Break Fast.

Sengupta threw a video feed onto the wall: Rowdy voices, flashing lights, a mag-lev table wobbling at an insane angle thanks to some drunken asshole trying to dance on the damn thing. Impromptu footage of a campus bar; the student ambience would be a dead giveaway anywhere on the planet but Brüks was pretty sure it was somewhere in Europe. The subtitler was off but he caught snatches of German and Hungarian at least.

A couple of grad students had randomly arranged a dozen empty beer glasses on a table; a crowd of others cheered and chanted and pulled chairs away, clearing a surrounding space. Something was happening stage left, just out of camera range: an antidisturbance, a sudden contagious quelling of noise and commotion that drew eyes and spread around the circle in an instant. The camera turned towards the eye in the storm. Brüks sucked in his breath.

Valerie again.

She stalked into the cleared floorspace like a spring-loaded panther, unleashed, autonomous. She wore the cheap throwaway smartpaper weave ubiquitous to lab rats and convicts the world over. It seemed absurd against the jostling background of blazers and holograms and bioluminescent tattoos. Valerie didn’t seem to notice her own violation of the dress code; didn’t notice the way the front lines pushed back against the crowd as she passed, or the way the murmuring horde fell silent when she got too close. She had eyes only for the glasses on the table.

What kind of suicidal idiot would take a vampire to a bar?  How zoned had these people been, to not be fleeing for the exits?

He turned to Sengupta: “Where did you get—”

Shut up and watch!

Valerie circled the table, once. She hesitated for a moment, her eyes unfocused, something that might almost have been a smile playing across her lips.

In the next instant she sprang.

She came down on one bare foot, almost three meters from a standing start; snapped the other down with a stomp, spun and stamped again and jumped— arcing backwards this time, over the table itself, flipping in mid-air and landing in a four-point crouch (left foot right foot right knee left hand) before hopping to the left (stomp), hand-springing forward to land chest-to-face with some semi-sober sessional who still had enough animal sense to turn greeny-white under a face loaded with retconned chloroplasts. Straight up, now: a vertical one-meter leap with a one-legged landing; about-face (stomp), two diagonal steps toward the table (stomp). Both elbows, one knee crashing simultaneously against ancient floorboards that bounced her smoothly back into a standing position. Finis. After a moment the camera, shaking despite the very best image-stabilization algorithms a student budget could buy, panned back to the table.

The glasses were arranged in a perfectly straight, evenly-spaced line.

“Hard to find this one.” Sengupta nodded to herself, eyes bright. “Someone snuck her out the back door you spring a vampire without authorization and your career is over so they really kept the evidence locked up I think it was an initiation or something…”

The view hovered over the tableaux for a long, disbelieving moment. Swung back to the monster who’d created it. Valerie stared straight through the camera and a thousand kilometers beyond, smiled that patented bone-chilling smile. She wasn’t even breathing hard.

Everyone else was, though. Reality was finally cutting through the drinks and the drugs and the sheer idiotic bravado of spoiled children raised on promises of immortality. They were in the presence of black magic. They were in the presence of something whose most trivial efforts turned the very laws of motion into feats of telekinesis. And one sodden instant behind all that awe and stunned disbelief, perhaps, the realization of just what all that vast intelligence and all those superconducting motor skills had evolved in the service of.

Hunting.

It didn’t matter what bedtime stories these privileged brats had been told. They were not immortal in such a presence. They were only breakfast. And it was obvious to Brüks — from the way they pulled back and muttered their excuses, the way they edged for doors while keeping their backs to walls, the way even those pretending to be in charge averted their eyes as they scuttled sidelong up to Valerie and told her in weak and shaking voices that it was time to come in now — that they finally knew it.

It was also obvious, in hindsight, that Brüks had been uncharitable to the baselines who’d stolen their rat from its cage for one wild night out. Whoever they were, they hadn’t been suicidal. They hadn’t been idiots. No matter what they might have told themselves before or after, no matter who remembered having the idea.

It hadn’t really been their decision at all.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Tuesday March 06 2012at 08:03 am , filed under Dumbspeech, fiblet . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

62 Responses to “Break Fast.”

  1. Wow.
    Okay, looks I contracted 03′s vampire fetish now.

  2. Oh yeah.

  3. Fuck yeah!

  4. Looks very, very interesting.

    Would donate twelve kidneys to the local transplant clinic if I somehow got the chance to proofread or whatever it is done with ARC’s..

