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"Magic is applied mathematics. The many-angled ones live at the bottom of the Mandelbrot set. Demonology is right after debugging in the dictionary."
Bob Howard, in PIMPF

A series of Cosmic Horror Story novels and novellas by author Charles Stross. According to Word of God, the series originated with his realization that Lovecraftian horror and the Cold War are actually pretty darn similar, and if there really were Cthuloid horror lurking around the edges of reality, the government would get involved, and the departments they'd set up to do so would look very much like Stale Beer flavour Spy Fiction.

The main protagonist, Bob Howard, is a Desk Jockey who was forcibly recruited into the Laundry after his graduate computer science work nearly summoned Nyarlathotep. Now he's charged with protecting the Earth from incursions by the many-angled ones, who can be summoned all too easily with modern computer technology. Most of the job is attending meetings and filling out paperwork; but every so often there's a major incident that results in Laundry agents trying to fight off Cthulhu and his cronies with their palm pilots, wards and the occasional briefcase nuke, while Bob has the misfortune to land right in the middle of it.

The series consists of both novels and short stories:

  • The Atrocity Archive
  • "The Concrete Jungle" (published together with Archive as Archives, and available online)
  • The Jennifer Morgue
  • "Pimpf" (included in Morgue)
  • "Down On The Farm" (available online)
  • The Fuller Memorandum
  • "Overtime" (available online)
  • The Apocalypse Codex (July 2012 release)

A Tabletop RPG adaptation has been published, using the Basic Roleplaying game system--the very same system used by Call of Cthulhu.


This series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Dominique "Mo" O'Brien who started off as a Damsel in Distress in The Atrocity Archives, but in The Jennifer Morgue turns out to have been Bond in the destiny trap and saves the day with her demon-killing violin. Bob lampshades this in Memorandum by noting that he'd rescued Mo in Archives, and since then she's been overcompensating.
    • Ramona Random in The Jennifer Morgue also qualifies.
  • Alien Sky: Subverted in The Atrocity Archives; it turns out that it's not an alien world, but an alternate Earth and the reason the sky looks different is that the Infovore has consumed all the heat from the stars.
    • In The Fuller Memorandum, the world on which the dead plateau is found has a galactic core or supercluster visible in the sky.
  • All Take and No Give: Mhari and Bob's relationship. She sleeps around on him, hoping to trade up to a better boyfriend, and then comes sauntering back for a safe bet when that doesn't work out, and blows up at him when he gets mad about it. Of course, we only really get Bob's bitter word about it.
  • Animate Dead: The Laundry uses zombie security guards. Of former employees.
  • Artifact of Doom: Mo's violin is clearly an evil device that, in any other story, would be the subject of a quest to destroy it. In this universe, however, it's a useful tool for the good guys.
    • It has a sticker on the back that reads "THIS MACHINE KILLS DEMONS".
    • They'd like to make more like it, but rules are rules, and "just owning the necessary supplies probably puts you in breach of the Human Tissues Act of 2004, not to mention a raft of other legislation." In fact, Mo tries to go out of her way to prove to her superiors that CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN won't require the production of more violins.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • The Infovore is a high Class X-5, failing to enter Class Z primarily due to the difficulties inherent in consuming itself.
    • CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN could be anywhere between a high Class 1 and a Class X-4, depending on how nasty what comes through turns out to be.
  • Asshole Victim: Harriet and Bridget, at the very least. If you wind up on Angleton's desk, chances are you deserved it.
  • Badass Normal: The entire OCCULUS team.
    • Also, the lone Spetsnaz soldier in the Fuller Memorandum who kills his way through a hell of a lot of zombies and cultists after the rest of his team is wiped out.
  • Badass Bookworm: Everyone in Laundry Active Ops, really.
  • Bad Santa: The Filler of Stockings; Lurker in Fireplaces, Bringer of Gifts, the King in Red (Pick your culture: prepare to die).
  • Batman Gambit: The villain in The Jennifer Morgue attempts this. His plan depends on the Laundry and the Black Chamber trying to stop him - see Invoked Trope below. Needless to say, it doesn't work out.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: "Down On The Farm" has robot nurses, slaved to a 1960s minicomputer with a demonic intelligence system
  • Because Destiny Says So: In The Jennifer Morgue, Bob and Ramona are destiny-entangled and it turns out that the villain trapped him in a James Bond destiny trap.
