Mote-turbation.

Oh, so many things I want to rattle on about with you people. The potential critical relevance of leaky cell membranes down in deep-sea vents, back when life was just getting started (and the resonance that might have for a certain fictional doomsday bug which will be trapped in such vents for another few decades because of the osmotic consequences of having inordinately leaky membranes).  The latest news in telepathy through technology (overhyped, IMO— in the same way the last big “breakthrough” was— but we’re getting there, we’re getting there).  The ongoing tale of Patrick McLaw, school-teacher, who was disappeared, held at an undisclosed location,  and forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation because of a couple of dystopian SF novels he self-pubbed on Amazon— no, wait, it wasn’t those books at all, it was a four-page letter that some thought might be a “cry for help”— no, no, it was really those books and the letter and the fact that he’d built a scale model of a high school that might have tewwowist implications (nothing said at first about McLaw’s background in architecture, or the fact that he’d also built models of a cruise ship and a house).  Oh, and while we haven’t actually got around to charging him with anything, we’re also investigating allegations that he had a relationship with a 16-year-old-boy in Delmarva

Riiight. When  they start yanking the gay-pedophile-won’t-someone-think-of-the-children routine out of their asses (never mind that 16 is the age of consent in Maryland)— more tellingly, when they don’t even lead with that, but only bring it up after days of being held up to global outrage and ridicule— you can probably tune out with a high degree of confidence that once again, the assholes are just making it up as they go along. Is it any wonder that over the course of my recent reddit AMA, the comment that won by far the greatest number of upvotes was my suggestion to a resident of Fergusen that maybe we should start randomly killing cops for a change? (I should do a post on that too, now that I think of it…)

All this and more, all infinitely more worthy of attention than what I’m actually here to talk about. Because I have this new book out, and the sink/swim window is only a few weeks, and we’re already into week two and I haven’t done any of the essays or quizzes or promo interviews I told everyone I’d get around to once August was out of the way. Hell, I’m still working on the fucking website (Gallery’s looking good, btw; soon, now), and answering e-mail (backlog holding steady around 80), and hitting the refresh button every five minutes over at Amazon while wondering why I’ve only got a dozen reviews up there while Scalzi has 57 for a book that came out the same day. (Wondering rhetorically, mind you; there’s no need for any of you to wade in and helpfully point out any of the two or three dozen reasons why The Scalz kicks my ass at selling books.)

All of which is just a long-winded way of saying that while the world continues to wobble from impacts that turn my own trivial concerns to dust motes, it’s my job for the next little while to be small-minded and mercenary and to nurture those fucking motes until either Echopraxia succeeds or I throw in the towel. If it’s any consolation, I do it grudgingly.

Today’s nugget of self-promotion comes via Clarkesworld, which has been kind enough to reprint “Giants”, from the Sunflowers cycle.  While “Giants” came out earlier this year, chances are you never read that first release because the publishers pooched the roll-out, buried the title, and didn’t get around to paying their authors our contracted pittance until months later.

Clarkesworld, in contrast, rocks.  And people read them.  So if you missed “Giants” last time around, now’s your chance.

It’s even free.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Thursday September 04 2014at 12:09 pm , filed under misc, writing news . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

70 Responses to “Mote-turbation.”

  1. Enjoyed Giants, still haven’t gotten to Echopraxia yet but it’s next on the queue, and when I do, I’ll break my usual rule and try to throw up a review on Amazon and other booksellers instead of just Goodreads. Unless I hate it, in which case I’ll spare you the bookseller reviews so you have a better chance of selling it. But I don’t think the odds are good of that based on the various previews and such I’ve already read. :)

    I’m curious, though, re: Sunflowers. You’ve mentioned a couple times that you envisioned this as a video game setting, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you talk about exactly what KIND of game you saw it as. A tense first person RPG between two factions of the ship? A Portal-like puzzle game where you you’re the lone person awake and you have to solve problems and maybe try to outwit the Chimp in order to accomplish your goal that technically conflict with the mission parameters? A space resource-management game where each level is a different unusual star system you have to figure out how to build a gate in or survive to move to the next one? Some combination of all of them?

  2. answering e-mail (backlog holding steady around 80), and hitting the refresh

    derp. I’m sorry I sent you an email today.

  3. I bought giants!
    It’s shitty you didn’t get paid for it.
    The end of Echopraxia seemed… darker than usual.

  4. Since you brought up framing for kiddie porn, the strange case of a Yank attempting to stay in the Great White North. Father former NSA. You can’t make this stuff up. Though sometimes we try anyway.

    The twisty background on Matt DeHart, Part 1 of 5, links to 2+ at site:

    http://news.nationalpost.com/matt-dehart-claims-hes-wanted-for-working-with-anonymous/

    More recently, an article written Orwellian due to a ban on discussing any of it:

    http://ww2.nationalpost.com/m/wp/blog.html?b=news.nationalpost.com/2014/08/20/i-trust-the-canadian-justice-system-drama-and-raw-emotion-evident-in-court-proceeding-under-publication-ban

    Blog post regarding some details:
    http://claredaly.ie/us-anonymous-hacktivist-seeks-asylum-in-canada/

    There, but for the grace of Portia…

  5. @seruko: **spoiler** warnings are helpful. But vague will have to suffice! Personally I like “dark” but I have to add that sometimes it is within darkness that we can best see the hints of a new dawn. I will now shut up.

    @Peter Watts: egads. You deserve a break and I deserved a slap on the wrist for not posting a review to Amazon. So I just went and did that.

    Re: McLaw: that’s a good fast analysis there but you missed one thing… now they’re mentioning that he recently legally changed his name >gasp!<

    Seriously though: I can take the devils-advocate side for a second and note that the gentleman is at an age where adulthood-emergent mental disorders may be feared with some reason. As a rule I don’t like to side with any group of people who appear to be doing their best to be seen as some sort of zealots stirring up a clusterfuck destined to get top billing on any Webpage O’ Epic Fail. Furthermore I have an axe to grind against anyone, or especially against any group of people, who actually are zealots stirring up epic clusterfuckery.

