Letters Column for August 2006: How Do Lemons See When They Don’t Have Eyes?

Posted on September 9, 2006 by Jenna

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Donations for August totalled $75.60. Thank you!

Also, thank you for your kind words,

Dave Menendez
David Goldfarb
Ford Dent
Hitherby Admin
Penultimate Minion
Vincent Avatar

You will note that I did not thank myself this time, even though I posted. This is my modesty at work. Also, I admire how Dave Menendez appears alphabetically before David Goldfarb—a sterling use of nicknames for positional advantage!

So, Belshazzar and Siddhartha did things to the nature of the world at the same time. I’ve previously vaguely suspected that the two of them were, on some level, the same entity, and that their actions are inextricably connected. But if not, and there is extricating to be done…
— cariset

The names are remarkably similar! In structure if not in detail. ^_^

I think that if you asked them directly, the Buddha would point out that “the same entity” is a problematic concept, while Belshazzar would eat your nature.

And then burp!

It would be very rude and you would be right to be upset.

Max is so great because you can imagine yourself being him. Like Batman, he is the normal guy amist great powers and yet some how seems bigger than all of them.
— Talisker

It came to pass in that time that in Rome and in Bethlehem they heard rumors of a giant, and those who traveled the roads between one place and another would tell stories of this creature with more than six feet of height and wings resembling a bat’s. And he came to Gethsemani in the night and scraped up the blood of Iesus with his claws and put it in a vial made of the devil’s glass, impossibly clear and pure.

Then they heard in the bowels of the city a great rumbling and the wind blew dry against the stone and from a cell beneath the forum came the flashing of red and yellow lights and a ticking like the clicking of insects on their shells.

(But when the people broke down that door there were no insects but only a lump of textured metal, warm, humming, and occasionally speaking perverted and incomprehensible words in the devil’s voice.)

And in the darkness of that night the giant came and spoke to Iesus on the cross and the giant said, “I do not want you to die.”

“You must bear it,” said Iesus, “because you are human.”

“It is not necessary,” said the giant.

His wings were dark and you could not see his eyes.

“It is not necessary,” he repeated. “We can use the Bat-Absolver. We can arrest the great deceiver. You do not have to do this.”

“Bruce,” said Iesus.

The word stilled the giant.

“You and I both know that if you take me down from here, in this place, in this time, that I will go mad and become a supervillain and repeatedly hatch Messiah-flavored plots to destroy you.”

“It need not be so!”

“It is ordained.”

And the giant turned, and his wings folded about the thieves that hung beside Iesus, and in that darkness and in that sorrow he took them from that place; and later a woman in the ruins of Golgotha found an empty spray-can labelled, “Bat-Absolver,” and she wondered at the giants that had been.

One of the things I really enjoy about Hitherby is the way it repurposes half-remembered things from childhood.
— Dave Menendez

I love Henson’s “Frog Prince”.

I love it with all my heart.

When I was a girl I got a record with the soundtrack for it. It was the best thing ever. I was in awe. I brought it in to share with my third grade class and hovered over it all day just so it didn’t get lost.

It is inspired.

It is genius.

My biggest regret regarding it is that I can’t get my housemates to watch it.

The dance of the mangled blocks every path
And all I can do is laugh and laugh

— rpuchalsky

I think the most important thing is that, as bad as things are in the world, people’s jaws mostly don’t spontaneously fall off.

That’s really cool.

I mean, let’s face it. Suppose I was at a fancy ball. This doesn’t ever happen but someday it might! And all these fabulous people in incredible clothing are swirling around fancily. And then some guy’s jaw falls in the punch.

What can you even say in response to that?

Or what if my lower jaw fell off one day? I’d have to get a new jaw. I don’t have health insurance! I’d probably have to make the prosthetic myself! Out of … um … maybe out of my videocassette copy of L.A. Confidential. I’d have an upper jaw, but my lower jaw would be a flat rectangular tour de force.

