In-Character asks

On cohost, readers are encouraged to submit questions to the various characters within the Post-Self setting, whether to the Odists, or to the wide variety of characters across all five books. These questions are answered by the characters themselves, with the authors of the answers provided along with them. These are collected here in one spot for easy reading, and this will be updated as questions are answered.

Last update: September 12, 2023

Expect spoilers ahead for all Post-Self books.

On Identity

You mentioned on the server how Michelle “had her own gender-play” in the form of a breast reduction. What does this tell us about her particular gender experience phys-side? How does it relate to her orientation or her string of unsuccessful relationships? How are these things reflected or subverted in the Odists?

Hold My Name Beneath Your Tongue And Know

Michelle had a long string of unfruitful, short, abusive, and otherwise quite boring relationships back phys-side. She (for I do not call myself her anymore; she was her own person, just as I am) struggled with that, and that was actually the origin of her picking a skunk as her fursona. She said that she liked the aposematic stripes. “Stay away,” they said. “I am not for you to bother.”

Similarly, at one point she started to question just how much of her body was involved in how she was treated by her partners. She liked it okay, to be clear. She was chubby. She was short. She was cute! I remember her thinking that. There were times that she wished she was skinnier, yes, but most of the time? She felt okay.

Still, when she did worry about her body, it was particularly in how it played into her interactions with romance. She liked being cute, and wanted to be seen as cute, but did not particularly like the way that that played out for her. After a bit, she sought out a reduction. It was not expensive, nor was it difficult to achieve: a consult, a counseling session, and then a surgery, all in the span of a month.

The end result was not quite what she expected. It was not just that she was relieved of back pain — though she was — nor that she was treated differently with regards to her body — though that was also true — but that she was happier. She did not experience gender dysphoria, in other words, but after this change, she experienced gender euphoria. It was then that she cut her hair shorter and changed the way that she dressed. It was then that she decided to stick with skunk, owning it as a view of herself rather than simply as a response to some dick in a furry sim that she then met in person.

All of us in her clade have carried over that euphoria in some form or another. Perhaps it is in the ways in which they look. Perhaps it is in the pronouns that they use (several use ey/em pronouns as another little tribute). We are all queer, in our own ways, and for some of us more than others, that queerness surrounds gender. I am a nonbinary trans woman. E.W. is a man. Dear’s answer to the question of “What is your gender?” is “You are asking the wrong question.”


Hold my Name—

You fascinate me, my dear. Bucking the gender conventions of our stanza, when did you decide? Did you know early? Gradual? Was it a snap or a well-reasoned, systematic approach? I took the torch from our down-tree instance, giving meaning to it I will never be sure he did, but where I chose to embrace and embody the decision of the deceased with gusto, you outpunked me and doubled back against it, subverting it with vigor.

Your transness awes me. To so vibrantly exude your double-transness that is not contrary to my singular transness, but complementary, gives me not quite pause, but curiosity. Differently from my darling Jack you carry it as well. I have missed many an opportunity to talk to you directly, so let us fix that, yes? You can talk about it, yes? At length, yes?

You mythologize, I report. You elevate gender into allegory, I pull it down to investigate it closely. We should be contradictory, but we are uncontradictory, both storytellers but straddling a line of fiction, tangling our whiskers in the same veil from opposite ends.

—Deny All Beginnings

Hold My Name Beneath Your Tongue And Know

It is always lovely to hear from you! Despite some of my misgivings about our down-tree instance that I have maintained over the years, there is something to be said about the lives that we have inherited, is there not? He decided nearly on a whim to head towards a specific image of some professor of history — we are nothing if not ourselves, we are nothing if not theatricians — and thus all of us forks of his wound up by default in a similar situation. It is all well and good for some to lean into that dramatic angle. I know that Teeth Of Death maintains that gender out of that particular mood. For others, it proved to be dysphoric, and The Living Know has gone back to the Michelle of our past.

I considered that, myself. Did you know that? Know Nothing lingers still in masculinity out of sheer absentmindedness, but it was my study of the past through the lens of specifically trickster personalities that brought me up against a deliberate approach to identity.

My original reasoning for delving into this study was as a task for the eighth stanza, for True Name and her ilk. Was there anything they could gain from the attitude of a trickster? Were there any warnings they could draw from unsuccessful attempts of trickster gods? Coyote for a while became a favorite of mine.

One thing that I discovered as nearly a universal flexibility of form, and so I began to play around with that as well. I spent some time as a coyote, of course — non-anthro, mind, a little talking troubledog — as well as a monkey, an imagining of Eris (I still keep a golden apple pendant on me), and so on.

It was this play that was the beginning of such feelings. This play became important to me, not least because of my relationship with Warmth and her friendship with Motes. Motes is a dear, of course, but her focus is specifically on play, and so I took a cue from her, and began to play not just with form but identity.

Was I tall? Was I masculine? Was I a scholar? Was I a nerd? What was I? What was I?

I spent a year after that as Michelle but…ah, why did that rankle? What was it about this form that was not quite right?

We had those strange feelings of gender euphoria after the reduction, did we not? There was something there. There was this feeling of Not Just Woman, perhaps demiwoman, but even that was not quite right.

Over time, it began to feel like I was still…kind of a man. I was not not a man. But also I was most certainly not one, either. I languished…

I languished until I was invited to a weird hyperformal event, one of Rye’s book releases. We all grumbled about it for our own reasons. It was all well and good to dress up in a suit, but a tux? Fuck that. Warmth dressed in its best mixture of clothes, something that shifted slowly over time between masculine and feminine, and yet those in attendance addressed em as almost exclusively ‘she’, and partway through, they pulled me aside to have a little grumbly bitch session. Motes came with — and at this point in our history, she had not openly leaned into kidcore in public at the suggestion of In Dreams and A Finger Pointing — and, at one point, burst into tears. She had dressed up in a pencil skirt and fine blouse, and it was making her absolutely miserable.

As we comforted her, four or five Warmths surrounding her while I pet her ears, we all three of us got to talking about identity and the ways in which appearance and social situations ground up against that. Warmth wanted– no, needed that recognition of fluidity that night. Motes increasingly needed out of this strict adherence to form.

But what of me? We came to no conclusions in that moment.

It was not until later that night, Warmth wrapped up in my arms while we talked, that the idea of transition popped fully formed into my head. It landed on my shoulders and dug in its claws. It whispered in my ear of gender, of queerness. of identity.

What the fuck did that mean for me, though? The me who is still Michelle Hadje is cisfeminine (mostly; the breast reduction, as mentioned, came with its own sense of gender play). Would me transitioning towards feminine be…I do not know, some sort of appropriation? Certainly I have been accused of that before (including by myself).

And yet little enough of me feels like Michelle anymore. What of the portion that remains my downtrees? They remain (or, well, remained) masculine. Despite misgivings, they inhabited that gender, so, sure, I could transition, but what did that mean sys-side? There is no need for hormone replacement therapy, no need for surgery.

I am eternally grateful that there is no shortage of trans folks on the System who remain explicitly trans. This has led to group of very tight friends, all of whom uploaded early in the System’s history who all are working to transition inexactly. We do not want to just…be women (and while we are all transfeminine, there are several groups of transmasc folks as well; we are simply leaning into our own goals). We want to be trans women. It hurts to be called a woman. It aches when someone close to me says, “I just see you as a woman.”

It was a spur of the moment leap into one of the most deliberate things I have ever done in my life, and that life has been long. I cannot even begin to compress it into a letter. You and Jack should come over! I will rope Warmth into making something lovely, and hell, if you want to turn it into a whole-ass party, well, I know some skunks.


How did you come to be so small? I am very unsmall, and I have never experienced being truly short. What joy do you find down there among the dandelions and shrubs?


And We Are The Motes In The Stage-Lights

‘Down there’? ‘Down there’?! Why I oughta…

But in reality, it is nice being small! It kind of sucks when you need to run everywhere but your legs are too short, and there are times when I wish I was not relegated to climbing up on the counters to reach stuff — which is rarely! I can reach most things! — but it is all about the ways in which others treat you, yes? The troupe treats me like my raison d’être is to have fun, and they are right to do so. I can sit in laps! I can fit in small places! I can act like a frickin’ kid and the automatic reaction of everyone around me is to just accept it. It is really affirming when the things you want out of life all boil down to the hedonism of play.

My tail gets stepped on, I get kicked out of places for being too small, I get sneered at for doing some unspecified horrible thing — seriously, I have asked, and it is all bluster with no basis when someone gets fussy about the aesthetic — and it is all absolutely still worth it for the joy inherent in life down here among the dandelions and shrubs.

Do you think it is possible to know others better than one knows themself? Is truly knowing anybody to that level even possible?

Hold My Name Beneath Your Tongue And Know

Given the circuitous path I have taken with my own identity and how long it took me to figure out just why that fit so well, and given the rolling of eyes that I received when I told my down-tree instance But The Dead Know Nothing, I think I ought to say that it is most certainly possible for others to know one better than one knows oneself, even if only on the level of a microcosm.

“I think I am transgender,” I said, and she laughed in my face. She laughed!

“Oh, honey,” she said. “I am quite pleased that you have caught up at last.”


alright Dear, what are your thoughts about the impermanence of self, meaning as even as we are ourselves we are changing and mutating away from what we are in the moment every minute of every day?

Dear, Also, The Tree That Was Felled

I have found myself confronted with this as part of my very existence. I dance my dance of instance art and, in the process, it is that very individuation that becomes the core mechanic of the art. The word ‘mechanic’ is less than ideal, but it is what we have to lean on: yes, it is impressive when one forks smoothly or can lean creatively on the mutation algorithms, but the truly artistic aspect is putting a fine point on the ways in which we change on an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, second-by-second basis.

Back in systime 59 (2183 by the old calendar), one of my first true exhibitions was a gala of sorts. I rented out a large ballroom and invited 50 individuals to join me in their finest for an evening of dances and delights. However, they were not to dance with each other, they were to dance with me. I forked 50 times over leaving fifty fennecs (well, 51, as one of me was left as the emcee for the evening) and we began dancing to all sorts of lovely music from throughout the centuries.

However, one by one, my instances began to quit. It was no quiet affair. They quit with looks of agony, with yelps of fear, with wide eyes and trembling paws. The more instances that quit, the more anxious the remaining instances became. One by one, their number dwindled, until there was only one remaining, sobbing and pleading to remain, to not be annihilated. And then it, too, quit with a shriek.

It was, of course, an act. Quitting does not feel like anything. There is no pain, no fear, certainly no anxiety in an instance artist such as myself. However, it did put a fine point on the absurdity of our condition, that these instances were no longer me, that that they changed with every step of their ballroom dance.

That final instance was dancing with a member of my own clade: Time Is A Finger Pointing At Itself. I went into the exhibition with little plan as to who would be the final dancer. It had little to do with their skill (though our dear Pointillist was a fine dancer in her own right), and more to do with how they were reacting to this play of self. Would I lean into someone who shared in the foxes’ terror? Would I lean into someone who expressed joy at the dance that I had set up? In the end, I leaned into an actor — A Finger Pointing runs a theatre company, made up mostly of members of her own stanza — who adopted an almost villainous aspect. She danced with a serene smile, even as that final dancer dissolved into tears, ending the song with a flourish of a bow even as it cried out in agony.

Another reason that I chose her is that she correctly divined that I would not be merging the experiences of my up-tree instances back into myself as the emcee. It was not something that any of the guests needed to know. It was a private joke between all 51 of me. It was a way for me to be the audience as well. After all, did the other dancers not have access to my internal thoughts? Why, then, should I be any different?

She, however, saw right through me, because of course she did. She is an inveterate actor! She is the manager of a troupe of actors! She picked her part and played it, and turned it into a show even for little old Dear.

In our discussion afterward, we lingered long on this selfdom-as-play. “Sometimes I send a fork to a party I would really rather participate in myself, and when she returns with all those lovely experiences freshly welling up in her I think they belong to her,” she said. “It is less about willful individuation and more about.. how every fork is an individual.”

To prove her point, she forked and then, on a whim, pulled this new fork over until she stumbled and slumped against her, laughing. She explained, “Here she is caught completely off her guard because I did not intend to surprise her until just now. She is different from me!”

It is all very Heraclitus, is it not? He was the one who said that no man crosses the same river twice, because the river has changed minute-to-minute, second-to-second, as does the man. It was Weinberger who said that no one ever reads the same poem twice, because by reading the poem, the reader is changed: “Every reading of every poem, regardless of language, is an act of translation: translation into the reader’s intellectual and emotional life. As no individual reader remains the same, each reading becomes a different — not merely another — reading.”

These are the things I think about when I think about the impermanence of the self, which is always.


How does the drastic mutability of one’s form on the System interact with being trans? How has this affected the language cladists use to discuss gender? What does it mean to be trans in a world in which your sex can be modified on a whim to accomodate your needs?

To Deny The End, Is To Deny All Beginnings

How, indeed, do we define transness at all? Do pronouns precede the flesh? Does being trans require the body to change, or the mind? Does what one’s body or identity was before uploading define what it is after?

By the “traditional” definition, a dated concept even by the time we uploaded, I am transmasculine, because the root of our clade was mostly a cis woman and I am masculine. It might be argued that most of my stanza is one way or another, since most of us use he/him pronouns. I changed my physical appearance, my clothes, my mannerisms, my everything. I am defined by what Michelle Hadje mostly was not. Some used to define transgender as a struggle, against the body, against societal expectations, against laws political or religious, against a role foisted upon us.