    I’m trying to see both sides of the Necker Cube, so to speak, noting that there can be an awful lot of fuzziness between the obverse and the reverse of a coin seen spinning through the air after a flip. But if I were to be judgmental here, my own worry is that if McLaw did have some personal problems of a psychological nature, and it was grossly mishandled by the authorities, it may be most interesting to see how he could be compensated for the psychological damage inflicted by getting disappeared to the madhouse, probably with the prosecuting attorney pretending to be a psychotherapist while taking his “confession” under the guise of therapy. McLaw is probably medicated into idiocy and without access to counsel. Way to go, Maryland, you’re predictable if nothing else.

  6. seruko:

    The end of Echopraxia seemed… darker than usual.

    I’m not aware of any Peter Watts novel where the ending really made you want to go skipping off into the sunset in an orgasm of rainbows and frolicking butterflies. But yeah. I’m going to have to ingest far more Post-Watts escapist space opera than usual before I’m fit for human company again. Maybe some nice right wing military sci-fi with clearly drawn moral positions, anthropomorphic aliens and fluffy Whedonesque banter. Yeah, that’s the stuff. I’ll just flip that Zombie Switch.

  7. I was going to send a congratulatory email but left my first Amazon (.ca) review instead as that seemed more appropriate.

  8. seruko,

    You said that Echopraxia’s ending seemed darker than usual? Uhhh… (spoilers to follow, not of Echopraxia though)

    Starfish ended with the carrier of a biocidal plague escaping the attempt to sterilize her and destroy the source of a world-killing (not just humanity, but pretty much the entire WORLD) disease.

    Blindsight ended with our narrator floating out into space without a hope in hell of ever being rescued. See you at heat death.

  9. It’s only dark if you’re some kind of consciousness fetishist. Life is a good thing, not just our appreciation of it, it has value in itself. A forest, a coral reef, a deep sea vent ecosystem has value. That there’s no little wanker in the middle of it thinking how great it all is has dubious relevance.

  10. (Wondering rhetorically, mind you; there’s no need for any of you to wade in and helpfully point out any of the two or three dozen reasons why The Scalz kicks my ass at selling books.)

    Hey, you could stop with the unproductive carping and learn how to write the sf equivalent of twinkies. It’d surely be more remunerative than what you’re doing now.

    Just being rhetorical now. Were you that kind of person, you’d still be a scientist and probably taking money from fishing interests.

  11. Paul Harrison:
    It’s only dark if you’re some kind of consciousness fetishist. Life is a good thing, not just our appreciation of it, it has value in itself. A forest, a coral reef, a deep sea vent ecosystem has value. That there’s no little wanker in the middle of it thinking how great it all is has dubious relevance.

    I hope you’re planning to explain to the people of Gaza or Ferguson that they’re being too consciousness centric in the outlook of their losses. I mean, at least the trees still have value, right? Help them get their perspective right.

    Since we’re all a bunch of little wankers that flock to these parts primarily for the viewpoint of the little wanker in Dr. Watt’s narratives, that viewpoint seems perfectly relevant to me. From a Roach point of view, the new book’s ending is pretty dark even by Watts standards. Which is saying quite a bit.

    However, in the interests of equal time, I have copied and pasted the viewpoint of a deep sea vent ecosystem below:

    .

  12. On Echopraxia: A small bug report: In the TOR-kindle-edition, the footnotes in the appendix are broken. There are footnotemarks (and they look like they are links), but these are not linked to the foonotetexts. The texts appear later, one per page. Seems footnotes on kindle are hard. :-(

  13. Brain modem a go:

    http://cir.ca/news/brain-to-brain-interface

  14. Ha! It’s pretty clear you wrote your own bio on the Clarksworld page. Recipient of ” a couple of dick-ass Canadian awards you’ve probably never heard of.”.

  15. ScottC,

    Our system of justice based on individual responsibility, based on the concept of free will, hasn’t really helped much in resolving these issues of systemic religious intolerance and racism. (I’m not sold on the idea of shooting police at random either though. This seems like a solution for when the state has completely failed and revolution is necessary, but the USA still has ideals and I retain some hope of it living up to them.)

    I’m not claiming any particular ratio between the value of a human life and non-concscious life, just claiming that the value of non-conscious life is not zero. Push comes to shove I really don’t know how much forest I would exchange for a person’s life. In Echopraxia there is non-conscious life of far greater sophistication than anything we know of presently, and they even seem to have emotions and desires even if they aren’t aware of them.

  16. Paul-

    I would argue that our our system of Justice is based upon the protection of civil liberties. This is why no portion of the CJ system talks to the other, why the exclusionary rule is the standard, and the defendant has the deck stacked in their favor. From a prevent/punish crime perspective it is an abject failure. But that’s not its purpose – it’s to prevent the State from violating civil rights.

    Just my bullshit opinion.

    And as a two decade LEO I appreciate the “no shooting police at random.” Although I tend to shoot back 😉

  17. Curious thing happened while I was in Minneapolis. Ran into two people who had shared a cell or cellblock. They happened to mention that MPLS PD was now asking two questions that they had not previously:

    Do you believe it’s possible for someone to project voices into your head?

    Do you believe that someone is projecting voices into your head?

    Crazy times we live in, no?

  18. @whoever: Re, assessment now asking questions about “thought projection” (“have you read Larry Niven? do you believe in Thrintun?” *snicker*)

    A lot of police forces are implementing “special squads” who are supposed to triage people into “merely criminal” and/or “mental illness offenders” classes, with a sub-class for “chemical imbalance” offenders. More or less, did that person stuff 15 pairs of underwear under their “hoodie” because they need underwear, because they are part of a garment-theft ring, because alien mind voices have been telling them to steal underwear for the last few weeks and they only just now gave in to the commands, or because they were drunk as lords and thought that stealing underwear was a good idea at the time.

    In part, this is good because drunks go to the drunk tank, people headed into diabetic altered consciousness get sent to the right part of the hospital for insulin rather than to the wrong part of the hospital for sedation prior to “remand”, people who pretty surely need remand get remanded to admissions at the special wing, and the people who were just stealing to steal get aimed into the criminal-justice system.

