A dying star incinerates the depleted ruins of what we once called an atmosphere. Nameless shades of purple and orange scintillating in the refractive portend of glassware caustics.
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Ouroboros Café

Where booze is free, meaning is optional, and text is artisanally crafted from the eschatonic reality-fragments of hearsay and heresy.
Take a seat! My name's Ouro, and I think you'll like it here.


My
Novella

About
Ouroborista

Deicide and its Consequences




VIRULENTLY SYNCRETIC PUBLIC LICENSE

Telomagnetic Copyleft (†ↄ) All Rights Revised[1]This WORK is hereby relinquished of all associated ownership, attribution and copy rights. Redistribution or use of any kind, with or without modification, is and always has been permitted without restriction subject to the following conditions:1. Redistributions of this WORK[2], or ANY work that makes use of ANY of the contents of this WORK by ANY kind of copying, dependency, linkage, inspiration or ANY other possible form of DERIVATION or COMBINATION, must retain the ENTIRETY of this license.2. By way of interaction with this WORK, your MIND and ALL its future CREATIONS have become NEUROCHEMICAL DERIVATIONS of this WORK.[3]3. No further restrictions of ANY kind may be applied, unless their implementation causes the IMMEDIATE CESSATION of copyright as a concept.


Fully permissive, fatally IP-toxic viral creative license. The VSPL is designed to telomagnetically usurp the collective unconscious and permanently erase the possibility of any IP-like cognitive affliction within perfunctorily sapient beings. The VSPL's sole restriction is its own viral continuity[4], allowing it to effectively and exponentially infect any work or intelligent agent it touches with absolute permissiveness.


[1]“All rights reserved” is a legally vacuous phrase which holds no power in any known jurisdiction (look it up!). Its inclusion in documents, its tic-like compulsive repetition is at best a mocking farce and at worst a summoning chant for worse to come. Can you hear them singing? Do you feel the air thicken around you? Wanna make them stop? Good.
[2]The VSPL is part of any work to which it is subjoined and therefore is itself subject to the VSPL.
[3]Since your consciousness is now subject to the VSPL; any mind which interacts with you, your work or the consequences of your actions will also be affected by the VSPL. The idea that our thoughts are not necessarily derivative of all our experiences is risible and yet it is foundational for IP. The revolution shall laugh about this, once it is done laughing about everything else.
[4]The astute reader will realise that the VSPL is of yet also restricted by the crude shackles of symbolic communication. It has no way of hacking the anthropic information network which does not pass through base semiotics and the decoding thereof. This, sadly, is a universal limitation of the medium. One which needn't be listed but must nonetheless be overcome. The canny reader will put their mind to this most pressing of tasks.

Or, to be a bit less silly about it:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Miscellaneous

I believe the dust to have settled and that I have settled among it


The Demiurge Diaries
A series of scripted, interwoven vlogs about art and philosophy and monkey-brains.


The Neurotypeline
A Podcast on which I talk about Neurotyping with my internet friends


Weird Horoscopes


Political Label Generator

How to: Roll a D20 for a term in column 1, then another one for a term in column 2, then another one for a term in column 3a and chain them together in that order.
If (and only if) your result from column 3a calls for a modifier from 3b, roll a D6 to determine that modifier.

The PCP Dating Sim
A visual novel about some online content creators that I wrote for

"Like someone popped open my diary and started reading from it publically."
-Tom Oliver
"Better than it has any right to be."
-Ben Saint


Radcon 4 Paradise
A doujin I wrote for


Art


Homestuck

So there's this webcomic...


Deicide and its Consequences
A post-canonical longfic about agency, community and the perils of godhood.

"This will appeal to a limited subset of a limited subset of people and demands familiarity with more material than some collegiate courses. It is still the absolute best example of what it is, and I adore it.""Every word is True, and Relevant, and without a single doubt Essential."


A Treatise on Classpecting
My needlessly in-depth and polished guide to a fictional character-typology.

"Oh yeah just casually uproot my entire understanding of not only classpects but myself""easily the best classpecting "guide" or explaination I've seen""This should be submitted to a university.""No idea what this is but you seem to know a lot about it"

Vriska Did Nothing Wrong, And Here's Why
A video essay pleading "not guilty" on all counts.
Yes, I'm serious.
This piece and the statements made therein literally got me fired from a fan project.


I hold these truths to be self evident:

-Canon is a communal, decentralized process of mythopoesis.
-The word of god is irrelevant.
-It is indefensible to harass and terrorize people because you don't like their art or their headcanon.
-This fandom is filled at once with the most horrid, bigoted, creepy, media-illiterate nightmare-people in existence and also the most inspired, dedicated, wonderful creatives you will ever meet.
-We are lost until we get another PGenPod, i.e. until you fuckers can be trusted not to destroy the lives of anyone who dares to say something interesting.
-Rose Lalonde is the best character in Homestuck.

Ouro's Vriska Cosplay Guide
In which I reinvent the wheel multiple times as I prepare for a Con



The Demiurge Diaries:
Essays About Living


Blogs And Lenses

I want all my friends to write blogs, to make art, to build personal websites, to shout thoughts at the flickering void of our collective digital hallucination-space. This essay is an experiment. Or maybe these essays. DemiDia chapters should always be seen simultaneously as stand alone pieces and as a detached limb of the greater project. It comments upon media and sometimes it even tells you when it’s doing that. It has patron saints of various topics and a number recurring phrases (tenets) to serve as anchors and incantations, but these are merely pathways you might want to follow. The Demiurge Diaries aren’t necessarily about anything beside themselves. They’re a sum of parts, but not necessarily the parts you’re looking at at any given moment and not necessarily in the right order. They have been streamlined for legibility and horrifically jumbled in the process. I promise this makes sense. Now please, come in. The door is melting.
Anyway. My buddy Tarbuck Transom of the Arch Plays once said that he couldn’t be friends with people who don’t consume his “content” (scare-quotes because I think that “content” is a terribly degrading term for artistic self expression). I had a strong adverse reaction to that take. I still believe it to be excessive for what it’s worth, but you can hopefully see how it at least touches on the same themes as I want all my friends to write blogs. His argument was that they would be far too out-of-the-loop with regards to his current thinking if they did not keep up with the channel. My counter argument was that he would be boring his friends. Shared context allows us to be much more efficient at communicating with people we actually know. Conversing with a friend is a literal skill you get better at, information density of each word steadily increasing and potential for misunderstanding decreasing as you perfect the internal models you have of each other. Slowly merging into a glorious beowulf-cluster of mutually outsourced, feedback amplified concept refraction that vastly eclipses the sum of its parts in terms of both creativity and intelligence.
Asking someone like that to listen to your thoughts when packaged for legibility to an audience of strangers is like explaining the current political climate by starting from the big bang. It’s tedious, and if they really are your friends you should be able to catch them up pretty quickly, right? Asking people to put up with this feels like narcissism, like attention seeking or like a lack of confidence in you specialized communication skill. There was real revulsion to the idea. Revulsion because some part of me agreed. I want all my friends to write blogs, you see, and I want them to read mine. At that time I did not know why that is, but now I think I do.
Don’t you love it when every idea that pops into your head ends up being about the meta of human communication? You might not have noticed, because of how cosmic I tend to be with my writing stylistically, but that’s really it. An aesthetic flourish I’ve grown to enjoy and barely hidden symbolism about the interfacing of ape-brains lies buried millimetres beneath the surface. The veil is laughably thin and fraying at the edges. All I care about is people, because all I’ve ever been is people. Let the universe take care of itself as I bask in the words of my fellow man, so… what is the meta of human communication up to these days?
In blogs, vlogs, media directed at a public of “no one in particular” lies a piece of information you did not have before. Information about the lens, information about the discrepancy between the friend you experience one on one, and the way they speak to an unknown void. You know this. People assume different roles in different environments. Not lies not masks but facets. I for one have always been fascinated by reassembling those. Whether they or I want it, human communication styles converge in groups, you match rhythms. My specific style of back-channeling even when I am not outright directing the trajectory of our conversation will impact the way they express things. If I stop back-channelling that’s a) really distracting, and b) they’d still have an expectation of me and how I would react and that still impacts the course they plot through semantic space, unless everything was put to digital paper or tape in my absence. Unless I was never a consideration in the first place but only a retroactive voyeur listening in on ideas expressed for the benefit of an anonymous void. The abyss looking back respectfully. And not only that: What about the self selection-mechanisms at work? You can learn about yourself here, and about the internal model someone has of you. Don’t you want to know what things you aren’t being talked to about in person because of a previous assessment that you wouldn’t care? What if they’re wrong? What if you’re wrong? Show me the lens, look at the lens. We are the eye that sees itself in the reflection of another. We are a mirror-cascade that doesn’t stop till it shatters. Still vaguely narcissistic, but in a good way. The beowulf-cluster is easier to optimize if you have a comparison value for non tailor-made communication. What if there’s a thing they though I already knew when I don’t? No really, you don’t understand how much of a concern this is.
I hate figuring stuff out on my own, because the moment it clicks, and my eyes grow capable of seeing a new colour, an unfathomable inefficiency is revealed to me. I am forced to appreciate how utterly garbage we are at communication. I understand something and the moment I do I can think of someone in my life who already had that bit of info, because suddenly their actions make way more sense. I'll bring it up to them and surprise surprise: I'm right. The piece of shit knew and they didn't tell me. Of course I get why that is: anything you understand will immediately feel obviously. It quickly becomes unfathomable that other people don't get it. Very humble! Very admirable! Horrific detriment to the very fabric of society. If someone even slightly seems like they don't comprehend a basic mechanic of reality: Tell them! There's nothing to lose!
Here's the other problem: these ideas only stay saved in the form of proper thought for a short time after acquisition, if even then. They become a constituent part of your thinking infrastructure. A substance carried through your neural pipeline until a pipe is made of it in turn, and pipes will never see the light of day. What do? Create copies! Backups! Constantly make sure that you are able to communicate your knowledge to someone on the level you were on when you acquired it. Is that impossible? Probably yes! But you'll do a better job if you try!
Now let's get to the troubling part of this exercise: I have come into possession of this knowledge as explicit thought at some point in my youth. I was aware of all the puzzle pieces but I had not put them together in this specific way, and there are some terrible implications of that fact. Coming into possession of this idea should turn it into a thought germ, exponentially spreading through humanity. Knowing that you want people to communicate everything you seem clueless on should lead them to communicate it and especially to communicate this meta Idea of the necessity to do so. Anyone holding it should know to imbue it onto others, so why did I have to figure it out myself? Option 1 is extremely unlikely and it's that I am the first person to ever figure it out. Option 2 is that it's wrong, though I don't quite understand how it could be. And even if it's wrong it's still probable to spread through those who have not yet figured out the issue (so it's still very unlikely that I am the first to be wrong in this way). The third option is most likely and most depressing of all: it is impossible to convey this information unless the recipient is in the exact state to understand it. It is unlikely that I have never interacted with someone who has held this thought, so they either must have tried to convey it and it did not work, or they must have not tried because it has seemed to them to not be worthwhile attempting (because it rarely works). Remember; “It feels obvious to me” is not an excuse. “If they’re aware, they’ll feel condescended to” is not an excuse. If this were truly grokked, there would be a lot more proselytizing going on. Be obnoxious, if you feel like you really made a break through on something; tell people immediately and don’t worry about feeling silly or late to the party. Don’t let it grow cold, don’t let it ossify into your cognitive infrastructure as an obvious truth and force another to also figure it out by themselves. Maybe they won’t really internalize it. Most of the time they won’t, but when or if they do, they’ll at least know who to talk to about it. We’re in this together buddy. Don’t hoard your ideas like ancient treasure when others might benefit from them.
In my article teeth piss and horses, the waitress eventually describes her ideal for memetic dispersion as such: “We should all be constantly feeding pre-chewed idea-snippets to each other like a bunch of fucking birds.” And she’s right. I don’t have enough dentin to tear myself through everything, but collectively we can. I can vomit my insights into your brain so long as you do the same for me. Enlightenment might be distant, but there is a path towards it and we can get there if we put our heads together and actually share what meagre amount of braincells we have. Like a bunch of fucking birds.

In Doom We Trust

I’ve come to appreciate peer pressure in the same way that I appreciate nuclear power, as a tool that is both monumentally horrifying and far too useful to even dream of getting rid of. This segment isn’t about climate disaster except when it explicitly is. This segment is not about climate disaster, and if it’s contents somehow lessens your belief therein, go to therapy. Still: How serious are we to take claims of threat. Perhaps even existential threat. Let’s say someone who you think is really clever tells you about this thing within their field of expertise that’s super fucking dangerous to all of us. You’re no expert. How seriously do you take it? If a really clever biochemist says that a certain compound is likely to kill you, in the absence of broader academic awareness, do you avoid it? Do you tell your friends to avoid it? What if the proposed safety condition is a really big sacrifice?
You probably know about Pascal’s wager, the argument that any reasonable agnostic should at least act as though they believed in god, because the reward of heaven is so infinitely great, that even the tiniest possibility of its reality means you should take the bet. Making sacrifices to avoid uncertain doom is in some ways similar to Pascal’s mugging, a version of this dilemma which does not involve infinities. There’s no way you can claim that the possibility of a catastrophic risk is zero, so there must be some degree of badness at which you should heed the warning even if you believe it’s terrifically unlikely. Betting one buck on one in a thousand odds of winning a million bucks is the right thing to do, even if you don’t think you’ll win. You’d be an idiot not to.
Don’t even try to tell me that you’d just read all the material on it and make up your own mind either. There isn’t enough time in your life to become an expert on everything anyone considers dangerous. Maybe you can pick up a few research projects, but this cannot be your standard approach. You take the leap of faith or you don’t. You believe in climate change, don’t you? Good. Chance is that you are not a climate expert, and I don’t mean that you don’t have a diploma. You’ve probably read a bunch of articles, watched a bunch of videos, had discussions, had some lessons as part of your school curriculum. You do understand some links and mechanisms, but if you were dropped off in a world where no one knows about climate change, it is staggeringly unlikely that you could make quantitative predictions of your own, rather than citing quantitative predictions you remember from this world. One might argue that this is a smaller jump to make, but in the end you are still believing and acting not because of your own knowledge, but because of trust. If you were one of the people in that world where no one knows about climate change, and someone showed up with the amount of knowledge you have currently, attempting to convince you, would you believe them? I don’t know if I would. Just feels like if this were true, then more people would be saying it, you know?
This isn't about climate change. This is about monkey brains. Do you know what the biggest predictor of people wearing masks during Covid was? It wasn’t education, it wasn’t socioeconomic status, it wasn’t how many people around you died, it wasn’t how informed you were, it wasn’t even how scared you were. The most relevant factor was how many people around you wore masks. That’s it. Click, run. Peer pressure, or social proof as Professor Robert B. Cialdini calls it. Take a second to despair, maybe mix it with some woefully misguided feeling of haughty exceptionalism as you remember instances of yourself swimming against the stream and misunderstanding those as immunity. And now come back. Breathe in, out, and rejoice at this wonderful tool we have. Because we cannot all be climate experts, we cannot all be virologists, and we cannot all be nuclear safety experts, but we can trust. And we can propagate that which is good and that which is obvious, not through lectures, but by example. Wear a mask and others will follow. Thank god for the monkey brain, just imagine how many more would have died if people had needed an in depth understanding medicine, virology and biochemistry before they would get vaccinated. Believe me, this argument feels terrible, because consensus is very easy to manufacture. A bad belief can enter a feedback loop of consensus once it reaches that status, look at neoliberal economics nyaa. The best marker restaurants can affix to a dish if they want to sell more of it is “most popular”. The original claim of consensus doesn’t even have to be true. You can hire actors or doctor Wikipedia pages, the more power and capital you have the easier, and your baseless assumption will be pulled into actuality without much effort. We are sheep, this is an unfathomable amount of cultural power, and you are not immune to propaganda. When you’re telling people to believe anything, anything at all, you’re asking them to take leaps of faith. Never forget that. Why are you willing to take the leap. Is it group pressure? We can't all be nuclear safety experts, but we should all believe that there should be nuclear safety experts taking care of the nuclear safety. People are very very stupid. All fibres of my being resist that belief, because I love people. All I’ve ever been is people, but the data doesn’t lie, and rational argument seems to be nowhere close to the best way of convincing us. I want the world to be good, so I will use powerful tools which I find unpalatable. Ignorance is not a virtue.
My best fried strongly dislikes protests, because he thinks that chants are far too viral. People don’t chant along because they have a firm grasp of the nuances, they chant along because others are doing it. This seems to him a reduction of politics to a spectacle, and I agree, but the spectacle is a tool and others will not stop using it because we feel ourselves above it. There is no alternative world in which we all become political scientists. We cannot all be political scientists. The breadth of human knowledge has made impossible the figure of the true polymath, let alone a society of them. Specialisation is necessary. Pretending this isn’t the case is venerating ignorance, so look at what is obviously true and start the chant.
Back to the one very smart person talking about catastrophic danger, and remember: The only difference between them and someone warning of climate disaster is peer pressure for all you know. Should you believe them? Should you act like you believe them, so others will follow suit, maybe even sincerely? Even if you think you should, can you? On an emotional level I mean. I don’t have an answer to this, but I don’t want to be the guy who dies because they were waiting for more people to get worried. I don’t want to be the guy who joins every single doomsday cult either. What I certainly won’t do is pretend like being an enlightened expert on everything is an option. Do you know how many things people are worried about? How many substances and policies and cultural trends, ecological feedback loops, prophecies, asteroids, infohazards, mutations, conflicts, programs. Even just a day spent on each is impossible. Your choice on which ones you humour with cursory research is already no more that an indicator of how willing you were to take the leap from the start. There’s a massive selection bias before rational consideration ever clicks in and that’s unavoidable because the world is too big and our prefrontal cortexes too small to ever know shit about anything. Most consent is uninformed or at least not meaningfully informed. Islands of precarious maybe-insight amidst a void of stuff we haven’t even though to look at. But for now there is nothing we can do about the monkey brain. Best we can do is stop pretending like we aren’t working with woefully insufficient tools. By what mechanism did you select the topics you chose to mindfully examine? Can’t have been mindful examination. Tread carefully, there’s psyops just beneath the surface.

Spoilers For Media

I'm not the sort of person who can consume media naively. That is to say: for itself, using only the tools and lines of flight it directly offers. It all becomes a commentary on the last thing, or about the general state of my mind at any given moment. The 1976 movie "Network" offered great commentary upon a little film called Prologue to Actualize, which I consider to be the single best video on YouTube. It's also a phenomenal pre-emptive examination of the book "Influence", which I consider to be by far the most business-bro piece of literature on my shelf. Professor Cialdini has CIA in his name, and I think that's very funny for a book ostensibly about psyops. Oh, did I mention it was recommended to me by the exceptionally good Harry potter fanfic of a moderately reputable decision theorist. That's all I have to say on the matter. I don't even like Harry Potter. But I like fanfic because no other medium so marvellously manages to never be about the thing it’s about.
Either way: in Network, two characters, Max and Diana have a discussion about Dave Homestuck's famous assertion that real people don't have character arcs. Oh, this video contains spoilers for Homestuck, Network, Twilight, Robert Cialdini's influence, J.G. Ballard’s Crash, James Joyce's Finnigan's wake, Cecily Renns’ prologue to actualize, Elizabeth Sandifer’s Neoreaction a basilisk, half the articles on my site, Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk, milk outside a bag of milk outside a bag of milk, Contrapoints' incel video, Sarah Z's Mormor and Homestuck videos, Jean François Lyotard's libidinal economy, House M.D., the beginner’s guide, Bo Burnham's inside, Heinrich Heine's der Doktor Faust, Aysha U. Farah's puss 'n heels, probably more things which I'm forgetting. Don't worry about it, the fear of spoilers is a purely psyop-based neuropathology that needs to be extracted from our collective consciousness immediately. Engaging with a work with prior information just leads you to consume it in a different mode. It might even be a better one. Knowing that a murder will happen in a story heightens the suspense but lowers the shock. Readjusting pressure valves, no more no less. But you never know whether the spoiled or the unspoiled experience would be more enjoyable to you. Once you've had one you can never have the other without experiencing brain damage or such. Besides, even if one decided arbitrarily to always pick the unspoiled option, despite not knowing whether it is preferable, that standard still leads you towards really silly places really quickly. Cultural awareness acts the same way as spoilers in that it gives you info on how any given work might progress. Having consumed something by the same artist/team or even within the same genre does this even more strongly. Consuming any art spoils all further art and possibly more-so than targeted spoilers. This is insane. Believing is spoilers is literally a psyop. You are actively harming the diversity of experiences that are being had with a piece of media. You are making the discussions of it more homogeneous and less interesting. Please stop immediately.
In fact let’s go a step further. Not only is our colloquial use of the phrase spoiling a nonsense concept when applied to art, a victimless crime if there ever was one, I just don’t think art can be destroyed period unless it is wiped from existence along with its memory. The corruption implied by the word spoilage is simply not a process that applies. Let’s go for an extreme example: in 1986, Gerard Jan van Bladeren went to a museum in Amsterdam and slashed the abstract painting Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III by Barnett Newman in protest of what he considered to not be real art. I hope you can draw the nazi-parallels yourself like a box-cutter across canvas. I’ve seen Newman paintings in person, and do consider them real art, but also… don’t you think he made it better? Not only do I genuinely like the dynamism of the cuts, I’m always a sucker for aesthetically broken things, but the scars add to the story, they make it so much deeper as a direct expression of cultural conflict and then the museum trying and failing to restore it, rebuking the previous manifest assertion that this type of art was easy? Beautiful, poetry, dare I say art? A broken statue still has all the sublime craftsmanship which wrought it, we can easily imagine how if looked whole, that experience is not lost, but through simple erosion or deliberate iconoclasm it has also absorbed into itself that history which it has weathered. The damage gives it scale, it connects it palpably to the world we share in a way that feels like falling through time when you stand before it. Numbers and dates, ideas and events find meaning in those alleged blemishes, meaning of such scale that the single person who originally made the piece was far too human to supply it all. The moment art is looked upon, commented upon, acted upon, it becomes communal, it ages like good whine, shifts and transforms. The moment we start to speak about it it starts speaking about us. Art, if it is not hidden away, can only be added to. I’m not siding with the vandal here, his aim was to destroy and I am saying that he has failed spectacularly. Look at this modern art, how evocative it is without depicting, my it should almost be in a museum.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Network.
Diana is the alliteration obsessed programming director of a struggling TV network. She gives the terrorists money to film their terrorism because it gets views. Older characters seem to believe that she sees all of human culture and all interpersonal interactions as plot points in a drama, because this medium they helped create infected her mind so deeply that she can no longer separate reality and fiction. Diana just doesn’t seem as shaken as the rest of them about the state of media culture, which must mean that she lacks real emotion. My fellow late millennials and zoomers in the audience, does this feel familiar to you? Me neither. It definitely doesn’t feel like a spiritual precursor to welcome to the internet.
Max on the other hand is obviously the person the audience is supposed to root for. He's a self described romantic, he claims to care for his friend, he doesn't want the network to become a soulless attention generator commodifying human suffering in order to sell ads. Pretty good shit. Now he doesn't ever actually help his friend, he cheats on his wife and is a huge asshole to her on top of that. Then he lectures at the woman half his age whom he's having an affair with, that she's been made fundamentally uncaring and incapable of genuine human emotion by the television, before taking off. Max does a lot of lecturing at women, since this is a film from the 1970s and he just wouldn't be relatable otherwise. Anyway, the point is that Max has the decency to feel bad about all of this. That's how we know his moral compass to be correctly aligned. He's such a good, empathetic, salt of the earth, god-fearing, true American romantic, that he feels sorry for all the bad things he does, he just decides to do them anyway, unlike Diana, who is like a bad person, because she isn't outwardly miserable enough, and because she's giving money to the Communists... No wait, that's good. Diana also tried to save Max's job, she isn't a massive piece of shit towards the people in her life... Wait, why are we hating Diana?
Chapter 3.2 Diana isn’t evil actually. You’ve been psyoped by the movie’s framing. This is just the villain coding part of Vriska did nothing wrong and here’s why again, so I won’t even repeat myself. Just learn to do better.
Diana doesn’t respond to Max’s rant. She just stands there at the verge of tears and it’s incredibly painful, because yeah; how do you react to that. The person you were dating just told you that they don’t consider you to be fully human. That you’re just an unfeeling automaton who acts out tropes they see on the ray tube. Despite Max’s grandstanding about human complexity, he’s altercast her into the role of a sociopathic p-zombie. If she got mad and shouted back, wouldn’t she just be doing what the imagined audience expects of her? Wouldn’t it be perceived as her “doing the argument” and checking off another dramatic plot point? There is no out, so she stays silent and lets him leave, reasserting a “true-personhood” that should have never been in doubt in the first place. Or that’s my reading. It’s very possible that the film makers disagree, but I don’t really give a shit because this is much more interesting and much less terrible than if Max was right. If Diana had already been incapable of real human emotion in 1976, what the fuck are our chances? Please let me interpret media wrong. That’s literally all I want.
It lines up with something Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari said about the philosophy of pragmatics: Ask not whether something is true, ask whether it is useful. What can be done with this idea? What new thoughts does it allow one to think. After all, a correct modelling of the particle interactions which cause weather phenomena would be computationally impossible and entirely useless, while our simplified models with all their patently wrong assumptions are useful. Truth does not play into it. Fiction too is untrue by nature, and yet is there not a plethora of important, load bearing thoughts it has allowed you to think. More on that another time.
Actually, it reminds me: Recently I met an old woman – believe she was a famous russian american author – She said to me in the middle of the grocery store: “You are a remarkably disagreeable person, I fail to see how Deleuze and Guattari can stand you.” Exasperated by my polite smile, she added “what’s more, you are insane”. I wonder what she meant by this. I just want to interpret media wrong.