  • Bedlam House: The Funny Farm in "Down On The Farm".
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Alan Turing was also murdered by the Laundry.
  • Beneath the Earth: Humanity shares the planet with at least two other sentient species. The Deep Ones, code-named Blue Hades, live just beneath the seafloor and could curb stomp humanity if ever they're pissed off. Luckily for humanity they seem to be fairly reasonable folks, and the occult agencies liaise with them a semiregular basis. The Deep Seven, creatures known in the Cthulhu Mythos as Chthonians, live deep beneath the upper crust in the polar regions. Very little is known about them, save that they are polymorphous, and that the Deep Ones are terrified of them.
    • Humanity's saving grace, as always, is that it's not really important: Neither species feels threatened by us, and they don't want anything that we have, so there's no reason to leave their environments.
  • Betty and Veronica: Mo and Ramona in The Jennifer Morgue.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Mo and Alan Barnes' team in The Jennifer Morgue. Then in The Fuller Memorandum, they're set up for a repeat but arrive too late to do more than clean up after Bob's giant summoning.
  • Blood Bath: The Jennifer Morgue references the original legend with Bathory PaleGrace (TM), a makeup that carries a youth-projecting glamour in every jar. As the company's founder says, stem cell research means they're down to about 14 parts per million virgin blood in every jar... but there's no other way to get the endorphins that come with stress.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Billington was already a Blofeldian figure (Corrupt Corporate Executive, planning a scheme to Take Over the World, using a yacht converted from a warship), so casting a "destiny trap" to create a James Bond-like figure is risky at the very least. It's justified, partly because Billington thought he could turn it off at any time and partly because he was insane and possessed. It's later pointed out that if Billington had simply approached the Black Chamber with his salvage scheme he would have gotten away with it.
  • Brick Joke: Bob keeps making references to "paperclip audits" through the series. It seems like a Running Gag, until we actually get to see the start of one. Shortly therafter, we learn that if you have a paperclip from the same batch as a classified document, you can use it to track said document.
  • Brown Note
  • Captured Super Entity: The Laundry has control of TEAPOT, also known as the Eater of Souls. Well, they think they have control of it. Turns out that it's here voluntarily.
    • The Sleeper In The Pyramid On The Dead Plateau is a more straightforward example; it's an unspecified Eldritch Abomination that's being held inside a pyramid on a distant planet by observer effect magic: the structure is surrounded by a Wall Of Pain of impaled victims that are just barely alive enough to constantly observe it and collapse its wave function into a "captive in the pyramid and dormant" state. The RAF has a special wormhole airplane that does a flyby over the Plateau every once in a while, just in case.
  • Catch Phrase: But I digress.
  • Cats Are Mean: Fluffy, a white persian which is similar in appearance and attitude to Ernst Stavro Blofeld's and is a vessel for the mind of an ancient Chthonian war-god.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bob's offhand comment about Mo playing her violin at all hours seems like a typical relationship gripe, until you realize she was training to use her Instrument of Murder.
  • Chinese Launderer: The Laundry is so named because one of these once served as cover for its entrance.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • The various occult intelligence agencies can't seem to help it. Even when they're allied and want the same thing, they always end up double-crossing each other, trying to spin the situation to their advantage.
    • The career bureaucrats in the Laundry (particularly in Administration and HR) also seem to suffer from this, in addition to being obstructive bureaucrats. To the point where you can be certain that if Bob's current manager is a character in the story, he/she will be involved with the Big Bad in some way.
    • In The Fuller Memorandum, Iris Carpenter is a Double Subversion.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Usually, demon-summoning requires a fair bit of effort. However, when the stars are right, just believing in something will be enough to call it forth from the vasty deeps.
    • Worse yet, in about a decade there is supposed to be a period when just about anything can walk right in to our universe as long as people believe in it. Like, say, high-school witchcraft clubs. Worse worse yet, the latest novel suggests that this period has already begun.
