*So this started because the lovely Jagi Lamplighter asked me to participate in a character blog tour thing, in which each of us invited other people and each person blogged the following Monday, linking before and ahead. Jagi’s link is here. I did mine here. Links to the other people I invited here. I invited Doug Dandrige, who in turn invited Charles E. Gannon. Chuck doesn’t have a blog of his own, though he’s under permanent invite to blog at MGC Sundays when he wishes (I’ll just add to Elf Blood in its own page, then) so if you guys egg him on, maybe he’ll take us up on it. Anyway, so his interview of his character came out really long. I’m putting the first half here, and the other half will be up at Doug’s blog in a couple of hours. And meanwhile, I’ll be working on Through Fire, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a for reals blog post, promise. I think this book scares me. If you wish I can explain why, but for now color me spitless.
This is what Chuck says about the following interview: “the content provides some “ah HAH!” background fill in for my series.”*
Transcript of event 786: Virtua security breach, class 2, during Virtual Exchange – Charles E. Gannon
Human visitor, tagged “Interviewer” (identity data suppressed; see concluding access notes)
Origin-sourced precarnation Simulacrum, tagged “Corcoran”
Summary Description of intended Virtual Exchange:
“Interviewer” was authorized to interview origin-source Simulacrum “Corcoran” in Virtual Node after full debriefing and explicit agreement to observe interrogatory constraints. Intentional or unintentional compromise of the Simulacrum’s current contiguous knowledge base was established as condition which would trigger partial discontinuation and pause of the Virtual Node as warning (i.e.; “environment hazing”). Full termination occurs upon multiple compromises or disregard of warnings.
Interviewer: It’s quite an honor to interview you, Admiral Corcoran.
Corcoran: It’s my pleasure. Where would you like to start?
Interviewer: How about telling us something about yourself that we probably don’t know?
Corcoran: Well, to do that, I need to know what you expect your readers will know about me?
Interviewer: I’m sure they’ll all be familiar with your roles in the Highground War, the Belt Wars, and the mission to intercept the Doomsday Rock. A lot will remember your name in conjunction with a variety of the subcommittees and military initiatives that made the United States and the United Commonwealths and Aligned States the preeminent space powers, but ultimately, transformed humanity into a star-faring race. And of course, younger audience members are most likely to associate you with the Parthenon Dialogs.
Corcoran: Well, I’m not so sure that my name is as closely associated with all those activities as you seem to presume . . .
Interviewer: It is, I assure you. In fact, in many accounts, your name is the one that figures most prominently. However, what is not mentioned is this: which of these involvements was, personally, the greatest challenge, the hardest job?
Corcoran: You want the hardest job? You’re sure?
Interviewer: Yes, Admiral, quite sure.
Corcoran: Then it’s none of the ones you’ve mentioned. For me, the hardest job was the one that probably won’t get into any history books. At best, it will warrant a few footnotes in specialty military histories that will probably have only a handful of hardcopies published. Which will then spend their dreary existence gathering dust in those few repositories that actually archive physical books.
Interviewer: So, what is this almost unknown job that was the hardest you’ve ever done?
Corcoran: Without a doubt, it was chairing the Services Integration Committee.
Interviewer: (after a long pause) The what?
Corcoran: See? I told you it’s not on the radar. The Services Integration Committee was convened before you were born, and, unless I miss my guess, was concluded just about when you started high school.
Interviewer: That’s an incredibly long process.
Corcoran: Because it was an incredibly complex—and incendiary— process. The Services Integration Committee was an Executive initiative passed to the Joint Chiefs early in 2092. It was necessary and everyone knew it was coming. But nonetheless, it was a political football and tar-pit that no sane officer in the general ranks wanted to touch, because it was sure to be their professional doom. On the other hand, I had to take it on because of the direction I knew we were going: namely, into space, and ultimately to the stars. And that was going to change the roles and command structures of all our armed services. Forever.
Interviewer: Okay, now I understand what you’re talking about. I’ve actually heard about this process, but it’s usually referred to by its acronym, now: SIC.
Corcoran: Which is what everyone called it, for obvious reasons. Because for everyone involved—which meant almost everyone in the armed services—it was indeed an utterly sick process. Everything was on the table, so anything might change. However, the more classically educated persons involved chose a latin quip: Sic transit Gloria mundi.
