Letters Column for March 2007 through February 2011

Letters Column for March 2007 through February 2011

Thank you for your kind words,

David Goldfarb
Penultimate Minion
Rand Brittain


A radiant light of hope? I don’t think so. I mean, people are still dead and dying; more harm has been halted for the moment, but how can everything work out all right, except by changing the definition of “all right”?
– rpuchalsky, commenting on “Nthanda

It’s actually really interesting to me that a story can say something like

“And the song of Elvis . . . rings out through the jungle;
and unexpectedly, so very unexpectedly,
everything works out all right.”

and yet prompt a debate over whether everything actually works out all right.

Of course it works out all right! That’s in the text!

Then again, when I was a kid, and I attempted to break the fourth wall with stories about protagonists with multiversal travel so that they’d come out and rescue me, it never worked out.

It was very sad!

I suppose I’ve never entirely grown out of that, just gotten more sophisticated in my superstitions.

So I suppose I should say: of course it doesn’t work out; or, at least, it turns out that it can only work out by breaking at least one reader’s suspension of disbelief. That’s part of the story, too, even if it isn’t text, and isn’t that a strangeness? That losing someone’s suspension of disbelief can be part of a story, maybe even an important part?

There’s a Hitherby-related thing coming up soon where I’m trying to make one particular in-world special effect interact with the process of reading. We’ll see whether it works out! ^_^


For me, hope is the veil that separates one world from a darker one.
– Penultimate Minion, on “Nthanda

I had a lot of trouble deciding whether angels created hope, or a reason to hope, or if the two things were the same.

I eventually decided they had to create a reason. ^_^

But ultimately you’re talking about something closer to what Hitherby calls “Good” than what Hitherby calls “hope,” so my meandering is beside the point!


When you start out with the names “Johnny” and “Sue” there’s one association that springs immediately to mind, which is reinforced strongly later on by the name “Richards”. (And, now that I look at it again, by the repetition of “doom” near the end.) (Johnny’s car bursting into flames figures into it as well.)

That brings up a brother-sister dynamic which is interesting to contemplate, given that we’re supposed to be thinking of it as having been written by Jane. Is she having second thoughts about the wisdom of destroying and remaking the world?
– David Goldfarb, on ”It Falls”

Not everything posted on Hitherby is written by Jane — some of them are written by other members of the crew! Even Martin! Sometimes they do improv, too.

And anyway, associating Black Richards with Reed Richards is totally a stretch.


Why would it be sinful for them to be dating? (God visits mercy upon those who date!) Because they’re cousins, or because Jane is using dating as a euphemism?

And why is it tied in with the Fantastic Four? Did Rebecca hate Civil War as much as everyone else did?

And where is the Thing? Is he the pony? Has Johnny’s silliness meant that Sue won’t become a scientist, and go into space, and get her superpowers? Is that the consequence of her wound?
– Rand Brittain, on ”It Falls”

OK, fine, FINE, it’s related to the Fantastic Four.

The Thing is the earth. He is the material world. He is to some degree the road they ride on but he is more than that the Reaper’s Hill. He is the place where the gibbet stands, just as Reed was the noose from which Reed himself was hung.

As for why Johnny dating Sue would be sinful, why, it’s because Johnny’s only got eyes for the after, for the great and fiery rocket ride to Heaven, and he can’t get tied to the Earth by mortal things. That boy’s not made for living, friends; he’s made for Rapture. You only have to look at him to know.

And Sue?

Sue’ll be invisible, of course. Nobody’ll know she saved the world.

Maybe she’ll be a scientist. Maybe she won’t.

That’s not the most important thing.


The amusing thing is that I didn’t catch the Fantastic Four tie-in while writing it, though I agree that it was there. ^_^


Why teeth?
– Rand Brittain



Hitherby has for a long time seemed to me to be a drama around re-integration of dissassociated personalities. It is the growing self-consciousness and communication among these personalities that could provide that effect. They are being remade into the teeth of a consciousness that can process the world, a pathway that takes the food of raw experience and turns it into a coherent worldview.

Jane is supposed to be six, if I remember rightly (although she thinks at a level more advanced than that of any real six-year-old I’ve met). But there is one thing about six-year-olds that I’d forgotten until my eldest child, this year, turned six. Their teeth fall out and they get new ones. Hank Makeway is the one making the set of adult teeth, the one that can allow Jane to finally grow past this age.
– rpuchalsky

I think that you’re on to something, although I’m not sure that the personalities bit or the growing up part are exactly on point.

See, the thing is, while the creation of gods is parallel to the development of a personality, it’s also parallel to the development of an ideological or moral stance, or a decision, or a belief.

It’s the assumption of a new stance, because your old model of existence or action failed you.

Similarly — can I actually say similarly? I can!