    • Overtime shows exactly how this sort of thing can and will happen. Belief in Santa Claus allows a cosmic horror that Bob snarkily names "The Bringer of Gifts" to enter the world at the focus of greatest belief in foreign-reality entities: The Laundry. Bob has to "complete the ritual" by mimicking the usual Santa Claus traditions; snack and milk in exchange for a gift and then leaving. If he failed to get the critter it's snacks in time, the entity would be no longer bound to obey the ritual and can do as it pleases. Which does not involve leaving or not eating Bob.
  • Colonel Badass: Captain Alan Barnes of the Artists' Rifles.
  • Cool Car: subverted in The Jennifer Morgue, where Bob is stuck with a Smart car. He's not very happy about this, mainly because he has to drive down the Autobahn to a conference and keeps getting blitzed by Audis. On the other hand, once Pinky and Brains jam the obligatory load of James Bond-esque gadgets in it...
    • While not exactly a car, the Kettenkrad is cool enough to be salvaged from a bleak, airless alternate dimension where Axis has won WWII (And promptly caused an apocalypse), and lovingly restored by Pinky and Brains to working condition.
  • Cool Boat: Billington, the Blofeldian supervillain of The Jennifer Morgue, owns not one but three. Mabuse, a denavalized ex-Indian Navy Krivak III-class frigate, is his yacht. The ex-Glomar Explorer is the 66,000-ton salvage ship he's bought to enact his plan. And the Hopper only ever puts in an offscreen appearance, but it's mentioned as a old liner that's wired up with enough satellite bandwidth to serve as the nerve center of his business/surveillance operation.
  • Cosmic Horror Story
  • Critical Failure: During The Fuller Memorandom when Iris tries to summon the story's monster of the week into Bob while he casts a summon of his own -- from inside his freaking head, even! -- Bob leaves his body and is PULLED RIGHT BACK IN thanks to her summon. Nice Job Fixing It, Villain.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Fuller Memorandum is considerably darker in tone than previous stories in the series.
    • Not to be taken as representing a trend - Word of God states that the next one will not be as unremittingly bleak.
  • Deadly Upgrade: The series' magic is a branch of mathematics, and can be executed essentially by solving math problems. This is easy and (relatively) safe if done by computer, but mathematically sophisticated sorcerers can do it mentally -- at the risk of ending up with Krantzberg syndrome: summoning microscopic and hungry Eldritch Abominations into their own skulls, leading inevitably to a particularly nasty species of dementia. There is a risk of doing so accidentally.
  • Deconstruction: of various Spy Thriller tropes. Intelligence officers are desk jockeys on civil service salary, the Laundry aims to be the first fully ISO 9000 certified intelligence agency (with all the paperwork that implies), and even active field agents spend most of their time in briefings and committee meetings. Not to mention the permanent squabbling over the budget. All of which are more or less Truth in Television.
  • Deface of the Moon: Hitler's portrait carved into a moon in The Atrocity Archives.
  • Demonic Possession: A common plot element. In particular, a botched summoning at the climax of The Fuller Memorandum causes Bob to get possessed by himself.
  • Depleted Phlebotinum Shells: standard ammunition for the Laundry takes the form of "banishment rounds"--silver-plated bullets with spells engraved onto them in 90-nanometer scale. Takes care of certain nasties being Immune to Bullets very nicely, and it still works on other targets as well.
  • Diesel Punk: The memex, a WWII-technology hypertext database that uses kilometers of microfilm, millions of wristwatch-precision cams and gears and a very nasty effective magical defense system.
    • Justified Trope: Angleton isn't stupid, and there's a perfectly good reason why he uses a machine so outdated that it shouldn't exist: there's this procedure called Van Eck phreaking that you can use to eavesdrop in a CRT or LCD monitor and gain access to classified information. The memex uses microfiche readers, and is not vulnerable to this method. It also cleanly averts Everything Is Online and the myriad of Laundry network problems that Bob always complains about.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Bob notes early in Memorandum that no disaster is a single event; instead, they're the result of a whole chain of small missteps that all add up in a spectacularly wrong fashion. This comes back as a Brick Joke when Iris and the rest of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharoah try to sacrifice him to summon up the Eater of Souls. Unfortunately for them, they've made a chain of missteps and misunderstandings: nothing disastrous individually, but in toto...
  • Dissonant Serenity: Angleton in "The Concrete Jungle".
