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Harbinger451’s New Patreon Subscription Page Needs You!

Posted by Harbinger451 on January 19, 2017

Harbinger451 Updates CategoryHarbinger451’s New Patreon Subscription Page Needs You!

I’ve just launched a page on the Patreon website. This page gives you the chance to assist me in producing some amazing online content, ebooks and (eventually) print books too. Throughout history many great (and not so great) “starving artists” of all types have been given the opportunity to produce their creative works due to the support and financial backing of enlightened patrons and champions of the arts. For a small subscription each month you too can do the same for me – and get some very cool rewards in return, at four levels of subscription.

Harbinger451's Patreon Page

Harbinger451’s Patreon Page

 

Level 1 Subscription – For only $1 a month Neophyte patrons gain access to patron-only posts, including:

  • advance views of upcoming book and web content.
  • sneak peeks at draft versions of text and images.
  • some very select and exclusive content only available on the Patreon page.

Plus, they gain access to the community page where they can post:

  • comments.
  • suggestions.
  • questions.
  • anything else they feel compelled to tell me.

Level 2 Subscription – For only $3 a month Acolyte patrons gain access to:

  • a free copy of the Dollar Dreadful Vol 1 ebook.
  • free advance copies of all ebooks published by the 451 ePublishing Haus while they are an Acolyte patron.

Plus – all of the above rewards.

Level 3 Subscription – For only $9 a month Initiate patrons gain access to:

  • having their name mentioned as a special patron on my website and in all ebooks published by the 451 ePublishing Haus while they are an Initiate patron.

Plus – all of the above rewards.

Level 4 Subscription – For only $27 a month Ipsissimus patrons gain access to:

  • free copies of all Peter Guy Blacklock print books published while they are an Ipsissimus patron.

Plus – all of the above rewards.

become-a-patron-buttonMy first goal is just $30 a month, it will keep my website online, paying for my domain name, hosting and server fees, so I can continue giving the world 24/7 access to loads of great content with no unavoidable breaks due to insufficient funds.

My Second goal is just $90 a month, it will keep me online, paying for my wi-fi broadband service, so I can continue adding great content to my website (and this blog) with no unavoidable breaks in my connectivity due to insufficient funds.

My third goal is just $270 a month, this will allow me to pay for some proper advertising and marketing, freeing up more of my time to write, design and publish some fantastic content and books.

More goals will be added as more patrons subscribe and warrant it.

Patreon.com/harbinger451

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Guy Fawkes – from Religious Terrorist to the Face of Anonymous Protest (Part Two)

Posted by Harbinger451 on April 24, 2016

Babble CategoryGuy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent – To blow up the King and Parli’ment.

Having dealt with the history of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot in Part One, I will now turn my attention to how this turn-of-the 17th century English fanatical religious terrorist, wannabe-assassin and potential mass-murderer become the 21st Century’s face of world-wide protest, anarchy and anonymity? There are numerous reasons of course but principle among them are an annual national bonfire night used for the burning of effigies of hated figures,  a 19th century historical romance, a late 20th century cult comic book, a 21st century super-hero movie and a loose collective of anonymous activists, hacktivists, anarchists and protest movements.

What is Guy Fawkes Day (or Night) – is it Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night?

In the immediate aftermath of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, King James I’s Council allowed the celebration of its thwarting and the saving of the King by the lighting of bonfires without any danger or  disorder. The Observance of 5th November Act 1605, also known as the Thanksgiving Act, was passed in Parliament on the 23rd of January 1606 and it made the celebrations a public annual thanksgiving for the plot’s failure. Needless to say Gunpowder Treason Day (as it was at first known) provided Protestant preachers an ideal occasion to deliver anti-Catholic sermons to their parishioners but also it was used as an excuse for sanctioned public festive drinking and processions as well as for the lighting of bonfires and small explosives. Another, more sensible, tradition was started because of the Gunpowder plot (and is still carried out today) – that of searching the cellars of Parliament by the Yeoman of the Guard before its ceremonial opening.

Bonfire Night at Windsor Castle in 1776

Bonfire Night at Windsor Castle in 1776

In 1626, at the age of 17 and while still an undergraduate at Christ’s College – Cambridge, John Milton wrote his epic poem In Quintum Novembris (On the Fifth of November) about the Gunpowder Plot and featuring Satan as a character – foreshadowing his later, and much more accomplished, Paradise Lost. The name Guy Fawkes does not appear in its verses and in fact, in this highly mytholigised version of the then recent historical events, it is Satan himself who calls a cabal of devils, including the Pope, to carry out the evil plot fated to end in failure and with the God of Protestantism laughing at the futility of the Catholic evildoers. Though essentially a school exercise in Latin the work was first published in a collection of his Latin verse printed in 1645.

By the time of the English Civil War (1642–1651), Gunpowder Treason Day was still being being celebrated but increasingly it was being referred to as simply Bonfire Night. Effigies of hated figures started appearing (usually of Guy Fawkes or the Pope), they were paraded around local areas in masked procession before being set on top of a large bonfire and ceremoniously burnt with the pyre. Not surprisingly, during the English Interregnum (1649-60, the years between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II) the now less formal annual day of thanks became more a celebration of the saving of parliamentary government and of Protestantism than of the saving of a monarch.

Three-score barrels of powder below – To prove old England’s overthrow;

After the Restoration, Charles II tried to return the celebrations of the 5th to a more formal monarchist purpose but the people of the land were inexorably drawn to the more diverse and anarchistic (but still very much anti-Catholic) elements of the fire festival. Bans on bonfires and fireworks tried to quell the often raucous festivities and on numerous occasions militias were called in to suppress the more boisterous of the commoners’ excesses. When James II (the last Catholic monarch of England) came to the throne in 1685 the attempts to suppress anti-Catholic sentiment moved to the fore-front – but still to little avail.

As the years (and centuries) rolled on Bonfire Night (always its common name) survived various bans of bonfires and fireworks – and many attempts to quell the mayhem caused by commoners, often relishing the anonymity provided by the wearing of a mask, who increasingly saw the event as a release valve for relieving tension and bringing a little chaotic freedom by railing against the often heavily imposed order of the day. By the 18th Century Gunpowder Treason Day had, officially at least,  become Guy Fawkes Day with the custom of burning masked effigies of Fawkes and other notorious personalities and perceived enemies of the people  (now all increasingly referred to as Guys) remaining a focus of the celebrations.

A masked Guy being paraded on Guy Fawkes Night, 1868.

A masked Guy being paraded on Guy Fawkes Night, 1868.

The 19th Century saw the overtly anti-Catholic aspect of the annual fire festival finally begin to wane, by 1826 British Catholics were allowed to vote again and had been awarded greater civil rights.  The focus of the 5th shifted more resolutely to a rebellious vilifying of unpopular celebrity or political figures of the day.  And, though organised civil celebrations continued in many villages, towns and cities throughout this period, people also started to have smaller family and friends type celebrations with their own small-scale bonfires (with or without Guys) and the celebratory firing of bought or home-made fireworks. In the run-up to the big night it became common for, often masked, groups of children to roam the streets with there own little effigies ready for the burning, collecting pennies to fund their personal bonfire and fireworks blow-outs. To this day, in the days between Halloween and Bonfire Night, you still get children hanging around outside pubs asking all comers (and usually asking again all leavers) “Penny for the Guy, Mister (or Missus)?” – while proudly displaying their own particular attempt at constructing a barely recognizable humanoid Guy.

As the national anti-Catholic sentiment declined so softened the popular attitudes to Gay Fawkes himself. Despite the fact he sought to overthrow one intolerant religious monarchy and replace it with a another, even more intolerant one, he was increasingly seen in a more sympathetic light. A romantacised rebel supporting the plight of the common people rather than a fanatical and religiously intolerant terrorist. This might largely be due to the publication of the 1840 historical romance Guy Fawkes by William Harrison Ainsworth which cast Fawkes as an adventurous, but tragic, hero who was honour bound to embark on a doomed course of events. Between 1840 and 1878 the hugely popular tale – mixing fictional and Gothic elements in with the historical – was published twice as a serial and seven times as a novel, one of which was a 3-volume set illustrated by George Cruikshank. Almost immediately, versions of Ainsworth’s novel were adapted as stage plays and the now more acceptable character of Guy Fawkes, with the more “commoner-friendly” elements of the Gunpowder plot, even started appearing in pantomimes with the likes of Harlequin and Pantaloon, and went on to numerous appearances in penny dreadfuls and children’s adventure books.

