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Discussion and Misc
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Works in progress
Stepping Sideways: A Long Way from Sherwood by elisi [chapter 6/? | OCs | PG13]
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Ian Fleming had been planning for a while to introduce Turing and Wheatley. While the two men were, in his opinion, unlikely to get along, they also both had inquisitive, fast-moving minds, of the kind that in Fleming’s view was needed to get the most out of the work the intelligence services were doing. If they didn’t end up murdering each other, they’d spark enough ideas between them to shorten the war by a year, if only a decent pretext could be found for bringing them together.
The opportunity had finally presented itself. Now Turing realised that the documents involved the occult, Wheatley’s area of expertise, he’d been positively eager to meet the man, and had travelled down to London with Fleming, to meet at Wheatley’s club as his guest.
Turing looked completely out of place in the confines of a luxurious gentlemen’s club, and seemed almost to be twitching. Fleming knew that Turing had met with far more important people than Wheatley, even the Prime Minister himself, but it didn’t seem to be the people as much as the objects that were setting him on edge. Turing just didn’t fit in in an opulent background, and it showed on his face.
Wheatley was sitting at his usual table, and gave a faint nod to the two men as they approached.
“Dennis Wheatley, this is Alan Turing. Alan, this is Dennis.”
Ever since the idea of the two men working together had first been mooted, Fleming had been very interested to see how they would react to each other. Sadly for him, they barely acknowledged each other, Turing merely reciprocating Wheatley’s nod. Wheatley gestured to the chairs nearby, and Fleming and Turing sat down.
“So Alan, I believe you have some questions to ask Dennis.”
“I do. I don’t know how helpful he will be, but…Mr. Wheatley, do you actually have much knowledge of the world of the occult, or is the research for your books less accurate than it appears?”
Wheatley thought for a second. “That’s a difficult question to answer. I have little first-hand, practical, experience, but I have spent enough time with those who have that I have a much better understanding than most laymen.”
“I would like, if I may, to ask you to have a look over some documents for me. Now, understand that these are top secret – Mr. Wheatley does have the appropriate classification, doesn’t he, Ian?”
“That’s a relief. Now, may I take it that you will treat these documents with the utmost secrecy.”
Wheatley nodded, the ghost of a smirk appearing although he tried to hide it. “You may.”
Turing passed the papers across, and Wheatley spent a few minutes examining them in what Turing thought was an excessive amount of detail.
Finally, Wheatley put the papers down, and looked thoughtfully at Turing.
“Young man, you asked me if I would treat these documents with the utmost secrecy. Now I must ask you something similar. In order to explain them to you, I shall have to reveal to you secrets which, should they enter into the wrong hands, could do the most frightful damage.”
“You can trust me not to reveal anything you say to anyone, Mr. Wheatley.”
Wheatley nodded. “I believe I can. But it’s not simply a matter of trust. I have sworn oaths, as part of initiation ceremonies, and consider those oaths to be sacred bonds with very real consequences. I have also, however, sworn an even more sacred oath, of loyalty to His Majesty the King, his heirs and successors. That higher oath does, I believe, allow me to give you the information, but only if I am certain that you are bound by equally strong oaths.”
“Mr. Wheatley, I promise you, I am an honest man. I give you my word, and I consider that word to be at least as strong as any oath it is possible you have sworn. I cannot swear on anything but the truth, but I swear on that, and hope that is enough.”
Wheatley nodded. “I see. Yes, yes I think that will do.”
He put down the papers, and leaned back in his chair, as if to tell a long story.
“This ritual,” he began, “is intended to revive England, and bring her back to a supposed past glory.”
Turing interrupted. “But this is from the Nazis! Why would they want to revive Britain?”
Wheatley smiled. “Note that I said England, not Britain. That’s one of the important points here. This ritual would, if carried out, bring about the revival of a very real spirit, that of the Saxon people who inhabited England before the Norman conquest. As a Germanic people, the Nazis believe that the Saxons would ally with them. They want to conjure up the spirit of the English people – not the Norman aristocracy, and not the Scots or the other Celts, but the old, pure-blooded, Anglo Saxons. They think that something in the English people will resist rule by the Norman French. A demon encouraging a treasonous uprising against the ruling classes, in the name of freedom.”
“But isn’t it the ruling classes themselves who are doing this? And aren’t they rather against freedom?”