  5. Twelve kidneys? So is that murder five, mutilate one, then finish the dozen with one of your own, or just murder six and head straight to the clinic with a cooler of dry ice on your shoulder? Inquiring minds want to know.

  6. “They were in the presence of something whose most trivial efforts turned the very laws of motion into feats of telekinesis.”

    She sounds like a tiger, or felis domesticus writ large.

  7. Not mine joke:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMKiIO4CB58

  8. MORE!

  9. So are movements like that actually possible, or are we assuming some kind of body enhancement, or just fictional leeway to make a more intense scene?

    To be clear, not a criticism, just genuinely curious. One of the things I really enjoy about Watt’s work is that it is firmly grounded in science, and points out that science is so fantastic it can be hard to tell from fiction.

  10. @Daniel

    You’re doing it wrong.

    MOAR!!

    http://www.threadbombing.com/data/media/52/cagemoar.jpg

  11. Valerie kicks ass.

    That’s quite inspiring. Verner Johnson must have enjoyed it immensely:

    http://www.myspace.com/futuretrailers/blog/545408148

  12. Given the instinctual reaction that humans have to vampires (to the point that Siri “Zombie” Keeton felt it) and Saresti’s total ineptness when it came to motivating the happy meals in his charge, it takes a real suspension of disbelief to think you’d let a vampire out to perform party tricks.

    I mean, humans are the natural, exclusive prey of vampires. This is like taking a wild tiger to a pig farm. No intellectual manipulation or bravado is going to get over your amygdala telling you that this is a Very Bad Idea.

  13. Hey, Val and Bruks are actually almost kinda friends by the end of this story. Believe it or not.

    Almost. Kinda.

    They do toast marshmallows together around a campfire.

  14. I too wondered the same as Daniel. I suppose the ability to move like an olympic gymnast but being able to improvise it on the fly rather than repeating sets of drilled movements would looks like that.

    I seem to recall there was a vampire walking around on the street in Blindsight, when the fireflies lit the sky.

  15. This is like taking a wild tiger to a pig farm.
    Wondering…

    If one should be wary of any man who has a pig farm, what should one be of any vampire who has a pig farm?


  16. it takes a real suspension of disbelief to think you’d let a vampire out to perform party tricks.

    Except, you were not leeting a vampire out for party tricks, the vampire was using you to get some free air time.

    Psychopaths can play people like the fiddle, extremely high intelligence omni -savant autistic psychopaths?

    They would probably manage that too… is my guess.

  17. Is “marshmallows” an euphemism for, erm, body parts? Since we’re talking about a vampire*, I had to ask.

    I’m really looking forward to this book :)

    (*Sarasti-class; if we were talking about the glittering variety, actual marshmallows would seem like an obvious choice.)

  18. @Peter Watts: yeah. Together.

    So how many limbs does Bruks have left during this scene? :D

    @Nestor: yeah, there was. She was the only person who wasn’t stunned or surprised or caught up in transhuman dread. She just looked up once and kept walking.

  19. @ Peter Watts: Nicely done! Me likey.

    @ Rest of you folks and at the storyline too: Well, look at the internal logic of the story-world. Of course you can take a vampire to a bar, just don’t get them drunk enough to the point where they can’t avoid getting into a fight. (Short fight BTW.) ;)

    Valerie (at this point in the story line, if my pattern matching skillz are pasting it together as the author intended) doesn’t mind showing off a bit so long as it seems to her to be her idea. Besides, she’s not exactly stupid and (at this point in the storyline IIRC etc) she’s still on the anti-Euclideans and if Peter hasn’t made it clear enough, one thing a vampire isn’t about to do is anything that will interrupt their supply of anti-Euclideans. Remember folks, without those hard-to-make special neuroleptics, anything with right angles is going to put a vampire into a seizure, in comparison with which a grand-mal is a nice relaxing mid-morning yawn. So Valerie is at this point like one of those kung-fu dudes who use awesome kung-fu skills to demonstrate hackey-sack puck handling. Got all the moves but none of the intention. Or dares not let anyone even pretend that she could possibly have intention.