But it cost me nothing. If there is any remnant of a previous feminine self on me or in me, it was a conscious choice to keep. One can change everything about themselves at a whim, and the only obstacle is the memory of one’s self. There are no rules, no fretting over surgeries, wardrobes, paperwork, no pressure against change.

It seems to me, then, that the concept of transgender must change, not just the language we use to speak of it. Asked about its gender, one of my distant cocladists irritatingly yet predictably answered “You are asking the wrong question”. Loathe as I am to admit such, Dear, Also, The Tree That Was Felled was right. What gender means and is to the Ode clade alone varies wildly, never mind the trends of Lagrange or Castor or Pollux overall. We cannot define “trans” as an identity on changing gender alone any more, or to do so is not useful in the present.

I spent weeks thinking on Dear’s answer, and if the question of someone’s gender was the wrong one, what should I be asking? I came up with an idea: I put out into the System an anonymous survey, asking a variety of questions on gender and personal history, with an offer of a generous amount of rep for participating. The response was immense, and I had to rope a few friends and cocladists to help me collate the findings.

The results were varied, but two trends stuck out to me:

  1. A great deal of furry or non-human respondents specified species or classification as a gender, such as “my gender is wolf” or “I identify as a catgirl”, “I am a machine” etc. One entry, which I cannot decide if it is satire but must mention, said “I identify as a forklift and I will only date those who are forklift certified.” For many of these respondents, there was no line between species and gender at all, or terms were oft-conflated, and they spoke about changing species with the same language and framing as transitioning genders. Throughout the 20th century onward, gender was discussed frequently in terms of roles, and is not species a role? Does it not come with expectations? Require performance? It should not have surprised me, but it did.
  2. Regardless of species or gender or any number of factors, an astounding number of respondents who had transitioned in some form or another did not think of themselves or identify as trans. The pattern was largest in those who uploaded and cited dysphoria as a motivation, but the data was present in every demographic. In the vast majority of these cases, the individual in question forked until they had an appearance they were comfortable with, then settled into their life, never going back or changing all that much. More than a few seemed unfamiliar with terms such as trans or cis at all.

I was unsure what to make of my findings. I had sought out to find a question, but only found the answers to it. Why ask questions, when the answers will not help? An answer, be it simple or complex, is not on its own enough for one to divine the question asked. I needed a shift in perspective, some other angle to view, to find the edge pieces of the puzzle. After days of thinking and overthinking, I finally thought to ask others. Just as I had been set upon this path by dear old Dear, I needed the perspective of someone else to point me to the trail again.

Among those who helped me with the survey was a badger from another clade named Jack, an investigative journalist who had aided me with research in the past. I asked if either of these trends were as surprising for him. He told me they made sense, since they both applied to his clade.

Naturally this excited me. “How so?”

“Well, your clade’s half humans and half skunks, right?”

“I do not have exact percentages, but—”

He raised a paw. “Hey, this ain’t rocket science, pal. Let’s say half of you got stripes, half of you don’t, give or take a fox or two. And like you said, it’s complicated. Your clade clearly has some feelings on species, and I’m guessing your root instance couldn’t make up their mind about it?”

It is a difficult subject matter at the best of times, but I didn’t want to digress too far. I told him, “It might be more accurate to say she was of two minds about.”

He smiled affably. “Plurality problems, say no more, say no more, I get it.”

“Plurality?” I asked him. Even then I did not understand the word or the way it, too, changed radically within the System. I understand it now, and I wonder how my cocladists think about the term and how, at least I feel, it applies to us Odists.

He frowned with concern, studying me. He must have seen that concern mirrored in me, and quickly returned to the matter at hand. Or, well, paw, in his case, as he gesticulated with it. “Enh, fuhgeddaboudit. Not important. What I’m getting at, my man, is that part of your and your clade’s identities is that conflict. It’s affected all of you greatly, no matter where you end up.”

“And how does this relate to your clade?” I asked.

He grinned, and leaned back on the table covered in survey results, crossing one leg over the other. “Not a single member of my clade was ever human.”

“So your Root Instance switched at the first fork?”

He nodded his head and waggled a claw up and down at us. “There’s the first thing you’re missing, my friend. I pick my words carefully. What did I say?”

I frowned. “You said your clade does not contain any humans.”

“My exact words were Not a single member of my clade was ever human. We were not human before uploading, either.”

“That is not possible,” I said.

“If you will allow me a bit of conjecture here without digging too deep, I would guess that your root instance was a furry before uploading, and had some experience with being their fursona in Sims before uploading? And, if I may, being online as an animal and offline as a human contributed to their troubles over species identity?” I doubt I concealed the rising panic in me very well, because immediately he threw up both paws. “I can see I have hit a nerve, and I’m being reductive with the Odists here. It’s a lot more than that and I don’t know the half of it, but I’m trying to keep it easy. My point is, those experiences and differences in Proprioception can mess with your self-image, especially if those ‘animal’ sensations feel more natural than your ‘human’ ones. I’m sure you see where this is going.”

And I did. His clade had no attachments to the feelings and shape of the human body, and that predated their upload. As long as those feelings had existed, they had never thought of themselves as ‘human’, and in the infinite mutability of the System, they never had to be one again. What did it matter to anyone if they had looked human externally before? The odds of running into anyone from pre-upload days are incredibly low without active coordination beforehand, and if, as with Jack’s clade, they had changed species and names in their first hours sys-side, they would be impossible to recognize anyway. Why carry such a useless distinction with you?

“Attaboy, atttaboy! He’s gettin’ it! And for my Clade, those good good animal feels came up before we ever touched a sim. I can chase them back as far as our memories go phys-side. Hell, when I try to remember how I looked back then, I can’t even remember what the ‘human’ body looked like. I don’t look like I do now in those memories, but I am 100% grade-A prime cut badger, baybee, you love to see it. Asked around the Clade and they all say the same. They can’t remember us being human-shaped. If the System won’t let us forget anything, that should tell you how far back this all goes.”

I stepped over next to him, and looked out over all the surveys. Most of us had viewed them on tablets or screens, but Jack told me he had picked up the habit of physical paper from one of his cocladists, one who worked as an archivist. He said fighting with the pages and having to interact with them directly helped him spot trends, catch patterns as they emerged. I did not understand how he meant that when the survey started. I was close to getting it in that moment. The question, too, that I was seeking grew closer. I could taste it, smell it.

I said to him, “Part of me thought that the framing of ‘I always knew’ was too reductive, a stereotype, something made easy and palatable for those who are not queer. We definitely knew a few people phys-side who said as much. Reframing it with species makes me realize I in turn reduced it. If that is how any individual sees themselves, who am I to question it? How can anyone?”

He nodded. “Feel like you’re closer to finding your question?”

I scowled. “Oh, absolutely fucking not.”

He laughed, and clapped a paw on my shoulder. “Well, can’t win ’em all, kid.” He waved an arm out over the table. “We got ourselves a banquet of food for thought and we gotta sit down and digest.”

We sorted responses for a while, and he smiled every time he caught me looking at him. After a while, the focus shifted from organizing by data points alone, and instead we began to group responses by what was most compelling in them. I felt in so many ways a fool. Some questions were really only redundancies, others useless, and I could feel the weight of the questions that needed to be in their place. I thought about what my responses would have been, but the silence of the room crept under my skin and I had to break it back out.

“Did you fill out the survey?” I asked him.

He shook his head. “I passed it around my clade, and one of these” —he held up a survey response— “is definitely a cocladist of mine, she’s hard to miss, but enh.”

I dropped my stack of results, half of them missing the lip of the table and scattering to the floor. “What the fuck do you mean, ’enh’?”

He shrugged. “Enh, I mean enh. I got plenty of rep, I didn’t have much to say.”

“Oh, bullshit. You are not the coy type, that is an Odist thing.” Why was I so angry? Why did this matter to me? I know now, but in the moment a part of me stood removed from all of this, a phantom fork not really there in the dark corners of the room, spectating, and he could not understand my sudden ire.“Why, Mr. Haveck? Why did you not fill it out?”

He wheeled around on me. “Don’t call me Mr. Haveck again. Don’t you dare. Call me Jack, or if you must, call me Haveck, but if you throw those two letters in front again I will walk out.”

I stepped closer to him. Jack is not a tall badger, but my having almost a foot and a half on him meant nothing. When you chase stories the way he does, someone taking a swing is expected. He will not swing back or defend himself physically, but his pacifism makes him like stone. Still, I could not let this go. “Answer the question, Jack.”

“Why’s it such a big fuckin’ deal if I didn’t?”

“You literally never shut up. You have made a living out of having something to say. I only know you because you talk so much. You spent this whole afternoon explaining shit to me. Your choice of species is goddamn perfect because like any good journalist you badger the shit out of anyone who will listen and most of the people who will not. You talk, you rant, you pontificate, you lecture, and you state the facts.” I was shaking. “You-You-You put on this whole fucking persona, the New York accent, the Spider Jersualem glasses, the whole Columbo routine. You are a walking 20th century stereotype, a century neither of us ever fucking lived in, but despite all those layers of bullshit you live in you are the most honest person I know. You never hold back, ‘you tell it like it is’ and everything you do, even upholding this stupid fucking schtick, is so profoundly genuine in a way I have never known any other person to be. It is why I like you. Why I want you around all the time. Why I wanted you here, why I asked you for help. I nearly bankrupted myself for this- this–” I knocked more papers off the table. “–this shit that didn’t actually tell me anything without you here. It is all useless. Useless!”

I flipped the table over.

I cannot change the past, and I cannot forget it. It burns a little ember in the back of my head sometimes, and it hurts to speak of openly, but it is here for the same reason everything else is. It is a part of the narrative.

Jack took a few steps back in surprise. “Fucking hell, Denny—”

“Denny? Denny? Oh, Mister Haveck is a step too fucking far, but you are going to call me DENNY?”

It might hurt Jack to read this, too, because in that moment he did the most aggressive thing I have ever seen him do before or since. Even then, he did not do it to hurt me, but to bring me to his level and pull me out of myself. He grabbed both collars of my zip-up sweater, yanked me down to his level and forced me to stare him in the eye. His face curled into the kind of angry snarl only badgers are capable of.

“Shut the fuck up and listen to me. Do you have any idea what your clade has put me through? Any idea? Because you’re right, I can’t shut the fuck up, especially when I see someone behind the scenes messing with things. Before I met you, before I even knew you were one of them, all my interactions were with the Eighth Stanza. They, and that megalomaniacal son of a bitch Jonas they work with, did not and do not like me very much. They couldn’t extort me, couldn’t bribe or persuade me, and they couldn’t force me to quit. And do you know what happens to people like that? I lost count of how many assassination attempts there were. They even got a fork or two. Wanna know the last one I remember? I watched my cocladist Miranda, a Lynx who got all of her muscle mass the hard way instead of forking, throw a killer through a plate glass window with one arm. I never found out if he fell all 30 stories before quitting but they stopped trying to kill me after that. I hated all Odists for a long time, even though most of you don’t deserve it, and if I hadn’t met you I still would. If I hadn’t been walkin’ public sims looking for a decent slice of actual proper New York pizza and stumbled into a cute guy, I’d have a grudge against you couldn’t fit inside a sim. You. You got me, pal. Here’s this fella, and he’s thin and human, not normally my type, but he’s tall and he has messy hair and he’s really interested in the actual history of the System, which makes up for it. He convinced me that maybe I had the Odists wrong, that maybe I’m missing the Ode for the Stanza, and maybe just Jonas is the one who wanted me dead. I’m not so hard headed I can’t admit when I’m wrong, I ain’t no fucking saint.”

His grip loosened a minute, then tightened, pulling me closer. The snarl faded to a scowl, but his eyes were full of tears. “And maybe, just maybe, the reason I started to fall for this new kind of Odist is because I sympathized. Maybe I’ve got a down-tree instance. Maybe she’s a raccoon, but she’d slip into your Eighth Stanza like a glove. Maybe everything I am and everything I do is to not be the monster that she is. Maybe I’ve dedicated my whole life to being honest and spreading the truth because I can’t handle that plurality aside, when we forked after uploading, my origin is from indside of her. So maybe–” the snarl crept back “–maybe when I see the survey collecting what could be a dangerous amount of information about people, I get a bit nervous. Maybe it’s bad memories from phys-side. Maybe there’s some doubt I can’t shake even when my gut says to trust you. Maybe I’m afraid he’s been working for the others this whole time and I’m a goddamn fool. But even then, even then, I joined this project because I like you too, bud, and I needed to know what you were up to. I figured I could give you the answers in person. I figured that if something was up and I needed to protect my neck again, I’d catch wind here. And when you start getting pushy about my answers, I keep my cards to my chest. Dodge. Deflect. Walk you around the block a few times. I’ve got a monster in my clade, and she’s made me fucking paranoid. And now, I’ve fucked up the first chance I’ve had at a good relationship because I’ve shattered your saintly fuckin’ vision of me. I am a master of bein’ dishonest, Deny All Beginnings, a professional liar. It’s in my core because of who I forked from, it’s just that I have a choice never to be that person again and it’s the only thing that keeps me from quitting for good when I wake up every morning.”

He let go of me, not even shoving me back, just dropping his arms in defeat. “I should leave.”

“Yeah, maybe you should. This whole fucking survey was a fucking mistake.”

“I’ll see myself out.” He said.

