Letters Column for April 2005


Donations for April totaled $40. Thank you! Also, thank you to everyone who bought the first monthbook. I’m stalled on finishing the third until I fix my sleep schedule.

I have used a cactus, a caliper, and a banjo to select certain comments for further response—but I’d like, as my final thank you for the month, to thank everyone who commented at all. Reading new comments is the first thing I do when I wake up and often the last thing I do before I sleep. ^_^


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?
— David Goldfarb

What does a messiah respond to, and how?


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

The answer to this question is in the shape of Buddha’s ears. Find me a statue of Buddha that is not also the statue of a sage-king: I’ll look at the ears, and tell you your answer!


But as I was trying to put my thoughts in order, I realized: is Martin named Martin because of _Candide_?
— rpuchalsky

It wouldn’t surprise me, but what’s Candide?


I am mystified by the relationship between pain and art, and why the latter seems so often to proceed from the former.
— Metal Fatigue


I think suffering actually creates craft, not art.

Causation is not instrumentality.

I think that pain helps people express the beauty that was already in them.

One of the things that makes pain into suffering is the lack of consent. This isn’t hugely relevant to any resulting art, I think—I suspect that a few years shuttling between Zen monasteries and the BDSM scene would produce a healthy person with just as much experience of dissociation and physical pain as a broken child.


1. Given the situation as shown, Officer Fiennes did the wrong thing; Bloody Bill should have been allowed to live free.

2. Anyone who assents to proposition 1 deserves to suffer and/or die at Bill’s hands.
— David Goldfarb

The quest for a single correct answer that subordinates all other understandings can lead one to odd places. ^_^


When drafting a little robot to get a sword… pick a robot with hands.
— Archangel Beth

In Amara’s defense, by 2118, Roombas will almost certainly have both hands and brains more sophisticated than our own. See Battlestar Galactica for more details.


David: No-exits Town could be it. I was thinking Nessus-town, but I don’t know what centaurs have to do with it.
— Graeme

“Nesis” in Nesiston is short for “exegesis.”

The exact process of derivation is left as an exercise for the reader. ^_^


Raw potatoes can be quite tasty if eaten with the proper preparation.
— S

I find this quite surprising!


well, potatoes do have a tendancy to sprout tentacles and become squishy if left alone too long.
— GoldenH

As shown in the classic anime “Potato X”.

(It’s about a potato who does not exist, forced by the shadow government that rules Japan to operate outside the law. At the nailbiting end of the series, he sprouts tentacles, goes squishy, and spends twenty minutes philosophizing about the nature of humanity before finally succumbing to rot.)


Do you have to be very, very smart to comment on these stories? Because I don’t understand any of the other comments.
— Pseudointellectual


This is 300,000 words into the story, and my readers are in a very analytical phase. But most of the posts are really just there to be appreciated for themselves. ^_^

Thank you, tylercat!


“We are oppressed and must practice the art of Baptist ninjutsu to survive.”

This is not a sentence that I expected to encounter today.
— Eric

Sorry. :(

In the original plan for your life you weren’t going to encounter it until the 10th of this month, but I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire.


Is rebecca OK? I haven’t seen her post anywhere since this.
— GoldenH

I get Sundays off! And a weekday near the third! It’s in the contract. ^_^

Plus, the more people talk and the higher my personal standards for Hitherby, the harder letter columns get; yet at the same time, the more people talk and the higher my personal standards get, the more I enjoy writing Hitherby! It’s a conundrum that I am now facing monthly. ^_^


But this brings up a good end-of-month question, if it isn’t too late for this month. Um, how should we address the author of these writings within our comments? Is “rebecca”, “Rebecca Borgstrom”, or “Ms. Borgstrom”, “R. Sean Borgstrom”, or some other varient preferred? Just rebecca feels most Internet-styled, but it does seem a bit informal for someone who I don’t know.

Also, how often should we expect Audience threads, in general?
— rpuchalsky

Rebecca is fine. Ms. or Dr. Borgstrom is also fine. Whichever seems most honest on each given occasion for the particular sentiment that evokes the use of my name at all, really, is preferable.

