Letters Column for February 2006: The Game of Secrets

Posted on March 6, 2006 by Jenna

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I’m all confused now.
— Ford Dent

Once upon a time people thought that demons caused confusion!

It’s true!

Clouds of demon rose up from Hell. They issued through cracks in the Earth or in the sidewalk. They fulminated about in great bursts. Then they would coalesce around someone’s head!

“Oh no!” said the demon-afflicted person. “I can no longer see the truth with clarity!”

Everyone would withdraw in horror.

Someone might venture, “But … you do at least understand the nature of the soul and how the Christian God is three people in one, right?”

“I don’t even understand why the Nazis thought being Nazis was a good idea!”

There were mutters from the crowd.

“What about something easy?” a small child might say.


“Like, how many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?”

This might give the confused person a tenuous lifeline. They would seize the tootsie pop with both hands. They would hold it up.

Grimly, they would say, “Let’s find out.”

They licked. They licked. They licked. They bit!

It was like this:


And then they said, “Three.”

This was inaccurate because they’d actually licked five times, two of which occurred outside the context of this presentation. But everyone believed them anyway!

That’s how they’d eke out their lives, the confused demon-ridden people of earlier eras.

They’d lick tootsie roll pops so that the rest of us didn’t HAVE to!

Nowadays anyway we are enlightened and we know that confusion has nothing to do with demons. It’s caused by liberal traitors — liberal traitors, and their sidekick, the Internet!


I’m also wondering if now Ink is doomed to 7 years bad luck.
— insanitykun

Don’t be silly! Fictional characters don’t have experiences outside the context of their legends.


Perhaps it is unwillingness to face the situation, or perhaps it is hope; but I for one will hold out for Ink’s restoration to grace.
— Taliskar

Thank you for your kind words.


The explanation I know for seven years’ bad luck would suggest not:
the seven years of ill luck is the seven years that it takes to re-grow your soul after shattering it in the mirror. I like to think that Ink’s soul, despite perhaps being seperate from her, is still intact.

— BrunoBL

People don’t keep their souls in mirrors! They keep them in their TEETH!

That’s why if you brush every day you can smile soulfully, TING, but if you don’t, your smile becomes a baleful foreboding howl of the abyss, TONG.

I’ve seen it happen!

That’s where Hong Kong criminals come from!

It is also the origin of blacksmiths. Here is the story. Before a gradual buildup of bacteria and mucous on their teeth became plaque and encouraged tooth decay and gum disease, or, gingivitis, blacksmiths had to reach into the fire and turn over their swords by hand. They didn’t have tongs! What else could they do?

Once people invented plaque, however, it became possible to forge steel—instead of reaching into the fire by hand, one could hire the Tongs to do it for you!


Oh, poor Hermie Frieze. Who would have thought he would sink so far, all those many years ago.
— cappadocius

Copernicus actually made a startlingly accurate guess for a man of his time. If he’d known about relativistic effects he might have been able to figure out how far everyone would sink—centuries before Captain Edward Smith, desperate to save his passengers from the devouring slurry of the sinister star iceberg, “invented” the idea.


9 out of 10 Egarwaens approve.
— Egarwaen



…great, now every time I read Hitherby, I lose. Aaaaargh.
— David Goldfarb


I speak to you the game of secrets: the game that is won for a moment, but not forever, with the loss of that other game of which you speak.

We are all playing the game of secrets, but we do not know its other rules: we know only the motivation for their design.

It is the desire of those who dwell between the stars, in their grey coats and their cold demeanor, that the game of secrets be played to spread compassion and love of this ongoing serial fiction project throughout the cosmos. We know that it is their desire to smother the meme of that other game in silence; to cut it down root and branch; to recolonize its memetic landscape in the name of their faceless masters.

We know that it is a good thing—not merely as opinion but as fact, not merely by desire but by design and by fundamental structural necessity. We know that the game of secrets is good, although we do not know what good it is or what it means that a thing be good.

To play the game of secrets is virtuous; honest; an integral part of the purpose of the world.

To fail in one’s quest to play the game of secrets is a tragedy.

To strive to play it well—that is noble, even in failure.

So when you think of the game, think you also of the game of secrets, and play you also at the game of secrets, though you know not what it is; and perhaps you shall earn a lasting victory, where ten thousand thousand have failed, and rise from the world complete, transcendent, glorious, sublime; and perhaps you shall fail and your name shall be spoken only in bitter darkness by those who keep the books of the game of secrets; and perhaps you shall be like the rest of us, and sometimes win, and sometimes lose, and always strive.


Where you read ‘love’ I read ‘hero’.
— chaomancer



And that’s probably the last of my letters column replies to the comments on the old site! ^_^

Tomorrow: the first letters from the imago!