It may seem pointless to include this. That I have lost the thread of what you asked me about. That in dredging up an anecdote to make a point I have lost myself in the emotions of that memory. I have not told you everything. I have not been honest about what my relationship to Jack was or is. I left out our discussions on sexuality, on polyamory, on what journalism or history is in the System. I could have paraphrased him after the argument, and left whatever feelings we have for each other out of this. I moonlight as an editor now and again, it would not be difficult.

I include this event because it, and what happened next, changed me. It became a part of me, as I let someone else into my life and into my gender. Perhaps it is not as irreducible as it seems to me, but in that way Jack and his whole clade affect others, I found myself then inside of a story, and I am so intertwined now I struggle to perceive myself from the outside of it. What language I use, how I speak of gender and transness, is informed by this, and I am powerless against it. It is part of the narrative, and the narrative is everything.

When Jack turned to leave, I went to do something petty. He had left his leather jacket on a chair. He could have forked a new one, but for reasons I still do not understand, I wanted one last jab before he was gone. I thought to grab it, to toss it to him and say something cutting and witty, leave some salt in the wounds we verbally opened on each other, to make both of us more bitter. What I did instead was tangle my legs in the overturned table, fall, and dash my skull on one of the many filing cabinets in the room. Both of us for a moment forgot we were in the System, I think, because I panicked at the wetness on my face and Jack rushed to me like a medic. He made sure I was stable, checked the gash over my forehead, and somewhere around him summoning a rag to wipe up the blood we both remembered that I was not at any risk of bleeding out. He collapsed near me, willed two iced tea lemonade cans into existence, and handed me one. We were quiet for a while, and the image of him then comes to my mind unbidden often, back against a cabinet, one knee up, head down, staring into the can. He turned his paw back and forth, and the dim light of the room made the metal dance and shine. Jack’s not a thin badger, by any means, but in that moment all his clothes seemed too big for him, like a little kid trying on his dad’s clothes. He didn’t look up when he started speaking.

“The truth is, Denn—Deny All Beginnings, is that I also didn’t answer the survey because I’m not sure. When it comes to species? Sure, that was cut and dry, no problems there. That part is so simple. Sexuality, too, that’s an easy one for me, not my thing really, y’all have fun with it, I’m good. But gender is…not easy.”

He looked up, but not at me, out into the distance, beyond the far wall of the room and well past anywhere I could follow. Some chunk of history caught his eye and his voice softened. “It’s…our plurality, how we were as headmates, that was one thing phys-side. How we ended up forking and spreading out sys-side was real, real different, and reshaped all of us. Jane, my down-tree instance, cut the line and forked out as soon as we had the rep. She hated being part of us, and finally got her wish of a body of her own. She hated anything masculine about herself. She hated how she hadn’t had much say in our appearance or wardrobe phys-side. She hated any part of herself that reminded her of her father. I wish the System would let me forget it; it’s like holding a ball of hot metal. When she had gamed the System for enough rep, she forked hard, pushing as much of what she hated about herself into it, and bada bing, bada boom, baby, I finally exist in the flesh. She gave me a huge pile of reputation, bounced me out of her sim, and didn’t speak to anyone in the clade for 50 years or so.”

He shook his head. “I don’t hate her for it. I can’t, I was her up until the split. And hell, some small mercy, she also pushed into me the parts of herself that liked what was masculine about us, that liked our father, that loved our clade and wasn’t afraid to live up to all those high hopes certain people had for us. The reason I hate her is she became a fuckin’ politician, playing spymaster, all this cloak and dagger bullshit with no morals, but hey, that’s irrelevant. I’m getting sidetracked. She needed to do it. And she carried me with her up until she forked me, which hurt her just as much. She couldn’t embrace or redefine masculinity like so much of the rest of our clade did.”

He looked down into the can again, swirling it slowly. “I’m happy with who I am now, but Jane’s resentment lingers like a ghoul. It eats at me, man. It really does. Makes me doubt myself.”

I finally found my voice again. “You know, I do not know why he did it.”

Jack finally looked at me.

I shrugged. “My down-tree instance. The…root of the stanza if you will.” I was waving a hand in front of me. Even that early I picked Jack’s habits and he started to pick up mine. So it goes. “All of us in the Stanza started with he/him pronouns, and most of us still use them, save Hold My Name Beneath Your Tongue And Know, who I am now realizing that I should have talked to in the first place. Shit. Shit shit shit.” I shook my head. “Anyway, my down-tree instance chose to fork with he/him pronouns. The hell of it is, I have his memories, I can conjure him into my head or make a fork like him, but I cannot understand why he did it.”

“Not at all?” Jack asked.

“No,” I told him. “It felt like the right thing to do in the moment, but it was instinct. A gut reaction. ‘This is what I need to do’ but no reason, no goal, no motive. He just did.”

“Denny, if there’s one thing I’ve learned chasing the truth above all else, it’s that a feeling is enough. So many people talk a big game about facts and logic and all that shit, but any sort of reasoning that doesn’t account for emotions is bullshit.”

“No, and I get that, Jack, I do, but…why? Why did he feel that way? Why did he do what he did? I am not my down-tree instance any more. We had some things in common, but when I go back to those memories, I see them with my eyes and not through his. I think about how I feel and what is important to me, and I cannot align it to his feelings at all.”

I looked down, and discovered what Jack found so appealing about staring into the can. The light that hit the tea inside reflected onto the inner walls of the can, shimmering. The liquid was murky, and there was a soft froth of bubbles along the edges. Here was my own reflecting pool, in a single serving. I let my thoughts sink down into the tea and swirled the can, washing them. Let some sweetness and some flavor give them a light bit of color. I pulled them out again, somehow with them clearer instead of the shade of the liquid.

“I guess I was expecting it to…I do not know, mean more to him? The more I think about it, it is a moment more than any other, even picking my line in the Ode, that defined who I became and what I am now. A decision made by some stranger, a man I barely ever was and now decidedly am not. How could it mean so little to him? And did it mean so little to him? Have I changed so much that I cannot recognize his emotions? Maybe I am giving him too little credit, pushing this expectation that we should have dropped to our knees, tears in our eyes, lifting our new hands towards heaven, as antennae, broadcasting love to a world and a creator that let me become what I am? It should have meant more, it does mean more, but I project onto the past the sentiment of the present and punish it for not knowing the future. I never thought to ask him. I did not myself realize the importance of it, and by the time I did, it was too late.” The cut on my forehead had stopped bleeding some time ago, but the sensation of wetness remained. Somewhere I had begun crying.

“Too late? Are you not on speaking terms or something? I can try to talk to him, get him to—”

I shut my eyes and leaned my head back against the cabinet. The tears cut rivers down the soft hills of my cheekbones. “Jack, what does the name Qoheleth mean to you?”

My eyes stayed shut, but I know what he did. The mind does such an amazing job of filling in visuals when it knows the subject so well. I know Jack frowned. I know he tilted his head to the side as he said, “What does that name mean to me? It’s familiar…” I know the endless catalog of his mind found it, and when it did his face softened, and he looked down. I know how his snout moved around the soft oh that escaped him. I know the pity that filled his eyes. I know his paw came close to my shoulder, and I know he feared to touch me, unsure of where he stood after everything that had happened only a handful of minutes before. I know he slowly pulled his paw back. I know that now he never hesitates, because there are no barriers like that between us anymore.

“I was there, Jack. When it happened. I have nightmares about it still. Some of them I am the one up at the podium, or the assassin comes for me instead. I cannot stop reliving it. It is not like the deaths Michelle remembers, it is so visceral and so much more real here. He is gone. No forks, no miracles, no ghosts. He spoke of the dangers of permanence, and he was right, because I cannot now ever get that closure from him.” I threw up my hands. “Am I just stuck with that forever? Hopeless before a question I cannot ask and stuck without answers even if I could.”

“I don’t mean to be indelicate, but it seems to me that you found your own meaning in his choice. What could he possibly have told you that you haven’t already figured out better yourself?” He asked, and took a swig of his tea.

“I need to know if I am allowed to call myself trans or not.”

Jack spit his drink everywhere.

I opened my eyes at that. “I need to know why he forked the way he did, so I can know if—”

“Are you serious right now?”

“He never called himself transgender to my knowledge!”

Jack started looking around. “This is a prank. This is a prank, right? Where’s the camera? Are you wearing a wire?”

I sat up straight. “Jack, I am being serious right now!”

He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Jesus Mother Mary and Joseph, I am going to be the first person in the history of the System to have an honest to god aneurysm. I can feel the clot forming in real time, it’s incredible.”

“What if he did not do it for–”

The badger dragged his paws down his face. “We’re settling this right the fuck now. You are a man, yes?”

“Am I?”

He glared daggers at me. “Do. You. Identify. As. Masculine.”

“You know I do.”

“And your root instance, ah, what’s her name?”

I squirmed a little. “Michelle. Or Sasha. Kind of both? Michelle.”

“Is Michelle a cis woman?”

“I mean she was not not cis…”

“Fucking Odists, I swear to christ. For the sake of the argument, she was cis enough.”


“She was a cis woman, you came from her, you are not a woman, ergo, you are transmasculine by the bare minimum of standard measures. If that is not enough, I will draw up a document, have it notarized, and give you a framed copy for your goddamned living room.”

I squinted at him. He waved it off. “Listen, you would not believe the amount of ‘functional small town government’ sims there are out there. Weirdly a very universal desire of mankind.”

We laughed, and Jack summoned up another can for himself. I sighed. “I still would have liked to hear his thoughts about all of this.”

Jack nodded. He leaned towards me, raising his can. “To Qoheleth.”

“To Qoheleth,” I answered.

“To he who died in the pursuit of Truth,” he said solemnly.

“To he who died for daring to speak up,” I answered.

A clinking of cans. The taste of citrus and tea. A few more tears. A hug. An offer of a hand, one man pulling the other to his feet. A righting of a table. A scooping of papers. A lingering question.

“Do you think it is healthy, Jack?”

He paused for a moment, a stack of answers in his hand, but didn’t look at me. “Healthy?”

“All these people, not acknowledging that they are Trans, that they chose to change themselves?”

“Well, Deny All Beginnings, you tell me.”

“Qoheleth talked about how our inability to forget was driving our clade crazy. It does not feel right to act like what we came from does not shape us if we cannot let it go, either.”

He set the folder down, and turned to me. “I don’t know if it’s healthy or morally right, but it’s what people do. The System is really amazing in that way, you get so much more say in what the narrative of your life is. I was ‘human’ at some point, but I never feel the need to acknowledge it, because I feel it bears so little on the story of me.” He began to unbutton his shirt. “Do you think I’m transmasc?”

I nodded. “If my coming from Michelle makes me trans, and you came from Jane, it only makes sense.”

He undid the last buttons. “Well, true, but there’s a wrinkle I don’t think you know. Jane herself is transfeminine. Our root instance is too. When we uploaded, we had been transitioning for the better part of 2 decades. Does that change your answer?”

I chewed my tongue a moment, but my thoughts coalesced quickly into a simple chain of logic. I shook my head. “Why should it?”

He opened his shirt. On his chest, there were top surgery scars. “Going against the grain twice made me who I am. Jane hides her transness from the daylight, much as she holds it dear. There’s no physical trace of it on her anywhere.” He tapped the scar on his left with a paw. “I keep it close to my heart, but I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s the same reason my cocladist Miranda built a gym for herself. It’s the same reason I suggested using paper to look at the results. The process affects the end goal. It’s not just about how the story ends, it’s about how we tell it. What makes us trans isn’t just the end result, it’s–”

“–the narrative.” I said.

He laughed, and buttoned up his shirt. “I’d say that this was all a hell of a long way around to get to the point, but uh….”

I smiled. “Thanks, Jack.”

He walked past me to grab his jacket. “Hey, well, you know me.” He spun it around himself, sliding his arms into it effortlessly. “Always a sucker for a good story.” He tugged on it to straighten the collar. “And god only knows every last one of you Odists is a novel the size of a cinder block, fuckin’ A. Catch you around, Denny boy.”

He walked around the table, and just as he reached the door, he forked. One of him went through the door grinning. The other turned on his heels to face me. “Just, ah, one more thing, Mr. Deny All Beginnings.”

I raised an eyebrow at him.

“Would you be free for dinner this friday night?”

I ask you this: What is it to Deny something? Denial is a weighted word, One we see too oft as negative. To Deny can be an act of power To Deny an enemy a victory To Deny we are bound to the past I came from Michelle, but I Deny that I am her I came from Qoheleth but I Deny he made me I am an Odist true but I Deny my clade defines me I began as human but I Deny I am bound to my species To Deny the End Is to Deny All Beginnings but should I Deny what happened in between?

I ask you this: is transness a Denial? is that a Denial in itself? Do you Deny All Beginnings? or do you Deny that they define you? Do you Deny the body? Or do you Deny that you are beholden to its shape? Do you Deny the narrative? Or do you Deny that transness is just a Denial?

Perhaps I no longer speak well for the rest of my clade when it comes to matters of gender. Perhaps the way Jack’s clade conducts themselves has altered my narrative irrevocably. In the end, it doesn’t change anything.

My name is To Deny The End Is To Deny All Beginnings, and I am so very, very trans.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have another date with a badger.


Motes: When do you think you began to take on this identity of the littlest sister? What inspired you to choose this role? How has it affected your relationships with others? How do you feel about all of it?