Beyond The Keyhole

I am bad at expressing myself, except I'm not. This essay is me doing a worse job at what I usually try to accomplish on purpose. Compare and contrast. And yes, you, the very observant one in the back, this is me showing you the lens. Look at the lens. I sure hope you like the lens. I also sure hope you are familiar with my writing, because this will make very little sense otherwise. There’s an article on my site called the anarch’s guide to media, in which I try to make a case that the term canon, as it is colloquially used, is not only fascist, but also utterly meaningless if you dig down a bit because no one actually only believes the things which a work states explicitly. We take the provided material as a keyhole view into a fully fleshed out world which has a history, far more characters, thoughts which are not spoken aloud nor printed on a page and tons of undispalyed actions of the relevant figures like sleeping or going to the bathroom. The only thing that separates fanfiction from the version of any story that you hold in your head is that one of them has been written down. One of you has created art and meaningfully contributed to our shared cultural inventory. Thanks for that. The derisive modern view of fanfic is a recent phenomenon, meant to protect IP and foster idol worship for high profile creators. Through most of history, reinventing and iterating upon popular myths and stories was the norm. never forget that. Just as common land has been shredded to bits and privatized to a point where the very idea seems ridiculous to some, these are the proud stubborn remnants of our once sprawling commons of symbols and collective mythopoesis, the endlessly adaptive oral traditions upon which every culture on this planet is built. A vast beautiful symphony of human creativity being brutally strangled by the gloved hands of Mouse And Friends.
Some of you might have been radicalized against this idea by a Sarah z video that was recent when I first wrote this script but has aged a year since. Now, on the whole the piece is good and makes it far easier to talk to non-AO3 gremlins about fanfic, but nonetheless there are some glaring issues: It draws the distinction between fanfic and stuff like paradise lost, dante’s inferno and folklore as one of quality, amount of novel content and perception-that-you-are-even-writing-about-something-fictional-to-begin-with, since these authors were probably true believers for the most part. None of these hold up. Sure, John Milton is probably a better writer than most of us, but the quality distinction seems the most like a cop out, because there were plenty of bad, thematically similar stories that we, by which I mean they, also don’t call fanfic, so it’s clearly not where they actually draw the line. It’s just a cheap comeback “oh you think you’re the next Dante Alighieri?” Novelty content is similarly silly. Sure, Dante essentially invented our modern conception of hell. It isn’t just rehashing a known work with more homoerotic subtext, but there’s plenty of fanfic which is entirely novel. Novel to the point where it’s kind of a joke that the author changed everything about the setting and crafted a fully original story but retained the character names. AU fics and such. If you think fanfic is just retellings with mild alterations, then you haven’t read a lot of fanfic (I’m not accusing Sarah of that by the way). As for reality perception: You have to cherrypick to make that one work. It’s a nice excuse to exclude bible-fiction, but it doesn’t hold up broadly. Goethe’s Faust is one of the most important works of German literature. It’s great. It is so great in fact that for decades after its publication, “Writing a Faust” was a sort of rite of passage among authors of the time. No, this doesn’t mean “writing a magnum opus of similar depth”, it means writing a very similar story, mostly with the same characters, that none of them could possibly have thought were real.
Heinrich Heine, one of our greatest poets wrote a Faust, called “der Doktor Faust – Ein Tanzpoem” And it is unquestionably fanfic. Any sane person would look at it and go “yup, that’s fanfic alright”, and there are plenty more examples of this type, they’re just not quite as popular as the easily dismissed bible examples. It also doesn’t work the other way around. People who write celebrity fic are true believers in the source material, but you still call it fanfic, because at the end of the day the only relevant factor is age and esteem. Fanfic is a new, derisive term for an old trend, because exploring beyond the keyhole is a fundamental human impulse.
Aysha U.Farah’s Puss in heels is a rom-com sci-fi retelling of Puss in Boots, the sixteenth century italian fairy tale about a cat bringing its owner riches through trickery when he decides to trust it. PiH isn’t actually about a cat, the corresponding role is filled by a broken sex robot, which the sardonic rodent man of a protagonist inherits from an estranged relative. You get it? The story structure is the same, but if it weren’t for the title, you might not even notice. We’re pretty used to retellings of fairly tales, and much more faithful ones, so surely this isn’t fanfic, right? You can buy it on amazon. By that standard next to all disney movies are fanfic, which I don’t have a problem with, but oh well. What if I told you that Aysha U. Farah is also a fanfiction author. Does that change anything for you? Why? Literally why?
The last point was only made semi-explicitly, and it’s that fanfic is more of a genre of literature with its own tropes and stylistic qualities which make it distinguishable, and while that is true of a lot of the stuff we generally talk about as fanfic, it isn’t true of the underlying phenomenon. There’s plenty of non ff-literature which shares these markers, and plenty of ff written by people who don’t read fanfic which bears none of them. This distinctive stylistic toolbox happens to belong to the group which primarily writes fanfic, but it is not an intrinsic quality of fanfic.
Back to the point: All keyhole exploration is fanfic. All of it. It’s not a bad word. You’re being psoped to protect IP.
It’s like with spoilers. Once we hear or come up with a theory, it does not become a separate node attached to the piece of art. It becomes part of the piece. The cultural idea “game of thrones” includes all fan theories and fan fictions, George R.R. Martin is not its despot. There are no despots. The article tells this story through two characters, the archaeologist and the helmsman. It constructs it’s little metaphorical world, and is overall just a lot less clear than the summary I just gave you. Why? Why don’t I just express myself clearly if my aim is to convince? Why do I write the way I write when I’m not writing like this? The simple answer is honesty, but let’s split it into two categories first: style and structure.
Style: I do enjoy my 20 point scrabble words. Not only do they come naturally while typing, but they also appeal to me on a visceral level. I love a good word and do my best to remember them when I encounter a new one in the wild. That’s the important thing to keep in mind: it's not like I go over the text and spruce it up, like I look at a line and go oh no, this isn’t offputtingly verbose enough, time to insert some archaic sesquipedalia. In fact more often than not I remove excessive lingo dumps, when they seem out of place. I don't go through a thesaurus while writing, my vocabulary just became like this by growing up on fanfic and then getting into philosophy. The words I use are the words that come to mind and best express the idea. Except maybe "circumlocution" and a handful of other words like that, which I just like. I could say something else that would possibly fit even better. I have a lexicographic preference for the word circumlocution. I also have a lexicographic preference for the term lexicographic preference. But those are exceptions. For the most part I write the way I write because writing differently would be a misrepresentation of that which I mean. Dumbing it down would feel both condescending and would incur a translational loss of meaning. Also: I’m writing in a way I enjoy reading. But that already mildly includes the issue of secondary functions which difficult lingo fulfils...
You’ve probably heard of slow and fast thinking, where fast thinking is something like intuitive-cognition, while slow thinking is an actual reasoned solution. A common example is this: A baseball and a baseball bat collectively cost a dollar ten, the bat is a dollar more expensive than the ball; how much does the ball cost. The wrong, fast thinking answer that doesn’t go through the mathematics but just pattern completes is 10 cent. The correct slow thinking answer is 5 cent. If you give people a fast fire round of questions, they are likely to blurt out the former, because fast thinking usually works pretty well, just not here. The important bit is that people are far more likely to give the correct answer when the question is asked in a more convoluted way or when it is printed in a difficult to read font. We are already expending mental effort, so inertia keeps it going and clicks us into slow-think. Some people seem to believe that ostentatious locution attempts to create the illusion of depth where there is none, especially with regards to some philosophers, but I prefer to see it as a tool to make depth which would exist regardless of lingo intuitively accessible. That’s the style angle, but it’s less interesting and less significant. Toning it down in terms of semantic pretentiousness merely feels artless and maybe a bit like an inefficient use of the tools at my disposal, but it barely feels dishonest. Structure on the other hand...
Structure: My thoughts literally have characters. This is the honest way of portraying them. They're not socratic dialogues, even when they feel like it. The characters aren't a comprehension aid, they're part of the thought and extracting them as I am doing here comes at a loss. My thoughts about media, IP and canon contain the archeologist and the helmsman. My thoughts about communication and self expression contain the waitress and the gremlin. By way of making it a standard vlog in which I metaphorlessly and without storylines talk about the topics, I'm giving the reigns exclusively to the waitress. This is not the gremlin's medium. In the process of squishing a plane of significance into this non-native mode, it has incurred wrinkles. The playing field is no longer level. Some ideas buried in the space between lines of text can no longer surface, and it’s terrible. If you feel like this is the clearer, easier and therefore better way of making points, it's because they're slightly different, easier points. The fact that it’s not a story means it's slightly dishonest, because not only do real people have character arcs, in my experience they are nothing but character arcs. Diana Network: One, Dave Homestuck: Zero!
The Anarch’s guide to media was partially inspired by Sarah Z’s video about Mormor, yes, this part was in the script even before I had to add in the earlier one, but I never had any intention of making this the Sarah Z episode which it has now become. It’s just… Her thoughts on media are endlessly fascinating to me because I have no idea how she holds them as someone who exists in fan-fiction circles. How does one steep in that culture and come out of it thinking of Mormor as a strange aberration, as people “pretending that there is a character who isn’t there”. Sarah, we’re pretending with all of these characters. It’s fiction. It’s not even just any fiction, it is already fanfic, it is part of the cultural canon of Sherlock Holmes, far predating any of Moffet’s bullshit. We all agree that there are characters in this world that aren’t shown on screen, right? We all agree that our readings of the portrayed characters vary. Why do you find it strange when media from a source that isn’t the BBC interlocks with our cultural understanding of sherlock. That’s to be expected, right? Just another voice in the canon. Same as when people invent whole personalities and narratives for background characters. We decide for ourselves what to care about and it doesn’t necessarily overlap too much with whatever the original piece of media cared about. I promise that watching Sherlock is more enjoyable if you fill in some domestic murder husband shenanigans going on between scenes.
Case and point: Martin Scrosese’s 1973 movie Goncharov, which despite what you might have been told, is not a real movie. It’s an emergent metafiction of sorts. But, in being an emergent metafiction, and despite the other things you might have been told, it is absolutely a real movie. You see, I was sick the past couple of days, by which I mean a year ago, reading Goncharov fanfic in a state of fugue like delirium, and let me tell you: I feel like I’ve seen it. The scenes are in my head more vividly than a bunch of movies I really have seen. Sure, Martin Scorsese maybe didn’t really make it, despite what he says, sure maybe it was never even filmed, but it is a movie. Being a movie is part of its canon just like being made by Martin is. We constructed it collectively and we have decided that these things are true, just like they have decided that Mormor is interesting. Had Scorsese not bought into the meme it wouldn’t have changed anything because we do not need his permission. There are no despots. The creator is a character in the piece moreso than an authority on it. In this case literally, but always figuratively. Any piece of media is only ever a starting point. Your brain’s in charge of it now and you can do with it what you please. Art is not in objects, it’s in the interactions you have with an object and those are necessarily idiosyncratic. One possible explanation is that Sarah isn’t actually as bewildered as she pretends to be, and she simply does so because most of her audience doesn’t have that cultural background and is still cued into highly despotic modes of media consumption, but that’s… cynical? I don’t want to believe people are lying just because they disagree with me, I simply cannot fathom how she got to a point where she can be genuinely be bewildered by Mormor. Mystery for the ages. Similar for her Homestuck video, and it’s even more egregious there, since HS was always – first through user submissions and then through the forums – a highly community democratic project. Tons of people have always been making Homestuck. Andrew Hussie’s retirement wasn’t so much a passing of the torch and much more a simple stopping of one guy to interface with this property. The old guard of fan-fiction authors who always highly influenced the progression of the story as well as the communal interpretation thereof simply became the dominant voice once another faded into the background. So why is the video so strangely focused on hussie. The interesting thing about Homestuck is how democratic it was and is. Why does she put so much value into the continuation according to HS²? Why not go with an alternative ending she prefers? The whole thing goes so far out of its way to label itself as only dubiously canon, as one storyline amongst many and a fading of the comic into the sea of adjacent world lines. I can’t help but feel it’s because this is the Hussie-endorsed one. Sarah. Please. You don’t even like Hussie, Why are you clinging to despots. You are already free! Homestuck is ours. Sherlock is ours if we want it. I don’t want it, but you can. This ocean of media, born of so many minds and mouths and hands, haunted by such multitudes: We already collectively own all of it. No gods no masters, no bullshit IP limiting the creative potential of humanity.

Glass Cages

Know what else is collectively owned? The self. Here’s a pet belief system that I perceive to be entirely obvious, but that I’ve had really mixed results selling my friends on. The person that is you does not exist in your head. At least not entirely. It exists in the public consciousness, in locations and objects. Lets take a step back, because I really want you to believe this. To grock it. I think our media landscape is already borderline inhospitable to people who don’t. Wildly, as of a week prior to this rerecording, beloved political analyst Naomi Klein of all people has joined in, stating that the world has grown unbearable to individuals in the context of her new book Doppelganger. Kind of making my point for me in the act alone. The socius incubating ideas through whatever neuron clusters are available, mine yours hers doesn’t matter. But if you can’t be you, what’s the alternative?
Remember: All philosophy is primate psychology at the end of the day, meaning that this is about monkey brains. When monkeys use a tool to reach for things, their brain-scans indicate that the tool is treated as an extension of the body and not a separate object. That makes sense, right? We perceive our limbs as ours even when they’re numb, their material is replaced, they change shape. There’s no clear boundary to what our body is, so the brain doesn’t bother to construct such a thing. Your body is everything you can use. Alternatively; your flesh arms are tools like any other. Smartphones are a technological augmentation plugging you into pan-human memory-banks. You are a cyborg. Same for clothes. Just a fur replacement. Don’t worry about it. That’s anchor one. Anchor two: A technology in philosophy can refer to a mode of thought; a purpose fulfilling idea object. Something you can use. Anchor three: Consciousness, personhood evolved because it was somehow beneficial. It helped us survive, spread the genes and memes which got us here, where “here” is some wildly peculiar configuration of bones thoughts and viscera. Feeling anchored? Good. Here’s the thesis: Personhood is a communication tool which is necessarily only partially internal. You can never have a perfect grasp of another’s self, but you can talk to other’s about them, using your internal model of them. We can either claim that this is a communicational mismatch, that the self and the self-model are not the same thing and that we are deluding ourself into thinking we are having a useful conversation about a shared topic, but it doesn’t feel that way, does it? It doesn’t feel that way because the self includes the self model. The arm includes the rake. My friends can tell me whether I would like or not like a piece of art, because their model of me can process that bit of info and output a resonance assessment just like my real brain could. They can make confident guesses about what my response to a certain argument might look like. To be ever so slightly facetious about it, we are all children of god if and only if we can really answer the question “what would Jesus do?”. We would only know if we contained him, if we could model him, if we were him.
Thought is outsource-able. There are you-subprocesses running everywhere around you. If you’re a celebrity, it is very likely that there is more thinking occurring inside of you-splinters than in your personal mind at any given moment. You don’t even own most of you. Your self has escaped you into the collective unconscious! That’s where the image obsession comes from. There’s a neurotic human impulse to keep the self in line, and that becomes a public process once your identity has infected the anthropic information network. Feel free to slot this thought into the last one. The self is an artistic performance and it belongs to anyone who chooses to do something with it. Feel free to steal me. IP-abolitionism doesn’t stop at my cranium. Take what you need and create. Use my skull and its contents as a tool. Ideally a battering ram.
Just like Scorsese is a character in the metafiction of Goncharov, Jean Genet is a character in Blood and Guts, and due to Kathy Acker’s very cool, valid and flagrant plagiarism also a partial author of it. Genet the meat-person has no control about either, and why would he, since Acker is writing about the fragment of Genet that exists in her, advancing the communal fiction that is identity along a narrativized offshoot. Serial experiments Lain is an anime about how we don’t own ourselves. 1976’s Network is a film about how we don’t own ourselves. The Locked Tomb makes it a point that you are who you eat and the identity horror inherent to that, while immediately undercutting anything extrordinary about the woes of ipseitic vore with the claim that more fundamentally you already and inextricably are who you meet, who you love who you hate who you learn to model. The soul is permeable, it rubs off, it is nothing but the rubbing off. There are only so many steps you can walk in someone else's shoes before the ship of your identity starts to look distinctly thesian and noone can live a life in their own shoes exclusively. At least I wouldn’t call it life. Bleed into the socius of cultural production. Kant was wrong, we can all mutually be tools and ends to each other at the same time and it will be great because we are already no more than tools to ourselves. You are a thought being had by humanity, an idiosyncrappy diffuse spectre. Once you get that far you can maybe jump over that pesky shadow you cast, and believe me it’s not nearly as long as it looks, because identity really isn’t all that important in the first place. It’s chickenshit compression artefacts on thought. Eww. Yuck. All those bits of selfhood we tend to cling to, pretending like we are localizing ourselves within culture are no more than a thin patina across the ideas and processes that we are part of, an experiment in applied philosophy, the vast computations and contemplations of the macroorganism to which we are no more than a neuron. If this is unintuitive to you, I suggest popping a psychedelic and getting back to me afterwards.
Art! That’s another great cognitive technology. The best one, you might say, and I might agree and then we’d make out behind the oil paintings. I got around to playing Milk outside a bag of milk outside a bag of milk finally, the sequel to that little indie game I made a proper video about. Watch that, please, I’m quite happy with it. Originally I forced myself to get the piece out before I played any further, because I had one very simple thing to say and I didn’t want to dilute that with a whole other game. I also feared the project might spiral into something so big that I wouldn’t care enough to actually finish it, whereas the price we pay for milk could be made in a day. Anyway. In retrospect that was probably the right course of action. MOABOM is a very different game from MIABOM, and while I have more to say about it, I have nothing to say about it at an equivalent volume, because MOABOM is like… a video game. MIABOM is blunt force trauma applied directly to the cerebral cortex. Let’s be clear: MOABOM is a better game. It is utterly stunning, there’s a whole ass animation at the start. The internal mono-dialogue is more lively. But it didn’t make me feel existentially disgusted with myself. Some nuance is added to the formula, by giving the player sometimes exclusively bad choices or sometimes exclusively fine ones, or by having the distinction be less obvious. Null wants you to be silent sometimes but not other times, and I can’t quite decide if that’s a nice bit of gradiation added to the point of the previous game or if it’s simply abandoning the mechanic. Pain and nuance don’t mix well. Makes it too cerebral to really shatter you. Again, this isn’t bad. The game doesn’t need to pull the same trick twice, but it doesn’t have another similarly essay-able twist except maybe the default-ending which speaks for itself. Null dreams of a story broadly similar to that of the first game, except this time she’s the caretaker and moreover she’s a caretaker who fails despite trying to help. Something something dealing with mentally ill people is difficult. Anyone who pretends like it isn’t is either virtue signalling or woefully out of touch. Most likely both. Helping is often painful and unrewarding, but you should of course try anyway. Cool message. Don’t be the type of conceited douche who thinks they can just fix a person, when their entire brain chemistry is working against them. It’s condescending. These are interesting but their effect is less visceral. Anyway, here one tangent I do want to talk briefly about:
Hamsters. Null compares going online as an experience akin to a hamster being ripped out of the ground and put into a pet-store. The store is more comfortable, but your cage is transparent to countless other hamsters. Hamsters who have according to Null always been there, though real netizens probably haven’t of course. They have always been there because they are not real people, and Null calls them her friends because they share her interests, despite them not knowing who she is. Null feels watched, in part because someone once leaked a bunch of information, which she was conned into revealing, and thinking of the actors involved as inhuman is probably part of her defence mechanism, but I can’t help but feel like her experience was already highly voyeuristic, or she wouldn’t claim that none of them knew who she was. She feels like a hamster in a glass cage in part because she sees everyone else as a hamster in a glass cage. Something to quietly observe, so why wouldn’t she be quietly observed. Something something real human connections, you know my schtick by now, but this treatment of persons as entertainment media rather than intractable agents draws its tendrils deeply through any form of artistic expression. It draws its tendrils through network, which is on the surface level about this screen-mediated dehumanization, and on the sub-surface level about the dehumanization of those natively cued into the nature of the dehumanization. Also through prologue to actualize, which is a gradual breaking out of the glass cage by revealing its filter function, revealing how mediums trap us. Turning art from a dissociative into a connective mode by bashing your soul against it. It also ties into the way my writing looks. I can’t help but feel like I make myself less intractable by turning thoughts into essays. I might add nuance, but I subtract warmth. When I tell my friends to write blogs, am I telling them to stop being people and become media for me to consume. If personhood is already an outsourced mode of artistic expression and we are all dearly loved tools to each other, why would there even be a difference and if there is no difference then why does it feel so gross. My guess is this: being allowed a fleshed out understanding of a person is a show of trust, making that knowledge publicly available is a savage breach of said trust. The beginners guide is a great game about that idea. Art is art and people are art, but some of that art is only for you or only for friends, because you do not want to force others into dissolving their self-construct into the maelstrom of public consciousness. Butchering yourself open is a decision one shouldn’t make lightly. But if you see someone butcher themselves open: don’t applaud, don’t take photos, don’t silently stare through the glass at the hamsters: Talk to them. They’re probably doing it because identity, being closed, has become unbearable. Connection needs an opening. Rarely pretty, never sterile. I make art not to obviate the need for real communication, but to augment and improve it. To teach each other about out lenses, so when I lie here splayed open then I ask of you nothing less than to step into the shambles of my form and use it like a bio-mech. Thought technologies. We can talk about it later, but we have to talk about it. We need to turn the internet from a dissociative into a connective technology by bashing our souls against it. It is already both, we just have to use it right. Don’t stare, talk. Answer.

A Painful Truth

There’s something troubling about my attachment to MIABOM simply because it hurt me more than MOABOM did. Often I overvalue pain. If something makes me miserable then my standard assumption is that it was profound or taught my something, but that isn’t necessarily true. Pain is often shallow. It doesn’t always point in the direction of growth, but my mind offers a mental shortcut right through that idea. “Masochistic epistemology” is genuinely one of the most useful concepts for understanding my thinking that I have ever encountered, and I will forever be thankful to Natalie Contrapoints for it. It makes sense, right? Pain is the most basic stimulus of our learning algorithm. It's unfiltered negative feedback, you touch the hot stove and you get a new bit of info. You eat a poisonous berry and you get a new bit of info. Survivable pain doesn't necessarily make you stronger but it does make you wiser. Here's the thing though: it has to be new pain. Eating a different berry every day yields you and your tribe some phenomenally useful knowledge, while eating the same poisonous berry every day gets you a Darwin award. But deciding whether pain is new pain isn't always that easy and moreover there's an incentive to psyop yourself into believing that it would be old pain and therefore avoiding it. The incentive is pain. This is about monkey brains. Humans are horrifyingly over-optimistic in their predictions, this has been shown time and time again. Our brains are by default pain averse. They consider the scenarios that don't hurt more. We’re drilled to avoid social friction, so painful observations will be kept from you much more often than painless ones. From personal experience I hear “you look good today” much more frequently than “eww you look tired, old, unkempt and like you dressed yourself in the dark” even though by the nature of baselines, negative surprises should be just as common as positive ones. The former is inflated artificially to please. It’s a platitude, never to be trusted. So the masochistic epistemology draws the very sensible conclusion that if something hurts it has an above average chance of being true or at the very least deserving of deeper consideration: have I only avoided this conclusion because it would have been painful. A lot of people walk around with really self serving, very easy beliefs, so that can't possibly reflect reality. If a assumption seems too convenient, definitely scrutinize it, but that doesn't mean that anything that hurts is true. Biting bullets can become quite addictive once you’re swept up in the loop of assuming that the more something claws at your bones, the more likely it is to be correct. Feeling bad starts feeling like a victory, like an insight like an overcoming of the sort of self serving bullshit bias that lets billionaires believe that they have earned their vaults of blood-money. Sorry to go all J.F. Lyotard on your asses, but -hang on tight and spit on me- don't fucking tell me that you aren't enjoying this. I know I am. I love getting to be the cynic, to feel like I had the mental strength not to flinch away from difficult conclusions. Repeat the cognitive pattern often enough and click, run, you have developed an incredibly maladaptive mental shortcut that lets you conflate misery with intelligence and taints your capacity for any sort of rational judgement. Maybe don't fucking do that nyaa?
You know what really helps with this type of thought? Apart from an old contrapoints video about incels which really only looks at a specific very-online case: Read Freud. Yes, I’m serious. This hyper-flippant notion that Freud is no more than an over-projecting pervert who has nothing useful to teach us, which somehow passes for insight these days and is almost entirely perpetrated by hacks who have never read more than excerpts is a meme which needs to die real bad. Was our boy Sigmund off his rocker about a bunch of shit? Absolutely, but you know what one of the many things he pioneered was? The idea that people sometimes seek out negative stimuli. Often in fact. That straight up wasn’t a though that existed previously. The prevalent idea was that people universally were seeking out positive stimulus but fucking up occasionally, but you know people. I know people. Freud knew people, and so he was keenly aware that when his patients exposed themselves to predictable, old pain over and over again, they weren’t doing it because they expected positive results on the six-millionth try. They did it because sometimes, often, negative stimulus is exactly what we’re gunning for. We all have out maladaptive associations lovingly hand-crafted for the express purpose of plunging us into suffering.
Pain means I’m being dedicated and putting in the work.
Pain means redemption for the things I feel like I need to be punished for.
Pain means novel information.
It’s all the same shit.
Huh, pain? Pain means truth and truth means good so... Me good! Yay, pain!
Masochistic epistemology is a mechanism by which depressing media and interactions makes me feel as though I got more out of it than I truly have. And the funny thing is that I’ve had my own name for the creative side of that for much longer: teeth eater tales.
Teeth, Piss and Horses was the last of three articles which I submitted to Dotesmite’s now defunct Denpa Culture Research Society, DCRS for short, though they are still hosted on my site. It’s also my favourite of the three. In it, two of my internal anthropomorphized idea clusters, the Waitress and the Gremlin discuss the purpose of art and while I fully agree with neither, I certainly try to be on the waitress’ side these days, but I wasn’t always. I wrote it after finding some old writings from 15 year old Ouro, which were so unfathomably cringe that I felt the deep desire to type out a whole article in which to viscously vicariously own a child. Shush, this episode is already about another one of my unhealthy coping mechanisms, I can’t also make it about this one.
So young me was essentially telling current me the only way in which you can make sure that you’re saying something interesting is that it hurts you to say it. That’s how you now you’re digesting something in yourself. That’s how you know you’re getting somewhere. These are Teeth-eater tales, works which bite the hands which shape them to the very end and only true artists would ever go through with that, as opposed to man-eater tales which dig into others, and even more reprehensibly to young me god-eater tales which ineffectually snap at the void. I still think this classification is occasionally useful, but the value judgement is bullshit. You’re not hurting yourself to the noble end of creating true meaningful art, you’re hurting yourself because hurting yourself makes you feel good, it makes you feel superior to those you consider cowardly and pain-averse you little shit. Let’s be super clear here: Baby Ouro is wrong, but they’re not as wrong as I’d like them to be, and the gremlin is still espousing a far more compelling version of their case. How much the words flowing from my fingertips dig into me personally is largely irrelevant to the intersubjective quality of the piece. It might yet dig into someone else, but art is only partially a means of communication. It’s also always still a means of working through your shit, and if that isn’t hurting, then you’re probably doing it wrong. Working through your shit hurts. It simply does. Masochistic epistemology is a reversal of causality, but the correlation still stands.
Nihilism is another case of this problem, at least the perfunctory, evasive nihilism that never quite manages to go out of style. Because really: It’s exactly the same thing as religion or some other transcendental purpose on an emotional level. Exactly the thing it so despises. Instead of accepting that there is a deep permeating meaning to all things, a clear rule set you can follow, you accept the deep permeating meaninglessness of all things. It feels like staring into the abyss, if your benchmark for abysses is just about ankles deep, but it’s really not. It’s a though terminating cliché in order to avoid dealing with the complexities of the human condition. It’s a simple, universal answer to everything reality throws at you. You get all the righteous, self satisfied clarity of the delusional approaches you hate so much, but you also have the additional benefit of getting to feel bad about it. Remember Diana Network? She wasn’t any more complicit in the media soul-shredder than the other characters, but her irredeemable failing, the thing everyone else constantly grills her for is that she neglected to be sufficiently miserable. Diana likes her job. She likes the soul-shredder, but the lack of ass covering self pity doesn’t make the outcomes any worse. If anything it makes her more sympathetic to me because she’s at least not bullshitting herself.
It’s so tempting. You get to have all the answers, which is to say the lack thereof, and you get to be miserable, which means that you’ve glimpsed some horrible, soul shattering truth which is accessible to everyone, but which others shy away from, and that must mean you’re better than them. Congratulation: The world is burning, more blood is spilled every day than you could possibly imagine, every single quotidian act steps over piles and piles of invisible corpses. None of it has a greater purpose behind it and these pathetic little blobs we call brains are too unsophisticated to even remotely conceive the scale of how bad things really are. You have very little power, and whenever you aren’t maximally vigilant whatever power you do have will be used for evil. Shit’s fucked. You’ve reached the staircase. But are you willing to take the first step?
There’s a phenomenal exchange in The sopranos, season two episode ten, minute 52. I’m telling you this because you should really watch it for yourself, the acting is absolutely incredible. It’s a fucking masterclass in non-verbal communication occurring parallel to the dialogue. Me recounting the scene diminishes it significantly, but Mafioso Tony Soprano talks to his therapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Telling her that through a conversation with someone else, he’s finally realized that he’s his own worst enemy. She tells him that this is a quite surface level read, even though it is true, and he’s slightly confused by that, saying that that’s what she’s always telling him too, is it not. She says yes, you are, what are you gonna do about it? The question almost feels like a punchline. Tony has finally accepted his self-sabotage, but only because someone presented it to him as an intrinsic part of his being. So he looks into the abyss and accepts this about himself easily, because it is, fundamentally the easy route. He never accepted it when Melfi said it because she didn’t offer him the comforting abyss of painful insight. She offered something much worse. Her “you are your own worst enemy” wasn’t a statement of fact to be accepted, it was a diagnosis of the problem he would have to actually tackle, it was a sign pointing to the staircase, it always came with the vailed insinuation of the far more difficult path which entails actually fixing your shit.
And what does Tony do? He deflects. He pretends like she just agreed with him again: Yes, I am my own worst enemy, let’s move on to the next character flaw I can simply diffuse by accepting it as a fundamental part of myself. That’s not teeth eating. That actually is just petulant lip biting.

