Letters Column for March

As I write furiously and scurry around preparing for being a guest at ConBust from 4/2 to 4/4, I pause to say:

Thank you for your kind words,
Alexander Williams
Magnus W
Le Squide
Eric Minton
Mark Argent
Fodder Boy
Tim Gray


I want more Hopping Vampire stories!
— Brad

Don’t worry. Many Hopping Vampires get their heads eaten by cloud crabs. It’s basically an Xtreme Sport—taking the hard-bitten edge of survival to the max! As he’d mumble from the depths of the cloud crab’s stomach, “no pain, no gain!” That’s the estimable social philosophy that makes him Hopping Vampire.


You know, that is kind of a stupid curse, but clearly God hasn’t exactly been playing with a full deck for a very long time.
— Alexander Williams


People have always ascribed to God that terrible and ineffable power that orders the heavens and the earth. They have credited him with that storm wind of fate that brings fear, sorrow, and pain. It’s not clear that that’s what God is like in the Hitherby continuity. And it’s definitely not my personal perspective on the divine. But when the town Thessel, in “Four Horsemen,” refers to that power, what else can I call it but “God”? Even the most positive interpretations of the numinous are not tame lions.


I can’t help but wonder what would happen if they met Teletubbies.
— Beth

Now you know! Well, sort of. Kind of!


So we’re probably going to be in for a rude awakening when these two run into someone like Martin?
— Pierre

That depends entirely on what outcome you expect. :)


Did you invent (imagine?, envisage?) Liril and Micah simultaneously, or one some time after the other?
— Senji

I created Liril and Micah as such simultaneously. But each of them draws heavily on stuff that was already in my head. Mostly unrelated stuff. So their influences almost certainly evolved at different times. I’d guess that my initial conception of Liril was in 1982 or so, and the original version of Micah late 2001.

Or, in short, “yes.” :)


Are we to think that since Parvati was, based on to the King’s decree, to marry Mr. Schiff, that she’s the Mrs. Schiff of the headless goats story?
— Eric

It seems fair to assume that Mr. Schiff and Mrs. Schiff are a married couple, at the very least!


And, see, now I understand why the idea of Jesus as an AWA disturbs you so much. After all, it would be heresy to say that Jesus didn’t suffer on the cross (actually was one at some point, I’m sure someone died over it) — and if Jesus suffered for you and took all of your suffering upon himself, you should be able to bear a little suffering too without crying out, you little whelp .. wait, what?
— sandjack


Organized religion tends to use the same logic as a monster. But I’ve never actually met someone who was a really nasty religious person.

It’s strange. I have friends who have been badly hurt by “Christians.” I have plenty of second-hand examples of how easily the faith gets twisted. But I haven’t had the personal experience necessary to turn that into resentment. So you probably shouldn’t look for a condemnation of Christianity here. My work has angels and God and sometimes Christian themes because I . . . well, because I like them! And when I write Hitherby posts involving Jesus—and the same for Kwan-Yin, Buddha, and all the rest of that numinous lot—I try to be a bit open to the world, so that if they’re out there and want to shape what I’m doing with them as characters, they can.

That said, there are times when people get too gung ho about “suffering for others’ sake is good” and “suffering is a necessary part of existence.”


See, there are people who study Canada. In a University.
— Jason

I felt that all of you should get to read this again.


There are people.
Who study Canada.
In a University.

It’s true.

I followed the link.


That’s one way to make an Italian red sauce…
— Solarbird

The secret ingredient is INTESTINE.


So is this a result of Micah/Michael, or a prelude to it, or an alternate, or fnord?
— S.D.

Tantalus (I/IV) occurs roughly 3320 years before Micah (2/2).


woglies are, after all, empty.
— silversmoke

Yes. They are.

Filial piety…?
— silversmoke

That is in fact how Jenna put it!


I want a set of Idealism Goggles.
— S

Take pictures of a bunch of things you love. Keep the negatives.
Draw some other wonderful things on tracing paper.
Print some pictures of incredibly cool stuff on really thin paper.

