Back to: Entanglements! | Forward to: Upcoming Attractions!

The Laundry Files: an updated chronology

I've been writing Laundry Files stories since 1999, and there's now about 1.4 million words in that universe. That's a lot of stuff: a typical novel these days is 100,000 words, but these books trend long, and this count includes 11 novels (of which, #10 comes out later this month) and some shorter work. It occurs to me that while some of you have been following them from the beginning, a lot of people come to them cold in the shape of one story or another.

So below the fold I'm going to explain the Laundry Files time line, the various sub-series that share the setting, and give a running order for the series—including short stories as well as novels.

(The series title, "The Laundry Files", was pinned on me by editorial fiat at a previous publisher whose policy was that any group of 3 or more connected novels had to have a common name. It wasn't my idea: my editor at the time also published Jim Butcher, and Bob—my sole protagonist at that point in the series—worked for an organization disparagingly nicknamed "the Laundry", so the inevitable happened. Using a singular series title gives the impression that it has a singular theme, which would be like calling Terry Pratchett's Discworld books as "the Unseen University series". Anyway ...)

TLDR version: If you just want to know where to start reading, pick one of: The Atrocity Archives, The Rhesus Chart, The Nightmare Stacks, or Dead Lies Dreaming. These are all safe starting points for the series, that don't require prior familiarity. Other books might leave you confused if you dive straight in, so here's an exhaustive run-down of all the books and short stories.




Typographic conventions: story titles are rendered in italics (like this). Book titles are presented in boldface (thus).

Publication dates are presented like this: (pub: 2016). The year in which a story is set is presented like so: (set: 2005).

The list is sorted in story order rather than publication order.




The Atrocity Archive (set: 2002; pub: 2002-3)

  • The short novel which started it all. Originally published in an obscure Scottish SF digest-format magazine called Spectrum SF, it ran from 2002 to 2003, and introduced our protagonist Bob Howard, his (eventual) love interest Mo O'Brien, and a bunch of eccentric minor characters and tentacled horrors. Is a kinda-sorta tribute to spy thriller author Len Deighton.

The Concrete Jungle (set: 2003: pub: see below)

  • Novella, set a year after The Atrocity Archive, in which Bob is awakened in the middle of the night to go and count the concrete cows in Milton Keynes. Winner of the 2005 Hugo award for best SF/F novella.

The Atrocity Archives (set 2002-03, pub: 2003 (hbk), 2006 (trade ppbk))

  • Start reading here! A smaller US publisher, Golden Gryphon, liked The Atrocity Archive and wanted to publish it, but considered it to be too short on its own. So The Concrete Jungle was written, and along with an afterword they were published together as a two-story collection/episodic novel, The Atrocity Archives (note the added 's' at the end). A couple of years later, Ace (part of Penguin group) picked up the US trade and mass market paperback rights and Orbit published it in the UK. (Having won a Hugo award in the meantime really didn't hurt; it's normally quite rare for a small press item such as TAA to get picked up and republished like this.)

The Jennifer Morgue (set: 2005, pub: 2007 (hbk), 2008 (trade ppbk))

  • Golden Gryphon asked for a sequel, hence the James Bond episode in what was now clearly going to be a trilogy of comedy Lovecraftian/spy books. Note that it's riffing off the Broccoli movie franchise version of Bond, not Iain Fleming's original psychopathic British government assassin. Orbit again took UK rights, while Ace picked up the paperbacks. Because I wanted to stick with the previous book's two-story format, I wrote an extra short story:

Pimpf (set: 2006, pub: collected in The Jennifer Morgue)

  • A short story set in what I think of as the Chibi-Laundry continuity; Bob ends up inside a computer running a Neverwinter Nights server (hey, this was before World of Warcraft got big). Chibi-Laundry stories are self-parodies and probably shouldn't be thought of as canonical. (Ahem: there's a big continuity blooper tucked away in this one what comes back to bite me in later books because I forgot about it.)

Down on the Farm (novelette: set 2007, pub. 2008, Tor.com)

  • Novelette: Bob has to investigate strange goings-on at a care home for Laundry agents whose minds have gone. Introduces Krantzberg Syndrome, which plays a major role later in the series.

Equoid (novella: set 2007, pub: 2013, Tor.com)

  • A novella set between The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum; Bob is married to Mo and working for Iris Carpenter. Bob learns why Unicorns are Bad News. Won the 2014 Hugo award for best SF/F novella. Also published as the hardback novella edition Equoid by Subterranean Press.

The Fuller Memorandum (set: 2008, pub: 2010 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Third novel, first to be published in hardback by Ace, published in paperback in the UK by Orbit. The title is an intentional call-out to Adam Hall (aka Elleston Trevor), author of the Quiller series of spy thrillers—but it's actually an Anthony Price homage. This is where we begin to get a sense that there's an overall Laundry Files story arc, and where I realized I wasn't writing a trilogy. Didn't have a short story trailer or afterword because I flamed out while trying to come up with one before the deadline. Bob encounters skullduggery within the organization and has to get to the bottom of it before something really nasty happens: also, what and where is the misplaced "Teapot" that the KGB's London resident keeps asking him about?

Overtime (novelette: set 2009, pub 2009, Tor.com)

  • A heart-warming Christmas tale of Terror. Shortlisted for the Hugo award for best novelette, 2010.

Three Tales from the Laundry Files (ebook-only collection)

  • Collection consisting of Down on the Farm, Overtime, and Equoid published the Tor.com as an ebook.

The Apocalypse Codex (set: 2010, pub: 2012 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Fourth novel, and a tribute to the Modesty Blaise comic strip and books by Peter O'Donnell. A slick televangelist is getting much to cosy with the Prime Minister, and the Laundry—as a civil service agency—is forbidden from investigating. We learn about External Assets, and Bob gets the first inkling that he's being fast-tracked for promotion. Won the Locus Award for best fantasy novel in 2013.

A Conventional Boy (set: ~2011-12, not yet written)

  • Projected interstitial novella, introducing Derek the DM (The Nightmare Stacks) and Camp Sunshine (The Delirium Brief). Not yet written.

The Rhesus Chart (set: spring 2013, pub: 2014 (US hbk/UK hbk))

  • Fifth novel, a new series starting point if you want to bypass the early novels. First of a new cycle remixing contemporary fantasy sub-genres (I got bored with British spy thriller authors). Subject: Banking, Vampires, and what happens when an agile programming team inside a merchant bank develops PHANG syndrome. First to be published in hardcover in the UK by Orbit.

  • Note that the books are now set much closer together. This is a key point: the world of the Laundry Files has now developed its own parallel and gradually diverging history as the supernatural incursions become harder to cover up. Note also that Bob is powering up (the Bob of The Atrocity Archive wouldn't exactly be able to walk into a nest of vampires and escape with only minor damage to his dignity). This is why we don't see much of Bob in the next two novels.

The Annihilation Score (set: summer/autumn 2013, pub: 2015 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Sixth novel, first with a non-Bob viewpoint protagonist—it's told by Mo, his wife, and contains spoilers for The Rhesus Chart. Deals with superheroes, mid-life crises, nervous breakdowns, and the King in Yellow. We're clearly deep into ahistorical territory here as we have a dress circle box for the very last Last Night of the Proms, and Orbit's lawyers made me very carefully describe the female Home Secretary as clearly not being one of her non-fictional predecessors, not even a little bit.

Escape from Puroland (set: March-April 2014, pub: summer 2021, forthcoming)

  • Interstitial novella, explaining why Bob wasn't around in the UK during the events described in The Nightmare Stacks. He was on an overseas liason mission, nailing down the coffin lid on one of Angleton's left-over toxic waste sites—this time, it's near Tokyo.

The Nightmare Stacks (set: March-April 2014, pub: June 2016 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Seventh novel, and another series starting point if you want to dive into the most recent books in the series. Viewpoint character: Alex the PHANG. Deals with, well ... the Laundry has been so obsessed by CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN that they're almost completely taken by surprise when CASE NIGHTMARE RED happens. Implicitly marks the end of the Masquerade. Features a Maniac Pixie Dream Girl and the return of Bob's Kettenkrad from The Atrocity Archive. Oh, and it also utterly destroys the major British city I grew up in, because revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

The Delirium Brief (set: May-June 2014, pub: June 2017 (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Eighth novel, primary viewpoint character: Bob again, but with an ensemble of other viewpoints cropping up in their own chapters. And unlike the earlier Bob books it no longer pastiches other works or genres. Deals with the aftermath of The Nightmare Stacks; opens with Bob being grilled live on Newsnight by Jeremy Paxman and goes rapidly downhill from there. (I'm guessing that if the events of the previous novel had just taken place, the BBC's leading current affairs news anchor might have deferred his retirement for a couple of months ...)

The Labyrinth Index (set: winter 2014/early 2015, pub: October 2018, (US hbk/UK ppbk))

  • Ninth novel, viewpoint character: Mhari, working for the New Management in the wake of the drastic governmental changes that took place at the end of "The Delirium Brief". The shit has well and truly hit the fan on a global scale, and the new Prime Minister holds unreasonable expectations ...

Dead Lies Dreaming (set: December 2016: pub: Oct 2020 (US hbk/UK hbk))

  • New spin-off series, new starting point! The marketing blurb describes it as "book 10 in the Laundry Files" but by the time this book is set—after CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN and the end of the main Laundry story arc (some time in 2015-16) the Laundry no longer exists. We meet a cast of entirely new characters, civilians (with powers) living under the aegis of the New Management, ruled by his Dread Majesty, the Black Pharaoh. The start of a new trilogy, Dead Lies Dreaming riffs heavily off "Peter and Wendy", the original grimdark version of Peter Pan (before Walt Disney made him twee).

In His House (set: December 2016, pub: probably 2022)

  • Second book in the Dead Lies Dreaming trilogy: continues the story, riffs off Sweeney Todd and Mary Poppins—again: the latter was much darker than the Disney musical implies. (The book is written, but COVID19 has done weird things to publishers' schedules and it's provisionally in the queue behind Invisible Sun, the final Empire Games book, which is due out in September 2021.)

Bones and Nightmares (set: December 2016 and summer of 1820, pub: possibly 2023)

  • Third book in the Dead Lies Dreaming trilogy: finishes the story, riffs off The Prisoner and Jane Austen: also Kingsley's The Water Babies (with Deep Ones). In development.

Further novels are planned but not definite: there need to be 1-2 more books to finish the main Laundry Files story arc with Bob et al, filling in the time line before Dead Lies Dreaming, but the Laundry is a civil service security agency and the current political madness gripping the UK makes it really hard to satirize HMG, so I'm off on a side-quest following the tribulations of Imp, Eve, Wendy, and the gang (from Dead Lies Dreaming) until I figure out how to get back to the Laundry proper.




That's all for now. I'll attempt to update this entry as I write/publish more material.

297 Comments

1:

So, I own all of the above currently in print and am looking forward to reading the rest of them.

I'm not sure about the end of the Laundry part of the arc because I've grown invested in most of the characters and Lovecraftian horror has a tendency to do Really Bad Things to it's human, or near human protagonists.

On a side note. I'm a gamer and own the Cubicle 7 RPG adaptation and a few of the supplements. I gather that you hold that material as being non-canon. What did they get wrong then? My impression was that they had caught the tone of the setting and your writing style quite well.

2:

I'm not sure about the end of the Laundry part of the arc because I've grown invested in most of the characters and Lovecraftian horror has a tendency to do Really Bad Things to it's human, or near human protagonists.

At least one of the humans in the main Laundry sequence has a walk-on in the current draft of "In His House".

The RPG ... problem was, Cubicle 7 commissioned a bunch of RPG writers to write the supplements and I didn't have enough time to vet them: stuff got written and I only saw it in final draft, which is kind of too late to politely say "that's incompatible with the rest of the universe". e.g. Deep Ones in one supplement attacking humans on a boat ... using knives, rather than magic and/or super technology: BLUE HADES aren't crude tribal/ethnic stereotypes straight out of Lovecraft. (The original rule book is fine, it's the supplements that are dicey.)

3:

I for one am very interested in reading the tale of Derek's boyhood.

4:

BLUE HADES aren't crude tribal/ethnic stereotypes straight out of Lovecraft. (The original rule book is fine, it's the supplements that are dicey.)

Thanks for the clarification! I hope to be able to run a Laundry RPG campaign at some point and knowing that I can run wild with the corebook is good.

5:

Now I'm just trying to remember/figure out what the continuity error in Pimpf is

6:

I can't remember! (This is an overhaul of an FAQ that dates back to 2011.)

7:

I can't remember! (This is an overhaul of an FAQ that dates back to 2011.)

Totally off the top of my head, but I think it might be that the foe in Pimpf was slain by Angleton at the end of The Concrete Jungle. I'm at work, so I can't check my dead-tree copies.

8:

I don't know whether it's just me, but I always for the impression that in The Jennifer Morgue Bob thinks he's Roger Moore while it turns out he's actually offscreen in a Brosman or Connery film.

Did you have any specific film(s) in mind as you were writing this one?

9:
(Ahem: there's a big continuity blooper tucked away in this one [Pimpf] what comes back to bite me in later books because I forgot about it.)

tacos @ 5: Now I'm just trying to remember/figure out what the continuity error in Pimpf is

Charlie Stross @ 6: I can't remember! (This is an overhaul of an FAQ that dates back to 2011.)

Whatever it was, it's not a big blooper, because I read about it in the blog, but I never notice it when reading the stories ... but I think it might have something to do with who the intern's mother is?

10:

Actually, in that book Bob isn't James Bond at all; Mo is James Bond, Bob's the love interest.

(I can't watch Bond movies any more, having done the MST3K thing on sixteen of them in a row with a friendly film producer. I even flow-charted the standard plot skeleton. And it is a Bond movie book, not an Ian Fleming Bond novel -- those are very different.)

11:

Yeah, now you mention it: the intern's mom died in the previous book.

But it's a non-canon/semi-canon story anyway, so dispensable.

12:

The knife wielding deep ones are obviously LARPers.

13:

I can't be the only one here who sort of wants to see what a super-deformed Laundry series would look like.

I mean, other than Haiyore! Nyaruko-san.

14:

I got that much, I just wasn't sure on the spoiler policy so early in the thread, hence saying it was off screen rather than clarifying he was a different character with a gender swap (and before it became an established Hollywood trope too!).

I was just imagining that part Bob's confusion might have been in getting wrong which era of film he was in, as each actor's run tends to have its own signature tone. Obviously ego would explain a lot too, everyone expects to be the protagonist in their own life, right?

15:

"Accelerando" meant that, for me, anything you published was an instant "must acquire". I'm currently on my third copy of the Atrocity Archives because friends (?) keep forgetting to return the book...

A couple of questions/points on minor characters:

Angleton: I highly suspect we'll see more of him in the series denuement (please!) For all his inherent darkness, he came across as that protective uncle you looked up to when still a kid.
The cat: what happened to Bob&Mo's cat?

16:

Her identity is also a non-critical part of Pimpf, so it doesn't grate. With a few name changes, continuity would be restored.

17:

I haven't seen one in forever. But then, there's only *one* James Bond, and that's Sean Connery.

18:

With a few name changes, continuity would be restored.

But the intern's initials must remain PFY. This is even noted on the Wiki page.

19:

> Deep Ones in one supplement attacking humans on a boat ... using knives, rather than magic and/or super technology: BLUE HADES aren't crude tribal/ethnic stereotypes straight out of Lovecraft.

Perhaps they wanted to make like humans did it? Ugh, me crude monkey, me poke with pointy metal stick. No suspect smart fish.

20:

"I can't remember!"

Emma McDougal.

There have been several suggestions for retcons, of which the simplest is the recycling of a cover name.

My own idea involves the one really competent HR person in a department full of chair polishers, so they don't want to lose her, and a really powerful geas.

JHomes.

21:

Good grief, they still teach marines how to fight with knives. The RPG problem is that a sufficiently superior foe can simply make the players disappear, and that would be no fun for game play.

Now for the quibbling and wibbling.

First off, since Blue Hades signed the Benthic Treaty, the normal response to violations thereof would either be to stop the offense, disappear the offenders, or contact the pertinent authorities via existing diplomatic channels. Not fun for game play, but immensely miserable for anyone giving that kind offense.

Speaking of offense: plastics in the oceans? Why do Blue Hades tolerate things like the garbage patch and the growing shit rain of plastic nurdles? Inquiring minds want to know.

And especially since the Laundryverse runs on computers, I assume one potential denouement of CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is that Blue Hades comprehensively destroys all intercontinental shipping and all the undersea cables that make the global internet possible. Possibly with a sideline of Kesslering all the satellites to finish the job? When the screaming dies down, I don't think there will be enough minds or computronium left above elevation 0' to support any cataclysmic reality warps.

Oh, and for bonus points: why didn't the putative Blue Hades colony on AlfarEarth do something similar to prevent them from nuking their planet? Or the Blue Hades on the fimbulworld in Atrocity Archive? Or, for that matter, why didn't Deep Seven engage? You'd think that our fellow travelers on this crusty ball of magma would do something appropriate to our metaphorical bacon (either saving or frying) if we stepped out of line, simply to keep their own demesnes intact.

Hopefully this hasn't spoiled anything.

(/wibbling)

22:

Um, oh, dear, the 'Web went down. How terrible.

Computronium? You mean you're running Win11, that can't boot without being online? And BLUE HADES isn't going to come onland and take out our land line network. In the meantime, everyone will be running their computers overtime... and then there's the Big Guys, who have a) their own network, and b) don't need it.

Did I mention that a friend of mine was the project manager on Biowulf, the largest supercomputer on the planet dedicated *solely* to biomedical and bioscientific research? Last year, it had dropped down to "only" the 100th fastest supercomputer on the planet... and it's on two floors of one (old) building.

23:

I read the whole series every year. It is such a joy.

BTW, there is no such thing as a "continuity error" when this is "told" by unreliable narrators.

- I refer you to How I Met Your Mother as example.

It is the journey that matters.

IMHO, Every kid sitting in the back seat that starts saying, "Are we there yet?" should be dumped at the nearest rest stop.

Long live The Laundry Files.

24:

You're thinking too small. International shipping carries ~90% of world trade, and the cable links among continents carry a comparable portion of international net traffic, a trivial portion being this blog. Cut the cables and sink the ships, and global civilization stops. Large parts of the world then proceed to starve, since they depend on grain from Russia, the US, or Australia, while the US screeches to a halt because so much of our consumer and industrial goods are made in places like China, because container shipping is the cheapest, most efficient kind of travel.

It grows from there. But in the real world, if there were such a thing as BLUE HADES, they could destroy us whenever they wanted, and probably would do so if we triggered CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. This was even mentioned in some book, I think named The Jennifer Morgue...

25:

Speaking of offense: plastics in the oceans? Why do Blue Hades tolerate things like the garbage patch and the growing shit rain of plastic nurdles? Inquiring minds want to know.

Good question. For all we know the Deep Ones out in the field are grumbling about the plastic nurdle situation but can't get their Pointy Finned Bosses engaged. It can take a while for awareness to spread through a large organization.

Or, for that matter, why didn't Deep Seven engage?

Related to the above, I'm amused by the speculation that Deep Seven is only vaguely aware that humans exist at all.

We can imagine the few things humans do that they would notice, such as thumping the crust with nuclear explosions, getting waved off much as humans dismiss UFO sightings. ("Yes, there were loud noises, but so what? There's no pattern.") They might notice that someone's doing something with magic way, way up there beyond the top of the lithosphere - but it would be foolish to blindly believe the Deep Ones when they give vague excuses about talking monkeys who live even farther out in space than they do.

26:

"It can take a while for awareness to spread through a large organization."

Maybe the PFBs don't want the field ops to know about the deal with the Nestenes yet.

"thumping the crust with nuclear explosions"

Which are pretty quiet, anyway, compared with some of the noises the crust makes of its own accord, picking scabs and bursting zits and stuff.

27:

No, the point I was making is that Case Nightmare Green will proceed with no interruption, that there's enough computation going on without cross-ocean cables.