    Hmm, maybe Peter was watching this right before he wrote that: ;)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUNGmYTd90U&feature=fvwrel

    And what sort of careers does the Wattsian Future hold for those special creatures who can show off in a bar but not bite chunks out of the patrons?

    http://oldblog.thomashardman.com/2009_01_01_archive.html

    Looking forward to the completed work!

  20. I’m surprised there wasn’t at least one person there with a fear-fetish, trying to score a date with her.

    Oddly, I’m not all that nonplussed by the idea of a vampire toasting marshmallows… it’s the campfire that puzzles me.

  21. @Sylocat: campfires kill microorganisms. But I am still trying to figure out how the vampires weren’t done in by prionic disease long before they developed their aversion to crosses. IIRC you can cook Mad Cow all you might like, but it’ll still make proteins fold wrong.

  22. Fear fetish?

  23. Oh, stop the foreplay Peter!
    Just let us in on the big secret – when is the publication date?

  24. Yes, but does she glitter in sunlight?

  25. Wow. Reminds me of going to some of the parties during DefCon.

  26. Oh, sweet. Vampires are sweet.

    Re: Lanius

    Whether it is really a fetish I can’t say, but I tend to find it hard to really be “hot” for folks who don’t scare me at least a little bit.

    Re: Will Sargent

    Google “hazing”. Shit ppl pull in frats is insane. Like, seriously making one question their mental integrity.
    I wouldn’t say it’s exactly implausible for some dumb mofo to take a vampire to a bar given enough access priveledges, especially since Blindsight vampires are not an ipso facto doom machines, and can be bargained and reasoned with. Kinda. Till they find a way to double-cross everyone forever.

    Re: 01
    To join the club, you must have a degree in vampire sexology :p

  27. (I file fiblets under “cocktease”)

    Too bad I need both my kidneys. but I’m not sure I want any ARCs because I would hate having to attempt to give feedback.

    re fear, aren’t people fascinated by dangerous things? Tigers are beautiful. I would be intrigued enough to think I would want to meet one of these creatures, but would probably be in the vein of people realizing that they didn’t know what they’d be in for when it happened.

  28. I wonder if getting drunk or high would screw up the neuroleptics?

  29. Heheheh……….

    Twilight – goodnight – game over. Edward – Valerie is coming to FUCK YOU UP!

    Peter – when is the beast out?

  30. Sylocat: Gorillas can do amazing physical feats too – even with the strongest fear-fetish in the world, would you want to bed one? Wattsian vampires are not, in any way, sexy – they look more like us than gorillas do, but put out absolutely none of the “come-hither” cues that baseline humans employ. Or even the “I’m nonthreatening, let’s chat” cues. Vampires are aggressively territorial and solitary; they want to be left alone. Unless they’re hungry – in which case, they want you to be dead. Not in love, not in lust, simply fractured-skull-snapped-neck *dead*. Why bother with anything else when you’re so much smarter, faster and stronger than your prey?

  31. >but put out absolutely none of the “come-hither” cues that baseline humans employ

    Why not? It would be easy to mimic mating behaviour for easy luring prey. Niven’s ringworld vampires worked like that, dumb as planks but pretty and pumping out supercharged pheromones worked just fine for them.

  32. @Lanius

    Psychopaths can play people like the fiddle, extremely high intelligence omni -savant autistic psychopaths?

    Except that we’ve already seen Sarasti is clearly terrible at social manipulation. He can tell what Cunningham is thinking, but he isn’t wired to be able to get Cunningham or the rest of the crew to like or trust him.

  33. Is that really Richard Morgan, or just some wag with a sense of humor?

    O_O

    ..wow…

  34. @Will

    Sarasti was probably being irrational or, maybe preoccupied by something else.

    Or he just liked the fear?

  35. @ Ethan, who wrote in-part: Wattsian vampires are not, in any way, sexy [...] Vampires are aggressively territorial and solitary; they want to be left alone.

    I could be wrong about this, but I seem to recall that we’ve only seen much of one of them, that being Sarasti. The female noted briefly in “Blindsight” was pretty much noted in passing. We do know that Wattsian Vampire males are extremely territorial and solitary, and it seems to me that Peter let slip a while back that the whole territoriality thing was a “recent” development, recent in terms of the time that the subspecies existed in prehistory. Yet it isn’t a sure thing that the females are, and we can look at the model of Lions in which the males are also generally solitary and very territorial, but the females are the primary hunting asset of a pride and definitely work together and socialize. With each other they are constantly quite affectionate. With the prey, though… not so much.