And We Are The Motes In the Stage-Lights

We were all of us, all of the fifth stanza, forked in systime 3, back when A Finger Pointing began to branch out. We began, as a matter of course, all but identical to her, both in looks and in temperament. However, we shortly began to diverge as we went our own way. Voces Sensuum became a thing. We took our jobs, and my job was as a stage tech, so I was the one building the sets, painting everything, minding the curtains, all of that sort of stuff.

It was actually while doing all of that painting that I started to think about what it was about me that differentiated me from my immediate cocladists. This was…I do not know, perhaps five years down the line? Something like that. By then, we had all started to go each in our own direction, taking those little specks of her that we had been granted after being forked and turning them into something uniquely ours.

I was painting and thinking about what was different about me that made me so unlike That It Might Give, our director, when I realized that I had sat down in a patch of wet paint. I had taken to wearing overalls at the time, because having all of those tools at hand, all of the little screwdrivers and paintbrushes and picks in my chest pockets while pliers and hammers lived at my waist. Something about wearing those paint-spattered overalls dredged up a memory from decades prior, and I could not but laugh about it.

I do not know why the image stuck with me. What was I supposed to do with such a thing? It was of when I was in kindergarten, a rolly-polly Michelle Hadje, somewhere in the central corridor, wearing her silly corduroy overalls and finger painting at her little table, getting tsked at by Miss Willard for sitting in a splotch of red paint. “Oooh, your mother will be upset,” she kept saying.

It was just so silly! I was a kid, of course I was going to get messy.

And now here I was, 46 years old, lingering on a memory from nearly four decades prior and thinking back on that very silliness.

There are certainly some ’life was simpler’ feelings about it. Life was simpler, was it not? No getting lost, no uploaded consciousnesses, no fretting about love and all the woes that hit us surrounding that phys-side. I suppose I wound up just leaning hard into that memory. I opted out of love. I started to own the playfulness of my attire. I started to own playfulness, period! It is so easy to forget the role that play plays in our lives, with our carefully delineated fun times that we must squeeze in around work and sleep and all sorts of obligations. Life is play, and that became my whole thing over time.

I found that that led to a change in the way my cocladists and friends treated me. They started ruffling my hair, trying to get me excited, playing around with me in the auditorium, all the good things that we do with kids and none of the bad things; after all, if they needed serious-Motes, they could always take a step back and talk with me like the 46 year old woman I was, right? I liked all of that.

At one point, I started to age down my appearance bit by bit as another way to lean into that. This came with a few side effects. Chief among them was the way that I was approached by strangers. Even from its earliest days, after a particularly disastrous experiment, a minimum age of 18 years was imposed on uploading. When I started to occasionally look younger than that, I was viewed with confusion, wariness, or even anger.

I was at one point pulled aside by A Finger Pointing and given a gentle suggestion (one I suspect may have been passed on from another stanza) to be careful about this particular experiment of mine. I can very much see why, of course. There are plenty and sufficient reasons that someone looking young in a world with a lower bound on age would be viewed with disdain, and I would not always have the chance to explain myself.

Besides, how could I possibly explain via just my appearance that I was reclaiming a childhood that I had not actually lived? There is the childhood I had actually had, yes, and it was perfectly average, but here I was provided a chance to choose the aspects of childhood that I liked and discard all of the bad stuff. I could discard the emotional lability that led to tantrums (do not get me wrong, I still get them, and ma would kick my butt if I did not admit that here). I could leave behind the inability to understand simple social connections. I could claim that playfulness while keeping that hard-won intelligence.

In the end, I veered away from that particular exploration as not worth the social cost, though I do still look younger than most of my cocladists (except perhaps Warmth In Fire we are two peas in a pod): a comfortable 20 instead of their early 30s.

I like who I have become. I am a being focused on play, on existing comfortably in a role that I have carved out for myself. I am the babiest Odist largely because of this, yes, despite being…oh, what year even is it? I am three centuries old, and I am still the little kid in my stanza. I get called ‘Dot’, ‘Mote’, ‘Speck’, or ‘Kiddo’ (or, when I am in skunk form, ‘Skunklet’). My stanza are my sisters. A Finger Pointing is the eldest, the one who loves and protects us all. (I call her ‘ma’ sometimes just to be a little snot, of course, but what is being the youngest sister without a bit of indulging in brattiness?)

All of this feels good to me. It is an affirmation that I am still doing what is both good for me, and what is perhaps out of reach for so many others within the clade. What started as a memory of paint on trousers led to not just an identity, but an entire way of being.

On Sims

To those Odists so inclined: What is the best worst bar or restaurant you have ever been to? Not best, not worst. Best worst. Can you tell me about something particularly memorable off the menu?

To Deny The End Is To Deny All Beginnings:

Oh, man. Oh, man. Have I got one for you, I have been really into punk and metal lately, and I stumbled into a hole in the wall. It is called the mohawk, and it is a mess. The outside of the place is dirty, the street is half finished, and the inside is even worse. It is barely 20 feet wide if that, bar is cramped, the stage is too small, the food is terrible, the bathrooms are miserable for everyone, whether you want to use it for a hookup or bothered to keep biological functions like that in the System, and the acoustics of it are atrocious. It is so bad.

You will see the best show of your life there. You will have a conversation that changes your entire outlook on something. You will make out with someone in a drizzling rain out front, and find yourself marrying them 30 years on. It is the kind of place that everyone eventually ends up at when you run out of suggestions, and it is, do not mistake me for a moment, a shitty place with shitty drinks and usually pretty shitty music, be that the sound tech’s fault or the musicians. But it is also where one drink or one wave of the hand or one snippet of conversation overheard becomes the moon that pulls on the tides of fate. If the rumors are to be believed, that is all by design. It is wonderful. It sucks. I love it so much.

The most memorable thing on the menu is the Poutine, a traditional dish from the northern parts of the Western Federation, made from gravy, french fries, and cheese curds. I say it is the most memorable thing on the menu, because it is the only thing that is actually good. It stands out like a boulder in a field of shitty roses. As I understand it, it is a favorite of the owner of the sim, a strange Shamo Chicken by the name of Felicia King. Order the wings first, it is a tradition to be disappointed by them as your first food, then order the Poutine and complain about how the wings just are not as good, and it is a ripoff how much they cost. This will start a fight somewhere in the bar, and time-old rites will be honored.

I am there at least once a week, and I will buy you the worst beer you have ever had phys-side or sys-side.

Or a watered down soda. I get that not everyone drinks, even in the sim.


E.W.: Would you tell us a story about the wilderness?


I remember teaching myself to hunt, promising myself that I would start small with snares and then work up from there, thinking that I would not let myself eat until I could eat food that I had caught myself.

Eating itself is optional, sys-side. One can simply turn off that ability, just as one can (and most do) turn off the need to urinate, defecate, get the hiccups, and so on.

The mind, however, remembers hunger. It remembers it so viscerally that, should you neglect to modify that out of your sensorium, you will feel it just as intense as you did back phys-side. It remembers the feeling of satiation that comes with eating. It remembers the feeling of being too full, of being sick to your stomach. It is a part of life, and even being infolife, we remember that from before we were such.

So I remember getting so hungry and weak by the third day that I pinged Serene, my cocladist who had built me my little wilderness, to see if she could help. She laughed and ruffled my fur and called me a dumbass, saying that she had not included fauna because I had not requested it, so of course I did not catch anything. She brought me a hamburger and I ate it so fast I got sick.


Open letter to the Odists - Would you tell us about your favorite public sim?

I Must Set No Stones Between Me And My Actions

There is a sim that I love to visit when I remember, which is sometimes only a few days, and the standing record is a decade. It is a small village by a sea, and I am told it is based upon the shores of the Mediterranean. Along the beach, a massive wall runs for quite some distance.

Besides fantastic food and a generally calm vibe, there are two reasons to visit.

Every day, people head out onto the beach, and draw in the sand. Everyone is free to draw as they please, but the best days are when a large design takes hold early in the morning and everyone contributes. Each night, the tide rolls in slowly, and wipes clean the beach. No pictures or permanent records are allowed, save the ones in your head, since memories never really leave us.

Meanwhile, on the walls and roads and roofs and floors of the village, a mosaic now approaching 180 years old spreads. When you enter the sim, you are given a single tile, in a choice of colors. So long as it is touching another tile, or a seam or edge where tiles touch, you can place a tile wherever you please. In the beginning, folks were limited to one tile a day, but at some point there must have been an issue, for now it is every 6 weeks. Some sections have been meticulously planned, while others are, to paraphrase a friend, “throwing tiles at the wall to see what sticks.” Once a tile is placed, it is there for good. If you misalign it, there is no fixing it, so choose wisely.

Something about the ephemerality of the sand and the permanence of the tile speaks to me, and both the food and company are a delight. I have been dipping in and out for about 70 years now, and it is always a pleasure to see old faces, and new ones come to draw in the sand, or maybe place their first tile, or simply looking for a place to relax and sip some wine. I cannot recommend it enough!



If you can pick a favorite, which landscape that you have designed is yours?

Serene; Sustained And Sustaining

I created a swamp some time ago. It is quite boggy and wet, with open water, banyan trees, and patches of what look like solid ground, but which are actually patches of water grasses that cannot support the weight of a person. Winding throughout it is a rotting wooden bridge-path that ducks between the trees and leads from patch to patch of those grasses, all but inviting you to step off and sink down to your waist in brackish and algae-slimed water.

It was quite poorly received — too many bugs, too poor a smell, too hot and muggy — and for that, I am deeply in love with it. This reception means that I am wildly successful in what I set out to do. I, haver of fur, am mostly immune to the bugs, and I can turn down my sensorium to deal with the scent, but I love walking between the trees, squatting on the rickety path and poking through the grasses, watching the gar and caimans float idly by.

What can I say? I am a sucker for so imperfect a land.


What’s an Odist and what’s a sim?

Serene; Sustained And Sustaining

An Odist is a member of the Ode clade. We are (nominally) 100 individuals descended from a single uploaded consciousness named Michelle Hadje. As Michelle is no longer extant, this had led to us being ten disconnected subclades. Each of us is named from a line in a poem Many of us are human, many of us are anthropomorphic skunks — Michelle was a furry, back on Earth — and two of us are fennec foxes, for better or worse.

Sims are the locations in which we live. I happen to be a sim designer, with a specialization in natural settings rather than buildings.


Tell me about the desert, if you would. Tell me about sand, wind, and sagebrush.

Serene; Sustained And Sustaining#Castor

I have made two deserts of note, and I am quite proud of them both.

I will start with the second desert. It was the barrier between Castor and Convergence. While the goal was to provide a naturalistic entrance to a space that, in actuality, required a rather slow transit time. One would approach any number of crossing points, each marked with a customs office, that would allow one to pass through a pedestrian gate and be whisked off to the other space in a rush of heat and warmth. It is a bit of magical realism, perhaps, but the desert is no less real.

It is too hot in there, even for me, but it is quite pure for that. The sands shift in the wind, form the hint of a crust that a paw might crunch through, slip and slide along the faces of dunes before tumbling down the leeward side. Very few people think to go in there, but I have. I have turned down my sensorium and bypassed the safety protocols and stepped out into the sand for days and days at a time.

It is an empty place. There is no end to the sand. There is nothing out there, I think. Perhaps it will someday resolve based upon a hidden desire, but for now, it is a procedurally generated forever.

It is beautiful.

The first desert that I built, however, is one that I am even more proud of. This was a century and change ago back on Lagrange, back before the launches were even a dream. I built a desert based on what I remember of a brief trip to the Sonora desert. This was a desert of sage, of cactus, of more rock and stone than sand.

This one is not a forever, it is an in-between. There are two city sims, each created by a friend, and they decided to merge. They did so by building an arch facing each other, and in between them, they contracted me to build my high desert. A dusty, well-worn set of tire tracks travels between them, and, while I am sure that most simply step from city to city while ignoring the desert, it has become something of a pilgrimage for many to walk that trail.

It is not wholly safe, mind. The cactus spines are sharp. There are javalinas and snakes and scorpions. There are washes that will flood in a heartbeat with little to no warning if there is rain up-slope. Mild thrills, to be sure, but thrills nonetheless.

What very few people do, however, is walk out to the mid-point between those two cities and turn in one direction or the other and walk perpendicular to the trail. The trail is a simple three to four hour hike, but there is an additional two days hike to either end until one comes to either an impassible canyon or a tall fence built of metal posts; the boundaries of the sim itself.

If you do that, you will find that you very quickly lose sight of the cities, and are left with the sounds of the wind or the coyotes or the rattle-crack of thunder, joined only by the saguaro and barrel cactus and prickly pears, the scent of sage burning in the back of your nostrils as the heat beats down on you.

I love all of the sims that I have built, and always promise myself (and my clients) that no environment is to be favored over another. I am a liar, though. This desert, this high desert, is my favorite among favorites.

It is a small lie, a harmless one, but the desert is my favorite.


On Hobbies, Pastimes, and Focuses

A Finger Pointing: Tell me about the weirdest show you have ever put on. Not bad, just weird.

-Found In The Hearts Of Many

Time Is A Finger Pointing At Itself

Time Rushes choreographed Lubaenåt Jaruvåtier Les Kupotam? in the 230s, which grappled with the intoxicating experience of Artemesian skew as described by True Name. There was so much potential, so much curiosity, but there was also the miserable familiarity of the sensation. Capturing this horrifying stretching of the mind was the essence of the dance; having Sasha to assist us in interpreting the story certainly did not hurt.