28:

Oh, I get that. But once you cut global food shipments by a large majority, then the level of computation goes down substantially. As shipments from China are shut off, broken servers and computers don't get replaced. It's a, erm, virtuous cycle.

29:

Angleton: I highly suspect we'll see more of him in the series denuement (please!) For all his inherent darkness, he came across as that protective uncle you looked up to when still a kid.
The cat: what happened to Bob&Mo's cat?

Angleton is gone. (You're going to see more of Old George, though :)

And sometimes a stray cat is just a stray cat.

30:

Blue Hades aren't universal: they (and Deep Seven) may not have been present in the Alfar realm. And/or dropping large chunks of a moon on them may have taken them by surprise: I dunno.

I think it's implied in "The Annihilation Score" that Blue Hades are getting tangentially involved; but as we've just had a ringside demonstration, exponentials come at you fast: in this case, humanity has gone from zero to letting the Elder Gods open the ways and start bootstrapping towards full power in something like 20 years, at which point they're not negotiating with Her Majesty's Government, they're negotiating with the Black Pharaoh (and so on).

But thanks for reminding me: there's something I need to ponder for "Bones and Nightmares".

31:

The only fly in the ointment is that intentionally killing people to achieve magical ends is a potent source of necromantic energy, and if populations are desperate and starving some of their rulers might be desperate and ruthless enough to try it. Inviting escalation, and suddenly we're looking at the Black Pharaoh sacrificing the entire population of Birmingham en masse to summon a brigade of shoggoths to go after the Deep Ones.

No, by the time their pointy-finned bosses realize how badly things have run off the rails, diplomacy is clearly preferable ...

32:

I found that sad, because I found Angleton sympathique - but I don't read fiction to have my own ideas reflected back at me :-) The gun on the shelf that you have shown twice wasn't the cat - I want the further laundry stories to know what you make of it!

On the matter of the situation that makes that tricky, I doubt that it will stabilise any time soon, but the attitude of the sheeple to our New Governance will become apparent within 2-3 years. So I suspect a window will open up then.

33:

"Note also that Bob is powering up (the Bob of The Atrocity Archive wouldn't exactly be able to walk into a nest of vampires and escape with only minor damage to his dignity)."

I'm probably missing something here, but the way I remember it Bob reflexively tried to chomp one of the vampires, only to suffer the psychic equivalent of biting down on an olive pit. He made it out of there because they let him go, not because he was powerful. I don't see what he could have done if they'd decided to tear him limb from limb.

34:

Bob hadn't lost his temper at that point.

35:

A thing that always puzzled me: in TFM the cultists were trying to summon Teapot in order to free the Sleeper, and there was a discussion about how they were NOT goind to summon the Black Pharaoh, but the Sleeper was a step in a series of horrors that could at the end lead to summoning Him; they were actually Black Pharaoh cultists, not Sleeper cultists, and it's made quite clear that they wanted to awaken the Sleeper only for it to help in getting to Nyarly.

But then, in TDB, it's made even more clear that the Black Pharaoh and the Sleeper are enemies, or at the very least rivals; and Iris KNOWS IT, because she says to the SA "you know there's no love lost between my Master and the Sleeper"; also, the ending of the books definitely confirms this.

So, why in the world did Iris think in TFM that awakening the Sleeper was a step towards summoning the Black Pharaoh?

36:

You noticed that Iris was a government agent provocateur working with the cultists, who'd risen to a position of seniority/influence among them?

Also: if you open the way for one elder god, who knows which others may be able to make use of it?

37:

As I understand what you wrote, she was an agent but had also 'gone native' to some extent, which seriously complicated the issue - is that what you meant?

38:

Yes Charlie, I noticed; and I also assumed that people woshipping Elder Gods might not have a really good grasp of what they are, what they want and their relationships.

But I still find it totally contradictory that in TFM everyone acts like awakening the Sleeper is a logical goal for Black Pharaoh cultists (even Angleton acknowledges this, he knows they are Black Pharaoh cultists but explicitly says "their logical goal would be to break down the Wall of Pain that surrounds the Sleeper"), while in TDB they are revealed to actually be enemies.

39:

Also, Iris might have been used as an agent provocateur, but by in TDB she is clearly a follower of the Black Pharaoh. She actually WANTS him to rise to power, thus I don't think she was faking it when she acted as a cultist leader in TFM. Which makes even more strange that she wanted to awaken the Sleeper in TFM to pave the way for the Black Pharaoh... but later instead she showed to know fully well that they are enemies.

Unless she only learned that during her six days of confinement... but this seems quite a stretch.

40:

(That should have been "six years", obviously)

41:

De nada.

Since you've already committed to a post Laundry trilogy, I'd point out that the Chekhov's apocalypse pointed out in Jennifer Morgue--all those unstable seamount slopes around the world--should either be used or defused.

While I agree that rapidly sacrificing a bunch of starving humans to summon shoggoths to go after the Deep Ones is a reasonable response, a 20 meter high tsunami roaring up the Thames about four hours after Cumbre Vieja falls apart isn't time enough for that to happen. Similar things could happen on the Potomac, for that matter, where Cthulhu's stuck in a basement. I'm not sure whether Beijing or Moscow could be similarly inundated (I think...not), but if Blue Hades don't mind rearranging the bottom waters for awhile, they could probably take out a couple of infestations with little fuss.

The problem isn't whether the Black Pharaoh can be taken out by Blue Hades. The instantiation in London certainly can be. So can Cthulhu on the Potomac. The question, instead, is whether it's preferable to leave these two in place or not.

If you want to get deep into the black waters, there's an even nastier issue lurking. The problem with climate change is that vast stretches of the abyssal plain become uninhabitable due to anoxic conditions. This is due to climate change, and will take a few hundred years to really get bad. The tl;dr version is that the dead zones seen around the mouths of rivers become a normal feature of the abyssal waters. The entire ocean *probably* won't become anoxic. After all, there's more subsurface topography than there is topography above the surface, so we can probably expect slopes, high valleys and the like to remain oxygenated. But for beings that prefer trenches, this is a slow motion catastrophe that they don't have a lot of good solutions to at the moment. They should have intervened in the 1960s.

The problem Blue Hades faces is that our inability to control climate change is a problem of the last 50 years, and only in the last 20 years have we realized it's primarily a problem of the politics of billionaires and magnates, not a technical issue. If BLUE HADES is similarly slow on the uptake, they'll have been similarly blindsided by our inability to get our emissions under control.

One obvious solution to this is that BLUE HADES is temporarily on the side of the elder gods. They want petroleum extraction stopped soonest, they want to stop having plastic rain down on them, and they want to be able to respire in peace and relative quiet. Letting the elder gods in temporarily and only on the surface is a way to clean the place up, actually. And because they have the ability to wipe out all human coastal settlements and destroy global trade and communication, they can enforce their side of the bargain rather better than humans can.

If this is the case, then it implies that the elder gods may only be around temporarily. They get the run of the surface until they've fixed up enough snacks such that humans are no longer emitting surplus CO2 or making plastics. After that, they need to move on. Or else BLUE HADES makes it that much more uncomfortable for them, possibly in concert with DEEP SEVEN.

Hmmmmm.

42:

Thanks for writing this up, will be useful when I want to re-read the entire thing some time!

I wonder, would there ever be enough of a market to collect all of the shorter stories in the universe in a dead-tree volume? Or would that be painful from a licensing/copyright point of view? I'd sure like to complete my shelf of Laundry Files (and other Stross).

43:

When you grow up with 400-mile (one way) road trips, it isn't a question you ask, *except* as a joke. (You do, however, think of it as something that's not unusual.)

44:

Elderly Cynic @ 37: As I understand what you wrote, she was an agent but had also 'gone native' to some extent, which seriously complicated the issue - is that what you meant?

I read it as Iris and the cultists didn't really understand what they were doing. Iris didn't know "Teapot" was already instantiated in Angleton, which is how they ended up summoning Bob back into his own body with some of Angleton's powers rubbed off on him; making him the junior "eater of soles".

So they probably didn't understand that the Sleeper & the Black Pharaoh are not BFF either.

45:

Re: '... and the cable links among continents carry a comparable portion of international net traffic'

For now ...

Musk's satellites are supposed to help ferry net traffic. So we do have some back-up for the net. No idea at what point (if ever) the satellite system is supposed to carry all net traffic. Also - no idea how reliable sat-ground comms will be once the climate really hits the boiling point, i.e., whether vast continent size super dense clouds with hurricane rains will allow or block such signals.

46:

Re: Musk's satellites

We've discussed all of the accumulating space junk on this blog before. Anyways, there's growing commercial interest in providing space-garbage pick-up services. Hopefully these trash-bots don't end up adding to the confusion and debris.

https://www.robotics.org/content-detail.cfm/Industrial-Robotics-News/Trap-the-Trash/content_id/9268

47:

I wonder, would there ever be enough of a market to collect all of the shorter stories in the universe in a dead-tree volume? Or would that be painful from a licensing/copyright point of view? I'd sure like to complete my shelf of Laundry Files (and other Stross).

The short stuff published with Ace (first 7 books in the USA) won't show up in a collection. The stuff published by Tor.com might, eventually. No ETA planned: need to write at least one more novella first (in addition to next summer's "Escape from Puroland").

48:

Starlink sats de-orbit naturally after 2-5 years -- they're in really low orbits. Hence the frequent 60-satellite "top up" launches for the constellation.

49:

With regard to Angleton and his "gone" status, I am reminded of Arthur Conan Doyle, who was forced to revive Sherlock Holmes. If it could be done without resorting to the "it was all a bad dream" shtick of American TV (notably, of prime-time soap-opera, "Dallas"), I'm sure many of your fans would be happy.

50:

You know, if we really want to drive Charlie insane and slow down manuscript production, we can speculate on what happened to Angleton and how to bring him back.

My personal favorite (already comprehensively debunked By God) is that the Angleton/Old George singularity is the singularity that enables time travel in Palimpsest, which I noted also had a manuscript-related name like the Laundryverse stories. The idea of Angleton and Old George getting it on across all possible terrestrial spacetimes in a timeless moment of eternal consummation had a certain appeal to me.

Or, better yet, we can accept that Bob is Angleton 2.0, Angleton 1.0 has been over-written, and hope for a drier sense of humor from the new version going forward. It would be sad indeed if this upgrade was more like something out of Windows or Ubuntu than an Apple upgrade...

51:

"we can accept that Bob is Angleton 2.0, Angleton 1.0 has been over-written,"

Let us assume that the Eater of Souls is singular. Then if Bob is now the Eater of Souls, Angleton is not.

We are told in The Fuller Memorandum that Angleton was created by binding the preta to a body previously held by a convicted murderer, and this was regarded as a form of execution. So whoever it was is dead, and so there is no more Angleton.

Bob, however, has not been displaced. He must share his body with the preta, which is most uncomfortable, but if the preta moves on, Bob is still there.

JHomes.

52:

Starlink satellites have an ion drive, so they will stay up until they run out of fuel, are deliberately deorbited (perhaps because they are running out of fuel), or die, and then the 2-5 years comes into play.

53:

With regard to Angleton and his "gone" status, I am reminded of Arthur Conan Doyle, who was forced to revive Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes was the star of the bestselling series: Angleton is supporting cast/elder mentor, an Obi Wan Kenobi figure.

It was necessary to kill him off to (a) provide a sense of jeopardy for the series story arc, and (b) to provide space for Bob to grow into. Bringing him back would undermine (a) and serve no useful purpose. (He may show up in future -- not currently planned -- retrospective short stories set prior to 2013 in the Laundryverse.)

Now, if I had killed off Bob there might be a case for bringing him back. But note that Bob (and Mo, for that matter) don't appear at all in the new trilogy.

54:

Bob, however, has not been displaced. He must share his body with the preta, which is most uncomfortable, but if the preta moves on, Bob is still there.

Wrong.

The Eater of Souls is incarnate in a human body, with human memories and sense of identity, and mostly acts human. In its previous incarnation it thought it was a 1920s English public school maths teacher who'd committed a horrible crime and got diverted into government service. In its current incarnation it has the memories, body, and thought patterns of a gen-X computer geek who got sucked into the Laundry and is married to Dr Mo O'Brien.

But either way, it's still the Eater of Souls, and the first soul it ate in either incarnation was that of the previous owner of the body it's wearing.

55:

Re seamount slopes, I don't see why. They are a known factor of our geology, and were not invented by the author - mentioning them was relevant, but they are much like nuclear weapons (also mentioned). Alternatively, they ARE being used, because they explain why humans handle Blue Hades with kid gloves.

56:

You assume that BLUE HADES has any real interest in the top thousand metres or so of biologically-active ocean waters and what the land-based vacuum-breathers deposit there. To them that's like us being fixated on the stratosphere and the effects of meteor dust.

For all we know BLUE HADES welcomes the gentle rain of valuable hydrocarbons that falls from the upper reaches of the ocean waters as we welcome rain and snow in season. I could easily envisage them being behind the big petrochemical industries, encouraging more and more ocean plastics and oil slicks to supply their needs down in the abyssal depths -- the vacuum breathers can worry all they like about that See-Ohh-Too stuff, they need linked carbon molecules more than we need a working biosphere so pump and burn and dump or else, squishy ones.

57:

Huh, well that's disappointing to hear, that Bob really died for good in the third book. And I thought you were keeping coy on whether or not Bob was still himself with an addon, or just the Eater thinking it was Bob.

58:

Charlie Stross @ 54: But either way, it's still the Eater of Souls, and the first soul it ate in either incarnation was that of the previous owner of the body it's wearing.

But it still thinks of itself as "Bob", has Bob's memories and seems to have some simulacrum of Bob's conscience restraining its actions?

59:

You assume that BLUE HADES has any real interest in the top thousand metres or so of biologically-active ocean waters and what the land-based vacuum-breathers deposit there. To them that's like us being fixated on the stratosphere and the effects of meteor dust.

Well, since the Mariana Trench is 11,034 meters deep and the average depth of the oceans is around 3700 meters, I hate to say your ignorance is showing, but... And you can go look up cold methane seeps on your own, if you want to know about deep sea sources of hydrocarbons that aren't raining down.

Essay time: there are three interlinked problems here:

1. The Deep Ones are basically about Lovecraftian racism. We collectively know enough about the deep sea to know that a frog-man bauplan is crap for the deep waters. Why? Nothing looks like that down there! So we're left with either doing a full-on Attenborough and redesiging the Deep Ones to fit their environment, which is something I've been fiddling with and is cool in the extreme. Or you go with the Lovecraftian norms, and ignore both the reality of the environment and the racism inherent in the evil frog-men, because the Memes of Lovecraft Must Be Upheld.

B. There's the problem of The Benthic Treaty, which cedes parts of the ocean floor to the Deep Ones in perpetuity. While this sounds cool, it actually conflicts rather nastily with reality. It's not about shipwrecks. Instead, it's about intercontinental undersea cables, ubiquitous bottom trawling, and trash and sewage. With the Laundryverse, we either ignore all this (especially the internet cables), or we are faced with the peculiar problem that the Deep Ones are tolerating us trashing their treaty, except in extremely peculiar circumstances.

III. Speaking of peculiar circumstances, humans in the Laundryverse pose three existential threats to the Deep Ones. The first is climate change, which as noted above will make the deepest waters unlivable for the aerobic Deep Ones. The second is that the sheer number of human minds--among the highest class of computer available, is straining the fabric of reality and letting Things in, as noted in CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. There's no reason to think that the Deep Ones aren't suffering from an outbreak of horrors and superheroes every bit as much as humans are. The third problem is related to CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, and that's invasion by much bigger entities, aka the Elder Gods.

Yet even though we know from The Jennifer Morgue that the Deep Ones have the ability to cripple human civilization and kill billions of people, they haven't done it. It would have made sense around, oh, 2001, and definitely by 2011, for the Deep Ones to just throw up their fins and let the landslides go. That would have killed the majority of humanity that lives within a mile of the coast, reduced the strain on reality caused by too many humans thinking too much, and stopped the pollution that is making the deep waters unlivable. Problem solved. This is especially true if they don't give a flying fish about what happens on the surface.

Instead, in The Annihilation Score, we see the Deep Ones not just making nice, but sending liaison personnel and equipment to help out the surface dwellers. For a group facing existential threats as a result of human stupidity, this is paradoxical behavior.

So what gives?

Various answers include that the Deep Ones are ruled by idiots, that they've been corrupted by humans, or that they actually favor invasion by the elder gods. If it's the last, this only makes sense if they're crazy cultists, or if they have some control over the surface infestation and want to use the Elders to solve their humanitarian problem for them by being a different kind of humanitarian. As it were.

In any case, we're left with the paradox of the Deep Ones holding Chekhov's apocalypse and not apparently using it. Being the good little asshole reader that I am, I'm flagging that for OGH's attention, because of course he needs more issues to deal with in this series.

60:

Yes.

Bob is an unreliable narrator: Bob is in denial about, basically, everything to do with being Bob. At least up until the last book (which isn't planned in any detail yet) when Bob has to face the facts.

Compare with Alex in "The Nightmare Stacks", who is like a younger, more naive, more-powerful-than-Bob-at-an-equivalent-stage Bob ... but less self-deceiving.

61:

I will note that it's unreasonable to expect a more monolithic, regimented style of governance from the Deep Ones than we get from human governments -- especially as they occupy about 4x the territory of Earth's entire (non-submerged) surface area, and are evidently much less populous.

It's also quite possible that they're lying to the human governments about their intentions and/or their relationship with the Elder Gods.

(All will probably be revealed as and when I work out what the "all" to be revealed is. Ahem.)

62:

There's an assumption by some of the Fiendish Disputants herein assembled that the Deep Ones have the same desires and needs as Us Yuu-mans hence the cries of "Oh noes! Plastic in the oceans! BLUE HADES will destroy us because we are polluting!" when they themselves may be behind the big oil and gas developers. Imagine Vladimir Putin going into his bathroom, shucking off his skinsuit and sliding into a bathtub full of nice cold seawater, his eyes nictating in delight at the news of yet another oil and gas discovery in the melting Arctic.

I wonder if early intelligences on this mudball thought the same sort of thing when the Oxygen Catastrophe began -- how will Life As we Know It continue in this toxic and violently reactive atmosphere? It makes carbon-based stuff, including us, undergo spontaneous exothermic reactions! Waah!

63:

I will note that it's unreasonable to expect a more monolithic, regimented style of governance from the Deep Ones than we get from human governments -- especially as they occupy about 4x the territory of Earth's entire (non-submerged) surface area, and are evidently much less populous.

True. Conversely, they have to be sufficiently organized and technological to make coordinated giant landslides a believable threat to a species that hadn't really worked out that giant landslides were a problem when they signed the treaty (/real world intrusion*). So either they did a stupendous bluff, or they have military governance at least comparable to what the US, USSR, and China used to run the Cold War without nuking each other.

*So far as I can find, the first Hawaiian landslides were mapped around 1964. Project Azorian happened around 1974. No information on when the Benthic Treaty was signed.

64:

For electrochemical reasons, there's a strong case that multicellular life depends on aerobic respiration. With climate change messing that up in the abyssal waters the Deep Ones prefer, I really do expect them to take strong exception to petroleum technology.

Moreover, there's no indication in the books that they need it. Necromancy seems to serve their needs better.

65:

There's the problem of The Benthic Treaty, which cedes parts of the ocean floor to the Deep Ones in perpetuity.

I think that's backwards. The Benthic Treaty means the monkeys have agreed to stay on the reservation and the authorities have someone to complain to if surface monkeys start coming down to tip over garbage cans and mess up people's gardens.

Having oceanic data cables down there is a convenient point of leverage. "Oops, there goes an expensive cable" is an easier card to play than "Oops, there goes Boston."

There's no reason to think that the Deep Ones aren't suffering from an outbreak of horrors and superheroes every bit as much as humans are.

There's at least one: they've been around a while. We don't know what's going on down there but, unlike humans, this is not their first rodeo. The objective circumstances may be just as bad but they have the experience of having lived through this before.