    @ Will, responding to Lanius’s suggestion that a sociopath can easily trick a mark: Except that we’ve already seen Sarasti is clearly terrible at social manipulation. He can tell what Cunningham is thinking, but he isn’t wired to be able to get Cunningham or the rest of the crew to like or trust him.

    It would be pretty surprising if he had any such talents. Remember, the Wattsian Vampires died out right about the time that humans developed modern linguistic abilities. Prior to that, there wouldn’t have been much point in trying to speak to your prey, and it would be odd if there was much evolution towards that ability. Hrm, maybe Peter Watts can fill us in, no doubt in the novel itself [nudge nudge] as to whether or not his vampires have the same FOXP2 triplet that we think makes humans so good at talking. It seems likely that they might, being “resurrected” and presumably thus based on an Anatomically Modern Human template. Or maybe the genetic resurrectors would edit it into place just to make for easier communications… it would be a real bitch trying to communicate with someone who’s genetically unable to do tense and syntax as well as being in the autistic mindset.

    And this might be why Sarasti sucks at social skills. It’s probably not made any easier by the fact that all of his crewmates have a deep inner aversion to being anywhere near him.

  36. Yeah, I’d echo that you can’t necessarily generalize all of Sarasti’s traits to all vampirekind. If anything, those guys have more degrees of freedom than we do.

    @Richard: originally I was hearing this fall. But I don’t like it in it’s current state as much as my editor seems to, so reading between some lines I think I’ve got it pushed back a bit so I can fix the problematic bits. I have heard nothing official, though.

    @Lanius: yeah, that’s Richard. We have hung out now and again. Please don’t send him any nude pictures of yourself.

  37. @Ethan:

    Every metric of attractiveness is subjective, and “Sexy” is the most subjective one of all. As Lindsay Ellis recently covered, there is a sizable chunk of her viewership who finds Claude Frollo sexy.

    @Lanius, Will & Thomas:

    Many sociopaths can indeed play people easily, but the autistic traits, many of which are severely detrimental to social skills and the ability to pick up and replicate cues, would throw that off.

    However, with vampires’ unparalleled pattern-recognition and transhuman intelligence, they could probably learn to fake it quite easily, just by analyzing the muscle and facial movements… kind of like Siri.

    Incidentally, I did have one nitpick about Blindsight: Since most autistic people have glitches with processing faces, vampires probably couldn’t read Chernoff Faces.

  38. @Sylocat, re: Chernoff faces. That’s an awesome observation. What would evolution have done with that? Would it have been preferable for vampires to ignore (and therefore no chance of any attachement whatever to lunch) or to be the deeper, smarter hunter who learns what it means but does so coldly, as a method of manipulating prey? Just another pattern maybe. The Aspergers thing is more about not connecting what someone else is feeling based on nonverbal cues and therefore not mirroring it. Sounds like something in the emotional center. As opposed to cataloging the facial muscle notations you brought up yourself.


  39. . Please don’t send him any nude pictures of yourself.

    Why not? I liked Steel Remains and especially the gay parts so much I’m firmly convinced he would like them.

    No one who’s not bi would be able to write them so nicely, I believe.

  40. @Hardman

    I guess you are right. Anyway, making the vampires bad at social manipulation imo was a bad move.

    If they were, they would just manipulate humanity for it’s own good. Since they’re not, they’ll view neurotypicals as obstacles..

  41. @Sylocat

    Since most autistic people have glitches with processing faces, vampires probably couldn’t read Chernoff Faces.

    They were also predators by nature, who have to be able to read their prey..

    Kinda a problem there.

  42. @ Sylocat, who wrote in-part: Incidentally, I did have one nitpick about Blindsight: Since most autistic people have glitches with processing faces, vampires probably couldn’t read Chernoff Faces.

    One could perhaps pick a nit with that nitpick: Sarasti isn’t actually autistic as such — or so I think I understand it — but the sort of “savant talents” seen in some autists were present in a sort of functional and amplified form. Heavy fast math that is less calculation and more of perception, so to speak.