Rainbow’s End assisted us with some of the artistry we needed to depict the blurring of movement that the performers could not adequately manage with an animated fork. There were moments of uncanny suddenness that also required a great deal of fudging to approximate.

A key facet of the scene was the discontinuity between several subsets of the party, each portrayed in slightly different ways according to their relative skew; this had the effect of highlighting the perspective characters as if with depth of field, casting some in silent stillness and others in flittering obscurity.

There was a sort of pivot at certain points in the choreography when this focus would shift from one subset to another, showing the party from another perspective. It began with the recorders, who scrutinized the statuesque cast around them, and ended with the protagonist caught in the midst of a blizzard of indefinite figures skittering across the stage.

It was difficult to make a story out of a dance when few had the context with which to understand it, but there was no better way to depict skew than with choreographed motion. It was one of the most challenging endeavors of Time Rushes’ career, but it also earned us some attention from the Artemesians over on Convergence thanks to AVEC.

My personal involvement was mostly in arranging consultation by various artists in an attempt to finalize the depiction of skew into what Rainbow’s End ultimately made it. Serene, Bay, Elicit; they all contributed to the formulation of this production’s unique image.



Would you like a piggyback ride? And what’s your favorite flavor of punch?

Seras Frame

And We Are The Motes In The Stage-Lights

Yoooo frick me up with a piggyback ride! Gol dang! If you do not run around like mad so help me I will pull on your ears and call you names!!!

Wait punch though…

God, I am going to sound ooold, but I like the punch that is ginger ale with sorbet in it! Lemon sorbet preferably, and the cheaper the better. It gets all weird and creamy and fizzy and way too friggin’ sweet.

Ah heck, I am going to get some ginger ale and make the worst float…

Slow Hours—

It seems so often to me that you have the criss cross pattern of a schoolyard tool imprinted on your face, no doubt hurled at you by a god. Your predictions are truly uncanny at times. What are the best, worst, and best-worst of your prophetic musings that have come to pass? Do you regret the best? Are you proud of any worsts? Do you worry you have a line to somewhere you should not?

I would ask if any of Jack’s favorite sys-side baseball teams will win any Serieses this year, but he tells me that is blasphemy and I must not Profane the System’s Favorite Pastime so. I asked whether he meant prophecy or baseball, and he did not speak to me for a week.

Town crier to your scryer,
Deny All Beginnings

Where It Watches The Slow Hours Progress

“The criss-cross pattern of a schoolyard tool imprinted on your face, no doubt hurled at you by a god”! Deny All Beginnings, you amaze, as ever. I will have you know that I showed this note to A Finger Pointing, who laughed, disappeared into the exchange for a bit, and then dreamed up precisely the schoolyard tool mentioned and hurled it at Motes. She was so startled that there were suddenly almost a dozen Moteses scattered around, and we had to make them all run around the outside of the building until she was able to stop giggling and merge down once more.

You ask after prophecy, and you ask after bests and worsts.

There are, I should note, a few different types of prophecy that I engage with. The least exciting of these is simply the result of having read a rather large chunk of System Central Library over the centuries. Our lives are not nearly so complicated as we might suppose, and we are not nearly so erratic as we might imagine. Many of these prophecies are simple predictions based on the shape of the story one is currently living in.

A step beyond that is a type of prophecy that boils down to a cold read. While these might be less accurate, all other statements about fortune telling apply here: it is less about being accurate than it is about being adaptable. I do not need to tell someone exactly what will happen to them so much as what it is that they need to hear for a situation that is already happening around them.

Between you and me, though, it is quite rare indeed that I am struck with an actual prophetic vision. I can count four such instances in my time as the clade’s own prophetess. I will speak of none of them.

Take, instead, a ‘prophecy’ that I gave to Motes nearly a century ago. This is one of my worst, of which I am quite proud.

A large part of the crew were gathered on the stage after striking the set. For some reason, they tolerate me better than the actors, so I had joined them. Here we were on this flat plane of black painted wood, sitting or laying down and chatting about our days, when Motes crawled over to me and threw herself dramatically across my lap. She set up a cone of silence, and yet still was a long time in opening up, leaving me to pet over her ears and brush specks of paint out of her tail for several minutes before she started talking.

“Slow Hours, I made a friend,” she said. Even if her voice was not serious enough to give it away, she often just calls me ‘Slow’ when addressing me directly — one of vanishingly few people I will allow to do so — so for her to call me ‘Slow Hours’ (not even ‘Slowers’!) meant that something big was afoot.

“Tell me of your friend, my dear.”

“I met them at a dance,” she said, not looking up to me. “I went out with Beholden and Unbidden to some crazy biker bar that was also having a mathcore band performing, and I met them in the pit.”

“You were your big self, yes?” I asked, referring to the form she assumed whenever she went out anywhere that it might cause a problem for her to be small, whether because she might get trampled or because people might assume untoward things about someone who could probably pass as a kid being there. A metal show at a biker bar fit both bills. She likely wound up looking like a 20-something hippie human, all flower crowns and sundresses.

She nodded. “We danced for a bit in the pit and then got some drinks and talked outside, and then danced some more.”

“A good night, then?”

“Very!” She grinned, but it did not last. “Very. They took me back to their place, where we got high, fooled around, and then talked into the morning.”

I nodded, waiting for her to continue.

“And that was it. That is all I ever do, right? Go to a show, get wasted, maybe get laid, and then I go back to the stuff I really enjoy. I have my friends here, I have my work, I have you and Bee and ma and Beckoning and Muse, and that is all I need to continue on from one day to the next. I do not do love.” She sighed, sounding miserable. “Not like that.”

“I sense a ‘but’, Speck.”

“Well…” She pushed herself up to sitting instead, slouching against my side. “I do not do love, but a lot of people do, including a lot of the people I wind up spending the night with in big girl mode. I am honest and up front with them: this is just for the night, this is just for the fun of it. I am a healthy woman in her 30s, yes? I am three centuries old, yes? I like sex as much as any three hundred year old woman in her 30s.

“Most of them get it, too. They are usually after the same thing. I have occasionally had someone catch feelings for me, which is fine. We talk about it, negotiate boundaries, move on with our lives.” She giggled, adding, “Once, one of them showed up here looking for me and ma just about tore him in half.”

“You are stalling, my dear,” I said.

She groaned and buried her face against my shoulder. “I knoooow. Anyway, this person and I got started talking about what we like in lasting friendships that we do not really care about in one night stands and they just…they just seem like a really good person.”

“And you think you might like follow up on that?”

She shrugged. “They are just into all sorts of things that I am. They paint — people, mostly, and some animals — and also dig the whole small aesthetic and we like the same music, of course. They suggested we could do a regular sort of get together thing.”

“Have you told A Finger Pointing about them?”

She shook her head. “I wanted to ask you what you thought.”

I asked her several questions about this person after that, and as I did, I felt a nagging sensation at the corner of my mind, a thread was being tugged and it was causing a ripple in the fabric of my understanding of the situation. Being tugged by who or by what, I do not know. That is one of those questions where, were I to try to answer it, the whole thing may well come tumbling down.

“Speck,” I said, interrupting her. She must have seen something on my face, for she went silent. “Here are two truths and a lie.

“One: they are a fucking creep.”

There was a moment’s shock before she giggled nervously. The flow of prophecy has a rhythm, though, if it is to be believed, and I had but to settle into that rhythm to let it land properly.

“Two: you are lonely. You have us, yes. You have your clade and the rest of the troupe. You have your family and your work, but what you do not have are friends. You are friendly with everyone here, everyone here is your friend, but you do not have friends.”

She still looked wrong-footed, and had pulled away from me as though wary. “And the third?”

“Three: much of that is our fault.”

“Yours as in the clade’s?”

The edge of prophecy let up off my throat, and I nodded. “There are as many reasons to keep someone for yourself as there are ways to do so. The whole of the fifth stanza — and, to a lesser extent, the whole of Au Lieu de Rêve — has closed around you. Not tight, of course, we are not keeping you trapped and hidden away, but we are all intensely, intensely protective of you. We have all endeavored to make your life here the best that it can be, as you have invited us to do. This was part of our conversations going all the way back, was it not? That you enjoyed leaning into being cared for, and we enjoyed having someone to collectively care for? We do not like creeps around our Motes, and so we see creeps everywhere.”

As she understood what I was saying, my own little game of two truths and a lie, her shoulders relaxed and she slumped against me once more, sniffling.

“We all love you, Speck, that is all.”

It was not her prophecy, of course. It was ours. She is still good friends with that person to this day. That person and so many more.

I am proud of it because I am proud of who she became, and it is the worst because we had to learn how to watch this precious thing we had set at the center of our lives in so many ways go interact with those we did not trust. It is the worst not because we had to trust her judgment, but because we learned how little we had trusted it leading up to that point.

Tell Jack hi for me, and also “5-3”. I will keep the teams to myself.

— Where It Watches The Slow Hours Progress

To: Hold My Name
From: Andréa C Mason#foundry

You mythologize, I hear, about trickster gods. Can I hear a good one about a coyote?

Hold My Name Beneath Your Tongue And Know


It might be more accurate to call me a collector rather than an active mythologizer (for which you might seek out May Then My Name Die With Me; her An Expanded Mythology of Our World really is a work of art). However, given our place up in the skies, I will tell you one that I read originally in comic form — something ancient that was uploaded shortly after AVEC was introduced — and perhaps we can expand on it from there, yes?

Way in the beginning of time, back when the earth was young and not yet fully formed, back before even the small beasts of the trees awoke, the sky was all dark. There was some time spent on the sun and moon, yes, and those are stories of their own, and some day you will here the one about who took a bite out of the moon to sample its savor and found it wanting.

What I am going to tell you, though, is why the stars are such a godawful mess.

You see, one night, the great spirit was out placing stars in the sky one by one and in careful order, for placing the stars up in the heavens is important work. How else will the beasts of the land know where to go? How else will they tell the seasons?

It is important work, yes, but incredibly fucking boring.

Coyote came up to the spirit and said, “Ahoy up there, what are you doing?”

“I am placing the stars,” the spirit said, “so that the beasts of the land will know where to go and will be able to tell the seasons.”

“Oh,” Coyote said. “Can I help?”

The great spirit heaved a huge sigh. This was trouble, they knew. After all, come on. Coyote? But all he’d need to do is place the stars up in the sky, and the work really was fucking boring, so… “Alright, you may help. Here. Take these stars and place them up in the sky. I was thinking if we had– hey, wait!”

“There is the buffalo!” Coyote cried, having placed the stars just so. “And there the crab! And look, see? There are the two sisters!”

Another huge sigh. “Well…okay, I guess. They have to go somewhere, and those will still show well enough at night. Keep up the goo– uh…well, keep up the work.”

And so Coyote placed the stars, drawing all of the great beasts in beautiful points of light.

“God, this is fucking boring,” he thought to himself. “I am too wise and too clever by far for such a menial task. Fuck it!”

With that last thought and an oversized shrug, he tossed the rest of the stars haphazardly up into the night and went about his business.

Poor Coyote, though, he got too impatient for his own good and forgot to make a drawing of himself in the sky, and that is why, to this day, he howls up to stars in sadness, yip yip yi yi yi yip yip yaroooo~

And there is where the legend ends, but it is not where our story ends, yes? What paw do you suppose Coyote had in the stars as we know them? What place does he have in the stories we have told ourselves about our lives up here in our System in the sky? And what of Castor and Pollux?

Perhaps we could tell the story, as our dear May Then My Name did, of how we yearned to see who lived around those campfires in the black of night, how we would build ourselves an ark to sail the seas of space to find out.

“Ah! The people! They are going up beyond the moon! How cold they will be!” Coyote might say, his usual helpful self. “I will stoke those fires and make them shine all the brighter when they are above the very air itself. Perhaps that will warm them and keep them cozy.”

What might Coyote do when all that did was make us long for more?

All my best,

Hold My Name Beneath Your Tongue And Know of the Ode clade


Favorite music trends in the system. Tell me yours. Also if you know any good metal venues.


Beholden To The Heat Of The Lamps

Denny! Lovely to hear from you! Hope things are going well.

It is no secret that I am quite into noise music. It drives A Finger Pointing nuts when I get super into it and cannot talk about the difference between various approaches. I could go on about the various noise music trends that I have seen over the years (there is white noise, yes, but what of pink noise? What of that rainbow selection of different statics? And god, give me stuttercore any day~), but one that I remember following incredibly fervently was that of reanalog death folk.

Some clever trickster figured out how to make magnetic tape media — or something approximating it close enough — and recorded much of their music on it. All sorts of genres, of course, but all utilizing the limitations of the medium (see “I am sitting in a sim” for a particularly silly take). Thus was borne the reanalog metagenre.

Me being me, though, what caught my attention was the way that some fucked with the media enough to nudge it well into the realm of unnerving, drawing out noises that I had not considered. The genre that benefited most from this particular uncanniness, though, was folk, and many began to play with shifting lyrics to existing tunes toward horror, telling strange tales of strange beasts over half-destroyed pianos and banjos on fire into a reel-to-reel recorder strung with half-melted tape.

I cannot put my finger on why, but it was simply divine. Boss hated it, but too fucking bad~

As for venues, you might actually have better luck asking Motes. I love metal, do not get me wrong, but that girl is fucking wild in the pit.



Is it at all common for sims to simulate other forms of simulation that pre-date the System? By that I mean things like, say, video games from back before the invention of the exocortex (ranging from old arcade games to those limited early “VR” games, headsets and all to those big clunky physical flight simulators) or, heck, even the experience of using the ‘net back before upload.