  • Eagle Land: Um...is there a type three? Because while the Laundry and their European counterparts aren't exactly that good, they're about as nice as an organization can be in a world where Lovecraft Was Right. The Laundry's american counterpart, the Black Chamber, on the otherhand, is basically outright evil, as are most other Americans in the story. Basically the Supreme Court in the land of the free has taken What Measure Is a Non-Human? to its most extreme conclusion, by declaring that the Constitution only applies to humans, and only pure humans at that. The Black Chamber loves taking the "human" out of "human intelligence", using lots of golems, zombies, Deep Ones, and the like, all of whom are said to have had no choice in becoming disposable tools for the organization. And the handlers of the various creatures are just brutal.
    • Their handlers ARE human, but are apparently enchanted and geassed up to the eyeballs so hard that they don't have even the minor freedom that the nonhuman grunts have. The only difference is that the nonhuman grunts are conscripts, and the handlers are (implied to be) volunteers.
  • Energy Beings: many summoned beings don't have their own bodies, and so must take possession of an existing one to exist in our universe. If it's a living body, it's often a case of Demonic Possession; otherwise, some beings--like the Feeders in the Night--will take hold of corpses. Since they're electrical creatures piggybacking the physical nervous system of a real body, though, it does mean they're vulnerable to electrical energy, like tasers.
  • Eldritch Abomination: As you can expect in a Cosmic Horror Story, there's a whole hierarchy of them, coming from the many branches of the Multiverse: there's your average prata zombie-maker, which is closer to a few lines of necrosymbolic code than an actual lifeform. There are also the Feeders in the Night, which possess multiple bodies at a time and can spread by touch. Near the top of the ladder there are things like TEAPOT, which is as intelligent as, if not more so, than a human being, and very proficient in the occult disciplines. On the reality-altering level you have the Infovore and the Sleeper In The Pyramid On The Dead Plateau; having one of them summoned/awakened/released from captivity means you can pretty much kiss your universe goodbye. Above them still, you have The Black Pharaoh himself, Nyar lath'Hotep. Yes, that one.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN. In essence, billions upon billions of humans doing what we do- thinking, imagining, calculating- is very bad for reality. Sufficient levels of belief in an entity, or calculations related to an entity, can summon it from one of the countless parallel (and... not so parallel...) universes where an iteration of it exists. In the best of times, the ability to do so is generally offset by the difficulty. However, a roughly 70-year period is coming very soon -- and probably has already begun -- during which... well, during which the stars are right. CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is predicted to be bad enough that an all-out nuclear war was considered, in order to reduce the population and thus the chances of summoning something big and hungry. However, the sheer number of deaths would almost certainly attract equally unpleasant creatures- and that's assuming that nobody dedicates the deaths to their favorite gibbering horror.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The Infovore and many lesser abominations suck heat out of the environment. Spells can have the similar effect. In fact, unnatural cold often serves as the most obvious warning that something is horribly wrong.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Nazis learned this the hard way after summoning up something they couldn't put back down.
    • So did Billington.
  • Everything Sensor: Bob's palmtop.
  • The Fettered: Angleton
  • Fish People: Blue Hades are an extremely advanced species, living on and below the deep sea floor, that have been around for millions of years. The various occult spy agencies stay in semiregular contact with them via Half-Human Hybrid go-betweens. To their credit, they aren't hostile towards humanity, which is just as well considering that they could wipe out much of us surface-dwellers via volcanoes and tsunamis. Angleton speculates that they have even more advanced weapons that humans cannot comprehend, comparing it to a soldier pointing a bayonet-tipped assault rifle towards a headhunter (who would only see a Blade on a Stick.)
  • For the Evulz: Not all of the eldritch abominations in the series, are driven by simple Horror Hunger. And this will be really unfortunate for humanity if one of them breaks into out universe. Cultists of the Black Pharaoh have shades of this as well.
  • Gambit Pileup: The Jennifer Morgue -- Billington, the Black Chamber and the Laundry are all counting on each others plotting to achieve their own goals.
  • Geas: In the second book the protagonist is put under a geas that essentially turns him into James Bond. Too bad it's a trick by the big bad.
    • TEAPOT, also known as Angleton, is controlled by one, and smaller ones to ensure secrecy are thrown around all the time.