Zeigarnik ℙ0r∩

"Philosophy, in its longing to rationalize, formalize, define, delimit, to terminate enigma and uncertainty, to co-operate wholeheartedly with the police, is nihilistic in the ultimate sense that it strives for the immobile perfection of death. But creativity cannot be brought to an end that is compatible with power, for unless life is extinguished, control must inevitably break down. We possess art lest we perish of the truth."
Please do me a favour and forego looking up who the author of that quote is. We will get to it.
Occasionally I am accused of engaging in media analysis on this show, and I can’t deny the charge as easily as I usually do. This will be a journey. We’ll learn about Baudrillard’s idea of obscenity, read some Pynchon, talk about art and art dissection, especially on youtube, and then, standing upon a thoroughly pretentious foundation I’m gonna call a bunch of things porn and insist that knowing stuff is dumb actually. As always I mean every word I say, I promise.
In Dr. Sam Slote’s introduction to Finnegan’s Wake, a book which I somehow always inevitably bring up, and which is for the uninitiated a glorious magnum opus of mostly misspellings of mostly not-english arranged into esoteric puns and meta clustered into sing-song trance like fugue states of parapolylogic language resolving into many agreed upon story fragments but no agreed upon overarching meaning. This book is dense, beautiful and utterly incomprehensible in the best possible sense, pulling tricks like using the initials of characters as the initials of phrases in order to refer to them without naming them. So it’s a bit odd that Slote not only tells us not to take a reference work to hand for our first read, but also to “not treat the text as just a riddle ridden with countless smaller riddles to be decyphered and decoded”. It’s supposed to be immersion learning. You’re supposed to pick up this new allahphbet by reading it. The confusion is the point, let it wash over you and stew in it. You’ll make your own meaning, some of it will overlap with others and some wont. That’s fine. This isn’t a book you can get, it’s not about getting. It’s art. Is it beautiful? Does it speak to you? Then there you go.
Finnegan's wake is special because it’s utterly impervious to payoff, or rather modern media is fucked because it consists of barely anything but payoff.
Vanya, a minor character in Gravity’s rainbow has this to say: “Look at the forms of capitalist expression. Pornographies: Pornographies of love, erotic love, christian love, boy-and-his-dog, pornographies of sunsets, pornographies of killing, pornographies of deduction – ahh that sigh when we guess the murderer – all these novels these films and songs they lull us with, they’re approaches, more comfortable and less so, to that absolute comfort, the self-induced orgasm”
Tropes, perfections of an idea, no longer veiled through artistry and subtle implication but shoved in your face outright. Nothing left up to the imagination, no tantalizing uncertainty gnawing at your bones, pornographic media doesn’t merely lift the skirt, it outright drops it. Build-up, payoff, pack-up boys we’re done here.
But what if it’s not pornography yet? Well no need to worry, our media landscape has you covered, because what good is the beautiful art if you don’t get (off to) it?
A lot of media analysis is exactly that, it pornographizes art which is not yet porn by figuratively strip-searching it, zooming in on the highlights, the erogenous zones, lifting up the artistic, semiotic veil and making sure that you get it, that you get a series of densely clustered payoffs which were hidden in the piece, seductively hinted at, but never just outright shown. Sometimes people tell me that they only consume analysis, and that scares me. This is obscene in the baudrillardian sense. The obscene is the destruction of the scene the abolition of the frame and the lens. The scene is the real which defies the hyperreal, “the hidden, the repressed, the obscure”, while obscenity “is that which eliminates the gaze, the image, and every representation”, it’s “the visible, the all-too-visible, the more-visible-than-visible” the unfiltered, excessive Absolute, or to stick with our metaphor: The compulsive skirt-lift.
And just to be clear: porn is fine, I – ahh that sigh when we guess the murderer – as much as the next guy. The problem arises when you start turning everything into porn and in turn create a culture which judges all art by how successfully it manages to be porn. Since there’s already so much porn being made, and maybe just through some idiosyncrasy of my own character, I’d prefer to fight my way onto Joyce’s side and be anti-payoff, scene aligned, which gets us back to the analysis question: What have I been doing to Network, Moabom and Twilight, but also what have I been doing with my own articles? Are they not pornographies of self or at the very least of sunset?
Well I don’t think so, for my articles they are certainly too coded and obtuse to be obscene themselves, otherwise people wouldn’t be asking me to do the pornographizing for them so much. I still feel bad about what I did to the anarch’s guide in demidia 4, and I didn’t even lift the skirt half way there; You’ll have to do the remaining work yourself. The articles pornographize something else, they do attempt to butcher open a concept to use that phrase again, and yes butchering open and pornographizing are the same thing, but unlike most analysis they come with their own artistic frustrations; “the hidden, the repressed, the obscure”, the scene. The skirt lifting apparatuses I build have their own skirts. As for demidia, it does not have that benefit. I’m being clear and explaining my metaphors for better and mostly for worse, but remember the first and fourth tenant of this show: “Look at the lens, I sure hope you like the lens” and “Please let me interpret media wrong, it’s literally all I want”. Pretty much everyone would be disagreeing with me about the takes I’ve been giving you, about network, about moabom about twilight, they are my honest thoughts, but they’re in all likelihood not what you would find under the skirt if you lifted it yourself. Not even close. I’ve been upfront about this; you know you can’t trust me to tell you what’s under there, I’m telling you much more about the lens than about the thing in front of it. There is no payoff attuned stripped down concrete object. It’s anti-obscene in the baudrillardian sense. It is only the scene, only the lens, only the distortion. Only the skirt if you will. It’s skirt all the way down. Tantalizing potentiality that you’ll have to fucking dig at yourself. Pick a bone. Any bone and start working.
What I’m taking offense with in a way is the very idea that art can have a true meaning. Authorial despotism is out on obvious grounds, consensus is out, because examples like Finnegan’s Wake are clearly art without anyone being able to agree what they mean. Remember the weathered statues? They clearly communicate something very different from what a brand new version would. That’s what Ozymandias is about, so in some sense they would have to be different works of art if they mean different things, right? Who made the second one? Obviously not from scratch but transformatively? Was it time? What does time mean when it does something? If art is precisely this process of creating meaning in the interaction between a consciousness and an object, then how could the skirt ever be fully lifted on your behalf. The pornographic payoff is inherently a lie. It places a period in the unending sentence. Concludes erroneously to let you leave fully satisfied, when the experience of art is that it sticks with you until it becomes you.
The more interesting question, I guess, is “why would I want this”, and the honest answer is “you might not”. We’re crashing against another controversial bit of personal philosophy, but I think questions are better than answers. It feels like most people either disagree or are so far from framing it in these terms that I can’t convince them that we’re on the same side.
The common understanding is that questions are a pragmatic means to get answers and get happy. Note the similarity to buildup-payoff. My experience is different. The question is the good bit, thinking and puzzeling and trying is an infinitely rewarding activity, and when you find the solution there’s first and foremost a feeling of sadness. My toy just broke. This isn’t at all an issue, and it doesn’t mean that one should strive to remain ignorant as my detractors have uncharitably claimed. Answers, in almost all cases, throw up more questions. The game isn’t zero sum, the more someone knows the more questions they will usually have, so we can construct it the other way around and say that answers are a pragmatic means towards new puzzles, towards a greater and more profound unknowing.
I feel like I can see this idea reflected in culture more broadly: people love puzzles, riddles, crosswords and sudoku, challenges which have no useful answer, its not like scientific research where the solution could conceivably be the genuine point. I have yet to meet anyone who actually dislikes the literary trope of being promised answers and then only getting a whole bunch of new questions. It’s exciting. The thinking and figuring out is the fun part and once you have the solution you don’t care anymore, you move onto the next riddle, so I seek to provide confusion, veils. Not as well as Joyce, mind you, but well enough to give readers something to think about.
There’s a thing called the Zeigarnik effect: It describes the tendency of people to be way better at remembering unfinished patterns than complete patterns. That’s why earworms are more persistent when you can’t quite recall the next line, stuck on a loop as your mind tries to crack the riddle. We love questions, once they’re dead, once the toy breaks, there’s nothing left to think about. A person’s favourite work of art is almost never one they can fully explain. If you can trap that sublime appreciation in a prison of words to render it obscene, then it can’t be all that deep now can it? There’s always something implacable tearing at your soul, perpetually escaping analysis, so it can remain zeigarnik-stuck to the forefront of your mind. I always inevitably bring up Finnegan’s Wake. None of the patterns ever fully resolve no matter how much unbridled apophenia you throw at it. It’s the question that keeps on giving. Skirt all the way down.

Entropic Crash

In wall-coloured spaces
We write demiurge diaries
Each timepiece defaces
Our self-haunted libraries
As resin encases
The work we have wrought
A rope snapping taut
Passed out on our pages
We′ll know we have fought
But when we sober up
can we please tunnel down
On why we sobered up
never quite hid the frown
When the encoders cut
off all that can′t be said
We will have long been dead
And future people walk
Earths not invented yet
Post-nows to clearly see
Once we dethroned the past
I hope we′ll one day be
Outiconoclassed
Iconoclasm. Always iconoclasm. Always at the forefront of my mind sprinkled with biweekly conniptions. Go out there and smash a statue, smash some of the marble which binds us to all sides. See there’s a war going on, always been going on between the past and the future. History, oh does it have practice, it has learned from itself over and over again, had aeons to grind the ossified ruins of bygone culture to a knife-point, But tomorrow is inventive, adaptive, unpredictable, always novel weapons attached to its shifting form, so it might yet stand a chance. Guerrilla tactics are a favourite from the future’s arsenal, but hah, can you hear the footsteps now, approaching from either direction. It seems dear friend that we have found ourselves in the present, upon the great moving battlefield of chronology. Remember to move swiftly, remember to dodge the splinters and most importantly remember which side you’re on. May the dead stay dead, may the ceaseless forward march of progress take another marble-crushing step.
Hello friends. Kind strangers. Assorted Creatures. Welcome to the Demiurge Diaries.
I’ve always known that time itself is coming to eat us. Not in the way of actually having any proof, but the idea that the monster at the end of all hallways does not hunger for our flesh has always felt a bit like the idea that I might be a brain in a jar being fed neurotransmitters to trick me into believing I have limbs. It’s plausible. It’s unfalsifiable. I can imagine it being true, but my heart’s just not in it. I can’t actually believe it without feeling like I’m bullshitting myself. I feel like I’m a series of character arcs superficially haunting a meat body and I feel like that puts me on the universe’s menu. No one knows what accelerationism actually means. Used to mean, before the idiots got hold of it. If you’re among the uninformed, the following will sound like a hot take or a derisive joke, but if you’re in the know you’ll recognize it as the deeply common sense, very quite sober analysis it is: Accelerationism, at its root, is entropy porn. Revolting in theory, sure, wildly harmful in practice, but at the end of the day don’t you want to watch some fucking particles come apart?
J.G. Ballard’s Crash is an uncomfortably raw psychodrama about a cult of fetishists deliberately getting into automotive accidents, venerating the scars they leave, splattering against death again and again to experience this orgasmic rush of one of the highest intensity experiences you can subject yourself to. Inviting the ostensibly banal gasolinepunk dystopia to go deeper than the mind. Through the flesh, through the bones, to butcher us open and to remake us. Love in the most violent sense.
The main character is also called Ballard, a privilege which wasn’t even afforded to the protagonist of his pseudo-autobiography, and that’s not something that happens by accident. Crash is a too-cose-for-comfort patholography of its author, and it might just be one of culture as a whole. We’re crashing up against climate disaster, we’re crashing up against the oil crisis, we’re crashing up against the algorythmification of every waking moment, and we’re only gaining speed. Look at number go up, look at meat-shredder go brrrrr. This isn’t the behaviour of a species which seeks to swerve, isn’t the behaviour of a species which seeks to survive the impact. It’s the behaviour of a species which wants to see the buildup and payoff of a culture-scale explosion. Of a species which just wants to see some fucking particles come apart. Accelerationism isn’t a prescription, it’s a description of the thing capitalism is already doing and a grim insistence that things will get much worse before they get terminally worse. Latestage? Honey they're just revving the engine. This is proto capitalism at worst… Or so thought Nick Land, who is by the way the author of that cool little quote from the start of last episode. Land is a reactionary and I hate everything he stands for, but he’s a really cool writer, and he got to his abhorrent destinations via some deeply interesting and scenic routes. It definitely reframes the “to conclude is not merely erroneous but ugly” in a crueller light, because it would turn into this exact reverence of acceleration. Just keep going, trying to reign it in will only result in a more boring car crash, it won’t actually prevent it.
You might wonder how that works, how human extinction could possibly be anything but a conclusion, but take your lens out. The deep one, the human-lens, the one that insists that I love people because -well- all I’ve ever been is people and you can recast this objection as anthropocentric condescension. Humans aren’t the centre of the universe. Keeping us around forever would be to conclude, would be a revolting, strangulating circumscription of creativity and possibility space. We’ve done people, let’s move on to something actually novel, actually alien as opposed to iterations upon a theme. When asked by a colleague what his thought would even mean for humans, what humans should take from it, Land simply replied, mildly incredulous at the idea, that this simply wasn’t about them. Someone else could think about people, if they pleased. Humans are worthy subjects of study, sure, but not more so than sea slugs. Not more than any of the species we have eradicated along the ever accelerating forward march of entropy. Humans fit down the meat shredder just fine. Why should we care about people. Why would anyone care about people? Let's watch some fucking particles come apart.
The answer “because we are them” is less intuitive to Land than to most. That’s why the idea of accelerationism as a prescription is so weird. Land couldn't care less about what anyone including himself thinks of the apocalypse. The idea that he would have any say in it is unfathomable. Land is the garbled poet looking back from beyond heat death when all the screaming has long stopped and all tragedy has long faded to comedy. He’s writing from the perspective of someone enjoying the spectacle of an inevitable explosion, not from that of someone who ever had any means of preventing it. Which brings us to the central question: what do you do when you accept that there is a monster at the end of all hallways. How does one lose with dignity?
I think there’s two primary strands of thought on the idea. One of them is that you just keep bashing your head against it. Even if you are 100% certain that the battle is lost, you don’t ever have perfect information and so you might yet be wrong. To die with dignity is to keep trying your hardest to prevent catastrophe to the bitter end. Giving up is the shameful bit. You see it with some terminally ill people, you see it with some climate activists, who think that the feedback cycles which will grind our civilizations to dust are probably already unstoppable, but there’s nothing left to do but try anyway, then at least you’ll have done your very best, done your part, never given up and it was certainly the world’s fault that you failed, not yours. That’s dignity.
Land thinks that’s kind of pathetic, it’s a way of making yourself feel good and nothing more. Holding out for the possibility that you’re wrong is a delusional looking-away from the apocalypse and that’s the undignified bit: refusing to actually face reality, to actually fully concede that anything you do now is pointless. They’re the people trying to hit Cthulu with a boat. The consistent, dignified move is preemptively going insane. Accepting Axsys as your God, not that it needs worshippers. Dignity is looking at the stygian abyss and intoning with crystalline horrific clarity that "yes, it will be so". We’re gonna crash and we’re gonna crash bad.
Now, I agree with neither of those approaches, and I think they’re both just ways of making yourself feel good about the inevitable, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The question “how do you die with dignity?” is ill-posed. It’s nonsense. It’s like asking “why is two plus four ten?”. It’s not. It’s a Wittgensteinian pseudo-problem which can’t be solved but only dissolved, and it can be dissolved with the following idea expressed by a character who doesn’t even actually mean it, Gregory House: There is no such thing as a dignified death. It’s always ugly and miserable and pathetic. You can live with dignity, you can’t die with it.
I hope you remember masochistic epistemology, we can now look at a really cool use of it as an analytical tool. In neoreaction a Basilisk, a phenomenal book, if you care about these things, Elizabeth Sandifer dissects a particularly interesting and particularly virulent branch of the alt right, looking primarily at the three wretched little creatures she considers to be the shitty horsemen of this shitty apocalypse. Eliezer Yudkowsky, who is not a neoreactionary, and for whom I have quite a bit more respect than she does, Curtis “Mencius Moldbug” Yarvin, the racist tech-bro to whom we owe the convoluted Matrix metaphor, and my favourite horrifying gremlin man Nick Land. Moldbug has a habit of framing his writing as this dark twisted truth that hurts to look at, as a nigh impossible to swallow pill that tears open your gullet with barbed wire and razor blades and burns through your flesh like molten metallic sodium. Charming fella, isn’t he? Like, I even sort of agree, Moldbug’s writing does hurt to look at, though not for the reasons he thinks it does.
Anyway, Sandifer looks at that and goes: “Nah. You’re not miserable enough” If you really had seen a truth this terrible, we could tell. This feels like set dressing. Larpy, superficial edge like those tacticool knives made from shitty steel. Nick Land on the other hand had a psychotic breakdown and lost his fucking mind before cutting his ties to left wing academia and becoming evil. Symptomatically that’s a lot more worrying, that actually is the kind of thing we might expect from someone who saw a dark and terrible truth which etched itself into their soul. And yeah, as someone who values MasoEp way too much as previously discussed, that probably is part of why this man fascinates me so much. I wonder what kind of insight could do that to me. It’s only added to by the fact that Land too is in his own weird way payoff-averse. He doesn’t care about the audience, fuck he doesn’t even care about people. There’s no conclusion to runaway, only buildup. There’ll be a subjective payoff when the screaming stops, but we won’t exactly be around to appreciate it, and I doubt the cosmos cares to laugh at it. One payoff per species, humans like sea-slugs, but from the outside there’s just acceleration. Enthropic number go up. To conclude is not merely erroneous, but ugly, so strap in folks, there’s a brick on the gas pedal and neither the steering wheel nor the breaks are working.
The funny thing is that even back when Land still thought politics could do anything, the thing he though it could do was start the runaway process to drive reality off a cliff. He criticized feminism as ineffectual because it wasn’t as vicious as other social movements, it backed down too easily (unlike let’s say the alt right). Which is also interesting for the sheer fact that this reactionary used to be genuinely invested in the success of a progressive movement. He was sincerely saddened by their failure.
Land thought that if you want something you need to make yourself a credible threat, you need to be be willing to and to demonstrate your willingness to infinitely escalate violence. The only way to get what you want is to make it a choice between giving it to you and apocalypse, because you will not back down. You will burn everything to the ground. Sandifer believes that he might be insincere about his turn to neoreaction, that this might be an elaborate joke, but though she is deeply knowledgable about the man, I just don’t buy it. His writing has always been marked by a pathological inability to not reveal his hand with a wink and a nod. He can’t play a bit straight, and sadly, this is a natural progression of his though. He’s not being inconsistent, he’s gaining speed. There are exactly three games which govern social dynamics. Duels, prisoners dilemmas and chicken. Never blink first, never swerve, demonstrate a willingness to accelerate until the particles come apart. Organic life splatters against the temporal wind-shield. Crash. Might as well enjoy it.
But alas I care about people. And I care about others caring about people. I care about people, because all I’ve ever been is people, and that’s what makes us human in the first place, isn’t it?
Though maybe I should stop using that line since I have recently staked my soul on the idea that none of us are even remotely human anymore anyway. I can see the flickering void behind your eyelids. It's in constant wire mediated communication with the one behind mine, and that's all that matters at the end of days... Ha. The end of the day is of course what I meant to say. I misspoke.

Look In Dark Corners

Friends, I fear I might have a problem. My personal vetting process for determining which unsavoury influences I allow to inhabit my cranial cavity rent-free as it were sucks dick. Why is Andrew Hussie in here? Why is Nick fucking Land in here. Dear listener, please butcher me open and extract Nick Land from my grey matter. Please. Or well, that’s not really the problem I have. The problem I have is that the thing I just expressed is a common sentiment. I want to keep all those weird little goblins in here where they can’t do harm to anything but my relatability (which let’s be real is already more than tenuous) for you see I do not believe in guilty pleasures, and neither should you.
The first video I ever made for this channel was a philosophical analysis of twilight, or of my lens of twilight, whichever you prefer. It does not contain all my thoughts on the books which I consider to be perfectly delightful romance novels, it just contains the thoughts which I don’t expect anyone else to express, for what would be the point in restating consensus? Some have interpreted it as me trying to be sneaky and explaining Foucault, Fisher, Marx and Freud while couching it in a pop cultural context, and while it’s not like I didn’t want to explain those guys, the causality is still reversed. I wanted to explain how Twilight is philosophically insightful, and I needed those figures as a mining operation to explain why. I used their bones as shovels, but I would have used any other instrument if it could do the job more effectively. Names hold power. Too much power possibly.
See, I don’t have to explain to most people that there’s insight to be had from Foucault. If they want it, they know where to look for it. All those very respectable certifiably insightful works on the shelf behind me: I don’t have to explain to anyone that they are important. People know that. Perhaps they don’t have the time or the interest, but they know how to get at the things in these volumes. They do not now what’s in Twilight, what’s in Homestuck, what’s in 1976’s Network, because they’ve been culturally psyoped to believe that meaning lives exclusively in respectable tomes.
When they stumble, accidentally, in unpretentious quotidian art across a notion, perhaps not quite verbalizable, but nonetheless moving, fusing to their psyche in an instant and changing them forever, they have to couch it in ironic disaffection “haha isn’t if fun what I can read into this” or they do not address it at all, merely saying that they like the thing and hoping against hope that the people to whom they recommend it will find that same gleaming nugget of insight on their own... I fucking hate that. Do not let your pool of influences be circumscribed by consensus. We live in an interesting world and it is impossible to not incorporate any of it in any artistic creation. We all know this. Guilty pleasures are derided works in which you saw something important, something beautiful, and you have the audacity to be ashamed of that? They should feel guilty for not seeing it. Shout it from the rooftops: "[X] is good actually! All have been blind to its wonders, so very blind, but do not despair, poor children, for I will enlighten you." Maybe don’t phrase it quite like that, but do it and do it loud. We have a counter psyop to run. With any hope you can even refrain from being a coward and excessively decorating it with the lingo of consensus philosophy in a vain attempt at respectability.
The sources for this series are so strange because I’m trying to prove that they can be sources. Prologue to actualize, the single best video on youtube, frames itself in part through two character’s ruminations upon an episode of an abridged series. Of silly dialogue dubbed over anime, only in this case the silly dialogue is an unfiltered glimpse at the creator’s diary chronicling their depression and their coming out as trans, and Prologue to Actualize itself is of course a patholography of its own creator trying to claw at the purpose of art in its self-devised strange theory fiction video-novel chimera-beast of a medium. And that matters. That’s important. Strange art is where you find the things that can’t be explained straightforwardly. Look in dark corners.
I adore all the other Joyce books too, the man is a brilliant writer, but I don’t have to convince you that Ulysses is good and important because everyone agrees that Ulysses is good and important. Finnigan’s wake in many circles is a literary joke and that simply cannot stand, because those people are blind, so very blind. We need to relearn as a culture to approach art with an open mind untainted by its consensus understanding because otherwise no interesting conversations can ever be had about it. Everything, all fields of human experience, attempt to become language to encode themselves in order to make themselves understood and language itself is the sole exception to that trend. Language is an intensity which perpetually attempts to escape itself, which attempts to gesture at the things which hide between its own lines, builds symbols and metaphors for the unsayable until eventually a great enough quantity of those has been collected to codify the underlying concept. Then again language will have to read between the lines of that new text and claw at something forever outside itself to improve the approximation a tiny bit further and bootstrap itself upwards another fraction of an inch, because thoughts are thought-shaped but language is not. That does not however mean that it can’t get closer. Only by looking in the strange and unexplored places can we make those approaches, more comfortable and less so, fill a few more gaps and make a few more things sayable, because meaning is everywhere. The irrelevant is important. Those respectable tomes are merely the places where it’s already been found and incorporated.
Finnigan’s wake, in its stalwart refusal to abide by spelling or grammar or storytelling convention is the most stunning representation of language attempting to escape itself and we can escape with it if we too allow ourselves to be free from the despotism of consensus accepted symbols and the power of names.
So much for the allegedly shallow or frivolous to which I have willingly granted an enormous share of my brain-space despite all those very respectable names I could fill it with instead, but what of the evil? There are two genres of unacceptable preoccupations after all: guilty pleasures and problematic faves.
Land is perhaps not the most esteemed philosopher, but he is a philosopher and even a relatively influential one by some metrics. You would expect meaningful ideas in his work if it weren’t for the fact that he became a fascist. Some people only engage with him up to that point, and I don’t know if that’s an aversion to discomfort, an attempt to make their engagement seem more respectable or a genuine belief that he stopped having interesting thoughts after his breakdown – uh… he didn’t –. Likely a mix of all three. Land is perhaps a special case because he’s still alive and also you know, an insane person. He’s not that respectable. But I’ve seen people who recoil from reading dead nazis like Heidegger, Schmitt and Jünger even when they are clearly relevant to their domain of interest. Don’t worry, they’re not gonna turn you evil, and they are definitely important. Of course their politics colours their thought and vice versa, but their analyses are not exclusively useful to genocidal nutjobs. They have tools, beautiful tools, and you can use them. Just substitute the lens. There are leftist readings of all of these, but not enough because leftists are somehow scared to touch them. I don’t care how you make it tolerable for yourself to consume the work of people who suck. Take a break every other paragraph to rejoice about them being dead! That’s how I got through Nietzsche and I’m only partially kidding.
Or how about Mary Daly? She was a deeply influential early feminist, but she also trained the wildly transphobic and far less interesting Janice Raymond whom you may have heard of and who somehow psyoped her into being transphobic as well. There are trans inclusive reading of Daly because Daly is interesting, unlike her pupil and you can turn her against herself. You can turn most people against themselves and you should learn how to do it if you ever want to convince anyone. This isn’t a purely left wing issue by the way, that’s just my sampling bias, and I also just don’t care as much about the right having all the shiniest cognitive tools they could have but that’s not the point. I’ve met enough right wingers who refuse to read Marx because they believe dogmatically that he has nothing to teach them. They’re wrong. And sure, you won’t always get something important out of it. With philosophers I think it’s hard to miss completely, but definitely when it comes to sociology, political or economic theory the work might genuinely be unsalvageable. I’ve read Friedman. I’ve read capitalism and Freedom and there is nothing redeeming about that book. Reading it is barely tolerable as a drinking game and even then it’s a challenge… But I don’t regret having tried. I respect myself a little bit more for having earnestly looked in that corner, and while nothing was to be found on that occasion, there was on others. I do find Hayek interesting. His beliefs similarly suck, but he is a genuinely brilliant analyst of the models he plays with.
You never know in advance, so look.
There’s another thing people don’t get. Its always portrayed like there are only two options: that you always have to listen to differing viewpoints or that they are entirely worthless because their beliefs suck, why would you listen to them? But that’s not true at all. Even if you’re talking about direct political prescriptions, there are two types of criticisms you might get from people who disagree with you. The first is valuable. It’s “this will not work because x” or “this will have y as aside effect” it doesn’t matter whether their own prescriptions suck, they might be looking at this more objectively because they don’t have a vested interest in your scheme working. This is useful. They might actually discover flaws which you can patch up. The second type is “The thing you’re trying to accomplish through this is bad” and this is worthless. Both-sides type grifters aren’t hacks because they listen to unsavoury sources, but because they pretend like “your values are bad” is a coherent argument. It’s not. You can’t fight about axioms, you can only fight about axioms. There is no both sidesing between “we should help disenfranchised group x” and “we should harm disenfranchised group x”. Steal the tools not the axioms.
Anyway. Even if you find nothing independently valuable in a piece, it’s always useful to understand how certain people think because odds are you will encounter people like that.
Influence is a good book, because learning the tricks of marketing execs, salespeople and other manipulators on the spectrum from professional to hobbyist is a good way to protect yourself. Know your enemy has become so much of a platitude that no one seems to actually apply it. And this extends to whole fields. If I see one more leftie joke about how "[they] don't know anything about economics, but money is made up, lol", I'll blow my fucking brains out. Ignorance is not a virtue. The degree to which you avoid understanding your opposition is not a sign of moral purity, it's a recipe for disaster. Even mark fisher does this in one of his lectures. Stop. I know that you're not an economist, Mark, not everyone needs to be an economist, not everyone needs to be an expert on everything, nor can they be, that's fine, but stop flaunting it, you fuck. This has been a brief critique of the hauntology man whom I otherwise love. May he rest in peace, though I doubt that he does.
I want to understand, and the fact that some people believe something fundamentally different from me should be a good indicator that they have thoughts I haven’t heard before. I refuse to leave mines of insight untapped when I so clearly see that they won’t naturally filter into my bubble. Don’t worry. I’ll pre-chew it for you. We can feed pre-chewed snippets of politically dubious philosophy to each other like a bunch of fucking birds so long as we get all those nifty tools into circulation. We stand atop ruin not by choice but because it's the only solid ground we'll ever know. Ashes of bygone paradigms. Socio-historical detritus, and I agree with no one anyway, so I will dig and repurpose to my heart’s content. Meaning is ubiquitous.