And now I'm imagining some damp alter kocker telling the fry, "Ah, you think the Stars Are Right now, you should have been here three million years ago! Now there was an apocalypse!"

66:

Re: ' ... it's still the Eater of Souls, and the first soul it ate in either incarnation was that of the previous owner of the body it's wearing.'

Just how far can you push this 'you are what you eat'? If a lot, then serially force-feeding selected 'souls' is an option.

67:

It's an either/or: both sides see the others' turf as uninhabitable, so in theory it should be easy.

In our world, it would be anything but easy. Our civilization globally has developed the extremely bad habit of doing out-of-sight, out-of-mind stuff with the oceans, from dumping to pumping raw sewage, dumping trash off boats, laying cables, gas lines, etc., and bottom trawling on some really cool old reefs. If we had Deep Ones in our continuum, I'd take it as read that no human would go within a mile of the coast unless invited, due to the risk of waves.

And given that reality, there's no particular reason for the Deep Ones to forego dumping their necromantic hazardous waste in deserts or other places where it won't readily drain back into the ocean.

Now I don't want to make the Laundryverse untenable, but I think the thing we're forgetting is that there has to be a layer of civil and environmental engineers peripherally involved in the Benthic Treaty in the Laundryverse, whose job ostensibly is to keep the oceans clean but practically it's to keep the Deep Ones from vanishing our civilization. There's a story there in itself, actually. Done right, this would have little impact on the stories: recycling would be better, as would sewage management, and the selection of fish available in the market would be a bit different (shallow water species only, so no Orange Roughy or Toothfish, for example).

But there's another possibility, and I have to go back to the hypothetical founding of the Benthic Treaty. The first Transatlantic telegraph cable was laid in 1854. While it lasted for three weeks, it proved it could be done, and durable cables were being laid across the Atlantic by the 1870s.

So my assumption is that the Azores Treaty was written when a message through the Atlantic cables to meet at the Azores on a certain date if they wanted to keep the cable, followed by a temporary shutdown of service to demonstrate that they were serious. This led to representatives of the Deep Ones taking the diplomats in ultratech submarines down to get a look at the landslides and devices prepared to drop the landslides and drown civilization. They then got down to negotiating boundaries. The Deep Ones allow deep sea cables in their domain because it makes it easier to verify what's going on on the surface, to talk to those in charge, and to cut as an easy low-level threat in case things get bad. The humans get the use of the cables, and so long as they don't screw up, no other limits. This is why I suspect the Laundryverse doesn't have the waterborne trash problem our world has.

Anyway, here's the third (fifth?) option: As CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN starts to unfold, certain powerful people get a message that the Deep Ones expect that the humans will reduce their population by an order of magnitude, using the following means, or else the Deep Ones will do it for them in a less controlled fashion. This is to avoid human extinction, and the people carrying out the operation will be guaranteed survival of some sort by the Deep Ones (hence the liaisons).

The existence of such messages would explain much of right-wing politics thereafter: the politicians and magnates are less worried about a Biblical apocalypse than a real one. Unfortunately for the humans, the directions include summoning Elder Gods, because the Deep Ones really aren't goofing around about culling the Monkeys.

I could be wrong, but I think this scenario does fit what we know about the Laundryverse so far.

68:

No information on when the Benthic Treaty was signed.

Strangely, Wikipedia is silent on the subject. However, if you're willing to accept a non-Wikipedia source, it was signed in 1957.

https://www.nationstates.net/page=dispatch/id=502925

69:

And given that reality, there's no particular reason for the Deep Ones to forego dumping their necromantic hazardous waste in deserts or other places where it won't readily drain back into the ocean.

Or possibly someplace that's within reach of the ocean but nobody cares about? In universe that's as plausible an explanation as any for Florida Man...

So my assumption is that the Azores Treaty was written when a message through the Atlantic cables to meet at the Azores on a certain date if they wanted to keep the cable, followed by a temporary shutdown of service to demonstrate that they were serious.

Something like that and right about then, yes. I've joked about men in suits showing up at Innsmouth with suitcases full of money.

70:

Or possibly someplace that's within reach of the ocean but nobody cares about? In universe that's as plausible an explanation as any for Florida Man...

So I guess we're saying that the explanation for UFOs is that they're fly-by-night Deep Ones dumping necromantic trash on dry land.

Okay. That works. I think there's a Laundryverse story, if not RPG episode, right there. Working title: "The Godz Must Be Crazy..."

71:
and Orbit's lawyers made me very carefully describe the female Home Secretary as clearly not being one of her non-fictional predecessors, not even a little bit.

Charlie, if I'm not out of line here, and it's something you can talk about, I was wondering if you could expand on this?

Something that I was very, very impressed with back in the day, when the Merchant Princes books were first coming out, is that you had the intestinal fortitude not to make up ersatz politicians; you just want straight up, balls-out, "no, an essential element in this book is American Empire fascism in the early 20th century, and I'm not filing off the numbers; Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, et. al ARE characters and they WILL show up." You also, back in the day, more than once said that David Cameron would show up as-is in the Laundry Files once the camera zoomed out enough for that to be relevant.

Heck, I even recall a throwaway line in Jennifer Morgue that a U.S Supreme Court decision ruling that the Deep Ones weren't people and thus weren't entitled to human rights that, I think, (It's been awhile, I could be wrong here) name-checks Scalia as the author.

Only I guess that changed at some point? In Laundry Files instead of David Cameron and Theresa May, we got their dime-store knockoffs. In Labyrinth Index, we got literally the most generic possible fictional U.S president.

I understand that to a certain extent this is driven by economic necessity; you were gracious enough, re: the Labyrinth Index, to explain point-blank "the President is generic because making them not-generic will piss off a non-trivial portion of my U.S readership." But, well... you didn't seem to give a shit about any of that two decades ago. And apparently actual lawyers got involved re: the UK stuff?

I guess I'm just really curious as to underlying dynamic here, why you had to back away from depicting real-world politicians and instead create their "similar, but legally distinct from" counterparts instead.

72:

Actually, here's a deeply scary thought: who said the Deep Ones actually care much about the Elder Gods... or that *they* don't have supernatural deities of their own...?

73:

In a previous blog post a month or so ago you hinted that some of your characters actually survive!

Is this any way to run Ragnarök or Götterdämmerung? If you're going to end the cycle in some way, you might as well end it in style, concluding 2,000,000 words with a simple: "They (Gods, Monsters, Magicians and Humans, even universes) -- as we all do -- die in the end".

A heroic epic requires nothing less.

74:

A classical hero does die in the end, doing their heroic deed.

75:

The Eater of Souls is incarnate in a human body, with human memories and sense of identity, and mostly acts human.
The Eater of Souls eats souls, OK, but what exactly does it do to them? Does it digest them? Incorporate them in whole or part? (SFReader #66) It sounded closer to digestion in The Nightmare Stacks.

FWIW, there are many other possible entity-avatar relationships. (Even in classic mythologies in various cultures. And INBanks had a human Ship's avatar, A Fire Upon The Deep had a classical human(construct) avatar for a Power.)
E.g. time-sharing (maybe depending on the speed of dendritic plasticity), hemisphere or lobe(s) devoted to the entity, or to state-storage for it, enteric nervous system involvement, etc. Consensual, non-consensual, etc.

76:

Yeah, we've gone here before: what's a soul in the laundryverse? Apparently they're Egg McGuffins, being edible to certain classes of entities. Beyond that, the veil has remained firmly in place, despite urgent wibbling, at least on my part.

77:

You have read Niven's The Green Marauder?

78:

Perhaps their metabolism isn't entirely earthly? If it (especially in the adult form) relied largely on energy from Elsewhere, they might not be dependent on free oxygen.

79:

That raises an interesting possibility for Laundryverse diving. Just open a portal in your mouth to somewhere with breathable air, then go swimming.
Could also work in the Merchant Princes, if ARMBAND can be scaled down...

80:
The Eater of Souls eats souls, OK, but what exactly does it do to them?
It increases the total entropy of the universe while reducing its own entropy.
81:

Charlie, if I'm not out of line here, and it's something you can talk about, I was wondering if you could expand on this?

Orbit is my UK publisher for the Laundry Files -- but didn't acquire them until roughly 2006 if memory serves, after the first two were written and in print in the US.

The first two books were acquired by Golden Gryphon, a small press nobody paid much attention to; then Ace picked up paperbacks rights to books already published in hardcover. Subsequently I was writing for Ace and Orbit, selling in parallel in different territories: Orbit has a different attitude to potential litigation risk than a US small press (hint: English libel law).

Similarly, Tor (in the USA) bought the Merchant Princes books and again has a different exposure to libel lawsuits. (I walked the politician names back a bit in the last Merchant Princes books in the first series specifically because they'd been picked up by Tor UK, who were in the same boat as Orbit.)

It's unlikely that a politician will sue a genre fiction writer, but it's not impossible and it would bankrupt me before I set foot in court. (The starting ball park for defending a High Court libel lawsuit is on the order of £200,000 in fees; costs can easily run into the millions, and the burden of proof is on the accused, and the truth of the allegations is not a defense -- you have to prove that the party bringing the lawsuit didn't suffer reputational damage.)

82:

It's the end of a story arc, not the end of the universe!

(Incidentally, CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is the magical equivalent of anthropogenic global warming: in this case, computational computing is driving up the level of magic in the world. We can stop driving it up, but that's not going to remove the magic that's already out there. Honking great metaphor ahoy!)

83:

That raises an interesting possibility for Laundryverse diving. Just open a portal in your mouth to somewhere with breathable air, then go swimming.
Could also work in the Merchant Princes, if ARMBAND can be scaled down...

You'd need a pressure regulator, or you'll have problems.

84:

Um. You are speaking de facto and not de jure, aren't you? The Defamation Act 2013 (another crime to be laid at the door of Cameron and Clegg) definitely allows truth as a defence, though the wording of 2(3) is thoroughly confused. But (as you know) that is a matter for the jury, and the law is that, if one side can bankrupt the other before the verdict, the solvent side wins by default.

Or have things changed?

The above is one reason that London is the go to location for foreign, vicious and fat cats to sue people who try to expose their crimes.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2013/26/section/2

85:

The other issue here is that Blue Hades (at least per Lovecraft) had gods of their own who already lived among them. Do Dagon and Hydra exist in the universe of the Laundry Files, and does the Black Pharoah acknowledge them? And if so, have Blue Hades already gone through their own version of Case Nightmare Green?

86:

The other issue here is that books like the Necronomicon or Pnakotic Manuscripts are usually written by mad-people, or translated by those who have become mad by the time they're done with the translations, or those who have gone mad through the process of communing with an Elder God. So there's no real expectation of accuracy until someone has tried to work their way up the chain of horrors described by the Teapot Manuscript and discovered whether the writer of that particular tome of Eldritch Horror got everything right about how to open a series of magical portals, or whether they mis-translated "wgah'nagl."

87:

I think the preta was bound to the convicted murderer in lieu of execution, rather than after execution.

88:

More to the point, what does an infovore do with a soul? It discards the information it doesn't want, or perhaps turns the unwanted information to energy, and adds the information it wants to itself. If you're an infovore, you really are what you eat! Thus, if Bob's soul has been eaten, it's not entirely gone. "Angleton" (who was previously Teapot) kept the parts of Bob it liked and added Bob-parts to itself.

Done "right," (from the human perspective) the result is an angel. Done wrong, the result is a demon.

And even in the real world, we're all infovores to some degree - the proof that a serious Faux News consumer has become what they eat is trivial!

89:

Makes sense, and my usual explanation is "the cultists didn't know what they were doing"; also, just re-checking TFM, and the ones actually talking about how awakening the Sleeper is a step in reaching the Black Pharaoh are Panin and Angleton, never Iris herself.

Also, nobody seems to be actually aware of what the Sleeper really is or wants until TDB; even in TAC, Persephone simply says that "disturbing the Gatekeeper would be bad, not so much in its own right, but because of what's on the other side of the gate". Only in TDB we see it trying to act on his own (via proxy).

However, it still nags me that in TDB Iris knows fully well that the Sleeper and Nyarly are rivals/enemies, and yet in TFM she tried to enlist the Eater of Souls' help in freeing the Sleeper. When and how did she learn that she had instead been trying to free an enemy of her Master, and that her Master can stop the Sleeper's attempt to conquer the UK (at the cost of handling all power to Him, of course)?

90:

...and while we are at it: we have been told for several books that summoning the Black Pharaoh is quite difficult (presumably requiring complex rituals and lots of sacrifices), cultists have been working on it without results for years if not centuries... and then its human avatar just appears out of nothing in the guise of the Mandate?!?

91:

... we have been told for several books that summoning the Black Pharaoh is quite difficult ...

We have also been told that correctly disassembling the zombie-onna-stick fence around the Sleeper's pyramid is difficult, but not what would happen if it was done incorrectly.

92:

We have no idea what The Mandate's back-story is prior to "The Annihilation Score", when he shows up in Mo's office, but presumably some hapless cultists got lucky, for very unfortunate values of "lucky", and he wandered off to do his own thing. We do know that as of that point in time, he was much weaker than he subsequently became -- he was early in the process of bootstrapping up to godhood, and indeed, as of the current moment in "Dead Lies Dreaming" he's powerful but not truly godlike for destroyer-of-worlds values. (There's a story behind that, and also behind why the Black Chamber thought they'd need to dismantle the entire moon to build enough computing power to summon Cthulhu.)

93:

The Mandate:

Perhaps he was already here, but unable to operate effectively due to <handwave> effects.

Or perhaps someone DID manage to summon him, but didn't understand that they had summoned a baby.

(These are not mutually inconsistent.)

[[ html fix - mod ]]

94:

Argh... I forgot the HTML processor. $handwave effects.

95:

Can't summon Nyarly directly because he hangs out several universes away, but release the Sleeper who is just next door extra-dimensionally speaking and it's much easier to get Nyarly to pop round for a visit while he's confronting his ancient opponent?

96:

Ah, let's you and he fight!

97:

Not really a Cthulhu fan, so I may be wrong here, but it strikes me that there's a big difference between summoning something (ie. compelling it to show up) and something deciding that it wants to make an appearance.

I get the impression that a lot of the cultist types are a bit like cargo cultists — making the equivalent of bamboo airplanes to summon something that is really beyond their control…

98:

I think my general feeling is that minor entities show up when they're called. Major entities show up when they feel like it, and may have more important things to do, like aestivating or cleaning their tentacles tips.

And whatever you do, make sure you've pronounced fhtagn correctly!

99:

Charlie Stross @ 60: Yes.

Bob is an unreliable narrator: Bob is in denial about, basically, everything to do with being Bob. At least up until the last book (which isn't planned in any detail yet) when Bob has to face the facts.

Compare with Alex in "The Nightmare Stacks", who is like a younger, more naive, more-powerful-than-Bob-at-an-equivalent-stage Bob ... but less self-deceiving.

I'm just hoping that through it all Bob will somehow manage to hang on to some shreds of his "humanity". Alex seems to have done so. Maybe Bob can too.

100:

Scott Sanford @ 91:

... we have been told for several books that summoning the Black Pharaoh is quite difficult ...

We have also been told that correctly disassembling the zombie-onna-stick fence around the Sleeper's pyramid is difficult, but not what would happen if it was done incorrectly.

I'll have to go back and read the book again, but hadn't Schiller more or less bypassed the zombie fence by opening his portals at the top of the pyramid? Isn't that why Bob is having to dodge bullets inside the temple at the top of the pyramid while the zombies climb up?

101:

Robert Prior @ 97: Not really a Cthulhu fan, so I may be wrong here, but it strikes me that there's a big difference between summoning something (ie. compelling it to show up) and something deciding that it wants to make an appearance.

I get the impression that a lot of the cultist types are a bit like cargo cultists — making the equivalent of bamboo airplanes to summon something that is really beyond their control…

I think there's "summoning" and then there's summoning. The former is how Fred from Accounting becomes one of the residual human resources, while the latter is a major effort to open a portal wide enough for an elder god to pass through.

The Mandate is an avatar of the Black Pharaoh in our universe, while the bulk of the Black Pharaoh remains in another universe. The door has been opened far enough for him to stick a hand and an arm through, but not wide enough for him to completely enter.

102:

I think the game Call of Cthulhi did a nice job: there were two spells for beings. There was summoning, and then there was binding. Of the two, bindings are probably more useful, but summonings are generally easier to find.

I agree also with what you're saying about Nyarlathotep. In the books, that being is "the messenger of the outer gods" and has quite a few avatars. Most get summoned, some just show up, especially in the dreamlands. But he rarely shows up as a mountain sized squid dragon, as Cthulhu would.

And we won't talk about the racism/orientalism inherent in that whole "black pharaoh" meme. It gets into this whole awkward notion that the Ancient Egyptians couldn't be very African, let alone black, apparently because they were so integral to the development of classical civilization in the Mediterranean.

103:

... hadn't Schiller more or less bypassed the zombie fence by opening his portals at the top of the pyramid?

So he did. The zombie fence wasn't to keep people out - although it would certainly make me want to be someplace else - but to watch the pyramid. Apparently just as a watched pot never boils, a watched eldritch horror never awakens. There are reasons why cultists can't just send in some residual human resources with chainsaws and a wood chipper, but the technical issues are not explored.

104:

It gets into this whole awkward notion that the Ancient Egyptians couldn't be very African ...

In reality some ancient Egyptians were very African indeed. That's one of those historical facts which can be inconvenient for racist propaganda.

105:

Yeah, well, the Greek rulers that ran for what, 300 years or so, till Cleopatra....

106:

I think, within a rounding error, we can count the Egyptians as entirely African. Problem is, people in the 1920s--or now--don't really like that.

That's one of the many, many problems with racism...

107:

And we won't talk about the racism/orientalism inherent in that whole "black pharaoh" meme.

That one I read, contra Lovecraft's racism, in the same manner as I read Black Prince: a cognomen related to his brutality. (Lovecraft would probably have used the N word if that's what he'd meant.)

108:

I always imagined it as a human shaped hole in reality. Infovore induced handwavium redshifts the other side to black.

109:

Re: 'Perhaps their metabolism isn't entirely earthly?'

I was thinking along the lines of 'define: metabolism'. In ordinary lay speech, most folks think of metabolism as (1) digestive system (furnace) and then every other system attached to it plus that (2) the fundamental energy source is the 'calorie'. An unearthly metabolism could be any other 'furnace' and 'fuel' combination. 'Infovore' is an interesting alternate metabolism example: humans have built-in data-crunching capability plus a somewhat complex system for acquiring appropriate 'fuel'. In a handwavium-based universe, the metabolism could be based on anything and it'd probably take some obvious disaster (e.g., lab accident with complete inventory list, tightly monitored environmental conditions and an array of weird high-tech science gadgets that conveniently all happen to be turned on*) for us to recognize its basis.

Human experience with regular stomach-based digestion has been and is still pretty rocky esp. if you're a naive recent immigrant or child: poisons, rotting foods, allergic reactions, malnourishment from a diet loaded with 'incomplete' foods, addictions, inborn genetic errors that screw up the bio-chem, etc. I'm curious what the 'infovore metabolism' equivalents might be since the 'computer' seems a closer representation of the dark ones than does the mammalian metabolic system.


* Investigations later confirmed that running all of those gadgets at the same time caused the 'accident'. Subsequent series of investigations identified an 'on/off switch' for one of the reactions witnessed.

110:

Human experience with regular stomach-based digestion has been and is still pretty rocky esp. if you're a naive recent immigrant or child: poisons, rotting foods, allergic reactions, malnourishment from a diet loaded with 'incomplete' foods, addictions, inborn genetic errors that screw up the bio-chem, etc. I'm curious what the 'infovore metabolism' equivalents might be since the 'computer' seems a closer representation of the dark ones than does the mammalian metabolic system.

Human stomach-based digestion seems to be composed much of their bacteria, too. I kind of wonder if the infovores have bacteria-analogues, too?