On your last question, I don’t know. Is there a preference?

That’s it for this month!

Don’t forget to check merin.hitherby.com now and again, and thanks to all of you for reading!


17 thoughts on “Letters Column for April 2005

  1. Thanks for answering the questions!

    With regard to Audience entries, I don’t have a preference so much as a personal functional restriction. I don’t think I could produce a coherent Audience entry any more often than once a month. On the other hand, if we were doing them infrequently enough, say only once every six months to a year, I’d have to re-adjust to the style each time, and my learning curve wouldn’t be very good. I thought I’d ask because it affects whether I’d post a poem that I thought would go with the third chapter or hoard it until the next Audience entry. I guess I’ll just wait until I’ve written two things.

    About _Candide_, I meant Voltaire’s novel, in which Candide is the naive, optimistic protagonist; Martin a pessimist who he becomes friends with. It’s a long satire on suffering and philosophical attempts to come to terms with it. Dr. Pangloss is a character who beleives that “this is the best of all possible worlds” (a satire of Liebnitz’ claim that God created the best of all possible worlds, and that evil and suffering are necessary features of it) and who gamely keeps on trying to justify this belief as various catastrophes happen.

  2. I’m going to have to start refering to Rebecca as “Dr. Borgstrom” now, because that’s classic mad scientist name right there.

  3. I’m glad you’re fine ^^

    As far as Audiance entries go, I have something I could write up. But I’m busy preparing for finals week! oh woe is me.

    I say, keep them rare, last time people responded to the Audiance entry for several days after it was posted, and it seems reasonable to expect that pattern to repeat.

  4. As is evident from her comment, Rebecca has delivered the edited text and bonus content of the second Hitherby Dragons monthbook and I just need to organize the crew into doing layout and cover. Unfortunately (at least for Hitherby readers) I’m getting married in three weeks, and the layout guy is too. After that there’s a three week vacation. My hope is that we’ll have volume two laid out and a sample printed by the beginning of July, and volume 3 the same by the beginning of August. So, hopefully somewhere around then, folks who have been waiting on an initial three-book set will be rewarded.

  5. We usually call you “the goddess Rebecca” (when we talk about you). But that seems a little formal as a term of address.

  6. Congrats to November and the Layout Guy. Should we assume that y’all are getting married to each other, or that you simply have a great sense of timing? O:> (The alternative, that the First Church Of Dancing Elvis has a sale on marriages on that day, is too tacky to contemplate. O;> )

  7. In Amara’s defense, by 2118, Roombas will almost certainly have both hands and brains more sophisticated than our own. See Battlestar Galactica for more details.

    If you mean the new one, I heartily concur.

  8. Hi! Donations for April totaled $40. Thank you! Also, thank you to everyone who bought the first monthbook.

    You’re welcome! I’ll probably hold off on the second book, though. Those shipping costs are a killer! :wink:

  9. The distinction between pain and suffering, the place where pain [i”>becomes suffering, is when it doesn’t stop.
    Pain is a message.
    Pain is you stubbed your toe – a messenger jumps up your leg – don’t do that! Bad for toe!
    Okay! Got it!
    Suffering is the continuous throb of hurt until/ifandwhen it fades.
    Suffering is like the messenger came to the house, sat down at the table with you and told you the bad news and now you can’t get out of the chair anymore, and the messenger’s making lasagna. From scratch.

  10. The distinction between pain and suffering, the place where pain becomes suffering, is when it doesn’t stop.
    Pain is a message.
    Pain is you stubbed your toe – a messenger jumps up your leg – don’t do that! Bad for toe!

    I refer you to the words of Jody Worth, writer of a recent episode of the HBO television series Deadwood, spoken by the character Al Swearengen:

    “Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair. Or f@!#ing beatings.
    The world ends when you’re dead.
    Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man, and give some back!”

  11. What does a messiah respond to, and how?

    Um, a messiah responds to suffering with transcendence?