“Oh, Hitlerism is just a route to a greater anarchy at the end. And Crowley and his ilk believe that they will naturally rise to the top, once freed from the shackles of law and society. Filth.”
“So this ritual is merely intended to conjure up a ghost?” Fleming asked.
“Oh, it’s more than that. This ritual would, if carried out, destroy the British Empire.”
“Destroy the Empire? Nonsense! The British Empire is the greatest the world has ever seen! She’s at the height of her powers. How could a simple magic trick destroy that?”
“Empires do fall, Ian,” replied Turing. “I’m not saying that this makes any sense, but empires do all fall, eventually.”
Fleming turned purple.
“The Empires of the past fell because they became decadent, because they became weak, and allowed subversives to undermine them from within. That is not the case for the British Empire, and never will be!”
Turing nodded. “You may well be right. Of course I hope so.”
Noting the tension between them, Wheatley took a calmer tone. “Of course the Empire is as strong as she ever was. We all know that. The question is whether Herr Hitler does. We have already seen that he has quite an outsize opinion of Germany’s importance on the world stage. It is not difficult to imagine that he has an equally inaccurate opinion of Britain’s unimportance.”
Fleming nodded. “All right. I can see that.”
“Let me have a think about how to proceed with this, Ian. Meet me back here in a week, and by then I should have the beginnings of a plan.”
This is an excerpt from my novel, Destroyer. If you like this chapter, please buy the book. It can be bought in hardback from Lulu. The Kindle and paperback editions are available from Amazon (UK) and (US). For non-Kindle ebook versions This Books2Read Universal Link will give you links for your preferred ebook retailer.
Not done one of these in a while, and practically delirious with exhaustion, so here’s some links.
I think I may have linked some of these before, but Nicky Case’s site has some wonderful interactive tutorials and simulations — half game half explainer blog post — on stuff like the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
Chris Dillow talks about his socialism. His socialism and my liberalism are very compatible.
Destroyer chapter tomorrow, and then with luck the next Prometheans post on Monday and the first of a series of looks at Harry Nilsson’s albums on Tuesday. That’s if I’m not so tired it takes me three goes to spell “luck” and two goes to spell “three”…
EDITOR'S NOTE: Because of the high posting volume and the quantity of information linked in each newsletter, who_daily will no longer link fanfiction that does not have a header. For an example of what a "good" fanfic header is, see the user info. Thank you.
Worldcon 75: Tolkien in the TARDIS: How Doctor Who reflects Middle Earth (YouTube video; h/t nwhyte)
Peter Labrow with a screenshot from "Genesis of the Daleks" (h/t nwhyte)
Doctor Who Magazine's latest Special Edition, Referencing The Doctor: Doctor Who News, Blogtor Who
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Discussion and Miscellany
Kelly Wise is asking for costuming IDs for a new character (casting spoilers)
louisedennis with a panel from a Doctor Who comic book with Six and Frobisher (the Whifferdill)
Fugitive Pilot by merryghoul [Heather ("The Pilot")/Bill, River | General Audiences]
A Way Back. by silver_sun [Nine/Rose | General Audiences]
The Massacre by badly_knitted [Jack | PG]
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One thing half my twitter timeline seems absolutely certain of at the moment is that the real problem in the world today isn’t the fascists, so much as the liberals. These liberals are perpetuating white supremacy and anyone who doesn’t support Jeremy Corbyn is exactly as bad as Donald Trump and objectively part of the problem.
(For those who don’t follow Politics Twitter, there’s a *lot* of line-blurring going on at the moment as to where US political issues end and UK ones start, so a discussion about the cancellation of the electrification of the railway between Manchester and Leeds is liable to veer off into one about bringing down Confederate statues, largely because the latter is sexier.)
Now, blaming everything on liberals is their right, though personally if I was supporting someone who said we have to stop freedom of movement to stop foreigners coming over here taking our jobs, and who appointed as shadow equalities minister someone who wrote a column in the Sun saying that Pakistani men rape white women, I’d at least be considering my own side’s culpability in appeasing racists. But the odd thing is that most of the people they’re talking about are not liberals. They’re generally Labour moderates or soft-leftists, or even Tories.
See this, for example, from Laurie Penny (not singling Laurie out, it’s just one I saw today):
So stand up if you have ever dismissed the words and deeds of organized racists and violent misogynist movements as simply examples of freedom of speech and therefore by some arcane metric acceptable; stay standing if you have ever argued that the center-left needs to court anti-immigrant and anti-Black sentiment to win power.