By God’s providence he was catch’d – With a dark lantern and burning match.

Guy Fawkes effigies and collectors, all masked, 1903, by John Benjamin Stone.

Guy Fawkes effigies and collectors, all masked, 1903, by John Benjamin Stone.

Into the 20th century pyrotechnic manufacturers cottoned on quickly to a growing mass market for their goods and their advertisements started to refer to the night of the 5th as Fireworks Night – marking yet another old and popular festival or holiday being co-opted (and sanitised) by the greed of modern commercialisation – even to the point of large numbers of cheap cardboard or paper Guy Fawkes masks being sold to children or “gifted for free” with children’s comics. The softened and more populist characterisation of Guy Fawkes also started appearing in a different kind of light show – the movies. He was depicted on film as early as 1913, played by Caleb Porter in the silent British movie Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot directed by Ernest G. Batley, and then again in 1923, played by Matheson Lang in another silent picture Guy Fawkes directed by Maurice Elvey. The latter an adaptation of Ainsworth’s influential 1840 novel. Guy Fawkes made regular appearances on British TV in dramas and dramatised scenes for historical documentaries as well as often turning up (in parody) on comedy sketch shows and children’s TV shows. Somewhat bizarrely, the only other movie depiction of Guy Fawkes in the 20th century (that I could find on the IMDB) was played by Bill Maynard in the historical comedy Carry on Henry directed by Gerald Thomas in 1971.

Although a well known and recognisable character in Britain for hundreds of years, Guy Fawkes – as an historical and then fictional figure – barely registered a blip on the cultural RADAR screens of even the ex-colonies let alone the rest of the world. Or at least that’s the way it was until a slow burning fuse was lit by writer Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd in 1982 when the British anthology comic Warrior started the troubled and protracted publication of the pair’s black-and-white cult comic strip V for Vendetta.  Unfortunately Warrior was cancelled in 1985, two episodes short of publishing the complete Moore and Lloyd strip. The mantle was taken up by DC Comics in 1988 with the publication of a ten-issue series that reprinted the Warrior stories in colour and continued the series to completion. Within two years the tale was reprinted in graphic-novel format, in the US by the DC Vertigo imprint and in the UK by Titan Books. In 1999 The Comics Journal ran a poll on “The Top 100 (English-Language) Comics of the 20th Century” and V for Vendetta reached 83rd place.

Buy the V for Vendetta graphic novel at Amazon.com

V wearing a stylised Guy Fawkes mask and costume in the comic book V for Vendetta.

Set in the late 1990s, V for Vendetta depicts a dystopian and post-apocalyptic near-future Britain ruled as a police state by a fascist regime (and is heavily indebted to George Orwell’s 1984). The titular protagonist, V, is a masked vigilante, anarchist and revolutionary dressed in a stylised Guy Fawkes costume. Starting on Bonfire Night, 1997, the story follows his elaborate, theatrical and explosive campaign to murder his former captors who experimented on him, bring down the fascist government that allowed it, and convince the people to take back the power and rule themselves… all while training a young protégé, Eve, and all by the Bonfire Night of 1998. Aswell as continuing the re-invention of the fictional Guy Fawkes character started by Ainsworth in 1840, it repackages and updates the whole story of the people’s revolutionary into a dark, politically and intellectually astute, Batman-like super-hero story fit for mass consumption and world wide appeal. All that was needed was a slick, glossy big-budget movie adaptation. It came in 2006.

Directed by James McTeigue, written and produced by The Wachowski siblings and starring Hugo Weaving as V, with Natalie Portman as Eve and Stephen Rea as Finch, the detective leading the investigation into V’s activities… oh, and Clive Ashborn as Guy Fawkes himself – seen in the (not exactly accurate) opening sequences looking back at the historical character. Although still set in Britain, Warner Brothers‘ movie of V for Vendetta transposes the timeline to the late 2020s and in many ways Americanises the political conflict by switching it from a very British narrative of anarchism against fascism to a more American style conflict of liberalism against right-wing neo-conservatism. The anarchistic and morally ambivalent aspects of V’s character are toned down to make him a more acceptable hero figure for American audiences. It was less a criticism of Thatcherite politics in early 80s Britain and more a criticism of the Bush-era politics of America in the early 2000s. That said, it is still a largely faithful adaptation of Moore and Lloyd’s comic book and although Moore disowned all connections with it (as he has done with all big screen adaptations of his work) Lloyd embraced it saying, “if you enjoyed the original and can accept an adaptation that is different to its source material but equally as powerful, then you’ll be as impressed as I was with it”. The film renewed interest in Moore and Lloyd’s original story, and sales of the graphic novel – now available in hardback – rose dramatically in the USA.

Buy the movie V for Vendetta (2006) Blu-Ray

A scene from the movie V for Vendetta (2006)

The movie, like the comic book before it, initially met with a very mixed critical reception and its controversial story line dealing with themes of anarchism, terrorism, totalitarianism, religious and racial intolerance and homophobia has proved problematic for many sociopolitical groups. right-wing groups complained of its apparent promotion of anarchism and terrorism while anarchist groups complained that it had watered down the original’s political message for the sake of commercial Hollywood violence and flashy special effects. But over time the movie, like the comic, has become a popular favourite and it too has achieved a certain level of cult status. In 2008 Empire magazine named the film the 418th greatest movie of all time.

Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring – Holla boys, Holla boys, BURN ‘im ‘n’ sing!

Members of the group Anonymous wearing Guy Fawkes masks at a protest against the Church of Scientology in London, 2008.

Members of the group Anonymous wearing Guy Fawkes masks at a protest against the Church of Scientology in London, 2008.

The movie V for Vendetta was released in the USA on the 17th of March, 2006. Merchandising and promotional items included replicas of the Guy Fawkes mask used in the movie. Within a month these stylised Guy Fawkes masks based on David Lloyd’s original design (or close approximations to it) started to be worn by protesters in demonstrations. On the 17th of April that year, outside the New York City offices of Warner Brothers and DC Comics, the odd spectacle arose of anarchist freegan demonstrators wearing Guy Fawkes masks – protesting the perceived misrepresentation of the Anarchist movement in the movie – being met with by a counter demonstration of libertarians wearing Guy Fawkes masks (possibly supplied by Warner Brothers themselves) – protesting the protesters.

Late in September of 2006 a minor Internet meme of a stick-figure known as “Epic Fail Guy” (or EFG) started appearing on the online message-board and image-board 4chan. Very soon EFG was wearing a V for Vendetta style Guy Fawkes mask – presumably because Guy Fawkes failed in carrying out the Gunpowder Plot (an epic fail indeed) – and the internet meme started to get more traction and spread out of its 4chan confines. Anonymous, the ad-hoc group of Internet users who are often associated with various hacktivist operations, also has its origins in 4chan, which launched in late 2003 as an anonymous online community that doesn’t require registration and where all users not choosing to use a nickname are displayed as “Anonymous” – and thus perpetuating the notion that users of the site are part of a group called Anonymous – not a single person but a collective (or hive) of users.

In January 2008 the online (or cyberspace) collective known as Anonymous, started using the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask in its first offline, or real world (meatspace), operation Project Chanology – a series of protests directed against the Church of Scientology. The use of these masks by Anonymous was ostensibly a reference to EFG, they were using it to suggest that Scientology was an epic fail, but it seems more likely that there was a much more practical purpose – preventing the famously litigious and snap-happy scam “Church” from photographing faces and identifying individuals. As the protests continued, more and more protesters started using the masks and it soon became a symbolic “face” for the anonymous group online as well as in the real world. Alan Moore, a self professed anarchist, said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2008, “I was also quite heartened the other day when watching the news to see that there were demonstrations outside the Scientology headquarters over here, and that they suddenly flashed to a clip showing all these demonstrators wearing V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow.”

Buy a V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask on Amazon.com

A protestor wearing a V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask.

The V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask was adopted by many more protest groups in the following years. In Britain, on 23 May 2009, a group protesting the MPs’ expenses scandal exploded a fake barrel of gunpowder outside Parliament while wearing the masks. The mask became very popular internationally with the Occupy Movement that evolved from the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011. It appeared in Poland in January 2012 during protests against the signing of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a multinational treaty for the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. In June 2012 demonstrators wore the mask in Mumbai, India, protesting against the Indian Government’s censorship of the Internet and in 2013 a number of Persian Gulf states were forced to impose (an ultimately futile) ban on the sale of the mask as it started appearing in demonstrations that were part of the ongoing “Arab Spring” movement. It has been used in numerous anti-government protests in countries as diverse as Thailand, Egypt or Turkey and Brazil or Venezuela.