    In part, this is not-so-good, because failures in training or attitude could create huge problems, for example a psych remand for a diabetic is likely to be fatal or nearly-so. If officers give a nice shot of insulin to someone in a psychotic break, it could be medically as bad as injecting a diabetic with thorazine instead of insulin. Too many extremely bad outcomes could arise from situations that are far more medical than criminal although still to be classed as “public disturbance please send cops”. Career criminals could fake schizophrenia to seek remand over jailing and that could be unpleasant and risky for all concerned; comparably some types of mental illness don’t seem anywhere near as crazy as they actually are, and someone who needs medication and supervision gets tossed in stir with career criminals with a wide range of very bad outcomes proceeding therefrom.

    All of this being said: it may be better than previous systems, because in most large US cities (and their even larger suburbs) the vast majority of mental healthcare is delivered within the criminal justice system, usually in jail.

    But I digress. I wonder how Dr Watts would write a story where everyone pretty much just goes nuts, and neurotech hasn’t quite got ramped up to the scale and speed needed? How dark could that get? Especially if they tend to go nuts at the higher ranks even faster than at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum?

  19. FWIW, I bought Echopraxia and Lock In on the day they were released. I’m enjoying both. (I’m also a slow reader. ) I hope Echopraxia gains commercial success.

  20. Paul Harrison:

    I’m not claiming any particular ratio between the value of a human life and non-concscious life, just claiming that the value of non-conscious life is not zero.

    Paul,

    I regret my earlier comment, when the comment I was responding to was clearly constructed out of a measure of whimsy based ideas presented in the works of Dr. Watts, a subject which we are all here to discuss.

    However, this particular equation is not in question. Since we here are all roaches, assembled for the purpose of celebrating the narratives Dr. Watts’s fictional audience surrogates deign to translate for us, said narratives are not likely to be irrelevant to the present audience. Any attempt to proclaim them so is…unhelpful at best.

    Also, considering how much damage we’ve manged to do to the world that we share with the non-conscious life on this…terraqueous globe…we are in the completely unearned position of being the scourge, and the best hope for the non-conscious life you champion. We pull a fade tomorrow, those deep sea vents still have to put up with our shit.

    And finally, murdering people to make a political point you’re sympathetic to is straight up wrong, yo. My momma taught me that. You could take that up with my momma, but I would advise against it. Even Vampiris Whedonis can recognize an apex predator.

  21. POSSIBLE MICRO SPOILER/TYPO

    On this line

    “How the hell did I ever decide that Jim Moore was less dangerous than a goddamn vampire?”

    Shouldn’t “less” be “more”?

  22. Re the book: Assuming Sengupta’s speech weirdnesses are by design, I still spotted a bunch of typos. I don’t know how much of this is due to Amazon though, some Amazon ebooks I’ve seen were obviously OCR’d and still had lots of avoidable errors, so there must be some weirdnesses in their publishing process.

    Re economics in online games, yes, others have done it:
    http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/economics/

  23. Mr Non-Entity:
    @whoever: Re, assessment now asking questions about “thought projection” (“have you read Larry Niven? do you believe in Thrintun?” *snicker*)

    Problem is, it actually is possible {sounds, not thoughts}. Vibrating bones, microwave audio effect both looked at work arounds for certain kinds of deafness.

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/dod/vts.html

    Trauma from being shocked from suddenly hearing such voices could actually cause people to start hallucinating.

    Especially if they tend to go nuts at the higher ranks even faster than at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum?

    :)

  24. @Paul Harrison

    I’m not claiming any particular ratio between the value of a human life and non-concscious life, just claiming that the value of non-conscious life is not zero. Push comes to shove I really don’t know how much forest I would exchange for a person’s life.

    Are we talking just anyone’s life, or like Sean Hannity’s? In the case of the latter I find myself more sympathetic to your position.

    In Echopraxia there is non-conscious life of far greater sophistication than anything we know of presently, and they even seem to have emotions and desires even if they aren’t aware of them.

    Well, assuming Echopraxia and Blindsight are dealing with the same factions, I would say it clearly has an agenda or a pattern of behavior designed around a specific goal, like all life. As far as emotions or desires, there’s no evidence to suggest it’s anything other than the same sophisticated ruleset for communication we saw in Blindsight, even when it appears to express itself with a measure of personality.

    I still have no difficulty rooting for humanity out of self-interest. Portia doesn’t seem like it would be very much fun to hang out with. You know, boardgames, long walks on the beach, snuggling up on a cold night, scrambler plushies notwithstanding. Plus, the whole ceasing to exist on a recognizable level seems like a drag.

  25. Peter D: I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you talk about exactly what KIND of game you saw it as. A tense first person RPG between two factions of the ship?

    Wait for it: You play the chimp. You run the bots and the ship, you eavesdrop on your human antagonists, you provide a wonderfully complementary POV to what you encounter in the written stories.

    I thought it was brilliant because it turns the limitations of conventional game interfaces from a bug into a feature (after all, the decision trees and conversational options one finds in your usual game are a lot more in line with what you’d expect from a stupid AI than a human being.) But one of the folks who fiddled with the idea of turning it into an indie game told me that it wouldn’t be a particularly engaging POV for your average player.

  26. seruko: I bought giants!
    It’s shitty you didn’t get paid for it.

    I did get paid for it. Just several months later than the contract stipulated.

    Mr Non-Entity: But if I were to be judgmental here, my own worry is that if McLaw did have some personal problems of a psychological nature, and it was grossly mishandled by the authorities, it may be most interesting to see how he could be compensated for the psychological damage inflicted by getting disappeared to the madhouse,

    The cool thing about this is, it’s analogous to radicalizing innocent people into tewwowists by sticking them into Gitmo. Poke someone hard enough, eventually they poke back. Then you get to say, “See? He’s dangerous!”

    whoever: Brain modem a go:

    Hope to blog on this soon.

    Kasz: Recipient of ” a couple of dick-ass Canadian awards you’ve probably never heard of.”.

    And you haven’t, have you?