Similarly, Jane isn’t really unable to grow up in a general sense. She’s unable to grow up in a very specific sense: properly, that is, in a way that preserves rather than negates her power of action. Here’s a question for such Hitherby wonks as are reading this month: how would the history/stories world be different if Jane were, say, 40? (You can age Martin or not as you prefer.) Jane hasn’t taken that many world-changing actions that depend on her age bracket, but there were a few!

But at the same time, you’re totally on target about baby teeth and processing the world. ^_^

Or were on target uh three years ago when you made this comment ehehe *^_^*;;


Small fuzzy bears make the best heros
– Michael, on Salwa and the Bears

Oh, like Sebastien didn’t feel bad enough already!


I never eat peanuts. They won’t make me go into anaphylactic shock and die or anything like that, I just hate the way they taste.
– David Goldfarb, on the Origins of Common Foods

You’re . . . you’re some kind of anti-peanut god! A molar!

(Molars are a kind of radar that lets you detect moles, but they’re also a kind of god that can blast right through peanuts.)


Apropos of nothing, it appears as if much of Hitherby isn’t indexed on Google. (I noticed when someone asked me about my sig quote quoting Six’s Story, which is apparently not so indexed).
– mneme

Yeah, I don’t know why that is!

Why would that be? How would one fix it?

P.S. Why do people suffer, hurt, and die?


I was also alarmed by little boys and girls with soul-devouring swords, but I am sure there is nothing wrong with that.
– Cavalcadeofcats, on Frognarok

Fortunately I can assure you that you are correct! It is in fact perfectly natural and normal and a part of growing up.


I’d like two tickets to Giant Monster Country as soon as they become available.
– Penultimate Minion, on A Guide to Giant Monster Country Cuisine

Just . . .

Think of a wonderful beast
Any merry giant beast
Giant turtles
Giant sharks
Giant spiders
In the dark

Close the tickets of your eyes

You can fly! You can fly!
You can fly! You can fly!
You can fly!


Memetic warfare is a terrible, terrible thing…
– cariset, on R&R

If by terrible, you mean AWESOME!

. . . wait, I’m sorry, I’m still recovering from the zigs. *^_^*;;


Here, as promised long ago, is a piece of fan-art of the Monster:
villum’s fan-art of the Monster
– villum

Ooh, thank you! Fan art is one of my favorite things. ^_^


And hey, congrats, you’ve came closer to blasphemy here than ever before :)
– GoldenH, on Rainbow Noir: the Mountains and the Sky


P.S. I think the War was the first time man fought and died and it only brought man further apart. The first time, maybe, that a billion people were lonely. I’d probably say WWI though. The Great War just had a intermission, and today it still hasn’t ended. I don’t think we need another savior; but I think it’s a better place to look for our beginnings than 10,000 years ago.
– GoldenH, still on Rainbow Noir: the Mountains and the Sky

I have no idea if this is accurate, but I do think there’s some serious truth in it.


A history! There were times I wondered if I would ever live to see another history posted.
– David Goldfarb, on To Serve the String (I/I)

They grow like silver bells from a Christmas tree in the land that is after life.


I’m not actually that excited about Nobilis, sorry. It’s been many years since I did any role-playing.
– David Goldfarb

Maybe this is a sign from the gods that you should start again!
– Xavid

Now it is important to remember that each of us in life may always make the choice to turn aside from Nobilis, harden one’s heart against it, reject the immanent love that I have offered to the world, and in this form, and dwell instead in shadow. This choice is the fundamental structural component of free will; it is sacred; one ought not pressure those who are lost in folly to turn back from their choice, but rather simply remind them that they are welcome, that they are welcome, that the light will still have them, that they are not forsaken, are not forgotten, are not abandoned, for all they choose to dwelleth in the dark.


… you know, I *just* realized that this is part 6 of 7. This entry is bright and hopeful, and 7 of 7 is shattered and broken. I would like to hope that Melanie returns from the hell she falls into in part 7 just like the number did in Jane’s Legend version of this History (Six’s Story), but we all know that she doesn’t. We all know where she ends up, in Central, working for the Monster, torturing Liril and people like her.
– Nyren, on Why is Six Afraid of Seven? (VI/VII)

7 is a pretty scary number, though 8 is worse. If you turn it on its side it just goes on forever.


This story was straaange. I’m still mulling it over. So far, i can only conclude that i very much liked the surface parts.

Meanwhile, nice to see a new nobilis website (counting the days) :)
– villum

Ironically it’s blocked in China, which is why I haven’t been on the forums there yet. I haven’t found a tunnel around the block that’s good enough to get me a forum account.


Half a decade later, I come across this entry again (while looking at the “sharks” tag) and I notice rather belatedly that we have here yet another character whose personal name is a common noun, to go along with Ink Catherly and Train Morgan. And I notice that all three have names that are somewhat at odds with their circumstances:

“Ink” can represent blackness, the unknown. Yet Ink Catherly was an explorer. Ink can also be used to make books and drawings (or even tattoos). It’s a tool of creation. Yet as the imago Ink Catherly is a destroyer.