  • Genre Blindness: In The Jennifer Morgue. For a pop-culture quoting geek who claims to have seen all the films and books in question before he was 15, Bob takes an awfully long time to realize that the archetype he's labouring under is James Bond. He even gets a cabin where the DVDs are all Bond titles, and still doesn't figure it out. To his credit, he easily figures he's in some kind of thriller, but even after Ellington tells him that the archetype in question has been reinforced by millions of viewers over fifty years of film -- while they're at dinner-- he still doesn't catch on. (Partially this is because the archetype itself is keeping him from realising, since he's more the (good) Bond girl rather than Bond himself; also, Ramona Random mentions that it's designed to prevent "recursive attacks", i.e. trying to brute-force your way through the geas by taking advantage of the knowledge of James Bond.)
  • Genre Savvy: The villain of The Jennifer Morgue magically enforces a genre on the situation and the hero. All involved factions are aware of this and try to exploit it to their own advantage - it gets complicated near the end, when everyone tries to play their endgame at once, all of them slightly different than the other parties expect.
  • Geometric Magic: all magic in this series is based on "Dho-Nha" curves, easily derived by proving Turing's last theorem. These curves amplify through space-time, tearing through reality and causing magic to happen.
  • Ghostapo: The Atrocity Archives deals with the consequences of Nazi attempts to harness an Eldritch Abomination ...via the Holocaust.
  • Glowing Eyelights of Un-Death: If someone's eye sockets are full of glowing worms, that's a good sign to start running.
  • Godzilla Threshold: "The Concrete Jungle" shows that SCORPION STARE is supposed to be fed over every CCTV camera in Britain, regardless of the potential body count when CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN comes about.
    • Angleton mentions in The Jennifer Morgue that one of the support vessels for the operation, open for a "direct line of credit", is HMS Vanguard. Considering that the Blofeldian supervillain wants to resurrect an ancient Cthonian war god, having a sub full of ICBMs on standby suddenly looks like a reasonable precaution.
  • Going Native: The Fuller Memorandum reveals that this is Angleton's backstory.
    • Bob suspects that he might be just siding with humanity because it gives him the best chances of survival during CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, though.
  • Gone Horribly Right: a mild version of it. Angleton, a.k.a. Teapot, was originally trained to be a weapon, an Eater of Souls under the command of the Laundry's predecessor. Unfortunately for J.F.C. Fuller and the rest, when it was trained/indoctrinated to pass for human, it absorbed the British ideals--fair play and honor and a very sharp sense of humor--more than its cynical human masters did, rendering it useless in its original purpose of a hungry ghost. Instead the SOE assigned it to management, where it performs stellar service as Angleton.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Ramona Random is half Deep One.
  • Homage: Archives for Len Deighton, Morgue for James Bond. Fuller sounds like a Quiller title, but Word of God is that it ended up more of an Anthony Price homage. "The Apocalypse Codex" is a Peter O'Donnell homage (info courtesy of a Word of God private e-mail).
  • Horror Hunger: Why most of the Eldritch Abominations appearing in the series are interested in humanity. Lots of them feed by increasing entropy (including destruction of information), so killing intelligent beings and (for more powerful ones) sucking out their souls gives them excellent nutrition.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Angleton.
  • Humans Are Special: Unfortunately, only in terms of danger the humanity unwittingly poses to itself, the Earth and the Universe. Other races don't seem to have quite the same potential for summoning malevolent soul-sucking Physical Gods by accident or stupidity, as evidenced by the world not being reduced to a toy of said gods yet.
  • If You're So Evil Eat This Kitten: If you're really a Humanoid Abomination, eat this baby. Bob manages to pass as an Eater of Souls.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The cultists in The Fuller Memorandum. Nom nom nom!
  • Incompetence, Inc.: The Laundry finds it easiest to deal with people who can't be let go by simply giving them a pointless paper-pushing job until they can retire with a pension. It's cheaper in some ways, and it avoids a lot of nasty legal and PR issues.
  • Instrument of Murder: The Jennifer Morgue plays on this; Bob's girlfriend, Mo, carries a Zann-model violin that she wields like a weapon. In an amusing Shout-Out to Woody Guthrie, the violin has "THIS MACHINE KILLS DEMONS" written on it.
  • Invoked Trope: The destiny trap in The Jennifer Morgue.