Interviewer: “Thus passes the glory of the world?”
Corcoran: You got it in one. Yes, because, for a lot of career officers, this meant that all the missions they had trained for, all the roles and even service traditions that had determined the shape of their adult lives were poised on the brink of change so profound that they might not recognize the new reality that they’d be ask to navigate. A lot of people were legitimately worried about finding themselves being discharged simply because there was no role left for them. We managed to avoid most of that—but not without a lot of horse trading and creative problem-solving.
Interviewer: It sounds daunting. What was it like running that kind of initiative, on the gut level?
Corcoran: It was like herding cats. With their tails on fire. Pursued by budget-cutting Dobermans. Only harder. Next question.
Interviewer: (laughs) It sounds like if I ask any more questions about SIC, we’ll never get to another topic. So let’s move on from the most difficult job to the one that you are most proud of. What would that be?
Corcoran: You mean, aside from my children?
Interviewer: (laughs) I wasn’t aware they were part of your resume.
Corcoran: No, they weren’t. Which is not something I’m proud of. But after learning that the Doomsday Rock had been, indisputably, pushed at us by exosapients—well, my life was no longer really my own. Which means I was not around for my children or my wife anywhere near as often as I wanted—as I needed—to be. So, while that absence is one of my greatest regrets, it is also one of my greatest sources of pride that Elena and Trevor became the fine young woman and young man that they became. And that my wife Patrice somehow managed to remain an all-star physician and family locus, was the glue that held us all together, since I so often was not there to do so. (Pause) So I guess I have to add “deeply grateful” to “proud,” when I think of my family.
Interviewer: I get the sense that your life’s work has left you with some significant feelings of ambivalence.
Corcoran: I think we could safely call that an understatement.
Interviewer: Then I wonder if you wouldn’t mind sharing with us what you feel most ambivalent about, as you think back about your career?
Corcoran: Circumventing due process.
Interviewer: I beg your pardon?
Corcoran: Circumventing due process. I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. When you take that oath, you never envision that your career could take you to a place where you are not only authorized, but mandated, to suppress facts, avoid ready accountability, create the illusion of transparency where none exists, and just plain lie. All at the behest of my Commander in Chief, mind you, and the Joint Chiefs. All approved by Senate Subcommittees, both Near Earth-approaching Asteroid Response and Intelligence. But it doesn’t make you feel any better about doing it, doesn’t remove the raw reality of looking in the mirror every day and asking, “How is it that I am technically fulfilling my oath of service by doing all the things it seemed implicit that I swore not to do?” (Long pause) And of all the incidents where that kind of circumvention and clandestine misrepresentation was involved, the case of Caine Riordan is right at the top of my list of regrets.
Interviewer: I’m sorry if this is a sensitive topic, but it’s also a natural segue into a part of this interview that I’m sure you were expecting, and I would be remiss to skip over. Specifically, in regard to that circumvention of due process, your detractors charge that your manipulation of government agencies, commercial entities, and even other nations through information control and influence peddling constitutes one of the most sustained and successful conspiracies on record. How would you respond?
Corcoran: Well, firstly, I think we need to distinguish between ‘conspiracy’ and ‘covert operation.’ I was involved in the latter, not the former, and yes, there is most certainly a distinction. As I just pointed out, I was not operating as a rogue agent, and I was not operating against the orders or interests of the United States of America. In the wake of our discoveries on the Doomsday Rock, we created a top secret collective: the Institute for Reconnaissance, Intelligence and Security. It was not only permitted but mandated by the Executive Branch, after recommendation by a blue-ribbon panel from the Senate Near Earth-approaching Asteroid Response subcommittee, chaired by Arvid Tarasenko. And within five years time, it had official buy in and clandestine assistance from the European Union, the Russian Federation, and select elements of what later became the Trans Oceanic Commercial and Industrial Organization.
Interviewer: Let’s go back a moment. Arvid Tarasenko was also a friend from your days at the Naval Academy, correct?
Corcoran: Correct. And I fully expected that, when our activities became a matter of public record, a lot of people would misconstrue my work with Arvid as evidence of some kind of “Bilderbergers in the Making” relationship.
Interviewer: Which they have since done. Repeatedly.
