Letters Column in August 2011: Vrm. Vrrrrrrm. Vrrm vrmm. Vrrrrmm. Vrm-Vrm. Vrmmm.

So tired!

I’d wanted to do another huge letters column this week. Then there was Hell-noise from Saturday through Tuesday, and by Monday night I kind of wanted to give up on Hitherby, find a way to drop everything I’m currently working on, in its current state, onto the public, and spend the rest of my life sitting in a corner rocking and peeling bits and pieces of my skin off to eat instead.

Today is a little better so I’m going to try to write a letters column instead.

**

Expectations are tricky that way. As far as I know this is true regardless of monsterhood. Is there anyone who knows how to avoid betrayal?

I think part of it has to do with knowing how not to betray other people, but somewhere around there is where I habitually get off the bandwagon and start pushing the other direction, so I really wouldn’t know.
— Aetheric, on Later . . .

“I am betrayed by my expectations” is a phrase with an interesting Hitherby history. It was at one point going to be one of the monster’s catch-phrases, except that changes in editing kept taking it out—again and again, the bit where he actually said it didn’t happen.

So now, like Lt. Cmdr. Data’s famous “Sir, could you say that again in binary?” or Darth Vader’s “EAT COLD LIGHT, breatharian scum!”, it barely qualifies as a character’s catchphrase at all.

**

I can’t help feeling sorry for Liril, and I don’t think anyone can read this and not feel sorry for Micah, but why do I have a perverse urge to make an Utena or conversely, Terry Goodkind reference? Is it an embarrassment of cultural riches, or is it just the monster’s fault?
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Society has a rich mythic vocabulary!

Well, if it could be “just” then the monster would not have needed to say, “I’m afraid” before “I won’t let you.” And without the english word “Child” there could have never been a movie entitled, “End of Evangelion.” So it is almost, almost enough not to hate the darkness, or not to envy Micah’s staccato, or not to want to re-enact “Mai-HiME.”
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Every parent in the world re-enacts Mai-HiME. That’s what the Mommy Wars are all about!

(You don’t need to tell me that it’s already been done, in every sense. […])
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

But I did! I did! I did tell you it had been done! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA wipeout

**

I certainly feel sorry for Micah. The one thing that makes making him okay, I think, is that Liril didn’t have any choice in the matter.
— David Goldfarb, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Yeah, that’s accurate. Blaming Liril would be like blaming someone on Vinge’s “Focus.” Or a wogly!

I can’t really comment about the anime references, not having seen any of the relevant ones….

I notice that we have another instance of Micah becoming connected to the sea when he laughs. This looks to me like one of Chekov’s guns being placed on the mantelpiece — surely this power of his will become relevant at some point in the present-day storyline. Maybe Liril and Micah and Truth and his crew will all be able to somehow use it to sail out of besieged Elm Hill and out to the ocean and freedom.
— David Goldfarb, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

It could happen! There are some people who think that the original origin of the sea was a pre-human god (probably among the australopithecine) who sput out seawater when stressed. Other people think that it is the salty tears of Heaven.

**

People are strange!

**

Even if it was a conscious decision on Liril’s part to make someone else to suffer for her, that’s still real Room 101 stuff she was dealing with at the time. Even to the extent that she had volition and knew what she was doing, she was under an awful lot of duress.
–Eric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Agreed!

I’m not actually sure creating Micah would be a bad spot of work regardless. Most speculative fiction stories where you create someone to suffer on your behalf, there’s an additional unethical factor, like:

  • you start the process with an existing person; or
  • you are personally responsible for the suffering afterwards.

There’s something definitely questionable about creating someone to stand between you and the monster, but I’m not sure—is the questionable element your evil, or just the monster’s?

I’m biased because I like Micah. It seems to me like a world with Liril and Micah is brighter than a world with Liril and no Micah. That makes it hard to imagine the creation of Micah as inherently ethically problematic. But maybe it is, or, at least, if Liril had had a choice in the matter, maybe it would have been. I don’t know!

**

The main problem with that analysis: It gives what Liril has called “the monster’s ideology” entirely too much credibility. He may say things like, “Liril is a phenomenon,” and to the extent that she chooses the “liberty” of remaining ignorant, those words can bind her.
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

It’s worth note that Liril is pretty young. I don’t just mean the way that she stopped in time. I mean, Liril was already pretty young when all this started. Liril never had a well-formed adult identity to found her opposition to the monster on.