    Skypig: I would argue that our our system of Justice is based upon the protection of civil liberties.

    People keep saying that. And yet N’Am LEOs keep tasering unarmed people to death in airports, and assaulting unarmed amputees during peaceful protests while wearing obscured badges. Or beating up homeless people while shaking down transvestite hookers to pay off their debts to organized crime in the theater district. Or mass-arresting and detaining thousands without charge. Or kicking in people’s doors at 2a.m. and hauling them away because they might do something bad later that day. Or assaulting people who waited around at the scene of a crime because they wanted to volunteer to be a witness for fucksake, only to get shit-kicked and charged with assault and resisting. Or stalking ex-girlfriends using NSA databases. Or screwing over innocent people by distributing lists of those with “police records” (not criminal ones) containing thousands of names of people who’ve never even been charged with anything, let alone convicted. Or dumping first-nations people into snowbanks on the outskirts of town at -20C to freeze to death on so-called “Starlight cruises”. Or incarcerating people for failing to obey search and siezure laws that don’t actually exist. And let’s not forget that old classic, just shooting down unarmed black guys in the street.

    And other LEOs keep covering for them.

    And judges, for some inexplicable reason, continue to unquestioningly favor the testimony of LEOs over that of civilians, despite a rich and well-established legacy of police perjury.

    Civil rights, eh?

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    And as a two decade LEO I appreciate the “no shooting police at random.” Although I tend to shoot back

    The problem isn’t cops who shoot back. The problem is cops who shoot first, at people who lack the option of shooting at all.

  27. Milo Polaris: (I’m also a slow reader. )

    That’s okay. I’m an even slower writer.

    whoever: Problem is, it actually is possible {sounds, not thoughts}. Vibrating bones, microwave audio effect both looked at work arounds for certain kinds of deafness.

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/dod/vts.html

    Sony’s been patenting this kind of tech at least since the late nineties. Far as I know, though, it’s still Dibs on the idea, even though we don’t have the tech to remote-target critical neurons with the necessary specificity yet.”

  28. Peter Watts: Sony’s been patenting this kind of tech at least since the late nineties.Far as I know, though, it’s still Dibs on the idea, even though we don’t have the tech to remote-target critical neurons with the necessary specificity yet.”

    There’s also Woody Norris’ HSS/Hypersonic Sound, which does at least use the ancient ear drums, but could make quite the party prank in practice.

    It is of course difficult to say about the SONY infrasound thingy. All I can say, was not pareidolia. More like circa 80s/90s CGI.

    http://mccoyote.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/phantom-sounds-and-symptoms/

    Probably some inaccuracies in that requiring correction as new data has presented itself, but overall, that’s what happened.

  29. @Peter Watts: Nice brief history of how outrageously LE have been known to screw up or be abusive. But please remember that in the case of individuals wearing the badge, one of the skills of sociopaths is evading even the best attempts to screen for them. While most LE/Justice institutions do their level best to exclude such individuals, just enough do get through to taint the reputations of entire forces. Now add to this the fact that sociopaths are quite commonly very good at certain kinds of jobs, especially those where it really helps to not have much of a conscience but one need merely stick close to the rules-of-engagement and one continues to pass muster. Thus you get a relative few LE who are right beyond the pale on rare but often stunning incidents… however they may be seen as top-flight professionals by their fellow officers who will close ranks around them, not quite understanding that they’re harboring monsters. Of course, leave this ongoing for too long and such individuals can rise to management levels at which point the institution becomes rotten at the core. The endless struggle of citizens and the institutions themselves (where not already corrupted) is thus to find and fight this corruption before it becomes entrenched. It’s actually a very positive sign that we hear about both the violators and the outcry against them. As long as the media don’t become “obliging stenographers” publishing the rationalizations of the corrupt, hope remains.

    I speak as someone who has made a lifelong career of never allowing these people to say “see, I told you he’s dangerous”, no matter how often I get poked. Sometimes being in the right, and knowing how to work the bureaucracies, is a more valuable skill than any amount of technical expertise or marksmanship.

    @whoever et al: One of my hobbies or interests over the last 2 decades has been the “alien experiencer” and comparable phenomena. This began with my first contact with R. A. Lansberry of “silent radio” infamy. He was protesting outside of my building when I was a clerk at the FCC. He said that “they” were beaming silent radio into his head, and his claim was that a relative few people were susceptible to this technology and that the FCC needed to regulate it. I pointed out how to make a Faraday Cage against EM radiation and the next day he was out there with his sign again, only this time he was wearing an aluminum-foil hat as well. (I have much to atone for… but he thereafter stopped complaining about the “silent radio”.) Over long years, he has not been the only one… and as with many delusional systems there is an unfortunate grain of truth in there. See also the “soundweapon” people and the “gang-stalking” people. The problem here is, the technology (or organizational skills) exist, or are right on the edge of existing, and who better as an unwitting at-large subject for human experimentation than the mentally-ill? Nobody’s going to believe anything they say so anything can be done to them, as long as it is “unbelievable”. But I somehow suspect that a lot of this “craziness” will stop being so “crazy” after enough clandestine beta-testing is done and marketable products arise from it. And now we end this brief interruption and back to your regularly scheduled program about LE complicity in widespread abuse of the helpless.

  30. Mr Non-Entity,

    Am I reading this right? Do you claim to be the originator of the tinfoil hat?

  31. @nestor: It’s possible, though I imagine that like all great discoveries it was discovered simultaneously worldwide. 😉 Actually I am fairly sure I had seen it in SF stories going back probably to the 1940s/1950s. Heck, “Ming the Merciless” wore one in Flash Gordon, right? Or was that how Flash and his crew resisted the Deadly Mind Ray from Planet X? It’s been a long time.

    I think I may be the person who first explained it to someone who clearly needed one. But enough about me, for the scientifically minded, you may want to read The Controllers by Martin Cannon. Actually pretty solid journalism, this looks at “secret government mind control” all of the way back to Ali Hassan and “the hashisheen”, where psychotic disposable ninja were created with deception, sex, and enough cannibis to float an auditorium, and sent on suicide missions that changed the course of history in the expansionist phase of Islam. See also any actual well-researched histories of MKULTRA and related capers, some of which are more silly and weird than any SF ever written. Tom Porter’s Deep Black Magic is another good starting place, online for nearly 20 years.