    With Chernoff Faces, they’re pretty abstract but they’re also pretty stylized. I think most autistic difficulty with faces is more about nuance. Detecting the difference between someone who has a big smile of utter contempt and someone who has a big smile of actual friendliness might be problematic for many autistic persons, but I think they’d still categorize both as “big smiles”. I have to admit to some curiosity about how Sarasti or other Wattsian Vampires might interpret any smiles… perhaps they just see it as “showing teeth” and don’t have that Mainstream human interpretation of showing one’s teeth as indicating a friendly or cheerful emotional state.

  43. How come showing teeth is actually seen as friendly?

  44. @ Lanius, re: (paraphrase) if vampires were good at social manipulation, they’d manipulate humanity for its own good but as they are not good at social manipulation, they’d view neurotypicals as obstacles…

    Ah, I am not at all sure what you mean to say. Well, there’s the one side that vampires, if they were good at social manipulation, could take the philosophical position that the best herdsmen are those who get their cattle to market in the best possible condition, and that means that generally you don’t want to be abusive of the individual cattle and as for the herd, the protection of that herd is paramount, as it is wealth in all sense of the term, both as food source and as an economic basis. But of course I am anthropomorphizing. Yet their task would be far easier, if this is what they want to do, if they can get both the individual and herd to move in the desired direction without having to resort to putting a scare into the cattle. Nothing runs the fat off of a herd like a bad panic and stampede, you know. If you can coax them along, all the better. Google also for “Temple Grandin”, a fine film with great performances, BTW.

    As to how they view neurotypicals… heh. We’re talking about Wattsian Vampires, and they view neurotypicals as prey that they somehow aren’t allowed to eat, one assumes. Obstacles, indeed. After all, they are grossly outnumbered in a world full of crosses and need the neurotypicals to manufacture and supply them with drugs so that they don’t spaz out from the Crucifix Glitch. They must clearly understand that they are about as far as possible from being in any position to think of humanity as cattle to be managed in such a way that the cattle think they’ve got wonderful lives when in fact they’re destined for the knacker. If we as non-sociopaths put ourselves in their shoes to walk a few miles, so to speak, we’d find ourselves wondering why we got resurrected into inescapable captivity by people we terrify, and who even have the temerity to ask us to make sense for them of the world they built out to beyond their own comprehension. That might tend to cause more than a bit of resentment even in non-sociopaths, and a sociopath would likely be so far beyond “livid” that we normals probably can’t find a word that fits.

    If you were that mad at people, would you be thinking in terms of doing anything for humanity’s greater good? Unless maybe you got religion or were so smart you got even more Enlightened than the Buddha, you’d probably be thinking less in terms of humanity’s greater good, and more in terms of how to get rid of all of the crosses and people’s ability to make any more of them. Then again, one reasonably presumes that their handlers reasonably expect this sort of thinking, and try to forestall it by appealing to perhaps the only “positive” emotion sociopaths are known to share with non-sociopaths: pride in success at effective problem solving. Then again, these hyperintelligent predators might play anyone who hopes to play them, and carefully hide the idea that as far as they are concerned, it’s great to be a ultimate problem solver but ultimately the problem to be solved is escaping their captivity, with all that that entails.

    It’s either that, or just run right out and buy the hot new BMW and drive it to the limit on the weekends, and otherwise bust ass on your 16-hour days during the work-week because next year you’ll be able to afford the Ferrari. So to speak.

  45. I wonder how sociopathic vampires would have been in nature. The modern day examples are artificially constructed via genetic and pharmaceutical (?) manipulation. not only that, they are kept constantly drugged. They are socialized as slaves and kept continually constrained. Baseline humans would not be mentally healthy in that condition.

    If in prehistory they would not have been able to control their urge to eat, they wouldn’t have lasted very long. and they didn’t, but I can’t remember if it was due to over predation or more due to the mental glitch.

    They are primates and are more related to us than a preying mantis (but I kind of mentally related to Sarasti in Blindsight as though he were that extremely alien). If modern day humans look close enough to their body type, then maybe they would socialize to varying degrees in a sane way (if even a bit sadistically) for a while. Maybe sometimes they have a sex drive (do other primates? yes. I don’t know if all do in the same way we do), like to show of (Valeria there), and share many similar emotions we’d recognize, though perhaps hate. because it might seem cruel when we see them.

    oh yeah! and I just finished The Ego Tunnel and he discusses echopraxia and I’m like holy fucking shit, is that cool. so we tweak them maybe, to suffer it. I don’t know. Who else has read it? There were parts in the book where he is discussing mirror neurons and an ego tunnel that is like everyone relating to everyone else, a social ego tunnel.