Though I think EC was talking about the Deep Ones here, not infovores. They might be running on some kind of thaumaturgical energy generation instead of the oxygen-chemistry based the multicellular life-forms use in the normal world. In other words, they'd be running on magic. This would probably have some kind of effect on how they view the humans doing what they do with magic.

Of course the magic in the Laundry universe seems to be related to information processing, so I'm not sure how the Deep Ones and the infovores we see are connected.

There might also be some room for stories about the Deep Ones, but I think OGH has plenty of ideas for stories in this universe already. At least I'd read those.

111:

I think EC hit the nail on the head. Nearly everything we know about Blue Hades is based on Ramona - who is explicitly described as a hybrid, possibly gestating/pupating towards full Blue Hades-hood or could equally be just a dead end worker drone.
It’s entirely possible we’ve not even come close to guessing what/how a Blue Hades looks like or or what they require to exist.

For all we know the “A-Team van/ X-Jet” in TAS could have been a mature adult stage Blue Hades. Though I would expect OGH to have a bigger surprise than than in mind....

Isn’t speculation fun!

112:

It's a problem with science fiction when writing about aliens and non-human intelligences, the tendency is to write the Other as "Uncle Harry in a fur coat" as that's something the readers can get their heads around. If the aliens have similar desires and thought processes and biology etc. to baseline humans the writer can twist and alter those characteristics a bit to make them "different" but not incomprehensible.

There have been a few stories where the aliens were really undecipherable but they're not easy reads -- "The Dance of the Changer and the Three" by Terry Carr is one such story and it is still based on a human third-person viewpoint to allow the readers to engage with the alien main characters. Even then the story is not about them, it's about how the Yuu-mans can't comprehend why the Changer did what it did and why it was so important to them.

There are very very few SF stories where humans aren't present, even as observers. I can think of only one story I've ever read in that category right now and oddly enough it's mil-SF. I'll wait and see if anyone else knows it, or can put forward other candidates before I tell you what it is.

113:

There are very very few SF stories where humans aren't present, even as observers.

The Crucible of Time by John Brunner is one. I don't recall there being a single hint of the existence of humanity in that one.

114:

IIRC Eric Flint's first novel was also human-free. (It wasn't a very good book -- had the usual first novel problems -- but it was viable on its own terms.)

I have a certain weakness for writing novels with people who call themselves human or who think of themselves as human but who're not, really. (Accelerando, Saturn's Children, Neptune's Brood, Ghost Engine -- when I finish it -- arguably the Laundry Files books 5, 7, 8, and 9).

115:

Since it mentioned in this thread, a memory has been bugging me regardng its validity - didn't DEEP SEVEN's codename change to DEEP SIX after The Jennifer Morgue, or am I remembering it wrong?

Also, revenge is a dish best SERVED cold. Which, come to think of it, implies that it is worst eaten cold.

116:

A number of authors have managed not to be man-in-a-rubber-suit. Caroline Cherryh walked the line a number of times, between making the aliens comprehensible to a human reader, and making them *alien*, and incomprehensible.

Both the novels my late wife and I did, and the one I just submitted to RoF Press (GGG) have very few aliens, but they're very much *not* human.

I've also got a couple of shorts on a world that turns out to have intelligent life... yeah, well, the crystalline-looking red plants, interconnected with vines, with much underground, that live/think like a massive computer cluster.

It can be done, if the writer *cares*.

117:

It's possible you're conflating Eric Flint and the author I'm think of? (ROT13) Eboreg Nfceva. His all-alien all-the-time story was a first novel too, and as you said, not that good.

118:

Correction, thanks to my Googlepowers! Not a first novel but an early one.

119:

Re:'... people who call themselves human or who think of themselves as human but who're not, really.'

Define 'human'. Seriously ... because how you end up labelling an entity depends on your definition which in turn depends on which POV/discipline's problem definition/solving approach you use*. And considering that your major characters span bio-chem, informatics and 'spiritual/mystic', I'm really curious which wins the argument and how/why.

*There are probably more 'depends on' - it's a rabbit-hole and/or fractal ... take your pick.

120:

Re: 'Human stomach-based digestion seems to be composed much of their bacteria, too. I kind of wonder if the infovores have bacteria-analogues, too?'

You're right -- and considering how much stomach bacteria impact the human nervous system definitely important to keep this in mind.

Next is evolution/adaptation -- basically, whole body/genome 'learning'.

121:

Heteromeles @ 102: And we won't talk about the racism/orientalism inherent in that whole "black pharaoh" meme. It gets into this whole awkward notion that the Ancient Egyptians couldn't be very African, let alone black, apparently because they were so integral to the development of classical civilization in the Mediterranean.

All Egyptians are Africans, regardless of cultural affinities or skin pigmentation.

Skin pigmentation has nothing to do with the development of civilization. Some ancient Egyptians had very dark skin indeed. Others were more brown and some were fairly pale. But they were and are all Africans.

122:

whitroth @ 105: Yeah, well, the Greek rulers that ran for what, 300 years or so, till Cleopatra....

They too were Africans, even if they did have the odd Macedonian general hanging from the family tree here & there.

123:

You know, I disagree, although maybe this is a view inside my head that you don't want. Writing about nonhumans for me is easier than writing about humans. I mean, heck, I'm much happier writing about the charming relationship between a boy and his shoggoth than I am even thinking about using a Trumper or a real estate developer as a sympathetic protagonist.

I'd suggest that perhaps my limited sympathies are rather more general than most of us care to admit?

124:

Nope, not Aspirin: I was definitely thinking of "Mother of Demons" (1997) by Eric Flint.

125:

Y'know, that leads to an interesting thought... what happens to Deities if they get a supernatural infection...?

126:

Y'know, that leads to an interesting thought... what happens to Deities if they get a supernatural infection...?

You mean worshipers?

127:

"Mother of Demons" is not human-free. The humans are kind of secondary to the plot, and act more like a "plot hook" than anything else, but they are present.

128:

Not exactly what I was thinking of. Rather, let's discuss the body form of the deity. I mean, if the Eater of Souls eats souls, how does the soul get turned into magical energy for the Eater?

Consider K-syndrome, which works via tiny nasties burrowing into your brain....

129:

Most alien-viewpoint stories have some humans involved because people, not aliens buy SF. I can think of other alien-centric stories like Robert L. Forward's neutron star critters and Hal Clement's Mesklinites but there's still human involvement. Harry Harrison's "West of Eden" had proto-humans among the civilised intelligent dinosauroids.

Robert Asprin's early novel "The Bug Wars" is set at least a million years before humanity ever existed, supposedly and no humans appear anywhere in the story which is exceedingly rare in SF.

Brunner's "The Crucible of Time", I don't think I've read it or I've forgotten it if I did. I should maybe track down a copy but Gentleman John's work tends towards the depressing side of things and I don't enjoy them much these days.

130:

Start by supplying a model...

Seriously, I'd assumed, based on Cryptic Authorial Remarks, that the Laundryverse is a virtual world where magic is about hacking the underlying code, and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is something like a buffer overflow or other assault on the capacity of the system to keep running. In this MMORPG, gods and demons are other programs grabbing resources inside the system, and eating was entirely metaphorical.

If you're assuming there's stuff like magic, perhaps heaven, individual souls, and all that, then you've got to do a better job defining what they are. And I don't mean this sarcastically, because there's a cultural barrier here. Ask Greg what he thinks God is, and he'll say it's something that doesn't exist. What kind of something. "A big sky fairy." What's that, in terms of other things. "Stop bugging me." Ask a devout Christian what God is and they'll answer that he's the Creator of the World. "What's that?" Disbelieving stare.

So if you want to know what a "god" gets out of eating "souls" in a hypothetical system, you need to define your entities, because that's the critical information that will help you solve your problem.

As for worshipers being an infection, ask a rock star or guru about groupies and disciples some day...

131:

Start by supplying a model...

Let's assume a spherical Outer God... AIEE, IT'S YOG-SOTHOTH!

132:

What "counts" as human is one of the big, important questions, and how that differs in a world where "souls" are a thing as opposed to reality as seen by an atheist is an important decision for an author.

133:

where "souls" are a thing as opposed to reality as seen by an atheist

Why should atheists/materialists have any trouble with the idea of souls? They, AFAIK, are good with the notion of minds. It's the supernatural versions that give them trouble.

134:

Regarding alien-focused fiction, I have fond memories of Timothy Zahn's Conqueror's trilogy. Teenage me found the depiction of aliens there pleasingly different, but I doubt it holds up to a modern re-reading.

135:

I (agnostic atheist) personally have no problem with the mind as a concept, but I've had discussions with hard determinists who are convinced they have no mind and are only having the illusion of thought based on things deterministically happening around them. I think they compared free will to telepathy IIRC.

136:

Let's assume a spherical Outer God... AIEE, IT'S YOG-SOTHOTH!

It's OK. He's frictionless!

137:

I have never understood why so many (even eminent) scientists have a religious determination to hang on to the deterministic dogma, despite strong evidence against it. That has nothing to do with the issue of mind, consciousness, soul etc., of course, but they also insist on bringing that deluded dichotomy up. Why on earth is a probabilistic universe so difficult to contemplate, and even heretical?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden-variable_theory#%22God_does_not_play_dice%22

My view is that mind, consciousness etc. are an emergent property of the human organism (mainly the brain, of course). That implies that a soul (as an entity that could exist separate from the body) can't exist. But what can I be sure of about the system on which my thoughts occur? No, I am not a Penrosian.

138:

Let's think about that. One can emulate a brain, assuming sufficient computational power - not easy, but doable assuming a big-enough data center and a willingness to let it run slowly - we've discussed this very recently. This means that the state of someone's brain could be preserved outside of their body. Presumeably this state could be written to some kind of storage system and rebooted on another data-center, though the difficulties with this are at least semi-obvious, it's possible.

This preserved brain state could be connected to a virtual world, which could emulate any religion's version of either heaven or hell.

So it's obvious to me souls could exist - the infrastructure to preserve a soul is not out of reach.

But do they exist? That's entirely another question. Maybe souls are something aspirational, something that can only exist giving sufficient sensing power, for recording the state of a brain, and sufficient computing power for instantiating that state.

If there are Elder Gods, maybe they have souls and we do not.

139:

They must exist, whether or not our current technology and state of knowledge allow us to fully describe them, record and duplicate them etc. (as sound still existed before people like Bell and Edison showed up). Even if it turns out it's actually mathematically impossible to describe them, or if there's some kind of St Pauli exclusion principle that prevents them being exactly duplicated. They are some sub-region of an enormous phase space of possible states of matter which is sufficiently unique to be called "Bob". Doesn't have to be the same matter, since after all bodies do hot-swapping down to the atomic level. They are some kind of organisational principle, and the body is the matter which is organised.

Basically, it's bleedin' obvious, innit. This answer is good enough for yer average famous philosopher, so it ought to be good enough for me; but I have the additional advantage of being able to point to this buzzing box next to my chair and say to all the other philosophers, even if they are all dead, "See? 'Ardware and software, innit. 'S bleedin' obvious, like I said."

Where I get confused is with Charlie's description of what the EoS does; what the EoS eats sounds like it must be some third kind of component, which can be eaten while leaving both body and mind still normal, ish.

140:

Define "soul", as separate from "mind", or "conscious-who-am-I".

The nearest I can do is some mystical thing, separate and apart from "I", and I have problems, if I'm using this word correctly, with teleology.

141:

The Elder Gods have souls? Nahhhh, to paraphrase my late mom, they're all heels.

142:

Yes. As I said "a soul (as an entity that could exist separate from the body)", though perhaps I should have said "separate from A body". That is the normal, modern meaning of the word "soul".

Unless Pigeon is being ironic, there is a flaw in that argument. If a "soul" (in the sense of "mind" or "consciousness") were an emergent property of the brain and body, whose very existence was Goedelian undecidable in the system that is our minds, then it might not be possible to store it, short of storing the entire state of the body and brain. And it could be operated only by creating a simulacrum of that.

But, as I said, if it is, it's clearly "something mankind was not meant to know" - much like the contents of the Necronomicon :-)

143:

Troutwaxer @ 138:

This preserved brain state could be connected to a virtual world, which could emulate any religion's version of either heaven or hell.

Take a look at Non Serviam by Stanilaw Lem. He imagines artificially intelligent beings inhabiting a simulated universe, and considers the moral position of the programmer. (This copy seems to be an OCR from a scan, so its got a lot of errors).

ADAN’s reasoning seems incontrovertible, at least insofar as it pertains to me: it was I, after all, who created him. In his theodicy, I am the Creator. In point of fact, I produced hat world (serial No. 47) with the aid of ADONAL IX program and created the personoid gemmae with a modification of the program JAHVE VI. These initial entities gave rise to three hundred subsequent generations. In point of fact, I have not communicated to them – in the form of an axiom – either these data, or my existence beyond the limits of their world. In point of fact, they arrived at the possibility of my existence only by inference, on the basis of conjecture and hypothesis. In point of fact, when I create intelligent beings, I do not feel myself entitled to demand of them any sort of privileges – love, gratitude, or even service of some kind or other. I can enlarge their world or reduce it, speed it up its time or slow it down, alter the mode and means of their perception; I can liquidate them, divide them, multiply them, transform the very ontological foundation of their existence. I am thus omnipotent with respect to them, but indeed, from this it does not follow that they owe me anything. As far as I am concerned, they are in no way beholden to me. It is true that I do not love them. Love does not enter into it at all, though I suppose some other experimenter might possibly entertain that feeling for his personoids. As I see it, this does not in the least change the situation – not in the least.
Imagine for a moment that I attach to my [computer] an enormous auxiliary unit, which will be a “hereafter.” One by one, I let pass through the connecting channel and into the unit the ‘souls” of my personoids, and there I reward those who believed in me, who rendered homage unto me, who showed me gratitude and trust, while all the others, the “ungodlies” to use the personoid vocabulary, I punish – e.g., by annihilation or else by torture (Of eternal punishment I dare not even think – that much of a monster I am not!) My deed would undoubtedly be regarded as a piece of fantastically shameless egotism, as a low act of irrational vengeance – in sum, as the final villainy in a situation of total dominion over innocents. And these innocents will have against me the irrefutable evidence of logic, which is the aegis of their conduct.

Lem winds up the story with a lament by the experimenter over the fact that his simulation is going to have to be shut down due to the electricity bill. But he isn't going to tell the inhabitants about the approaching end of the world.

144:

"it might not be possible to store it, short of storing the entire state of the body and brain."

I was including that in my elision of all "practical" difficulties. I think the "St Pauli exclusion principle" postulate would be an even tougher constraint, if it applies. But the concepts are still separable, even if you can't actually effect the separation non-conceptually.

145:

Re: 'They are some kind of organisational principle, ...'

Yes, does sound like that - but there's still all of that matter (components) and which principal (process) to figure out. Also - when I first read that Bob had been consumed by the Eater of Souls, considering that the author has one foot in each of the bio-chem and info-tech camps, no telling what the components or process are - either, both or something else entirely.

As for whether or not Bob can be brought back whole/entire - I'm guessing 'yes' if he was consumed intact into a large and robust enough data storage bin. Or if Bob was fragmented/shredded/chewed up - yes, if a detailed template of his particular 'build' still exists in the Eater's memory. Or, if time travel exists. Probably a few other "or's" possible so, overall, yes - Bob can potentially return.

About the question of soul vs. mind vs. human , etc. - seems no one's talking about all of the different types and ranges of input (esp. the senses and personal state of being/awareness, and interpersonal feedback - emotions) or about motivation/why. Just surviving isn't an adequate answer for humans and probably not for any high functioning entity.

146:

Regarding souls and the existence thereof, I once came across a lovely line that I don't necessarily _believe_, but certainly like the sound of:

“You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

147:

Elderly Cynic @ 137: I have never understood why so many (even eminent) scientists have a religious determination to hang on to the deterministic dogma, despite strong evidence against it. That has nothing to do with the issue of mind, consciousness, soul etc., of course, but they also insist on bringing that deluded dichotomy up. Why on earth is a probabilistic universe so difficult to contemplate, and even heretical?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden-variable_theory#%22God_does_not_play_dice%22

For me the question becomes, IF "God" is playing dice, how many dice are there? How many sides do they have? What are the meta-physical rules that determine whether "He" has rolled snake-eyes or not? What would even constitute snake-eyes for "God's" dice?

I don't believe in "God", but I sort of understand the idea, and I almost understand why other people do believe in God. I consider myself agnostic rather than atheist because atheism seems to me as much dogmatic belief without proof as theism is.

But that's just my personal view. YMMV as they say.

148:

If you can't instantiate it without instantiating the body, and running that, in what sense is it separate?

149:

Yes, but that's not all that different. My point is that a probability measure is a perfectly reasonable type of value to correspond with a physical quantity. Why should there be any hidden variables underlying it?

For some reason, almost all of the human race seems to have a completely blind spot when it comes to thinking in terms of measure theory (i.e. probabilities), and that includes a majority of mathematicians and almost all physicists. That's truly alien to me, who found that measure theory formalised the way I had been thinking for much of my life.

150:

(Oh, Ghu, he's going to get serious. What does he think this is, usenet?)

Let us postulate a "conscious I", which is an emergent property of a brain of x neurons, shared on a netork with y coprocessing connectors. Let us then postulate a nominous "soul", which co-resides where the "conscious I" is.

In what way are they connected, the "soul" being numinous, and unconnected to matter and unrelated to matter?

What evidence do we have of this "soul"? Please provide links.

151:

Oh, and while we're at it... *all* of this seems to be Western/JCI "soul".

I learned that the Buddha (directly) said, "If you light a candle, and then light a second candle from the flame of the first, and light the flame of a third candle from the flame of the second, and so on, is the flame of the seventh candle the same flame as the flame of the first?"

152:

Notwithstanding the remarks of the Guatama, as repeated by whitroth, I'm an hardcore atheist.
Why?
Becuase all the god botherers claim that not only is there a BigSkyFiary, bu that it's THEIR VERSION of said BSF.
OK, right ...
"You claim that a (any) BSF exists, please produce objective evidence that ANY BSF actually exists - or FUCK RIGHT OFF.

Note that I am, for the present, carefully side-stepping the questions of "Soul/Mind" .....

153:

Since I started this mess, I'll point out simply that the "what is a god" or "what is a soul" question is something that is worth asking in real life.

However, in this case, I'm thinking of story universes, particularly the Laundryverse, and more particularly the idea of souls that happen to be edible by certain beings. While I tend to like to define this stuff if it matters, there's a certain je ne sais quoi about leaving these ideas undefined, at least until they make things...silly.

I actually somewhat agree with Greg, except my sophistry is that there are at least two kinds of reality: subjective and objective. Subjective reality is what we perceive with our senses, while objective reality is something we have a fair amount of evidence exists, which is what is really out there, regardless of whether we perceive it or not.

Now, my experience is that the divine is subjectively real: if you meditate or do any of a wide variety of exercises, including those taught by evangelical Christians, you'll experience some form of the divine. So in that sense, the divine, however you define it, is quite real. But I cannot share my experiences with Greg, any more than he can share his lack of experience with me.

However, I do agree with Greg that I know of no evidence that the divine is objectively real. The problem I have is that, as someone trained as a scientist, I need to at least accept the possibility that my perceptions are real, and equally I need to be skeptical of what I read in books or hear from other people without corroborating evidence. So if a book tells me that gods don't exist, but my senses say otherwise, what am I to do? And vice versa.

Now, the problem of living in a subjective world is non-trivial. It's not just that we have limited sensory bandwidth and processing power, it's that what we believe literally shapes what we perceive, both individually and collectively. We ignore that at our extreme peril.

In any case, it's easier to talk about gods, souls, and so forth in reference to fantasy, so I'd suggest we look at that more than at questioning real world beliefs.

154:

My understanding of Angleton was that he was a preta that knew he was a preta, but chose to act like a human with a certain value system for reasons of his own. Whereas the current version of Bob is a petra who doesn’t know he’s a Petra, and thinks he’s the last human he ate.
Why the difference?