    The “gang-stalking” people were at one point actually taken seriously by at least one Canadian provincial government, and while most people reporting on it seem to be in the position of experimental subjects helpfully logging their own side of the experience, I have no doubt that something exists not too far from “neighborhood watches going bad and hooking up on national scales with an organization of neighborhood watches gone bad”. And as some researchers will tell you, “of course the cops know about this, but they get so much useful information from it that they let it go on so long as they can plausibly deny any involvement, and unless it gets undeniably way out of hand”. My point being that there is stuff out there in the world that’s arguably “real” if obscure to the point of being occult.

    Anyone who likes seriously dark SF may want to look into seriously dark possibilities in real life, which may or may not exist, and may be hardly discoverable if it does exist. It’s easy to write about corporate malfeasance since there’s obviously going to be money as a motive, if not a money-trail as evidence. Much harder to write about things that might be happening for no particular reason most sane-and-decent people would understand. Yet some writers have pulled it off. See also the bestseller anti-CIA/anti-MKULTRA screed Firestarter. I keep waiting for someone to write something that kicks that particular anthill that even better.

  32. Mr Non-Entity: @whoever et al: One of my hobbies or interests over the last 2 decades has been the “alien experiencer” and comparable phenomena.

    Checked out DMT?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyltryptamine

    Am told that there’s a former Wall Streeter who provides “safe” DMT experiences for free somewhere south of the border. Sounds a bit too similar to events at McGill and elsewhere, but maybe that’s just glitchy pattern matching.

  33. Bonus Rifters-related link, Utopia via drone:

    https://twitter.com/rj_gallagher/status/508672560192450560

  34. @whoever: You may want to see an excellent little film produced by Zachary Quinto, called Banshee Chapter. It starts out, more or less, with a formerly gonzoid retired journalist being investigated by another journalist, and part of the sidling up to the quarry includes some serious psychedelic use. Very similar to what you describe. “Banshee Chapter” is loosely based on the Lovecraftian Mythos, and not too dissimilar to a multipart blog story[1] I did wherein I was channelling Stross’s “Atrocity Archives” view of the Elder Gods as superpowered predators from neutron star environments in parallel multiverses, who had a metabolism based on eating entropy. (Hokey but fun. I should clean that up and mount it as soon as I have a decent ending.) Basically, aliens are being held more-or-less captive in the desert, by the government, in the same way that Chernobyl was “remediated” by pouring megatons of concrete on it. But people who use the right combinations of psychedelics “experience” the aliens in a way that causes them to manifest in generally harmful ways, provided they are tripping hardcore in very close proximity to the containment site. A good little horror flick for the intellectual type, is “Banshee Chapter” on Netflix streaming.

    Ref: 1. Mythos by Thomas Hardman. You probably want to start at the beginning of the story, though expect even more meandering than in a Gene Wolfe novel. Is it a blog? Is it a story? Is it shameless self-promotion? It’s multi-part, whatever it is and it’s fictiblogtruthy.

  35. Milgram’s Cyranoid experiment

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2014/09/06/cyranoids-stanley-milgrams-creepiest-experiment/#.VAx21GRdVAt

    I wonder if this is happening in the real world. Obviously TV show hosts are patched in and told what to say routinely. Politicians? Diplomats?

  36. …Terrorists? Opposition groups? Investigators? Cop and public? Arab Spring? The Troops? Anyone at any time?

    Entirely possible.

    https://mccoyote.wordpress.com/mind-affecting-technology/

  37. One of my favorite examples, GOP operative James O’Keefe III. One of those things or similar is how party operatives receive their marching orders beyond the watchful eyes of those monitoring phone and email. Dems set him up when he attempted to tap Senator’s office phones. Why he faced no jail time.

  38. Peter Watts,

    Sort of Like Dwarf Fortress/Prison Architect in Space with the base mostly built already?

  39. @Nestor: Cyranoids? Almost certain to happen now and then.

  40. Sort of Like Dwarf Fortress/Prison Architect in Space with the base mostly built already?

    I’m not certain even a Watts game could match Dwarf Fortress in terms of existential despair.

  41. ^ Dunno where the apostrophe in “Watts” came from above, but the website timed out before I could edit it. Must be all those new fans hammering Peter’s website.

  42. Peter Watts:

    Civil rights, eh?

    You keep using that word.I do not think it means what you think it means.

    The problem isn’t cops who shoot back. The problem is cops who shoot first, at people who lack the option of shooting at all.

    Come on. I’m pretty sure that historically speaking, abuse by LE is at historical lows in N’Am.
    Unless one has proof, no one cares or cared.

    In the past, there were no smartphones and it was pretty easy to ‘fix’ various police brutality problems.

    I’m not saying things are getting better, just that brutal cops are the least of our worries.
    Self-absorbed idiocy is far more pernicious.

  43. I would like to bring a book i just read to mr watts’ attention – david kilcullen’s out of the mountains.
    It’s about the connected urban littoral nature of future warfare and emerging phenomena / hive-mind tendencies in controlled violence.
    If anybody is connected more directly with the author pls forward. I have a hunch he might find some of the ideas inspiring.
    Another one woud be luhmann’s social systems. It’s not new but more and more enlightening.
    This is not an ad. I am not related to either author (one is dead) neither personally nor commercially.

  44. Y.: I’m not saying things are getting better, just that brutal cops are the least of our worries.
    Self-absorbed idiocy is far more pernicious.

    Think the former is just as much a symptom of the latter as whatever else you mean.

  45. And Firefall has just dropped onto my Kindle. Wasn’t expecting it for another couple of weeks.

  46. Open Peer Review on visual reactions and political stance/negativity bias

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/biology-ideology-john-hibbing-negativity-bias

  47. More backlog:

    Ex-Air Force Law Enforcement Agent Says He Hoaxed Major UFO Mythologies

    http://huff.to/1lbKXMr

  48. Looking at the eyeless vampire in the fanart section the thought ocurred that vampires would probably find it rather easy to learn to echolocate like Ben Underwood

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUXh-X1iveU

    So they could just go about things with their eyes closed… or pop ’em out, if they were inclined to it.