That’s from a piece called “A Letter to my Liberal Friends“. And yet the people I know who have fought hardest against that kind of attitude are liberals. To quote a friend’s locked Twitter account “I follow a lot of big L Liberals and despite continued assertions otherwise, we pretty much all like the idea of punching Nazis. So if you could find another epithet for the guardianistas you’re on about (most of whom vote Labour, not Liberal), that’d be great.”
The problem with all this is that many on the left use “liberal” interchangeably with “centrist”, when the two are in fact very different. It is possible to be a moderate liberal *and* a centrist, just as it’s possible to be a moderate Tory or social democrat and be a centrist, but in the same way one wouldn’t define socialism by Ed Miliband standing in front of the Ed Stone, it makes no sense to define liberalism by its most moderate adherents.
So when I defend liberalism, I am *not* defending centrism. Which isn’t to say one can’t put together a perfectly good defence of centrism, but that I am a *radical* Liberal. Centrists can fight their own battles, or send drones to fight them for them (I’m kidding). I think many of the more vicious attacks on centrists at the moment are incorrect, but that’s not what this is about.
But be aware that I am NOT speaking for all liberals here, and I *am* more radical than many.
I know the political compass test is hugely flawed, but it’s useful in that it’s widely known. Here’s my own current score after taking the test a few minutes ago:
That is not an uncommon position *at all* for Liberals in the UK. Most of the Lib Dem activists I know get scores in that rough area. Not especially centrist or moderate. And certainly not very “let’s not make a fuss about oppression”.
So what *is* it that liberals believe, if it’s not “fascists have a point”? Well, I wouldn’t like to speak for anyone other than myself, but I’ve recently been rereading a few great Liberal writers — Mill, Popper, and so forth — and especially rereading Conrad Russell’s utterly masterful An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Liberalism, which traces the intellectual threads that have animated British Liberalism since the 17th century.
And while it’s not at all possible to summarise four hundred years of thought and the consequences of that in a few paragraphs, I think I can give the gist.
Liberalism is, in essence, about power, consent, and boundaries. It is about making sure that everyone has the chance to be the version of themselves that they want to be, and to live the life they want to live, without anyone else being able to stop them. It’s about removing all unjust power relations, whether they be imposed by society, government, or employers, and ensuring that any power one individual has over another is by consent, revokable, and the minimum necessary.
It’s about dismantling all oppressive systems of power, getting rid of all privilege, whether the inherited privilege of rich people owning houses and poor people having to pay rent to them (“why should we work hard and let the landlords take the best?” asks the party song), or the privilege of white over black, male over female, Christian over Muslim, British over foreign, abled over disabled, cis over trans, monogamous over poly, shareholder over employee, boomer over millenial, straight over LGB+.
It’s about decisions being made by the people they affect.
It’s about the harm principle: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (Mill’s wording, I wouldn’t use “his”, but he was writing in the 19th century). Note that this does *not* mean the kind of fundamentalist free-speech frothing you get from some quarters — Nazi speech causes harm to others, and indeed that’s its entire intent, so it’s *entirely* acceptable to exercise power to prevent Nazi speech.
It’s about celebrating people’s identities, whatever those identities are, but also about ensuring people don’t have those identities imposed on them by others, whether legally or through social pressure. Whether someone wants to transition and have a different gender recognised by society, or they want to cross a national border and live somewhere else, or convert to a different religion, there should be no barriers in place to stop them doing so, and their decision should be celebrated as allowing them to live the life they are best suited to.
And it’s about taking those principles and constantly reexamining one’s ideas in light of new information, and applying the same principles to new situations. (Hence the joke “a liberal can become a conservative in twenty years, without changing a single idea!” — and most Lib Dems could name quite a few people they know who that one applies to…)
I’d urge anyone who wants to know what liberals actually think to read Russell’s book. The Amazon link above should work, but it’s out of print so copies may become unavailable. However Nick Barlow did an excellent series of blog posts reviewing the book’s major arguments, linked here. But also look at what liberals themselves are saying, people like Nick, or Jennie or Richard or Alix or Sarah or Richard or any of dozens of others.
You’ll find they disagree with me, and with each other, a lot of the time. But what you won’t find is any of them defending fascism as freedom of speech, or arguing for a stronger anti-immigrant stance to appease racists.
There are many words for those stances, but “liberal” is not one of them.
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