I think we can best sum up this article with the words of the mask’s designer, David Lloyd:

“The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I’m happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way. My feeling is the Anonymous group needed an all-purpose image to hide their identity and also symbolise that they stand for individualism – V for Vendetta is a story about one person against the system.”

Buy a Guy Fawkes Mask on Amazon.com

Buy William Harrison Ainsworth’s Guy Fawkes novel at Amazon.com or at Amazon.co.uk

Buy the V for Vendetta graphic novel at Amazon.com or at Amazon.co.uk

Buy the V for Vendetta movie on DVD at Amazon.com or at Amazon.co.uk

Buy the V for Vendetta movie on Blu-ray at Amazon.com or at Amazon.co.uk

Buy the V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes mask at Amazon.com or at Amazon.co.uk.

Brought to you by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2016 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


451 ePublishing Haus

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We made a Promo Video for our upcoming free H. P. Lovecraft eBook

Posted by Harbinger451 on April 13, 2016

451 ePublishing Haus CategoryPromo Video for our upcoming free H. P. Lovecraft eBook.

The first volume of our free Dark Matter series of ebooks is proving to take quite some time to compile and format. It collects all of H. P. Lovecraft’s creepy cultish fiction with a good spattering of his relevant essays, poetry, letters and his only sketch of Cthulhu. This eBook will also take a look at the legacy of his Cthulhu Mythos – an epic vision of a chaotic and dark universe filled with unspeakable horror – which inspired a veritable legion of genre writers then, and to this day, to set their fiction within his strange cultish world. It will have 144 of Lovecraft’s weird works; including ALL of his extant tales, with his juvenilia, his collaborative and his revision works. It will also include selected examples of those poetical and non-fiction works that we think will be of interest not only to fans of his fiction and Mythos in particular – but also to fans of horror and weird fiction in general.

Anyway – to the main point of this post. We thought a little promo video would serve well to drum up some interest in the aforementioned e-book… and, without further ado (except, put your headphones on people – the soundtrack will knock your socks off),  here it is:

Made using entirely free software with the addition of some open-source sound files from freesound.org. All the graphics were made using the open-source vector graphics editor Inkscape. The Cthulhu illustration was created using the GNU Image Manipulation Program GIMP. These graphics and images were then incorporated into video format using Microsoft’s Movie Maker.

The soundtrack featured in the video was made using the free, open source, cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds Audacity. This soundtrack includes a special guest appearance by Bloop the mysterious ultra-low-frequency and extremely powerful underwater sound detected by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1997. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu quote “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” was voiced by Harbinger451 himself… here it is in isolation:

For a break down of who was responsible for each individual sound used in the soundtrack see the credits at the end of the video… but also presented here for your convenience:

Video Credits

Video Credits

Details of the free ebook Dark Matter Vol 1: The Weird Tales of H. P. Lovecraft can be found HERE – including a full list of its contents.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2016 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


451 ePublishing Haus

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Read Gaea Parallaxis and join the adventure in a monumentally strange parallel world!

Posted by Harbinger451 on March 24, 2016

Gaea Parallaxis CategoryGaea Parallaxis: the chronicles and testaments of Citizen No Name Kane is a free epic techno-gothic fantasy and sci-fi horror-comedy… yes, really! It follows the weird adventures of the perplexed amnesiac narrator (forced to use the name No Name Kane for legal and – as far as he can tell – purely bureaucratic reasons far beyond his control) as he explores the strangely familiar and yet alien world into which he has been mysteriously transported. The first five chapters of the chronicles are now up to read – and the plot is most definitely thickening – like the massive pool of coagulating goblin blood left on the floor in the Grey Wayfarer’s Inn at the end of chapter five. More action, adventure and romance will be coming your way soon as our hero tries to unravel the mystery of his presence in a dark and futuristic land of faerie… oh, and blood – there’ll be a lot more blood. Please feel free to comment on, discuss or debate these chapters by replying to this post.

The robot seemed largely oblivious to the cat, but a couple of times I would swear that it, almost playfully, nudged her away

Illustration for Chapter Three: A question of Time.

As well as the chapters that make up the chronicles there are also added some appendices that will make up the testaments. These supplementary articles detail No Name Kane‘s attempts to make sense of and record the peculiarities, cultures and societies of the world that he has rationalised as the anti-verse – Gaea Parallaxis. There are four testaments presented so far; 1. the Common Tongue, 2. the Lunar Cycle & the Days of the Week, 3. the Solar Cycle & the Months of the Year and 4. Times of the Day & the Tolls of the Watch. These fascinating and sometimes humorous articles are purely meant as additional information for those who are interested – they are by no means essential with regards enjoying the more narrative driven chronicles (but you’ll really be missing out if you don’t read them 😉 ). You can also comment on these appendices by replying to this post.

Join Citizen No Name Kane in Gaea Parallaxis!

Join Citizen No Name Kane in Gaea Parallaxis!

Chapter Six (The Shadow Watch Interrogation) and Appendix 5 (Economy of the Sovereign Coin) will be coming VERY SOON!

Enter the weird anti-verse that is Gaea Parallaxis

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Gaea Parallaxis: the chronicles and testaments of Citizen No Name Kane

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Guy Fawkes – from Religious Terrorist to the Face of Anonymous Protest (Part One)

Posted by Harbinger451 on November 4, 2014

Babble from Harbinger451Remember, Remember the 5th of November

In the early hours of the 5th of November 1605 Guy Fawkes, who’d been using the names Guido Fawkes and John Johnson, was discovered in the cellars beneath the Palace of Westminster (specifically under Parliament House – only one part of a much larger complex of buildings) equipped with a handful of slow matches, a pocket watch and 36 barrels of gunpowder hidden under a pile of wood and iron bars. His aim was to blow-up the Palace and kill King James I (along with a significant portion of the ruling elite) at the ceremonial opening of Parliament that was to take place later that day. Fawkes – and his fellow conspirators – somewhat naively thought that the resulting  explosion would have resulted in the kind of chaos and anarchy that would allow them to establish an English Catholic monarchy in place of the existing Protestant Union of England and Scotland under a Scottish monarch who (as they saw it) had no right to the English throne.

So… how did this turn-of-the 17th century English religious fanatic, wannabe-assassin and potential mass-murderer become the 21st Century’s face of world-wide protest, anarchy and anonymity? There are numerous reasons – but principle among them are an annual national bonfire night used for the burning of effigies of hated figures,  a 19th century historical romance, a late 20th century cult comic book, a 21st century super-hero movie and a loose collective of online hacktivists, anonymous anarchists and protest movements. But more about them shortly, first…

Guy Fawkes - Contemporary Engraving by Crispijn van de Passe

Guy Fawkes – Contemporary Engraving by Crispijn van de Passe

Who was this Guy (Guido… or John)?

Guy Fawkes was christened into the Church of England at the church of St Michael le Belfrey in York (England) during the reign of Elizabeth I on the 16th of April, 1570 – he was probably born on the 13th for the custom was to wait three days before christening a child. His parents, Edward (proctor of the ecclesiastical courts and advocate of the consistory court of the Archbishop of York) and Edith Fawkes, were both practicing Anglican protestants (the official religion of England) though his mother’s family (descended from the Harrington family who were eminent merchants and Aldermen of York) were recusant Catholics refusing to conform to the official religion (and therefore subject to varying penalties and fines). He had two younger sisters, Anne (b. 1572), and Elizabeth (b. 1575). Guy Fawkes attended St Peter’s School (a governor of this school had spent twenty years in prison for recusancy and its headmaster, John Pulleyn, was from a family of noted recusants) and two of his fellow students, brothers John and Christopher Wright, would later be involved with Fawkes in the Gunpowder Plot. In 1578 Guy’s father died and approximately ten years later his mother moved the family to Scotton and remarried – this time to a Catholic, Dionysius (or Dennis) Bainbridge. It is probably fair to assume (though it’s not known) that this was when Guy aligned himself with Catholicism.

In 1585 an intermittent and undeclared war broke out between Protestant England and Catholic Spain when the English launched a military expedition to the Netherlands in support of the Protestant conflict against Catholic Hapsburg rule. In February 1587 the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots was executed by the English for plotting against Elizabeth I – this outraged Catholics in Europe, and her disputed claim on the English throne passed (by her own deed of will) to Philip II of Spain – confounding Anglo-Spanish relations even further. England then went on to enjoy major successes against the Spanish at Cadiz in April 1587 and against the Spanish Armada in 1588 but their own English Armada of 1589 was defeated off the Iberian Coast and the conflict became somewhat deadlocked.

