Letters Column in December 2011: Not You, Never You

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OK!

So you can now get “Invasion” on Amazon (Invasion) or DriveThruComics! (Invasion) The version on DriveThruComics is strictly superior right now, since it’s the same price and has a PDF and ePubs, but I’d prefer Amazon sales and reviews anyway. ^_^

And of course there is an Unclean Legacy on Amazon (An Unclean Legacy) and Smashwords (An Unclean Legacy).

Note that both of these are radical expansions of the underlying Hitherby entries—Invasion turned into a picture book, and it’s going to be a modern classic if I can get it enough attention to make that possible, I am not kidding here. Unclean Legacy, on the other hand, received moderate edits and a substantial, substantial expansion—it’s like 40%+ new content.

I could really use reviews and marketing help. I’m doing my best but I *know* I have at least 100 fans and I don’t have anywhere near that many sales yet. And that’s *assuming* that 2/3 of the people who bought the Nobilis limited edition instantly only care about RPGs, and that nobody else except the people who bought Nobilis instantly care at all. So getting the word out there appears to be a challenge even before we start talking about getting into new markets or catching a new audience.

**

Life is really scary right now. I’m off ritalin, owing to not having had a chance to see a doctor in Taiwan about it before my supply ran out, so I’m increasingly useless, and I’m a little scared that I won’t be able to get back on it before I drop below some water mark and need six months on it to start functioning again. People who don’t share a language with me randomly burst in and sprayed bug poison all over everything I own, which is down to very little anyway, leading ultimately to my freaking out for three or four miserable days this week. The bug poison doesn’t seem to have been an actual serious problem, although I’m forgiving myself for freaking out, but the lack of dryers in Asia or spare bed linens while they washed and hung meant that I was very cold for a few nights. Eos hasn’t straightened out my visa situation or covered my rent yet and there’s basically two days to do it in and I have no way to do it on my own. Even if I had U.S. dollars I’d have no way to apply them to adjust my situation, and in terms of Taiwan dollars I’m not really in a position to cover anything beyond food and water. There is no actual way you can help me, I believe, I’m just mentioning because it sucks.

**

In other news, some letters!

Hmm, good point, dave.o. I don’t think we’ve yet gotten a definitive answer to what eating Pelops did to Demeter. That could have something to do with why his son was the first of Amiel’s line to become a monster.
— Xavid, on The Incredible Leap of the Sinless Man

The end of human sacrifice was the beginning of time. So logically it stopped time. That’s why grain no longer grows, waves, rises, and falls, it just sits there frozen in the fields! That’s in turn why they call it “ambered waves of grain.”

Actually I think only Zelazny fanatics call it that. Most geologists refer to it as the petrifaction of the fields, while politicians refer to it as the liberal media. (It’s a term of art—it’s not an actual medium. It’s a timelessness in the cornfields! I think it’s from the Greek “μέσω ελευθεροσ χρονοσ ελευθεροσ,” often translated as “liberal media” or “Time.”)

What would one learn from eating human flesh, anyway? Sometimes I nibble on my cuticles so if I am a goddess and if I am also a human which would be a bit of a thing I suppose then I would know it.

It is probably not a very big mystery.

**

//Off-topic:

(Maybe I should post this in a letter column instead….)

For the last few years I’ve attended a small SF con in Montreal, organized by a friend of mine. I’m there now. Traditionally, the first panel of Sunday morning is “Joy of Reading” in which people read things aloud. This year, I thought of doing a Hitherby. I really wanted to do “Six’s Story” or “Ragnarok”…but they were too long. I read “Writing Real Life Person Slash About the Pope Day” and it went over really well. It got big laughs in the right places (“…angry at the Internet” “Where is Spock?” “…sick puppy who likes Pope sex…”) and more than a couple of people in the audience said that they would look at the site.//
— David Goldfarb, on The Incredible Leap of the Sinless Man

Yay!

It is a pretty good story.