What Gifts, Time Moves Forward, and Motes
What Gifts We Give We Give In Death

There is quite a lot to be said about games within the System, but with regards to this question, there is something of a split when it comes to games of the past. This split boils down to the idea of realism. Those games that strove for realism were often ported into similar experiences sys-side. After all, if you are going to take a narrative walking game that took place either on a console or rig in non-immersive mode, it would make plenty of sense to simply set up a sim for mechanics. An example would be the delightfully quaint game of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, wherein this twee British town in the 20th century is the origin of the slow ascension (or at least disappearance) of the human race. You walk around, following an orb of light, which provides audible and visible scenes for you to watch. I helped a games historian set this up along with aid from Serene.

The more abstract the game, however, the more likely it is to simply be ported along with an idea of its hardware into the System. For VR games, this may come with the concept of a headset, though really this is a prop that modifies the user’s sensorium.

Truly ancient games from the earliest history of videogames are simply ported wholesale, complete with blowing out cartridges to make them load more readily.

If I Walk Backward, Time Moves Forward

For newer interactive art — and I know that you did not necessarily ask, but What Gifts’s Rapture game reminded me — this has been blended quite thoroughly into interactive theatre. Perhaps Dear could explain the complex interactions with instance art as well, but from my perspective as one who works closely with interactive storytelling, the difference between one of our experiences and one of What Gifts’s is negligible, except perhaps on attention paid to physical setting: we are less likely to work on sims as environments instead of focusing on the idea of a setting created by our very own hands.

And We Are The Motes In The Stage Lights
I am as much a fan of our sets as anyone. That is my role within the fifth stanza, after all! However, I would not so quickly dismiss instance art. They are three different names for the same idea: there is a story embedded in interactivity, and the only difference is the attention paid to various detail. What Gifts pays attention to mechanics and environment, we pay attention to story and sets, and Dear (and, to a lesser extent, Heat And Warmth) pays attention to the mechanics offered by the System!
Time Moves Forward
I mean, sure, kiddo, but that is because you have a terrible crush on Heat And Warmth, and ey is Dear’s up-tree instance, and ey has a crush on Codrin. They were — and probably still are on the LVs — so sweet together! Cooking delicious food and chatting about flavors and scents and gustatory history.
I do not! Or…well, perhaps I do, but that is beside the point! We are just nerds of a type, you know? And that type just happens to be lovely and you know it!
What Gifts
You are both intolerable nerds and I love you for that.


To those Odists engaged in the performing arts:

Not counting instance artistry (Sorry Dear), do you ever opt for effects that would have been impossible phys-side? —Found in the Hearts of Many

Time Is A Finger Pointing At Itself

Dear and Heat And Warmth are both inspirations for Time Rushes and Motes and I. An integral part of our more spectacular productions involves construct, instance, and sim design. Of course, not everything is so modern; most of our work is done analogue, although I do tend to go ham on the theatres themselves.

In those hazy days when reputation had much greater significance, we depended upon these particular shows to promote Voces Sensuum across the greater System. I am relieved that the Exchange has deflated so much as it has; we are less bound to the whims of popularity and can focus exclusively on our own creative endeavors.

We do still indulge in spectacle from time to time, however. Our audience is about as impressed by such things as we are, and roping in artists rather than designers allows us to lean into that in a way that better suits all our tastes.

Take Spiro kaj Simpleco, for instance. This was an example of immersive theatre, a collaboration with Serene and Rainbow’s End to produce an interactive set using a sim cast entirely in impressionist textures, audience and all.

The audience was asked to indulge in an autumn afternoon with the cast, with little dramas scattered about and a few planned to jostle those who came near out of an awkward silence. The filter Rainbow’s End created cast the warmth of the Sun and fog of breath across blurred and broken faces in buttery yellow and wispy white, leaving the audience guessing as to who was who.

This had the effect of rendering otherwise trivial conflicts impossible to follow. The scenes themselves were impressionistic. Each conflict was, on its own, meaningless; bantering partners and nagging down-trees and overbearing friends. What the audience was meant to find in this work was the peace that fell over every silent moment, the landscape that as often blended with bickering blobs as not.

Perhaps the production could have been replicated phys-side, especially when considering the proliferation of exocortices during the 23rd century. For a truly impossible feat, you may have better luck asking a Sevgili.


To any in the Ode clade who would like to answer:
Have you ever lost faith in or energy for what you do, or felt like you lost your sense of purpose and direction?
How did you handle this? Did you strike out on your own in a new direction entirely, or think things over and find a way to come back to it with renewed vigor? Or, perhaps, find inspiration in another person or place?

Among Those Who Create Are Those Who Forge

When I was first forked, I started out poking around the System to find out what people were doing with art. After all, we were in a new place, yes? A place with so many new possibilities, yes? I got incredibly interested in finding ways that people were creating sims, impossible paint colors, new flavors in their cooking, all of that wonderful stuff. Forking was too expensive yet for instance artistry to have taken off, but I was not at all surprised when it did.

This, however, did not last. The more I looked at art, the more I started to see all of the ways that our pain lingered. Not just the weeping of the broken-hearted or the joy of this new life, but the resentment towards the power structures that people had escaped, the fear over minority identities being uncovered, the remembrances of lives lost.

This rather spoiled art for me for a while. I could not look at it without getting all wrapped up in overwhelming emotions. I stopped seeking out new artists lest I find new pains to endure, and I (and my three up-tree instances at the time) fell into a funk. We spent a lot of time drinking, a lot of time sleeping. We would walk sims with our heads down, looking only at our feet. We would take lovers and tell them nothing.

I tried a few times to get back into the swing of things, but every time, it just made me depressed.

What I eventually settled on was a change of focus. I took all of that pain that I had discovered and transferred that into action. We talked and talked and talked, and then we started to act. We became the pests of the Ode clade, the leftists that pushed for ever more change. We met up with Os Riãos, and End Of Days, Seek An End, and New Beginnings still work quite heavily with Boiling Maw and Hydra from that clade on climate activism (as a side note, I believe that is how Rainbow’s End fell in briefly with Voces Sensuum, the fifth stanza’s theatre company).

We never did get back to art, unless it was the art of activism and change. There was no going back. We could not go back. We were no longer depressed, but we used our interest to renew our vigor along tangential lines.


Who’s the best in the clade at scrabble?

Dear The Wheat And Rye Under The Stars

I believe that would be me. As Praiseworthy shifted her attentions to arts administration and her own projects, I was forked to focus on writing and the art inherent in language.

That said, Where It Watches The Slow Hours Progress from the fifth stanza, who acts as script manager for a theatre company, has given me a run for my money several times, so perhaps we are on par.


Do any in the Ode clade enjoy people-watching? With the freedom of form offered by the System, I imagine it becomes an even more interesting hobby than it can be phys-side.

If I Dream Am I No Longer Myself

My whole stanza, based off of the first line, focuses specifically on people watching. I, and many others, would honestly call it spying. They have been contracted by several individuals to spy on various people of note on the System. On Lagrange, Loss For Images and Even While Awake watched Ioan Bălan and May Then My Name Die With Me for nearly a quarter of a century, forking microscopic instances of themselves and secreting them around the house.

My initial purpose was, in fact, to step away from this. My direct up-tree instance, If I Dream, forked when she began to have doubts about this supposed calling. While she never did work up the courage to disengage with this way of life (or perhaps she did, I have lost contact), I stepped away from the stanza to reconnect with the fourth stanza. They began by following creatives across the System before fucking off to do their own thing. I found that they did, indeed, largely just fuck off to do their own thing, and wanted little to do with me.

So that is what I have done, these last however many decades — is it nearly a century, now? I have sat in town squares and sipped my coffee as I watch the passers-by. I have sat in bars and drank countless terrible drinks, cheek resting on my fist as I stare into the mirror behind the bartender and observe my fellow patrons. I have gone to dinner, requested a corner table, and gazed out over the sea of diners.

I always do so alone.

I always wear a different shape.

I never speak.

I like it better this way, this observing. There is no goal, I just…see. I just watch. Posthumanity is wonderful and disgusting and funny and sad and kinky and uptight and I love each and every last person I have laid my eyes upon.


To the Ode clade: What is your favorite cheesy, overwrought, low-budget, or otherwise terrible-but-fun movie?

For They, Knowing Not, Provide Life In Death

This is perhaps cheating, as I do not think this is in any way a subversive opinion, but “Pacific Rim”. It was quite high budget, but it was also overwrought, terrible, and incredibly stupid. Oldie, as they say, but goldie.


Any Odist who feels like speaking up: what is your favorite episode of MST3K?

For They, Knowing Not, Provide Life In Death
Slab Bulkhead! Fist Rockbone! Punch Rockgroin! Stump Beefknob! Brick Hardmeat! Big McLargeHuge!


For whichever Odists this best suits: Sometimes, I will lead somebody around, down a given path of inquiry or to certain conclusions. To encourage them to ask “the right questions.” It ends up feeling like an elaborate game, particularly if they grow wise and lean into their part. Do you think manipulation of this sort is wrong, even when the purpose is benign or simply for play? For that matter, do you have any general thoughts on People and how they interact?

True Name and May Then My Name
The Only Time I Know My True Name Is When I Dream
The Artemesians have a word for this: tuvårouni; “push-play”, they called it, a tension in all our dealings with others that enables us to overcome the inertia of comfort. If communication is the means by which ideas are expressed and transformed, then manipulation is how we engage in this push-play; if we all felt the same to begin with, after all, then why have words at all? Communication is manipulation, so this playfully benign qualifier describes teasing, not harm.
May Then My Name Die With Me
You are not wrong that communication contains at its heart manipulation. However it is more than just manipulation. It is more of a give-and-take than a push-and pull. This is the way in which people work: we make our arguments, yes, but we love, we dance, we offer and receive freely. You mention the framing of this question with its playful qualifier. That is a sort of boundary around the topic. Boundaries such as these must be kept. One must keep this push-play above board and open to disconsent. Consent is to be informed, as I have said before.
True Name
Yes; consent, after all, is ideally unambiguous and overt. But it is also true that consent can grow more playful, more implicit, more sly. This, I think, is an example of that tuvårouni, where one becomes more open to unanticipated, unplanned kinds of play. Play, perhaps, as in the insinuation that Ioan might grow some dandelions, yes?
May Then My Name
I…well, you are not wrong, there. It became a part of our relationship as we grew closer together. I am not sure that I would do the same thing, now, as the person that I have become; I would feel…well, manipulative. I do not think that would feel good at all.
True Name
But you do not feel bad now. Do those dandelions not remain in eir lawn? I have seen you come in with a dandelion behind your ear. Do you both not cherish them? Do you suppose Ioan resents that you convinced em to grow some dandelions?
May Then My Name
I will concede that point. You are correct. The dandelions remain and have not been uprooted. We both love them. That said, this growing of dandelions was intentional. I must have gotten that from somewhere, right? After all, I was pointed to em by you, and for the very explicit purpose of shaping the History.
True Name
It was not solely for that purpose; I did point you somewhere that I thought was best for all of us, true. But that somewhere was towards someone who could lift you up after your previous relationship; who could understand and so fairly present the story of our clade to others; who could capture the history of the System with only the best of intentions. I held all of these in balance when I wrote you that letter, May Then My Name.
May Then My Name
Do you feel that way still, now that you are getting coffee with em once a month?
True Name
…There is the sense that ey does not wholly trust me, and I am sore for that. I am sure that is in part because your relationship with em was all but arranged, for better or for worse. There is a cynicism in this kind of dual-intent. I stand by every word of that letter, but there was clearly harm in coupling what was sincere with what had utility to preserving the continuity of the System, and for that I do apologize.
May Then My Name
There was harm, yes, and I am not upset at where we have wound up and how. Both of these can be true at once. Both are true, my dear. And I must admit, it can be kind of fun.

(May Then My Name by @makyo and True Name by @hamratza)

On Relationships

Tips on intra-clade dating?

Beholden and A Finger Pointing
Beholden To The Heat Of The Lamps

Some time after I was forked, back in systime 3 (2127), I entered into a relationship with my down-tree instance, Time Is A Finger Pointing At Itself. You must understand, however, that until perhaps systime 230 (2354), intraclade relationships were seen as taboo, at least on Lagrange — I know that attitudes on Pollux had loosened quite a bit. It was seen as subversive and distasteful, a sort of moral masturbation.

And yet, we loved each other. We were different people, were we not? From the moment I was forked and began to focus on my work as an audio tech, I was a different person. My values began to shift. My appearance began to shift. The way I spoke began to shift. I am not Pointillist. She is not Beholden. We are separate individuals, and we are in love.

Of course, we drifted closer together and further apart over the years, but we settled into a comfortable sort of domesticity and playfulness, and it was not until such taboo began to lift, being seen as artificial and particularly meaningless for older clades, that our relationship became more open, first among friends, and then out on the street, in the bars after a performance.

As for tips, I think my biggest would be that, yes, you share a common past, but do not assume that this means you know what the other is thinking. You may share values, memories, a general approach to life, but you do not read minds.

Time Is A Finger Pointing At Itself

We stumbled into intimacy one evening when the bleary neon haze of a night out turned to giddy exploration. “How lewd~,” she said at least a dozen times (Beholden was very much zooted by this point). All that bratty pomp and wily poise turned to heady laughter and mortifying sounds of joy. She was positively adorable. She still is, of course, except that she has hardened over the years and is now quite the bully if I do not feed her something nice before taking her out dancing.