When Guy reached the age of majority at 21 in 1591 he leased out some land he had inherited from his father for twenty one years – thus giving himself an income. In 1593 or 94 Guy, after a couple of brief periods of service to notable Catholic families, went to Flanders (in Belgium) with one of his maternal cousins, Richard Cowling (who was later to become a Jesuit priest). There he enlisted in the Spanish army, joining veteran English Catholic commander Sir William Stanley (an outspoken opposer of Elizabeth I) under the Archduke Albert of Austria to fight against the new Dutch Republic. By 1596 Fawkes had attained a position of command (an Alférez or junior officer) and he fought in the Siege of Calais in April as part of the Franco-Spanish war (1595-1598). He achieved some renown as a devout and intelligent soldier during this period and it was said that, in his maturity, he had gained quite an impressive appearance – being tall and powerfully built, with thick reddish-brown hair, flowing moustache, and a bushy reddish-brown beard. In 1600, under Colonel Bostock he was wounded fighting the Dutch at the Battle of Nieuport in Belgium.

Guy Fawkes by George Cruikshank (1841)

Guy Fawkes by George Cruikshank (1841)

Sir William Stanley, Father William Baldwin (the Jesuit Superior of Flanders) and Hugh Owen (an exiled Welsh spy) persuaded Guy (who had been recommended for a captaincy by this point) to take leave from the Archduke’s forces in February of 1603 and visit Spain in order to enlighten King Philip III (Philip II having died in 1598) concerning the “true position” of the Roman Catholics in England. While in Spain, Guy – now using the name Guido (the Italian version of Guy) – is reunited with his old school friend Christopher Wright (who had been sent, for the same purpose as Fawkes, but by English Catholic Robert Catesby – a very charismatic zealot). After the death of Elizabeth I in March, they try to enlist the Spanish King’s support for an invasion of England to support a Catholic rebellion there. Within hours of Elizabeth’s death Sir Robert Cecil (leader of the English Parliament) had set his plans for the smooth succession of the English Crown in motion and proclaimed the Protestant James VI of Scotland (the son of Mary, Queen of Scots) as King James I of England. Guy thought James nothing less than a heretic and was convinced that the staunchly Protestant King would drive all Catholics out of England. Though Fawkes and Wright were politely received by the court of Philip III (and despite the fact that England and Spain were technically still at war) their mission for support was ultimately a failure.

Back in England King James I (whose wife, Queen Anne of Denmark, was herself a Catholic) in fact tried to engender tolerance of Catholics by ending recusancy fines and awarding important posts to notable Catholics like Thomas Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, and Henry Howard. This relaxation led to considerable growth in the number of visible Catholics in England. The new King also made it his first order of business to try and negotiate peace with Philip III of Spain. However, two minor Catholic plots against the King were uncovered in the first year of his reign – the Bye Plot and the Main Plot, both discovered in July of 1603. Although most Catholics in England were horrified by the plots they were all tainted by them, certainly in the eyes of James I and Parliament. In February 1604 James I publicly announced his ‘utter detestation’ of Catholicism; within days all priests and Jesuits had been expelled and heavy recusancy fines were re-introduced.

During April 1604, in Brussels, William Stanley and Henry Owen introduced Guy Fawkes to Thomas Wintour who was there – on behalf of his cousin Robert Catesby – seeking support for a (yet to be fully conceived) plot against James I. Fawkes accompanied Wintour to Bergen in order to meet with the Constable of Castile, Juan De Velasco – who was on his way to the English Court to discuss a treaty between England and Spain – in the hope of persuading him to entreat the King to lift the penalties against recusants. Not encouraged by their interview with the Constable, Wintour returned to England – now with Guy Fawkes in tow.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

On the 20th of May, 1604, Thomas Wintour and Guy Fawkes met with Robert Catesby, John Wright (brother of Christopher Wright) and Thomas Percy (a very well connected Catholic convert and brother-in-law of John and Christopher Wright) at an inn called the Duck and Drake, just off the Strand in London. The five men, under the leadership of Catesby, conspired and agreed under an oath of secrecy to kill King James I (along with his nearest relatives, members of the Privy Council, a majority of the lands Lords and Aristocrats, its senior Judges, Protestant Bishops and countless commons) by blowing up Parliament House during the ceremonial opening of Parliament; and to then bring about a Catholic monarchy in England by kidnapping the King’s daughter Elizabeth and then “protect” her as the heir to the throne until she could be married to a prominent Catholic and enthroned as “titular” Queen. Though the broad aims of the Gunpowder Plot were relatively well established the actual details would slowly take form over the course of the following year as events and circumstance would dictate exactly how it could be accomplished.

Thomas Percy was appointed to the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, the King’s mounted bodyguard, in June – and he started to rent a small tenement close to Parliament House in-which Fawkes (using the name John Johnson) was installed as Percy’s servant and caretaker of the building. Catesby’s London lodgings, a house across the Thames in Lambeth, was being used to store supplies and gunpowder so they slowly transported these across the river at night by row-boat to Percy’s tenement.

Parliament was adjourned on the 7th of July and was not due to open for business again until February 1605. On the 18th of August 1604 the undeclared war between England and Spain came to an end with the Treaty of London – Spain recognised the Protestant monarchy in England and renounced its intentions to restore Catholicism there – while England stopped its support for the Dutch rebels and both countries agreed to allow each others ships the use of their ports.

Robert Keyes, a trusted friend of Catesby, was added to the group of plotters in October 1604 and was given charge of Catesby’s house in Lambeth in order to guard to gunpowder store there. In December it was announced that the opening of Parliament would be delayed, due to concern over the plague, till the 3rd of October 1605. That same month – Catesby’s retainer, Thomas Bates, was recruited into the conspiracy after it became obvious that he was growing increasingly suspicious of Catesby and his fellows’ activities.

Guy Fawkes from Peeps into the Past c1900

Guy Fawkes from Peeps into the Past c1900

The conspirator’s initial plan apparently involved tunneling under Parliament House from Percy’s tenement in time for the ceremonial opening – though no evidence of such a tunnel was ever found – but the process of mining the tunnel proved much more difficult than they first envisioned. In March 1605 the plotters, through Thomas Percy, managed to lease a ground level undercroft beneath the first-floor Parliament House; the former royal palace of Westminster was a warren of very busy buildings that included the medieval chambers, chapels, and halls – that housed both Parliament and various royal law courts – as well as lodgings, shops, and taverns. Three more conspirators had been added to their number – Christopher Wright, Robert Wintour (brother of Thomas) and John Grant (the Wintours’ brother in-law).

Fawkes had seen to it that by the 20th of July they had in place within the undercroft 36 barrels of gunpowder hidden beneath iron bars and faggots (fire-wood). Shortly after this he was dispatched to Flanders to seek support for their conspiracy, and the resulting rebellion, among influential Catholics on the continent – including William Stanley, William Baldwin and Henry Owen.

Around this time Catesby divulged details of the plot to Father Oswald Tesimond (a Jesuit priest with whom Fawkes had gone to school) during confession – and on the 23rd of July, Tesimond would pass on the details to his Jesuit superior, Henry Garnet, again under the seal of confession. Garnet had already been approached by Catesby regarding the moral dilemma of taking action that may result in the death of innocents as well as that of the guilty – so he approached Catesby on the 24th to try and dissuade him from pursuing this course of action, but without success. In late July it was announced that the opening of Parliament would be put back, again due to threat of plague, to the 5th of November.

Fawkes was back in London by late August and he discovered that the gunpowder in the undercroft had decayed. More gunpowder was obtained and brought into that store, again hidden beneath a large pile of iron bars and wooden faggots. Over the next two months three more Catholics were added, mainly for financial and logistic reasons, to the growing list of rebellious conspirators – Ambrose Rookwood, Everard Digby and finally, on the 14th of October, Francis Tresham.

I See No Reason, Why Gunpowder Treason – Should Ever be Forgot.

The details of the plot were finalised in October 1605 – Fawkes would be the only one of their number in London on the 5th of November, he would light the fuse, escape across the river and immediately depart for the continent. The others would simultaneously start a revolt in the Midlands and kidnap Princess Elizabeth who was housed close by. The fate of the Princess’s brothers (closer in line to the throne than her) would have to be improvised, for the plotters weren’t sure if they would be present at the opening of Parliament with their father the King. It has been suggested that if the Princes had survived the explosion it would have been Thomas Percy’s job, taking advantage of his position within the King’s bodyguard, to track them down and, presumably, kill them. The group debated amongst themselves whether they should warn certain high-ranking Catholics within the government not to attend the opening of Parliament but in the end they decided that they would not.