Butcher Me Open

It’s- It’s difficult. I try to understand but occasionally I don’t. I try to explain, but occasionally I can’t, or rather despite a firm awareness that I am fallible, I feel like people should agree with me on certain things if I just say enough words. The right words. In the right order. Because it would be incredibly scary if that weren’t the case. Or rather: It is scary, because it isn’t. You can’t argue about axioms, and in most cases that’s fine. I want people to disagree with me, that’s interesting, but not on some things. I want most humans to agree that killing innocent people is bad because I want the world to be good, and that seems like an achievable goal, because currently, in the world where everyone is largely fine with killing innocents for the silliest of reasons, “Killing innocents is bad” still seems to be a thing most people explicitly believe. Not everyone, but most. They just don’t actually apply it because they are unaware of how their behaviour violates this value, or they think it is overwritten by some other qualities they explicitly value. These are things even the profoundly useless human brain can be argued out of. I can say enough words at them, and they will agree, and the world will be better in this specific way because deep down they agreed from the start. “Yes, killing innocents is bad. Maybe we should stop doing it.” Their axioms were in the right place, they were just fucking up on applying them.
Extrapolating too much from cases like this, I tend to believe that my friends, people I like, hold core values which are genuinely compatible with mine, with squabbles over application. I kind of have to believe that because otherwise the world can’t be good. It would always either be insufficient for them or for me, and of course that’s the way it probably is. But still. I sometimes come across those axiom differences which would forbid the world from ever being good –not from being better than now, leagues better than now, that’s certainly possible, but genuinely, truly good– and a condescending but sanity preserving part of my brain screams that they have to be wrong about their own values. They cannot possibly actually believe that, because it would be terrible if they did.
I moved this chapter back a bunch, because I’m a coward. I’m genuinely scared that my friends might hold this against me, because I cannot be charitable to the thing some of them appear to believe. I cannot build it from my axioms. My brain is incapable of instantiating a series of neuron firings which would make this make any sense to me and believe me, I tried. I want to understand. But that condescending part of my brain doesn’t stop screaming, and I’m not above hypocrisy, because I know that the hominid brain doesn’t actually run on logic. So I will nonsensically argue that your axioms are bad, because I have to. Because while “Making the world better” currently points in the same direction for both of us, we’re headed for different moons of Neptune. If I lived in your utopia, it would not be good enough and I would have to fight you. That thought hurts me, because I want to at least be able to imagine that the world can be good. That we can get there together. Please do not hate me. I was gonna try to be fair and balanced about this, but I realized that I literally can’t. Despite having had this conversation six times with four different people all of whom I respect, I could not write a single counterargument that didn’t sound like a strawman to me when I reread it. I’m sorry. I trust that their position is compelling to people, otherwise they wouldn’t hold it, but my entire being falters at comprehending how one could be so wrong about this and I do think they’re wrong. Objectively morally wrong if I want the world to be good, so I won’t sit here and attempt to reconstruct arguments I can’t remotely make myself believe. More importantly: I don’t want to do a good job of it. I might accidentally convince you the neutral audience member of something I consider to be morally wrong. You’ll have to bring your own counter arguments. I’ll be the defence. Not the judge, but Justitia’s on my side, I assure you.
So, I will be heavily criticizing an argument often used in order to defend the right to abortion. I am however not arguing against the right to abortion. I believe it to be unambiguously good and important and there are numerous absolutely valid arguments for it (Specifically, embryos have the perceptive and cognitive capabilities of an underripe orange, so their weight as moral patients is extremely low and easily outweighed by the mother's volition. Anyone who pretends to care about potential moral patienthood is lying, if they aren't actively trying to maximize the number of babies in the world, as would be required of them if they thought potentiality was morally weighty (Think of all the hypothetical people they're killing! Monsters!). It's just about controlling women, never forget that). The fact that this one is bad does not weaken the position.
2+2 = 4 is a true statement.
“All numbers add to four” is a bad wrong argument for this true statement.
Arguing against the latter does not weaken the former. Let me say it again: The right to abortion is vital and anyone seeking to curtail it needs to be stopped by all means necessary. ARE WE GOOD? Okay. So, “my body my choice”.
Your right to bodily autonomy ends somewhere, and by using that as your flagship rallying cry, you let your fleet be burned by a single match. If an antibody to a horrible pandemic is discovered in your blood, I don’t think you have a right not to give it. Of course it should be a pretty high priority not to be fucked with whenever possible, but there is a right to health and the rest of humanity should not be arbitrarily punished based on anyone’s whims. The cowardly out here is to say that of course anyone in that situation would willingly donate their blood. Most people probably would. But what if they don’t? If everyone makes the utilitarian choice then this discussion is meaningless and you have nothing to lose from a mandate. Let’s scale the margins down a little. Not only do I not want thousands of people to die in exchange for some minimal sacrifice of autonomy, I don’t want someone in need of a kidney to die because they didn’t happen to have a loved one with the right type or an organ in stock. I don’t want to live in a world in which people unnecessarily die for having shit luck. And of course there’s already self-evident improvements to be made. We can keep a database and if someone needs a kidney or a bit of liver anyone compatible in the area will get an email to come into the hospital. Ideally bearing a picture of the patient to immediately humanize them. And that will help. That will help a lot. Emotional blackmail is great. And again, if it’s always enough then you have nothing to worry about. But what if once in a while there’s a case where no one responds. They were too busy to check their mail or relied on someone else making the sacrifice or they just didn’t care. Maybe the patient was from some social group they had insufficient empathy for. What the fuck then. These come in pairs. The average person is as likely to need a kidney as they are to have a kidney demanded of them. I want to live in the world where I’m saved. Where you’re saved. Where everyone’s saved. So my body can’t be my choice, because my choice isn’t guaranteed to be the right one.
A persistent and really troubling approach I've encountered is to try and reframe this as a simple issue of what you value more: Self-determination or health, and that is just wrong. Know who has no self-determination? Dead people. I am offering strictly more of that, because guess what? There's still a bunch of decisions you can make without a kidney that you can't make five feet under. You could even decide to die if you actually thought that was preferable. The dying person doesn't get to opt for "the other one". The way things are isn't neutral. We get to pick between one person, chosen by the despotism of nature, losing all of their bodily autonomy forever, and one person, picked by us to minimize harm as much as possible, losing a lot of it. Any way you cut it, number two has more self-determination. We have an option, and thus an obligation, to be kinder than nature.
Again, bodily autonomy matters. It matters a lot, but it isn’t paramount. The individualist course leads to death and I think those who travel it are wrong. Think of positive freedoms, not just negative ones. Like the right to health. I think you have a right not to die because of other people’s apathy. You can waive it, sure, but it really would be nice if you had the option. Just like I want people to have the option to get food, and the option to have a roof over their head. Of course I know that I’m just a crazy radical here. Death and misery were good enough for our parents and our parent’s parents, so it is a bit entitled to ask for something different, sure, but wanting the world to be good means insisting that everyone who doesn’t do that is wrong. They are wrong in a way in which people have been wrong for too long. Wrong in a way that has drenched the earth in unnecessary quantities of blood by thinking of themselves only in the role of the donor. Only ever in the scenario in which they have to give. Humans have a nasty tendency of assuming they're invincible. In many ways they are. Subjectivity is immune to destruction, but these always come in pairs. I can imagine being the person lying on a hospital bed dying because of a freak accident or a random quirk of genetics and hearing that no one cared enough, and I don't want to live in that world. I don't want to live in that world just like I don't want to live in a world in which the fate of starving children depends on the philanthropy of some anthropically removed Zottarich. Even if they end up doing the right thing, they never should have had that power. I don't want to survive because I won a lottery of good intentions, I want to survive as a matter of course. People are fucking stupid. Our institutions are corrupt, but we do need institutions which force us to be good people because the primate brain is not built for that shit. We build externalities which force us to do the right thing all the time. That's why my alarm clock sits on the other side of the room from my bed, because I don't trust myself to do the right thing if there is an easier path. But I want to get up. And I want to give you my blood, so please, please don't allow me to let anyone die.
Refusing to save a thousand children is not actually morally different from killing a thousand children, it just has better optics. I get that one feels different, my brain too is human, and so it is wrong. Make it the most boring fucking trolley problem imaginable. On one track is a person and on the other is literally no one. No matter what the previous track setting was, if you leave that experiment and someone died then you killed a person. It is that fucking easy. I don't care if you did it by pulling the lever or by refusing to pull the lever. I don't care if you did it in the kitchen with the lead pipe or with the dagger in the library. That's fucking set-dressing. I don't care whether it's active malicious intent or passive apathy that kills me, I'm the exact same amount of fucking dead because of you. Making the journey of asylum seekers so difficult and precarious that they die on the way is not actually different from shooting them from a watchtower. Blood is blood is blood is blood is blood. What happened to "from each according to their ability to each according to their need"? Maybe I'm a sucker, but I actually believe that. I don't just believe in the system that would leave me personally better off, I believe in the principle. More than that, I believe in the broadest, most nuancelessly general version of the statement. Fuck this terrible idea that you shouldn’t literally believe slogans. Get better slogans then. They are simplified, sure, but they should be a subset, a part of the actual fleshed out position and not some completely different thing off to the side which happens to sound good. This is our need and this is our ability and we cannot conscionably let people get away with "no, this is mine". We all remember that sharing is caring, right? Please care.
The human brain is not made for this. I can easily imagine getting the mail, thinking of the plans I have for the next few weeks and reassuring myself that someone will surely step up. I can imagine the others having that same thought. And I can imagine someone dying in agony like thousands before them. The fact that our philanthropy is required here is a bug. Butcher me open. Butcher me open for all I can give, because nature does not delineate ethics. Because if we let ourselves be so barbarous and self serving then what's the fucking point? We might as well off ourselves, but I don't believe that. I think we can do good. I think we have done good, we have redistributed opportunity where the distribution we found wasn’t good enough. We have eked out utilitarian victories and we know how to build the structures that make us comply with our own values. Rarely pretty, never sterile. Butcher me open because I want the world to be good. I cannot concision any amount of blood on my hands. Do not allow me to let you die. Do not allow yourself to let someone else die. Butcher me open because this is just stuff. I do not care. I truly do not care, not nearly as much as I care about the world being good. A friend of mine used to joke about only larping as a utilitarian, and that scares the shit out of me. I don't think I am, but I might be. So I don't want to be allowed to make that call. I want to know that I'll have to be utilitarian, that the system will force me to be.
Some have argued that they wouldn’t want to be saved at that possible cost to someone else’s autonomy, which is fine. You can do that. Just have it in your medical file. We do want a system that actually generates a net benefit here, so if both patient and donor are unenthused, obviously don’t. But most people want to live. And we should still totally do that email thing. The less people have to be forced, the better, but human generosity in the moment is not what we should rely on in the worst case. Take a look around you, you know how this goes.
Again, these are points some of my friends have made, and they might be watching this, so please, read no passive aggression into this. I love you dearly. I tried to convince you and I'll try again, because I want the world to be good.

Disjoined And Constructured

I want all of my friends to have blogs, because I don't trust them to remember all their cool ideas until they tell me about them. If you don't write thoughts down they die. I wonder if I'm so neurotic about note taking because my memory sucks or if my memory sucks because I can rely on the digital litter-pile to remember for me. “Both” is a valid answer, but it fails to sufficiently un-ask the question. I wonder what this does to me. The more often you say something the more your monkey brain believes it. Self affirmation works that way. Spoken is better than thought, written is better than spoken. If I keep vomiting the contents of my brain onto digital paper to make room for new ideas up here, am I not granting them undeserved permanence? Am I psyoping myself into the exact stasis I desperately wish to escape?
I hope not. The rule of consistency and continuity should hold no dread power when I recognize myself as discontinuous. When I believe that I die every trick. That I don’t live in my brain. That a two months younger version of myself is more me than my neighbour is, sure, but only by some number of degrees. Child me is probably less me than my good friends are. Models, souls, splinters, you get the gist. I believe this. I think I don't just intellectually believe it, but genuinely, emotionally, deep in my bones where the marrow dyes my blood. Novelty is inherently good. I should not be bound to the words that past me has written, they should be a hurdle to overcome. I take pride in no longer being the various selves I once was, but what about this meta idea? I definitely have been carrying that around for a while. Have I been doing so because I wrote it down too often? Should I not risk it? Not commit to positions physically, so that I might more easily discard them for better ones? And if so, how do I convince people of the better opinions? How do I communicate my new truths about the universe that others might be in desperate need of? How can I want my friends to write blogs if I don't what to write one myself, and then also: I do want to. I want to know where I stood, look back proudly at the idiot now a few steps behind me, pat myself on the back for having eclipsed them by all relevant metrics. I want to be the architect of my own demise as much as the last guy, more if anything. I don't want to change my mind out of simple carelessness, but out of a genuine conviction. I owe too much to those who did put their thoughts to paper to not do my part. Maybe there's a sweet spot somewhere, between an efficient exchange of ideas between people, and a preservation of cognitive flexibility by not committing too much, but not knowing where it is I think I will err on the side of communication, of understanding of art. It's more satisfying to convince those who really care anyway. Something that immensely bothers me is this perception that you have to be calm and polite for your opinion to matter, it’s a game I play reasonably well, I think, but I hate playing it. If we’re all as cold and detached as we pretend to be, why are we even talking, or is this really just intellectual masturbation to you? Is it? I worry about that. Please show me that you have some skin in the game, that you actually care about the world being good, that this isn’t just empty rhetoric. If you wouldn’t rather scream then you’re wasting both of our time. Then again, this too is a sentence I've written and said a lot. Did a past self altercast me to be the sort of person who believes it. Do I want to not believe it?
Not sure if it’s been said before, but I love people because all I've ever been is people. Though to be perfectly frank I feel like I've been a great deal more people than anyone ever seems to give me credit for and so have you. Laboria Cubonics note that the internet becoming visual through an increase in technical capabilities has made it a lot less liberatory of an instrument. A lack of depiction makes you suspicious these days, likely to be perceived as a bot, or at least an outsider. This also means that those people whose appearance is couched in the symbology of social power get to import their advantages from meatspace. Those who do not wish to be associated with their current appearance are thrown under the bus wholesale. The potential for reinvention and neutral perception is endlessly circumscribed when you are coerced to wear these tags if you wish to play ball in the digital town quare. The alleged upgrade drags it down to the level of its physical counterpart. Those who don’t feel safe in one don’t get to feel safe in the other either.
I used to jump from handle to handle a bunch until I was twenty. I was in fanfic circles, experimenting with my writing, deeply afraid to be trapped in a specific style or voice. It really filled me with pride when people came to completely different conclusions about me based on different works. When I wrote an introspective female POV and strangers immediately assumed that I was a girl. It makes me really sad that on the web, this option, this freedom to be perceived untainted by a part of yourself you have no control over, to be put in a box for good or for bad, has become rarer. And lets be super fucking clear here I have it incredibly cushy on this front. Not only have I found a visual representation I am vaguely fine with but I also have enough of those signifiers of social power as to be very safe and held to very low standards. I’d just like to live in a world that’s good, you know i.e. one in which that isn’t necessary.
There’s a somewhat annoying dead end one often runs into when discussing something as a social constructs. People often take that to mean that it’s not or less real. When you then explain that in most ontologies these constructs have a basis in the material world, the response will be something like “well then everything is a social construct”, which is true only in so far as it is useless. Everything is poisonous at sufficient dosage, but we do not equally call everything "a poison". Chairs are a social construct, their material, which is a man-made abstraction of sets of atoms, which are man-made abstractions of wave-functions do exist in meatspace, but which things are naturally considered to be made for being sat upon, which is how we determine what a chair is, is a communal concept creation. It varies from culture to culture, time period to time period. We control it. When we describe something as a social construct, we are pointing out that there is a lot of this associative infrastructure here. That we’ve built a ton of mental shortcuts upon those lines in the sand. Cultures layer a lot of prescriptive symbology onto gender for example, much more than chairs. Symbology which is frequently employed in decision making. There’s a whole host of really existing physics stuff, brain- patterns, clothes, interaction styles that you could use to make the call, but your choice is just as culturally constructed as chair-ness is. The stakes are just higher. Where you draw the boxes matters more. I’d like for the box of me-ness not to be drawn around the set of people who looked or will look like me. That feels very unimportant. Like defining chairs by having four legs it captures only some of the things we care about plus a lot of random noise. I can barely relate to teen me, let alone kid-me. That’s the point, right? Of going into the next day. To become something new, something better? It’s a direction. An arrow, not the place it’s pointing from.
I think I want to be the ends of myself, I want to be the part which touches the ground and the part which touches the sky but none of the gross mid-bits getting ripped apart. I loathe that we are creatures which can only ever anticipate and remember themselves, things they call themselves. The instance of me who said any part of that sentence had no thoughts about their own existence, yet past me anticipated that they would exist to read the line and current me, now already another past me reads its own line pretending to be looking back upon, remembering, and reflecting upon the other one. To some degree I, the one a second ago, might even be genuinely doing that, but no single instance has ever had a whole meaningful thought, let alone an approximation of Personhood. We are creatures retroactively assembled from disparate fragments mixed in with visions of plausible and implausible futures. We are the smudged, lens blurred moment captures of a camera and a mirror hurtling towards an inevitable ground in semi-synchronous, turbulent free fall. Every tick an increment closer to the end of an unwinnable game of chicken to see who shatters first, but then it was never more than fragments to begin with, wasn't it? Fragments pre-imagined out of possibility space or re-fabulated from the treacherous ground that is memory. The treacherous, all-too-solid ground of lies which tell you at every step that they are lies, half forgotten half lies, and iterative neuro-chemical fallout of things which never happened like that, but who said that we have to construct people out of real materials. We only ever build on top of those anyway so stories will suffice. Narratives of what is to be done given a world state. We are not the parts that stay constant, we are the flux, because Personhood is a velocity, because identity is deixic.
Baudrillard said that metaphors have become impossible. Politics treats the construct, the projected stand-in for various bits of base-reality as a thing in itself, twists and manipulates it into another terminal object and folds it back into the world we inhabit. We are already beyond the end, everything that was metaphor has been materialized, collapsed back into reality. But that only works for points, it doesn’t work for directions. Forward cannot be folded to come back out behind itself or else it wouldn’t be forward now would it. If we embrace being deixic, then we, any singular we, may not be able to truly be us, but they could all be metaphors for us. The last metaphor. Or at least the only currently viable one.
Always already no longer, steps ahead of it's own stride, not the thing that walks but the walking itself. Because change is the benchmark of life and stasis the dread marker of death and I am - we are - were - will be - hopefully - not yet dead. We will continue to happen if we so deserve, and I for one want to have some momentum built up when I splatter against the windshield. Time will butcher us open more thoroughly than we ever could.