I should probably not expand it to a novel, though. I am thinking that House of Saints is probably next. Although I would love to expand “Writing Real-Life Slash Fiction about the Pope Day” into a novel and see if I can get onto the New York Times bestseller list. I might have to add some secondary characters like a really wise pig and a housewife who believes that there are invisible gnomes haunting her kitchen, though. (And possibly a straight couple living in the same building who can advise the protagonist on, you know, stuff that straight people are stereotypically good at like religion and beer and reckless driving and the tuba. And maybe falconry?) You know. ‘Cause it’s all literary and stuff. Ooh! And a beat poet! A grungy beat poet! He likes to take placebo equivalents of drugs (he adds them to his margaritas) and then go out and lay flat-bellied on the desert rocks and commune with the lizards. But he never seems to learn anything from it, at least, not until near the end, when it either helps him write a better real life person slash fiction about the Pope or leads to his arrest and death-by-taser in a small interrogation cell. Where a drugged lizard pretending to be a beat poet probably talks to him in his dying hallucinations.

It could be SPATTLEFUNK.

Anyway.

**

Hmm, does this start to explain Train’s “Whatever happened to Ink Catherly?”?
— Xavid, on The Sting

Good question!

So, Micah gets banished from world and sound to the domain of Ii Ma. Thematically the iron fence that we cut to then is at the top of the hill that Train Morgan climbs to—I’m not saying that that’s intuitively obvious or anything, it may even be explicitly textually contraindicated, just, I look at that fence and I see that. Because I organize this in my brain!

Micah comes back because the Thorn doesn’t want to be exiled from world and sound. It rejects the notion. And maybe that connects to the spikes on the fence, which stabbed into Tainted John but didn’t kill him?

That said, I’m really just giving you that because there’s obviously no way that you could see that for yourself—it wasn’t in the text.

In practice, Train links to Ink through stuff we mostly haven’t talked about yet. ^_^

**

//So the Thorn gave Micah the power to ignore Ii Ma’s question and stay in the world? Or Micah had an answer? (Or both!) Melanie does say “Stupid question. Stupid answer,” so I think he answered. Hitherby is big on forgiveness and enduring hardship, so an answer like “Good point. I won’t let her live,” would be a big deal thematically, if that’s indeed what happened. I don’t know if answering a question would make Ii Ma cry out though; questions have been answered before. Whatever Micah did may have been more.

Also is “That Does Not Choose to Leave the World” an additional title the Thorn acquired, expressing this event dramatically? Or has it changed its nature, and can actually kill now? It doesn’t seem to kill the contemner anymore than it did Liril or Tainted John, so I think the former.//
— dave.o, on The Sting

It would make sense if the Thorn gave Micah an answer, because that’s how Hitherby does things; or if it had an answer, which you’d think it must, being a Thorn That Does Not Kill and all. I mean, seriously, you’d have to think that at some point somebody has asked the Thorn, “Hey, about that not killing stuff—what’s up with that?”

And if it had been carried away then to the place without recourse then the world would be a different place than we have known it to be; and if it had not, then I think perhaps the ragged things would be more wary of it.

But the big point of that resolution is that the Thorn is beyond such petty tricks.

I should write formally at some point about what the Thorn is. I know you all already know, there’s even discussion of it quoted below, but somehow I don’t want to just say it, or hint at it, I want to tell it in the story. ^_^

Perhaps the Thorn’s answer is “Let them live? The day’s still young.” or perhaps “Let them live? Who am I to kill the suffering?”

**

Well, killing is a way of taking someone out of the world, so possibly the Thorn That Does Not Kill won’t allow you to leave the world, either.
— Rand Brittain, on The Sting

True! It could chain you to the wheel of samsara, like thorns do; or it could be the power of the heart! As long as there is heart, there is hope. As long as there is hope, we can carry on! As long as we’re carrying on, we can’t die! As long as we can’t die, and fundamentally misunderstand modus tollens, we’ll know how to love! Love is all! All you need is love!

**

//It would seem that the reason it will not kill is because it lacks, or cuts away, the property that would allow one to leave the world. And that appears to override the grasp of the place without recourse. Certain truths override, like the monster’s, and the Buddha’s, and evidently the Thorn’s.

I’m somewhat intrigued at what happens to Melanie, though. This is a much more direct entanglement of her own dharma with Micah’s than I’d have expected. Is Vincent’s Kaela involved or is it a coincidence of imagery? Or was it Melanie’s cruelty of kindness, when she gave Liril the wish to “break” herself to create Micah, that has connected them in this odd symmetry?//
— Aetheric, on The Sting

It is worth remembering that Melanie had a masterclass in manipulating crucibles and gods before she left Liril’s company. She is hax.

**

//It’s interesting to me that Micah is carried away to the Place Without Recourse…and shortly thereafter it’s Melanie who says “how beautiful”.