Corcoran: Naturally. Unfortunately, although I’m unlikely to change anyone’s mind with this assertion, that’s a case of putting the cart in front of the horse. Arvid and I were not schemers who fell upon an opportunity to power: we were friends who could trust each other and were in the right places to establish a long-duration initiative to accelerate the pace at which Earth might accrue the advances essential to its survival.
Interviewer: As I’m sure you are aware, your detractors prefer the first interpretation of your relationship with Tarasenko: that you were power-seeking illuminati.
Corcoran: I’m sure they do: it makes for better copy. But if they stopped to think through the details, they might find some contradictions that they’ll be at profound pains to explain away. (Seems puzzled momentarily) I must admit, though, that I have no actual knowledge of such detractors. But your report of their existence doesn’t surprise me.
Interviewer: Well, we’ve certainly followed a circuitous course in getting to the answer to my original question, which was: “Your detractors charge that your manipulation of government agencies, commercial entities, and even other nations through information control and influence peddling constitutes one of the most sustained and successful conspiracies on record.” What’s your verdict upon yourself, guilty or not guily?
Corcoran:Unfortunately, I’d have to say guilty as charged. But some deeds are not well understood—or judged—without context. A few—particularly those to feed perverse personal appetites for power—don’t require careful contemplation: people who kill others simply to feel a rush, to bathe in the sewage of their own megalomaniacal egos, can be judged pretty summarily, I think. But the sad truth is that there are innumerable shades of grey. Unfortunately, that is the most frequent rationalization employed by zealots to perpetrate atrocities: “the ends justified my means.”
Of course, sometimes they do—but not just because the person employing the means claims they do. Ultimately, it is history that will sit in judgment—and it is often true that an analyst looking back from a distant point upon the unspooling historical timeline will see the context more clearly than a more proximal viewer.
Interviewer: Do you think that will be the case with your own deeds—that they will be better understood, and perhaps more widely-praised—with the increasing passage of time and accrual of greater perspective?
Corcoran: I’d like to think so. But then, there’s so much that was done that never came to light, and so much we encountered that had to be addressed that was never revealed. I’m not sure that the complete story will ever—or should ever—be told.
Interviewer: Because people can’t handle the truth?
Corcoran: No, because some truths are so profoundly convoluted and byzantine in their pathways and nuances that it’s almost impossible to lay them all out briefly in any reasonably comprehensive fashion. Yet, to do any less ensures that those truths are likely to be misunderstood, generating misperceptions so profound that one might easily make inferences that are 180 degrees reversed from the actual underlying facts.
So how do you correct that, how do you provide more context? By sharing more information. But that’s like cutting the heads off a hydra: in the process of clearing up the first misperception you often create two or three more. And so it goes. At some point, the problem is not that most people fail to comprehend the backstories: it’s that they get weary of the onion-layers you have to keep peeling back in order to get to the fundamental exigencies that shape and motivate deep intelligence work. The number of variables involved, and the way they tug on each other—the fact that there is almost nothing immutable in that extremely dynamic equilibrium—is really difficult to appreciate unless you are working inside it.
Interviewer: The rejection of that perspective—the difficulty of ensuring that non-insiders have a reasonable appreciation of the paradoxical and often counter-productive effects of working toward full disclosures—has been voiced repeatedly and stridently by Earth’s megacorporations. And they have been among your most vocal, and suspiciously well-informed, detractors.
Corcoran: No surprises there. Either in terms of their being vocal or suspiciously well-informed.
Interviewer: As you say, no surprises. But I wonder: if you had it to do over again, would you take such a hard line against the megacorporations?
Corcoran: I think I need to unpack that question before I can answer it.
Interviewer: Please do so.
Corcoran: Firstly, I’m not sure I can accept the allegation that I adopted a “hard line” against the megacorporations. As anyone who’s done any research knows, I coordinated regularly, and was as forthcoming as classification allowed, with the Industrial megacorporations. Not my distinction: the Industrial megacorporations.That is not chance, and it cannot be airily explained away by simply asserting that, since they are the other half of the “military-industrial” complex, that they were IRIS’ willing tools. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is utterly ludicrous. Multi-billion dollar manufacturing concerns that supply multiple nations are not anyone’s puppets. But likewise, their sales and therefore survival is directly tied to the nation-states. In many circumstances, that has been a major problem. It’s no secret that there has been a long history of fiscal abuses arising from what many rightly characterize as that inherently incestuous relationship, particularly as concerns the inefficiencies of the materiél procurement process. It was worse in the last century, but it’s still not great.