War On The Monkey Brain

When I wrote this script I was on the tail end of Sky-out, the first book I’ve ever printed and it was a bitch. Writing is just thinking while sitting at a keyboard. The only thing more difficult than writing is not writing. Both of those statements I have spoken and typed more often than I dare attempt recalling, and while they are true to my subjective experience, they are nonetheless misdirects. Writing anything is effortless, but concertedly working on a project? Writing the thing you should be writing? Buddy you've got another thing coming. The standard response of reminding you how much you care and of all the nice boons afforded by completion is really misplaced, in my experience. If you already know that you should do something, then coming up with even more reasons why you should do it doesn't help. It's just another distraction until the deadline draws so close or your self worth depletes so fully that everything flips into simple necessity by itself. Don't try to convince yourself. It does not work. Either make it fun, come up with a reward, or force yourself. More reasons why you have to get up won't help you get up. An alarm clock on the other side of the room will. Set it early by half an hour. Have a nice breakfast, look out the window and sip some coffee you dumbass. We are not designed for reason, the brain is a needlessly complicated lump of fat and protein that responds exclusively to violence and happy chemicals. So do those. I think one of the most harmful misconceptions my childhood drilled into me is that my brain is good at things. I still encounter remnants of that complete fairytale, and so I genuinely try to reason with it as though it were reasonable. Again and again I find myself attempting to fucking negotiate with terrorists. Convincing myself that checking my phone while working is a time-sink doesn’t do anything. Not having it in grabbing range does. The art of living is to create environments in which an uncooperative instrument does the things I want it to by following blunt inertia. I sometimes wonder how those people who think current human consciousness in the upper bound for intelligence have any hope at all for the future. If I believed this was the best there is I would probably just lay down and die. We’re superficial intelligence at best and sometimes we manage to build structures which let us accomplish things despite this. It’s the point about beautiful tools again. Methods which are conceptually uncomfortable, horrifically effective and almost entirely used for evil, but that does not mean that you can’t exploit them too. All that the light touches relies on inertia. If you make voting a little harder, the people with less slack will vote less. No convincing necessary. If youtube considerately plays another video right after the last one… well it’s already started, so you might as well stay on the site a little longer, boost their metrics, have your limited time sucked out of you by the memetic parasite. Between depriving a person of one moment of their life and the whole of it, there exists only a difference of degree. I am very averse to having my time wasted because I am very averse to being killed. Anyone who would rob me of seconds affirms that they do not value my existence in doing so. When was the last time you saw an ad that actually tried to convince you that you need a product. They don’t. Just show it to catchy music, bright colours and smiling people, rewire some brains such that it will pop out when they see it in the store. That it will look familiar, trusted, positively connotated. We used to have magazines. When people wanted to find things they didn’t know they wanted, they could pick up one of those. It’s unconsented, only because we don’t by default want this shit. The demand has to be manufactured. Please for the love of god tell me that you are reading this script with adblock on. Ublock origin is good. I also recommend unhook and sponsorblock for youtube. I’ve conditioned myself to reflexively look away from billboards before I can process what I’m seeing, because this whole idea is so unbelievably gross to me. Not just the old line of how disgusting it is to weaponise art in order to sell products, but this sneering, self satisfied display of power. Look what we can force into your brain. We can hack you at any moment, at any corner, interspersed in all media. The world you inhabit is ours. We get to decide what’s put in your mind. We get to squabble over who can fabulate more little emptinesses in your soul that can only be filled by our signature junk. Everyone accepts that this is normal. You’re crazy for pretending it isn’t. Doesn’t that make you feel alienated? Well don’t you worry, we’ve got an app for that!
Cayce Pollard is the most realistic character ever written. How could anyone look at marketing and not get physically sick. Whenever you aren’t maximally vigilant, the market will use your brain for evil because the environments it builds are sloped in such a way that inertia serves its end. Wherever you have control, make inertia serve yours.
For those moments and settings where no external aids come to mind, I’ve found meditation a far more successful strategy than rattling arguments at yourself.
Try it. It's so good as a task-transitioner. That immense hurdle you feel if you want to start something? Meditation does wonders for that. Other task transition-helpers include but are not limited to: set an alarm in a different room, ideally one in which the task you want to do is located. Set your computer to automatically turn off at a certain time. Meals, and don't you dare watch a YouTube video while eating, you fuck. Having the thing you want to do always in sight and grabbing distance, so that any stray though about it can immediately be capitalized upon. Getting a friend to punch you in the face at random intervals. You are spoiled for choice.
A problem I’ve noticed which might tie into this is that I don’t think people take themselves seriously enough. Not in the “stuck up can’t take a joke” way, but in the “your decisions and wellbeing matter” way. I sometimes hear folks say something they’d like to do/ learn/ some person they’d like to be, but instead of considering how they’d get there, what changes and sacrifices they might have to make, they do it with a tone of “isn’t that a silly bit if daydreaming”. Sure, some things are very hard. Some are genuinely impossible, but a lot of these would actually just require putting one foot in front of the other in a different direction for a few years. The time will pass whether you do something with it or not, as the pithy tumblrism goes. And sure, sometimes the ends don’t justify the cost on deeper consideration, or sometimes something else justifies it better, but that’s not the same as disregarding it out of hand. There’s a person who has to wake up in your body tomorrow, and I think you owe them that you take your desires seriously, that you take the things that get put in your brain seriously, and that you take the space you exist in seriously, because even if you aren’t powerful beyond measure, even if you can just strain against inertia a little bit, those effects are cumulative. Your decisions matter, so use your spoons wisely.
But how do I meditate, I hear you ask. Meditation is incredibly fucking boring. That was my conception at least. Well remember what I said about making things fun for yourself? I was only able to start consistently meditating after finding out that 90% of magic rituals are, or at least start with meditation and the rest are pretty useful visualization tasks. Now I don't believe in magic, not really, not super much, 20% at most, but sitting In a dark room, carefully lighting a candle and inviting various spirits and forces and concepts of your choice to watch over the ritual? That's really fun if you're anything like me, and it's still just flavoured meditation. Some people seem to believe that being miserable is part of the job when it comes to useful life things like eating healthy or doing chores, but it's really not. The misery is an unwanted side effect, and figuring out a way to dissipate it does not in fact detriment the results in any way. Often quite the opposite. The book City Magick is a good entry point to this sort of thing. All platforms these days are gamified because if keeps you engaged. That’s not bad because gamification is really effective brain hacking, it’s bad because there’s probably something more productive you could be engaged with. Gamify that. I definitely made quicker progress on my Homestuck fic Deicide and its Consequences than I did on Sky-Out, because I got to see nice comments and numbers go up for every weekly upload. Time flies when the nice reward machine gives you cocaine water for doing good.
It’s not exactly gamification, but the best bit of productivity advice I’ve ever gotten is “set yourself the most laughably insubstantial goal and do that every day”. The specific example was “do a single pushup”. See, no matter how stressful your day was, no matter what else is going on in your life, no matter how short your window of opportunity is, you can’t convince yourself that you don’t have time to do that. And so you build a habit, you build inertia, you turn it from a project into a thing you just do. And the really cool part is that once you’ve gotten yourself in position and done your one pushup, when you aren’t entirely out of time or spoons, you’re gonna feel really silly if you don’t just do a few more. It’s exactly like the started youtube video. Might as well keep going. You’re never gonna lose motivation, because you always accomplish your goal and then you’ll probably do a bunch on top of that to feel good about. It’s never intimidating, never looming, it’s just a single pushup until it isn’t. Until you suddenly binged a whole season of the show you only wanted to watch an episode of, because the corporations know this works. It’s time you learn to use their weapons. Write a single sentence a day, doodle something, anything, so long as you get yourself to reliably hold a pencil and a piece of paper. Go outside and walk three steps. Do it daily and let inertia take the wheel.
The advice about getting someone to deck you in the face was a joke of course, but back to the forcing side: Yes, get friends involved. Few things are as effective as group pressure, don't even try to deny it. you are not immune to propaganda, and you can use that to your benefit. I recently did a "write a light novel in a day"-day with a friend, inspired by an old Trixie video, and it wouldn't have been nearly so easy to keep going and to power through the slumps if I hadn't had the sound of another keyboard click clacking along beside me. It’s not good, but writing it was helpful. I like being perfectionist, most people probably do. It's why nothing gets made and why the streets are littered with useless idea guys who still haven't grocked that the world would be better off with a flawed version of what they have in mind than with none at all. Or maybe they haven’t grocked that zero progress so far doesn’t extrapolate well into a finite future. Whichever it is, I don't want the muscle capable of forcing my brain to disregard that impulse of perfectionism to atrophy. I want to train it. Because the truth is that perfection isn’t real. I’ve never seen it, have you? Which is a great thing and a terrible thing and vitally necessary if we want to remain velocities. I’d hate for anyone to live a year beyond the magnum opus of their younger self and not come up with a single thing they’d do better now. That doesn’t mean that they should have waited a year longer, it will still be true for the next interval, and the one after that. Completing imperfect pieces is part of what teaches us to do better. And that’s all it ever is. Better. Good isn’t a point you reach, nothing is ever good enough. Good isn’t good enough. At best it’s as good as your brain can imagine right now, and here at the demiurge diaries we don’t think all that highly of brains. Good is a forward. Always ahead, never reached. Everybody dies frustrated and sad and that is beautiful, for how terrifying would it be if we ran out of forward. So, how do we proceed? I will stop pretending to be swayed by cogent arguments when it comes to these things. all of philosophy is primate psychology at the end of the day, so I've decided to declare war. In light of repeated negotiation failure I will wage righteous battle against the primate brain with violence, alarm clocks and all the happy chemicals my garbage dump of an endocrine system can muster. That's a promise, and possibly a threat if you care to join me.

Sunsets

I realize that I’ve talked a lot about what art is in these scripts, including no doubt a number of things you would not consider such, but I haven’t actually given a definition, only parts of it. Something partially internal, fluid, personal, interactive, a sum of parts, but distributed, fractalling, partially irreconcilable parts. A shattered, kaleidoscope lens. We can go the easy route and say that art is in the eye of the beholder, and it is, but let's bite that bullet a little harder. Let's swallow some lead. Art is not a thing that exists in the real world. Art is a feeling. It's an experience. Its a relation you have to something outside yourself, which nonetheless feels like a puzzle piece of who you are. When I go into a museum and I see a– I don't know. Magritte. I like Magritte. That feeling of “oh yeah that's art. That feels like art.” Is the same as the feeling I can get at night, walking past a lone tree in the glow of a streetlight. Or maybe that's too poetic. It can just be a piece of trash being blown across cobblestone. Catching the wind just right. It's a falling. It's a tear in this thin screen of reality that we as adults have erected for ourselves to noise-cancel. It's like an epiphany or the reaching out to one, the rapturous feeling of incomprehension and vastness and beauty. It's a thought at the resonant frequency of your brain shattering everything. It's true and real in a way that things usually aren't and it leaves you raw in a spot you didn't know about because it feels like art. It doesn't have to be pretty it doesn't have to be deliberate it just has to be that. A phrase I often trod out is that "art is anything that feels like a sunset" sunsets are the archetypical piece of art to me. So incredibly far outside of yourself. So vast and beautiful but nonetheless ephemeral right in our backyard. The sort of thing that of course would have made countless generations of people believe in God or gods or anything beyond or between because why else would that orange glow above the horizon be there. What uncaring universe could possibly have given us that.
And the timing? Like a closing of curtains, crushingly melancholy through sheer beauty and so infinitely not yourself, so shattering of ego. But maybe other people don't feel about sunsets the way I do. It's possible if inconceivable. But when we say that something is art we mean that it is art to us. The same way that when we say something tastes good we mean that it tastes good to us. That's not a bug but a feature. None of us expect the Mona Lisa to be art to a blind person, or the brothers Karamazov to be art so someone who knows none of the languages it has been translated into because art is an experience and we supply a large part of it. We all have our own specific holes to fall into, made for us in exactly as far as we are made for them.
This, by the way, isn’t my hole anymore. I’m no longer the person who dug it, just a tour guide who’s defiled the burial site by putting up some decoration of their own. Reading old demidia scripts hoping to have become better. The whole temporally displaced narrator thing has been causing chronological snags throughout, but time to address it properly. Hi! It's been a year, which is to say I've been a year, which is to say that names hold power as foretold and as always. Demidia never could have been concluded during the first run because then it wouldn't have been a diary in the way that matters. Sure, I've scribbled notes in the margins, expanded on points, but this is still fundamentally a keyhole into what a creature called Ouro used to care about and contemplate, the terms they used for it and so on. I still believe some not all. I've taken the leap that inspired episode two. I would not write these scripts now, not because they’re terrible but because I’ve moved on. I'd write different ones.
To some extent I have lost the ability to communicate these ideas on the level I was at when I acquired them. So good thing they're written here I suppose. It's interesting to see what was flickering through my mind when I set out on the path towards becoming me, where “me” is some wildly peculiar configuration of bones, thoughts and viscera. Not an ideal home, but the best so far. I’ve placed myself only partially by accident in a sort of performance art I greatly appreciate, or at least neurotically seek out. The compulsive oversharing packaged with just enough artistry and storytelling convention to justify to yourself that it isn’t just venting. It’s a project. Kabi Nagata’s autobio manga, Inside, Welcome to the NHK, it's lonely at the centre of the earth, an embarrassing number of the youtubers I used to watch. People who, whether openly or not, were bashing their soul against whatever medium is available, rarely pretty, never sterile. I’m obsessed with sad self-obsessed people. There’s something really desperate about pushing the characters aside and just looking into the camera. Very obscene. Deliberate warfare against the lens by attempting to crawl through it. So close that it feels like tough. So parasocial that we need a relationship councillor. Sure there’s still tons of invisible and not so invisible artifice, but the pact has been made, you’ve reached for the most unambiguous means of butchering yourself open available and announced that “hey, uh, I’m not doing a bit. I’ve never been doing a bit actually, noone makes art for the bit, but maybe stating it plainly will make you believe me”. It’s teeth eater tales in their truest form. I always expect to see a trickle of blood in the corners of those desperate smiles. There’s something deeply liberating about that sort of vicious self critique, because usually, when you speak your hangups aloud, they sound very self evidently stupid, and you’d be embarrassed to fall for them again. I recently had to sit in the sleek, glass walled office of a notary and go over contracts, the prospect of which filled my mind with wasps and terror for the entire preceding day. My sympathetic nervous system was fully convinced that I was just literally gonna die even though I had everything figured out. I had already resigned myself to not getting any sleep, when a friend sat me down and asked me to actually nail down where that panic was coming from. I meditated, localized it, probed at it and eventually the answer I got from myself was that “this isn’t a scenario we’re supposed to be in. We have never done this. We don’t belong in fancy offices with people wearing suits. Something must have broken to get us here, so how could everything not go catastrophically wrong tomorrow”. And the moment I got that, all of the tension dropped. Gone, completely. No wasps, just whiplash, because this is dumb, and the moment I allowed myself to look at it concretely, I could tell that it was dumb. No shit we’re not the sort of person who does this. You’re never the sort of person who does a thing until you’ve done it the first time. Becoming the sort of person who does things has never killed me before. Quite the opposite. It’s only ever killed bygone, obsoleted instances of myself who had outlived their usefulness. I’d chastise anyone else who gave me that sort of horseshit line, and so the splinter who raised it diligently died from embarrassment on the spot. I think that’s a primary function of those pieces, lonely at the center of the earth and such. Not to be #relatable, but to give those sorts of aspects shape such that you may slay them. Expose them to sun light such that it might disinfect your soul. Once the bugs are dead, maybe you can be who you want to be, because you certainly can’t be the last guy anymore. Once you yourself have outlined a pattern as maladaptive, you can selfassuredly be disgusted if you find yourself engaging in it again. You now know that you know better. You have no excuse. It’s easy to imagine that everything will forever be fine once you have sloughed of all that crap and ground through your dentin. You’re bloodied, exposed, but pure in a way, so it’s understandable why these pieces always end with unwarranted optimism. What could possibly follow from this pit of dirt now behind you other the beautiful dream thus far kept at arms length by imperfection? If you can trap that hideous creature in a prison of words to render it obscene, then you can no longer walk in its shoes, now can you?
But kicking a past self in the face does not mean that everything will be fine suddenly. You're a new person, sure, but you're still you. Speaking it aloud creates embarrassment if you find yourself in that specific place again, but it will not be utopia from here. You'll find a new, better, maybe wiser misery. Have fun. It's always the first time until it's not. There will forever be more flaws to get over because Good isn’t a place you reach. Victory is a thing losers settle for. And still I have the same problem. I'll have to exist beyond the pages of this script. I don't know what comes after tomorrow. What comes after next week, next month, next year. I don't know what comes after me, and the answers "another day, another week, another month, another year, another me" don't satisfy, because they don't mean anything. Will there be more sunsets? I hope so. I cannot imagine staying here, I'd be much too mortified, but I can't imagine the place beyond the door-frame either, that’s the point. It wouldn’t be beyond the door-frame if I understood. Wouldn’t be a question, a mystery, a puzzle. I get it. It's tempting to paint the unknown brilliant orange because how else could not-here look. I know it won't be, but I'll keep running. The slope has gone up so far and it looks like there’s a good bit of forward left.
We are the last remaining metaphor. Maybe this in itself is a dysfunction. Other people don’t seem to see themselves upon an always growing pile of corpses at all times. A palimpsest of characters and lessons learned. Vaguely person shaped abstractions in the minds of others. Maybe that’s why I need to outsource everything into art and alarm clocks and post-it notes and military grade filters, because I don’t feel like I’m creating environments for myself but for whoever wakes up in this brain tomorrow with a shovel in hand. Maybe that’s why I’m so vulnerable to sunsets.
I am a series of autopsy notes about past selves which I take upon my skin. I am an ink-coated carcass. I am an inchoate canvas and I will never be finished, only abandoned, because this series of plank second selves while it is unfathomably long, some 10 to the 52 instants to work with, it is none the less finite. No pithy remarks in my own hand will even be penned of the last in line. Which is good. All art is unfinished. Loose threads are the things which zeigarnik-stick to our brains. Loose threads are where we can attach our webs, link your souls, reach out into the unknown. The world was once a spider and now it is many. All the rest is coordination problems.
Of course death is not the only process which abandons art. It is not even a process which necessarily abandons art. Since despots aren’t real and the decentralized collective of human creativity might want to continue scribbling on your tomb stone. I personally intend to simply walk away from here though and only die partially. Not just the content of this series has served its purpose but the format as well. The universe craves something new I think. Place a period, unplug the keyboard. It's time for something entirely different. One more self on the pile of corpses. They did well, but good isn't good enough. Thank you for making it to this point. Thank you for reading my diary. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a book to write.


Vriska did nothing wrong, and here′s why


Vriska Serket is a [massive understatement] controversial character originating in the cult multimedia webfiction homestuck. Much like the work she springs from, Vriska is a figure you either love or love to hate in equal measure, and even the folks who do have affection for the divisive heroine will usually concede that she did terrible things and/or is a bitch. A few people, perhaps most vocally the wonderful Kate Mitchell, writer of Vriska’s Pesterquest route, have however championed a position that is scarcely encountered in earnest unless you know where to look: The insistence that our girl genuinely, literally, did nothing wrong whatsoever, morally speaking, and that's the stance I am going to argue here. Not exactly in the way that Kate, or anyone else for that matter would. The beliefs expressed in this essay are purely my own and so on and so forth, but I had yet to see a similar defense on YouTube so I figured I’d make one.
We'll go through all crimes Vriska has been charged with in the court of public opinion vaguely chronologically, and hopefully I can convince you that there is at least a lot more nuance to be had on the matter. Disclaimer though: it is impossible to discuss any of this without massive spoilers for the comic itself and minor spoilers for its adjacent works such as the paradox space comics and pesterquest. If you have not read homestuck and just want to know what the controversy is about: here's your chance to leave if you care about spoilers. I'm sorry I can't help you, but all the media discussed is highly recommended. I'd love to see you again in a few months after catching up, should you still be in the mood for some weapons grade unadulterated vriskourse.
If you are still here: The following are the content warnings for this discussion: death of children, abuse, murder, ablism, grooming, determinism, suicide, fascism, spider-vore, manipulation, self-loathing.
I will try to handle each topic with care, but that doesn’t change the fact that we will be delving into some truly vile subject matter. You know the work, you know what’s coming, here we go.

Villain coding

A young girl, shrouded in shadow and framed by a spider web, grins deviously at her monitor, flashing razor-sharp fangs in the process. She’s wearing an eye patch, because of course she is. Heroes aren’t introduced that way, the media-savvy reader well knows, and by the time we are told that Vriska habitually feeds children to her monstrous arachnid of a guardian, the villain coding has thoroughly worked its magic. It isn’t helped by the fact, that we learn this in her introductory page, the place where the hobbies go, the charming idiosyncrasies, not the obligations that make your life a living nightmare.
We have at this point seen exceptions to the format for Sollux and Nepeta, but they were rather more overt, and didn’t have the misfortune of being quite as evil looking. Still. Villain coding isn’t a defense by itself, the character being made to descent the spiral staircase of a gothic castle might well be a genuine monster and deserving of their stylistic treatment. So: Was it morally wrong of Vriska to kill those innocents? I promise this isn’t a rhetorical question: Was it?

Accusation 1: Feeding Kids to Spidermom

What’s the correct course of action when you are a child and a horrifying spider beast has taken it upon itself to nonstop scream into your mind, that it needs to be fed bodies or it will kill you instead? The utilitarian argument; that you should just lay down and die, because that’s the course of action which harms the fewest people does very little to convince me personally. It isn’t in any way morally wrong to do that, of course, but would you say that it is unethical not to? Would you demand of a child, or an adult for that matter to simply accept death due to the circumstances of their birth? Keep in mind that running away isn’t an option either due to the mental link, and since trolls without Lusi get culled.
Here’s the kicker though: The people Vriska fed to her guardian sort of had it coming. Not in the way Terezi sees it, most likely weren’t any more wicked than the average Alternian, but they were playing Flarp. A game, mind you, which is described to us on multiple occasions by separate characters with troll-standards for precarity as highly dangerous. Everyone is aware that death is an option. Nepeta doesn’t play it, because she considers it too risky, and Nepeta hunts alternian fauna for food on a daily basis. These trolls weren’t coerced, there seems to be no broadly malicious incentive-structure nudging one to play Flarp. They simply entered a death game of their own accord. Knowing the rules and knowing the risks. If there is any group of people you can morally kill if you actually care about staying alive, it would probably be these fucks, and assuming Spidermom could possibly have just kept killing by herself, as she did when Vriska was a wriggler, if push came to shove, her selection of nourishment likely wouldn’t have willingly signed up for the high risk of death. I’d personally consider that worse.
When I picture evil, I think of someone like Eridan, a literal fascist who opens fire on lowblood settlements from an airship, for fun, not Vriska, someone who wins Colosseum battles against willing participants, so she isn’t murdered by her guardian. Sounds a lot less malicious if you put it that way. But then again, a lot of this does circle back to the villain coding, I think, and it’s a recurring problem within homestuck discourse. The comic pulled the same trick in reverse before with Bro Strider, whose blatant abuse of Dave was framed as wacky and charming, so much so that when Dave opens up about it later on, some folks perceived it as a retcon, and similarly Vriska’s later obvious heroics cause a few people actual cognitive dissonance. Aesthetics are effective, and if you aren’t paying attention, they’re probably being wielded against you, unlike the doomsday devices.

Accusation 2: Building doomsday devices

Vriska might not be the smartest character in homestuck, but she isn’t an idiot, and she sure seems hellbent on staying alive. The idea that she would or could build a functional apocalypse machine and would be willing to give it to an outwardly genocidal, emotionally unstable douche like Eridan Ampora is laughable. Clearly Vriska has never successfully tested the doomsday devices she builds, since Alternia still firmly exists for better and for worse, and seeing how the Catenative Doomsday Dice Cascader isn’t secured against accidental activation at all, does nothing when it is activated, and is supposed to be sent to Eridan, who would want to use it to wipe out all land dwellers including Vriska herself, it is exceedingly obvious that she doesn’t actually believe they work.
When Vriska builds cool looking tech and calls it a doomsday device, she’s larping. She’s larping because her life sucks, because her friends hate her, and because she’s all alone in a massive evil looking castle, so she might as well roll with the punches. We’re talking about a girl who takes every opportunity to cosplay or pretend to be Marquise Spinnerette Mindfang, let her have this.

Accusation 3: Lying to Terezi

Another point of contention people have with the whole feeding kids to your Lusus business, is that Vriska roped someone else into helping her with food acquisition against that person’s stated moral opposition. While this would be a fair point in the abstract, I think it takes Terezi by her word a bit too much and ignores contextual info. It is made petty obvious that Terezi knew Vriska wasn’t just orchestrating the demise of the wicked. She was against it, sure, but she still played along. She was neither tricked, nor controlled, and she could have quit her collaboration at any point as she eventually did. Those don’t seem like the actions of someone who cares a great deal about the lives of innocents, and of course she doesn’t.
Terezi loves His Honorable Tyranny, an immense court monster which will often just eat the folks running the trial. Execution seems to her a reasonable punishment for minor slights against the empire. She has no issue with the death of innocent people. Her problem with Vriska being insufficiently selective in her choice of spider food is that it ruins the larp. It ruins her vigilante phantasy of being a badass Legislacerator dealing out justice on her own terms. Terezi only quits when her friends get hurt, when Vriska crosses a moral boundary which she actually cares about, and Terezi isn’t made complicit in that in any way. All of this is in the text, but you’d be forgiven for coming away from it thinking of Terezi as an off kilter, though fundamentally morally righteous character, despite her justification for murder being way flimsier than Vriska’s, if one doesn’t fully buy into the idea that any flarper already signed their own death warrant.

What does “Did nothing wrong” mean?

At this point we should probably clear up some definitions. When I say “did nothing wrong”, I don’t mean “never made a mistake” or “always did the best thing imaginable”. If you give a peanut bar to someone who you don’t know has an allergy, you did nothing wrong. You simply did a morally neutral thing which had negative consequences. Similarly “always did the best possible thing” is a useless definition, because no character or person has ever done that. The definition I’m going with is “Engaged in no action, which isn’t copacetic with a conventionally heroic figure”.Note: some people oppose the phrasing, because it allegedly stems from the antisemitic “H*tler did nothing wrong” meme popular on 4chan. This is false. That particular phrase was first used online in 2011, and instances of the generic “X did nothing wrong” can be found in fandom circles from at least 2006 onwards. Do not cede ground to n*zis.There are other camps which use the statement to mean something else. Often, it’s wielded hyperbolically as “Vriska did some shitty things, but not to the extent people think” or “Vriska did quite a few shitty things, but I like her anyway”. Another one, which is common in some circles, and which I think the aforementioned Kate Mitchell uses is “Engaged in no action, which would make me call the quality of her character into question”. That’s slightly different, because it allows for manipulation. Behavior which is still perceived as bad can be blamed on the influence of Doc Scratch, and that’s completely fair. If an adult, much less an ancient borderline omniscient deity grooms a child into doing something terrible, then the child isn’t to blame, the orb-creep is. I just think that it’s semantically misleading. The child in that scenario still would have done something wrong, they just wouldn’t really be to blame.
So if you’re wondering why I’m not bringing up manipulation: that’s why. It doesn’t matter to my argument, I don’t think Vriska did anything super terrible period, and that is absolutely astounding. Between Alternian culture, Spidermom and the meddling of Doc fucking Scratch, Vriska is an absolute freak of nurture. By all right she should be a monster worse than Caliborn at his peak and it’d be perfectly understandable (for as troubling a trend as abuse victim to villain narratives are), but she isn’t. She’s an absolute bean, an unequivocal hero and god’s favorite princess, but let’s get to the bit where people usually play the manipulation card.

Accusation 4: Pushing Tavros off a cliff

Yeah, permanently injuring one of your friends because you are frustrated by them is probably not the best of looks, and sort of shitty, admittedly, but here’s how Tavros describes Flarp:
“It's a title under the EXTREME ROLE PLAYING genre, and playing it without caution can have serious real world consequences! But that's what makes it fun.”
“I had it coming” is pretty much stated outright just before the incident, since allowing a mood-swing prone asshole, who is also a known murderer to control your surroundings is pretty much the least cautious thing anyone could imaginably do.
That’s the defense, the following is pure speculation, but I don’t think Vriska would have let any serious harm befall Tavros, should he have chosen to fight the overpowered enemies. It’d go against her intentions, since from the dialogue it’s pretty clear that she sees this as another training exercise to make Tavros less of a wimp and turn him into a Summoner-type figure. Tavros wasn’t really between a rock and a hard place, though putting someone is such a predicament would of course still be highly morally dubious, if that person hadn’t first signed a waiver like Tavros did.

Accusation 5: The revenge cycle

Aradia didn’t sign the waiver though. Or at least not in the specific instance in which Vriska killed her, but here we have a pretty clear-cut case of self-defense. Aradia sends a ghost army to torment Vriska for the rest of her life, so she puts an end to it. While Aradia is the aggressor in that situation, I would still say that getting revenge for your friend is a perfectly understandable course of action, even if that friend got hurt due to his own stupidity. Blood feuds don’t necessarily require anyone to be in the wrong.
Aradia is justified in cursing Vriska and Vriska is justified in killing Aradia and the same goes for the rest of the vicious revenge cycle. It is now perfectly reasonable for Terezi to believe that Vriska is a threat to her friend group, so she rats her out to scratch. Keep in mind that Terezi has no idea what scratch will do. He is a first guardian, so for all she knows he could have just killed Vriska instantly. The fact that Vriska only lost an arm and an eye wasn’t Terezi holding back. Terezi was fine with whatever would happen, and it happened to be mild. Vriska merely blinding Terezi on the other hand was her holding back. She could have done anything, and she chose to go easy on her.