A train is a means of transportation. Before there were automobiles or airplanes, trains brought places closer together. Yet Train Morgan is stuck in one place, the place without recourse — and I think it’s also relevant that the question Ii Ma posed him was, “Isn’t the world just a little bit too big for you?”

Now we have Truth. And his catchphrase is “truth is not lost”, but he has to resort to arrant sophistry to maintain it. And his history is oddly blurred and indefinite: is the woman on deck or isn’t she?
– David Goldfarb, on Truth is not Lost (1 of 1)

Yeah, the lens was probably having some issues there. I’d criticize but it kind of exploded so I feel bad about doing so. Instead, I’ll say, “Go ambiguous lens! Go melomids! Yeah!”

P.S.: And we have seen an unexpected connection between Train Morgan and Ink Catherly. Will there be some further connection between the two of them and Truth Daniels?
– David Goldfarb

I’m expecting to bring some stuff together later on in the Frog and the Thorn.

Looking at this again, I note that “a possession and a guardian and a follower of this strange and gray-haired girl.” is exactly what Tainted John seems to be. Except that’s a temporary arrangement, where changing Melanie would be permanent.
– David Goldfarb, on A Study in Entanglement (VII/VII)

Liril’s original proposal was for something permanent, but then again, I don’t think she would have gotten a ghoul if it had been.


That’s all for now! Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, and let’s hope to see you again next — let’s say season, for now? — since I’m posting slowly and often replying to comments as they come in. ^_^

Best wishes,


P.S. I has a limited edition sale going on.

18 thoughts on “Letters Column for March 2007 through February 2011

  1. I would agree with Tucker, except it was literally the *first* news I had all day, so saying that it was the best would be uninformative. So, I will assert instead that this is fantastically wonderful news!

  2. “Similarly, Jane isn’t really unable to grow up in a general sense. She’s unable to grow up in a very specific sense: properly, that is, in a way that preserves rather than negates her power of action. Here’s a question for such Hitherby wonks as are reading this month: how would the history/stories world be different if Jane were, say, 40?”

    Being six is, I think, around when children discover death and the fear of death. As far as I can remember that age, it seemed very unfair to me, and I did have the sense that the world needed fixing. But also I had not the slightest sense of how to work a general project of the kind that Jane is thinking about. That’s an adult thing, to take a feeling and then turn it into a plan of action.

    I could see Jane as a bright 13 year old, possibly; she seemed (as far as I can remember) to be having troubles with approaching puberty. Martin as possibly an arrogant 17 year old. Jane as a 40 year old? Well, one secret of aging (and I write now as a 46 year old) is that preserving rather than negating one’s power of action is a continuous process. The 40 year olds are still six year olds, somewhere inside, feeling that the world needs to be fixed, and still unsure of how to do it, despite their adult panoply of rational thought and ability to make detailed plans. Jane could really be a 40 year old who is still dealing with this problem that she first encountered at six. Many people are.

  3. I don’t have a good answer to suffering, but I’m guessing it’s that all the links on the site are presented as parameters (eg http://imago.hitherby.com/tag?whatever) making them the kind of link that Google filters out as likely doing something, rather than being something. A quick google on “wordpress google” turns up this: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/ (which might be of service, though).

    Jane’s naivete is charming for a young teenager, but would be offputting in a 40 year old.

  4. Somewhere in the long series of histories about Ink beneath the earth’s crust, she says something about having been about development of the self. As I was going to sleep last night, it occurred to me to connect the darkness symbolized by Ink’s name with the shadows in which Mei Ming lives. (And perhaps with the shadow from whose womb Mei Ming was pulled.) I wonder whether Ink’s legend was about what Martin wishes for Mei Ming? Ink being short for “Incompatible Precepts” and her father being her worst terror would fit in.

  5. for all they choose to dwelleth in the dark.

    Call me a small-souled nitpicker if you like (hmm, I feel like I’ve said that before recently) but I feel compelled to point out that “dwelleth” is a correct (if archaic) form only for the third person singular present active indicative. Your sentence here wants an infinitive.

  6. David – You know, that’s really interesting to think about, given how the Imago’s birth directly relates to Mei Ming. Or, maybe, indirectly. The Nest of Mirror Pieces (5 of 5) is important. I’m not sure why, or how Persephone, who can also be seen as relating to shadows, is involved.

  7. It seems relevant, given the story’s focus on power and its abuse, that a six-year-old can’t engage in equitable relationships because she isn’t self-sufficient. Any adult is going to be at least somewhat in a position of relative authority to that six-year-old, and they can’t really be equals. At least I’m assuming that Jane is not self-sufficient, although I might be wrong. Who does the accounting and pays the taxes, Martin or Mr. Schiff?