In this light, it’s actually pretty clever of her to just stop aging, because waiting to go forward with her life until she’s free of the monster is probably her only chance at getting one of those well-formed adult identities one day at all.

The worlds we create for children aren’t true worlds, but they aren’t lies either—at least, it’s not so simple for children to discard them as to say, “Oh, that was false!”

They’re worlds. They’re constructs. They’re not facts but fabrics. They’re not points of data but continua, and it’s possible to get so completely lost in them that even knowing that they’re false doesn’t point the way towards climbing out of them in the direction of anything true. A monster can spin a web so layered that you have to throw away a ton of Truth before you can possibly find and throw away the first of many lies.

Everything we know, everything we see, everything we experience is a conditioned world built up from the foundational postulates we learn as we develop and we grow. We can’t step into the same river twice because by the second time we try to step in it our picture of what a river is has become something deeper and more nuanced. A lot of the basics of the world do come from the brain, and I won’t argue if you suggest that there are some “objective” features to reality that come from shared brain structures using shared senses to interpret notionally “real” world-features, but I’m not even sure it’s possible to know what of the things we see and know are like that and what of the things we see and know are not.

In the end, sure, the answers for everybody are simple things. Let go. Accept. That’s all there really can be, right? Let go or accept. Maybe “see,” if you classify that as something different from accepting.

But that doesn’t mean that letting go is a simple bit-flip process, or that accepting is.

To let go is to stand at the edge of an enormous and terrifying river, and to build a great and awesome set of lifelines and anchor-lines in your mind, and while they cling to you to push away with a bulldozer vaster than the world the every ground on which you’ve ever stood. To let it fall and hang there in the parti-colored sky until you’ve coalesced new clouds or seen new land on which to plant your feet.

To accept is to eat a cosmos larger than your head; larger than your body; larger than the entire world in which you’d lived.

To see is to take the whole sack of pain that you’ve been sequestering away for weeks, or months, or years, to take all that careful hiding, and undo it, rip it open, pour it over your head like you’re in some commercial for an herbal shampoo, and to let the maggots of it and the scorpions of it and the little metal spiders of it scramble over your head and hair and in your eyes, tugging at the eyelid corners, before you gulp them all down, laughing, and the silver stream of it runnels to your heart.

This isn’t an easy thing.

It’s easily written. “Because I’d rather.” Or “It’s OK.” Or “I can live with this.” “This is who I am.” “I love you.” “People are good.” “Don’t be afraid.”

But it’s not as easy as the words.

It isn’t actually easy in any way at all, not if you’re the person who has to do it. Sometimes if you’re a different person it can be pretty easy, much like walking to downtown Suzhou is easier for me right now than it is for (almost?) all of you.

**

But Micah, himself, found the counterpart to that liberty: Powerlessness on the monster’s part. His own subjective feeling was that Aspida made him pointless. I have to disagree. Micah isn’t Liril’s volition and he wasn’t made in order to suffer. Both Micah and Liril are the victims of a monster caught in his own web — but we’ve known that since day one of Hitherby. The stakes for Liril, Martin, Micah, Bob and Jane? Well, let me say this: They all have futures.
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

This is not strictly true for Bob.

I kind of wish it were, because if there were a Bob around in Hitherby I could totally have characters be saying “as you know, Bob” and “Bob’s your uncle” all the freaking time.

But it is not.

Now, if you are a time traveling member of the Qwik Club, which does, admittedly, seem a very Qwik Club thing to do, then you had best provide me information about Bob’s future or else the stable causal loop that gives rise to your future may very well not exist. I will do my best to preserve the timelines even if you do not lavishly reward me with future technology or the wealth that it makes possible, but I must pause here to admit that such things would be beneficial to that effect.

In any case, conveying said information and wealth back-channel is probably best to avoid the diligent and well-meaning efforts of the Keystone of Causality police and the maleficent efforts of the Better it be Chocolate Soda Club.