    If Wattsian vampires are in some way related to us, then perhaps they become trapped a bit in ego tunnels with us.

  46. @ Lanius, who wrote: How come showing teeth is actually seen as friendly?

    A great question and now it becomes even more clear that I’ve spent far too much time thinking about these subjects (15-year veteran of UseNet)…

    Chimps smile from pleasure and amusement, but they don’t do it quite the way that humans do; the curve of lips is effectively the same but they show only the bottom row of teeth. (Exposing the upper teeth outside of yawning is pretty hostile.) Even dogs have their own “smile” which also exposes almost all of the bottom teeth but none of the uppers (beyond tips of the canines which are sort of hard to hide.

    Cats “smile” by an extended blink of the eyes, and both dogs and cats have an elaborate non-aggression display of yawning, generally looking at to whatever they wish to express non-aggression, turning their heads and gaze away, and yawning with a very large gape of jaw and a curled tongue.

    Humans, on the other hand, smile like they’re inviting other humans to inspect their dentition so as to confirm that mainstream humans is what they are. I have at times argued the opinion that this is because at one time the Anatomically Modern Humans were in a fierce competition with extremely similar rivals who could be easily discerned from AMH only by their dentition. Hence, showing your teeth became no grimace of hostility but rather a display of similarity… among AMH. If any of those hypothetical rivals remain, they might look like they’re smiling but it might not be solidarity that they were expressing. And if you think about it, interactions between the two competing populations might tend to be inherently doomed to end badly; some AMH walks up to a Rival and shows their teeth, the fighting starts then and there. Alternatively, some Rival walks up to an AMH and shows their teeth, and the AMH takes it as friendly when it is really anything but friendly. This also ends badly. Evidently this could evolve through time to the point where people who smile and pass inspection and aren’t provoked sort out to be the surviving class. (And interestingly enough, dogs also don’t take offense at people grinning at them…)

    When Peter’s writing about Valerie’s “patented bone-chilling smile”, we AMH might reflexively think that she’s trying to display amicability but she might feel that she’s reflexively making the most powerful threat display she can offer without actually launching into an attack.

    All just my unsupported theory, of course.

  47. With Chernoff Faces, they’re pretty abstract but they’re also pretty stylized. I think most autistic difficulty with faces is more about nuance. Detecting the difference between someone who has a big smile of utter contempt and someone who has a big smile of actual friendliness might be problematic for many autistic persons, but I think they’d still categorize both as “big smiles”.

    The problem is, Chernoff Faces don’t just convey the data via the facial expression, but also by facial features, which Autstics also have a hard time discerning between.

    And since presumably the faces convey data on a graph instead of a few set data points, the user would NEED to read nuance to see a useful resolution.

    In fact, I think parsing expressions and parsing features are handled by two different processing subroutines in the brain.

    Would it have been preferable for vampires to ignore (and therefore no chance of any attachement whatever to lunch) or to be the deeper, smarter hunter who learns what it means but does so coldly, as a method of manipulating prey?

    Very interesting insight. One could also make the case that we evolved emotional discernment as an evasion tactic against such completely-rational predators. It’s the equivalent of the Scramblers interpreting human communication as a virus: Vampires would interpret emotions as garbage data, and trying to parse these communication techniques would lag their systems a little.

  48. @Thomas Hardman
    The reduced canines go way back in hominids, to the australopithecines – I doubt if AMHs had to distinguish themselves from congenerics with large canines, although it’s possible that the first hominids may have had to, from anatomically-similar apes. Ardipithecus does display a reduced canine, for what that’s worth.


  49. One could also make the case that we evolved emotional discernment as an evasion tactic against such completely-rational predators.

    No need for vampires, psychopaths exist, and we have evolved defenses against them..

    Not lying or dissembling, that’s natural for other reasons. But supposedly, a lot of people get an instinctive fear response when talking to some psychopaths..

  50. @ Lanius: there is definitely a natural aversion response to lots of sociopath/psychopath personality types, but I’m fairly sure that you have to actually hear or see something from them that lets you know what you’re dealing with, before that response comes.