However, in some circumstances, the extant relationship between Industrials and government has been singularly advantageous. In the case of getting ourselves ready for a robust expansion into space with an eye towards self-defense, our prior work together put us on the same page in three important ways.
Firstly, much of our joint work has always involved both achieving scientific breakthroughs and then actualizing them in terms of real-world engineering. That was the very foundation of our extant working partnership, and in many ways, our new goals in space were actually a better fit for our relationship. This was a case where we had comparatively very long development cycles and where the only objective was to get the job done. There was no room for favoritism and regional pork-belly competition. We were operating under the aegis of a special mandate that necessarily could not be open to conventional Congressional oversight. There was oversight—more than a lot of folks presume—but it is in the nature of secret projects that they cannot be subject to line-item review. Kind of defeats the “secret” part.
And that brings up the second way in which we started out on the same page: we were used to working with the Industrials through a set of security protocols that allowed for a pretty broad mix of classification levels and compartmentalization firewalls, all safeguarded on their side. It’s probably hard for someone not familiar with the defense and aerospace industries to understand how important all that is. Normal companies are just not set up for the complex demands of being responsible for projects involving various intel-sensitive fabrication sites, and design teams, and coordinators, and maintaining adequate internal security while also being on the lookout for external penetration. I’ve heard people try to compare this level of security challenge to that faced by online data firms, or financial institutions. Sorry: orders of magnitude of difference, just at the level of evidentiary footprint alone. Industrials maintain and do their work in factories—physical plants—that have traffic numbering in the hundreds or even thousands of persons. They literally have a shop floor, from which various pieces of technical intelligence can be swept and used as the basis of inferential analysis of what they are working on. I repeat: we are talking about easily accessed, highly suggestive, physical evidence. We’re not talking about securing data streams or proprietary code: we’re talking nuts and bolts handled by hundreds of people every day. And the Industrials already had a pretty good system in place to protect secrecy in those kinds of environments. Given some extra latitude, they were able to do the necessary security job without involving more people on the government side. And they were all accustomed to not only having limited knowledge of what they were protecting or why, but more importantly, they had already been acculturated to know the difference between critically examining an order that seems ill-considered —a good trait—and being nosey to sate their own curiosity—a very very bad trait.
Lastly, but possibly most importantly, the industrials shared, deep down, an intangible but crucial cultural value with those of us who’ve spent a lifetime in military or space endeavors: the sovereignty, and importance, of the nation-state. And not merely according to some blind, team-spirit reflex. The women and men in the board rooms of the Industrials are no less educated than those you might find in the other megacorporations, but you might say they’ve drawn different lessons from their educations—and from their life experiences. Many of the people in the Industrials have taken oaths of service, or have spent years serving alongside those who have. Most of them have lived lives negotiating the compromises that arise between pursuing one’s own happiness and the preserving its pursuit–along with life and liberty—for others. It would not be correct to say that the Industrials embody a service ethos, but they maintain close ties to it—too close for them to forget that other people are depending upon them. And I’m happy to say that when the chips are down, that’s when they really rise to the occasion, when they really shine. I’d like to think that about not only all Americans, and all members of the United Commonwealths and Allied States bloc, but humans in general. But I know I can say it about the majority of the Industrials because, in the years leading up to the Parthenon Dialogs, I saw them do just that: rise to the occasion, take on an incredible set of challenges and not only meet, but exceed all expectations.
Interviewer: With that said—and thank you for unpacking what has been a much-debated matter—I’d like to return to the question that launched us into the topic in the first place. Which was this: if you had it to do over again, would you take such a hard line against the megacorporations? (A long pause.) Admiral Corcoran, would you rather skip this question?
Corcoran: No, no. Unless compelled to do so by official secrecy constraints, I hate agreeing to an interview and then hiding behind “no comments.” I’m just trying to think carefully before I answer your question, because it’s a very good one. It troubled me a lot, over the years, in fact. Frankly, I did not foresee the problems we had with so many of the non-Industrial megacorporations.
Interviewer: How did they surprise you?
You can find the rest in Doug Dandriges’s Website.
You can buy his books here:
Fire with Fire
Trial By Fire
(Sorry, I tried to insert images but WordPress Delenda Est — SAH)