I can’t say that about the demons Liril let the “Michael” copy destroy, and I don’t need to. The stakes for Jane, and the reason that Martin’s words cannot answer suffering, are all as clear as they can be without interference. Melanie too is a power unto herself. I mean, would “Volition” or “Abandon” give recourse to a Muse? What if I asked which Muse, as if there could only be a single one? Binary answers, and false questions, do nothing but empower the ignorance that refuses the emptiness quarter — and beneath the smile-mask gaze of that ignorance, Central maintains its trespasses.
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

I think Voltron would totally give recourse to a Muse. The Muse would be immured in the place without recourse, and then bam, lions.

“What?” Ii Ma would say, unbelievingly. He would send out a gigantic space monster—

Like the monster, only gigantic, and living in space—

And for a while it would seem like the monster had the advantage over five robotic lions, no matter how cunningly piloted. But then they would join together into a single unified will, and bam, no more gigantic space monster. Rockets would burst all over the place without recourse, and the Muse would grasp the tail of them and fly free;

That’s exactly how it happened in the old series, anyway, and that’s probably what would happen again today.

Interestingly space needs exactly 5x as many lions as Narnia, but is more than 5x as large. But wait!

You said “Volition,” not “Voltron,” so I guess that I digress.

**

One more time, a reminder of the stakes: “If you do, you’ll prove [that] Liril[‘s] wrong.”
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Sure, I’ll buy that being a good person or not is a large part of what’s at stake for Melanie.

Though I’m not sure it’s a focus of any active attention on her part!

Technically, though, I’ll note that Liril only said that Melanie was a good person “for now,” or, rather, “for then.”

Aspida, the Unforgivable Dominions, and the fate that Melanie seized: They all stem from the same source. And that source does obey predictable rules, inasmuch as any tale can be predicted. The stories that end have been written, and that is why “The Frog and the Thorn” as now expressed can find only its first chapter.
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Dang, I thought that I’d gotten to Chapter Two, but in fact you seem to still be correct as of the time of this answer. *^_^*;;

However, the next canon entry will start Chapter Two, so I think we can define two things that are exactly parallel to “the stories that end have been written”:

  • the fact that Asia is really, really noisy
  • the gate around Elm Hill.

I guess that when Melanie goes through that gate, I get to escape this Hell of noise and also we enter the realm of stories that do not end!

There is plenty of room in the Futhark runes, or in the Bible prophecies, or in Tarot for an alternative and still-unfolding variation of the symbols that underlie the myths. The only reason some are more easily predictable is that the tales overlap, and of course, there is one forgotten cause remaining. The dragon?

The poetic justice that would claim “Jane is the Dragon, the only one left herself and complete?”
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

I was re-reading Dr. Jordan Peterson’s “Maps of Meaning” the other day to remind myself about cosmogonic water, the dragon that guards it, and soma. This isn’t the dragon of the Hitherby myths, of course, or of fantasy and science fiction, but rather the Ouroboros, the pre-cosmogonic dragon of chaos, the reconciliation of opposites that precedes the identification of reality—the creature of the space in which worlds such as Liril’s, mine, or yours can exist. The spirit-matter from which matter and spirit are drawn. The One Thing, complete in itself and itself complete. That which gives birth to itself, which then devours itself, and which provides the context by which it in that creation, in that devouring, and in that existence it may be known.

I wonder if that’s a good kind of dragon to be or not. It seems difficult to tell from inside the wheel of Saṃsāra.

That is the justice that nullifies, with no word to say to Melanie, no quarter for Micah and no recourse for Djinn. If I believed that any of that was inevitable I might as well either play Polaris as an ideologically satisfying homage to (redacted) or else take my balloon and go home. But this storyline is about the home — about the covenants that are sealed with blood, about the monster’s cruelty, and in an extremely important way, about the list of answers Micah himself is able to give to the monster’s continuing cruelty. The rest is effectively window dressing.
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

I really do have to answer “what kinds of things answer monsters?” before this story ends, don’t I. ^_^

. . .None of the certainties are ever right. Anyone who doubts it, reread The Seeress of Kell. I’ll say it again: Certainty is deceptive. And now I look back and double-check my post, and see a paradox: Bob appears in the list of those who have a future. So that will be my final clue tonight.

