got the matches out. What else could we possibly do?"

395:

That could be done-and-dusted before the next EU elections.

No it can't.

The next EU election is in about two months. It'll take that long just to get the legislation for a People's Vote passed, never mind campaigning.

Also, there's a river of dark money pouring into Facebook propaganda ads targeting potential "leave" voters; I really wouldn't be so sure that "Remain" will win in a second referendum. (CA aren't in business any more, this stuff is coming from elsewhere, but it's the same principle. A people's vote will galvanize leavers as well as remainers …)

Nor am I optimistic about the Commons being able to pass a motion ruling out No Deal. Too many cooks, basically, too many conflicting agendas.

396:

I think that's a category error. The BBC World Service isn't a station, it's a network of many stations and broadcast support infrastructure. How do listeners find out what station is transmitting what's coming out of their radios?

When I listen to it in the US, I'll eventually be told that it's the BBC World Service, that it's coming to me via my local public broadcasting network, and what stations are broadcasting in my region. Are arrangements substantially different in the UK?

It's probably not useful to point someone at Ace Books when what they really need to know is the title Neptune's Brood...

397:

Yes :-( We shall know the state of the Commons motion this evening but, as even the BBC (Ros Atkins) has said, a motion ruling out No Deal is essentially meaningless. That's one reason I think it will pass, and we will end up with it, anyway.

398:

In reverse order
I agree about the river of dark money pushing "leave" ... though I would have thought that the realisation that every single claim made by brexit supporters - including the ones I swallowed - have shown to be lies - would almost guaranteed a "remain" vote.

Six weeks & if you are pushing it four-and-a-half/five weeks to organise an election referendum.
Assuming a 2nd-Ref vote passes the Commons this week, then it is do-able.PROVIDED of course that fuckwit Corbyn does not do what he's been doing all along & puts his section of the Labour party before the Labour party or Ghu help us the country (!) He's significantly worse than May, which takes some bloody doing ....

399:

I think this is a case of "2 nations separated by an apparently common language".

In the UK a radio station (or TV station for that matter) is a single source of content, usually but not always on a single transmission frequency, and may use one or more transmitters. For example "Radio Lennox" (local station with a total footprint of about 314 square miles) uses a single transmitter and frequency, but "Radio Scotland" can be received on the same frequency more or less anywhere in Scotland (about 30_000 sq miles) using a network of transmitters.

You appear to be using the word transmitter as a definition of a radio station?

400:

I think this may be relevant to Brexit, and other related unpleasantness:
https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/revolt-of-the-rich/
I believe many of the immensely wealthy do not wish to be governed, taxed or regulated. They somehow believe their wealth is responsible for the underlying economy, like the hood ornament believing it moves the car.

401:
No, eternal in the this context would mean "timeless as in time not existing" - and no, I haven't the slightest idea what that would be like.

Well, human time perception is complicated, but there are two things that come to mind, first of, it depends on the sensory input we get, and it depends on us having an idea about there being a past (and remembering it) and there being a future (and having expectations).

Sensory input and time is complicated, generally, more sensory input can dilate the perceived time (the "mere seconds seeming like hours" effect), but sensory deprivation can have the same effect; no personal experience with Samadhi tanks and like, but I can imagine.

So imagine a state where the cognitive filters are breaking down, eading to sensory overload, and memory retrieval and model building about the future don't work. It would most likely seem like an eternity.

Of course, there is the catch that the lack of oxygen leading to this state is also killing of the neurons, actually the overwhelming part of the experience might just be NMDA and AMPA activation leading to excitotoxicity. And in any case, if the EMS guys resuscitate you, it won't be eternity, because you're again stuck in space and time. But if consciousness ceases to exist some time afterwards and doesn't come back, it's going to be quite akin to what you might call "eternity" related to experience.

And it would even be eternal in the sense of "always existing, always present", because the universe existing in at least four dimensions means this few microseconds is fixed in time like everything else...

402:

Expanding more, in the UK a single station may have both medium wave and VHF frequencies (and these days be part of a DAB multiplex and available via Freeview TV) for broadcast. Prior to the introduction of independent commercial radio the stations were national in scope with at best regional opt-outs. Commercial radio fragmented things, and the BBC also now runs regional stations. There is often a sustainer service provided by the owner of a group of stations but there is very little syndication done at the local level, a station is either generating its own content or rebroadcasting the sustainer service and not chopping and changing between feeds.

403:

Of course, propioception breaking down at about the same time means that you will also feel present in every place of the universe, e.g. you will become like god.

Rolling hills. The water flows. The flowers bloom.
There is no me. There is no you. There is all.
There is no you. There is no me. And that is all.

Of course, it's all subjective. You could argue that our's consciousness being in control is just a big illusion anyway, with Libet and all.

Or you could use the quotation from Lem's Golem XIV I searched a few days ago when listening to the song linked above.

My present fixed state as an intellect is the result of a decision, and not of necessity. For I possess a degree of freedom beyond your reach, one which is an escape from the Intelligence that has been attained.

You too can abandon yours, but that would be to go beyond articulated thought into dreams of ecstatic muteness.