155:

Oh, and it also utterly destroys the major British city I grew up in, because revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

That explains things. It seemed a bit harsh at the time.

156:

Cleo seems to have been mostly Macedonian/Greek, with very little Egyptian. One of her ancestors was a woman from Pontus, which is in Asia Minor.

157:

Is he a man dreaming he is a preta, or a preta dreaming he is a man?

158:

That's preta bad.

159:

Actually it is. Pretas are hungry ghosts in Buddhism. They're the spirits of people who have no descendants to sacrifice for them (so people who die without children or grandchildren), and people who are so greedy that they can't even incarnate as animals, which would presumably be most western consumerist humans (it's the afterlife counterpart of SHINY).

They're more sad than monstrous, and IIRC there's a festival where people sacrifice to them to help them get through that incarnation and be born again ultimately as a human, which is the only being (supposedly) that can escape the wheel of reincarnation through enlightenment.

Thing is, souls don't get eaten in Buddhism, so there's a bit of a problem here. It's about as (in)appropriate as using the term "dybbuk," for example.

160:

My issue with a soul is this. Every version of the soul is in some kind of contact with the consciousness. So it must reside in the brain. Then when you die it goes somewhere. That's all fine, but that means there must be some sort of read out. So to do that it must be particles or waves (same same of course) that we don't know about, that interacts with normal matter strongly enough to read that information and be low enough energy that it doesn't just smash the DNA to bits or decay before it can cross a neuron. But we know all the low energy particles that interact more strongly than Neutrinos. Neutrinos can't do it, they interact too weakly. We know all the high energy particles lower than the Higgs. The particles we don't know about are high energy and weakly interacting, and they can't read information from a brain.

That completely rules out the soul.

161:

my problem with the concept of a soul... its pointless duplication.
You have the brain running - it produces the mind. we know its the brain doing this because psychoactive drugs work.
Under anaesthetics , you don't register the pain of surgery.
If the brain is damaged, the mind alters. I've seen it in a stroke victim. If its damaged enough, lights out, goodnight vienna , etc you are dead.
Surgery has been used to chop bits of brain out,- curing epilepsy, other more grim purposes.
Now, posit the existence of a 'soul' is completely parallel to the mind, doing all the same things.
except that those psychoactive drugs will have zero effect on it.
So you have this 'soul' that experiences it ALL, no filters.
SO every surgery, every cut , is felt and remembered.
So upon death, this magic spirit thing gets to experience the death by oxygen starvation of every cell in the body.
Lovely.
Myself i'd say its handwavium by people in the past who didn't even know what the brain did.

162:

Puts me in mind of the afterlife in a Doctor Who episode (spoiler: it turned out that this afterlife was run by Missy). The souls remained in contact with their dead bodies, and experienced the sensations of those bodies. So most of the time new arrivals felt cold because they were in refrigerated morgues. However cremation was ... unpleasant. (What you felt after cremation wasn't mentioned).

163:

According to Roman Catholic tradition, yes :-)

164:

Let me stomp on the "soul" topic right here and now:

I'm a materialist. But when I decided to write a short comic novel about a geek who's fallen into a civil service bureaucracy with magic, back in 1999, I needed a plausible explanation underlying "magic". I'd already implicitly invoked QM for "getting the things in other universes to pay attention" but what are they paying attention to?

Well, if magic was mathematically-based, it seemed like a neat idea to borrow from Roger Penrose, whose utterly batshit book "Consciousness Explained" postulated that (a) mathematics is rather more than a convenient abstraction and that (b) human consciousness is emergent from some sort of quantum decoherence effect happening in microtubules in your axons. Add a sprinkling more batshittery from "Shadows of the Mind" (a book I literally threw across the room a quarter of the way in), and "The Physics of Immortality" by Frank Tipler (which is some absolutely pure grade A nonsense, so bonkers I conveniently edited it out of my memory until I finally tripped over the "singularitarianism = warmed-over Christianity" thing for myself) and we've got the ingredients for a handwavium magical explanation for a bunch of stuff I wanted to shoe-horn into a long novella/short novel I horked up in about 3-4 months. In other words, it wasn't painstakingly worked out over a period of decades, like Middle Earth: it was a back-of-the-envelope sketch by a pantser for a one-off short amusement.

So the explanation for "soul" in the Laundryverse is that it's quantum woo: there's a Platonic realm of pure mathematics, and QM plugs into this at some level, and minds work via quantum decoherence, so there's a mechanism for mind to interact directly with the realm of pure logic that defines reality. And presumably what gets "eaten" is ... I'm not really sure? But possibly all the observational effects mediated by the soul of the digested one?

(I want to emphasize that I don't believe a word of this, but when I needed an explanation for magic it came to hand.)

165:

Bob is simply in denial, from the end of "The Fuller Memorandum" through to maybe the start of "The Delirium Brief" (a period of a couple of years). He still wants to be Bob: by the end of the last Bob book he will (provisional plan here) have realized that he is something else, and he isn't going to be able to succeed at what he's doing until he accepts his own changed nature. (There are three basic story themes -- "protagonist vs. antagonist", "protagonist vs. nature", and "protagonist vs. self". This would be an example of the third one. All three come up in the Laundry Files at some point because it's a big-ass series, but that's a noteworthy distinction.)

166:

Now I began to wonder how much Bob's superiors know of his change, or replacement by a different entity thinking it's Bob. Of course there's the corollary of what exactly his superiors are themselves - I'd suspect there are not that many bog-standard humans there...

167:

Angleton for sure knew: so, presumably, does the Senior Auditor, and it's likely Mo has more than an inkling. As for anyone else, it's probably need-to-know stuff. Possible spoiler: the provisional plan was that Mo was to be the next Senior Auditor -- at least before COVID19 ate my planned series climax and Brexit/Trump made satire impossible for a while.

168:

NB: I think I've mentioned a first draft of In His House already exists, plus plans for Bones and Nightmares: those two aren't part of the core Laundry/Bob sequence, they're a continuation of Dead Lies Dreaming. And right now it's now looking like they'll be the next books published in the series (aside from the novella Escape from Puroland).

169:

Nah, the plan for Mo to be the next senior auditor isn't a spoiler - you made that clear in one place (the Rhesus Chart?) My copies are inaccessible at present, due to our tank leak in June, so I can't check. But you ALSO make it clear that all plans went down the sink in the Delirium Brief, a bit like the UK gummint's have done. You really are horribly prophetic :-)

Thank you for the Penrose/Tipler references. Shadows of the Mind was dire, I agree, but it was an amusing throwback to mediaeval 'theology'. I knew Tipler was a loon, but I have see if there is a dirt cheap copy of that to update myself on transpondian Penrosianism.

On a different matter, I assume that you have read The Last Wendy by Marie Brennan? I just have, and was amused by its afterword, in the light of your comments about Dead Lies Dreaming.

170:
It's the end of a story arc, not the end of the universe!

(Incidentally, CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is the magical equivalent of anthropogenic global warming: in this case, computational computing is driving up the level of magic in the world. We can stop driving it up, but that's not going to remove the magic that's already out there. Honking great metaphor ahoy!)

Thanks for taking the time to explain, Charlie.

Thinking -- and reading -- about this Ragnarök business a bit more, I've been putting 2 and 2 together and getting 22! In Book 1 we had an Ice Giant destroying a universe through a dodgy invocation. We've also seen what a thousand years of residual magic does to Elf World. And on AGW we have an example in this solar system of a surfeit of carbon dioxide, with Venus' bubble wrap making it by far the hottest planet within a light year. So, AGW need not necessarily avoid a thermal runaway, need it?

What I also found interesting (and I'm sure Charlie knows all this stuff already) is the Norse mythological stuff. If Bob is our "trickster God programmer" Loki, then isn't it great that the root Norse word in the name carries a connotation of loop or perhaps recursion?

Anyway, having kicked off Ragnarök by telling the Gods a few home truths -- (and can't we all imagine Bob doing that?) -- Thor's Hammer goes missing; an ice giant has stolen it and buried it "eight leagues under the earth". To get it back Thor has to dress up as Freyja (Goddess of Fertility) along with Loki as Bridesmaid. Can we expect Bob and the Black Pharaoh to cross-dress up as Yog Shoggath to recover some suitable Mcguffin?

171:

I'm not that well-read (or into) Norse mythology.

172:
I'm not that well-read (or into) Norse mythology.
.. and in the SF world I'm sure it'd act as catnip to the dangerous nutter contingent.

Did Gaiman suffer from any of that with American Gods, do you know?

ps All I know about it is from the wikipedia article.

173:

BTW, those whacky Lesswrong dudes have come up with what looks like a much better rationalization for computational magic here: the Solomonoff Prior is malign.

174:

Well, I accepted early on that the magic system in the Laundryverse was pantsed. Admittedly, I started getting annoyed when it veered into more traditional magic, but that's mostly because I like the idea of a particular fractal accidentally summoning Nyarlathotep, rather than a mass sacrifice straining the fabric of reality so that something from the Dungeon Dimensions gets through the loosened weave. But whichever.

The lesson, to the extent there is one, is that good storytelling does in fact trump logical world-building.

175:

Yeah, but who do we have to play Turnip Harald?

(No, Yngvi is *not* a louse!)

176:

Always looked to me like an updated version of CM, with mathematical and programmed logic in place of the formal rituals.

Yes, I do know something of them.

Lovely handwavium, Charlie, but *shrug* it all just seemed to be std. popular-version of trad Western magic. Never had a problem with it... and since you follow your own rules, and don't break them, my suspenders of disbelief never snapped.

177:

Well, we've had a President go missing, and a disguised Laundry team go in to retrieve him using a magical sky-bridge...

178:

Yes. I like it as a story background, but my mathematical and pedantic soul is less happy. It looks horribly like another example of self-proclaimed rationalists creating another religion.

I have been looking at a related situation for other reasons, and I am pretty sure the Solomonoff Prior is uncomputable (in the Turing sense). I couldn't work out what was meant by 'malign', so I chased up this link:

https://ai-alignment.com/benign-ai-e4eb6ec6d68e

Hmm. There MIGHT be something more solid behind that, but I get a strong whiff of Penrose. In particular:

"Something is malign if it is optimized for preferences that are incompatible with any combination of its stakeholders’ preferences, i.e. such that over the long run using resources in accordance with the optimization’s implicit preferences is not Pareto efficient for the stakeholders.

Something is benign if it is not malign."

and:

"Malignancy wants to spread. A malign computation will produce malign outputs. Malign outputs will be optimized to recruit other parts of the system to be malign, or to co-opt resources used by other parts of the system."

Well, unless I have missed something, those are equivalent to saying "So you expect miracles?" and "Programs suffer from entropy creep, too", both of which are well-known. In particular, in normal usage, "malign" doesn't encompass "indifferent" and "imperfect".

I also note the use of the word "optimized", because (in normal English) that implies deliberation. Using it for the results of mere selection leads to the position that evolution produces optimal results - and, yes, I am thinking of the claim that humans were created in God's image.

179:

Alright, here's another question in my endless series of "who's come up with this magic system already?"

The proposed magic system is that spells work in part on Murphy's Law and its fellow travelers, and that spoken spells only work when they use sarcasm, such that they do some opposite of what the magician says.

I doubt this would sell much, because most people don't have the twisted brains to enjoy unscrambling the magic at normal reading speed. But it sure would be fun to write, especially with misfires.

So the question is, who's done this already?

180:

[Minimal, in deference to Charlie @ 164, but not wanting to ignore your comment.]

That's essentially the ultimate in "platform-specific software"; the concepts of the platform and the software still exist, even if when things get to that point you can't physically pull them apart.

181:

EC
It looks horribly like another example of self-proclaimed rationalists creating another religion.
Already been done it's called "Communism"

182:

I don't think I've seen that one. I've explicitly computerized Magic in my book about the Orc with PTSD:

“...magic, which is the essential energy that controls other energies, can only do five things; amplify or reduce, slow or accelerate, direct other energies, open and close portals, and make changes which are otherwise physically, mentally, or spiritually possible. The more complex magics work in a fashion similar to the way all higher mathematics are generated out of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division."

183:

Sigh. While communism CAN be a religion and has been, it need not be and, in the form the majority of communists espouse, it isn't - a philosophy is not the same, though I know you are a fervent and (dare I say it) religious McCarthyite.

184:

If you mean the US' late scum Joe McCarthy, I do not believe Greg's anything like that.

185:

Hey, Greg, us of the curmugeonry need to stick together.

186:

Agreed. He's not, to my knowledge a drunken fascistic chancer like the late Tailgunner Joe.

187:

To be fair, I realized after I posted this that I've seen it in the real world (FSVO real): Lakotan Heyokas being the most famous. It also shows up in Bonewits' magic system as negapsi. I just can't remember seeing it in a story...

188:

I was being unfair, I agree, but I have got seriously pissed off with the way he pushes his fanatical anti-communist line. He does share that with the late unlamented Joseph McCarthy.

In my previous post, I was actually referring to people like Dawkins and the ones who make religions out of the Turing machine model. No, we do NOT know that the universe can be simulated by a Turing machine, and there is evidence both ways; even if it could be, most of their dogmas do not follow. I could go into this at much greater length, but will refrain.

189:

My understanding is that if the universe can be simulated by a Turing Machine, then quantum computers of any complexity can also be simulated by a Turing machine. Therefore unambiguous demonstration of quantum supremacy would seem to indicate that we're not in a universe simulated by a Turing machine.

Of course there's a rather more interesting alternative: we're in a universal simulation being run on a quantum system. It's a multiverse, rather than a universe, because each possibility has a certain probability. What we see as four dimensional spacetime is merely the output, and time passing is an illusion.

Now if you want to add magic to the system, here's how you might do it: imagine virus-like programs infecting the quantum simulator before it congeals to its final state, and initiating tunneling between alternate possibilities to manipulate probabilities to favor a certain outcome (the collapse of the model into a final answer state). Now once the wave function collapses, there is no multiverse, only the most probable output universe, and quantum magic is no longer possible. But other things might hack the output file (time release capsule or injection, Neo?).

190:

whitroth @ 151: Oh, and while we're at it... *all* of this seems to be Western/JCI "soul".

I learned that the Buddha (directly) said, "If you light a candle, and then light a second candle from the flame of the first, and light the flame of a third candle from the flame of the second, and so on, is the flame of the seventh candle the same flame as the flame of the first?

What if the seventh candle is just the first candle that you're having to re-light because it went out while you were dicking around with all those other candles?

191:

Yes. I like it as a story background, but my mathematical and pedantic soul is less happy. It looks horribly like another example of self-proclaimed rationalists creating another religion.

I think it's exactly that -- it's part of the same meme-complex as the mind uploading and simulation hypothesis fanbois, which is to say, it's what you get when self-avowed atheist rationalists rediscover the underlying design pattern of gnostic Christianity (see also Roko's Basilisk).

See also: Penrose, Tipler, and a chunk of Moravec.

192:

Greg: Already been done it's called "Communism"

Communism is not, for the n'th time, a religion.

It is an ideology based on a fundamental misapprehension about large-scale group human interactions.

In which respect it's exactly as wrong as Libertarianism (albeit in a different direction).

A couple of decades ago I might have charitably suggested that Libertarians hadn't built any pyramids of skulls, unlike the Leninists, Stalinists, and followers of Mao. But these days, thanks to the ubiquity of the shock doctrine and the rapacious depradations of laissez-faire capitalism, I'd have to eat those words if I'd uttered them.

193:

icehawk @ 155:

Oh, and it also utterly destroys the major British city I grew up in, because revenge is a dish best eaten cold.

That explains things. It seemed a bit harsh at the time.

It doesn't explain why Charlie wanted revenge on the city where he grew up. But I figure he'll tell us if he wants us to know.

194:

Huh, that exercise in wishful computation makes my Story Points Ethical Calculus look practical. In #StoryPointsEC, you lossily (implies a target audience) compress the story of the Universe and see how big it is. Rather than maximising paperclips, you try to make the story more interesting. That leads to some ethical conclusions (Life is useful, for example). To use it in daily practice you'd need to know a lot of history and have great predictive abilities. In other words, it has to wait until there are post-Human beings with great intelligence and comprehensive knowledge about what's going on everywhere. Still, a world where Story Points was the general ethics system would give you a very different kind of society, and possibly something to write about. For more detail, see my essay on Finding a Numerical Value for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything.

Our host has written stories that seem similarly computationally excessive: simulating the lives of historical people by adjusting a simulation of the world until you get output that matches what is known about that person. Then you instantiate that person in a real body. Certainly a more fun use of computonium than calculating probabilities of output strings from all possible Turing machines of size K in the Solomonoff Prior.


195:

Paul @ 162: Puts me in mind of the afterlife in a Doctor Who episode (spoiler: it turned out that this afterlife was run by Missy). The souls remained in contact with their dead bodies, and experienced the sensations of those bodies. So most of the time new arrivals felt cold because they were in refrigerated morgues. However cremation was ... unpleasant. (What you felt after cremation wasn't mentioned).

Yeah, but was that really what happen, or was it Missy being Missy IYKWIM; just doing stuff to eff with The Doctor?

I really liked Michelle Gomez's turn as "The Master" (Mistress?), although I think I would have held the reveal until the second part of the series finale. I hope the new guy works out, but again I think I would have held the reveal until the second part of a two part story.

196:

Thanks for that analysis. I sometimes wonder if I am excessively cynical, but events usually prove that I am not :-(

197:

There's some very handwavy arguments in that piece. This one - about how much information is needed to specify a game of life containing intelligent life - is particularly special:

I’m not an expert, but I think an initial configuration that gives rise to intelligent life can be specified in an 8x8 bounding box, giving a total of 8 bytes.

But if you allow that someone might accept these very dubious premise and follow it through, you get something like the following:

i) I'm trying to send information through some unspecified sampling channel to the beings running my universe as a simulation

ii) all the handwavy assumptions about assuming simple sampling methods means that empty space is probably the best way to send a 0

iii) so if I annihilate all matter in this universe I'm going to be almost sure to be sending zeros through the channel to the other universe and influencing their distribution.

That sounds like a basis for pretty good fundamentalist rationalist death cult right there.

198:

Yes. Your first point stares one in the face, which makes me boggle when that sort of person misses it! While I am happy to work with probabilistic systems (as you know), I know how much havoc it causes to Turing machine and similar deterministic models, and that someone of the calibre of Kolmogorov is needed to make serious progress. Bluntly, I am WAY out of my depth. While there's lots of scope for science fiction (and even magic) there, stories that rely on mathematics that arcane are unlikely to achieve mass appeal.

199:

H & whitroth
Indeed ...
I actually blame (Some of) the people on the far left, for using the word "fascist" everywhere & anywhere about people they didn't like, such as The Madwoman & the war criminal Blair ... so much, that when real actual fascists turn up ( Patel, Cummings, Farage ) nobody believes them.
What's worse, whe I start calling them fascists, I'm immediately lableed an extreme left-winger & corbynista ...
Whch you all, here, will regard as insanity .....
[ EC - I cannot possibly be a communist because I'm an hardcore atheist ... please think about that ]

Charlie
We're going to have to agree to disagree about the status of communism ....
AND - I think you may have undermined your own argument in the immediately previous post ( # 191 ) ??
Where i do agree, whole heartedly is this It is an ideology based on a fundamental misapprehension about large-scale group human interactions. In which respect it's exactly as wrong as Libertarianism
And, of course, building a skull-pyramid in the name of a "holy cause" is almost a textbook descriotion of a religon ....
Um, err ...
NOTE: The all-powerful European superstate ( As purposed by the Brexshiteers ) seems powerless in the face of the latest piece of religious & misogynistic terrorism perpetrated by the vile RC in Poland.

Reverting to present UK politics, today's "ES" political cartoon says it so powerfully, to anyone with the slightest smattering of a local education.
] Bitter, true & horrible, but fucking BoZo will ignore it.
I've seen some locals who have to queue for food handouts, after they have undergone "eligibility tests" ( They get some of my allotment surplus ) & I am NOT AMUSED, shall we say?