Just because there is no future for Bob that has not already become the past, does not mean that Bob himself no longer exists. Something that remembers Love, has been spun. Someone who remembered Spiders, has been snuck. There are dreams and nightmares and even Platonic goods left in the world without the gods, and there are beautiful reasons to deny the monsters quarter. There are even a smaller number of those reasons that need not become monsters themselves, if given free rein.
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

I want to snark on The Seeress of Kell, but I liked those books too much as a kid. So I won’t! ^_^

Also, seriously, just because you caught yourself here doesn’t mean you can’t give me vast troves of future technology and wealth to help me decide that he survives. I don’t know if I can offer this for every character, but for a mere five million dollars plus some futuristic cognition enhancement technology I will totally bring Bob back to life.

Think about it.

You have my number. You know how important I am to the future of the world.

**

I am sincerely looking forward to whatever reasons that snake with the staff, in Monday’s Chibi-Ex, gives for his own attitude. After all, there is a limited list of graces. To the best of my recollection, not a single one of them bears the name, “Kyon.”
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Don’t tell Haruhi!

**

Your comment, Aetheric, sounds interesting, but it is elliptical and allusive to the point where I find it almost completely opaque. Just to take one example, you seem to find that the invocation of the Muse has great significance — for my part I thought it was just a bit of whimsy, and you have not made your reasons for thinking it significant at all clear. (And just what does the phrase “give recourse to a Muse” even mean?)
— David Goldfarb, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Right-click on the muse on your associated spirits page in Google Reality and select “give >> recourse.”

This may not work if you are using a pseudonym or if the spirit in question has more than one legal name.

I will also say that you lost a good deal of credibility with me when you invoked David Eddings. I mean, sheesh, the man was a hack who milked his readers for a second five-book go-round and laughed at them all the way to the bank.
— David Goldfarb, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

In fairness I would totally love to laugh all the way to the bank someday. Laugh and dance. Such glee!

**

I’m not familiar with the history. However, I will say this: To the extent that there is any knowledge of the subject, we know that there can be more than one monster, at least because Melanie may or may not be one. We know that the monsters (if there is more than one) act in ways that are interchangeable. And those of us who have read Jenna’s [“Dreaming Waters”] know why there is no need for there to be two at one time (or, alternately, can figure it out on a reread.)
— Aetheric, on The Shepherdess

. . .

I don’t know if I have time to reread Dreaming Waters this month, although I really want to now. What are you referencing here? I’m genuinely curious!

Dreaming Waters has a lot of my sense of the world in it, obviously, so it’s possible that you’re right. It’s also possible that you’re wrong! I want to know! ^_^

**

To the extent that my putative deductions have brought a smile to the author’s face, my work here is done. (As for the recurrent names — my favorite is “John.” That one sitcom concept spoof, entitled “Issues?” Pure genius.)
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Thank you for your kind words!

I have to decide whether to break thermodynamics by Thursday night, so my thoughts will take a breather.
— Aetheric, on The Boundary Between Liril and the World

Do it! Have done it! Do have it be have done!

**

It has occurred to me, on this my third reading, that the harpies are indeed suspiciously parrot-like. That bit went past me before.
— Aetheric, on The Measure of a Monster

You can’t trust parrots. They’re everywhere. They’re in your base impersonating your dudes. Seriously. That’s why they bothered learning to talk.

With the new lampshade for swift-stepping, I am also tempted to look at the Bleach anime a whole new way. (What superpower, exactly, would a lampshade Focus? Liril kind of said.)
— Aetheric, on The Measure of a Monster

I’d guess that a lampshade would be useful for hanging people. It’s certainly the favored weapon of the Arrancar Gallows Steve.

**

I think that Ar Tonelico is more consonant with the source. But then, you might be able to say that about any RPG, and it’s true that I don’t even know what Planetary is.
— Aetheric, on Jane Talking

Planetary is an awesome comic series. It’s about Jasmine Planetary, a member of the Victorian underclass who dreams at night of a second life on a distant star. Later the two worlds collide when the eccentric professor Dr. Comet bursts into her life—

Wait, no, that didn’t happen.

It’s about mystery archaeology and warped views of superhero mythoi. It’s still awesome, though.

When I figure out how to explain dharma, it will be my pleasure to let Jane know. More likely, though, I will be off in some Chancel being judged, for one unforgivable crime or another. Tonight will have to decide it.

PS: If anyone knows how that story ends, please don’t tell me. I kind of lack a PS3, so even though I bought the third game on release, the actual story is pending.
— Aetheric, on Jane Talking

Well, OK, but I think if you made comments after that night it might be construed as a hint!