    For a while I had myself convinced that Martin isn’t an angel. Then I re-read Transformation (1 of 1) and noticed just how much Martin really is about hope.

    I don’t have much interest in saying what I think Martin is, because the best that I can do is half-baked speculation. Nor do I think I understand the Hitherby world well enough to explore “what-ifs”. That’s why I’ve been agitating for an ex cathedra pronouncement.

  12. David, how is Transformation about hope?

    (I’m about to leave for Ireland for five days, so I’ll just throw out most of my point of view now: apologies for the length)

    I guess when I read Martin I see him as much more active in his beliefs than the angels we’ve met. Particularly when you compare him to Lisa, who is both his rough-draft-counterpart (so to speak) and definitely an angel, he seems very unconcerned with hope.

    it’s more important as a character trait that she still speaks of everything in terms of hopes. (Both directly, in the form of “I hope”, and indirectly in the form of “Maybe.”)

    I think this is what really convinced me that Martin wasn’t an angel. He doesn’t speak in terms of hopes and maybes like Lisa does; he seems much more certain about things.

    I like Metal Fatigue’s idea that he’s more than an angel, an angel with pants and a vest and a tie as well, because that fits my image of Martin as someone who is like an angel in that he hopes that people will become better through suffering, but is also like a monster in that he is willing to make them become better if they’re not going to manage it on their own.

    An archangel seems as good a word for that as any, and it’s related to angel, so Martin can still have elements of hope in him. Although actually, the line that really jumped out at me from Transformation was this:

    “It’s ’cause you keep not pushing the End of Everything Button,” Jane says. “I think that’s very noble of you, considering that it’s red and has that ‘don’t push’ label and all.”

    “It is very difficult,” concedes Martin. “I’m a scientist.”

    Perhaps scientists answer the emptiness with quantification, which makes me think of Martin trying to remake the world to his specifications. Scientists seem like people who would be able to kill woglies, because they strive towards theories without internal contradictions.

  13. In some ways, I agree with David that we’ve gone about as far as is practible in speculation about Martin. We’ll have to wait for more to be written.

    But here are a few last speculations before I go on to something else:

    First, a lot of the categorization tries to fit Martin into the list of Hitherby entities, all of which (if I understand the list rightly) are isn’ts. What if Martin is simply a person? He clearly has magical powers, but maybe he’s not categorizeable in some simple fashion because he’s a complete person, with all of the complexity that entails, and with no single purpose.

    Here’s my other speculation. What if Martin is a dragon? Dragons are important to Hitherby, yet as far as I can remember, none have ever appeared as characters. So what would a dragon be like? Dragons are what you fill into maps when you don’t really know what’s there. In that sense, there is a similarity to fairies, who in Hitherby represent the chaos outside of the world. But mythologically, dragons are a lot more powerful than faeries, and in the map-filling sense above, they represent an attempt to create order out of chaos, not just represent it. Which arguably is what Martin is trying to do.

  14. Transformation (1 of 1) veers into the subject of hope when it starts explaining the meaning of the season of metal:

    “In the spring, you see, it’s all right to be choosy. To say, ‘I’ll keep this dust bunny, but not that one. I like fruit, but I don’t like squash.’ But when the months pass and the year grows older, it’s important to collect everything you can. To look for the good and the salvageable in everything. To have hope for things, even if it costs you.”

    Consider that Martin was willing to grant transcendence through suffering even to the progenitor of the line of monsters.

  15. I think that Martin is [a version of”> the Zoroastrian diety Ahura-Mazda. But that’s based on my limited understanding of what Zoroastrianism is about.

  16. I think that pain helps people express the beauty that was already in them.

    Helps people express it, or drives them to express it?

  17. For what it’s worth (and that may be very little; I haven’t finished catching up yet), while I don’t know what he is, I think Martin ought to be something completely new. He shouldn’t be an angel or any other currently represented category. rpuchalsky’s suggestion that he might be a Dragon appeals to me, although there could be other answers as well.

    Of course, you should never extrapolate from ought to is or is to ought, and neither should I. If you’re not careful, you might make woglies that way!

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