200:

' it seemed like a neat idea to borrow from Roger Penrose, whose utterly batshit book "Consciousness Explained" postulated that (a) mathematics is rather more than a convenient abstraction and that (b) human consciousness is emergent'

Excuse me while I nit pick.

Penrose's book was The Emperor's New Mind. The basic idea is as batshit as you say, although his description of the EPR thought experiment and Bell's Inequality is worth a look.

Conciousness Explained is by Dennett. It is a much saner book, and may even say something about what is really going on, although, Dennett being Dennett, he buries the lede so deeply that you may need earthmoving machinery to find it.

JHomes.

201:

On a different matter, I assume that you have read The Last Wendy by Marie Brennan?

For anyone who missed the story earlier, the author put it out on the net here.

202:

What if the seventh candle is just the first candle that you're having to re-light because it went out while you were dicking around with all those other candles?

Only if you're time traveling. It's the Buddhist version of the Ship of Theseus or Grandfather's Axe paradox.

This is actually a fundamental point for the Buddhists. Hinduism posits atman, their version of the soul, aka the self that is the non-physical essence of you that reincarnates endlessly. One fundamental question of belief is whether "one's true self (Jīvātman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman) are: completely identical (Advaita, Non-Dualist), completely different (Dvaita, Dualist), or simultaneously non-different and different (Bhedabheda, Non-Dualist + Dualist)." (from Wikipedia).

Buddhism fundamentally posits anatta, which is that there is no such thing as atman, often rendered as "self is an illusion." So the whole parable of the seven candles is actually about whether there's one flame or seven, and whether the flame is always a flame, or whether it's the spiritual equivalent of a plasma generated by a heat reaction with its surroundings. Buddhism would say the latter, Hinduism would say the flame is eternal while the candles burn.

For those scoffers who are limbering up to type something sarcastic, my advice is not to bother. The only reason to bring this up is as a resource for fantasy writers.

The nice thing about Hinduism is that if you're designing magic and/or spiritual or religious systems from basic principles for a story, there's likely to be an analog in Hinduism already, with a well worked-out philosophy that you can swipe and adapt. They've been noodling with this stuff for a very long time, and you can find everything from iron age ritual to atheistic/humanist branches in the same religion, if you look. Or you can find fundamental schisms like Buddhist anatta vs. Hindu atman, and all the noodling that's been done around them. Think of this as a writer's resource, because Wikipedia's done a pretty good job demystifying the basics.

203:

For taking crob notes, you can read the 1968 Hugo-winner Lord of Light by Zelazny.

204:

For taking crib notes, you can read the 1968 Hugo-winner Lord of Light by Zelazny.

Thin gruel indeed. He took one version. Apparently in Hinduism, there's six orthodox schools and five heterodox schools. The orthodox schools (Nyāyá, Vaiśeṣika, Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedanta) believe in (pick one or more): the epistemic authority of the Vedas, the existence of ātman, and/or the existence of Ishvara (a [supreme] deity, such as Vishnu or Shiva). The five heterodox schools (Buddhism, Jainism, Cārvāka, Ājīvika, and Ajñana, of which the last two are extinct) do not believe in any of these as defined.

Not all of these appear in Christianity. For instance, yoga-like traditions, focusing on the body as a doorway for enlightenment, don't really exist, although arguments about the nature of God and whether souls are separate (or even exist) are present.

205:

"Thin gruel"? That book?

Bullshit.

206:

Oh, and there may be all those schools, but they fall into one of two major theme: Theraveda and Mahayana. And yeah, the Way of the Diamond beloved of the Beats.

And back in my late teens, I read English translations of the Ramayana and the Mahabarata.

I reiterate: calling Lord of Light "thin gruel" is an insult.

207:

Well, since you just equated two of the three main schools of Buddhism with Hinduism, and sneered at the third....yeah. Lord of Light did not prepare you thoroughly. It's as good a primer on Hinduism as Heinlein's "Sex and Jesus" book is on Christian mysticism.

I'd say that, as with the Laundryverse, Lord of Light is an example of good storytelling taking precedence over in-depth construction of the story universe. I'd also take Zelazny's side and say that it's not worth blaming him for not doing his research. When he wrote Lord of Light, the sources in English for Hinduism and Buddhism were either basic, jumbled, incoherent, or some mixture of the three. He was a good storyteller making a living, and he did the right thing by writing a good story, rather than doing the fairly useless exercise of translating esoteric Hinduism for a science fiction readership that mostly wouldn't care about it anyway.

That was also about 50 years ago. Times have changed, and so have audiences.

Now that the few hippies who spent their lives actually learning the stuff right are getting to old master status, we're actually getting some really good translations and teachings given in English by native speakers. Might as well use what we've got now. Especially if it makes for a better story.

208:

Sorry, you're right: title confusion! The Penrose book I borrowed from was "The Emperor's New Mind", with a bit borrowed from "Shadows of the Mind" (which I couldn't finish). Dennett was, for my money, much closer to the target and less wrong in the canonical meaning of the term.

209:

Oh, yeah? Physical abnegation (fasting, sleep deprivation, flagellation, hair shirts and their lice, etc.) as a path to holiness is important in many parts of Christianity and, if that's not focusing on the body as a doorway for enlightenment, I'm a banana. Some of us were even inflicted with some of that as children ....

210:

That makes sense. The Emperor's New Mind is, to be polite, mystical handwavium for the ill-informed - blithering and incoherent nonsense, in other words. I was referred to Shadows of the Mind by Mike A, and it at least makes it clear what he (Penrose) is talking about. But it's STILL nonsense, and I made some rude remarks here:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2020/07/no-comment-necessary.html comment #325

211:

Therefore unambiguous demonstration of quantum supremacy would seem to indicate that we're not in a universe simulated by a Turing machine.

You can't infer that, as you have no information about how long said Turing machine is taking to perform the simulation in its universe.

Now you could argue that it would not be sensible for our hypothetical BOFH overlords to run a simulation at a rate of a billion years of real time per second of sim time, but some of us don't find the simulation argument sensible anyway so it's only a matter of degree.

212:

It depends on the meaning of supremacy. If it merely means 'much faster' in the complexity (P, NP, etc.) sense, then you are right. But, if it means in the Turing decidability sense, then he is right, and most people who blither on about this area use it in the latter sense. Penrose assuredly does.

213:

EC
Yeah ... "Suffering is good for you" ( Echoes of the vile hypocrite Agnes Teresa Bojaxhiu ) - but not for "me" of course.
Which reminds me - a repeat link: LOOK AT this cartoon Please .... pretty please.
Marcus Rashford is ... unusal. A football star with a serious brain.
And quote from him: I remember the sound of my mum crying herself to sleep to this day, having worked a 14-hour shift, unsure how she was going to make ends meet..
Now he has money coming out of his ears - & he is making use of it for real "good" - & people are lining up behind him.
It's a shaming disgrace, that 75 years after the end of WW II there are people desperate for food in this country ....
As long as my allotment is going, I'm never going to go short, assuming the elctricity supply system carries on working, but others ... not so much.
Yeah, I'm angry. That we have fallen to this.

214:

Quantum Supremacy as used by people in the QC field is very much the former.

Penrose is an excellent example of expertise not being transferrable. Nobel prize worthy work in one field, utter garbage in another.

215:

I know, but not always. The quantum computing and computational complexity fields are full of complete bollocks, and often outright fraud - yes, there's some honest work, but it's drowned out by those. Let's ignore their numerous crimes against logic and mathematics, and simply point out that ALL such distinctions are simply a matter of engineering efficiency. Until and unless they can show that they can deliver supremacy in practice, using a problem and metric of serious interest to the outside world, their claims are merely polemic.

However, that has nothing to do with the topic that was previously under discussion, and it is the minority view that is relevant: i.e. the people claim that (bounded) quantum computers will be able to solve problems that (bounded) Turing machines can't. And, yes, there are such problems, though no evidence for that claim, either.

216:

Oh, yeah? Physical abnegation (fasting, sleep deprivation, flagellation, hair shirts and their lice, etc.) as a path to holiness is important in many parts of Christianity and, if that's not focusing on the body as a doorway for enlightenment, I'm a banana. Some of us were even inflicted with some of that as children ....

You're a banana.

I'll give you an example from a Taoist qigong class I took over the summer. It was taught by a really good and well-known master of the field who spent years living in China, worked as a traditional doctor, became a Taoist priest, and is a well-known martial arts teacher. And old.

Anyway, we spent the time learning, among other things, to start to feel the sinews and ligaments in our bodies. When combined with our bones, basically we were setting up systems analogous to the compound bows made of wood and sinew. The system is actually called "bend the bow and shoot the arrow."

The point of this exercise was focused on the spine, essentially self-chiropractic. Once you figure out how to juggle all different things you're supposed to do simultaneously, you can use the springiness of the tendons and ligaments, combined with selective and directional relaxation of the vertebrae (which you really need to feel individually for this to work), to realign the muscles and vertebrae in your back to heal back problems. Oh, and there's a lot of mystical stuff too.

Anyway, this teacher's qualified, because in addition to his training and practice with this stuff in a Chinese clinic, he's been in seven car wrecks, resulting in two spinal fractures and five whiplashes, and he's had to fix his back each time. That's why people who know about him and have back trouble take his classes.

Taoist schools tend to really focus on the body as a means of enlightenment, and this is an example of an intermediate practice. When you compare the diversity of yoga and Taoist practice with what's available in western religion, no, we don't have that the full range of these practices in Christianity.

While I entirely agree that ascetic practices are used by a some people for spiritual experiences, that's only a small part of the range of possible body arts. Indeed, we'd currently have a world of billions of enlightened individuals if suffering with famine and poor living conditions brought it, and spiritual seekers would be flocking to refugee camps for the experience.

Suffering alone is insufficient. Buddha himself tried extreme asceticism and didn't get anywhere, so he abandoned the practice and got to enlightenment five years after that. He practiced the Middle Way of disciplined practice without extremes. The Taoist practices I do are similar: they're not physically stressful, and we're told repeatedly not to force anything if we want to get anywhere. However, they are extremely complex in what you have to pay attention to while learning, and that's where the enlightenment starts to creep in.

217:

You are changing the goalposts. I fully agree that the Taoists and others do it far better, far more thoroughly, and less sadistically, but there is no difference in category between such exercises and kneeling for an hour in prayer. And, yes, the posture WAS (and probably still is) claimed to be a way of enhancing the praying.

218:

I'd rather say there was a misunderstanding on what was included in the category of body practices.

Recall the setting: my idea here was to prompt SFF authors to look at the diversity of Hinduism if they're trying to roll their own religious or magical systems. The simple reasons are that a) other people have already done the work, b) it's more diverse than Christianity, especially the Christianity that most English speakers have been exposed to, and c) the basics appear well-covered in Wikipedia. This is about saving effort in world-building really.

The reason I don't include Taoism and Buddhism on this list, even though these are the ones I know far more about, is that it's harder to get clear information on them. For an author making a living, this is a real consideration. There's no reason not to use them if you know about them for other reasons. But diving into these takes more time.

But if you're pantsing a novel and need some exotic religion quick, I'd advise first looking at Hinduism, simply because its full diversity is increasingly on display. In it you can find anything from polytheistic systems that look a lot like the old Olympian gods, to monotheism, atheism with and without souls, humanism and materialism, religions that sanctify violence and religions that sanctify nonviolence. There are other examples of these around the world, but if you're stressed for time, I'd check out the Wikipedia articles on Hinduism first.

Note also that I'm not suggesting straight out cultural appropriation, but using Hinduism as a source of inspiration to make your own system, with its own deities, precepts, and practices. It's easier than trying to invent these on your own, especially if this isn't something you've spent much time thinking about in the past.

219:

Charlie @ 192:

[Communism] is an ideology based on a fundamental misapprehension about large-scale group human interactions.

In which respect it's exactly as wrong as Libertarianism (albeit in a different direction).

To a first approximation it seems to me that the end-state fantasies of communism and libertarianism are pretty much the same.

A while ago I started wondering what modern socialists were thinking. Obviously the fall of the Soviet Union meant that classical Marxism had been experimentally disproven, and we've had 170 years of history and technological development since The Communist Manifesto. Meanwhile I kept seeing people say things like "X can't be fixed until we get rid of capitalism". So I tried to find out what the current thinking on a replacement was.

I found nothing. Absolutely nothing. It seems that all the theoretical work on how a socialist society would work was done in the mid-19th century, and nobody has bothered to update it. (I did come across Fully Automated Luxury Communism, but the technology isn't here yet and probably won't be for some decades, if ever).

OK, rant over. Now to the meat. What follows is of course a vast oversimplification; both ideologies have an infinite number of variants and its impossible to cover them all in a single posting.

In the classical Marxist fantasy the revolution will be followed by the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in which the Communist Party will take over the organs of the state, including the property of the capitalists. The productive parts will be handed over to the control of the workers, organised into communes. From then on the organs of the repressive capitalist state (money, police, banks, military, church etc) will wither away because they are simply unnecessary. A central administration may be needed to make sure that infrastructure is maintained, but thats it. Everything else will be arranged by workers in the communes holding meetings and democratically agreeing on what needs to be done. Individual workers will be free to join in, or not, as the mood takes them on the day.

Meanwhile in the Libertarian fantasy the repressive organs of the state (tax collectors, police, military, central banks, social security, health and safety inspectors, child protection, road building etc) will be abolished, or simply wither away due to lack of funds. Everything will be organised by groups of free citizens freely associating to agree on what needs to be done and arrange for payment by those who feel they need it.

The fundamental problem they both run into is the Tragedy of the Commons.

In Libertarianism this is simply ignored. I once asked a libertarian how street lights would be paid for. His answer basically asserted that lack of light pollution was a public good and hence lack of street lighting was better. The nearest libertarians seem to get to a serious answer is that if people living on a street want street lights, police protection etc then they will club together and pay for them. What happens to a free rider who doesn't want to pay is never adequately explained, but it seems to rely on social pressure on individuals to encourage them to want to do the right thing.

In Communism the individual workers are assumed to want to do the right thing without any coercion, simply because they are working for the common good. There seems to be an assumption that communes will be able to get stuff from other communes by asking nicely, but what happens when a commune votes to say "no" to a request for food from their neighbours is never adequately explained. Some variants assume that money will still exist for inter-commune trade, but they never go into any detail (e.g. can I become a commune all on my own and hence get access to capital?)

I've just read this fascinating story about what happened when a bunch of libertarians actually managed to take over the town of Grafton in New Hampshire. The Public Good that they failed to consider was the absence of bears. Once wildlife control stopped and people decided not to bother with bear-proof bins the bears became a serious menace. The situation was not improved by a few people who decided that the presence of bears was a public good and were actively feeding them.

220:

I had one of those dreams this morning, not quite a nightmare, but very weird; the kind of dream you have just as you're waking up so it takes a few seconds to realize you're back in reality and what was going on before was just a dream.

I dreamed the current mess with Donald Trump et al was some kind of giant charade that only some of us were actually experiencing. It wasn't a reality TV show like that movie The Truman Show; not one person surrounded by actors who were in on the joke.

It was some kind of gigantic secret social experiment being perpetrated on us en masse.

Not a scientific experiment, but an "experiment" like where a kid pokes a stick into an ant-hill & stirs it up just to watch the ants boil out of it and act crazy (although it's not crazy from the ant's point of view, it's just some UN-explainable disaster).

222:

I'm not an expert on capitalism, but I think it's got the same problem as Christianity, namely that it's an immensely successful but undefended brand name. As such, it gets used for many different, often fundamentally conflicting systems that don't have a lot in common but which use the same brand because it's convenient.

I'll dig into this a bit, but the general point is that, making the big assumption that civilization continues to stand, what will replace capitalism is something labeled capitalism that won't have a lot in common with its predecessor. And probably that's easier and safer than creating an alternative to capitalism that will get into a fight with it, as communism did.

Christianity is a good example of brand-creep. Here's an example: so far as I understand, what was taught by Jesus and the early Christians, souls weren't important. Salvation meant that, when Christ returned at the end of days, every true Christian was either saved or physically resurrected to live in heaven on earth, while the non-Christians ceased to exist and the demons were damned to hell. Then the Greeks, who had a long history of souls and afterlives, got their hands on Christianity, and to evangelize them, Jesus' original teachings got downplayed and we get into this whole soul thing in Christianity. Same label, evolving teachings.

Nowadays, the label of Christian is used by tens of thousands of groups. We've got people feeding the poor and helping the sick in God's name, and they're wonderful people. We've got hypocritical politicians, people who sanctify xenophobic violence, and people who preach that Christians will grow rich in this world, and they're....wonderful...people of an entirely different stripe. Christianity has become more a label than a coherent system, and I could multiply the examples endlessly, both within and between putatively monolithic faiths.

In capitalism, we've got everything from China to Sweden to the US to Zimbabwe. Hell, we've even got North Dakota and California, just in the US. They're not all the same about what's legal to market, what's regulated, and so forth. Capitalism isn't really an entity any more, any more than Christianity is. It's a label.

Now, if we as a global civilization really go solarpunk and get our carbon emissions under control, I suspect that the dominant economic system will still be called capitalism. It almost certainly will be more "circular" (buzzword bingo bonus) and have a radically different set of regulations to prevent the abuses that are crippling our societies now. But the label will stay the same.

Keeping the label will allow the change to happen without sparking a war/jihad against whatever the replacement is. We learned that lesson a century ago and again two decades ago, when anarchism, communism, and radical islam all tried to overthrow capitalism and institute what they considered to be more just systems. Labeling themselves as separate enabled the capitalists to work together to defeat them. Better to work to "reform capitalism from within" than to make a radical break and get crushed, apparently.

223:

Good point: I don't think there's much harm in promoting GURPS products around here.

224:

Have you actually read Lord of Light? Sam's playing Gautama to the "gods" (former crew) who are playing Hindu deities.

225:

Have you actually read Lord of Light? Sam's playing Gautama to the "gods" (former crew) who are playing Hindu deities.

Many times. Wore out my dad's copy as a teenager. I still stand by what I said.

226:

Yep, right. I guess a short search which reaffirmed your opinions was how you looked up socialism.

https://www.marxists.org/subject/marxmyths/hal-draper/article2.htm

The Communists (note capitalization) have a high opinion of humanity, as opposed to the "Born In Sin" of the millennia and more of the Church.

Libertarians, on the other hand, do not believe in family - those are people you owe money to, or whom you support, meaning that "spouse" and "prostitute" are essential identical. They do not have "friends", all they have are people who want to use them,and people they want to use. I mean, they *say* it's all economic transactions.

Since you asked, what I want is social control of capital. A century and more ago, "social control of the means of production" meant factories and farms. It does not, now, esp. with automation.

And that's the start.

227:

Regarding Hinduism &/ot the Gautama & "interpretations":
The closing words of Zelazny's masterpiece:
But, look around you
Death & Light are everywhere, & they begin, end, strive, attend, into & upon the Dream of the Nameless that is the world, burning words within Samsara, perhaps to create a thing of beauty.
As the wearers of the saffron robe still meditate upon the Way(s) of Light, & the girl who is named Murga visits the temple, daily, to place before her dark one in his shrine, the only devotion he recieves, of flowers.

Paul
...the organs of the repressive capitalist state (money, police, banks, military, church etc) will wither away ...
Well, apart from all the other reasons ... given the incessant unfortunate propensity of about 1% of the population to be arseholes, it means you are always going to need "police", unfortunately.
Or, when even if you do have a small collective, voluntary group, what you do when a "dominant" personality starts or actually takes that group over & uses it for theor personal ends - profi, expoitation, personal spite. How do you stop them?
"Grafton- but, were the Bears ARMED - as in "The right to keep & arm Bears?" ( Sorry, couldn't resist it! )
Oh & your link @ 221 has wonky HTML somewhere ....

228:

Heteromeles @ 202:

What if the seventh candle is just the first candle that you're having to re-light because it went out while you were dicking around with all those other candles?