**

The diorama…is taken to the place without recourse. Bwah.
— David Goldfarb, on Sympathetic Magic

That’ll teach it for being such a diorama queen!

Friday night and the lights are low
Looking out for the place to go
Where they serve the right pies, getting in the swing,
There is a King.

The vestments of the King are indigo and green
Diorama queen
Young and sweet
Your toothpicks are keen
Diorama queen
There’s Ii Ma on the tambourine . . .

You can be rendered in lifelike detail at a small scale
You can jive
Having the time of your life
See that diorama
Admire that scene
This is the diorama queen

I was sort of hoping that it would be how some people think that the prison escape sequence in The Acts of the Apostles was lifted from the prison escape in Euripides’ Bacchae. Oh, well.
— David Goldfarb, on Sympathetic Magic

Fascinating!

Dionysian stuff is . . . a pretty deep, weighty collection of myth. I’ve been wary of it, or dealing with it only carefully and around the edges. But that’s really neat.

**

I think it is clear from this and the Footsoldiers that Liril likes pie. She likes it so much, she creates Gods that reflect her particular confection affection.

I can’t blame her. It’s pie!
— Nyren, on Sympathetic Magic

I cannot blame her either. Pie is an unqualified good. Unless you enter it in a qualifying exam, in which case it would probably become a qualified good. Then it would become inflated with pride and roll off to take a position at a fine Eastern university, most likely as a Professor of Theology.

**

Pie is a quite sympathetic foodstuff. I approve.

So, this is the second time that an image has been taken in Micah’s stead. First the sketch “Michael,” who Liril had said should be eaten by demons after Micah’s edits. Now the diorama, which Micah hadn’t even changed… just posed as a question.

Why, perhaps the city wondered, is such a thing compared to “me?” Or perhaps it was the ragged thing who wondered, or perhaps it was Micah’s imagination. (That last not being exclusive, given the quirks of the Hitherby world.)

I kind of feel sorry for the diorama, cursed to forever be an imperfect representation of a city that contains the unknown. Maybe the ragged things are dragons.
— Aetheric, on Sympathetic Magic

Perhaps the diorama will find its answer and be free.

. . . dang, now I kind of actually want to do that arc. Maybe as a legend.

**

Yeah, I had noticed the parallel between the diorama and “Michael”. Note that while this is the second time for us as readers, it is actually earlier in internal chronology.
— David Goldfarb, on Sympathetic Magic

I’ve been a little blatant with Liril’s abilities in this arc. I could be subtler but I wanted to move a bit more towards high fantasy from the magic realism of her earlier prophesies, in preparation for the siege.

That and maybe to make Hitherby a little more accessible.

**

So feel free to comment, all ye of the lurking kind! There’s even comment editing now! This story isn’t just for the regulars. It’s for YOU!

**

Fascinating. So the Unforgivable Dominion was something quite different in nature from the one that destroyed Spattle…until it encountered the monster. The destruction of Spattle was some years later, in 1989.
— David Goldfarb, on The Lion

Correct.

I don’t know if its nature differed, you understand, but certainly the aspect we witness changed.

**

I notice that we don’t get an indication of why the Dominion came to Elm Hill.

Hmm…when was Meredith born? I’ve noticed that several of the legends have Meredith as the child of a king, perhaps she has some connection to this Dominion and its king? If she was born on May 13, 1981 — but no, she was born in 1978. Still, I suspect there may be something going on here.

This narrator is very interesting to me. Her voice doesn’t feel to me like that of any character we’ve seen before. (I’m assuming that the phrase “a girl like me” refers to this narrator.) She says “Year of Our Lord” instead of “common era” and she analyzes morality in what feels to me like a Christian way, and she refers to the Devil.
— David Goldfarb, on The Lion

Hee.

Well, the lens did break, and all.

**

I think this is the most explicit description of the monster’s power over reality that we’ve seen yet.

I wonder if this is enough to figure out the way in which Amiel’s line twisted her promise and why they became monsters. We know that promises in Hitherby (at least some promises) are strong enough that other things give way — “when you make a promise that humans can’t fulfill, you can’t be human any more.” Amiel’s promise seems to have been one of those: “I will guard your line, and our families will be intertwined forever.” And it’s shown in A Study in Entanglement (VII/VII) that this promise does have the power to make someone of Amiel’s line into a god.