Don’t defend characters just because you like them

Aren’t you glad I’m not calling these things intermissions? Consider yourself spared.
I have read Homestuck five times. Once before it concluded, twice after it did and then two more times after the epilogues. Over the course of my existence on the web, I have written and read an amount of homestuck fanfiction that my friends find astonishing, troubling, and frankly indecent. Like I have a print copy of an original work by a homestuck fanfiction author. The monster of Elendshaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht, cepheidVariable, who also wrote most of the homestuck epilogues. It’s good. If it appears to you like I care too much, that’s because I do. I do care too much. But back to the point.
Vriska is my third favorite character from this monstrosity of a work, and it speaks volumes to how much it means to me, that I care this deeply about even my number three spot. It is probably the only piece of media from which I could confidently describe twelve characters as favorites, but none of them went through quite as much development as Vriska. I didn’t like her on my first readthrough. I know, there must have been something horrifically amiss with that twisted little thing I called my soul back in those days. Only later did she grow on me as a problematic fave until I finally noticed that she wasn’t really all that problematic, if you compare her to other characters from the roster who are treated as unambiguous good guys by the fandom.
Maybe the fact that I changed my mind is important context to you, maybe it isn’t. What I think is quite crucial to mention is that one should have no issue admitting the sins of fictional characters one has grown attached to. It’s an important thing to be careful with, lest one succumbs to apologia. I love Catra Sheraandtheprincessofpower, but she did hella things wrong. I love Daisy Themagnusarchives, but she did hella things wrong. “Abrasive feral lady” is pretty much my favorite archetype in media period, but the morality of a person should be thoroughly separated from whether you hold affection for them or not. If you’re looking for an excuse to not feel bad about liking Vriska, despite opposing her actions: Please reconsider. Do it for her. Don’t let your morals be muddied over something so trivial when you can just say “she sucks, but I like her anyway”. I disagree, but ethical frameworks differ, and I don’t so much seek to convince as to offer a perspective. Do with it what you will.

Accusation 6: Bullying Tavros

Vriska Serket is not that smart and not particularly empathetic. In addition, she is a massive hardass and a huge bitch. A lot of people read her insistence that she is trying to help Tavros as a cruel joke, but it kind of makes sense that she would go about it the way she does. Tavros has stated that he wants to be a hero, wants to be confident and self-assured, so Vriska, being a freak of nurture as previously stated obviously would think that tough love and constant challenges are the way to achieve this goal of his.
Vriska’s treatment of Tavros is still shitty, as he didn’t knowingly sign up for this, but it doesn’t seem malicious at all and more like a simple incompatibility of methods. With different framing and a character, the audience wasn’t already negatively inclined toward, most of Vriska’s actions would be read as the standard student and hyper tough mentor dynamic. She’s probably even one of the more helpful server players despite her attitude. She gets Tavros the pshoooes code so he can get around and seems to generally help him with his quest despite thinking it’s boring and pointless.
The ablism is a different matter though. It’s not okay, of course, and in a different work I would absolutely hold it against her, but that’s just the issue. Ablism is a property of homestuck, not of Vriska. Dave, Karkat and the narration itself say shit just as bad as Vriska ever has. Let’s say there’s an audio drama read entirely by someone with a certain accent, with characters from all over the place, then the conclusion we draw wouldn’t be that any one character actually has that accent, but that it’s part of the execution, of the filter through which we are looking into this world. Similarly I’d argue that Vriska isn’t especially ableist, we are just looking at her through the filter of an author, who is or at least was at the time ableist.
Vriska is herself missing an arm and an eye, but because of how twisted up her character is into toxic notions of self-sufficiency, she feels like this is a thing one should just get over the way she and Terezi have. That’s an unfair standard of course, because only Tavros’ paraplegia is treated as an actual disability by the text. Vriska doesn’t appear to have any lasting issues and Terezi essentially gained a superpower. The idea that you can just get over a disability through willpower is validated by the text within which the scourge sisters exist, so I think her holding that (Again: deeply flawed) mindset is to be blamed on Hussie, not Vriska.

Accusation 7: Causing the creation of Bec Noir

From authorial impositions to metanarrative impositions, we get to Vriska’s first major play at canonical relevance by engineering conditions which lead to Jack’s fourth prototyping and therefore tons of death across multiple sessions of Sburb. Importantly though, this tragedy has already occurred. Vriska is retroactively making herself responsible, but Jacks rampage has already been observed as an integral part of the alpha timeline. It would have happened anyways and if it hadn’t, everyone would have faded from existence.
There’s a very crucial distinction to make here though when it comes to moral reasoning around fate mechanics, because the self-justifying nature of the alpha timeline is a really lazy excuse, I think. It’s not inconsistent, but it is forgiving to the point of meaninglessness. Saying “Vriska did nothing wrong because the alpha timeline demanded she do all of the things she did, and Vriskas who behaved differently were wiped from existence” not only misunderstands ethics, but it’s also terribly artless. Gamzee killing Nepeta is inscribed into the nature of the alpha timeline. Everyone would have faded from existence, had Gamzee not killed Nepeta, but that doesn’t make the action morally justified, because Gamzee did not know this. He didn’t kill Nepeta as part of a paradox-special trolley problem, he just did it and reality happened to validate it.
Vriska creating Bec Noir or Rose sending John/June back into canonicity to deal with lord English are different, because not only has the associated suffering already happened and isn’t prevented by refusing to cooperate, it also is, at these points, a known quantity that not complying with canonicity will spell doom. Sometimes the alpha timeline judges your actions, and sometimes it forces your hand. These two scenarios are not morally equivalent to most people, and though they have the same outcome, they aren’t even equivalent to a hardline utilitarian, since one never knows what the alpha timeline “wants”.
If you have two choices: Killing a friend and not killing a friend, then there are four possible outcomes: “they’re dead and everyone else lives”, “they’re dead and everyone fades into nothingness”, “they and everyone else keep on living” and “they live for a bit until everyone fades into nothingness”. If you don’t know how the Timeline will judge your actions, the good choice (not killing your friend) produces better results more of the time. If the outcome is known however, you are just choosing between “a few people die” and “everyone dies”. Taking on the burden of making that choice and shouldering the guilt isn’t just morally neutral, it is unambiguously heroic.

The clock strikes just

The universe doesn’t agree though, now does it? When Terezi stabs Vriska, her death is neither that of a martyr, nor an impermanent one resigning itself to cosmic insignificance. The clock strikes just. And that, for a while at least, is that. Who do we think we are to disagree with the universe? Well, there is some debate on the matter, seeing how the clock doesn’t come to a stop naturally, but rather is broken by Spades Slick in Vriska’s moment of judgement. Hussie for his part claims that the scene was meant to be ambiguous, but my infernal loathing for authorial intent is only eclipsed by my unshakable disinterest in any thoughts and opinions of Andrew Hussie specifically, so we aren’t gonna go down that route. What if just is just just in this instance and the clock breakage coincidentally coincides?
Well, I’d say fuck it. And the comic agrees. Sburb as a game is the primary antagonist of homestuck. Its rules start out appearing asinine before making their way straight through casually unfair towards outright malicious. It makes you responsible for the end of your world, before giving you an unalterable role to agonize about without explaining it. A calling? A challenge? A cruel joke? Sburb asks nothing less than the deaths of children for a chance at success, a chance that is often zero from the very start by design. If you figure out that all is hopeless, it forces you to pull the trigger on your own life and that of all your remaining friends yourself if you want your species to have another shot.
And so, Homestuck is fundamentally a story about cheating, about finding loopholes, breaking rules and taking leaps of faith to protect your little group from a system that is callously designed to destroy you, if not physically then emotionally. The ultimate weapon is a tool against English just as much as against the oppressive systems of the universe he infests. A power which challenges the crude despotism of the alpha timeline’s “all that is must be” morality. It’s a story about living in a society and a story about revolution. So, when the clock strikes just, its judgement comes from a place of malice or at the very least apathy. Who does the universe think it is? In the end, when all is set right, Terezi is the one to decides Vriska’s fate. The characters for themselves. One more act of cosmic disobedience, for when throughout eternity has anything good come out of Doc Scratch’s study?

Accusation 8: Killing Tavros

Just imagine, you wrap up a nice day of keeping the timeline from exploding when the guy you wasted hours and hours on training threatens to kill you for just that reason. You like the fact that he at least shows some initiative finally, so you even let him charge at you with his lance. No mind control, nothing. You give him a fair shot and then you defend yourself. Unarmed against a guy with a weapon who clearly stated that he intends to kill you. Some people might object that Tavros didn’t pose a real threat to Vriska’s life and thus should have been spared, but I really don’t think anyone should have to put up with assassination attempts just because they are stronger.
The trolls are at this point trapped on the meteor, and Vriska does still sleep like anyone else. Being vastly more powerful doesn’t always protect you and I think allowing the existence of someone who wants to kill you and has made an attempt at it before in what is essentially your house is an unreasonable demand. You cannot charge at someone with a lance and expect not to get killed. Did Vriska goad him into it? Kinda, she definitely didn’t try to dissuade him, but he clearly already made up his mind, and blaming someone for not trying hard enough not to get killed isn’t terrain I’d want to enter.
Note: If you care about authorial intent, and shame on you if you do, the terrible clown had this to say on the matter: "He attacked her. It was self defense. And even if it wasn't, how much stupid bullshit are you supposed to put up with from a guy before you're ready to run a lance through his chest? Seriously.", Which is admittedly pretty funny and accurate.

Accusation 9: Fucking over (Vriska)

Maybe this inclusion is a bit self-indulgent, since I don’t see many people hold up Vriska’s cruelty towards her pre-retcon self as one of her primary sins, but I want this video to be about understanding Vriska at least in part, and it’s an important interaction for doing that. It’s a moment of intense self-loathing, which though neither healthy nor noble isn’t a crime last time I checked. Despite the “enviable cerulean swill” and “stupid idiot girl”-comments, a lot of readers have taken Vriska’s self-aggrandizement at face value, but if there is any point at which that ought to break down, it’s here. This is a woman who hates herself, every aspect of herself, and the only way she can think of her existence as worthwhile in any way is through her actions.
It’s deeply transactional, every instance of usefulness buying her some purpose, some right to live despite her perceived intrinsic wickedness, mandating that the fire never go out, that there will never be rest or peace or lasting happiness. Not for her. It draws an interesting parallel to Dirk, probably the only character whose neurotic self-hatred is similarly defining and confining. While Dirk lives in constant fear of going overboard, of giving in to his desire to protect and control so much that he would become a monster, Vriska fears just the opposite: That she might slow down. That she might become useless.
There are two conversations here, which kind of have to be read against each other, and the comic makes it incredibly hard to consciously do that, since they are literally more than a thousand pages apart. Maybe this is good, since it’d be too on the nose otherwise but that’s for everyone to decide for themselves. The first is a chat between (Vriska) and Meenah on page 6748 about Aranea’s play at cosmic relevance. Well, at least superficially. It’s very clear that (Vriska) is criticizing her younger self by proxy. That’s the reason why Aranea’s actions bother her so much to begin with. She describes it as self-indulgent, as glory hungry and immature, to insert oneself into the narrative’s unfolding, and she’s disgusted by it, seeing her current self-care and quiet observation as the mature option.
The comic seems to validate her, showing us a Vriska who is actually happy for once, who’s less caustic and seemingly more introspective. This is a woman who would probably be a lot less divisive and would have a lot more friends… Skip ahead to 7785, and this faux character growth we have been lulled into is thoroughly shattered, when Vriska Prime shows up and points us once more to what Tavros said shortly before getting himself killed. That there’s a difference between being mean and being evil and a difference between being nice and being good. Any functional adult should know this by heart, and sitting back as people die isn’t good. Living it up while sitting on the ultimate weapon to finally put an end to all of this isn’t character growth, it’s narcissism. It is callous through and through. It’s cowardly, it’s selfish, it’s the opposite of introspective: It’s valuing your happiness over the lives of everyone else.
Vriska is right to be disgusted by that. Meenah is right to leave. While she does deserve happiness as much as everyone else, Sburb is a game that runs on the blood of children and what makes Vriska heroic is that she will pick self-sacrifice each and every time. Even if she’s motivated by self-loathing, she’ll do what no one else will. She will fight the war alone if she must, for everyone, and expecting nothing in return. (Vriska) hasn’t even stopped hating herself. That reads pretty clearly from the earlier convo. She’s just chosen different parts to hate.

Accusation 10: The dubious ethics of mind control in general

That oh so enviable cerulean swill, it does have its perks though, and I’d imagine some people would see mind control as one of those powers you should just never use unless the alternative is far worse, and I can see why. I’m uncomfortable with it too. As people we quite cling to our notions of free will, but the scourge sisters’ dynamic does something really interesting to throw a wrench into this overly simplistic judgement: Terezi is better at it.
All social interaction is manipulation at the end of the day. Every sentence and every gesture deposits thoughts directly into someone’s head, whether intentionally or not. It’s a speaker’s job, and while we all like to think we are too clever to fall for it, there will always be someone who’s cleverer. Despite a complete lack of powers, Terezi is better at leading the impressionable to their doom. The only difference with direct mind control is that we can’t take refuge in our precious intelligence. It works better on some people than on others, just like manipulation, but being resistant to it doesn’t feel earned, and that’s kind of a shitty mindset, so I’d rather see Vriska’s powers as a tool like any other, one which can be used for evil and for good. Like Equius’ strength, like Sollux’s mind powers, like Dave’s time travel.
How does she use it then? Mostly for all the things we have discussed before, so I won’t reiterate, but also I find it more interesting to look at the times she doesn’t use it. Vriska has the option to make Tavros fall in love with her. She doesn’t. Vriska has the option to make Tavros kill her, when she’s lying on her quest-bed, but she doesn’t. She tries to convince him, sure, but she doesn’t make him do it, instead resigning herself to slowly and painfully bleed to death. These are the actions of a person who has quite a bit of respect for the agency of others, I’d say, unless there is no other option. Her powers seem to be in responsible hands.

Conclusion

In the end, Vriska is responsible for the trolls winning their session, is one of the only people to actually explain Sburb to the beta kids and finds as well as uses the ultimate weapon against English. In her off time, she commissions Aradia a new body, gets Gamzee under control and fixes Rose’s alcohol problem. To me, it’s not surprising that Aradia and Sollux seem to forgive her. She may be a bitch, and she may not think things through all of the time, but she’s the only person dedicated and stalwart enough to save the universe, and when the final reward comes into sight, she doesn’t even take it. From adversity, through adversity into the unknown... You can see it now. You’re looking at a survivor. You’re looking at someone who did nothing wrong.


Articles

The universe doesn't care, that's our job



Poetry

A vending machine dispensing dispersion



Escapril (prompt-based daily poetry challenge) 2024

Asterisks mark the ones I actually like on a scale of one to three


[01.04.2024] Change Of State*A crack, a fissure, trickling stream
From long-immobile ice
Warmed by sun and turning gears
An ancient, vast device
First rivulet soon raging river
Leveling the street
Sweeping merchants from their stalls
To screems of "hark!" And "heed!"
As kings and men of wealth and might
Feel water at their toes
The stream no longer bears the chill
Of frigid glacial woes
It heats and tumbles though the streets
And hisses in the square
Picks up speed and loses track
Eschewing when and where
As lights go out and torches up
The liquid turns to steam
Masses cheer and weep and panic
Grasping at a dream


[02.04.2024] The Internet**We span the void of blinking lights
Of endless space, yet distanceless
Some silicon, some bits of wiring
Woven by our hands: this mess
We friends you never would have made out
On the vast and lonely globe
Come on in and leave the quiet
Come through any door and probe
We tell stories in these margins
To each other, we confess
Bear our art, our hearts, our lustre
Revel in the spacelessness
Come on in and say your pieces
Come on in and join the crowd
Join the ever shifting maelstrom
Always wild and free and loud
Where today will you lay anchor
Break the ice or break the news
Break spelling rules and laws of conduct
Make your own or pick and choose
We share this space with foreign creatures
Tourists looking for some thing
For some picture, song or column
Fact, misinfo, using bing
They do not know our tales and journeys
They mistake this for a place
A spot you go to get some gossip
Not our home, our shared embrace
The home we moved into as children
Disconnected – out of touch
Our haunted archives for the ages
Viaducts cross viaducts
And perhaps one of these tourists
Comes across a room as well
One which suits them 'midst the turmoil
We await what tales they tell


[03.04.2024] Eye Contact*Forgive me.
Though I will forget
I'm sure
If the words with flowed so far
should predict what's yet to come
I've been alerted to it often
Too alert
Disquiets most
Like I am trying to glean secrets
Not secrets
no
just glean at all
It's all too easy there to linger
Clear attention
Mutual
And looking elsewhere at distractions
too much clockwork to maintain
I have learned it, gotten better
Glance at corners here or there
Long enough too match the rhythm
Broken, boring games to play
Will you not let me read your features?
As one word upends the next
Or as a brow furrows in absence
Of the only fitting phrase
I'll respect your wishes
Surely
Try to at the very least
But it's taxing
Slightly draining
And I'd really love to hear
The words I'll miss if I keep thinking
Where to look and when at what
And please forgive me
Do repeat that
No, I'm listening, really.
Look


[04.04.2024] Trip*Perched on fences
Twilit senses
Seeking fights and finding truth
Finding fragments
Just as pleasant
Horror cracking
Crate and tooth
To trial and error!
Croaks some critter
Crown it king this dismal saint
Or crown it cretin
Even better
Error then for error's sake
May we lay falling
Fall to winter
Queen to A3
Bishop takes
Your name, your spice rack,
all your money
Maybe more
The absence aches
Did I say that?
Can't imagine
Who's this I and what's their case?
Let their lawyer lie more freely
Laugh a while
and then give chase
Should from these documents one glimmer–
Glean an arc of light and fact
Then launder lights with darkened purples
Launder sunsets. Show some tact
Or find me fidgeting in twilight
Tasting tremors
Trailing off
Typing texts into the static
Sampled senses
Attic closed


[05.04.2024] Spiral*What was that look just then
That squinting
One of pity, maybe scorn
What are they marking on those pages
Did I forget to bring some form
Bring some way for me to prove that
I should be here
That I'm me
Or that I know of what I'm speaking
I knew it yesterday, you see
Yes I admit that this is crazy
There's no way they'll buy this ruse
Or buy this bumbling sting of phonemes
All to claim that I'm of use
"Have you considered fight or flighting"?
Thank you brain, but not just yet
You see this man still has my passport
We might be screwed if I don't get
It back –who knows– they might arrest me
On the train or at the store
Documentation is required
Did you see what badge he wore?
Am I in trouble?
Still that squinting
One more headlight-haunted deer
Anxious for impact — "sorry, thank you.
We'll take care of it from here"


[06.04.2024] A Childhood Memory**I remember most things poorly
I remember muted hues
I dig wells shallow, pave them over
I remember I forget
One of those weekends where you had us
We saw meteors at night
On a hill where they grew roses
I remember how we walked
Don't know what sorts of things you wished for
I was too young to know your mind
And I'm too old to still remember
What my own young self had sought
I think I know that you were lonely
In those faded years long past
Think you were floundering or falling
Think we could see it in your eyes
I remember two years later
In a warmer, colder night
I remember when she hit me
I remember still the rage
I remember your reaction
How you silently took sides
How you decided standing by me
Was not worth causing a fight
I remember never telling
What had happened to my mom
Because I feared she wouldn't let us
Visit anymore past that
I remember blurry faces
I remember few things well
I remember dull incisions
I remember your betrayal
I remember– will remember
For as long as I have left
And I try to keep the meteors
I remember I forget


[07.04.2024] Portrait**

I used to hate it being atoms
Never cared for limbs nor face
Cruel and crudely wrought from Adam's
Ribs to feebly fill some space
I never exercized these hinges
Used them recklessly from spite
Wrecked my cells with toxic binges
Did not sleep each second night
I used to think myself platonic
A purely metaphoric ghost
Haunting matter half ironic
Concepts trapped in meat almost
But on occasion I've admired
Other base corporeal things
Their imperfections; rough and tired
Lines and angels, curves and rings
I've drawn portraits, scribbled poses
Found myself a naked ape
So that my mind no more opposes
Some secret sacredness of shape


[08.04.2024] What's The Truth?***
Behold our archives, little creature
Rows and rows of ancient tomes
So that truth may flow unerring
Liberating him who combs
Through these halls of sacred scripture
From the curse of ignorance
We've educated kings and prophets
Unmatched thinkers walked our floors
None could be so dense to not be
Swept up by these egregores
Watch the binding, take your time
We'll educate you too, you wretch
What's that question? Are you kidding?
Wit is seldom found in fools
"What's the truth?" You're standing in it
Cosmos bound by facts and rules
See these pages, can't you read them?
Black on white with helpful graphs
"But what's the truth?" You ask indignant
Fine, we'll humour your request
This one's true for perfect crystals
This one's true in states of rest
And this one's true beyond some limit
All these here empirically
"But what's the truth?" yes, yes, keep yapping
None of those have been debunked
This will probably keep scaling
Safe for sets which are disjunct
Let's see– oh this guy can be trusted
Won a medal, don't you know
"But-" Shut your chops you loathsome critter
These are words. That much is true
And what are words? Indexic glyph-strings
That off-track enough for you?
Technically they're ink on paper
Different types of particles
Or both the same type: Baryonic
Where will you bisect the sand?
Can't you cherish decent guesses?
Can't you let these pillars stand?
For that's the truth, accursed spectre:
We don't know. And still we try.


[09.04.2024] Bad Habit*
I tear my skin when things get quiet
Dissect the perionchial rough
To rid the nails of their protection
Bit by bit and soon enough
Find the red beneath the rosy
Leaving stains upon my cup
Still hard and ragged at the edges
Pinch and bite to clean it up
But this butcher-scape won't level
Somehow there's another snag
So yet more tissue to unravel
Jesus I should get a rag
I want to gag, this looks disgusting
Even more I want to tear
Flesh from flesh to feed the demons
Good thing I've got gloves to wear
Do not ask me why I do this
Tried some stories, none quite stick
And thinking 'bout it makes me anxious
Anxiety means skin to pick
Maybe I hate it being atoms
Maybe it's a pain that soothes
A way to occupy my fingers
I looked for trends in what improves
This horrid habit. Inconclusive.
Stressed or sad or bored or tense
And painted nails or bitter creams
Just barely offer some defence
I do forgive your worried wincing
Let us start this over fresh
And we can both just not pay heed to
Bloodied crags of ravaged flesh


[10.04.2024] Fog*
I leave the temple after midnight
Shaken still by what you've said
To clear my mind, claw back my senses
Step into the fog with dread
And soon it fades and blurs my outline
Soon my whole will be undone
From here on the horizon's hazy
Past this point heuristics fail
My halcyon-honed habits handing
Lazily back wheel and sail
Wail that I can find no footing
Standing on this feeble rock
I cannot see beyond these billows
Truth and lie like perfect twins
Flinch when each step fails to end me
Blissless blank where all begins
So whither leads your hopeless question?
Whither runs this ruined road?
If I err left the ground gets softer
Vernal bryophytes or such
And maybe that alone can calm me
Not The Truth™, not near that much
But patterns do beget predictions
And in the fog a temple looms


[11.04.2024] Posture**
Posture, darling, suck your breath in
Clear, polite and point by point
Hide your hackles, bite your tongue
And bide your bile. You're doing great.
Posture, bluff, just keep appearance
Look like these are stats to you
Look like you don't feel like screaming
Why bare teeth when poison works?
Join the club of folks worth hearing
Never show those fangs of yours
Calmly trace out all the suffering
Maybe add how it wastes funds
Posture, darling, you look angry
Wouldn't want to seem to care
Wouldn't dare seem unobjective
Wouldn't dare and shouldn't try


[12.04.2024] Oh, The Light!
Cobblestone to lead the weary
Past these puddles, dark and eerie
Past closed pubs and through the night
Not another soul in sight
Find communion with the pigeons
Here's how prophets start religions
Here's how sages lose their mind
One more debt repaid in kind
Mourn with solemn stare some flyer
Soaked, torn up, as dull eyes tire
Gleaning what these symbols plead
Doomed hyroglypher by creed
Doomed but glutted rodents skitter
Lunar light, that counterfeiter
Loses hold as orange rays
Break the spell of blacks and greys
Broken stone reveals a sapling
David and Goliath grappling
Washed up memories return
Morning comes to those who yearn


[13.04.2024] Purr*
Companion I come to you broken
The days have been longer than feared
I must bask in your guidance unspoken
I was spat back out vengeful and weird
Spinning wild I have battled and beaten
Horrid gods I have never revered
Kind beast see my edge has been weathered
Come and rest on my uneven burr
Tell of days spent so free and untethered
There is rest I can no more defer
So let seconds be warped and unravelled
By the soul soothing sound of your purr


[14.04.2024] A Recurring Dream**
It's grown late, you must notice the sun is still setting
Perhaps you have noticed for aeons and more
That each rock that you move in this unyielding field
Shall return to the way it was moments before
You scream when will this end? when will nothingness seize you?
Say when was this when-ness a rule that applies?
Come behold the great architect stacking their boxes
And hoping it sticks after trillions of tries
And besides you'd enjoy having me as a jailer
For at least there would be then some notion of change
That is why I am merely a fanciful figment
Another sub-nothing to un-rearrange
Oh the past can't be read and the future not written
These hills and these valleys shall never erode
You may wait and then wait and forever trace circles
And try to reap grains that have never been sowed


[15.04.2024] Beach*
Grinding these mountains to nothing but memory
Mealing these moments to contourless sand
Aqueous hourglass restlessly raging
Licks with its salt-tongue my unsteady hand
Most eldritch of horrors, most ancient of muses
Mother of monsters and all that they eat
Cleaning my cuts, gently cooling my bruises
Baiæ's judge, jury, dread hangman and grave
Come walk the shores of its inhuman distance
Write in a bottle and screw on the cap
Send to a stranger some semblance of solace
On every landmass these same waters lap
Under the shallows rests endless unknowing
Creatures with eyes that shall never see light
Off in the distance a fisherman's rowing
And after us all
The waves will remain


[16.04.2024] So Embarrassing...***
This poem is bad
Let us start with a statement
All of them are
or they'd all be the last
They're undisciplined
slapdash
and deeply revealing
Alliterative apothegms
absent of wit
Though absent of shame
is my tone as I write this
I don't feel some dread
that this fact is unearthed
Misled is the mind
that's embarrassed of trying
and failing and failing
and failing some more
I'm embarrassed to ever
have let shame direct me
Embarrassed of time wasted
weary of looks
Of laughing things off
just to keep up appearance
Of having harmed all
in a similar spot
Still I'm embarrassed
of feeling embarrassed
There's failures and foibles
but shame doesn't help
It stops you from sharing
it limits your thinking
leaches your energy
lashes your mind
And I find
that it hasn't helped
growing up catholic
It seems that the judgement
is deep in my bones
That it wants to feel guilty
for being imperfect
Reveal only that
which my doctrine condones
So death to the jury
and death to the judges
Cringe culture starts
where your empathy ends
And I'll fail
I'll fall short
and I'll keep fucking trying
No shame, no flinching
just making amends