Cut up the negatives, drawings, and print-outs.

Glue the pieces onto the inside of a pair of goggles. Now you have Idealism Goggles! It’s easy, safe, and fun for the whole family.

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading, thanks for posting on maps.hitherby.com, and thanks for commenting—even if you didn’t get thanked for a compliment or picked for a specific response. See you again this coming month!


21 thoughts on “Letters Column for March

  1. I really want to know: when Martin says “I’m not some pathetic kind of angel” — does he mean that he’s an angel, just not the pathetic kind; or does he mean that he’s something else?

    Well, let’s start with what you think he is. ^_^

    Should he be an angel? Should he be something else we have a category for? Should he be a new category?

    He’s a footsoldier, obviously.

    Okay, maybe not. Martin seems to answer emptiness with transformation, with being. That’s hope in a way, but I can’t help thinking of “hope” as being more insubstantial than what Martin does. So he’s like an angel, maybe he started off as an angel, but he’s something more. Archangel? Messiah?

    I am not on the throne of the world.

    It is, in fact, possible to determine who is sitting there; but the evidence is really subtle, and I don’t consider it to be “what the reader knows” at this point.

    Now that’s interesting. You’re trying to get me to go read straight through the archives yet again, aren’t you? (grin)

    Talking about Daniel — it makes sense to me that you focus on Daniel there because Daniel is the one whom I understand least and who fits most awkwardly into my little scheme. I still don’t understand just what Daniel’s answer to Jenna’s situation was, or what exactly in that whole tangle of law and finance Daniel was trying to achieve.

    There’s also a timeline problem. “The Castle (III/IV)” suggests that Jenna was still living in the tunnels in 1983. Yet “Alan (II/IV)” is set in 1980, and later we see Tina carving Iphigenia out of Jenna in 1981.

    My attempted solution to this problem — which I don’t think I presented clearly — was to regard gods as…gestating, as it were…in legend, which could be dated before the present time. I was seeing Daniel as a stillbirth, an attempt to create a god that didn’t work; Daniel never left his legendary backstory to meet Jenna at all — I thought this was an appropriate failure mode for Denial. That’s why Daniel’s story took place in 1976, even though (if he was a response to the monster) he had to be being created rather later. I was also thinking of Alan’s story as an explanation of Daniel’s.

    I may be repeating myself here, which in a way would be good because it would mean that I got across more than I think of what I meant, the first time.

    You seem to be insisting that Mr. Banks’s death was real, and was the cause of Daniel’s failure (as opposed to a result of it). Even if I am completely wrong about Daniel, I have to admit that I don’t understand why that death is important.

    it’s odd that in “Bob (III/IV)”, where the firewood world was created, Bob’s sister is Jane, but here she’s Jenna.

    Your confusion is an artifact of timing—Bob (III/IV) was an early story, and it wasn’t a good place to explain the connection between Jane and Jenna.

    That said, Bob (III/IV) is written very carefully, because I knew who she really was, and I prefer reliable narrators. You might want to doublecheck your assertion. ^_^

    Okay, I re-read “Bob”, and sure enough, not once does the narration call her “Jane” — only things like “the girl” and “his sister”. Well played. I was of course also misled by “The Truth”.

  2. Fiends answer emptiness with madness, or broken rules.

    If Martin has to be classified, I think he’s a fiend. His MO is ignoring the rules.

  3. “One of the reasons that I am writing this is that I have faith in you. That each of you, each person who does read this, each person who will read this, each person who could read this, each person who shares a world with me, is good. I hope this faith will prove contagious.”

    Sometimes you make me want to cry. This is one of them. But, in a good way. I wish all parts of me were good, or grown-up, or happy. But I do what I can, in the face of wanting, in the face of desire, in the middle of everything.

    Thank you for writing this.


  4. “I am not on the throne of the world.”

    That much I knew, though I can’t tell who is there. The reader will need more information to figure this out, unless the default answer for now is “God,” which is either an assumption or a hope. No, I’m not sure what I mean when I say God, either.