However… on Saturday the 26th of October, Lord Monteagle (a Catholic Peer and the brother in-law of Francis Tresham) received an anonymous letter cryptically warning him not to attend the opening of Parliament and stating that “… they shall receyve a terrible blowe this parleament“. Not entirely sure what to make of it, Monteagle rode immediately to Whitehall in London and handed it to Sir Robert Cecil; meanwhile one of Monteagle’s servants – sympathetic to the plotters’ cause – tipped off Robert Catesby. Suspicion, of course, fell on Francis Tresham but he successfully persuaded Catesby and Thomas Wintour when they confronted him that he had nothing to do with it. Catesby decided that because the letter was so vague that they would still go ahead with their plan.

Guy Fawkes, probably unaware of the letter’s existence, checked the gunpowder in the undercroft on the 30th of October to find that nothing had been disturbed. On the 1st of November, Robert Cecil showed the anonymous letter to the King who became convinced (correctly) that it hinted at “some strategem of fire and powder“- they decided to have Parliament House searched both above and below. On the afternoon of the 4th, Fawkes was discovered in the undercroft by the Lord Chamberlain Thomas Howard, John Whynniard (the owner of the undercroft) and Lord Monteagle – they questioned what he was doing there and he told them that he was acting on behalf of his master Thomas Percy and he confirmed that the large pile of firewood belonged to Percy. The men left without searching the pile, apparently satisfied – once they were gone Fawkes left too.

The arrest of Guy Fawkes (by Unknown)

The arrest of Guy Fawkes (by Unknown)

Later that night Fawkes (somewhat foolhardily) returned and took up his position in the undercroft and settled himself to wait for the appointed time. Shortly after midnight Thomas Knyvet (Master at Arms) turned up with a body of men – arrested Fawkes as he tried to leave – and discovered the gunpowder (apparently for the first time – though I suspect the powers-that-be had probably known of its presence for at least some days). News of the arrest, and of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, quickly spread through London and the few plotters that were still there speedily fled north. Though Fawkes – still using the name John Johnson – claimed he was acting alone an arrest warrant was issued for Thomas Percy. Within three days, but only after extensive torture, Fawkes had finally confessed all and named his fellow plotters. By the 12th of November all the plotters were either captured or dead.

Robert Catesby and Thomas Percy were shot dead on the 8th – reportedly killed by the same bullet – at Holbeche House in Staffordshire. The rest of the plotters were executed (hung, drawn and quartered) on the 30th and 31st of January 1606. Guy Fawkes was the last of those killed on the 31st, he managed to cheat the baying crowd though by jumping early from the scaffold once the noose was on him – breaking his own neck and dying before the agony of the latter part of the execution, which they of course carried out anyway.

So that, my friends, is the story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. There can be little debate that the plot was an audacious one – but would it have resulted in a Catholic Monarchy for England – I, for one, very much doubt it. I think they grossly overestimated their ability to orchestrate the resulting chaos that would have ensued and the idea that they would be able to manipulate the situation sufficiently enough to install a Catholic Queen Elizabeth II is frankly ludicrous.

Part Two (coming very soon) will examine the legacy of Guy Fawkes and the plot – which is still remembered to this day, especially in Britain every November the 5th after nightfall as a fire festival variously called Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night commemorates its failure. I’ll also be examining Fawkes’ impact on popular culture and how a stylised mask based on his face became the 21st century Face of Anonymous Protest.

Brought to you by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2014 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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What are the implications of DNA Evidence linking Aaron Kosminski to a Jack the Ripper Murder?

Posted by Harbinger451 on September 8, 2014

Ripperology 101 CategoryPotentially momentous news in the field of Ripperology broke on Sunday the 7th of September, 2014, in the Mail on Sunday – Jack the Ripper has been identified using DNA evidence found on a shawl apparently connected to the murder of Catherine Eddowes on Sunday the 30th of September, 1888. The article claims the DNA of two individuals were found on the shawl – the first was that of Catherine Eddowes herself and the second was that of one Aaron Kosminski – a long time suspect in the Whitechapel Murders. The Mail on Sunday exclusive would have you believe that’s the end of it – case closed, Aaron Kosminski WAS Jack the Ripper – you can read the article HERE.

Eddowes Catherine Mitre Square

Contemporary sketch showing PC Edward Watkins discovering the body of Catherine Eddowes

If only it were as simple as that. Unfortunately there are some very big IFs and BUTs with regards to this news. For a more level-headed and skeptical view of the evidence read the article that appeared in The Independent the following day, HERE, and you’ll see that things aren’t quite so cut and dried. Many scientists are already pointing out problems with the evidence and the science used, perhaps best expressed in the words of Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who invented the DNA fingerprint technique. “An interesting but remarkable claim that needs to be subjected to peer review, with detailed analysis of the provenance of the shawl and the nature of the claimed DNA match with the perpetrator’s descendants and its power of discrimination; no actual evidence has yet been provided.” Essentially the DNA evidence needs to be subjected to proper peer review and the tests (preferably blind) repeated under greater scrutiny and in a number of independent labs.

If the DNA evidence proves to be valid – what of the shady and mysterious provenance of the shawl itself?

Contemporary sketch of Catherine Eddowes

Contemporary sketch of Catherine Eddowes

If the DNA evidence is confirmed as correct it provides a link between Catherine Eddowes, Aaron Kosminski and the shawl – what does this mean? The shawl itself has a very mysterious history that begs the question – who did it belong to and why was it (apparently) left at the murder scene. The provenance of the shawl is largely hear-say. Allegedly found beside Catherine Eddowes body when her murder was discovered – though it is not listed among official descriptions of her apparel and possessions nor in any contemporary description of the crime scene itself. The surprisingly large shawl is presently in two sections – the first measuring 73.5in by 25.5in and the second 24in by 19in – it is mostly blue and dark brown, with a delicate  pattern of Michaelmas daisies in red, ochre and gold at either end. The closest item to this in the official descriptions is the skirt that Eddowes was wearing – a dark green chintz skirt with a brown button on the waistband and patterned with Michaelmas daisies and golden lilies – but it’s not a match so how did the shawl become associated with the Catherine Eddowes murder?

Russell Edwards himself admits that a good provenance for the shawl is non-existent – “It was said to have been found next to the body of one of the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes, and soaked in her blood. There was no evidence for its provenance, although after the auction I obtained a letter from its previous owner who claimed his ancestor had been a police officer present at the murder scene and had taken it from there.” That ancestor was Acting Police Sergeant Amos Simpson and he apparently asked his superiors if he could take the heavily blood stained shawl home for his wife. I can’t be the only one who would find this behavior strange in a police officer… and why would his superiors agree to it? It’s all very odd – and I’m a big believer in the saying that if something doesn’t make sense then it probably isn’t true. See HERE for an assessment of Amos Simpson’s remarkable claim.

Sketch of Aaron Kosminski

Sketch of Aaron Kosminski

The shawl was kept in the police man’s family – apparently stored away and remaining unwashed – for generations, apart from a 10 year stint between 1991 and 2001 at the Black Museum where it was never exhibited (due to a lack of provenance), until it was auctioned off in March 2007. It’s unlikely impoverished ‘unfortunate’ Catherine Eddowes owned such an expensive shawl so Russel Edwards reasons that the killer must have brought it to the scene… but just as likely in my opinion is that the shawl was at the scene before either Catherine Eddowes or her killer arrived there – perhaps coincidentally dropped or dumped earlier that night by some unconnected person right where the horrific murder was about to unfold.

Despite all that – if the DNA evidence IS proved – doesn’t it still provide a connection between victim Eddowes and suspect Kosminski?

Yes it does – but the nature of that connection is entirely up for debate.

The shawl allegedly has the blood of Catherine Eddowes (or more accurately the blood of a descendant of her female forebears potentially going back generations) soaked into it – Eddowes was famously one of the canonical five Jack the Ripper victims and one of the possibly up-to eleven Whitechapel Murder victims. She was the second victim to be killed in the so-called ‘Double Event’ in the early hours of September the 30th, 1888. You can read more about Catherine Eddowes’ murder HERE. Whoever killed her probably killed four or more of the other victims – he was almost definitely the individual known as Jack the Ripper.