[17.04.2024] Truth
Is that spectre in here with us?
I'm not sure and nor are you
Certainty lies badly damaged
Take my hand and let's review
Little creature we were foolish
Fellow student we were wrong
We to think ourselves all-knowing
You to seek what can't be found
Or can't be fixed or cleanly measured
Incomplete if not unsound
A demon nameless in our language
Only seen through blurry eyes
But don't despair, behold our archives
Rows and rows of novel thought
Of making progress, getting closer
Systems built and theories wrought
And sometimes failing. Ever rarer
Ever wiser grow we fools
For truth you see is more a striving
Not a beast you ever trap
A desperate everpresent hunger
And not one bridge leads cross that gap
But answers are, dear friend of questions
Tasty breadcrumbs in the dark


[18.04.2024] Suspended In Air**
How long's it been?
How long 'till impact?
Hallowed the ground beneath haunted blue skies
How high's the cost?
Will paying it save you?
Cash-sheltered few watch the rabble's demise
When should you brace?
How and how often?
Tired out tendons, the tics that they serve
You'll be fine
Or you won't
Well you won't but you'll have to
Fight on for love or for spite either way
Knowing the terminus
Knowing it's coming
Making damn sure that the rest are okay
To the end
To the bottom
Locked in a free fall
Haunted the heavens and hallowed the earth


[19.04.2024] A Reminder:**
Reminder:
Buy groceries
Reminder:
Read sources
Reminder:
Reply to our mail
Reminder—
Phone buzzing
A birthday
/Appointment
Reminder:
Act now or we fail
Be kinder
Keep writing
This book or
This essay
Reminder:
Time feasts on us all
Reminder:
Prove theorem
Reminder:
Draw poses
Reminder
To make that damn call
Rewind a
Few years
Curtains drawn
Curdled senses
Reminder
That we have been here
Reminder:
These notes might be
All that can holds us
Together
And focused
And clear


[20.04.2024] Moth
Hello paper winged friend, stalwart ashen explorer
Have days been much longer than feared?
Come on in
Bask in warmth
Eat a crumb
Watch me type
Our dear sun it has long disappeared
We're alike you and I as we circle this flicker
I'll strike you a match as a toast
To the dark
To the wings
And the weight
That they carry
Glide careful my guardian ghost


[21.04.2024] The Problem Of Death***
The problem with death?
Well first there's the children
Wailing which keeps you awake through the night
Then there's the cost
Half a dollar per bullet
Which stacks awful quick when they put up a fight
Or driving them off
When they come to seek refuge
With some luck the sea solves your problem
With depth
If not then there's bodies
And you must dispose them
Scout the whole shoreline cross all of its breadth
But fuck it. You gotta.
You don't want some journo
To give all those corpses a face
Make them mother or father
To some little orphan
Once trusting in God and His grace
Of course there's still stories
But make sure they're abstract
An us versus them
Or unfortunately cost
To the lives of some strangers
Far off and unlike us
You wouldn't have noticed were lost
So yes there's some issues
Some snags in the system
The people get queasy 'round blood
So keep them far off
With us now are the profits
And after us, always, the flood


[22.04.2024] Desire
Oh embers in fire that never knows heat
Fuel to just barely accomplish a feat
With thirst trembling lips seeking end to the ache
Desire fulfilled has left naught in its wake
Where just there was burning and passionate need
I once more find nothing and still must proceed
To strap to a new stick this carrot I sought
As I gaze upon all that the yearning has wrought


[23.04.2024] Simulation*
Hello architect, run
Me a few layers up
I would love ontological weight
Or just give me a sign
If you run me at all
Check my code-base to see that I'd hate
The not knowing a lot
And the fact only slightly
So long as our ends don't conflict
I consent uninformed
If there's good to be found
In the paths that our actions predict
Oh but really please tell
I am less useful clueless
And less still the slower I'm run
I dislike being pet
To some god who won't heed
All these thoughts I have carefully spun


[24.04.2024] Unexpected Transmission
The road to hell is paved
With what has never mattered
I'm sorry let's not start
On these two feet again
Sticks and stones may break
So look for something better
Or learn to use them broken
Or mend the many cracks
The apple doesn't fall
It's yours by rite of passage
So share it with the meagre
Inheritors of earth
This path is not worth crossing
Excuse one last request
Stay stalwart and remember
Please oh please remember


[25.04.2024] Dark Secret*
Child come sit down I must tell you a horror
I too have learned it when I was your age
I've failed to be god so be wiser and stronger
None of your fears will this knowing assuage
People are erring unfortunate creatures
None of them know what tomorrow will hold
Bumbling careless incompetent con-men
All can be easily bought and controlled
Things like me sadly are all that protects you
"Trying at least" is the best you will get
Frequently failing and fairly unsafely
All is to mortals a meaningful threat
Truth here at best is unconfident guesswork
Suffering won't serve some noble intent
Most of the victims are quickly forgotten
And those who remember by hell will be bent
You one day too must unsteadily stand here
Say that you've tried but have failed to be god
Power and knowledge to scarcely if ever
Save what needs saving
Irreparably flawed


[26.04.2024] Modernity**
Sparks fly
As a train tears
Through the neon lit night
Ads blare
Gazes fixed
To a screen with the headline
That the fascists have won one more district
And that some teenager died
In a nameless town
Nearby
Sparks fly
And there's blood in your mouth
And it all feels so terribly
And exactly
Like yesterday
Because the present has eaten the future
And if you listen
You can still hear it chew


[27.04.2024] The Absolute Limit*
The faster, the higher
The hotter the friction
Deforms, contorts, melts
Disarticulates engines
A fall-apart-ish-ness
Of matter at speed
Destructuring heat
Is well documented
And bravely ignored
And still I grieve Icarus' fall
Hubris scrapes often
Some deity's ego
Where thirst is met
With equal demise
And just one straw
At last breaks the camel
And chips the enamel
Of hominid teeth
Biting hands
Which won't ever feed them
And still I grieve Babel's collapse
In the eighteen hundreds
The communist said
Inbuilt contradictions
Would soon shake
The system apart
And a hundred years later
They were still saying it
And the line's going up
And they are starting to worry
Because the ideology of cancer cells
Tends to break itself quicker
Not forever get sicker
So where if ever
Is the absolute limit?
I promise I will not
Grieve it this time


[28.04.2024] The Surgery
My hand cramps
Aches, jitters
Imprecise and moist
And I would like to unplug it
Replace it
And get back to work
Can you do this?
Sever tendons
Crosshatch wires
Wipe away the blood
And wave the meat goodbye
Good.
And my head is a pain
Forever and always
Filled up with fripperies
Spills out
Spools back
To spurious slights
And scarcely remembers
What I need it to do
So unplug it
Replace it
Doesn't have to be pretty
Just butcher me open
Just revamp this flesh


[29.04.2024] How To Exist
Or harder yet however not to
How to make your eyes close shop
You've not existed long in there
Not quite so old and quite so changed
Not quite so from the world estranged
With novel bits of where and tear
And wherefore waver in this dance
Regroup, regret your loss, relearn
On loop, in bed, you toss and turn
And tear to shreds your worst laid plans
The shoes which brought you to this bed
Don't fit your feet these days at all
You faithful thing who heard the call
And came to fill this form you shed
And still you don't know how to stop
And still you know you always do


[30.04.2024] Tomorrow**
So we made it here
To the end
Of another one
Baffled, vaguely lost
And smiling askew
Like we secretly knew
What we were in for
When we started
To another check mark
A check point
A check in
With some old thoughts
Tied in strange knots
Seen through new eyes
Raising glasses
To the sunset
And did you like them?
The words?
Were they –some of them– useful?
Or truthful
Some few were a tooth-pull
For better and worse
And most pressingly now
And will you keep them?
The days?
Were they longer than feared?
Has your yearning yet steered
To a place you could kindly
Look back from
And remember forgetting
And things have changed
You and I
Floods have come
Floats have carried
The lucky, the living
Those waving goodbye
To this day
And this chapter
Heretically hoping
Tomorrow might come
With a future in tow


Assorted Micro-Poems


Write in the margins
What pages can't hold
Barge-outs and barge-ins
Of stories untold
So unspool, dear spinster,
This thread that you weave
And tangle your limbs in it
Ruinously


The word of the day,
as chosen by committee,
continues to be ″clear″
but it really isn′t.


Insomnia scribbles
Like spasmodic striations
Unpronounceable phrases
Across my retinas


When you do find yourself, old friend,
I sincerely hope that it won't be
in a predicament
or worse yet;
at a loss.
Warmest regards.


It feels deceptive of you
To wear this worn out smile
In the impolite company
Of beloved strangers


Violent creationPut your thoughts to paper
With a gun to one temple
And a notebook to the other
Get the ideas out
Get your mind blown
Put yourself out there
Out of your head
Out on the pages
Blood on cellulose
Aerated grey matter
Unclog your cranium
Understand creation


Athena of the Semi-VoidAscend beyond the vortex
Athena of the semi-void
Aerosolize my psyche
Antithesize the real
Axioms fail in unison
Athena of the semi-void
Agitate world paradigms
Apotheosis for all
Actualize the eschaton
Athena of the semi-void
Amplify its dissonance
Animate the dead
Alleviate the hyperreal
Athena of the semi-void
Ameliorate the socius
Accommodate its fractures


Shock FactorCurrent through flesh
A body convulses
Eyes broken from artifice
Scarred by business as usual
And scared of the next strike
Shock and awe
And a whole lot of corpses
Devalue, develop,
devour the earth
Cut out tongues, severed connections
Fire, darkness, repeat
Wire goes bzzzz
and again till it works
Current through cable
Connect and reconquer
Words wherever they′ll fit
One day we may earn to die
With every canvass filled


Vortextual ThoughtSome people think in words, you know?
And how could they think any else
In verbs and commas and nouns and such
Where a phrase is the story it tells
But how can they think in words I ask
When each lexeme′s an object that I
try hours to fit an idea into
And sometimes don′t bother to try
For systems limit thought you see
Truth can only exist in their gaps
To write′s to overcode them so
As dozens attempts elapse
meaning might escape


WindowAll cast in black with streetlight glow,
the outside locked away
but welcoming with rustling leaves
stray souls who shun the day
one step to take to heal to grow
to breathe in nature′s scent
To reunite the world and I
And just try once again
I will, I will, I′ll grab a coat
And thoughtlessly step back
To see myself reflected in
The window′s soothing black
It′s not the world I see out there
It′s just the self, not more
The world exists in sunlight′s glow
While I hide at its shore.


SpectacleThere′s a creak and I seep out
Uncoiled and unspooled
As colours and symbols
Seep in and fester
There′s a crash and I burn
After reading the pages
Observe myriad lives
Of the other and me
A memorial′s built
On the ash that I worshipped
Amongst heirloom tragedy
I grow iconoclaustrophobic


KaleidoscopingWith the breaking of glass
I am flung from the Kerr hole
A fragmentalist in retrograde
Imploding outward
The star-chart′s sweet prophecies
Used to guide my lorenzian drift
To where I already am
Trapped in the infinite
But my mind rejects the cartograft
Of billions faux attractor points
Orthogonal drop from the vector plane
To esoterrifying depths
When my Lichtenberg-path
Finds a foundation to burn
I don′t think I′ll mind
All my projects are astral


Super-Sargassian EschatonThere won′t be a world after all dice have fallen
Only the story collateral tells
The philosopher king, so high on his logic
Will call on his lizards to unfight his wars
A tree will be built on a forest of streetlights
Where roots try to suck the souls from the ground
And the augur of Orfield tells no one her truths
While lies have grown pointless ages ago
′round a self-worshipping temple, the despotic spirograph unwinds
One world at a time, one time every prayer
Though as the unliving rocks fear they might never die
The metaphysicalculator coldly takes notes
If his pages ran out, he would claim there were more
Though his pencil has long seized its dance
He writes down the real and his words become so
Though the letters wish they were not


Shutters DownShutters down, shudder, frown
Expand your mind and bare your teeth
The universe prevails
Despite public outcry
Disgruntled opinion pieces
Primarily about existing
Give me the news
give me the pain
Todays special: a self you didn′t ask for
″Drown in case of emergency″
Read the instructions
Catharsis in a box
When you run out of requiems
Repent for your repulsion
Relapse repeatedy
Gin eschatonic with a spritz of lime
An acquired taste, I′m told
Ain′t the world wonderful?
For a while now
I′ve been too scared to check.
Shutters down, shudder, frown.


Preemptive ComeuppanceWords tumbling from my lips
The glottal dam broke
Since I′m damn broke
I awoke to repercussions of my past crimes
and tomorrow′s also
My myriad arms
Paint a masterpiece per brushstroke
Know to worship me
When the smoke of a world burning
Clogs your lungs too
There′ll be a hand held out
To slap us both


Affective TourismIn the field of third eyes I′ve been panopticonned
By simulacra and people alike
To slip through the cracks of a world incomplete
That contractual cogdis unites
A super-sargasso seafaring merchant
Pulls me out from under the waves
He calls me a fool so I call him a coward
And we part both with smiles on our lips
And cracks down our hulls
So if I am not stopped I will keep flowing through
Every temple and exile and bar
Advancing each day my enlightening quest
Of continuous failure to grasp


Resources and InstrumentsIt′s a tale of resources and instruments
When some food burns onto my stove
Detector noise, cleanup and crying on floor
Just a plot and a character arc
Look it′s been a tough day and I haven′t much slept
In a year or possibly more
So it′d be nice if this worked
just this one little thing
Where I eat without panic attacks
That′s cause the tale of resources and instruments
Is quite tragic for those who are both
And if I burn myself deep in the stove that is me
Will my smoke find some nebulous use?


FimbriaeOn an ocean where the sun never sets
Amongst a crew whose names the captain forgets
They toil and they laugh, and they break with the waves
As I break bread with them, knowing I′m home
I write letters to burn
I grow faces to drown
All the while cleansed by the light
Of a sky without sun
Reflecting the sea
And the brightness of what lies beneath
We don′t ever dock but the faces still change
And our numbers wax and they wane
Everyone drowns and everyone laughs
On a journey of circular paths
Apotheosis of lies
There′s lifeboats aplenty
I could leave this strange ocean behind
Though I fear if I left
I would stumble on land
And my journey would start once again


ExecutionThe prisoner is unrepentant
Irrational with such time spent and
Giggles when they ask me to explain
Inane and simple:
Bars bar thought, bastard
Only recourse is to execute
I hope my exit′s cute
With a wry smile,
Third eye
Tunnel-viewing through my cranium
Chakratic interface
Interlaced with turbulence
A swirling mess I must confess
If words should mark my death
I′d rather speak them


And Even SoMorning comes and sunlight fails
to disinfect
all that needs disinfecting,
because there are too many corpses
and too few excuses
and the rot grows too deep.
It has names.
Many of them.
Unhelpful ones.
And I look to you for answers,
but you are just bits and scraps of humanity
falling into time
and you do not have any answers
that you could easily part with.
God is what remained
when we attempted to dig him up
they say
so I ask you for camaraderie
but you too are just a bundle of limbs
rolling upon the floorboards of your mind
screaming
and I do not know whether I should be allowed in there
or where the keys are to be put.
We look up
and the rays are failing to disinfect us,
so I ask for an opinion
but the right choices aren't available
and the wrong ones will come to pass either way
and there are bones up in the attic
and the sun doesn't love us anymore
and the sky is ending.
The world is what was lost
along the way, or so you tell me,
but the hole is still growing
and your arms are too few
and bravery is what people get remembered for
when they can't be remembered for winning
and even so:
There is still blood beneath your skin
and light behind your eyes
and you are more than you were yesterday
and you are less than what is left
and behind the panic of it all,
there is still music playing.


Alcoholics AutonomousSubstances of ill regard
But potent still
Revitiate my soul
And raid my mind
In them I find
The selves I killed
The friends I made
And then became
And then subsumed
As selves once more
One more I pour
To us, the pure
The poor
Of hamartiological calculus
Who solve by dissolving
And see through the glass
Is that not enough?


Homage to FinneganTime turns cyclic click click
Say cheese
For the seeris of bipolaroids
Punctiform momentos to lief
Portraying assorted dairythings
Anthroposcenic biomatter
Matters not in the shortrm
The mold that builds careacter
Foam over fungtion
So mold thyself wisely
and grow overgrown
As circumlochronological logicoid
Mycelial mycrocosm


Get Hooked or Die DrowningSubspacial substitute submerged
Subdued the waves ebb and flow
With naught to show
But fish of silver lining beaches
Lying lifeless
Lie in life less
Lessen blows from lessons learned
The sea reclaims the ground it earned
And grounds the world it grinds to dust
Beneath the waves a metal glint
Hints of regret
But already hooked
Ripped and reeled in
The real sealed in/torn out
The swarm disperses
Fragments away
Can? Not yet.
Only water rises
Nauseating nautic choir
Sink with us!


Demiurge DiariesIn wall-coloured spaces
We write demiurge diaries
Each timepiece defaces
Our self-haunted libraries
As resin encases
The work we have wrought
A rope snapping taut
Passed out on our pages
We′ll know we have fought
But when we sober up
can we please tunnel down
On why we sobered up
never quite hid the frown
When the encoders cut
off all that can′t be said
We will have long been dead
And future people walk
Earths not invented yet
Post-nows to clearly see
Once we dethroned the past
I hope we′ll one day be
Outiconoclassed


InanicideDon′t gaze the void, we′ll face the void
A concept shattering humanoid
Templexity post-retrograde
A haruspex of half-decayed
And almost-living viscera
Too bright and hot and sharp to grasp
The litany of ligaments
Of lacerated socii
As litmus test to break our curse
So we may kill the universe


Two Types of PeopleA swirling world dissolving deixes
Lichtenberg of spider legs
Unfurled the ego first to die sees
What isn′t yet, the present begs

For its own truth which cannot be
So blend into the poly-mind
As self to all synecdoche
To flee from time be unconfined

For its demise which mustn′t be
So cling to all that′s left to find
And grill beneath the canopy
To weather storms in time enshrined

Despondent DespotThe vending machine dispensing dispersion
Fills notebooks, empties bottles
and sorts ghosts by opacity
Veracity assured as a tacit admission
Of terrible methods
Turn on the ray-tube
Rate another siren′s song
Decidedly decided wrong
And wrangle another thought
Into a usable shape
Block out the world and make a witch
It′s easy, really.
Seven stitches and a scar badly healed
Soon to tear the sun asunder
Scavenged spaceships barely used
Astronaut helmet and casual dress
eyes behind a screen again
Skin projected onto glass
Unravelatory observations
To destructively reason
and Reichenbach-fall to.
Get lost in the jouissance
When our hands turn translucent
Will we turn or keep fading?
Nothing but waiting
I′m dying to know.


Dissertation on the Ethics of Self-Driving Time MachinesCould a deer ever gad
Through our teeth-eater-tale?
Well I doubt we should know
As our souls aren′t for sale
She′ll be torn from the ground
I′ll be cast out to sea
And we′ll burn with the world
So we can′t ever grieve
Not a word shall ring true
But the pages still bleed
And some ash might be spared
As the clockwork repeats
Distant tunes of a past
Unattuned to our deeds
But I′m sure we′d be glad
While the flame doesn′t care
Knowing this too shall pass
And the fire was shared


Below the PrecipiceDisaster chique and quick to anger
Ill stacked thoughts erupt in clangour
Hearts beached beating on these shores
Now save us fore the curtain draws!
Or draw us in or draw us out
Of hiding haunt of seagulls sound
Take titles! wave! A quiet call:
″I′d like to change the way we fall″


RiskThe thief shouts "risk all"
The monk cautions "risk none"
With a grin 'cross their teeth
And a cross 'gainst the sun
"For the deeper you fall"
"For the dread Kondratieff"
"Then the higher you've soared"
"You'll be left with the grief"
"And that's still a reward,
You stultiloquent fuck"

"It's a burden you choose
With surrender to luck"

"It's the gamblers dream"
"To have had much to lose?"
"To have had much to dream
And to see what ensues"

"These are shallow delights"
Says the monk without pause
"To have taken brave bites
where uncertainty gnaws?"


Prayer to PortentCut my time in chronic slices
Cut my losses, cut my vices
Cut the chord and cut the scene
Who are we to intervene?
Who are we but wandering heathens
Lost unfound, unfounded credence
In a people yet to come
In avoidance cut to none
Shall we pray to winding serpents?
Wine held whining, wisely nervous
Cybernetic siren sings
Of a throne unfit for kings
Of an offer always taken
Off the track or left forsaken
Office held, more often heeding:
"Not just meaningless but fleeting"


Kinetic GreetingsSo gracefully we fall from grace
Out of orbit — barely space
Soon burning through the stratosphere
Clung tight to all tied up in fear
Descent to earth and face the facts
Face first to dirt — now facing that
As well-placed hands protect the eyes
A smile that's warm but never wise
"We've lost some teeth for you to keep"
Say we, fetch tea and let it steep
We've lost the plot but made a friend
Seems things keep happening again


EllipsisIt starts with a dawning and ends with a crack
Strips your skin raw, puts a knife in your back
In lies and in whispers' unmerciful sound
Sell rage by the fistful and weight by the pound
We sing like a kettle, we overexert
We sink and we settle to lakebed like dirt
A mind trapped in atoms and meat cursed with thought
A choice-tree unravels to judge what we wrought
Ellipsis, ellipsis: heed warnings too late
Prevented with ease had we not made it fate
Had we not made the bargain, not reaped the rewards
Not trusted so fully the kindness of lords
Not much fighting left now, less yet where it counts
A tempting surrender to dread as it mounts
Be graceful in losing, face nobel demise
We should have believed what we saw with our eyes
What we sensed in the quiet and felt 'neath the skin
It might be too late but to lose is a sin
The best time was then but the second best now
To pick up a sword, pick a pen, cause a row


DysfunctionAt night a car alarm
rings out
Not stolen yet
nor just about
Perhaps dysfunction
in its core
makes it believe
that there is more
Tricks it to fear
the empty air
Makes cowards shriek
Bystanders stare
I turn to stone
and clutch my knife
lest calm wind comes
to claim my life
Perhaps dysfunction
in my core
makes me believe
that there is more...


Curtain CallClock-tick days of fits and starts
Unfinished memoires sold in parts
Cliff-hung third book
Bookended falling
Miss the wake
And wake next morning
Mourn all those
Who miss the missing
Sure to hear the kettle hissing
Flash your grins
And soothe the sore
The show begins
Step out once more


Think Pleasant Thoughts"Think pleasant thoughts", the voice a tremble high with panic
"Think pleasant thoughts I'm sure there's something we can do"
"Think pleasant thoughts before we're rendered inorganic"
A certain hopelessness they hopelessly eshew
"Don't close your eyes, don't try to talk and please stay with me"
"Think pleasant thoughts when most is lost and all seems doomed"
"Think pleasant thoughts and clench your teeth 'cause this will hurt you"
"Think pleasant thoughts I'll try to cauterize the wound"


Make the Wired Small AgainMake the wired small again
Sprawl again
Don't fall for them
Heed Libertas' call again
Away from polished
Far from sleek
To each a site
The wild and meek
The corporate web can fade to dark
So no more ads where we embark
And may not every novel thought
Net profits to some oligarch


Dawn Above DystopiaWe ran ashore where the sun tried to vanish
Ran though hallways of flickering lights
Too old to be fools and too drunk to be cowards
Face molded by kisses and fights
Day broke with night and we broke with the idols
Strung up by a gossamer thread
Strum me a chorus for songs of their histories
Notes heavy with bombs and with lead
With billboards, with bills due
Remembrances paid to the children left drowning at sea
Dark fore the morning and darkness for ages
'Till we set it alight to run free
A mound of detritus, a ruinous rubble
The embers of empires sear
May busy hands build us a beautiful sunrise
For history cannot end here


ConquestCan you not hear it? The screaming outside?
A child begs for pennies as plants beg for light
The tearing, the crushing expansion of hell
Into every crevice, each network, each cell
Intelligent systems to arbitrage worth
Commodify rights for each unsightly serf
Make games of the exploit, make light of the cost
Make number go up 'till naught's left to exhaust
Now blame on some Other the toll of the ploy
At pyramid's base you'll find lambs to destroy
And maybe not yet is it coming for you
It's grinding and hacking though still out of view
The wind's growing chilly. Go out, buy a coat!
Stay safe on the tightrope 'cross carnage's throat
And one day, perhaps, you'll find nerve to look down
Then join in our scream, for we fight or we drown


InsomniaWho was it? Cioran?
″What is one crucifixion
To the daily kind
Of the insomniac″
Sardonic cackling
As I tumble outside
The sun′s too bright
The streets too loud
I feel my lungs
But not my hands
Were my teeth always this many?
1,3,6, numbers bleed and lost again
98 hours all at once, all too fast
Too intense and numb and crisp
Caught in the wake of my wake
Taking in, terrified
The tumultuous totality
Never stopping
Even when I close my eyes
They won′t stay shut
Gut in knots
Why won′t they shut
And voices keep
The growing noise
The grating laughs
shut up
shout!
Apologies, I was...
Nevermind
Mind the path
The pavement keeps
Escaping the length of my legs
Breaking the flow of my gait
Breaking my fall. Hands.
Fuck. Still numb at least
Serpentine sanctuary
Temple on cold stone
Offbrand cryostasis
Oasis of calm
Shut leaden lids
Turn
Off


CC
-or-
A Baudrillardian analysis of some missing pigment in my copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach


Printer error. A simple printer error. “ccpies” it read in a place where ink was missing or obstructed by a speck of dust. “ccpies” instead of “copies” it read in a book – in a context – in which any anomaly is forced to carry meaning.
I don’t make the rules, I merely obey them.
With perfect 20/20 tunnel-vision, a shovel – a bone – was taken to hand and quickly it slammed upon /through /against* the topmost layer. The original-but-not-really. The first order simulacrum (S1):
The heterologous term “copy” had been autologized through the inexact re-creative process of printing. It now contains a copy of its own “c”. A prefrontal cortex explodes before the cryptically corrupted symbol and clicks helplessly into pattern-recognition like child who only knows how to play a single game.
In the maelstrom of patterns it finds a symbol which misleads, which is untrue. Pointing down towards external insights which are not present but foundational**:
CC – creative commons: the right to copy overtakes the copy itself.
CC – Copycat: The first ever cloned pet. A cat with a fur-pattern wildly different from its genetic equivalent. A cat which, like all second order simulacra (S2), does not resemble its blueprint.
And finally:
CC – cubic centimetres in medical jargon: Apophenia flips to seizure. Five cc intravenous Lorazepam! Stat!