  5. Thanks for answering the questions about comments!

    It was a bit sad to read about the artistic blocks that people had in reaction to the idea of writing Hitherby legends (in the comment thread of (“One Day Off, Near the 3rd”)). My own most immediate problem in writing a legend that sounds vaguely in keeping with Hitherby will be in finding some of the basic optimism — the faith — that the writing here is imbued with, even through its themes of suffering and child abuse. I hope that everyone here can overcome their own blocks; I’m really interested in reading your takes on Hitherby.

    Here is a link to the poem that I was wondering whether I should post earlier; I’ve done it through a link because it’s long and it wasn’t written specifically for Hitherby. It’s fundamentally, I guess, about a failure of faith.


    Comments are welcome.

  6. I am going to be posting a “Practice Thread” on one of the other forums in a bit, want to get some feedback on my writing style (and encourage other people too!) in preparation of Rebecca’s “Post your own legends/history and things” day.

    On Christianity:

    I don’t know Rebecca, some people draw pictures of christ and then throw poop on them and dip it in menstral blood and then claim that they’re not disrespecting christ and instead they are being edgy and artistic and making a statement about society.

    While I expect you will probably be more tacktful than that, all I can really do is hope that christ lives in your heart too and that he says the right things to you. If he and your muse are in cahoots, that could help, too :mrgreen:

    On Coffee:

    WTF, that’s the only part worth drinking. I only drink the rest of the stuff to get at the stuff at the bottom. ;)

    come on Rebecca you’re a computer programmer, I expected better of you. (especially since I keep seeing you online at 2 am in the morning, I know you’re in Washington time but still.)

  7. Should he be an angel? Should he be something else we have a category for? Should he be a new category?

    The latter, definitely. He is a Martin. He is sui generis, or at least I would be deeply disappointed if he turned out not to be.

    Oh, and rpuchalsky? Wow. I found that poem deeply affecting and true.

  8. So are we to interpret each hitherby entry f as a function f A->L Where A is the set of assumptions and L is the set of legends? Is that why maps is called maps? It is intended to contain the maps of these functions? Accurate or not, I think this is an interesting way to view hitherby.

    I like the normal comments because, to be honest, my writing process is functionally dependent on feedback.

    Hmm. This is problematic. Some of the entries I’ve enjoyed most leave me speechless. If you had some sort of 5-star rate-this-post thing, I think I could manage to use that after reading a particularly mind-bendingly brilliant post. It’s like watching a brilliant theatrical performance. You just applaud, you don’t compose useful commentary. At least not right then.

    You can’t have a dualism about Buddha! That’s like eating your coffee right from the bottom of the pot.

    Heehee. This makes me laugh.

    So you can have dualisms about sage-kings, but not about Buddha? :)

    On Christianity:

    It is interesting to me that some ascribe such importance to obvious blasphemy as to be personally affronted by it. It seems to me that such blasphemy should be brushed off as irrelevant to one’s own faith, and a matter that sits firmly between the blasphemer and God.

    In high school, I knew a guy whose pet theory was that Jesus was a time-traveling hippie. He would discuss this theory at length. I do not know whether he actually believed it or not. I rather doubt it. I think he spouted this non-sense as an act of rebellion, to get attention, to amuse himself and others, and as a test of what sort of person the listener was.

    I don’t think taking offense at this would have been a useful reaction. After all, he wasn’t hurting God, he didn’t actually manage to convince anyone of his theory, and rebuking the sins of the non-believer is hardly the way to show God’s love/spread the word.

    Perhaps blasphemy should be viewed not as an affront to the divine, but as an opportunity for personal growth. A blow to which one should turn the other cheek.

  9. I think there is always hope that people in dark places may leave them behind.

    … And always fear that they might have to go back, or want to. I’ll be interested to see how you handle the episode of the pomegranate seeds.

    I hope this faith will prove contagious.