    If gods are philosophical stances, then I suppose the reclamation of Iphigenia is a way of saying “That philosophical stance was totally workable! I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling monsters- and your Melanie!”

  8. I saw on DriveThruRPG that Nobilis was out in a new edition. I immediately blogged about it, then came to check here and make sure you were still affiliated with it (one never knows). Glad to see you are, still.

  9. If Jane were 40 I suspect that Martin would be sexier. Almost certainly he would not be her brother; he might not be a lover, but he would at least hold out the hope (likely unspoken) of Jane coming to be able to reclaim her sexuality. 6-year-old Jane

    (and here is the place to ask something I’ve been wondering: is Jane 6, the way that Martin is 13 and Liril is 8? I have a past comment where I assumed that Jane was 6 because it had been six years since Martin remade her, and that in 2005 she would be 7, but that might not be so)

    made her rescuing gods her elder siblings, because they were modeled on the hope that her elder brother Sebastien would save her. 40-year-old Jane would have other models to draw on. When 40-year-old Jane does Sailor Moon riffs, they would very likely feature Martin as Tuxedo Mask.

    Martin might well still be a teenager, just a slightly older one.

    I think that 40-year-old Jane would either be more accepting of Sebastien’s behavior towards her, or else much more bitter. I think the former. She wouldn’t need to ask, “Why did you leave? Why can’t you be good?” I think she would have a better understanding of how the world is, and less of an idea of how the world might be. Her unanswered questions would be different.

  10. So I’ve been reading a lot of the archives, and of course questions and answers is a major theme. And this little bit of…blasphemy? came to me.

    The man in the gray suit said, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but…Forbidden A, you have control of the board.”

    Erin sighed. Her special ability was starting to get on her own nerves. “I’ll take ‘Siddhartha’ for $200, Alex.”

    The man read, “‘He’s a washed-up bald monk who lives in an ENLIGHTENMENT BALL.'”

    Erin rung in. Alex said, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but…Forbidden A.”

    “‘Who are you to seek the freedom of all people from suffering and desire?’”

    “Correct! I know I shouldn’t say this, but…Forbidden A, again.”

    Erin said, “I’ll take ‘The Line of Monsters’ for $600.”

    Alex read, “‘Fifteen’.” The lens propped up near Erin…well, it didn’t ring in, having no hand to ring with, but it managed to make a ringing noise.

    “The Lens ‘Necessity’.”

    The lens said, “‘How many of these insults must I bear?'”

    “Correct! Choose again.”

    “‘Sid and Max’ for $1000, please.”

    A piercing electronic noise resounded. “A Daily Double! Lens Necessity, you have $12,400. How much will you wager?”

    The lens replied, “Alex, I’ll wager $5,000.”

    Alex read: “‘Walk in like you own the place.'”

    “‘How can you enter the land of guilt and the distant glebes of suffering and the leeds of the kells of the knowledge of your sins, and walk away unscathed?'”

    “Correct! That puts you at $17,400. Choose again….”

  11. Here’s some more specific things to think about, in terms of Jane growing up while preserving her power of action.

    One of the most important things Jane has done in the story thus far is give Max his severance pay.

    Suppose she were 40 rather than 6. He goes down at the docks. She’s waiting for him with the knife. What happens?

    Similar questions may be raised about her interruption of the monster-hero confrontation and the monster’s presentation at Central.

  12. So, one of the most important things about Jane being six instead of forty is other people’s expectations of her, reactions to her, and where she fits into their worlds?

  13. How she fits into other people’s worlds is definitely important.

    It is useful to Jane and Martin to have the people around them able to see at once, just by looking at them, that she’s at cheerful sociopath age and he’s at self-absorbed git age, exactly as it’s useful to Mr. Schiff to have people around him instantly recognize him as a mature and even professorial adult.

    This is not to deny the truth of these descriptions of them, but I think that Jane really does depend on:

    * the monster thinks she’s vulnerable;
    * people like Max think they have a better grasp on the world than she does.

    Now, both of them may be right. I don’t want people thinking that Jane was doing a Xanatos Gambit when she gave Max the knife. She was, ah, let’s say she was jigsawing.

    But how one fits into other people’s worlds? That’s a bit of jigsawing, too.

  14. So just what does happen with the knife, given Jane at 40? Presumably she’d explain what it was and why she was giving it to him, instead of just giving him the box and giggling. What effect that would have, I don’t feel competent to extrapolate.

  15. Jenna Moran wrote:
    “P.S. Why do people suffer, hurt, and die?”

    Because the Special Edition sold out :(

    thanks for the appreciation. I had hoped to draw some of the nicer characters from hitherby too, but the image of the yellow tie was just stronger, and then i got distracted…
    I will, someday, somehow, make more hitherby fanart.

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