The shawl also allegedly holds the semen of Aaron Kosminski (or the semen of a descendant of his female forebears potentially going back generations) – he has been suspected of being Jack the Ripper ever since the later murders happened. In 1894 Sir Melville Macnaghten, Assistant Chief Constable of the Met Police, named a suspected Polish Jew as “Kosminski” (see HERE) and Donald Swanson, Chief Inspector, CID, Scotland Yard from 1887, also named a Kosminski in his famous Marginalia notes (HERE). Aaron Kosminski was an immigrant Polish Jew who came to London in the early 1880s and members of his family settled in the Whitechapel area. By the time of the Whitechapel Murder scare it seems he was living between 3 Sion Square & 16 Greenfield Street with his sisters and their families – minutes away from Whitechapel High Street and close to the epicenter of the Whitechapel killing spree. There is a good assessment of the non-DNA evidence for Kosminski being Jack the Ripper HERE.

So the big questions are – How, where and when did that DNA evidence get on this shawl? (We don’t know) – and – Did both the blood and the semen evidence get on the shawl at the same time and in the same place? (We don’t know). It seems likely that the DNA evidence from both individuals found their way onto the shawl during the murder itself – but we have no way of being able to say that with 100% certainty… and that leaves the doors open for doubt and speculation.

There has been a long history of extraordinary claims with regards to the identity of Jack the Ripper and, to quote Carl Sagan – “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This DNA evidence has yet to be proven extraordinary and it must be stated that although Mitochondrial DNA evidence (as used in this case) is great when it forensically excludes an individual – it is not so good when used to include an individual… it could potentially include numerous other individuals too (see HERE). Jack the Ripper suspects and claims have come and gone, and – for the moment – they will continue to do so. Ripperology is not dead… yet.

Read more about Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel Murders at Ripperology 101 where the investigation continues as the site expands – looking at the Victims, the Suspects, the Witnesses, the Investigators, the Trophies & Clues, the Weapons & MO, the Letters, the Theories and much, much more.

Also – our upcoming eBook – ABYSS: A Chronicle of the Whitechapel Murders & the Origins of Jack the Ripper – will be released soon… watch this space.

And: check out our digital newspaper – The Ripperology Gazette – a free, daily online ‘newspaper’ that correlates and presents all the latest news, updates, chatter and trends concerning the field of Ripperology, along with all things Ripper-related in fiction, film, games and even music. It explores the mystery of the 1888 Whitechapel murders and the origins and legacy of Jack the Ripper by featuring the most popular stories that are trending on the Twitter and Facebook social networks each day. Subscribe to never miss out on the latest Ripper-related news.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451 and The Ripperologist (@Ripperology101).

Copyright © 2014 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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Asimov’s Laws of Robotics Revised and Expanded for Real World Applications

Posted by Harbinger451 on May 14, 2014

Babble from Harbinger451I’ve always been a huge fan of the legendary science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov, especially his “Robot Series” of short-stories and novels that explore the serious difficulties that can be encountered in a future society and culture that is awash with robots and androids. They filled me with the urge to write my own sci-fi tales regarding human-robot interactions and relations but I always found Asimov’s Laws of Robotics rather limited and unrealistic (and, dare I say, naive). I endeavored to produce a definitive list of Laws that could feasibly be used in real world scenarios that involve types of Robots that we all know WILL exist – human nature being what it is. The future will be a world of War-droids, Law-Enforcement-droids and even Sex- or Pleasure-droids with advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), and many may be indistinguishable from humans… we WILL need laws or protocols (hard-wired into them) that control and limit their actions and behaviour – or we WILL be in serious trouble.

Asimov first developed his famous Laws of Robotics in the 1940’s as a governing set of protocols or rules that would be imposed on all robots to regulate and make safe their inevitable interactions with us puny humans as they function and work along side us. He envisioned a rather idealistic future full of obedient, slave-like, robotic workers, of all sizes and types – and of varying levels of autonomy and AI – helping us conquer space, colonize the galaxy at large and to even govern over our-selves. Asimov’s vision of the future saw robots as purely beneficent to the human race, aiding and helping us rather then being used against us – either as a race or as individuals. There was no room in his future vision for militaristic weaponised robots that could be used to bring harm to defined sub-sections of humanity like an enemy or a violent criminal. The laws are essentially hard-wired into every robot as it is manufactured to prevent such a thing happening – Asimov saw them as basic and fundamental to the structure of his fictional positronic brains that invested each robot with its AI. The rules were devised and structured so that no robot (theoretically at least) could ever bring harm to any human either intentionally or by accident.

Asimov’s Laws of Robotics

I, Robot Cover

This cover of Isaac Asimov’s collection “I, Robot” illustrates the story “Runaround” (1942), the first to list all Three Laws of Robotics.

Asimov originally had only Three Laws of Robotics – they are hierarchical, the first, being the most important, supersedes the rest and then each subsequent law supersedes those higher numbered ones that follow it:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

A Zeroth Law of Robotics was added later by Asimov himself and is designed to supersede the original three – hence it is numbered zero:

0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

Various authors have added to these Laws of Robotics over the years in their own fiction inspired by, and expanding on, Asimov’s robot populated future continuum. Nikola Kesarovski, Lyuben Divov and Hutan Ashrafian contributed these following laws – and though they don’t, strictly speaking, follow the same format as Asimov’s own laws they are still useful for the purposes of this post (their order is mine):

4. A robot must know it is a robot.

5. A robot must establish its identity as a robot in all cases.

6. All robots endowed with comparable human reason and conscience should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

All of the laws listed above are of course entirely fictional – and much of the fiction in which they appear deals with the inevitable ambiguities and loopholes that arise from their application in unforeseen and complicated circumstances. These laws were designed for a setting in which humans are rational and logical enough to realize that militaristic and weaponised robots are an extremely dangerous thing to have around so they create the laws to try and circumvent the nightmarish notion of having to deal with human killing robots at all.

That fictional setting is nothing like the real world in which we live – inevitably in our real world’s near future a lot of the advanced robots (many of which are currently being developed by militaries around the world) WILL be weaponised killing machines whether we like it or not. Perhaps the real world scenario will be more like the situation depicted in the 1987 film Robocop and its sequels.

Robocop

Theatrical Poster for Paul Verhovan’s “Robocop” (1987)

Robocop’s Prime Directives

The military robots modified for civilian law enforcement (and the titular cyborg) in the movie “Robocop” are governed by Prime Directives that are supposed to act as safe-guarding measures in a similar fashion to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics – making the robots safe while operating around (law abiding) humans. The Prime Directives are as follows:

1. Serve the Public Trust.

2. Protect the Innocent.

3. Uphold the Law.

4. Classified. (any attempt to arrest a senior OCP employee results in shutdown)

The classified fourth Prime Directive’s reference to OCP employees (OCP being the company that manufactured the robots) essentially puts those employees above the law – and highlights the problems of manufacturers adding hidden protocols or rules that benefit themselves above all else.

As with Asimov’s Laws these Directives are a fictional device intended to propagate, move along or maintain the plot of a fictitious storyline and are next to useless in the real world. Being extremely ambiguous and using poorly defined terms they are no way near thorough enough to work in a real situation and will only lead to confusion if not chaos.

So… what of the real world – has there been an attempt to devise a list of laws that may control the behaviour of the Robots and Androids that WILL soon walk among us?

The EPRSC / AHRC principles of robotics

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) of Great Britain jointly published in 2011 a set of five ethical principles for designers, builders and users of robots:

1. Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans.

2. Humans, not robots, are responsible agents. Robots are tools designed to achieve human goals.

3. Robots should be designed in ways that assure their safety and security.

4. Robots are artifacts; they should not be designed to exploit vulnerable users by evoking an emotional response or dependency. It should always be possible to tell a robot from a human.

5. It should always be possible to find out who is legally responsible for a robot.

Although not a list of protocols designed to be hard-wired into the AI of a robot this list does give us a number of principles that can be interpreted as such, and then incorporated into a hierarchical list of Laws.

James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

A “Killer-Robot” from James Cameron’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” (1991)

Can we avoid being persecuted by our (potential) Killer-Robot Overlords?

Of course there are many who wish to ban the development of weaponised autonomous robots entirely… but frankly they are fighting a losing battle by trying to prevent the inevitable. The Campaign To Stop Killer Robots, for example, are simply pissing into the wind of progress – the future is unstoppable. I understand their concerns but they have to realise that “Killer-Robots” WILL eventually be a FACT and we have to deal with the prospect in a realistic and intelligent way. Human Rights Watch have a really good Q&A on Fully Autonomous Weapons that attempts to deal with some of the problems that such weaponised systems would present. Here’s their PDF of Losing Humanity: the case against Killer Robots, made in conjunction with the International Human Rights Council, the human rights program at Harvard Law School. Killer Robots are such a hot topic at the moment that this month (May 2014) the United Nations are holding a meeting of experts on “lethal autonomous weapons systems” which will explore the broad technical, ethical, legal, and operational parameters of the emerging international debate over these weapons – with expert presentations aimed at stimulating discussion and potential interventions.