We see more of the action of the Thorn That Does Not Kill. It seems to subtract from its target those qualities that make the target effective…from Liril her volition, from the contemner its will to hunt and its malevolence — from Ii Ma, the ability to sever from the world? It may be that Micah has just destroyed the Place Without Recourse entirely, though this is far from clear.

Although, from Tainted John it took his eyes and his heart, which seems to be a different sort of thing entirely. Liril was using it then, and perhaps her powers affected things.

(I seem to recall someone saying that the Thorn was a fragment of a spoke of the treasure wheel. Where was that established? It went by me.)//
— David Goldfarb, on The Sting

Some of the Thorn’s effects are dependent on where and why you stab. You can’t just take somebody’s volition by stabbing their foot, you know. There’s a medical procedure. Admittedly it is alternative medicine and it is not strictly regulated by the FDA. (I would guess the official FDA stance on torturing children to obtain theological weaponry is “don’t do it, you sicko; also, it may not be medically effective, and creating gods may have side effects. May result in headache, nausea, or death. Do not torture children to obtain theological weaponry if you are pregnant or plan to drive or operate heavy machinery in the near future.”)

This last bit, incidentally, is what Anakopto, Arpazo, and Kyrievo took too lightly, although perhaps they didn’t realize that they were engaging in alternative medicine when they ate Micah’s sandwiches.

Personally I take medicine homeopathically all the time. I can’t hardly move without bumping into air that’s a tincture of the stars.

**

Micah’s question took me by surprise. “Let” Tina live? I wouldn’t have thought he had the power to kill her.
— David Goldfarb, on The Sting

He doesn’t, really, particularly not then, but “I can’t do anything about that” can also put you in Ii Ma’s power unless you’re very careful.

I mean … there are things in the world that we can’t do anything about. That fact doesn’t make us isn’ts. But it’s a very dangerous fact to handle. It can cause headaches, nausea, and even death. Talk to your doctor before recognizing that there are things beyond your power to change if you are pregnant or plan to operate heavy machinery in the near future.

**

//I’ve also heard it said that the Thorn is a fragment from the spoke the Buddha broke off, but I don’t know to what extent this is established. I’d have an easier time seeing it as the entire spoke, as then we don’t have to explain what happened to the rest of it. There were many wheels within wheels when Maya summoned it, and some could have been small.

That’s a good point with “let”. I get distracted easily by deconstruction. I realized the same problem myself, but immediately turned it into an analysis of whether Uri’s failed attempt at paradise is commentary on how self-defense is an insufficient answer to suffering, and why. And wouldn’t the monsters be boring thematically, if self-defense were a sufficient answer to them? Everyone knows self-defense sometimes works, but the monsters are a case where it doesn’t work and the world is desperately looking for another solution. But I didn’t bother to use this to answer Ii Ma’s question! Perhaps Ia Ma’s job is even easier than it looks.//
— dave.o, on The Sting

Heehee. Yeah, technically Ii Ma is like any gulag—you can wind up there even if you have the answers.

Though winding up there because the question is inherently unfair and unanswerable is certainly more common.

**

//Maybe the reason that question would trap Micah is not because Micah could kill Tina, but because he can’t admit that he can’t. He seems to consistently ignore his own limitations, with varying levels of success.

I think the argument that the Thorn is a spoke of the treasure wheel is the tags on (Good Friday – Hitherby Annual #1 – I/I) Tre Ore.//
— Xavid, on The Sting

He does that! Micah is pretty much the poster boy for “if I accept that there’s nothing I can do here, I break.” If you accept something like that, you’re not Micah Defiant, but just ordinary Micah—and that’s a rough place to be when you’re in a broken-down old Hell of a facility surrounded by Melanie’s army.

Last time he really accepted anything he got tortured. Then his acceptance got cut into pieces by Tainted John.

**

David Goldfarb:> It’s interesting to me that Micah is carried away to the Place Without Recourse…and shortly thereafter it’s Melanie who says “how beautiful”.

//Yes. There are some other indications here of a deliberate comparison between them, such as the line about Micah turning like a puppet of his dharma and then Melanie later turning like “a puppet of the dharma she doesn’t have.”