Only if you're time traveling. It's the Buddhist version of the Ship of Theseus or Grandfather's Axe paradox.

Don't you just hate it when you go to pull someone's leg and it just falls right off in your hand?

229:

Well, that's depressing. He kidnaps her and steals her mind?

230:

I tried to read Solomonoff Prior. That's the kind of thing which makes computer science students turn to drugs.

Or in my case, copious amounts of alcohol.

231:

Well, that's depressing. He kidnaps her and steals her mind?

I read it rather that he doesn't kidnap - seduce, lure, invite, take your pick - one of Wendy's descendants this time. Having been so soundly rebuffed his heart breaks and he cannot accept this reality. Problematic, since reality and Peter Pan are barely on speaking terms in the first place.

He does not leave with Angie, the most recent girl he found in the nursery. He leaves with the girl he really wanted, Wendy ... or at least something exactly as close to Wendy as he will ever notice.

232:

Don't you just hate it when you go to pull someone's leg and it just falls right off in your hand?

Well, for us centipedes, losing a leg in a mistimed jape is no big deal.

233:

whitroth @ 226: Yep, right. I guess a short search which reaffirmed your opinions was how you looked up socialism.

Actually no. I spent several weekends reading, thinking, and writing (for my own benefit to organise my thoughts; you don't want to read it). I read the whole of the Communist Manifesto, a chunk of marxists.org (though not that incredibly turgid page you linked to) and quite a few Wikipedia pages. I also posted this question on Reddit Change My View in the hope that someone would be able to point me at the modern theory of socialism that I was looking for. It didn't happen. (Although on one point my view was changed: the algorithms and raw computer power to solve the Economic Calculation Problem do now exist).

The nearest I found to an attempt to tackle these issues was a piece (which I regret I cannot now locate) that discussed problems with classic socialism but failed to propose any coherent way forwards.

Since you asked, what I want is social control of capital.

Thats a nice phrase, but what exactly does it mean? Who exactly gets to make the controlling decisions in the short and long term?

The conclusion I came to from my studying is that the real dilemma in social organisation is not socialism versus capitalism, its democracy versus technocracy. To illustrate the point, let me pose three questions:

1. What did your local government spend on sewer maintenance last year?

2. What should it have spent?

3. Was that money well spent?

You might be able to answer question 1 with some digging (unless you live somewhere its a state secret), but forming an intelligent opinion on the other two is going to require you to spend days ploughing through some very boring reports. The problem is that if you want this important piece of infrastructure to be under real democratic control then you need everyone to do exactly that. Obviously this is impossible, so we hand the control of sewers off to technical experts who are paid to know the answers to questions 2 and 3. That's technocracy. It doesn't much matter whether those sewer technocrats are employed directly by the government or by some company contracted by the government; its still the same people doing the same job.

However pure technocracy also fails. This became evident early on in the soviet experiment with the rise of what was then called "The New Class", and later became known as the apparatchiks (and Galbraith also pointed at the same phenomenon in democratic capitalist countries). You simply cannot run a modern technological civilization without a class of experts to make the decisions.

The problem with this class is that it is in charge of resource allocation, so it is forever tempted to allocate more of those resources to itself. Either directly in the form of huge pay rises, or indirectly in the form of state facilities which are reserved for members of the technocracy. The USSR had Zil limousines for senior technocrats; everyone else got Ladas and Strabants.

This class knows how things are done, and therefore tends to perpetuate the way it is done today. It organises itself as a hierarchy. Innovation, especially if it improves efficiency, is always a threat to some part of the hierarchy, so the hierarchy will always find a way to squash innovation. The history of computers in the USSR was largely a history of would-be innovators being blocked by members of the hierarchy who felt threatened by automation. Likewise, anyone who wants to rise in the hierarchy will follow the current system and not "rock the boat". Thus the technocracy becomes an ossified oligarchy.

This class also have families, and they want their children to inherit their wealth and status. So you get the "red princeling" phenomenon, which was visible in the USSR and is clearly in evidence today in China. The children of senior technocrats get to attend better schools, have failed exams ignored, and are rapidly promoted over the heads of others who are less favoured. Over time the system therefore evolves into an aristocracy in which the technocracy cements its hold on power by preventing social mobility while telling itself that this is a natural result of its own innate superiority.

There are only two cures for this end-game of technocracy: violent revolution, or democratic votes to chuck the rascals out.

Unfortunately its increasingly not that simple. Having a democratically elected leadership of the executive does not give them effective control of the thousands of technocrats they suddenly find themselves notionally in charge of. This was the basis of just about all the comedy in "Yes Minister" and "Yes Prime Minister". It was a serious problem then, and has only gotten worse since.

I don't have any good answers to this. I'd very much like to find some. But I feel like someone with a chronic illness that the doctors can't treat, looking for alternative answers and merely finding a parade of quacks.

If you can point me at something which explains what "social control of capital" actually means and how it would work then I would be very interested to read it. But I'm not optimistic.

234:

Read the web magazine "Mother Jones" in a regular fashion.

235:

Niala
Also read "THe Atlantic" ...
It has a limited number of "reads", before a paywall cur=ts in, but that can be evaded, if you are careful ( Incignito windows for all subsequent looks after the first )

236:

to Paul @219:

I found nothing. Absolutely nothing. It seems that all the theoretical work on how a socialist society would work was done in the mid-19th century, and nobody has bothered to update it. (I did come across Fully Automated Luxury Communism, but the technology isn't here yet and probably won't be for some decades, if ever).

I can only imagine amount of theoretical and practical work performed in late-USSR in attempts to reform economic and political thought as the leadership started to realize that their system is getting obsolete. Unfortunately, a) it was all safely contained from infiltrating the west by the Iron Curtain (which never really fell for many reasons too obvious to tell) and b) it was all happily forgotten, defunded and liquidated by new generation as deemed to be irrelevant. Well, most of it, anyway, because ideas don't disappear easily.

In the classical Marxist fantasy the revolution will be followed by the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in which the Communist Party will take over the organs of the state, including the property of the capitalists.
Meanwhile in the Libertarian fantasy the repressive organs of the state (tax collectors, police, military, central banks, social security, health and safety inspectors, child protection, road building etc) will be abolished, or simply wither away due to lack of funds.

Actually, almost 12 years ago I've seen this point of view expressed by some of the first political blogs I've started to read back then. We can agree that both Liberalism and Communism are ideologies with rather similar goals in mind (just by different methods), formed in 19th century and applied in 20th, but both of them have already been disproved and transformed by the middle of said century.

Classical Marxist Communism was dead-on-arrival in USSR - first, by practical application of socialist postulates, by revolutionaries themselves (thus the Leninism, Maoism, and so on). Then, after revolution ended and situation was stabilized, everybody in their sane minds figured out that marching right to the utopia would just make people mad and tired, thus creating the schism in the movement between people who insisted to continue pushing against the wall, and stern pragmatist and planners. Or so I imagine it, anyway.

Liberalism had it's own judgement day much later, on Great Depression, where people were reluctantly pushed to apply socialist methods and other collective, governmental and other regulations on free trade. And thus it is still treated as more successful (successful in creating more misery, I presume).

What we are dealing with nowadays (from the point of view of law-abiding citizen), almost century later, is called, IIRC, neo-marxism and neo-liberalism. Which are terribly aggressive strains of the past selves, and just like that, they seem to be unhindered by any failed policies and looming dangers of social collapse - in fact, their end goal is to use said dangers to further their own interest. But clearly, the situation is very similar - it is obvious that most of socialist regulation has been dispersed and fragmented while broad rivers of capital flow around the world, unhindered by any governmental or popular control.

The fundamental problem they both run into is the Tragedy of the Commons.
Now I was having a thought, how said Tragedy of the Commons could be defined in similar manner today. In application to information technology and control of the media, in whatever other similar manner since we live in age of information. Right now as we talk, the control over information is tightening everywhere under any suitable pretext, especially the "equality", "justice" and so on.

I am decent VR enthusiast, my plans was to buy one of more advanced devices next year to replace my current headset with more advanced one. Thus I've had to chose between several models, but as of recent events, Oculus Rift is written off completely from my list for a number of reasons.
Long story short, after acquiring the rights the FB administration was moving goalposts against all and every agreements with its creators, and now the frog is thoroughly boiled:
1. From now on, since OR belongs to FB, it requires you to have verified, assigned account in FB.
2. All of your activity, content and shared information in OR belongs to FB and they do whatever they want with it, it is written right there in TOS.
3. From now on, this also means that they are in charge of moderating your account, your activity, and... and... just see next link below.
4. And if you disagree with any of the above, alas, your expensive piece of equipment and all software you bought for it is just a high-tech plastic brick.

https://www.roadtovr.com/facebook-expanded-vr-policies-oculus-quest-2-privacy-policy-terms-of-service/
This already seems to be the solution to modern Tragedy of Commons as we see it in digital space - in the same manner it was resolved last time.

237:

Oh, I am sorry for presumably jumping onto debate a bit early in the thread, so here's a little issue I am not content with what I've read in Laundry verse. Not a major plot point, but still curious.

So, as by Fuller Memorandum (I looked it up today again), Bob was made into Eater Of Souls by a strange ritual that is supposed to summon said entity but misfired. Which granted him, regular geek with some necromancer expertise, a bit deeper insight in his profession, and couple of more to boot - but not the identity of EOS. Fast forward to Rhesus Chart, the bounding between him and EOS grows stronger until the previous owner of the title is trapped below event horizon and deemed unrecoverable. What really happened? Did the hungry ghost just hop into the next available body? Or did it/he already exist in two places simultaneously.

Somehow, my rationalization sees EOS not as complete summoned creature, but as a symbiotic form of life (like sort of a intelligent necromantic mold) somewhat similar to Feeders, but more complex. It does not seem to invade indiscriminately and destroy everything by the instinct, and is given surprisingly affable personality - for alien soul-eating creature that is. It does not want to invade and usurp despite its considerable power. It would be much easier for regular monster to wear Bob's face without much changes and alterations to personality, only for it to slide off at the moment where there's no use for it anymore. Instead, as if by benevolent gesture, it actually interacts and mentors his soul into the shape that would be more adequate to the people surrounding him.

238:

1. You're making a false distinction, which asserts that you must have *either* democracy *or* technocracy, implying that they can't work together.
2. Social control of capital... well, for a start, tax every freakin' stock trade. And make the top tax brackets, for people making > $20M/yr USD at *least* at 90%, no deductions.

3. Stop. We haven't gone past post 300, this really doesn't related to the thread, and Charlie's blog really isn't the place to have long, extended political dissertations.

You can get my email if you need it.

239:

Niala
Thanks for that - I'd forgotten "Mother Jones"
They have veryamusing pieces on DJT in Scotland ...
Apparently he not only collided with Lord Lyon King of Arms & lost, but steps are being taken to try using a UWO (Unexplained Wealth Order ) against his Scottish dealings.
Fun!

240:

Minor statistical issue - in what way does a sample of 1 prove any "experiment" failed. You are only proving your prejudice. As does your claim that no new theory has appeared on Socialism in the last hundred years - ever heard of a guy called Mao.

I would further note the work of the Fabian Society in the UK as one example.

241:

Greg & Niala,

I already read The Intercept, The Guardian, The Economist and sometimes Reason, plus I watch the BBC and Sky news, so I'm well supplied with news from across the political spectrum (and also a bunch of techno-political stuff like TechDirt and Motherboard). What I'm looking for is not articles and commentary with a left wing slant, its an explanation of how a socialist society would actually work. (I'm also open to explanations of how a libertarian society would work, but I consider that less likely).

242:

I got an online subscription to the Atlantic when they were running a sale earlier this year.

This brings up a bigger point, which is that journalists are writers too, so if you want to support their writing pay for it. I think we'd all get annoyed if people here posted about how to pirate Charlie's work, although I assume it's quite possible with all the predators online. So why post about how to steal the work of other writers you admire?

Personally, I'd rather support good journalists than only get material put out by propagandists working for billionaires.

243:

Compare these articles in Wikipedia: Credit unions in Canada and Credit unions in the United States.

244:

It should be noted that the legal status of cooperatives in Canada may have become significantly more precarious after the recent sale of Mountain Equipment Coop to an American private equity company — without the membership being able to vote on the issue, and with a governing board that decided (because of the pandemic) that the latest board election was impossible to hold.

It is apparently legal under Canadian law, although the judge who ruled that seemed to say that the law needed changing (one lawyer I know reading between the lines of the verdict).

245:

Scott Sanford @ 231:

Well, that's depressing. He kidnaps her and steals her mind?

I read it rather that he doesn't kidnap - seduce, lure, invite, take your pick - one of Wendy's descendants this time. Having been so soundly rebuffed his heart breaks and he cannot accept this reality. Problematic, since reality and Peter Pan are barely on speaking terms in the first place.

He does not leave with Angie, the most recent girl he found in the nursery. He leaves with the girl he really wanted, Wendy ... or at least something exactly as close to Wendy as he will ever notice.

I read it as the "last Wendy" is Angie's child and she's the last because she chose to never return from Neverland.

246:

I read it as Pan either conjuring the Ghost of Wendy, or constructing a simulacrum thereof that is sufficiently convincing for him.

247:

I of course know nothing about Canadian law, but selling a company without at least feedback from the shareholders would normally end up in court here in the states. Especially since governments at all levels are holding virtual meetings quite successfully.

248:

It did end up in court, and the judge ruled that it was legal, but (my lawyer friend reading between the lines) that coops might need to have their legal protections enhanced. A lot hinges on the legal distinction between a coop and a for-profit business.

It is an interesting situation, which I'm not happy with.

249:

I read it as Pan either conjuring the Ghost of Wendy, or constructing a simulacrum thereof that is sufficiently convincing for him.

Yes, this.

Peter Pan ran into a real girl who had no interest in his antics and even called him on his bullshit. Peter lacks the self awareness to catch himself on his bullshit. It's his nature. He is the boy who never grows up. Faced with a moment of potential maturity, something had to give.

And he has lived in a child's daydream for over a hundred years. What's one more fantasy? So he returns to the Neverland with Wendy, and this time she's finally the one he really wanted, the Wendy of his dreams. Presumably they live Happily Ever After.

250:

witroth @ 238

1. You're making a false distinction, which asserts that you must have *either* democracy *or* technocracy, implying that they can't work together.

Exactly my point: neither extreme works, so you need some kind of mixture. Whenever I see a grand plan for how society should work I look for the technocrats, because they are going to be there and there needs to be a way in which they are made answerable to democratic control. Classic socialism didn't do this because technocracy wasn't a concept back in the late 19th century, and the emergence of a technocratic ruling class in the USSR came as a nasty surprise.

2. Social control of capital... well, for a start, tax every freakin' stock trade. And make the top tax brackets, for people making > $20M/yr USD at *least* at 90%, no deductions.

This keeps happening to me. I ask a socialist "How will your system work?" and they reply "Well, for a start we should [minor tweak to mixed capitalism]". In that Reddit Change My View thread I referenced I got a number of answers of the form "We don't know what socialism will look like but we know how to make capitalism more like it". SlightlyFoxed @ 240 pointed me at the Fabians, who also want to make incremental changes working towards a socialist system that they don't explain. I get a nasty feeling that a socialist society isn't a real goal, its just the Rapture of the Socialists.

I'm all in favour of incremental improvements to the current system. There are a lot of possible improvements being debated all over the place. My personal favourites are basic income and some kind of world tax authority to shut down the tax havens. That doesn't make me a socialist (except to USA Republicans). If incremental improvements to capitalism are all that socialists really believe in then they need to stop talking about replacing capitalism with something better.

3. Stop. We haven't gone past post 300, this really doesn't related to the thread, and Charlie's blog really isn't the place to have long, extended political dissertations.

Agreed. I was originally responding to something by Charlie, which I figured was license to ignore the 300 rule, but this is now off topic. I can't find your email address, but mine is paul at cogito dot org dot uk.

251:

Yes, precisely. That's precisely how I read it, too.

252:

It is relevant, I think, that the epilogue to "The Last Wendy" is quite close to the dialogue & action from the original story (which I found on Project Gutenberg):

His sobs woke Wendy, and she sat up in bed. She was not alarmed to see a stranger crying on the nursery floor; she was only pleasantly interested.

'Boy,' she said courteously, 'why are you crying?'

Peter could be exceedingly polite also, having learned the grand manner at fairy ceremonies, and he rose and bowed to her beautifully. She was much pleased, and bowed beautifully to him from the bed.

'What's your name?' he asked.

'Wendy Moira Angela Darling,' she replied with some satisfaction. 'What is your name?'

'Peter Pan.'

253:

Hi! I apologize asking for information surely available elswhere on this blog but I cannot seem to find it, but I am wondering if someone physically located in Germany with all the localization that entails is likely to be able to eventually purchase the Rhesus Chart audiobook on audible? I have purchased everything else but my life is currently such that listening to an audiobook is much easier than reading due to ourside constraints and it's making my re-cap of the work for the upcoming new installment in the universe difficult.

Ideally, I would like to purchase it on audible just to have everything in one place, but I would be willing to entertain purchasing the audiobook in another storefront as long as offline use is possible.

Has anyone already done the research so I can use transfer learning?

Thanks!

254:

someone physically located in Germany with all the localization that entails is likely to be able to eventually purchase the Rhesus Chart audiobook on audible?

I have no idea!

Recorded Books (who I think are distributed via Audible) buy the US rights; UK and EU rights are bought along with paper/ebook rights by Hachette Digital, but with a likely no-deal crash Brexit coming in about 9-10 weeks there is no way of knowing whether Orbit (as part of Hachette's UK arm) will be able to sell ebooks or audiobooks into the EU after December 31st; there's no point even guessing because Boris Johnson is playing chicken with the EU and to make matters worse the outcome of the November 3rd election in the USA will impact his negotiating posture going forward (the Tories are out in the cold with the hopefully-incoming Biden administration, insofar as Boris has aligned himself far too closely with Trump for his own diplomatic safety).

Alas, I don't use audiobooks myself so I have zero in-depth knowledge of what your alternative options are. Probably the safest would be to grab yourself a burner email account and use it to register a (fake) street address in the USA for an Amazon.com account, then buy the US audiobook (definitely via Audible, stable after Dec 31st) paying using an Amazon gift voucher bought via Paypal or eBay. But note that the audiobook narrator will be different for the US edition than the UK edition.

255:

Apologies for dropping this in here before comment 300, but probably of interest to those whose 2020-absurdity-bingo card isn't yet completely ticked off:

There appears to be an attempted oil-tanker hijack in progress just off the Isle of Wight

20-ish miles from Portsmouth seems an odd choice of location for such an undertaking, even with the Royal Navy being a much lesser force than it once was.

256:

Charlie @ 254
BoZo is all-too-clearly lost in a maze of his own contradictions & lies.
The penny has finally dropped as to what an utter fucking disaster crashing out will be.
But he's beholden to the utra-rich semi-fascists behind that move.
At the same time, many traditional ex-Conservatives are now alarmed & the real business leades in the UK are equally alarmed at a "no-deal" - & they all too clearly remeber "Oven-Ready" & "Easiest Deal EAVAH"
He's now got to betray somebody ....

And ... Mr Barnier is staying in London & talks are "intensifying", whilst BoZo is still trying to face both ways - he might almost be J Corbyn, given the mutually incompatible poeitions he's trying to hold.

I suspect that if, as expected the D's make a clean sweep between 4th &afterwards of November, the pressure will be on BoZo to cut an EU deal.
One can hope so.