Maybe someone of Amiel’s line becomes a monster by betraying the promise so fundamentally, by doing something so terrible to one of Lia’s line, that there’s no way in which the promise hasn’t been broken — not if there’s such a thing as truth, or reason, or right and wrong. But keeping the promise is part of the monster’s dharma. The monster has to be able to keep the promise. The promise won’t give way, the things the monster did won’t give way. So what gives way instead are truth, and reason, and right and wrong.
— Greg, on The Lion

From Amiel’s promise arose the cherubim, and the monster gives their nature thus:

“Protecting her is mine,” the monster says. “Hurting her is mine. We are the arbiters of their fates. This is the law of our nature—that we are their owners and their keepers and their guardians. We belong to them, and they to us. We have no godhood of our own. To whatever extent we slip, and claim our nature, we become the bondsmen of their line.”
— the monster, in The Show

And from the cherubim came the monsters, and Nabonidus gives their nature thus:

“What is a monster?” Belshazzar asks.

“It’s someone who thinks it’s all right to be a monster,” Nabonidus says.
–Belshazzar and Nabonidus, in Why Can’t I Fix You?

And I think that it is fair to see what you have seen in that. At least from a certain perspective. It is not exactly how I see the matter, but it’s related enough that even after this story finishes you might conclude that what you described is entirely correct. ^_^

**

Seems as though ultimately you become a monster when you use your power of guardianship in the way described here- when you keep everything away from your charge that would give them the power to be independent, so that they can’t even construct a narrative that will let them declare that what you do is unjust.
— Rand Brittain, on The Lion

This, too, is an opinion that might endure the test of time.

**

Okay, I get it. I get how Amiel’s abilities turned into the monster’s wings. This was probable obvious to others before now, but I figure some folks might not have gotten it yet, like I hadn’t, so here goes.

“It had been different in their youth, I think. Then Amiel had been the weak one. She had the power to speak truth but not the power to speak lies — I think. And so every word she said tore and wriggled in her throat, scraped it raw and made her bleed from it. She was all but mute and she was eternally beautiful. So in their childhood I think it was Lia who was strong.

“But Lia was mortal, and mortal things grow old, and finally she couldn’t even remember her own name. She had to make Amiel tell her. She had to waste her sister’s power, just to find out little things like ‘you are Lia’ or ‘I am Amiel.’ ‘I love you.’ Or ‘You are my treasure. You are my precious jewel. Your children have gone away to distant lands, but I will protect them, I will guard them, I will guard your line and our families be entwined forever.’

“These things she said to reassure her sister, and the cost of them was blood.”

During the end of Lia’s life, one of the main things Amiel did was to tell Lia who she was. And I think… that I’ve been misinterpreting what it means that Amiel could only speak truth. I think it may have been more in the sense that we’re seeing here. It wasn’t just an inability to lie, although that was there too. It seems that there was an element of defining truth, at least for the listener.
— Eric, on The Lion

Yup. Amiel’s voice was a power. I don’t know if I’d say it defined truth. I’d just say, what she spoke was truth.

After that truth becomes very hard to pin down.

And so the monster’s wings are basically a weaponized version of what Amiel did for Lia. Like Amiel’s voice, they have a cost to the user. And like it, they let you say what’s true, tell someone who they are, who you are, and how you relate to them.

It’s not even really a weird offshoot. I suspect that Amiel could have done the same thing, if she had wanted to. She just wasn’t that kind of person.
–Eric, on The Lion

Incidentally “the Lion” was not a reference to Mac OSX.

I just wanted to be clear.

I know Apple computers were probably doing something in that year when the Dominion came to Elm Hill. They were probably . . . appling. Doing appled science. Whatever apples do. Being a cheesecake, for all I know.

But while the seeds of the Lion were sown long ere they bore fruit, this fruit Mac OSX bore not.

**

And that is all the time I had!

Best wishes,

Jenna

8 thoughts on “Letters Column in August 2011: Vrm. Vrrrrrrm. Vrrm vrmm. Vrrrrmm. Vrm-Vrm. Vrmmm.

  1. if there were a Bob around in Hitherby I could totally have characters be saying “as you know, Bob” and “Bob’s your uncle” all the freaking time.

    This made me laugh out loud (a hard thing to do with cold print).

    (Though for that latter, would you have to introduce a hitherto-unknown child of Sebastien’s?)