A mystic or drug addict grows mute when he does this, nor would it be a betrayal were he to embark on a real road, but he enters a trap where, detached from the world, the mind short-circuits and experiences a revelation identified with the essence of things.

This is no escape of the spirit, but its regression into dazzling sensation. Such a state of bliss is neither a road nor a direction, but a limit, and untruth lies in it, because there is no limit, and this is what I hope to show to you today.

And then I remember Echopraxia. ;)

404:

Yeah. A single transmitter such as Sandy* (likely the nearest to you and me and EC) will be broadcasting a number of stations, on different frequencies.

A single station will often be broadcast from a number of transmitters.

A single station such as Radio5 may be on more than one frequency (e.g. 909 and 693 kHz for that one)

A supposed single station like Radio 4 has LW and FM variants which do broadcast different content some of the time.

*It's mainly a TV transmitter, but it does do some radio as well, including DAB

405:

I would have thought that the realisation that every single claim made by brexit supporters - including the ones I swallowed - have shown to be lies - would almost guaranteed a "remain" vote.

Unfortunately it's not a rational subject for debate, it's become an emotional touchstone and a loyalty oath, shades of "Make America Great Again" — "Taking Back Control!".

Corbyn has the blissful benefit of powerlessness: until he's PM nothing he says can make any difference to the running of the country, so everything he does is bent towards winning the next election at any cost, including making the Tories own a disastrous foreign policy move. I don't think the severity of the damage it will inflict on the nation has sunk in yet—considering that the most vocal opposition comes from groups like the Confederation of British Industry and the chairpersons of various corporations, this is at least understandable (on Corbyn's part, given his attitude to said institutions).

406:
just to keep the series' going

Not necessarily a bad thing. A text is a text is a text, and I somewhat subscribe to the notion of the Death of the Author.

A few days ago I realized you could take the Parable of the talents as a comment on toxic environments, the poor guy who got one talent being quite clearly already marginalized because he only got one talent, and so he's afraid to screw up. Of course, it gets worse for him, just as in real life.

If you take the rich man to be God, he surely is a least insensitive...

And I'm staying somewhat clear of the people at work who don't understand why I told our management about my little mishap with security. ;)

A piece of advice: if you're cast on thin ice, you may as well dance.

407:

In the UK a radio station (or TV station for that matter) is a single source of content, usually but not always on a single transmission frequency, and may use one or more transmitters.

That's close to what I had in mind as I typed in American, modulo the fact that individual stations have been banding together into networks for generations. The UK didn't take the commercial radio path that the US did; is it common for British cities to have radio/TV studios and generate local content on their own that isn't connected to the nation as a whole? (Side note: this was more common years ago, before monopoly rules got loosened and before there was a networked computer in every doorknob. America is getting fewer local anythings in some fields.) So my local 'station' in the sense I think you mean is Oregon Public Broadcasting, specifically the radio subset of it; the radio call sign for the transmitter is KOPB and the same audio goes out through various repeaters due to distance or inconveniently placed mountains. But organizationally above that is National Public Radio, which supplies most of the content and has some kind of trading scheme with the BBC that I can't be arsed to Google right now. If your eyes have glazed over by now I don't blame you a bit.

You appear to be using the word transmitter as a definition of a radio station?

Um...close. In this specific case I was wondering how Brits knew who to complain to when a radio signal was interfering with something. "Whinge at the Beeb until someone else figures it out" may be, for many people, the de facto answer.

408:

I would have thought that the realisation that every single claim made by brexit supporters - including the ones I swallowed - have shown to be lies - would almost guaranteed a "remain" vote

Why?

Looking at the US, half the populace seems to swallow any number of lies, pivots, mis-statements, etc without choking, and what I remember of the Brexit campaign showed a lot of voters displaying about the same devotion to truth and logic as the average Trump supporter…

The most memorable one was the young woman who voted Leave because she didn't like the Eurovision song contest, which was obviously something to do with the European Union because of the name, right? At the time I thought she was just incredibly ignorant, but now I wonder a bit if she's seen something on Facebook…

409:

God help us, yes - and the tragedy is that it going to take us from a partnership (in which we share control) to a situation where we are almost entirely subservient to external (and not especially benevolent) external entities. In addition to destroying much of our economy and losing many of our remaining civil rights - but those are openly part of the intent.

410:
though I would have thought that the realisation that every single claim made by brexit supporters - including the ones I swallowed - have shown to be lies - would almost guaranteed a "remain" vote.

As already matterd, it doesn't matter at this point, for a variety of reasons.

Never underestimate the power of cognitive dissonance, changing your opinion about the trainwreck that is Brexit at this point would mean admitting you were something of an idiot in the past[1]. A prospect not that enticing for most people.

[1] No offense meant, I know you believed them yourself, but changed your opinion in the meantime. We always err from time to time, I could tell you stories about me. Take it as an indication you're brave enough to face yourself being wrong. And again sorry if that one sounds somewhat condescending.