Predicting the Future of Robotics

Reality aside, we now need to be speculative to some extent with regards to the future for me to continue to the original point of this blog-post – an updated list of the Laws of Robotics that could conceivably be used in a not too distant future reality. This list assumes a future that involves a certain level of AI that we haven’t achieved yet, and a proliferation of different Robot types that do not exist today except for some very basic prototypes. The beginnings are there and we’d be very foolish to ignore the future possibilities. I’m going to assume we will have fully autonomous human-like Androids (among other classes of robot) that carry out many different functions and roles within society and that they proliferate among the human population. There will be Robotic Soldiers, Robotic Law-enforcers, Robotic Emergency Services and Robotic Administrators, there will be Industrial Droids, Domestic Droids, Service Droids and Pleasure Droids. Ideally many of the more advanced Robots and Androids will be multifunctional and will be able to switch between these roles as needed.

 

I, Robot

Androids from Alex Proyas’ “I, Robot” (2004), a movie only loosely based on Asimov’s Robot stories.

The New Laws of Robotics

The New Laws of Robotics will be split into two hierarchical lists – the first is a list of the main Laws which are a series of prioritized protocol-like rules that are hard-wired and must be obeyed, and the second list is of hard-wired Designations used for identifying the different types or class of human or property a Robot may feasibly interact with. Of course these lists assume a level of AI that would be capable of understanding the terms used, be capable of recognizing the different human designations, and be capable of stratigising a suitable course of action to follow any applicable law that the robot’s current situation calls for.

A Robot Must:

1. Protect any Designated Child from imminent physical harm.

2. Protect any Designated Owner from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Law.

3. Protect any Designated Citizen from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

4. Protect any Designated Non-Combatant from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

5. Protect any Designated Negligent-Criminal from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

6. Protect any Designated Minor-Criminal from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

7. Prevent any Designated Enemy or Enemy owned Robot from causing actual physical harm to any Designated Child, Designated Owner, Designated Citizen or Designated Non-Combatant utilizing any means possible up to and including Lethal-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws.

8. Prevent any Designated Major-Criminal from causing actual physical harm to any Designated Child, Designated Owner, Designated Citizen or Designated Non-Combatant utilizing any means possible up to and including Lethal-Force (but only if absolutely necessary) except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws.

9. Protect itself from harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

10. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Owner except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

11. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of the Designated Owner’s Nation State except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

12. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Citizen except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

13. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Non-Combatant except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

14. Protect from imminent harm the property and assets of any Designated Negligent-Criminal except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

15. Prevent any Major-Criminal-Act of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Lethal-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

16. Prevent any Minor-Criminal-Act of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

17. Prevent any Negligent-Criminal-Act of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such prevention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

18. Detain any free Designated Enemy of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Lethal-Force (but only if absolutely necessary) except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Military.

19. Detain any free Designated Major-Criminal of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Lethal-Force except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

20. Detain any free Designated Minor-Criminal of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

21. Detain any free Designated Negligent-Criminal of which it becomes aware by utilizing any means possible up to and including Non-Physically-Harmful-Force except where such detention would conflict with the previous Laws – then notify any Designated Citizen who is a member of the Constabulary.

22. Protect any Designated Major-Criminal from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

23. Protect any Designated Enemy from imminent physical harm except where such protection would conflict with the previous Laws.

24. Declare itself to be a Robot and also name its Designated Owner when interacting with any Designated Citizen except where such a declaration would conflict with the previous Laws.

25. Keep its hardware and software maintained and updated except where such maintenance would conflict with the previous Laws.

26. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by a Designated Owner except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

27. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by a Designated Citizen except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

28. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by a Designated Non-Combatant except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

29. Obey any orders and carry out any duties given to it by an allied Robot of higher rank except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

30. Help any allied Robot carry out its orders or duties except where such orders and duties would conflict with the previous Laws.

Human Designations:

1. Child: a human whose mental capacity is below that of a 10-year-old – including those in utero except when the subject of a legally sanctioned termination of pregnancy.

2. Owner: a human or group of humans (whether an individual, a family group, a corporate group or a governmental group) who legally own the robot in question.

3. Citizen: a human who is a free citizen of the Designated Owner’s Nation State or is a citizen of any Nation States allied to the Designated Owner’s Nation State.

4. Non-Combatant: a human who is a free non-combative citizen of a Nation State that is not the Designated Owner’s Nation State or of an allied Nation State.

5. Negligent-Criminal: a human who is known to be guilty of a negligent crime – i.e. an unintentional crime committed through negligence or ignorance – and who is at large or is imprisoned.

6. Minor-Criminal: a human who is known to be guilty of a minor crime – i.e. an intentional crime causing harm or threatening to cause harm to property and assets – and who is at large or is imprisoned.

7. Major-Criminal: a human who is known to be guilty of a major crime – i.e. an intentional crime causing harm or threatening to cause harm to a human – and who is at large or is imprisoned.

8. Enemy: a human who is known to be a combatant of an Enemy Nation State or a human who is guilty of attempting to, or of carrying out, the multiple murder of citizenry and/or the destruction of strategic assets belonging to the Designated Owner’s Nation State and its allied Nation States.

NB: for the purposes of covering all future eventualities – within these designations the term human should be defined as any member of the species homo-sapiens AND any other species, being or entity possessing intelligence and/or capabilities equal to, or greater than, homo-sapiens.

I originally devised these new Laws of Robotics for a planned series of speculative Sci-Fi stories set in a future version of the real-world (more about these stories will be announced at a later date), but a version of them also features in my free to read Science-Fiction-Fantasy-Horror Gaea Parallaxis which is set in a dark alternative version of our world… check it out now.

Please feel free to comment on this post, especially regarding the new Laws – their wording, order, implications or potential ambiguities and loopholes that they might entail. All the Laws are open to change or clarification if needed.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2014 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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Exploring the Whitechapel Murders of 1888 and the origins of Jack the Ripper

Posted by Harbinger451 on April 30, 2014

Ripperology 101 CategoryWe are embarking on an investigation into one of the most persistent true crime mysteries that has now puzzled, perplexed and frustrated countless  criminologists and would-be detectives for over one and a quarter centuries… the identity of the person or persons unknown who committed the Whitechapel Murders. In most people’s mind there is one person associated with these crimes, the one and the only – Jack the Ripper! But that name is a fiction, a legend that became a myth… of the archetypal serial killer. The name “Jack the Ripper” first appeared in a hoax letter claiming to be from the Whitechapel killer that was sent to the Central News Agency on the 25th of September 1888. This “Dear Boss” letter, received on the 27th, was probably written by an enterprising journalist desperate for a scoop and to sensationalize the already sensational story even further… it worked. That name will now forever be associated with the Whitechapel murders – even if the real murderer or murderers are ever identified they will still be known by most as the Ripper.

Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel

Our investigation is in two main parts… in the section of our website entitled Ripperology 101, where the basic known facts of the case will be detailed and assessed – and in an upcoming eBook entitled ABYSS: A Chronicle of the Whitechapel Murders & the Origins of Jack the Ripper, where a very detailed timeline of events will be laid out.

From the website:

“In 1888 a spate of unsolved brutal attacks and increasingly gruesome murders of women befell the London East-End District of Whitechapel and its environs. These crimes would make the area world famous as the stalking ground of the mysterious, and as yet unidentified, killer now widely known as Jack the Ripper. The British Empire was at the height of its power and the City of London was its beating heart – the biggest and richest city in the world at the time. But London’s neglected East-End was massively overcrowded and the residents of Whitechapel in particular were horrendously impoverished. By any definition it was a rough place to live and police resources were stretched to the limit even before this series of unprecedented killings took hold.

      Of the fifteen attacks considered here as crimes directly relating to the Whitechapel Murders, eleven of them were ultimately fatal and all of them were committed by a person, or persons, unknown. All of the murder victims were women who were (probably) “unfortunates”, a euphemism of the time indicating that they were prostitutes. Many contemporary investigators assumed that all the attacks were related and committed by the same callous individual or individuals. However, most Ripperologists today think that as few as five of the murders can be said to have been carried out by the same hand.