    Kind of a simpler solution than Valerie’s, but then I’m not a posthuman…

  49. My copy of the HoZ edition of Firefall arrived on friday. I have Blindsight, but decided not to wait.

    Not got into Echopraxia yet as I decided to re read BS first, but I thought I would say that I think they have done a really nice job on the hardback edition. Was impressed by the fact that they used the Crown of Thorns /and/ Theseus versions of the image on the dust jacket.

    Maybe I’m easily pleased, but I don’t feel ripped off despite having already read half the words.

  50. Hey, you package the new book with its predecessor, you gotta expect a delay in reviews! (Read Blindsight a couple of times before, but not so recently that I could resist leading in with it once it was in front of me… so not actually on Echo yet)

    Fwiw, I await new Watts books with more eagerness than new Scalzi books. The latter get more buzz, I guess, but I had Echo on preorder for months following Richard Morgan’s tipoff that it was coming.

  51. Re whoever
    “Open Peer Review on visual reactions and political stance/negativity bias

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/biology-ideology-john-hibbing-negativity-bias

    A really interesting work that, however, overreaches when the authors start speculating about possible evolutionary utility (IMHO gene drift, in this case, is as good an explanation as “utility in ancestral environment”, but doesn’t make for an equally catchy story), especially since the work doesn’t exactly establish the causation behind negativity bias that was found. As far as I know, negativity bias doesn’t have to be “congenital/genetic”, it could very well be a generic conditioned response.

    On a sidenote, in my experience people with an apparent (as in, behaviorally obvious) negativity bias are also immensely gullible since it’s all too easy to occupy their entire attention with a “shiny”, the shiny in question being something perceived as threatening but ultimately harmless.

    Re Watts
    WRT “shooting cops for a change”, man, that won’t help, and I say that as a person who has little reason to be sympathetic towards cops.

    I mean, empirically speaking, the jurisdictions with best civil rights records, greatest amounts of so-called “civil liberties” available to general population, best social security networks and least police brutality are not the ones where people randomly “murder cops back” whenever a case of misconduct occurs.

    Of course, some of those jurisdictions are fucked up in their own, entirely different, ways (consider Sweden and its cowardly, eerily passive-aggressive prostitution laws, and the radfem technobabble used as their justification), but none of those jurisdictions have US-scale police misconduct (and incidentally, AFAIK, they tend to be lacking in Ferguson-style riots)

    Thus, evidence suggests that tit-for-tat is not always the best course of actions when dealing with irrational agents (and humans aren’t rational) in contexts where capabilities are not symmetric.

    I like Cole’s take on this whole clusterfuck.
    Will post link when I get back home…

  52. @03:

    Yeah, previous study suggested it was childhood trauma, eg, “There’s no cavalry/hero coming to save/protect me from” X, ergo, “screw people, the world is a harsh place, so suffer.” Which of course makes them obsessed with hero/protectors who make the “them” suffer and spout the propaganda of protecting the “us.”

    Which is the problem I see with the random hit-back. MSM minimizes Saudi sorcery beheadings and, if the poll is to be believed {a real question since government PSYOPs against US citizens are now officially legal} managed to maximize those conducted by ISIL to be worse than or nearly as bad as 9/11 with a 91% {when was the last time anything got numbers that high?} desirous of military action of some kind.

    So it would be with Brown vs. some random cop.

    How’s that for merging topics? :)

  53. 03: but none of those jurisdictions have US-scale police misconduct (and incidentally, AFAIK, they tend to be lacking in Ferguson-style riots)

    They don’t have that many Africans either. Sweden, though, is doing it’s best to fix that.

    Someone somewhere computed that the average black male is about 37 times more likely to cause violent trouble than the average white one. So, if police freak out around them, it’s quite understandable.

    One should also bear in mind the power of media. It’s not like the Ferguson case matters – it’s a freak occurence. Same as school shootings.

    IMO, that all of you obsess about something like that. Meanwhile, what about Rotherham?
    Doesn’t ring a bell for Americans right? Or the mid-East imploding? Mission accomplished.

    Meanwhile, the doubling time for Ebola cases in West Africa continues to lessen and WHO has admitted that outbreak is now probably beyond anyone’s ability to contain in Africa.

    So, 1st world countries are probably going to be able to successfully contain the disease. What about the horrendously overcrowded Egypt? Or Gaza? Or India?

  54. Y.,

    Edit: Wasn’t 37 times. Young black men are 28 times more likely to commit homicide than the average American. )

    (also holds for stuff like assault, robbery and so on, these correlate very well with homicide rates.

  55. Imagine constantly being bombarded with “This is what your life is supposed to look like” and simultaneously being denied any of the means to achieve it.

  56. whoever:
    Imagine constantly being bombarded with “This is what your life is supposed to look like” and simultaneously being denied any of the means to achieve it.

    Latinos are often similiarily poor, yet do they riot that often?

  57. Y.,

    I’m going to look into those data, because they don’t sound plausible – or rather, they seem highly selective. I’ve only just started checking, a few critical statistics leap out at me after just 5 minutes’ perusal of the data:

    1. According to the FBI’s UCR figures for 2011 (the most recent dataset afaics), the killer’s race was recorded as unknown in 1 in 3 homicides. That’s a pretty major hole in the dataset. See: http://tinyurl.com/cg3mx8z

    2. The homicide clearance rate nationally is a hair under 63%. This means that police believe they have arrested or otherwise charged the killer in this percentage of cases – but note this is not a conviction rate. I don’t know how this statistic interacts with the above (ie in what percentages of uncleared homicides the race of the killer is reported as ‘known’), but again, a gaping hole in the statistics.