  • It Came From the Fridge: the reason temporal multiplexers are no longer allowed in the Howard residence. Cricket bats are involved.
  • It Got Worse: The Fuller Memorandum has this in spades. It starts with an utterly bleak prologue, then lightens a bit in the first chapter, but things go rapidly downhill from there. (That said, the ending turns out to be not quite as bleak as the prologue implied.)
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Deconstructed; the predecessors to the Laundry did this to Alan Turing. Since he was, you know, Alan Turing, this merely meant that they lost a potentially really useful resource when they could have achieved the same basic effect and made use of his skills and intelligence by simply drafting him into the service and making him sign the Official Secrets Act. After kicking themselves thoroughly, the Laundry went on to make averting this a matter of policy.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Stross's two earlier Cosmic Horror Cold War short stories "A Colder War" and "Missile Gap", in which humanity is brought to extinction by an all-out war and in one case, the remnants escape only to die of cold and starvation in an alternate dimension, the Laundryverse is downright optimistic about humanity's chances.
  • Lovecraft Lite: For the most part, as long as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN isn't involved.
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title: All three of the novels.
  • The Magic Comes Back: CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.
  • Magic From Technology: oh yes.
  • The Men in Black: Most major powers in the setting maintain their own occult intelligence services. So far, we've seen the Laundry for the British, the Black Chamber for America, the Faust Force for Germany, and the Thirteenth Directorate for Russia.
  • The Mole: Iris Carpenter in The Fuller Memorandum.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Ramona Random in The Jennifer Morgue.
  • More Dakka: Laundry agents are discouraged from carrying guns around; they tend to be much more trouble than they're worth. On the other hand, when they do get authorization they get all kinds of fun toys. Like the Atchisson AA-12 that Harry the Horse offers Bob, who thinks it'd be great for clearing unwelcome visitors off their front step--and the sidewalk, and the street, and the neighbors across the street, and anyone in the neighbors' backyard as well...
  • Musical Assassin: Dominique in The Jennifer Morgue and The Fuller Memorandum.
  • Nay Theist: As of The Fuller Memorandum, Bob is absolutely certain that there is a God, which god is the true God, and that the true God is coming back. Bob will be waiting for Him with a shotgun.
    • As noted in Jennifer Morgue, he did not believe in God, but he did believe in Hell.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: gleefully subverted on one occasion.
  • No Such Thing as HR: Averted. They're not particularly helpful, though.
    • This trope is played with. HR is often the cause of the problems that in Real Life they'd be expected to solve. This is partly just because of Rule of Funny, partly because of the spy setting, partly because no one chose to be there and so they may take it out on each other, also partly because of the Ultimate Job Security - they can't lose their job until they screw up big enough to get killed.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Bridget, Harriet, pretty much the entire Human Resources department. Some of them aren't above using ruthless methods to clear a spot on the promotion ladder either.
  • Oh Fuck: Or as it's known in the trade, an Unscheduled Reality Excursion.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The half-Deep ones are aquatic lifeforms but not half-fish, avoiding the Mermaid Problem. It's explicitly mentioned that some Laundry employees "start spending too much time skinny-dipping with a snorkel".
    • They actually look passably human as long as they don't spend too much time in salt water. Otherwise they eventually change into Deep Ones, Innsmouth-style.
    • Ramona Random says that those like herself are intended to look good and associate with humans more, while the "bumpkin cousins" sporting the ugly half-transformed "Innsmouth look" are decidedly more common.
  • Our Residual Human Resources Are Different: They're demons bound into reanimated corpses. The garden-variety are not very clever, and are apparently programmable if you know the right language. However, there are many types of demons, and accidentally summoning the wrong kind gives rise to a possessed corpse that can steal souls by touch. Oh, and make all the Boom! Headshot!s you want. It won't help.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: The Jennifer Morgue, in keeping with the James Bond theme, features the typical bunch of random gadgets. Doubly subverted - near the end of the story, Bob muses that he ended up using all the gadgets except for an unmodified Zippo lighter that "he's going to keep". It then ends up playing an essential role in the epilogue.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: The woman from the Laundry's cover-organisation who doesn't have a clue what Bob actually does but, thanks to matrix-management, somehow has a say in how he does it.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Pale Grace Skin Hydromax cream. Made from "100% natural ingredients". There are also various other rituals and artifacts requiring human sacrifices.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Bob gets stuffed in the trunk of a car by cultists in The Fuller Memorandum.