    @ Lars: Sure, baboon fangs were lost long ago. Yet there’s still a lot of variation, perhaps especially in we modern AMH. For example, I once knew this gal, Scots or Irish, not real sure other than that she was pretty Celtic of the dark type. She was a fairly tall woman, but she had these little tiny teeth, or at least what was visible above the gumline was pretty small. (and then again, there’s always network-TV reporter and anchor Katie Couric.) On the other end of the spectrum, there’s singer David Bowie as a young man.

    I’m not entirely sure but I think I rest my case. ;)

  51. I like the obsession with the bottles. Too many writers get wrapped up in the mythology of European vampires and forget that some of their most basic flaws weren’t solely fantastic, but relatively subtle flaws. Obsession, lack of high intelligence (by human standards), and the sheer predatory joy of killing are all classic elements of vampires before Dracula forever changed the public perception.

    Good stuff. I deeply enjoyed the rhythm of the action sequence.

  52. I keep thinking about how people focus so much on the feeding obsession of the vampires. I have trouble controlling what I eat. I have a sweet tooth. but food is not my entire life. How curious is Valerie? I like New Caledonian crows. gravity and magnetism too. Driving fast on curvy roads. movies.

    how would one do that with no society? Maybe in prehistory these things wouldn’t have been motivators, but these vampires are mixed with our genes and raised by uncontrollably social beings.

  53. @Thomas Harman – good God, that picture of Bowie is horrifying. But he illustrates my point – his canines aren’t large. This is true of all of us hominids. Large canines are characteristic of all of the great apes (and I believe of the not-so-great apes as well) and they instantly distinguish a hominid from the other hominoid families. I don’t think that there is a lot of difference among hominid species in overall tooth morphology – paranthropines had huge cheek teeth but they appeared to be evolving into bipedal, open-country equivalent of gorillas – the rest of us (living and extinct) don’t present very different dental arcades, at least as exposed in a smile. For most of the hominid species, I think that the variance around the species-specific means probably overlaps so much that, correcting for body size, you would have a hard time distinguishing among species.

  54. I’m not entirely sure it’s fair to say that Jukka was a poor leader.

    Leader isn’t someone who makes subordinates love him/her. Leader is someone who makes other people get his/her shit done for him. The big S was quite successful in the getting shit done department, and kept this up till very end (foiled not by humans mistrusting him, as mutiny seems to have been planned for) but by Scramblers wiring a new personality in the Gang’s brain IIRC.
    And even then, he still kinda succeeded at kershploding Rorschach, even if not living to tell the tale (but then, he had Siri for that)

    As for autistics… nice catch, though perhaps it’s worthy to note that Jukka’s CFs are all kinda fear-and-death centric, so perhaps he isn’t that good at reading stuff that isn’t fight-or-flight related from human expressions…


  55. Leader isn’t someone who makes subordinates love him/her. Leader is someone who makes other people get his/her shit done for him.

    In most cases, successful leaders are admired and loved by their subordinates. Look at famous generals: Patton, Rommel etc..

    They were well liked by their troops.

  56. @Hardman
    Maybe it’s bullshit though. I read that researchers who interview prison psychopaths often get chills and feelings of dread and so on.

    Could be they are just classical modern emasculated males, brought up in a society that abhors violence, competition and is blind to human nature, wrong on social policies and deluded in almost every possible way.

    Competitiveness is what made us so good at what we are.. wasn’t someone citing a study on paleogenetics that demonstrated only one third of all human males who ever lived procreated successfully?

  57. @Lanius

    Yeah, though notice Patton’s “No sonuvabitch ever won a war dying for his country. He won a war making the other sonuvabitch die for his.” Can’t say Jukka pulled that off. I think there was love mixed with fear for Patton and Rommel, though. Political correctness got Patton sidelined for punching a soldier, recall? Thanks a lot, Machiavelli! I suppose it worked, though, as long as they were not also incompetent.

    “Better stay away from Val,
    She’ll rip your lungs out, pal”

    And Bowie as space vampire. What next?

    :)

  58. @ Lars, who wrote, in-part: [ ... ] the rest of us (living and extinct) don’t present very different dental arcades, at least as exposed in a smile. For most of the hominid species, I think that the variance around the species-specific means probably overlaps so much that, correcting for body size, you would have a hard time distinguishing among species.