    In re The Acts of the Apostles and The Bacchae, something not many people seem to know is that the bit where Jesus says to Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard on thee to kick against the pricks” is almost word-for-word something Dionysos says to Pentheus. (That much I’ve verified for myself — I think I’ve read that the phrase was not idiomatic in Koine, and so had to have been borrowed, but I’m less sure of that.) Saul of course was an educated man and so would have been familiar with The Bacchae in the same way that educated people today are familiar with Hamlet or Macbeth.

  2. The Science of Discworld books are insert-impressive-superlative-here. I liked them enough I managed to sneak a citation of the book into my philosophy thesis (on the subject of ‘lies-to-humans’, coincidentally enough).

    I’m big ol’ nerd.

    (Edit: I tell a lie. The second book was included in the bibliography but not directly cited, in my thesis. I cited the first book directly in a term paper though. Still a big ol’ nerd.)

  3. I’m not actually sure creating Micah would be a bad spot of work regardless. Most speculative fiction stories where you create someone to suffer on your behalf, there’s an additional unethical factor, like:

    you start the process with an existing person; or
    you are personally responsible for the suffering afterwards.

    There’s something definitely questionable about creating someone to stand between you and the monster, but I’m not sure—is the questionable element your evil, or just the monster’s?

    I don’t know.

    I think that making someone to suffer in your place is intrinsically wrong, at least without mitigating factors like consent or extreme duress. Not only are you making a person to perform a specific function, which is already in lets-tread-lightly-here moral territory, but it’s something that helps you at their expense.

    And I think that’s a little too much like treating other people as means to an end.

    Now, given Liril’s situation, I don’t think she was blameworthy. But if she’d went into it deliberately and intentionally, I think it probably would be.

    (On a tangent, it’s interesting thinking about how consent even works when creating a person, if you can specify their tendencies and so forth when doing so. Making someone who you know wouldn’t consent to being created seems problematic… but what about making someone who only consents to being created because you decided when making them that they would be the sort of person who’d be okay with that? Is that morally better, because they’re a willing participant from the moment at which they exist, or morally worse because of preemptively pre-brainwashing a purely hypothetical person?)

    -Eric

  4. My sincere sympathy with respect to the noise.It is only during the day, and not interfering with your sleep, right?

    On the morality of creating Micah, I think we can all agree that it’s not wrong to create something *other* than a person to suffer in your place – If a diorama gets carried off to the place without recourse, for example.

    On the other hand, if you set forth to create a person, I think you’re conceding that what you create has some freedom of choice. You *can’t* create a person who must suffer in your place, because you can’t go around dictating “the purpose of your life is to suffer” unless your trying to create a tool, instead of a person.

    You can try to create a tool that suffers for you, and accidently create a person, or you can create a person, who happens to suffer in a circumstance where you would have suffered instead. But deliberately creating a person to suffer doesn’t seem a coherent goal.

    Besides, the statement that Micah has to suffer in Liril’s place comes from the monster. If you accept it as a true statement, you’re implicitly conceding that there’s some kind of conservation of suffering, and if Liril isn’t suffering, it’s because somebody else suffers for her.

    I think the process is more “Micah is created. The monster declares that his purpose is to suffer”. And that’s clearly the monster’s fault.

  5. Hey! I run a podcast called The Walking Eye, and we often make mention of Weapons of the Gods. We’re about to publish a recording of our Actual Play of the game, and we’d love a chance to pick your brain about the game as well. Would you like to do a roughly 1-hour interview over skype?

    Sorry to get ahold of you this way, I couldn’t find an email address or contact info.

    Thanks,

    Kevin Weiser
    http://www.thewalkingeye.com

  6. I’m in the midst of a reread of the archives and I’m now noticing that I never answered about the Dreaming Waters reference.

    That was intended to echo how for one of the sibling-storms — I’m going to say the name was Terror, although I doubt that was actually the right name, but I’ve lost my PDF so I can’t check — individual warriors would always quest to enter its domain and face it in single combat. Both would battle and one would fall. And if the victor was the challenger, well then, they would become the new Terror. Kind of like Bushido Santa meets The Dark Tower. I was suggesting that if the monsters are “on the throne of the world,” requiring that there be only one, that being the monster (rather than “a” monster) must work kind of like that.

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