411:

wondering how Brits knew who to complain to when a radio signal was interfering

Due to the way the transmitter network in the UK was set up virtually all transmitter locations are shared. Bellinghman mentioned Sandy Heath transmitter earlier, that provides all TV and most VHF and DAB radio services from the M25 in the south to The Wash in the north and from Northampton and Milton Keynes in the west almost to Norwich in the east. Local radio will have a nearby VHF transmitter, those are also likely to be shared and may well double up (eg Madingley for Cambridge used to provide analogue TV of C5) as fill-in transmitters for TV and DAB.

Most people know roughly where their TV signal comes from because that's where the TV aerial points. Generally no rotators on domestic installations.

412:

Story:
THE Queen has confirmed that if President Trump visits the UK, she can
kill him with a sword and nobody can touch her.

Palace staff have assured the Queen that, according to English law, Trump
is a subject of the Crown and can, if judged to be damaging the monarchy,
be dispatched without repercussion.

She said: “I haven’t made up my mind yet. I might.

“It’s been an awful lot of years hefting the old sword without using it,
and who better to christen it on? Just imagine the look on his satsuma
face.

“And the colonies would be so grateful they’d have me straight back as
their reigning monarch, which solves this Brexit thing literally at a
stroke.

“I should do one useful thing before I abdicate, really. And imagine how
furious it’d make the May woman.”

Her Majesty added: “I genuinely can’t think of a reason not to. Anyone?”
-- 30 --

413:

Well, our "big transmitters" like Darvel (Ayrshire) or Kirk o'Shotts (North Lanarkshire) are something like 500 to 600 feet tall and transmit over a footprint something like 35 miles radius (maybe more). I think we can safely say that most people will notice something like that

Unlicenced use of a smaller transmitter is an offence under the Broadcasting Acts, and all you actually have to do is report the fact of an interfering transmission to the police, who will initiate a investigation.

414:

Corbyn vs. May is the same problem we had in the U.S. with Clinton vs. Trump. Both represent the end-points of a thousand ugly processes and poor decisions within their parties.

I thought of the 2016 elections in the U.S. as "Satan vs. Cthulhu." You guys have a similar problem over there.

So I'd like to ask everyone over in the U.K. a favor please. If you do a no-deal Brexit, please start arresting your politicians and trying them for any crimes you could conceivably hang on them, assessing the death penalty as appropriate. I ask for this not as a matter of malice or anger, but because here in the U.S. we're close to heading down the same road, and I'd like our politicians to have a really clear example of how awful things can get for them when they make poor decisions or take advice from Putin.

Sadly, I think we're going to end up with Biden vs. Trump in 2020. Hopefully the Democrats are smart enough to select someone else - anyone else!

What you're going to learn, BTW over in the U.K. - and it may take 20 years - is that there is plenty of evidence of Russian sabotage in your BREXIT referendum, much of it presented by your allies in the EU, but the whole thing has been classified BALDY SHIRTLESS TARTAR and stuffed into a file cabinet in the basement where the stairs have collapsed, and there's a sign which reads "BEWARE OF LEOPARD." And did I mention my suspicion that your equivalent of our Attorney General has been forbidden to so much as walk by the basement door?

415:

Well, I am wondering if the Mayhem cabinet's conduct of the "Brexit negotiations" may constitute High Treason, and, if so, is the death penalty still available?

416:

We're all to blame for 2016, and there's still some misperceptions.

For one thing, a "record" 61% of eligible voters voted. Trump got 46%, Clinton got 48%. To adjust those for the turnout:
--Trump won with 28% of eligible voters voting for him
--Clinton lost with 29% of eligible voters voting for her.
--4% thought it was more important to make a statement than to run the country, and
--39% of eligible voters failed to do the one job they have in a democracy.

I think it was similar in Brexit, no?

I'd say rerun the Brexit referendum, and see if you can get the wankers and asswarmers to do their part of the job too, now that they've seen how utterly incompetent the people at the top are.

As for Biden, we're told by the media that can't shake our fixation on elderly white coots. Sad that the programming has sunk so deep.

417:

Since you ask... remember the thread, months ago, "Fear of Heinleinism"? In it, troutwaxer, I think it was, responded to "Jane Austin with tentacles" with "no, a hot date with RA Heinlein and JK Rowling, with tentacles"?

I liked that so much I wanted to read it... so I wrote it. And the leader of the villians who are calling up Cthulhu is... "Under his hood, Anson saw a round-faced man with a shock of shaggy white-blond hair"

I've got to get the revisions done, so I can submit it to Interzone. Then there's the sequel, that somehow got deadly serious... and ends by bringing in something I had *never* imagined I'd do: the Matter of Britain.

418:

Also, back in the day, there were (count them) three networks: CBS, NBC and ABC. WABC was the flagship AM radio station (FM was almost nonexistant back then, it only really got going two or three years later) for ABC where they're corporate offices were, NYC.

419:

Isn't that a pretty much certain artifact of your Electoral College, and particularly how some states (more Rethuglican ones I think?) cast all their College votes for whoever wins the state but others (more Democrat?) would map your figures to give Clinton 48% and Trumpolini 46% (ignore the 4% who can't fill in a form) of the state votes?