Although they seem to be different people in most respects, perhaps there is a sense in which Micah is sort of filling the dharmic space left by Melanie. Which is to say that if I understand correctly, the only choices that Melanie had in light of Amiel’s promise were to become a monster or to become Liril’s true guardian and protector. So she should be the one standing with her back to the door to Elm Hill, shouldn’t she?//
— Greg, on The Sting

Not sure there’s anyone in the world who shouldn’t be standing with their back to the door to Elm Hill, if there’s a kid like Liril inside and an army like Melanie’s outside—I mean, maybe a person’s got other things to be doing, maybe a person doesn’t know it’s going on, maybe a person can’t get there, but I can’t rightly say that that wouldn’t be a fine place for anybody to be, if they cared about what’s right.

But!

That said, yeah. And no. Cherubim face you. The cherub would be behind the army, sweeping through them like a storm. The cherub would be seizing up Liril and flying away with her. Cherubim that stand with their backs to you, keeping the world away and keeping you in the circle of their definitions—they’ve already started to go the monster’s way.

It’s weird, I know, because of Uriel, right? Uriel, the cherub, who stood at the gates of the garden of Eden with his sword flashing this way and that, lest you (yes, you) come in and taste of the fruit of immortality and know eternal life.

But …

Properly, a cherub can’t protect you if they’re looking away from you. That’s just a kinder monster.

**

That’s me talking on instinct, I admit. I haven’t thought that much about the cherubim before they became monsters. It just seems … so, at one point Ink wondered why there aren’t any gods that rescue you. I think they got too busy standing between you and the world.

Maybe that says icky things about Micah, though I think it’s mitigated because of Martin’s defense:

“Do you know what sucks?” Martin says. “What sucks is that Jane needs me. And that’s not because of people like the monster. It’s because of people like you.”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Thumbscrews, that makes so much sense.”

“You have these people,” Martin says, entirely ignoring Sid. “These perfectly useful people. And they have beating inside them like a heart their knowledge of themselves, of who they are. And then someone comes along from outside and proposes an alternative. Cripple them here. Clip the wings there. Mold them like Jell-O and make sure they fit. Take your vision of what they should be and use it to overwrite their own. And then just leave them out there—out in the world—flopping around on their wing-stubs, parroting back the twisted nonsense that you gave them, crawling in circles around their concrete-moored peglegs, and then what am I supposed to do?”

“I didn’t ask you to do anything.”

“No,” Martin says. “That’s the trouble with isn’ts.”

“What?”

“You can’t ask. Not once they’ve broken you. You say, ‘Give me more of that torture’, and maybe it’s you, and maybe it’s the twisting in you. You sit there silently, and maybe you’ve got nothing to say, or maybe they’ve drowned it. You say ‘Let me go’, and maybe that’s reason and maybe that’s panic. You say all kinds of things, and the fundamental crime that made you isn’ts is that sometime, once upon a time, somebody didn’t listen; and that somehow, as a result of that, I can’t listen to you now.”

“That’s bleak,” Sid says.

“The trouble with isn’ts,” Martin says, “is that they don’t want to be real, not really. They can’t, because they’re not. How can something that isn’t even there have desires? How can one dharma, forced into the mold of another, know what it means to express itself?”

“That seems like a dumb question to ask me,” Sid says.

“It’s not a question,” Martin says. “It’s an expression of regret.”

**

//I think the reason why I like Melanie’s point of view so much is that it’s cool to see the sort of things you need to be aware of to be competent in this world. We don’t really get to inhabit the PoV of other competent characters, such as Martin, much.

But then again, focusing on the Kryptonite weakpoint instead of the obvious-transferable-protection-item weakpoint is not bringing her A-game in terms of cunning.//
— Xavid, on If I Go Crazy Then Will You Still Call Me Superman

It’s like the mandate of Heaven. Nobody can take away your mandate of Heaven! If you have it it’s yours! ^_^

**

So we have confirmation of the parallelism between Melanie and Micah. Quite an interesting parallelism too.

I can make this god, but it won’t be you.

Even as cruel and callous as Melanie has become, I can’t help feeling sorry for her.
— Aetheric, on If I Go Crazy Then Will You Still Call Me Superman

Yeah, seriously, ouch.

Oh, well.

I bet she’s accepted it by now!

**

That’s it for today. It’s almost midnight! I have to … well, OK, it’s 3:40pm here as I write this. I don’t have to turn into a pumpkin. But I do have to edit and then post!

Best wishes,

Jenna

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