    3. Directly related to the above, a JRSA report notes that one (of several) variables that can increase the odds of a homicide being cleared is ‘The suspect [being] African American or Hispanic.’ I’m *not* making the claim that this is evidence of police prejudice (it could be, for example, that it is easier to find a suspect who is in a local population minority). But it does raise a red flag over the quality of the data. EDITED TO ADD source: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/jr000243b.pdf

    4. Age is a tricky one to add in: your source blithely works his stats magic to focus on ‘young’ black men, without considering that his data on killer age are also suspect (again, see the data gap in the FBI stats; also note that in uncleared cases especially, age – if reported – is likely based on eyewitness estimates).

    5. Usefully, the FBI have a nice table of homicide data that included actual numbers for killer race and age. According to those data (which are *also* subject to the provisos above, as they are not based on cleared cases), black people (both genders) aged 13-24 inclusive (that’s the way the numbers are available) accounted for roughly 2,500 homicides where such identity data were known. That’s actually rather a lot less than your source’s claimed 52% of all homicides! See here: http://tinyurl.com/cl9jkca

    So, where does that leave us? Well, we’ve got enough to run rough back-of-the-envelope calculations suggesting that young blacks may be between 4 and 5 times as likely to commit homicide as similarly-aged whites. That’s assuming no bias in homicide race reporting, no geographical confounders, and no income/class confounders, of course – which are assumptions that the data do not really justify (see above). And given the gaping holes in the statistics, there’s gotta be a pretty low confidence interval on all of this anyway.

    Basically… No. Your ‘facts’ are wrong. The data do not support your assertion, and in fact are too weak to support anything other than tentative hypotheses about race/age/homicide correlations. GI/GO.

  58. @ Peter Watts

    Sorry, didn’t mean to enable the race trolling / thread derailment there. Only really dropped by to say I’m getting into Echo now and finding it utterly thrilling. And very glad you did sell it back-to-back with B/S in the end – I’m loving that deliciously nerve-wracking sensation of knowing things (and recognizing peripheral characters) that the protagonists do not. (There: I think no spoilers.)

  59. Poverty is only one aspect. Neighborhoods are targeted by every kind of vulture capitalism, despite claims to the contrary a certain agency absolutely does run drugs in those communities and offers that as the only means towards quick cash just as it does in places like Afghanistan and Honduras, and most amusingly spent tax dollars examining black culture. Never been a single serious piece of journalism on that nor their examination of voting decisions because they hid/destroyed documents, lied to Congress and got them to help with the whitewash.

    Yes, Virginia, there is a 1% conspiracy to get the rest of us to fight amongst ourselves.

    Partial FOIA:

    Subproject 123

    Subproject 127

    Then there’s FBI’s attempt to drive MLK to suicide just prior to receiving the Nobel.

    Then there’s ALEC, who was working in the shadows since the 1970s, its existence only known in the aughties, manipulating state laws.

    None of that conjecture, merely where the facts lead.

  60. 3. Directly related to the above, a JRSA report notes that one (of several) variables that can increase the odds of a homicide being cleared is ‘The suspect [being] African American or Hispanic.’ I’m *not* making the claim that this is evidence of police prejudice (it could be, for example, that it is easier to find a suspect who is in a local population minority). But it does raise a red flag over the quality of the data.

    Not exactly. Africans are notoriously bad at many things, like say, scoring well on standardized tests that do not require any cultural knowledge. It could be that they’re also not very good at getting away with murder.

    Wikipedia quotes is nicely..

    Popular racial stereotypes about the lower intelligence of African-Americans, and the stereotype that serial killers are white males with “bodies stacked up in the basement and strewn all over the countryside” may explain the media focus on serial killers that are white and the failure to adequately report on those that are black.

    I have to insert here what a social scientist says about stereotypes..

    However, one type is quite simple — the correspondence of stereotype beliefs with criteria. If I believe 60% of adult women are over 5′ 4″ tall, and 56% voted for the Democrat in the last Presidential election, and that 35% of all adult women have college degrees, how well do my beliefs correspond to the actual probabilities? One can do this sort of thing for many different types of groups.

    And lots of scientists have. And you know what they found? That stereotype accuracy — the correspondence of stereotype beliefs with criteria — is one of the largest relationships in all of social psychology. The correlations of stereotypes with criteria range from .4 to over .9, and average almost .8 for cultural stereotypes (the correlation of beliefs that are widely shared with criteria) and.5 for personal stereotypes (the correlation of one individual’s stereotypes with criteria, averaged over lots of individuals). The average effect in social psychology is about .20. Stereotypes are more valid than most social psychological hypotheses.

    It’s all pretty funny to us outsiders. The way Americans have been subtly indoctrinated into believing weird things..

    Well, we’ve got enough to run rough back-of-the-envelope calculations suggesting that young blacks may be between 4 and 5 times as likely to commit homicide as similarly-aged whites.

    Basically… No. Your ‘facts’ are wrong. The data do not support your assertion, and in fact are too weak to support anything other than tentative hypotheses about race/age/homicide correlations. GI/GO.

    Well, the article I linked was comparing everyone else to young black males. If it’s 4-5x just for same age, same sex, it could very well be 25x if you compared to everyone.

    What can I say to you? If you believe that AA’s are not more violent than other people, and that all we can form are ‘tenative hypotheses’.. maybe you would feel safe in Detroit. I mean, it’s all just ‘tenative hypotheses’ ;-). It’s not that the place is unsafe – maybe it’s that crime everywhere else is just being under-reported.

  61. whoever: Then there’s FBI’s attempt to drive MLK to suicide just prior to receiving the Nobel.

    The idea that they’d drive a charismatic leader and notorious womanizer into suicide suggests to me that the nickname ‘Famous but Incompetent’ was pretty apt in that case.

    whoever:
    Poverty is only one aspect. Neighborhoods are targeted by every kind of vulture capitalism, despite claims to the contrary a certain agency absolutely does run drugs in those communities and offers that as the only means towards quick cash just as it does in places like Afghanistan and Honduras, and most amusingly spent tax dollars examining black culture.

    CIA may conceivably run drugs into America to get money, but the idea that they act as anything else but wholesalers is patently ridiculous.

    Then there’s ALEC, who was working in the shadows since the 1970s, its existence only known in the aughties, manipulating state laws.