    Well, according to the Center for Malaise Control, the particular strain of faith you’ve been cultivating shows great adaptability and applicability to a wide range of test subjects in its preliminary trials. We’ll want to keep a close watch on future developments (some faith-resistant malignancies do crop up from time to time) but so far the prognosis looks good.

    (Or in simpler terms, I hope so too.)

    Thank you :)

    (And rpuchalsky, three comments: 1) Incredible. 2) Insightful. 3) 1st Hitherby fan legend!)

  10. Quote:
    I really want to know: when Martin says “I’m not some pathetic kind of angel” — does he mean that he’s an angel, just not the pathetic kind; or does he mean that he’s something else?

    Does he wear a jacket?

    The Fonz wears a jacket.

  11. a sin is between the sinner and god, yes
    but you can’t expect me to like a sin.

    Actually, I can!

    I think a lot of people have started to lose the concept of sin and it’s become a new, secret way to absolve oneself from love and indulge oneself in hate. Judgments are useful but they are also a temptation to separate yourself from the principle of love based on your judgments in that principle’s name.

    The truth is, the sickness in the world isn’t really suffering, as I so often portray it—it’s losing track of the fact that people are all people. It’s not simply that sins are between the sinner and God—it’s that when you’re judging what someone is doing, you have to judge it in the context of the lives of the people it affects. (For a “victimless sin,” that is pretty much just the sinner.)

    And if you’re doing that, then the next step after generic love is the kind of love where you see what they’re doing, and what’s wrong with it, and why they’re doing it, and even as you want to reach them, you love them for what they’re doing—

    Which isn’t really liking the sin, but comes close to it.

    I have trouble with this myself, you understand. I have to stop every now and then and shake myself a little and remind myself to take joy in my enemies.

    EDIT: Mind, I have really high expectations!


  12. I understand your concern Rebecca, but it’s just something I don’t worry about. I *LOVE* everybody – we are all sinners, after all. it’s our very nature.

    Don’t hate the playa – hate the game. Hate the circumstances that makes sin necessary. Hate the joy that we get from doing things we know are wrong.

    But if you hate the people, if you forget that no matter how good you think you are, you sin just as bad, then you’ve lost perspective and lose who you are.

    So, don’t stop yourself on my account. Just because I say something is a sin.. doesn’t mean that it isn’t the best you can do. It doesn’t even mean that you should do something else.

    It doesn’t make me love you any less.

    I don’t think these are empty words. I can understand if they make you angry or uncomfortable. But no man is good enough, pure enough, sacrifices enough to deserve pride.

    Like we can’t prove God exists, we have Faith. So we can’t Earn our salvation – it is given. This is why Christ’s sacrifice was necessary, because of love, and because of compassion.

    Don’t listen to what I think is blasphemous or sinful. I think what I think and I am fallible and a sinful creature. Do what you think is right. If the spirit moves, you will follow.

  13. > I don’t think these are empty words. I can understand if
    > they make you angry or uncomfortable.



  14. Does he wear a jacket?

    The Fonz wears a jacket.

    Martin wears a suit. Perhaps he has a jacket on under it, but I doubt it.


  15. Allow me to point out that a suit consists of pants, tie, sometimes a vest–and a jacket.

    (Edit: Hey, does anyone else wear a tie besides Martin and the monster?)

  16. I can only talk about what lives in my heart. There are no words in me to talk about what lives in yours. If I see you, I see you with my eyes, with my soul, with my heart; I do not see you with immaculate knowledge, and my stories will always be my own. You must make of them what you will, or, if you will, what your Lord wills for you; trying to make of them what I do would force you to be me, and that would be awkward.

    I… This… Um. Words. This is something that is huge, great truths about writing. Exquisite words, and precision, and ended with a characteristic simple “twist” that is also truth, and understatement, and somehow it recasts the rest from simple transcendent authorial truth into smiles.

    It is the sort of quote that makes me want to write something just so I can use it as a chapter heading quote with attribution, so more people will see it, and a little of its greatness might accrue to my own works. Or, heck, so more people will see it.

    So, um, babble.

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