  • Punny Name: Check the quote at the top of the page. Remember the "many-angled ones"? Think of what Angleton breaks down into.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Angleton. Not nice, but reasonable.
    • In The Fuller Memorandum, Iris.
  • Ret-Gone: The 'Forecasting Operations Department'. The precogs who would be in the Department predicted that the formation of the Department would inevitably lead to disaster, resulting in them deciding never to form the Department in the first place.
  • Revealing Coverup: Averted. The Laundry only uses assassination as an absolute last resort for this very reason. They find it much more useful to recruit people who find out instead. This also doubles as punishment, since the job tends to force people to retire early.
  • Role Playing Game Terms: in The Fuller Memorandum, Bob has just gotten his PDA fried and needs to pick up a new one. He just happens to stumble upon the Jesusphone iPhone sitting pretty in a display case. In Mo's words:

  "Bob loses saving throw versus shiny at -5 penalty, takes 3d8 damage to the credit card."

  • Running Gag: Whenever Bob gets annoyed at the Laundry's bureaucratic excesses, he brings up the regular paperclip audits. Then they crop up again in the middle of The Fuller Memorandum and it turns out there's a very good reason for them: a Chekhov's Gun set up 5 stories ago. Whew.
  • Sarcastic Confession: the Blofeldian supervillain of The Jennifer Morgue jokingly claims that his plans for world domination are all for Fluffy's sake. "Fluffy" is the vessel for the mind of the ancient Eldritch Abomination that he plans on resurrecting.
  • Screw Destiny:
    • At the end of The Jennifer Morgue, Bob breaks the Bond destiny by proposing to Mo.
    • "Overtime" also does this in its climax.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Averted. When Dr. Kringle prophesies that there will be no Christmas party next year, everyone assumes that it's because the Laundry will be overrun by gibbering squamous horrors by then. When Bob asks if they couldn't avert that by just canceling the party themselves, Andy derides the idea as ridiculous.
  • Senseless Violins: Mo's actual violin in The Jennifer Morgue is a Double Subversion into necromantic Musical Assassin territory.
  • Shout-Out: Lots, ranging from H.P. Lovecraft to Pinky and The Brain. The Jennifer Morgue is a Whole-Plot Reference to James Bond.
    • Bob Howard, named after Robert E. Howard, collaborator and friend of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.
      • Bob also has a pair of middle names, Oliver & Francis, making his initials BOFH.
    • In The Fuller Memorandum, known Discworld fan Stross equips Bob with a thaumometer.
      • He already had one on his palmtop in The Atrocity Archives, and there's another joke there about being locked in the library by an orangutan if Mo stayed too late.
      • Dungeon Dimensions also are mentioned.
    • Pimpf features a reference to Delta Green.
    • The Fuller Memorandum also features a note from the Laundry's founder to a friend in Naval Intelligence with the codename "17F".
    • The Fuller Memorandum additionally has Bob idly reading a novel about a private magician for hire in Chicago.
  • Someone Has to Die: At the end of The Atrocity Archives, someone has to stay behind to set the nuke off manually. Zig Zagged. He survives the immediate blast. At the end of the book, he's suffering the effects of radiation poisoning and the outlook is not the best, but then The Jennifer Morgue confirms he survived; he shows up again as the leader of The Cavalry after the cat dies. Lampshaded in the RPG, where Bob notes that there had to be some potent magic involved to keep him alive, and wonders just what the cost was...
  • Stealth Pun: Bob is eventually revealed to have the middle names Oliver Francis, at the same time as he is reluctantly given an apprentice; Peter-Fred Young. So that's BOFH and PFY...
  • Succubus: The demon riding Ramona Random.
  • Sunglasses At Night: The mooks in The Jennifer Morgue. Bob wonders why, and it turns out it's because they're wearing eyeliner, which their boss can use to monitor their eyes and ears. Since they have stock options, they don't mind, but the shades are because it's hard to take a guard wearing eyeliner seriously.