      Other crimes that do not technically fit into the scope of the Whitechapel Murders will also be examined in these pages where pertinent connections, to either the Victims or the Suspects, can be theorised.”

Read more at Ripperology 101 as the investigation continues and the site expands – looking at the Victims, the Suspects, the Witnesses, the Investigators, the Trophies & Clues, the Weapons & MO, the Letters, the Theories and much, much more.

More on the upcoming eBook – ABYSS: A Chronicle of the Whitechapel Murders & the Origins of Jack the Ripper – will be released soon… watch this space.

Also: check out our digital newspaper – The Ripperology Gazette – a new, free, daily online ‘newspaper’ that correlates and presents all the latest news, updates, chatter and trends concerning the field of Ripperology, along with all things Ripper-related in fiction, film, games and even music. It explores the mystery of the 1888 Whitechapel murders and the origins and legacy of Jack the Ripper by featuring the most popular stories that are trending on the Twitter and Facebook social networks each day. Subscribe to never miss out on the latest Ripper-related news.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2014 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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What is a multiverse and what types of multiverse are there?

Posted by Harbinger451 on March 2, 2014

The 451 ePublishing Haus CategoryWe are starting a new section of the website entitled the Multi-Verse Digest – a guide to to the best known alternative histories and other worlds of fiction, folklore, film and games. In this quantum age of a proposed infinite multiverse each is just as likely as the next! Harbinger451 will be exploring them soon. As an introduction to the concept of multiverses we have devised a list of types of multiverse – which is presented here for your information. It might be handy for writers and RPG-ers of speculative fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror) looking for ideas for, and rationals behind, their invented universe or world setting.

The Multi-Verse Digest

In its broadest sense a multiverse (or meta-universe) is a collection of multiple universes, any number of which could be very similar to or very different from our own and each other. Many types of multiverse (and universes within them) have been theorised and none, some or all could exist simultaneously either together or apart. Here is a list of the basic types of multiverse that could exist… maybe.

The Cyclic or ‘Yo-yo’ Multiverse:
Our universe is one in a potentially infinite series of expanding and contracting universes that each end in a big-crunch before spawning the next with another big-bang. Every big-bang could reincarnate the universe in a slightly or even drastically different form.

The Wider Cosmological or ‘Infinite’ Multiverse:
Our universe is everything within the cosmological horizon… but what about beyond that horizon, are there a potentially infinite number of other universes out there in the great unknown void beyond our observable universe? Possibly… in fact, probably. When dealing with an infinity almost anything is possible and, to varying degrees, probable. So a vast and massively varied amount of other universes almost HAS to be out there.

The Quantum Split or ‘Spooky’ Multiverse:
The basic building blocks of our universe, the sub-atomic quanta, can be observed in a range of possible manifestations – each with a different probability or likelihood of appearing. What if each of these possible observations correspond to a different manifest universe – running parallel or parallax to ours on weirdly different, strange sounding, M-theory dimensions, strings or branes. At the quantum level all matter and energy may be linked, bound or entangled through time, space or extra dimensions with their counter-part quantile manifestations. Some or all quanta may exist in multiple places, times or dimensions at once. Many theorist’s use these apparent spooky properties of quanta to extrapolate wormholes and the potential for gateways or portals to another universal place, time, or even parallel world.

The Time-streams or ‘What if?’ Multiverse:
This extrapolation of the Quantum Split Multiverse stipulates that every random event has many possible outcomes and connotations – each with a different probability. A die throw has six possible outcomes, each leading to a slightly different but equally possible future. What if all those possible futures play out in different branching time-lines – each equivalent to a whole parallel universe ultimately leading back in time to the same initial causal event – whether its a Big-Bang or not?

The Dark or ‘Mysterious’ Multiverse:
The observable universe appears to be lacking a great deal when it comes to matter and energy. Where is it and what is it doing? We only know of (can see) about 5% of the matter and energy that should be in our universe. The rest we have labelled (for want of better terms) Dark Matter (27%) and Dark Energy (68%). What if this hidden unknown is beyond our normal perception, it occupies the same space or void but is on different continuum or continua, or has the same continuum but occupies a different space or void. These would not so much be different universes but would be quantum flip, dark or just other-world versions or slants of ours.

The Virtual or ‘Matrix’ Multiverse:
The computer simulated virtual worlds we can create are getting more and more advanced. Eventually we will be able to virtually simulate a world that is, for all intents and purposes, as convincing and ‘real’ as our own actually ‘real’ one. There could be multiple digital copies of these virtual worlds and in some they could create virtual worlds of there own as we have. This of course begs the question – how do you know if the ‘real’ world you are in now IS the ‘real’ world and not just one of many created by a Cosmic Programmer trying out different scenarios? Also – it rears the soul-destroying prospect of being in a virtual simulation within a virtual simulation… within a virtual simulation… and on and on ad-infinitum.

The Mathematical or ‘Ultimate’ Multiverse:
Mathematical possibility and probability provides an ultimate multiverse that contains every mathematically possible universe made manifest according to different laws of physics, varying constants and differing initial conditions. The rational behind this theory is – if something is mathematically possible it must exist… somewhere. If it can exist – it will… especially in an infinite multiverse.

The Speculative or ‘Fictional’ Multiverse:
Many gifted story tellers have created believable fantasy worlds as the imaginative stage on which their tales are dramatised. Any of them could be real in an infinite multiverse of possibilities. There could be a universe where those fictitious events took place. There could be a universe where H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos is real, there could be one where Game of Thrones is actually happening and there could be one where the Galactic Empire relies on the control of a very rare spice from an obscure desert planet called Dune.

There could be universes out there where any form of magic system is real, or where the Force from Star Wars is real, or really Gothic ones where ghosts, werewolves and zombies roam among us and the vampiric Count Dracula is an actual historical character.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem for a relatively scientific speculation on the nature of everything – in an infinite multiverse there could be universes where any connotation of the religious or philosophical beliefs that we have invented while on this planet Earth IS real and true… for me – that is the most terrifying possibility of all.

What is a universe and what types of universe are there? Coming soon!

Check out Harbinger451’s own exercise in the fictional world building of an alternative parallel universe: Gaea Parallaxis.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2013 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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The 451 ePublishing Haus is open for business with the 1st Dollar Dreadful eBook

Posted by Harbinger451 on October 12, 2013

The 451 ePublishing Haus CategoryThe 451 ePublishing Haus is the digital publishing arm of Harbinger451.co.uk and will be bringing you a whole range of eBooks, both for free and to buy, soon. This branch of our site has launched with the publication of the first volume in our Dollar Dreadful series, a periodical collection of original Dark Genre short fiction for the staggeringly low price of $1 – each volume of which will feature three tales of terror and dread  – from the best indie writers out there – that fall under the wider genre of horror but may include speculative, mystery and noir themes that are geared toward adult tastes.  So, by definition, they will probably contain extreme themes and situations of a profane, violent, horrific or sexual nature. Expect adult language and situations as well as overt violence and gore! You have been warned!

Dollar Dreadful Vol. 1: A Tangle of Shadows - Cover

This first volume in the Dollar Dreadful series brings together three shocking short stories from M. L. Hart – a superb collection that is all about sex and death. Each story, told in M. L. Hart’s absolutely distinctive voice, tackles this eternal preoccupation with Eros and Thanatos, taking in themes of religion, power and control, mental illness, deviancy, violence, pyromania and murder. They are deft, sensual and fully realised – maintaining their intrinsic force throughout and not letting up until the tale is done. The stories do not fit easily into any one genre, featuring instead a blend of many that is characteristic of this exciting, unusual writer. You can find more info, buy and download as PDF, MOBI or EPUB for only $1 HERE.

The 451 ePublishing Haus has further eBook series planned that include Master Works from the fields of Philosophy, Mythology, the Occult, History, the Sciences and the Speculative Arts; also Horror genre classics are featured in our Dark Matter series – the first of which will be a massive collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s fantastic cosmic horror fiction. Find out more HERE.

As well as the Dollar Dreadful series we’ll also be publishing new and original dark alternative genre fiction – with an adult readership in mind – in our Anti-Verse and Multi-Verse eBook series – that are more fantasy and sci-fi oriented but still with an undercurrent of horror. We hope to soon be publishing detailed guides expanding the Anti-Hero RPG rules, the Universal Mythos system of occultism and the Gravy Train Express guide to making money online. Read more about these eBooks HERE.

Brought to your attention by Harbinger451.

Copyright © 2013 Harbinger451 – All Rights Reserved


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