Grim meathook future, Singapore style


This is why there’s no cold war with China. America was a capitalist democracy, while China was a totalitarian communist state.

They’ve apparently agreed to meet half-way at authoritarian capitalism.


I’ve long held that Capitalism, Free Markets, Democracy and Personal Freedom are all separable concerns and the Western ideal of Capitalism! Freedom! and Democracy! is mutually incompatible.


You dropped a tantalising hint about your next novel! Are you able to give us any clues about when it will be published? :smile:


The third book in the Halting State series?

I thought @cstross axed that one, as events moved too fast, and he’d have had to be all Gibson and start writing weird contemporary fiction?


The Scottish referendum failed, so…


Capital doesn’t need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don’t plead guilty.

man, that’s just scary (and sort of irrefutable).

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Ken MacLeod’s The Restoration Game was going to be a near-future novel until it got overtaken by events (the 2008 war in South Ossetia) and became a near-past alternative-history novel instead.

(I was going to attribute that book to Mr Stross, until a bit of Wikipedia-ing showed I’d got my Edinburgh-based sci-fi authors mixed up.)

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Pick two!


Welp, Capitalism seems like the least necessary of those three…


Which means that, as Stross has pointed out, the issue is still far from resolved, so it’s an ongoing problem for any further books in the Halting State series.
I think the future-set political book Stross is referencing is one of the new ones in the Merchant Princes series.

I’m a bit surprised there’s been no discussion of Greece and Syriza hereabouts. It’s pretty much the main topic of discussion, and heated debate, in all my other online haunts.

Another topic of discussion has been the shortcomings of contemporary conventional wisdom about appropriate strategy and tactics in political activism: the idea of “non-violence” is ossified into a whole set of rules about how to protest and express dissent without actually harming the interests of the powerful. A friend of mine argues that the ruling class actually makes use of the fact that political protesters in the US, among other countries, are rarely politically persecuted, because that helps them maintain the illusion that we have more freedom than we actually do. I’ve come to suspect this might be true of “free speech” in general: the ruling class is happy to have us talk all we want, as long as we don’t actually do anything.

With that in mind, I read an interesting article in the Guardian today about censorship in China. There is a massive infrastructure for censorship, but it’s very selective about what’s censored.

First of all, it confirmed what other researchers had found, namely that, contrary to neoliberal fantasy, speech on the Chinese internet is remarkably free, vibrant and raucous. But this unruly discourse is watched by a veritable army (maybe as many as 250,000-strong) of censors. And what they are looking for is only certain kinds of free speech, specifically, speech that has the potential for engendering collective action – mobilising folks to do something together in the offline world.

“Criticisms of the government in social media (even vitriolic ones) are not censored,” King et al reported, “whereas any attempt to physically move people in ways not sanctioned by the government is censored.” And the strange thing is that “even posts that praise the government are censored if they pertain to real-world collective action events”.


I emigrated from London to Singapore last year for many of the reasons outlined in the recent post about why people leave London and I don’t think the “Singapore-style” in the title of this post is either particularly illuminative or accurate.

Admittedly I’m a young, white male and I’m quite aware that makes me of very little interest to the state here apart from the tax revenue I bring in, but as a young male in London I’m very used to being stopped by the police on a semi-regular basis (my non-white friends would delete the “semi” from the previous sentence), used to having my communications monitored and used to being constantly surveilled.

I saw more police officers in my last night in South London than I have in the year that I have been in Singapore, stop-and-search doesn’t seem to exist here and I haven’t seen a single state-owned CCTV camera since I moved here.

Yes, there are some restrictions on free speech here (but as the previous post said about China, they are not rules for blanket censorship at all) but the population as a whole has far more involvement in the political process at both local and national level, and the state seems far less intrusive as a whole than in the UK.

From where I stand, Singapore seems like a fair country with a few heavy-handed laws that are rarely enforced and are intended to promote social harmony; Britain, by contrast, seems like a heavy-handed state with a few fair laws that are only allowed to remain on the books because they don’t directly impinge upon the ruling class’ right to exploit people for profit.

This relates to background concerns in the EMPIRE GAMES trilogy, set in the same universe as the Merchant Princes series (but a generation later: you could call it “Merchant Princes: The Next Generation” without too much of a stretch). The first book, DARK STATE, comes out in April 2016.

Yes, it’s an explicitly political trilogy. I think of it as my big fat post-Edward Snowden near-future thriller with parallel universes.

(The next book of mine to come out is THE ANNIHILATION SCORE, Laundry Files book 6, and is due in July this summer.)




That was a helluva cliff-hanger. At least you’re not pulling a Sledge Hammer and hitting us with “2 Years before the last episode”…


I also can’t get those creepy little snail-unicorns out of my head. urgh.

THIS is an interesting paragraph, sure to be quoted here in some topics (“not sure which ones,” he lied):

b) Some folks (especially Americans) seem to think that their AR-15s are a guarantor that they can resist tyranny. But guns are an 18th century response to 18th century threats to democracy. Capital doesn’t need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don’t plead guilty.

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