It would be stylish but also abhorrent and alien. People would admire me and then scream!

It would be worst for the vampires, I think. The whole jaw falling thing. It would be worst for them because they rely on puncturing the necks of others for their blood. You really need a lower jaw if you’re going to bite somebody’s neck and puncture it. Otherwise you have to tap many times like a woodpecker or get someone to throw you at the neck.

I think I just broke my brain attempting to read six months worth of Hitherby in one sitting.
— natecull

Good God, man, go get the brain glue!

To me, this escapade of Max’ seems much the same as the first one — first Max self-sacrificingly went to Hell in order to drag Sid there, to make Sid into what Max thought he should be; this time Max self-sacrificingly went to Heaven and got himself killed (?), to make Sid into what Max thought he should be. Isn’t Sid going to be just as or more broken up by the second trip as the first?
— rpuchalsky

Let me disentangle some of the threads here.


It doesn’t really matter if Sid has a similar reaction. Sid’s reactions aren’t what govern the morality or even the nature of Max’s actions.

You can’t judge an action by somebody’s reactions!

For example, no matter what Max does, Jinga the Sea Monster disapproves.


Of course Sid’s upset! Max is doing dangerous things! Like listening to Martin!


Suppose that a man goes to war. He shoots an enemy’s arm. Later he becomes a doctor. He travels to the lands of the enemy. There he finds his one-time enemy, feverish and unconscious because of a later infection in that arm. To save the patient, he cuts off the arm.

His patient wakes up and says, “First you shoot my arm. Then you cut it off! How is a doctor different from a soldier?”

How is a doctor different from a soldier?

I think the big difference between sending someone to the place without recourse and begging Martin to make them an is is this. The first impairs the victim’s ability to respond or retaliate. The second, if it works at all, enables it.

Put another way, no matter how noble you are about it, or how evil, trying to empower someone is tangibly different from trying to disempower them.

… it’s different depending on whether you try to remake an isn’t or a person? That seems too convenient, though, and not very good for real-world metaphors (since our world has no such distinction that I can think of offhand, not even a metaphorical one).
— rpuchalsky

Isn’ts are people.

They’re just people denied the opportunity to manifest their dharma in a fashion that affects the world. Someone or something has chosen to isolate their free will and personhood in a little bubble where it can’t affect broader policy concerns.

So the reason you can’t find a real-world distinction between isn’ts and people …






I still fail to see why wanting to prevent someone whose nature is to horribly murder people from horribly murdering people, should be seen as a ‘crime’.
— natecull

I think that basically my position is this.

Max does not have a good case that Sid is ever going to do anything unethical. It’s just that the specific thing that he’s scared of Sid doing is so scary

That he sold Sid out to make sure it didn’t happen.

Sacrificed himself, too, sure, but still, sold Sid out.

And the thing Max fears—well, it is scary. Legitimately. It really is worth sacrificing himself to stop. But life is full of scary things that people around us might do, that we even have little tiny bits of evidence that maybe they might do, and it’s important not to banish them all from the universe just in case.

Now it’s okay if you look back at the histories and think, “Hm, but I think there’s a pretty good case he’ll do something icky.”

That’s fine. Sid hasn’t spent your whole life showing up whenever you need him. It’s not like you have any reason to trust in his good character.

That said, I note from your other comments that you expect that I’m going to write the story in such a fashion that Sid isn’t evil. So there we are! ^_^

Of course, if Virtue comes to make everything right, why didn’t it change Max?

Because there’s nothing wrong with him.
— bv728


It’s probably worth admitting at this point that much of Hitherby is about explaining what I mean when I say that people are good.

4.) Max has a lot of problems with himself. (One wonders if the siggort came about as an externalization of his own uncivilized and violent urges.) Why does Sid love him? Why does Sid still love him? If Sid changed into a vivisecting siggort, would Sid still love him? If Max let himself change into the sort of person transformed by love, would Sid still love him? Best to avert all risk and make sure nothing ever changes. Keep love in a box, keep Sid in a box, keep it all… safe.
— Hitherby Admin

Like Ink, I think Max had a poor idea of just what he was getting himself in for. ^_^

I think this all is very sound!