  • Taken for Granite: The basilisk effect, which converts carbon to silicon via spooky observer-effect magic. Then blows it apart thanks to the wildly unstable atomic configurations that result. SCORPION STARE is the result of the Laundry producing a chip that can duplicate the effect with a camera, allowing its use as a weapon. Any camera with the chip can be activated through an Internet connection, and this includes just about every CCTV, webcam, and digital camera in Great Britain. And you know those DRM chips Hollywood wants installed in all new cameras? Guess what those are.
  • Theory of Narrative Causality: Powers Billington's Hero-trap geas. He casts himself as the villain in a James Bond plot, limiting his opposition to one hero archetype, and at the critical moment plans to destroy the geas, leaving himself ascendant and unopposed. Of course, that would only work if he captured the true Bond figure, instead of the designated love interest -- at which time, the plot becomes one of the variations.
    • He also failed to consider that Bond Villain Stupidity inflicted on him by the geas will also influence his attempts to shut down the geas.
  • This Page Will Self-Destruct: happens to Bob's Powerpoint briefing in The Jennifer Morgue when he takes too long and doesn't get to finish it. Angleton is less than pleased, and resorts to sending him future briefings in his dreams.
  • Those Really Messed Up Nazis: Creators of the titular Atrocity Archives.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Fred the Accountant.
  • Took a Level In Badass: Dominique, as a result of the Hero-trap geas. Bob himself steadily levels through the series, and is acknowledged as a good operative even in the first book. By book three, Mo herself has apparently kept the several levels of badass that she's taken, primarily due to her skills with the Erich Zahn-model violin, that the OCCULUS special forces team willingly accepts her presence on missions.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The Fuller Memorandum is a type E, made clear from the onset (in the prologue). (Warning: major plot spoilers ahead, obviously). In order, Bob performs an exorcism that goes bad and ends up killing a civilian. The next day, Mo gets an even more traumatizing job and returns on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Then Bob gets attacked by a zombie, shot, attacked by Cthulhu cultists and narrowly escapes, his office is broken in, he gets an internal investigation set on him, gets suspended, attacked by the cultists again, kidnapped, gets part of his right arm carved up and eaten while he's fully conscious, and is very nearly possessed by the Eater of Souls. The latter ritual involving, among other things, the cultists killing a baby and making Bob drink its blood. Mind that the whole ordeal happens within a two-week period. At the end of it, Bob is a wreck both physically and psychically, as alluded to by both the prologue and epilogue. Though Overtime suggests that he does recover eventually.
  • Tuckerization: Dr Mike Ford, the Laundry researcher with the implausible eyebrows who appears in The Fuller Memorandum, is a tuckerization of author and fan personality John M. Ford, to whom the novel is dedicated.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Everyone in the Laundry has it. They can get themselves killed through treason, failed coups or their own innocent stupidity, but no one is ever fired. This is because Laundry policy is to avert Killed to Uphold the Masquerade and Revealing Coverup. To keep people quiet, in most cases they are given jobs in the Laundry (and Mind Control to make them incapable of discussing it with people without the proper clearance).
  • Unreliable Narrator: For one thing, his name isn't "Bob Howard", for I Know Your True Name reasons. Also, the characters sound slightly different when he's narrating in first person compared to the independent/"reconstruction"/speculation third-person bits.
    • Details of Bob's past, like what exactly disaster he almost caused unwittingly before The Laundry found him also may vary.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: The Laundry. Justified in-story because the Laundry has a policy of offering everyone who knows too much a job (killing them is too conspicuous and messy). As a result, they're completely overstaffed by incompetent (or at least untrained) drones with Ultimate Job Security. All the bureaucracy is just a way of keeping them busy.
    • Too many are uninformed of what the Laundry does beyond the tiny piece they tripped over, and others are career-minded assholes that are waging office warfare over the more senior positions. "Office warfare" is not always a metaphor, either.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Lots of references to Mandelbrot sets, P-complete and NP-complete equations, the Church-Turing thesis, etc. Basically, if you're not a geek, you're going to be rather lost.
  • The Virus: The Infovore of The Atrocity Archives, along with numerous other Lovecraftian beasties. Demons in the setting spread along electrical circuits, and skin is conductive...
  • You Can Never Leave: You can leave the Laundry, just as long as you don't take a job in any area that might get you into trouble, like computing. Which rules out any job that Bob might be interested in.
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