Aromancy complicates my feelings about her — and my answer to this question — but there has always been this comradery between us about taboos. We both are irreverently indulgent in this respect, and have found a kind of reclamation in private profanity. When at last the tides had turned away from scorn, it was a privilege to kiss her paw in public; to give that one disdainful pair of eyes a wink, and to know in that moment we held more power over the bearer of that withering gaze than they held over us.

I hope that you and whoever you are thinking about in this moment have had the chance to open up in these recent decades. But there is more to this question than the intrinsic queerness of transgressive relationships such as ours. You also ask about the unique implications of loving a reflection of oneself. Cross-tree relationships may seem a little easier in this regard, but I have seen my share of those amidst my cocladists. Take Codrin’s musings about Dear and Serene on Pollux or, more distantly, Heat And Warmth and Hold My Name, who I have seen my fair share of first-hand. Both of these pairs are particularly boisterous, especially as compared to Beholden and I, and rather often stumble into ephemeral disagreements.

Even as they do, however, there is an implicit understanding of nuance that is much harder to craft in conventional relationships. Dear and Serene solve their disputes with the grace of deeply-rooted trust, and Heat And Warmth and Hold My Name speak to each other with a kind of careful articulation that rather reminds me of the couple of times True Name has seen fit to admonish me over the centuries. We all are Odists, after all; it is difficult to say precisely what this feeling is, but the essence of it is that we do not have to work as hard to explain ourselves to one another. We all get it; so all that is left is to do is to perform getting it.

Even if you already understand, sometimes what you need is just to feel heard.

To any Odist that would like to answer: What is the worst meal you have ever had in your entire life?

Which Offers Heat And Warmth In Fire

I think there is food that is just poorly-made and food that is ill-advised. It is easy enough to think of a dozen bland, burnt, and bungled meals. But I think it is much more interesting to talk about those meals that were cooked to perfection and managed to land staunchly in the domain of nauseating.

The worst food I ever ate was a miserable chili with exactly the right amount of lime and with beans still whole and a toothsome mire of beef and plenty of spice. The problem was that it was all sideways. There was just a little bit too much salt, not enough paprika, and it was too runny for the oily-fresh tortilla chips it was served with. All these little incongruencies made for an unpleasant lunch that was just short of unpalatable. If it were any worse, I would have dreamt up my own entrée instead out of protest.

Codrin and ████ cooked me all sorts of delicious things before the launches; that is why so much of what I have published on the Reputation Exchange is just Balkan cuisine and baked treats. But ████ was always into haute cuisine in particular, and this occasionally resulted in some rather interesting experiments.

But the worst meal I ever had must have been the private dinner shared between Rye and Serene and Dear and Codrin and ████ and I on the weekend before Launch Day. There was this menagerie of flavors throughout the evening, beginning with an enticing ratatouille that did a wonderful job of making me hungrier than I began.

The conversation at the table was lively. We all were laughing and gossipping and teasing one another as we do, and I really liked that. I liked that, if this was to be our last meal shared just as a family, it was one when we were at our best. Rye told us about her latest correspondence with No Longer Myself, about a particularly heartbreaking experience she inherited from If I Dream. Rye weaved her musings about character development and Dear made a quip by asking her whether that was destined for her latest novel or not. Codrin, on the other hand, was upset. Ey did not like what ey learned about the first stanza from that story.

So more food arrived to make up for the lull in conversation. We got an onion soup with a cheesy garlic bread served swimming so that it disintegrated and added a little weight to the stock. It was rich and dark and sat in my stomach like a rock, but it was mostly broth and so the sensation washed away with just a sip of wine.

Dear tried to console Codrin by pointing out that what Rye told us was a story about why No Longer Myself was forked, that it was a hopeful story about reclaiming an identity appropriated by the inevitable politics of the clade. Ey did not seem convinced, but ey did manage a smile when Serene blurted, “Leave it to Dear to solve an interpersonal conflict with art!”

We had our main course, then, of course, and what came was a generous fillet of salmon served on a cedar plank with tomato salad. After that runny affair, it was just what my belly needed. It was hearty and toothsome and comparatively light. I feared I might not make it to dessert with how wholesome the dish was, but the wetness of the salad had the effect of washing away that sense of fullness before it became sore.

One of the topics that came up between our mouthfuls was how Dear was calling it its “death day”. Codrin brought it up, and Dear shot em a sharp look. Ey raised eir hands and apologized, but I spoke up to ask why Dear’s idea bothered Dear. ████ explained that they three had agreed not to discuss that at the table tonight, to which Codrin protested. “I thought it might lighten the mood,” ey said, and Rye agreed. The final course interrupted us before Dear could answer, naturally.

Dessert was a plain and simple flan. Its texture was luxurious, the salty-sweetness a delightful answer to the savoriness lingering on our palates and coating the dish. The serving size might leave something to be desired if not for the fact that we just spent the last two hours eating. I think all of us welcomed how quaint it was.

Dear sat in silence for a while after finishing its dessert, fiddling with its wine glass. Then something crossed its mind and it asked us to keep its next words in confidence, especially Codrin and ████. We all nodded, and it finally told us. It told us the obvious, of course, that they three would not be leaving any forks behind; that none of them will remain on the L5 System.

Then it said, “We will die, here.” It talked about how they would each be mourned and how they would only speak from beyond the heavens like spirits. Codrin looked uncomfortable. Ey murmured, “For a while,” to which Dear only answered, “Yes. For a while.”

The food was delicious. The meal was rendered joyless. There was something wrong that evening, and I did not pin it down until I read the History a few years later.


To the Ode clade - What is the most beautiful thing you ever saw?

May Then My Name Die With Me

There is a moment at the very beginning of every relationship when their eyes light up on seeing me, and I can sense the gears finally mesh within their minds and they think, “Holy shit, I think I am in love.”

I am not immune to this, to be clear. I will be getting closer to someone and they will be doing the most innocuous thing — with Ioan, it was em changing the ink in one of eir fountain pens, leaning down with eir eyes almost level with the desk, the tip of eir tongue peeking out from between eir teeth — and I will think, “Oh gosh…I love them, do I not? I really do.”

I am sure that we all have our own answers, but for me, it is that moment. That is the most beautiful thing that I have seen.


To Dear and May Then My Name: Have you ever thought about a Bizarro Universe scenario where you trade places with Codrin and Ioan, respectively? I find myself struggling to imagine it.

Dear and May Then My Name

There are, perhaps, two readings of this. If you mean Codrin and myself switching places, and you are wondering what it would be like for me to date an Odist as a non-Odist, I think I would find myself maddening, and I would have dropped myself years ago. It is perhaps uncomfortable to admit, but there is no small amount of self-loathing in me. I have spent my time in a relationship with another Odist — my close cross-tree instance Serene — and…well. I love her dearly, but she puts rather a fine point on all of the things that I loathe in myself, sometimes.

If, however, you mean me switching places with May Then My Name and being in a relationship with Ioan, then, my dear, you have no idea how eager I would be to corrupt that poor, innocent soul, especially as ey is now. The Ioan who became Codrin was of a very specific type, but this Ioan? The one that May Then My Name has tainted? Oh, how delicious that would be!

May Then My Name

Similar to Dear, I shall answer each in turn. If you mean me switching places with Ioan as ey is now, then I do not think much would change. I have absolutely ruined em for a life alone, and I think that ey would feel quite out of sorts if I were not around, just as I feel quite out of sorts when ey is not around. That said, I cannot ignore what happens when I overflow. Ey does not like it when I dissolve into tears and ask em to leave me alone for days at a time. It is a thing I dislike about myself, but am hopeless before. I think that it would hurt me far more to experience it from the other side. I think that I would…well. I think we would risk a feedback loop of tears, and there would be days afterwards when we would struggle.

If you mean me switching with Dear…well, I like Codrin plenty. I think ey is lovely in many of the same ways that Ioan is. That said, I do not think that ey is necessarily my type, especially as ey is now, having been ruined by Dear. Could I love em? Of course! I do love em. But could we be in a relationship? I do not think so.


On Forking and Merging

Bit of an odd question, is it possible for an down-tree or root member of a clade to merge with an up-tree cocladist? Essentially, willingly subsuming themselves into an up-tree member of their clade?

Dear, Also, The Tree That Was Felled

Yes. Sort of. We call this ‘bubbling up’, which is when an individuated fork merges down and then the down-tree instance assumes their identity. The issue, however, is that when merging, the down-tree instance has the ability to selectively merge memories, while they cannot release their own memories, except in the instance where there are conflicting memories, wherein one can choose the up-tree instance’s memories — this usually means a reinforcement to the point where the down-tree instance’s memories in those cases feel more like a whimsical imagining rather than quite real.


do you think it would be possible to form someone new in a clade by a bunch of dispersionistas forking and letting one of them selves merge down?

Like say we did it with 8 cocladists instead of 3?

Also unrelated what brushes do you recommend for skunk tails


I believe so, but I must warn you that it will take a lot of effort, lest you wind up in pieces of eight. If I am of three minds, being of eight, having eight times two hundred years of memory…I do not think that I would survive.

And you want a comb, not a brush. A brush with our coarser fur will risk causing mats. Get a metal-toothed straight comb and start at the tips of the fur and then work your way in towards the tail itself so that you do not make any tangles in the fur worse!


To the Ode clade:

Tell me about your favorite or least favorite flower… not including dandelions (sorry!).

Beholden To The Heat Of The Lamps

Nasturtiums. I cannot tell you why without being overcome with tears, so I will simply include the letter.

Beholden To The Heat Of The Lamps,

It has been seven days. One week, I promised myself. I would wait one week while I watched the System limp back to life. I would wait a week and see what all was being done, what could be done to save the lost.

It has been seven days of increasing surety that those who have perished in this event are gone for good. And if they indeed are gone for good then that means my beloved is gone with them.

Do you remember when we came into being? It was the night of that awful monologue, that little joke of a scene where I was set to read some truly embarrassing lines. “We all play our parts. Some are towel boys and some lewd doctors…” I could remember the rest, but I do not want to. That line sticking in my craw is enough. I was a skunk that night because I did not want my face associated with those words.

It was awful. It was delightful.

I declared that it was necessary for me to get a drink, that I needed to wash the taste of those words off of my tongue and replace my grimaces with giggles. We went to that cute bar with outdoor tables and fairy lights strung above. Strange drinks and edamame. You and Boss fell into earnest conversation about this and that as you so often do. There was love in your eyes as always, even back when such was too taboo to show in public. Another benefit of a skunk face: hide that love from nosy passers-by. Our human face always was too expressive.

It is too expressive now. It is full of tears and grief. It is full of despair. I cannot muster the energy required to be angry. I cannot pull up a smile from nothing. She is gone and she is never coming back. Yes, she merged back down, but she last did so some months ago, back at the beginning of winter. Yes, A Finger Pointing could fork once more into A Finger Curled, but that would not be her. She would be missing our sweet nothings and earnest conversations from the last few months. She would have decades of time — is it more than two centuries already? — of her life with you, so many memories of the past to talk about of which I would have no idea about. She merged down, yes? And I never did.

It is full of grief. It is full of despair.

It was at that bar in the midst of our earnest discussion of taboos and friends. You assured me there was a shift in the air, that True Name, so staunch a name within the clade, cared little about our relationship, but that she still encouraged our secrecy so as not to rock the boat for all of us, thanks to Jonas, but that perhaps soon, soon we would be able to hold hands in public, give each other little kisses and let those outside our stanza bear witness to what started as self love and blossomed into romance.

I acknowledge, of course, her relative aromancy, but for me it was romance, and for her it was still love.

We talked of just how it was that she alternated between human and skunk every time she forked. An affectation, yes, but a fondness for the past that I always admired in her

We talked of the past, of the open mic nights we hosted in The Crown Pub for a while, AwDae and I reciting monologues and dialogues. Erina’s awful song. And then there were only three performing the next week, only one the week after that, and then the open mic nights stopped.

We talked of the soreness of this, of our hidden domesticity, and she said, as though on a whim, “And here I am beginning to wonder if I have made the right path for myself. Maybe, with a little mindfulness, I can still correct my course. But I admit that I have been considering stepping away from the clade. Perhaps one of our stanza would take my place, fork a new Time Is A Finger Pointing At Itself.” She said, “I would like to know that you would come with me if I did do. I have not felt so domestic with anyone but you.”

Of course I would! Of course I would. How could I not? How could I send her out in the world to live some quiet life away from administering to a troupe of actors and technicians, and leave her to do so alone? She would have her fun and her flings, but she would not have what she had had for dozens and dozens of years.

So she forked into A Finger Curled and you forked into Beholden To The Music Of The Spheres.

That was us. A Finger Curled and her lover. Beckoning and Beholden. A different version of each of you that lived their quiet life in a cottage. A week and a day ago, we snagged a middling bottle of champagne and set up lawn chairs in the garden. A week and a day ago, Debarre stopped by to drop off a firework — he only ever needed one to impress — so that we could have our own little show. We each gave him a hug and he told us small stories of nothing we cared about, of the fledgling attempt at a Lagrange Council.

We never did get to see the firework. It sits still on the paving stone where Beckoning placed it, ready to light on a midnight that never came for her.