    How is that manipulation? They don’t tell people how to vote on those laws, nor rewrite the laws without knowledge of state legislators.

    Also, I would be quite surprised if there wasn’t a similar organisation on the Democrat side.

  62. Honduras is a drug mecca run by the US and invested in by UK, Canadian, Chinese, Japanese and EU money. Really, it’s such a stinking fraud that I’d be amazed that even lame MSM isn’t harping on it but then I’m watching the surreal ISIS-worse-than-Armageddon/but we need them to topple Assad dark farce and that’s even more in our faces

    Dems definitely have covert ops as do the GOP. But I think the average American is now in a post left/right era. It’s Oligarchy v Republic and the latter is losing. Might makes right and the one with the gold rules. If the eventual cabal that wins has any good ideas about dealing with our pressing climate issues then I suppose there’s a small silver lining to be found.

    But I doubt it. I think their ideas go back to old westerns and this planet ain’t big enough for all of us. Just a question of who is leaving and how.

  63. Pressing climate issues(yawn) are going to solve themselves in short order.

    Like Stalin said – no people, no problem ( except he didn’t )..

    Yeah, so, you say investors from rich countries are investing.. In the drug trade?
    It is not the other way? And how exactly would elite money eliminate the original narcos ?

    Care for any links, whatever?

    Seems to me like that Liberian article by some Prof(?) Broderick who claims Ebola is a GMO from 1976 and was made by USA. Old KGB men must be chortling.

    http://www.liberianobserver.com/security/ebola-aids-manufactured-western-pharmaceuticals-us-dod

  64. Y.,

    “It could be that they’re also not very good at getting away with murder.”

    Oh, ffs. You completely missed the point, which was to point to the hole in the data. The *why* of it doesn’t matter: the point is that a claim about the numbers of homicides attributed to young black men is based on a *hugely flawed analysis* of a *hugely flawed dataset.* (Your own argument – that black people – oh sorry, ‘Africans’ – are less good at getting away with murder would *directly work against your core claim* as it would suggest that a disproportionate number of the ‘race unknown’ homicides would be attributable to non-blacks.)

    But frankly you’re not showing any signs of joined-up thinking here – merely spouting racist bollocks. I tried to show you why your sole data-based claim was weak, you just put your fingers in your ears. So why should I bother?

  65. http://www.alternet.org/world/death-squads-honduras-funded-us

    http://upsidedownworld.org/main/news-briefs-archives-68/3331-new-us-military-bases-in-honduras

    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/5/ousted_honduran_president_manuel_zelaya_speaks

    Click the more and scroll to the bottom. Former Honduran President confirms existence of microwave weapons used on him after US-backed coup because he tried to say no to CIA.

    Especially interesting because of Amy Goodman’s detainment at the Canadian border, where the guards were behaving oddly paranoid, just two weeks before Peter’s troubles.

    And the Zelaya interview was just weeks before that.

    The part about the investors came from this:

    http://ccrjustice.org/DrugWar-PolicingUSMilitarism-HomeAndAbroad-Feb13

    Can’t find a transcript or video. Every indication was that it was upsidedown…US was protecting drug planes leaving home of a prominent Honduran, and inexplicably murdering people in fishing boats. History of US and murder squads almost makes it like PB&J: they go good together if you’re one of those death merchants Ike was concerned about.

    Five bases and building a sixth.

    Then there’s a great infographic here with a large red dot:

    http://theweek.com/article/index/255936/why-is-heroin-so-cheap

    Big Pharma is of course part of all this because this is what kept Rush blathering on the radio for years. But it’s also obviously the illegal stuff.

    And yet…

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/09/17/afghanistan-asks-washington-for-537-million-bailout/

    Ridiculous.

  66. Pan Outeast: But frankly you’re not showing any signs of joined-up thinking here – merely spouting racist bollocks. I tried to show you why your sole data-based claim was weak, you just put your fingers in your ears. So why should I bother?

    Is it my fault that the data are racist?

  67. Y.: Is it my fault that the data are racist?

    I think Pan Outeast’s point was that the data were bullshit, full of holes and biases— so whether they’re “racist” or not is meaningless. You can’t trust them either way.

    But yeah, whether it’s heartfelt or mere trolling, I too have noticed your nasty propensity for dragging race issues into discussions where they don’t seem relevant (and that’s not even counting those comments that I squashed in moderation due to your use of the word “nigger”). It’s a little like those born-again Christians who insert themselves into any conversation— be it about music, politics, or the lachrymal-gland secretions of herring gulls— and somehow manage to shoehorn Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior onto the table. It belies an agenda that goes beyond whatever subject is under discussion, and I wish you’d stop it.

  68. My latest amusing pseudotheory re Heaven/Hell: every soul gets sucked in during Big Crunch, forced to all share same zero dimensional space. War criminals with their victims…chance to ask anyone questions…too many ways to go with a short story.

    In any case, thought that all of our particles must one day mingle with everyone else’s may only be beautiful via mind’s eye of beholder.

  69. NYTimes: India Mars Mission cost less than film Gravity.

  70. Watched The Unbelievers documentary last night.

    While some great tidbits, to use a sex analogy, felt like Dawkins and Krauss were engaging me in quickies over and over. No slow lovemaking, but then the point I think is to reach a larger audience and make them click the “Would You Like to Know More?” button. Overall enjoyed it, but of course I must focus on two nitpicks.

    First, think I understand Hitch’s POV re Iraq now. Still disturbing to think that some of the world’s top atheists and the Religious Right/MIC agree on something.

    Which plays into the second point. While I don’t necessarily think they are aware of it–though they are very, very smart men, so maybe they are–their vision currently leaves out a significant portion of the world’s population at least in the shortterm. I’ll use shorthand and call it the placebo effect, but people who are being terrorized by both radicals and the governments who support and then fight them alternately based on whatever whims likely need something to believe in in order to survive. I don’t see a good replacement for a good delusion to pull you through a harrowing ordeal when/where what one thinks has a real psychosomatic effect.

    Solve the Hillcrest v Velikovsky problem and I think they’ve got something. Well, that plus world hunger and climate change.