    Oh, you’re right, among hominids we’re all pretty fang-less. The point I was making was more along the lines of smiling evolving more as a sort of way to differentiate or to recognize among “tribe”. I, for example, have dentition fairly typical of the people from up and down the river Rhine, as best I can tell. Big horse-like teeth for molars, etc. If I was to come as a stranger to some village in that region, I could smile and they would know that even if I wasn’t a known friend, at least I was likely also from that region, hopefully from an aligned tribe. Yet if I was to travel to wherever it is on earth that the people all have teeth like Arnold Schwarzenegger, if we were all smiling at each other, they might think “hmm, he is one of those people from far away and perhaps we should be cautious”. My theory being that smiling as an act of friendliness (rather than aggression) would be done as an affinity display.

    Then again, and you might know more about this than I do, I seem to recall that Bonobos smile very much as humans do, as well as making a more chimp-like grin of aggression. See also Bonobo: the Forgotten Ape, Waal & Lansing (book info). Considering that it seems that AMH migrated out of Africa along many paths over widely spaced time frames, you might have to ask “why do Chinese smile to be friendly as well as Irish smile to be friendly” if this was a fairly recent development in evolutionary terms. Perhaps it goes back to the time between when the bonobo-hominid common ancestor split away from the bonobo-chimpanzee-hominid strain. I bet there’s an interesting topic for a paper right there, not sure how anyone could test it well.

    @ Lanius, who wrote in-part regarding psychopaths giving people the chills: I read that researchers who interview prison psychopaths often get chills and feelings of dread and so on. [ ... ] Could be they are just classical modern emasculated males, brought up in a society that abhors violence, competition and is blind to human nature, wrong on social policies and deluded in almost every possible way.

    Getting chills from a psychopath sufficiently deviant to be locked up in prison for major violent felonies, that’s not “deluded”. Look, my neighborhood has certainly produced its share of fairly hardcore psychopaths and mere well-adjusted (so to speak) sociopaths, and some of these were in my local school with me. Back when we were all teenagers, nobody much noticed because like all teens, we were all pretty self-serving me-first types with serious impulse-control problems and a deep-seated need to flout authority. But most of us grew out of that sort of thing to one or another degree. Those who didn’t… imagine someone with all of the annoying and worrisome characteristics of a teenager but with an adult’s powers of reason and planning, an adult’s physical and mental and perhaps economic resources, and not the least bit of moral restraint on the gut level. Most of these eventually got the idea that they needed that moral restraint, even if they had to spend half of their lives walking around asking other people what is proper procedure and trying to internalize society’s definitions of what is right and what is wrong, and the logic behind it. But that’s all intellectual restraint and with none of the gut-feeling of what a person can and cannot do.

    Almost any person can remember some situation where they were extremely angry or needy or somesuch, and they can remember how strong were those emotions and how tempting it might have been to pursue certain courses of action… but they were stopped more by their own gut-feeling than they were stopped by any notion of legal or social consequences. It’s when you realize how powerful are those gut-feelings of right-and-wrong to have stopped you, and you realize that some people don’t have anything like the restraint of those gut-feelings… that’s were you get the chills. You’re in the presence of someone who could do anything with the same emotional level of concern that you might give to visiting the bathroom. A “normal” person might have severe moral qualms considering whether to shoplift a loaf of bread because they’re starving. A true psychopath wouldn’t have qualms at all when considering whether to eat your face because they wonder how you taste. If that doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what could.


  59. “The Unscrupulous Man will go and borrow more money from a creditor he has never paid … When marketing he reminds the butcher of some service he has rendered him and, standing near the scales, throws in some meat, if he can, and a soup-bone. If he succeeds, so much the better; if not, he will snatch a piece of tripe and go off laughing.”

    Supposedly the first written description of psychopathy or sociopathy..


  60. A true psychopath wouldn’t have qualms at all when considering whether to eat your face because they wonder how you taste. If that doesn’t give you the chills, I don’t know what could.

    I’m just wondering whether there really is an evolved subconscious mechanism that warns people thusly…


  61. deep-seated need to flout authority.

    And that is a bad thing? I mean, come on. Most authority is majorly incompetent and mainly concerned with maintaining it’s position, not doing what they should.

  62. @ Lanius

    Being likable is most common technique to get people do what you want them to, but neither sufficient nor necessary for “leadership” to work.

    Few people found late Stalin a likable person. Yet, up to the moment of his demise, no one had the guts to even meekly try to stand up to him, and even after his death, it took a while to make the cult of terror to dissipate.