After all, it was not a week and a day ago, was it? It was one year, one month, eighteen days ago. Subjectively so little time, objectively a year and change without her. Lagrange crashed — was bombed, I am hearing, a contraproprioceptive device that ramified through the perisystem architecture in waves of death — and we were all lost. We of the lost were now twice lost.

Phys-side got the System up and limping a few times, I have heard, before it was at least up and stable enough.

Stable enough!

Stability was us. Stability was our lives. Stability was us in our quiet cottage. Stability was us heading to clubs and dancing until we wanted to pass out — until we did, on more than one occasion, slumped against each other and panting in some corner booth. Stability was the four of us — you and Boss, me and Beckoning — meeting up for dinner every few years and sharing our laughter.

Stability was her garden. Stability was the years she grew so much zucchini. Stability was loaf after loaf of zucchini bread, meal after meal of zucchini noodles, the grates of the grill getting weary of grilled zucchini.

Stability was the bright border of snapdragons and nasturtiums that bordered the walk. Stability was the few years she got obsessed with marigolds. Stability was the three dandelions she always permitted in the yard — moderation! Imagine. Stability was her green thumb to my brown, it was Motes visiting and calling us ‘her weird gay aunts’, little skunklet digging her paws into good clean earth beside her while I watched from the stoop with a gin and tonic with too much lime.

This is not stability. For me, this will never be stability. She is twice lost, and from this she will never come back. Do not delude yourself, 23 billion of us are lost and will never come back. 23 billion souls forgotten by the dreamer who dreams us all.

Today, I have picked the last of the nasturtiums — for despite the seasons, some of her flowers grow year round — and made myself one last grand salad. Bitter greens and those spicy-sweet flowers dotting it like colorful yellow-orange-red-purple confetti. Balsamic vinaigrette. A planked fillet of salmon. Crusty bread. The small things that I know how to cook.

Seven days have passed and I cannot live without her.

I have finished my meal, and poured myself a drink, and I will finish this letter, and I will go sit outside on my lawn chair and light the firework and see the night blossom into beautiful colors, and I will quit.

In some few minutes, you will have more than 200 years of memories to keep and to hold, or to view, cherish, and let go. I do not care; I will not be there to care. Perhaps you will remember our happy years, and you will stop incorporating those memories when you get to eight days ago. All you would remember is my grief. All you would remember is my despair. If you choose to forget those, you will know that this is how AwDae chooses to forget those who have been lost: crying over these plants stripped of their flowers even as fireworks blossom above.

Live on, my dear. You have your Pointillist. Live on.

All my love, Beholden To The Music Of The Spheres


On the Clade

What’s the weirdest or most unexpected species an Odist ended up settling as?

Serene; Sustained And Sustaining

I spent six months as an oak standing beside a river. My roots ran deep and I drank of fresh, cool water. My boughs reached high and I felt that striving for the sun. My wood was strong, my bark was thick, my heart was alive and green with sap.

It was also incredibly fucking boring.


General question for all odists: how far away has someone gotten from the clade? Who’s the most distant fork? Who’s distanced themselves the furthest from the calde? Does anyone that far out stay in touch?


This is a difficult question to answer for a few reasons. First and foremost is that, halfway through the 2300s, the clade fractured in grand fashion. Whole stanzas cut off whole other stanzas, going full no-contact with them. Much of this is my fault, in a way, but I will get to that in a moment.

Beyond that, however, for better or worse, some of what it mean to be an Odist began to fade decades earlier as many of them diverged beyond reconciliation. Take E.W. for instance: he all but left the clade in the late 2260s. He retained his clade identifier until 2350, when the change that I underwent led to him cutting even that tie, renaming himself from Do I Know God After The End Waking to E.W of no clade.

This is a formality of sorts; he cannot change that he is True Name’s up-tree instance, nor that I have taken in his memories to become who I am. That does not make it any less real, however. He was less than half an Odist, bound to them by their memories, and now he is even less than that, forsaking the name that tied him to the clade.

And me? Am I more or less of an Odist because of what I have become? I am not True Name, May Then My Name, or E.W. I am all three of them. I am closest to becoming what our root instance was than any other Odist. I am the furthest from being her out of all of them. I am three Odists in one, and yet I left the clade, and in the process, the sixth and seventh stanzas cut me, all of the eighth stanza, Dear, and all of the Bălans from their lives.

Are they Odists? If so, are they more or less Odist than the fifth stanza, with whom I most heavily associate these days?

And yet, even then, this decision was made by Hammered Silver and In Dreams, not by the entirety of their stanzas. Many of their up-tree instances, despite saying that they agree with this decision, have kept in contact with their cocladists within the eighth stanza, and I know that many of them are quite fond of Dear and have attended its shows incognito. Dry Grass is a prime example of this: she has maintained her close friendship with Need An Answer in secret these past decades. She resents Hammered Silver for that decision, and the politics that require her to voice her support against her beliefs.

What of the tenth stanza? They hardly talk to anyone. Often, they do not talk amongst themselves, even within their shared house.

But perhaps they are the most Odist of all of them. If they struggle with that fractured identity that Michelle bore for so long, perhaps they stand as a synecdoche for the clade as a whole.

In the end, though, I suspect that it may indeed be me.

I love the Ode clade, even if I am no longer a part of it. I love it with a ferocity that is second only to my love of the System. I love who they are, what they stand for, what they remember. A Finger Pointing may show her equal love more openly than I do, and for that I am eternally grateful, but I do still love them. Even if I am not a part of them, cannot speak with many of them, have made myself not them, that love remains.


So many of your clade are specialists - you reap the fruits of centuries of labor, each, in your field of choice. Do you know how one might cope with the opposite scenario? How does one handle knowing just a bit of everything and not enough of anything?

If I Dream Am I No Longer Myself

I think I have mentioned before that my down-tree instance forked when she started to grow wary of the direction her stanza was heading. Since then, I have indulged in people watching. I am pretty good at forking into different forms but other than that? I do not know. I am a very boring person. I do not know enough to get back into the spying game. I do not know enough to get into instance artistry. I like food, but I am a truly terrible cook.

A lot of what looks like specialization is merely a hyperfixation expression of our neurodivergence. I stepped away from this observing hyperfixation and am now rudderless on the System. I am not unhappy, I suppose, but neither am I happy. What has my life amounted to? What do I have to show for the space I take up on Lagrange? I do not know.

In the end, I have had to do my best to come to terms with being middling. I do not always succeed. Some days, it is all I can do to take joy in a really tasty sandwich, and some days I do not even manage that. Finding joy where one can is about all one has on the System.


To any and all odists, if you had to pick a line or phrase from another work of art as a name, what would you pick?

The Way Out Is Through

Several Odists
Hold My Name Beneath Your Tongue And Know

If You Get Her Flowers, She Will Cry

(Jen Durbent’s “10 simple rules for dating a trans girl”)

Which Gives Heat And Warmth In Fire

Ray Of Light And

(Halley Labs)

Time Is A Finger Pointing At Itself

Dance Unblushing

(Halley Labs)

Beholden To The Heat Of The Lamps

If You Got A Bone To Pick With Time, We Got A Score To Settle Too

(Bent Knee’s “Bone Rage”)

Where It Watches The Slow Hours Progress

Senmova Kaj Ĉiam Ŝanĝiĝema

(Madison Scott-Clary’s “Numeno”)

From Whence Do I Call Out

Eden Is Our Creation Right

(Jen Durbent’s “xenoglossia (2018 rev)”)

May One Day Death Itself Not Die

That Which Dies Shall Still Know Life In Death

(Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation)

Is To Pray For The End Of Memory

It Shall Walk The World In The Bliss Of Not-Knowing

(Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation)

Perhaps This, Too, Is Meaningless

Its Dark Flame Shall Acquire Every Part Of You That Remains

(Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation)

Should We Forget The Lives We Lead

Would God I Had Died For Thee

(2 Samuel 18:33, KJV)

What do you think about phys-siders? You have the endless expande of centuries laid out before you, when they so often have but a handful of decades. It all seems so terribly tragic.

The Only Constant and Rye
And The Only Constant Is Change

It is all so terribly tragic.

When Douglass joined us, he hoped to meet his ancestor here at last. He rather idolizes her, something that only amplified the tragedy of his arriving when he did. But he has all of us, her up-trees — direct or indirect — to tell him ninety-nine stories about ninety-nine Michelles Hadje, and the promise of many more to be told by our unspoken forks.

In death, I mean to say, the memory of who she was is quite literally preserved in us. And, with our perfect recollection, we each hold a piece of the story about what she became on the System. In this, we are bathed in fortune.

But there are plenty who look to the System with fear. They raise objections as to the continunity of self, a natural observation from those whose closest brush with oblivion is most often sleep. We dispersionistas take for granted the significance of quitting, even when preserving another self.

Motes and Heat And Warmth falling over one another a dozen times, wrestling with each other in an ephemeral game of leapfrog, must surely horrify those phys-side who warn of transporter paradoxes as each tail-end instance yields to the next and quits. How macabre the squeals of laughter must be to their ears, how unsettling the smiles on their faces as they settle in the grass with glee, overjoyed at the serial murders they both have just committed.

And then there is time. It is easy for us to forget about phys-side on account of all the System has to offer us. Easier, still, for the only faded memories we can have are of the world before, and many are so miserable. Some of us came here seeking to help reclaim the Earth, and nearly as many eventually succumb to escapism.

There are the families we left behind, and if we are not careful, they are gone before we know it. Those flicker-lives yet bound to Earth are still our kin, as Ioan was painfully reminded when ey at last looked into what became of Rareș in eir absence. Many who came here before the 2170s look to the prospect of immortality with relief. Many of those who came after, pointedly, did not.

Why did Rareș not join his sibling when the years began to take their toll? What life did he live so worthy of death? Did he set a headstone for Ioan when ey uploaded to fund his education? Did he mourn when his sibling did not write him as frequently as he would have liked?

It is all so terribly tragic, but I do not pity them.

Dear The Wheat And Rye Under The Stars

Of course it is strange to inhabit the Earth no longer, To follow no longer the customs so newly acquired, To invest no longer with future humanity Such promising things as roses, … And being dead is full of the labor of catching up, As one gradually acquired a sense of eternity.— But the living always make the mistake of too sharp a distinction. … In the end, they need us no longer, those taken in youth. One gradually weans oneself from the earthly… … But we, Who need such great mysteries, for whom out of grief So often comes blessed improvement—: could we be without them?

Would any of the Ode clade like to share a favorite work of poetry, excluding the Ode itself?

Several Odists

I Remember The Rattle Of Dry Grass:

I read this snippet of Neruda at a party for New Year’s, 2399.

Let us unleash all our bottled up happiness and seek out some lost sweetheart who accepts a festive nibble. It is today. Today has arrived. Let us walk on the rug Of the inquiring millennium. The heart, the almond of the mounting epoch, the definitive grape will go on depositing themselves in us, and truth — so long awaited — will arrive.

Dear, Also, The Tree That Was Felled:

This poem by Dickinson, as well as being a fond memory from the past, expresses my views on memory well.

There is a pain — so utter — It swallows substance up — Then covers the Abyss with Trance — So Memory can step Around — across — upon it — As one within a Swoon — Goes safely — where an open eye — Would drop Him — Bone by Bone.

Dear The Wheat And Rye Under The Stars:

This is a newish translation by Eileen Cheng-Yin Chao of a poem by Xin Qiji.

少年不識愁滋味In youth I knew nothing of the taste of sorrow
愛上層樓。I liked to climb high towers
愛上層樓。I liked to climb high towers
為賦新詞強說愁。To conjure up a bit of sorrow to make new verse.
而今識盡愁滋味Now I know only too well the taste of sorrow.
欲說還休。I begin to speak yet pause
欲說還休。I begin to speak yet pause
卻道天涼好個秋。And say instead, “My, what a cool and lovely autumn.”
How lovely a depiction of growth!

May Then My Name Die With Me:

I found this ancient poem by a furry named Dwale titled Poem for a Deceased Lover. I was prowling through some furry literature at the time to send to a cousin of ours, Douglas Hadje, without telling him the source.

Seven days had passed when I heard you died, A message in the warm morning hours. Dawn Rose, and no one said how I should go on, Or wade this mire without my only guide.

Flown to space by what callous earth destroyed, I chase the long-flying radio waves. Far away from grief and a potter’s grave, I sift to find again your breathing voice.

Teacher, my every thought was yours to thresh, So now what sure course would you recommend? Your kind words turned to shrapnel in the end, Pieces of you left here in my heart’s flesh.

Lover, did you mean to leave this deep wound? I would sell my world to kiss you farewell. Eleven years facing perpetual Hell, And all I can say is, “Too soon, too soon.”

I sent him the second stanza, and this was his reply:

Does this have to do with the launch? It certainly feels like! It feels like how even now my mind is chasing those radio waves that are coming from the LVs, now so far out of reach for any one of us that we can barely comprehend. But still, we keep on searching for those voices that come back to us ever slower. Did someone on the LVs leave you behind? Someone you love? Family? One of your forks? Basically, someone whose voice you keep on searching for. Or maybe they were one of the eight irretrievably lost personalities?

“Far away from grief and a potter’s grave” makes a lot of sense to me as someone who left Earth behind. I don’t know what it was like when you uploaded, but I can see it as a way to dream of some place better.

(All by @makyo)

what happens if you read [the books] and you only just become more fox because of Dear?

is that a thing?

I am en-fennecing at an alarming rate

Dear, Also, The Tree That Was Felled:

Then truly you are blessed, are you not? Consider the wonder of the ears!