But possibly mirror-reversed. Who is Max afraid will stop loving whom?

I think you are fundamentally wrong about Martin, however. Martin does not change and hurt people. As I see it, he ensures that the hurt that has been done to people, brings them some benefit — but he does not hurt them himself, and he does not force change upon them. (It has been stated in so many words that Jenna could have refused him.) Although the bit with the wogly that you mention troubles me.
— David Goldfarb


You are expressing an important understanding about Martin. However, not everything about him is obviously consistent with that understanding.

Basically, what I’m saying is, hang on to that understanding, even if other comments convince you that it’s not the whole story. ^_^

And even if not, perhaps Martin’s reasoning is that if they can’t ask, then he can initiate, and if they can’t refuse, then he can continue. This seems rationalizable (and possibly defensible or even laudable) given that his goal is to put them into a state where they can ask and refuse if they want to, and that he’s not simply turning them into things that blindly accept what he does.
— cariset


See my earlier discussion of the doctor vs. the soldier. ^_^

It has also just struck me how horrific unjustified goodness and forgivness is. If no matter what you do, no matter whether you ask for it or not, you get your happy ending … then nothing has meaning. So Martin is right. Suffering is not good, but it is what earns us the right to have a shot at the happy ending without feeling cheated.
— Talisker

I would say “effort” rather than “suffering”


Not only do many of my readers disagree, many of y’all think my own work disagrees. So there we are. ^_^

There are times in one’s life where something is found to be so simple, so striking, that it makes one stop and wonder if all those books that he stocks in the monolithic book store could ever imagine achieving the impact of a simple internet story.

Then one thinks of the store, inundated with James Patterson and Nora Roberts, and he feels a new anger and resentment against the published word.
— Vincent Avatar


I have several friends with books in the stores (e.g., the fabulous C.E. Murphy!) and expect to show up there myself when I’m finished with RPGs, so please recognize that there is good in the world. ^_^

The notion of Buddha Pirates sailing gargantuan stone Buddhas over the seas of Chaos is one of such sublime perfection that superlatives fail me.
— JoeCrow

Try gerunds!

I really love the idea of Buddha Pirates. It’s approximately as ridiculous as conversion to Christianity by the sword, but funnier, because it hasn’t actually happened.
— Mithrandir

It was perfectly reasonable in those pre-scientific days to assume that flesh was a barrier to the Holy Spirit but that good conductive English steel would let Jesus enter somebody’s heart. It’s certainly a lot more sensible than the people who thought that a sufficient quantity of quicksilver would let them turn lead into God!

I think Sid set out on his journey illustrates something about how Martin works. He has the ability to make an isn’ts into an is. It’s tempting to imagine this as him waving his hands, speaking the magic words, doing the Magic Martin Dance, and *blammo*, the subject is remade. That seems to be how the monster thinks of it.

But things aren’t that simple.
— Michael


A dear friend recently introduced me to Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, and this quote:

Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

I think that some people are harder for Martin to fix than others.

Sometimes you can’t do it with words. Sometimes it takes a journey to the distant west

Or an axe.

“Call martin() for heap-allocated dharma! Serving primal reality since 1995.”
— cariset

I’d just about decided to skip trying to write The Heaps and put up a filler instead, but then this comment showed up and I said, “Fine, synchronicity! You win!”

Then I found a chest full of pirate gold and a note saying, “Yay! – Synchronicity”

I guess it was always in my room and I’d never noticed it before.

actually I have found that putting pizza under the crust works quite well, when cooking pizza outside on the grill
— GoldenH

It’s no use! It’s turtles all the way down!

And … it’s 1 minute to posting time. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for donating and buying the collection if you have recently and I’ll see you all on Tuesday for more story and next month in general!

Be well!