257:

You can get my contact from my writing website, https://mrw.5-cent.us

258:


H@202says:
"The nice thing about Hinduism is that if you're designing magic and/or spiritual or religious systems from basic principles for a story, there's likely to be an analog in Hinduism already, with a well worked-out philosophy that you can swipe and adapt. They've been noodling with this stuff for a very long time, and you can find everything from iron age ritual to atheistic/humanist branches"

Religions come and go but their symbology lives on in popular imagination, acquiring new meanings as situations change. Statues of Shiva in his many armed manifestation show him holding a number of objects, one that looks like it might be a drum, but one that clearly can't be anything other than a trident, identical to the one Poseidon or Neptune carried. And it has to be more than a coincidence that Satan is frequently depicted with a pitchfork. That was probably the best guess of a medieval peasant, far removed from the seacoast, as to what a trident is supposed to be used for. So the progression from Shiva to Neptune to Satan preserves some of the original imagery, and hints at early migrations of Indo-European languages speakers and their memes. Seems like good arguments could also be made for overlap and borrowing among the gods of ancient India and Egypt, with Greek and Norse mythology.

As far as the split between monotheism and polytheism, it gets fuzzy when you lard up your pantheon with angels, demons, saints and trinity distinctions. Christianity even among Protestants might as well be polytheistic as Hinduism. Most denominations light candles and burn incense, and when they do it's almost never to the top guy.

Too easy to be scornful from our perspective, right up to WW2 I'd most likely have gone along with the program and prayed for "intercession" from some demigod, like a supplicant bribing Mob connected guys to put in a good word with the don. Frank Pentangeli spelled it out in 'The Godfather' during his congressional testimony, "Yeah we had a lot of buffers in the family." As above, so below. Merit points awarded to Jews and Muslims for keeping their ideologies relatively clutter free, could make things simpler when they have to dispense with religion altogether.

259:

Thank you for your reply!That is unfortunate, and I think that should not be an issue you as the author should have to wrestle with. Thanks to UK exceptionalism, amazon.uk, along with amazon.com track IP by country to limit access. Being EU, that is also tracked but recent legislation means that sites are not allowed to officially discrinate their services by country in the EU, meaning a site is not allowed to look at my IP to determine whether I am in Spain, Sweden or Germany for what content I can access. However, Non-EU is a different kettle of fish.

Audible in Germany allows me to buy all Laundry titles and all Empire Games/Merchant Princes titles with the exception of Rhesus Chart. If it helps, the narrator is Jack Hawkins.

I was just hoping that maybe someone had already bumped against this particular issue. Time to see if VPNs help :).

260:

typo: getting much to cosy
suggest: getting much too cosy

261:

Re: '... 2020-absurdity-bingo card isn't yet completely ticked off'

Hopefully the British media will provide film of/statements from the Nigerian 'high-jackers/stowaways/illegal immigrants'. I'm not condoning this, I just want verifiable info on what actually happened - all sides. I'm guessing that Nigeria to Britain via oil tanker takes a while so there are a bunch of questions about how the 'stowaways' weren't discovered until the tanker almost reached port.

BTW - according to the tweets - threats uttered, no physical injuries reported.

This looks too pat and a perfect deflection from the EU-exit that BoJo's currently brilliantly mismanaging - very much like DT's illegal migrants.

262:

Re: 'What I'm looking for is not articles and commentary with a left wing slant, its an explanation of how a socialist society would actually work.'

I don't have a pat answer for you but suggest you check some of the UN initiatives including the why behind the 'Happiness Index'. Personally, I think it's time to put aside all the 'isms' - they've become religions at this point - and actually look at what's going on at all levels of societies. We have the computational power to get good data* and use it to validate existing policy, practices and even run sims.

https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/ageing/documents/NOTEONHAPPINESSFINALCLEAN.pdf

Here's the basic rationale:

'The exclusive pursuit of economic growth and rising incomes as an objective of development has been long questioned. In particular, measuring poverty by income alone has been seen as inadequate in assessing real poverty levels, that have to do with its other determinants such as lack of access to basic services, discrimination or social exclusion. Moreover, the divergence between economic and social policies and lack of monitoring of the social impact of economic policies has been frequently underscored at the United Nations forum and beyond. Finally, insufficient attention has been paid to the design of indicators of both sustainable development and well-being.'

Here's the 2020 report:

https://worldhappiness.report/


*Probably why DT wanted to can the census - which is likely THE most important, direct (unfudged) and relevant national data source there is. Harper (former Tory PM - Canada) tried to do this too and eventually backed down.

263:

Yes, but the hijacking is already over.

I mean, how many places in the world more stupid would it be to try to hijack a ship - off Norfolk, VA? San Diego, CA - not sure about French Navy bases in France...?

And someone was saying a British Special Forces base was 30 mi away.

9 hijackers... snicker.

264:

Sorry, seven hijackers, nine minutes.

265:

Associating Shiva's trisula with Neptune's trident with the devil's pitchfork is, in fact, an excellent example of making your own spiritual system, I agree.

Here's where it gets fun(ky):
--There's evidence for a god named po-se-da-wo-ne ("Poseidon") in the Linear B tablets from Crete (1425-1190 BCE), so that's how old the classic god of the sea is, apparently. His trident fishing spear is used in a few of myths, but isn't a universal symbol.
--Shiva unambiguously shows a bit before 400 BCE, with the cult forming around 200-100 BCE. Possibly Shiva (whose name means "The Auspicious/Kindly One") goes back to 10,000 BCE or later, depending on whether ancient rock art depicts Shiva or not.

The trisula (a trident, either as a short-handled fork or a long-handled spear) is definitely a weapon in India when it's not a roasting fork, and it's even more a symbol. Basically, anything that can be expressed in 3: past/present/future, heaven/earth/underworld,, body/mind/soul, can and has been symbolized as a trisula, and a number of Hindu deities carry them. It's also a symbol in Buddhism, and some people argue that the ancestor of the Okinawan sai (which originated in Malaysia and was carried around southeast Asia, into coastal China, and finally to Okinawa) was originally a Buddhist trisula before becoming a constable's weapon wherever Asian sailors got into trouble. Or not. Putting a guard on an iron cudge does make functional sense.

--Satan's pitchfork showed up around the 9th century is the Utrecht psalter. Oddly enough, when I went to look online for the image, I can't find it, and there's even a paper pointing to the devil being absent from Christ's harrowing of hell in the Utrecht psalter. Fascinating. Presumably this is from me simply doing a shallow search because it's a trivial question (literally), but Satan's three-tined pitchfork does definitely show up in Renaissance art. Unlike the naked, hairy-legged satyrs which haunt abandoned temples in the book of Isaiah, there's no Biblical reference to Satan's pitchfork of however many tines. I'm not sure Satan's fork whether it's linked to Poseidon's fishing spear. It's worth remembering that humanities scholars were notoriously bad on weapons until the late 20th Century when hoplology came along and slapped some discipline into them. Is there some causal link between an ancient god of the sea and a more modern underworld recycler of evil souls? Regardless, the satanic pitchfork makes sense: after all, ask a farmer how he throws crap around on the farm or even in a bonfire, and he'll likely talk about the use of his pitchfork. It's an unsubtle symbol and even connects to the Christian Trinity in various (and perverse) ways.

Anyway, you can readily google about Medieval depictions of Satan. It appears to be a reasonably popular subject for undergraduate projects and journal articles. It's Halloween. Go have fun.

So what's the lesson here? Invention is wonderful! If you ignore the miserable details of historical timelines, it's extremely easy to come up with all sorts of religious symbols and connections, which is precisely what I suggested. Thanks for demonstrating that!

Also, as anyone who played D&D and wondered enough about military forks, tridents, and so on to actually look them up, three-tined spears and forks are really handy for everything from catching fish, to holding food as a toasting fork, to raising ladders at sieges (military forks), to hunting tigers (tiger forks, which are important religious symbols in China), because they make parrying and pitching a lot easier. And yes: three is a magic number.

Oh, and for home defense? Contemplate sharpening up a garden fork if you're not worried about getting shot by an intruder. Forking with people can really intimidate them.

266:

I use Penrose in my classes as an example of one of the worst attempts to explain consciousness.

Dennett is a delight to read and an utterly atrocious public speaker, alas.

My favourite current layperson explanation of consciousness comes from Anil Seth, whose TED talk on the topic is worth the time: https://www.ted.com/talks/anil_seth_your_brain_hallucinates_your_conscious_reality

[The relevant classes from last semester's behavioural neuro class areI think still on youtube if you're really interested; Albany Behavioral Neuroscience.]

267:

As long as my allotment is going, I'm never going to go short, assuming the elctricity supply system carries on working

And assuming other people don't just take what you've grown…

268:

And someone was saying a British Special Forces base was 30 mi away.

Without looking at a map, I think they were within 100 miles of Hereford, as the helicopter flies -- that's where the SAS (and much of the British Army command structure) is headquartered. Never mind doing it within spitting range of the SBS (Special Boat Service: in US terms, if the SAS are Delta Force, then the SBS are the SEALs).

269:

Indeed. I know I've linked it before from here, but https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XetplHcM7aQ

Cities are technology traps. If the power goes out, the trap snaps shut.

270:

Rbt Prior
They have to KNOW WHAT IT IS & also SEE IT.
[ The spuds are under the ground, the turnips & Mooli are "Just" green tops ... etc. ]
Would they know what a "wild" ( i.e. growing-in-the ground ) Leek was, as opposed to the sanitised versions shown in shops? All my onions are out of the ground & in store ....

Stupid prats on Oil tanker.
The SBS main base is, IIRC at Poole harbour ... 40 mi / 63 km in a straight helicopter-flight to where the tanker was.
Oops.

271:

I imagine this is core expertise for the SBS and yes, they're half the distance away from where the tanker was doing handbrake turns (or so MarineTraffic shows) about 24 hours ago.

272:

Indeed. But it's unclear that the refugees were either expecting or wanting anything different. We do not know what the crew were proposing to do with them, and it is likely that were desperate, rather than malicious.

(*) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-54687379

273:

There is a long tradition of hijacking vehicles in order to surrender at the far end. I'm not going to blame the crew though - stowaways are an unknown quantity, ranging at one end from people who just want to get somewhere else who'd happily not be noticed at all through to agents of pirates who may be less than merciful when millions of pounds worth of ship and cargo are concerned. Trying to lock up stowaways to make the latter less of a risk is not unreasonable.

Yeah, the stowaways were likely desperate. The crew could also be terrified. Under those circumstances horrible mistakes can happen, and I suspect everyone concerned was happy the SBS turned up (at least, once the flash-bangs and stuff were finished).

274:

Oh, Charlie, you... you Scotoid :)

[insert joke about colour of boathouse]

Closer to twice that distance to Hereford. Plenty of Army a lot closer (eg. Aldershot). More Navy than you can shake a stick at right in the area. And, as Greg says, in the laps of the SBS at Poole, who were the ones who actually went in.

275:

The whole ‘hijack/Nigeria ‘ thing seems awfully convenient for Patel to demand nuking asylum seekers and the boats. Does anyone seriously think she wouldn’t?

276:

Story idea: I had another one of those weird dreams ...

A child disappears on Halloween (not so much Halloween related other than it's this week). I think the dream was more because of the Peter Pan thread. But I digress ...

A pair of intrepid sleuths investigate à la Agatha Christie's Tommy & Tuppence. Turns out there have been a lot of disappearing children and have been for years. But our T&T have an advantage other investigators don't have - a TARDIS, so they can go back in time to find out what really happened to the disappearing children.

I think a good writer could probably come up with a suspenseful narrative about what really happened to the children (obviously the Grandfather paradox would prevent our intrepid sleuths from intervening in any meaningful way to prevent the disappearances).

I release this idea entirely. Y'all take it and run with it. It should be written by someone whose best works have not been rejected by the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for being too pedantically stodgy & prolix.

277:

Charlie Stross @ 254:

someone physically located in Germany with all the localization that entails is likely to be able to eventually purchase the Rhesus Chart audiobook on audible?

Alas, I don't use audiobooks myself so I have zero in-depth knowledge of what your alternative options are. Probably the safest would be to grab yourself a burner email account and use it to register a (fake) street address in the USA for an Amazon.com account, then buy the US audiobook (definitely via Audible, stable after Dec 31st) paying using an Amazon gift voucher bought via Paypal or eBay. But note that the audiobook narrator will be different for the US edition than the UK edition.

Why would you need a burner email & a fake US street address? I've bought a couple of your books from Amazon.co.uk (because I wanted the UK style paperback that wasn't available in the U.S.

I know Brexit is screwing up a lot of things, but shouldn't someone in the EU still be able to buy books by UK authors? Shouldn't y'all (both) be able to buy stuff from Amazon.com in the U.S.?

278:

If I had to guess where the Christian devil's pitchfork comes from and was looking at pagan deities it'd be Hades' bident not Poseidons' trident. Hades/Pluto ticks a lot more of the boxes like being a god of the dead and the underworld, being associated with wealth and greed and being worshiped in a negative sense (to deflect his attention) at least sometimes.

279:

I'd sign up for a class like that. (Known back problem, showed up in imaging, no idea what to do for it, but sitting correctly helps some.)

280:

It's not biblical in any sense - medieval, probably (Dante!), or possibly Milton. Most of our iconography involving hell is later than people think.

281:

Check out energyarts.com. Note that if you are allergic to chi or woo, you're really not going to enjoy a good chunk of the courses, and they do cost real money. Also (not that anybody including myself listens) beginning with the entry-level stuff reportedly lets you progress faster than going straight to the course you want.

Personally, I find the techniques he teaches works more often than they don't work, and they seem to work more often than doctor and chiropractor suggestions. I both keep an open mind about possible explanations and am quite comfortable with other techniques working too.

282:

> TLDR version: If you just want to know where to start reading, pick one of: The Atrocity Archives, The Rhesus Chart, The Nightmare Stacks, or Dead Lies Dreaming. These are all safe starting points for the series, that don't require prior familiarity.

FWIW, my first Laundry book was "Down on the Farm", and I was immediately hooked. For programmers, that is a great starting point.

283:

Hi Charlie,

I just bought Dead Lies Dreaming. Kobo.com in Germany is selling both the UK- and the US-version ebooks, although the UK-version isn't supposed to come out before Thursday, I thought?

Anyway, as I've bought only the UK-versions of your books so far, I've stuck to that. Also, for some reason it's a lot cheaper (11,99€ compared to 15,95€ discounted from 19,85€).

I thought that may be interesting for you.

And I'm looking forward to reading it, of course!

284:

My pre-ordered copy of Dead Lies Dreaming was delivered to my Kindle today.

285:

As I posted earlier, Kobo was saying today, and I have just downloaded it. It is Amazon that says Thursday.

286:

Heteromeles:

Thanks for the fascinating insights about the deep ones and the various implications of their presence in the Laundryverse. I remember that I'm waiting for their re-appearance in the story ever since The Jennifer Morgue.

By the way, on the topic of sub-marine alien intelligences and their ability to use huge oceanic landslides to deal with the land-dwellers there's also Frank Schätzing's best-selling 2004 novel Der Schwarm, which may not be as well-known in the anglosphere, although it has been translated.

I always wanted to know whether Charlie was aware of it when he was writing TJM.

287:

@265says:
"not sure, Satan's fork whether it's linked to Poseidon's fishing spear."

It's conjecture of the handwavium variety, but does seem like something the early church was good at. Tasked with converting pagans, they'd co-opt the existing mythology and revise it for devotional purposes, a strategy lasting centuries. Which explains how druid oaks were recycled into Christmas trees, Halloween was derived from Celtic festivals for the dead, and pagan fertility symbols became Easter eggs and Easter rabbits.

Once Christianity became Constantine's official state cult, images of any supernatural figure with a trident could be particularly discouraged by having it linked with extreme evil. Merchants and sailors' families who routinely made offerings to invoke Neptune's protection on sea voyages could be accused of trafficking with infernal powers, which might even provide a ready source of converts.

"Your guy stilled the waters, you say, guess we'll give him a try. Here, take these coins, we were just throwing them in the sacred fountain anyway now the temple priestess got run off. Gotta have protection from SOMEbody, if Neptune really let himself go to hell." Too bad it wasn't the inspiration for actual marine insurance policies, that might have promoted trade and commerce, Rome would have stayed capital of the empire. Must have been too hard doing statistical calculations with Roman numerals.

288:

I was unaware of that book, but see also John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes (aka Out of the Deep in the USA).

289:

For those who interact with cats. This is known, but now there's Science!
The role of cat eye narrowing movements in cat–human communication (Open access, 05 October 2020, Tasmin Humphrey, Leanne Proops, Jemma Forman, Rebecca Spoone & Karen McComb)
This study examines the communicatory significance of a widely reported cat behaviour that involves eye narrowing, referred to as the slow blink sequence. Slow blink sequences typically involve a series of half-blinks followed by either a prolonged eye narrow or an eye closure.
...
Collectively, our results suggest that slow blink sequences may function as a form of positive emotional communication between cats and humans.

(via)
It's a start. :-)

290:

Bill Arnold
Otherwise known as: "Practicing on the Palace Cats" - Pterry of course.

291:

I thought it had been scienced ages ago. Probably by Desmond Morris. There was a brief "burst" of cat body language stuff in the UK in the 80s, initially in print and later I remember someone else saw it on TV.

It's also useful for looking at pigeons, even though they don't do it themselves; the reason there is mainly that human eyes are so bloody big compared to a pigeon and they prefer them at a more relatable size. Especially wood pigeons, who are not the same as town pigeons and find it more significant.

292:

Witroth---
Given what's been said I'll keep this short. Modern US socialists are rarely utopians. They won't describe utopia for you because it's the journey that counts, not the destination. Does the end justify the means? Yes but---the means are a part of the end! Speaking as a founding member of the Democratic Socialists of America, I can say that modern-day socialists recognize that government ownership, while it has its uses, is a dead-end as a default. The market mechanism cannot be worshiped, but it can be a default. Social control of capitalism, what is that? Just think about how people are reacting to Facebook, a thoroughly uncontrolled bit of capitalism for sure. What socialists do have that liberals don't is the ability to at least imagine a society that's better. Not a system, just better. So why be a socialist? Well, for some of us, there's a one-word answer: loyalty. It's the people I grew up with. I'm not going to cut them off for some loyalty test. (That's even more important in the UK.) Also, it's a great answer for when you propose something that's actually radical: "b-b-b-ut that's socialism!" "I already told you I'm a socialist. What did you think I was going to propose? Vegetarianism?"

293:

I had another one of those weird dreams ...

A child disappears on Halloween (not so much Halloween related other than it's this week). I think the dream was more because of the Peter Pan thread. But I digress ...

A pair of intrepid sleuths investigate à la Agatha Christie's Tommy & Tuppence. Turns out there have been a lot of disappearing children and have been for years.

Sounds like a job for the Dead Boy Detectives if someone could let them know there's a mystery afoot.

Although now I have a bit of dialogue in my head:

DBD: "We haven't found the missing children yet but they're all still alive."
Client: "You're sure?"
DBD: "If they were dead we'd know more."

294:

I've been reading The Rhesus Chart for the Nth time and I think I have found an error. It's probably been pointed out before, but I want to be sure I'm not making the error - seeing something that's not there (or not seeing something that is there).

US Ace paperback edition:

     Then it hits me.
     "What if they weren't injecting something, but "removing samples?" I look at Dr. Wills speculatively. "Are the injection sites consistent with blood donation?"
     "Well yes, now that you mention it, but why―"
     "Office cleaners. Blood samples. The two with bite marks ...

As hard as I searched, I haven't been able to find prior mention of bite marks?

295:

But our T&T have an advantage other investigators don't have - a TARDIS, so they can go back in time to find out what really happened to the disappearing children.

That sounds somewhat similar to the premise of Crime Traveller.

296:

John E @ 295:

But our T&T have an advantage other investigators don't have - a TARDIS, so they can go back in time to find out what really happened to the disappearing children.

That sounds somewhat similar to the premise of Crime Traveller.

That it does. Never heard of it, but that's cool. I hadn't given any thought to how our intrepid duo acquired their time machine and the program's writers apparently did.

297:

> As hard as I searched, I haven't been able to find prior mention of bite marks?

I noticed that, too.

Specials

Merchandise

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on October 16, 2020 9:37 AM.

Entanglements! was the previous entry in this blog.

Upcoming Attractions! is the next entry in this blog.

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

Search this blog

Propaganda