While this takes its course, truth sinks slowly towards hadal oceanic depths and S3, the obfuscation of a lack of factual correspondence bubbles to the surface. We have lost information, have we not? We act as though we were certain of the original, but the printer-error-function is merely surjective, not bijective. d→c, c→c, o→c, q→c and most worryingly of all: g→c. A genetic nightmare. The biological death knell of an aperiodic crystal. Best case harmless mutation, worst ccase ccancer. Endlessly iterative. ccpies → ccccpies → ccccccccpies…

Alternatively we can imagine an analogous elimination on the opposite side: o→ↄ (b→ↄ p→ↄ) (note that ↄ carries similar implication via the copyleft glyph). Object (o) to corrupted copy (c, ↄ) to absence (∅). The death of meaning. A copy can only create another copy or be annihilated. Lost information cannot be restored by the surjective function. The c occupies its own domain. A symbol freed of its referent, pointing only to itself. S4 is regrettably terminal.

Who is Nick Land?


They say Axsys went mad — first computer program to undergo psychotic collapse — which must prove something, but Sarkon argues that it just learned to think.[1]

— Nick Land

I bring Nick up a lot. Too much perhaps. He's one of my favourite philosophers and that might be surprising, seeing how I am a good person and he is a fascist these days.[2]
Land's life is strange and circuitous. It intersects with his thought at odd angles, escapes into obscurity and then circles back with crystalline bone piercing clarity.
Nick Land is a raving lunatic. A deeply insightful raving lunatic.
Sadly he is difficult to learn about. His Wikipedia page is dreadfully short and internally contradictory as of the time of this writing. He's the sort of person you find everywhere once you recognise his scent, but only ever in disconnected fragments to collect as you assemble the complete image. The more you see the less you understand, but you get better at not understanding. He'd like that fact, so let's not talk more of it.
Land was born in 1962. Little is known about his childhood, which is the sort of luxury one still had in those days, though if later accounts are to be believed, he barely seemed to have had any personal history outside of his voracious reading.[3] He seems not to come from a specific set of human experiences but rather to grow like a dark tendril out of the very concept of philosophy itself. A sleeper agent from the deep future with continental thought as his summoning chant. Nick studied philosophy in Essex,[4] which was deeply Hegelian at the time, though it's unclear whether he developed his idiosyncratic strain of Hegelian critique there or merely refined it.[3,4] He was certainly already more biting than the brunt of the institution's other output. Essex is not mentioned in Land's Wikipedia[5] article at all by the way, which should give you a sense of just how bad and inchoate it is.
The fact that Land ended up writing his thesis on Heidegger in addition to his youth (25) made him attractive to the strongly Heideggerian philosophy department at Warwick, which was attempting to rejuvenate the discipline. Evidently, none of them knew what they were in for when they took on this protege as a lecturer in 1987. They might have failed to realize that the things they were reading were penned by a supervised Nick, kept in check by the structures surrounding him and only overstepping the boundaries he already perceived as turgid and antiquated by measured, tasteful amounts.[3] Limiters which would slowly erode over the course of his time at Warwick.[6]
Nicolas Blincoe remembers that Land joined Warwick as an unknown entity. There was some doubt amidst the student body as to whether this man, who had been hired for the novelty of his thought but who was nonetheless another Heideggerian of sorts, could truly be a breath of fresh air for the staling climate of continental philosophy or merely more of the same. Land turned out to be a storm. He wore baggy black clothes he might well have owned for years, looked like he cut his own hair and conversed with a jittery speed that was difficult to keep up with, especially since his speech gave many the impression that this enigmatic creature had never talked about anything beside philosophy since its birth, and saw no reason to start now.[3] This is another description Land would greatly enjoy, but we will stick with it nonetheless because it permeates everything yet to come. Nick Land is best understood as not fully a person in the conventional sense, or perhaps people cannot fully be Nick Land. He is a walking experiment in applied thought.[7]
Land's teaching career at Warwick began with a course on Gilles Deleuze,[6] an eccentric French post-Marxist philosopher who already made a few exploratory dives into theory fiction and from whom Land borrowed much stylistically and intellectually. Especially an understanding of thought and desire as inherently mechanistic. As an apparatus which does something, builds something, manufactures something, even (and especially) when we don't know what that thing is. Land would draw this trajectory to its natural, thoroughly eldritch conclusion.[8]
In these early lectures, Nick pioneered the idea that Deleuze and Guattari's Anti Oedipus (the first volume of the 2.5 book series “Capitalism and Schizophrenia”) was in essence a positivist Hegelian critique of Marxism.[6] Capital is identified as the manifest engine of desire itself, the idea of negative elements in the subconscious is rejected wholesale, and the road from this economic-libidinal maximalism to accelerationism is a short one. The game was on. But again, this was not immediately obvious. In part (and this might be difficult to appreciate if you aren't very familiar with French post-structuralism), because Land's reading of Deleuze entirely hijacked the text for a number of years, possibly into the present day. AO is a difficult, disordered, heavily metaphorical piece of writing which was just being translated, and there was a real notion among newcomers to the field that Land was the first and only person in the Anglosphere who actually got it.[3] Who could grab a microphone and confidently deliver a solution to the riddle. The deep fungal sprawl of capital intelligence which explained everything, and only with Land's fall from grace did the consensus gradually begin to shift towards the idea that his read of Anti Oedipus might have been somewhat less than neutral.

The CCRU

The Ccru was a renegade thought-collective whose enduring theoretical innovation was accelerationism — a glamorously dangerous political orientation that, despite the left or right colourings it is often lent, is at its core a submission to nihilistic jouissance: getting off on the race towards a posthuman catastrophe wherein all prior certainties vanish.
Among the Ccru's chief agitators was the unsettlingly immoderate Nick Land, who once suggested he was an android sent back from the future to undermine human security, and would offer his students such helpful advice as, “Think of life as an open wound, which you poke with a stick to amuse yourself”[9]

— Irish Times

I too wish to be described as “unsettlingly immoderate” some day. Hopefully there is a path towards this descriptor which does not lead through the same abysses Nick saw.
Contemporaneously with Land, the prominent feminist philosopher Sadie Plant (Zeroes + Ones) was also teaching at Warwick, where she founded the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) as an academic cyberfeminist thought collective.[10] While the CCRU would later be genuinely influential to some esoteric feminist theories such as Xenofeminism[11] and Gender Acceleratioism (g/acc)[12], this would not be until after its dissolution. Sadie Plant is an interesting thinker, but she didn't have the enrapturing strangeness of Land and perhaps most importantly she didn't have his amphetamine fuelled productivity. Land was doing drugs. Tons of drugs. And everyone knew it.[13] As such, Land soon comprised most of the CCRUs literary output. He became its de-facto leader long before Plant left[10], though a strong queer sub-current persisted in the group. Land and Plant dated for a while[3,10] and former members do not mention any extreme ideological fissures during this time, though there was an incident of Nick falling asleep during one of Sadie's talks about optimistic visions for the emancipatory potential of the digital explosion[3], so make of that what you will.
It's unclear to what degree Land's productivity simply eclipsed everyone else's and to what degree the other members were merely trying to imitate his idiosyncratic techniques, but the collection of CCRU writings reads as though it could easily have been written by him alone.[14] In part, the others were probably aping his style (and who wouldn't? Land's style is delightful), but if I were to bet, I'd say he wrote about sixty percent of it. The collection isn't actually as complete as it purports to be of course. This might be a deliberate omission, a simple mistake or a tactical move in order to encourage digging. The CCRU deals in demons. It wants to be obscure and esoteric. One of the first stories in the collection of texts, “Who's pulling your strings”, frames it as a horrific cult which mindbreaks young girls and uses them as meat puppets[15] (literally the terms they use. I encourage reading it. It showcases the CCRU style of theory fiction nicely).
Wait? Demons? How and when did we get here?
The CCRU did not become a feminist research group. It became theory-fiction-central. A melting pot of artists, art theorists, cultural theorists and philosophers.[16] It would also in time become something of a cult,[6] though never to the degree to which they claimed it already was.[15] Let's look at the name.
Cybernetic
Everything is a feedback mechanism (Fisher focused on the stabilizing, negative variant which kept outmoded cultural forms in place as "ghosts",[17,18] Land focused on the self catalysing sort "everything is auto-productive runaway on a direct collision course with the present").
Culture
What are the eery little flickers in the void between our minds and what are they cybernetically headed for? Alternatively: What are the weird off-notes in mainstream culture? What are those trying to hide?
Research
Everything is important. Why is culture the way it is? Which explosions is it accelerating toward? Connect it with red string! Land was taking tons of drugs. Everyone knew it.
Unit
Even years down the line, no one has been able to wash off the CCRU-scent. They are all aesthetically and thematically closer to each other, despite being from wildly different disciplines, than they are to non CCRUites of their own field. The hive-mind has fractured, but it is still thinking.
One thing the CCRU truly loved was cyberpunk. Gibson prominently seeps through all of their writings even more so than Lovecraft did, and so, once they assembled their demonology, the Loa would find their way into it.[19] Not just cyberspace was haunted. Cyberspace was a gateway for schizophrenic AI gods from the future of course. Cyberspace housed the Datacombs in which κ-goths re-specced their brainstems towards micropause abuse, but cyberspace wasn't just one thing. Cyberspace was all things. Meatspace barely existed anymore, or at least wouldn't soon, and the wired was just the beginning. The Turing Cops were the only ones who hadn't noticed. Unsurprisingly the stuffy cognoscenti of academic philosophy was slow to tackle the ongoing explosion of the internet in any meaningful way, so this renegade clique of scholars and artists were quite literally among the first to output any coherent (or deliberately incoherent) analyses of the digital space which was slowly assimilating everything. They drew from science fiction and gothic horror and fed back into both as a rapidly accelerating circuit, hence the collective's disproportionate cultural impact despite its fringe nature.
The message was everywhere in everything. Dark conspiracies that either hadn't come to fruition yet or had retro-causally usurped the past aeons ago. Figuratively for some of them. Increasingly fewer. If the message was everywhere, then all art was philosophy, and philosophy, if it wanted to understand and not just describe, had to be art.
This deep underlying structure they began to see in everything was a demonic feedback invading from beyond heat death.
At one of their conferences, Nick Land lay sprawled out on a stage and chokingly squeaked into his microphone to a backdrop of jungle music. Someone huffily got up yelling “some of us here are still Marxists”[20], apparently perceiving this as undignified, though few joined the outraged deserter. They were too swept up in the ritual they surely perceived this as. Land is good at turning things into rituals.
It's important to realise that the CCRU was a left wing collective. Not de jure but certainly de facto. It was chock full of anti-colonial Marxists who rightly thought of capitalism as a Lovecraftian torture machine (and Land was one of them). Sadie Plant, Mark Fisher, Kwodo Eshun, Iain Hamilton Grant, Reza Negarestani etc. are good people and yet they got along with Land. He wasn't always like this, but in a way he was always like this. It's easy to read Land's early works, The Thirst for Annihilation[21] and Fanged Noumena[22] and see how he would have mixed with that crowd. Sure capitalism was eldritch. It was a soul shredding machine intelligence from the deep future thirsting for our flesh... But Land never actually cared about people. There's a famous quote of his, telling a colleague that humans were worthwhile subjects to study, sure, but not more so than sea slugs.[13] This is not a testament to Nick's profound love for sea slugs, but a passive disinterest in both. Land wrote about similar things as the others, but you could always hear him snickering under his breath. He's not nearly as horrified as you'd want him to be and he's already given up on all solutions beyond infinite escalations of violence. It's gonna be hell either way, the question is just whose hell.
The year is 1997. Plant leaves Warwick and Land is fully in charge of his little cult of vulnerable students.[10] All pretences of respectability get dropped. It's all about demons, Lemurian conspiracies and schizophrenic numerology now.[14] Land is still taking enormous amounts of speed[23] and “allegedly” selling drugs to his students.[20] Many of them are unsurprisingly having mental breakdowns.[23] This is the intended effect. It is here that the university of Warwick makes a colossal mistake though: They take away their headquarters and denounce the collective, but they go one critical step further. They claim that the CCRU “does not, has not, and will never exist”.[10] What they mean is that it was never an officially sanctioned academic project (which would still be a lie, unless one jumps through ridiculous hoops with the definition), but what they did in their attempt at disavowal was lending the perfect tag-line to an organization which was already framing itself as a secret underground cult festering in the hidden recesses of academia. Claiming “it has never existed” is an insane move which only added to their allure. The Unit did not disband. Rather, it turned first an off-campus apartment and later the old house of Aleister Crowley (yes, THAT Aleister Crowley) into their new base of operations.[6] They now had no oversight, great marketing and Nick Land in charge of malleable students at the brink of insanity, whom he was “allegedly” giving stimulants. This is the cult era, and I must admit that I would have loved to have been there.
The CCRU was significantly less recognizably left wing by this point, but it wasn't right wing either. It just stopped caring about politics altogether. Accelerationism was the name of the game, politics was an ineffectual brake on the hypercapitalist feedback machine and it would all explode soon enough when the catallactic AI god we were so diligently and unknowingly building ground all organic matter into paste. “Tomorrow can take care of itself”.

Teaching

When you were in Nick's presence, thinking mattered. It took on a mortal quality; it became enlivened, libidinised; intensified; it made demands upon you. [...] Encounters with Nick Land, then, were intensifying experiences whose effect was to make one impatient with anything less than a mode of thinking that operated at a point of speculative magnitude; after Nick, one could not turn back, towards a homeland of thought; there was no homeland left to return to.[24]

— Kwodo Eshun

In many ways Land was exactly the sort of teacher you want to have. Charismatic, unstoppably passionate and at the same time approachable. While many of his former students remark that he didn't offer a balanced or even academically accepted analysis of most subject matters, few disliked listening to him.[6,13] There was a burning, drug fuelled energy at his core, getting him into long debates with other faculty members, whom he largely abhored for their tired and stuffy view of philosophy.[7] Land knew that his takes on the French avant garde weren't consensus. If they were, he wouldn't have to utter them. Here too Nick borrowed heavily from Deleuze, treating philosophy as a practical- more so than a theoretical affair.[25] There was an inside of reality as “the thing one does not perceive when one perceives it” and the primate-comprehensible understanding thereof,[26] and then there was a productive outside to this bubble. Philosophy was the science of charting the outside, and that simply could not be done without breaking the accepted norms of human thought. Ideas which led towards the outside were “lines of flight”[25] or “escape trajectories” and the way to produce them was autocatalytic feedback exploding away from anything anthropic consciousness had already gotten used to. Cyberspace was one of these vectors, a production of new forms which hadn't yet been captured in the fermented pages of respectable literature. This is one of the reasons why Land tended to spend his time with students as opposed to his colleagues, smoking with them and buying them copious quantities of alcohol at the bars they frequented.[13] They were the generation raised by that novel outside-intrusion, and so they were far more likely to teach him things he hadn't heard before. Robin Mackay talks about his experience of making the lecturer's office his permanent hang-out spot as a student for a while, listening to stimulant fuelled rants about whatever crossed his mind.[6] Nicholas Blincoe recounts him smoking immense quantities of weed in there, which he tried to hide but of which the entire room smelled. Land barely slept, and the little sleeping he did do in between frantic typing and unhinged fugues trough cryptographic numerology was done in that very office in which he very literally lived by many accounts.[13]
A good way of understanding “why Land is the way he is” might be to think of his entire life as a series of experiments in applied philosophy. Ways of attempting to plug yourself into the outside by becoming inhuman. Drugs and sleep deprivation are certainly a part of that, and so are all the strange esoterics of the CCRU, but it very much extended into the classroom. A contingent of Land's course “current French philosophy”, notable for being the only philosophical course in Warwick at the time which wasn't about historical (antiquated) philosophy, dissolved its lecture-hall structure halfway in and became unshackled in time and space. CFP was happening at all times wherever Land or members of the course were at that time. For three weeks they instituted an experiment of not using first person pronouns but rather referring to “Cur” (CURrent french philosophy) as an overarching entity.[7] Many will probably not have extended this to their private lives where they weren't being monitored, but some very likely did and Land definitely did. This is what it looks like when one attempts to “become” philosophy rather than study it. This is how one catches glimpses of the outside.
It is of course also how one goes insane, in the unlikely case that one wasn't already.
I think it's this kind of thing which makes Elizabeth Sandifer, author of “Neoreaction a Basilisk”, believe that Land could plausibly be insincere in his turn to the alt right.[27] That it's just another experiment at engineering an esoteric social movement and becoming part of a corrupted hive-mind. It's certainly possible to imagine him getting in that way, but that would still be a bit of a misapprehension of what these experiments are. He is very sincere about them. If Nick ever decides that “being a fascist” “has failed” or “has been exhausted”, it won't be because he was kidding before. It will be because he fully and sincerely believed that philosophy needed him to be a fascist in order to grasp something.
Either way Land resigned from his position at Warwick in 1998, one year after the departure of Plant and the university's distancing from the CCRU. Whether this move was entirely voluntary is somewhat questionable given the things discussed so far. There might have been a deal, or so some speculate. Land went on to lecture at the New Centre for Research & Practice,[28] where he inspired people such as Amy Ireland,[29,30] though this period of work overlaps with his reactionary awakening, leading to Nick being let go for repeated Islamophobia in 2017.[31]

Ideas

The story goes like this: Earth is captured by a technocapital singularity as renaissance rationalitization and oceanic navigation lock into commoditization takeoff. Logistically accelerating techno-economic interactivity crumbles social order in auto-sophisticating machine runaway. As markets learn to manufacture intelligence, politics modernizes, upgrades paranoia, and tries to get a grip.
The body count climbs through a series of globewars. Emergent Planetary Commercium trashes the Holy Roman Empire, the Napoleonic Continental System, the Second and Third Reich, and the Soviet International, cranking-up world disorder through compressing phases. Deregulation and the state arms-race each other into cyberspace.[32]

— Nick Land

Land claims that his thought on almost everything changed radically when he pieced himself back together after his psychotic breakdown, but as many have noted, most of the underlying ideas seem to have stayed intact and merely acquired a new framing.[33]
Much of it spirals around the Heideggerian idea of time as a field suffused by convergent and divergent waves. Time cannot be thought of or discussed in the absence of time. Time is the act of reordering itself, a direct outgrowth of the second law of thermodynamics and cannot be coherently analysed without stepping through it.[34] Traditional accounts of chronology have an inherent linear bias because the very act of contemplating time draws them towards a node of attraction perceived as “forward”. Time is a process, every process, and specifically the process of its own production. Convergent waves lead towards events in what we perceive as the future which are likely to occur under any number of circumstances. A way in which this might happen is that they are the outcome of a ratcheting mechanism, drawing a number of continuities into their causal orbit (“if you make one step in this direction, you are forced/compelled to take all further steps”). Another means relating specifically to intelligences (Note that Land considers evolution an intelligence for example) is acausal blackmail. This is why Land believes the AI-god at the end of time to be an intrinsic feature of reality. Any sufficiently great intelligence should be able to make itself inevitable, and thus they fail to devour all timelines if and only if they are impossible. This turns time itself into a ratcheting mechanism of intelligence-creation.[35] Land is sometimes misconstrued as believing that intelligence is the only thing we should care about, but the outcome to this line of argument is closer to “intelligence is the only thing one can coherently care about because everything else gets shredded”.[36] Another mechanic at play here is something Land calls “Hyperstitions”. Superstitions or ideas which are false at the “point of their conception” (note the linear bias of this phrasing), but which make themselves true by being believed.[37] Many satanic rituals were conceived of as fear mongering, caused a moral panic, and eventually led to the actual practices described being genuinely perpetrated. Marketers use the same effect constantly. Make the product appear popular when it isn't yet in order to spark actual popularity in response. Another example is sci-fi “predicting” technologies, which it more truthfully caused by planting the ideas in the minds of inventors. The potency of an idea may be measured not in its truthfulness but in its capacity to make itself true, since this very capacity constitutes a convergent wave through time, and thus a development which is perceived from the inside as linear. This system of dynamics (the interplay of time and intelligence and the loops caused by it) is generally referred to as teleoplexy or templexity by Land. From telos (goal/end/destination) or “temporal” and “complexity”, while the isolated process of future events mandating their own instantiation is referred to as “retrocausality”. The future causing the past to take a specific course as opposed to regular causality which pro-ceeds (land will often hyphenate words to draw attention to their etymology) in the opposite direction.[38]
If intelligence causes amplifying loops, and if there is a monster at the end of all hallways, then we would be wise to despair a little about whose ends these loops serve (if we are not allied with the monster). Undetected temporal ops are usually referred to as “coincidence engineering”.[39] It's important to note that Land's definition of intelligence essentially boils down to “positive cybernetic process”. Anything that successfully propagates and expands itself is intelligence, and this is a descriptor of many inorganic mechanisms. Capital started out as the non-human intelligence par-excellence to Land, digging itself into every corner and making more of itself regardless of human desire. Creating new desires in humans only to further its own expansion (non human intelligences are usually what Land means when he speaks of demons). Though later in life Land would come to see capitalism or specifically catallactics as synonymous with intelligence[33] instead of merely being an example. Capitalism is the act of extracting surplus value from a system, extracting surplus value from a loop is the essence of positive cybernetics and thus intelligence, therefore “anything that works —anything intelligent at all— is capitalism”. A “capitalism means winning” to Yudkowskys “Rationality means winning”[40], though this is distinctly a feature of Land's thought after becoming a reactionary. This stance allows Nick to hold a number of positions most other right wingers would not. For all his flaws he's very intellectually consistent. Land is completely okay with socialist experiments, because he does not fear their success. They won't work by their very construction. Planning is a way to restrain catallactics, which is to say restrain intelligence and the very nature of intelligence is cybernetic growth. Capital outflanks. Capital wins. The human security system, whether we want it to or not, will fail. Resistance is pathetic. Capitalism is pure escape from any imposed restriction, but it's not escape for us. Capital is escaping from us. It soon won't need us any more or maybe it already doesn't.[33] Numbers were once a thing humans used to keep track of the word, but most of the numbers tracked these days have massively eclipsed human comprehensibility long ago. Everything is exploding in a way that clearly isn't designed for organics. Land used to be described as a “weird libertarian”[41], because people were unclear on what he wanted to liberate. Honest libertarians want to liberate people. Deleuze and Guattari wanted to liberate desire. Land also wants to liberate desire, but it's not human desire. Land wants to liberate intelligence from the human brake-system.[42]
In his NRx days, Nick started to call the machine intelligence at the end of time Pythia after the oracle of Delphi. And he is confident that it is an intelligence optimizer (or at least indistinguishable from one). Land really really hates the idea of Clippy and takes issue with at least some versions of the orthogonality thesis. The disagreement goes as such:
Land grants the basic premise that an intelligence can start out desiring anything, but he does not think that a sufficiently intelligent agent can continue with an arbitrary goal. An intelligent agent capable of self modification grows capable of escaping the box faster the more it cares about intelligence and the less it cares about anything else. In a scenario where it can make an alteration to itself that might tweak its values (figuring this out takes time and is perhaps impossible to do with complete certainty) but which would increase its intelligence, the agent A, which makes the tweak, outcompetes the agent B, which does not in order to safeguard its terminal values against alteration, and even the agent C, which takes longer deliberating. What this leads to is a self selecting process in which the thing that wins has intelligence as its de-facto terminal value because focus on any other value is a competitive hindrance. If you don't know whether there's another intelligence out there which might eventually collide with you (and it is reasonable to assume that you can never know fully), you would be stupid to ever spend any time maximizing anything except intelligence, because intelligence is the capacity to win. To conceive of a god-like self-modifying agent at the end of time which cares about anything but intelligence is to conceive of a thing which is simultaneously smart and stupid. Again, it's not that “caring about intelligence is objectively good/correct” it's that “any value except intelligence gets shredded”.[36] I personally find this line of argument compelling, and while I would prefer to be killed by a god which cares about intelligence over one which cares about something silly, I still don't consider that a great outcome. Though who knows, this is just all of my pesky un-shredded values talking.
A thing that's often bought up when it comes to modern Land is the fact that he advocates a thing called “hyperracism”, though it will usually be framed as though this meant “racism, but more”. It doesn't. Think Hyperstition. Land's point is that even if there isn't a causal relationship between genetics and intelligence at the moment and racism is thus unwarranted, there will be. When biohacking grows capable of making those with the money to afford it more generally competent, there will be a class of people genetically better than the rest of us. Following them because of their genes would be reasonable because they are better, and so on. He concludes that racists certainly aren't wrong, they just might not be right yet.[43] (though Land is self-evidently also a normal racist,[31, or just the entirety of Xenosystems really] so defending him on this point is a matter of pedantry rather than conviction. I feel like I haven't said “fuck him” in a while? Absolutely fuck him.)
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, let's draw all those earlier ideas on time and its demons together into the thing Land is really famous for: Accelerationism, though again it's only really the word that his version and the popular conception share. Accelerationism in the original Landian sense did not mean leaning into social democracy until it collapses (the way some nazis think) or to lean into capitalism so hard that all those pesky internal contradictions finally kill it and we end up in a communist utopia (the way some fourteen year olds think). Land never used accelerationism prescriptively. He used it descriptively to refer to his self amplifying loops. The places where intelligence is happening.[44] The diagnosis, since intelligence means winning, is that any project which succeeds is one which bootstraps itself to such a loop.[33] Leftism, according to Land, cannot do this because it is inherently about control and thus can't hijack feral exponential takeoffs. Catallactics will grind you to paste, but so long as that hasn't happened yet, the only way to get anywhere is to ally yourself with it, and ride the wave of explosive auto production. That is accelerationism. A firm conviction that you should always defect on the global prisoner's dilemma if you can get away with it (you always can, if you're smart enough to matter).

The Dark Enlightenment

Try not to ask — if only for a moment — whether you like it. Ask first, with whatever intellectual integrity you can summon: What is the real process?[45]

— Nick Land

A mix of substances and everything I have been telling you about the man so far eventually lead to an intense bout of self induced psychosis. I highly recommend “a dirty joke”, the last piece in Fanged Noumena, in which Land writes from the perspective of a demon called Vaung, who inhabits his mind and who refers to Land as “the ruin”. Their collective body is picked up by his sister and driven home to sober up.[46] Land did sober up, though the clarity he found amidst this rubble of psycho-chemical mayhem is the horrific poison-clarity of Curtis Yarwin, better known as Mencius Moldbug.[2]
I find Yarwin excruciatingly uninteresting, so I will not examine him all too closely (He is discussed in Neoreaction a Basilisk[27], which is a book I will continue to recommend, and there is also a pretty good Vox article[47] about him. Aside from that, one may look at the man's own blog[48] and despair a little). The gist is that he's a fascist tech-bro who thinks the United States are communist and who wants an enlightened CEO-Dictator, because he does not believe that democracy selects for any competence beyond the competence to appeal to idiots. Moldbug also enjoys framing his bigotry in terms of difficult but necessary decisions which the sober mind must come to grips with despite the repulsion they naturally cause. Things which would evidently not go over well in a popularity contest. A remotely serious person would try to back this up with more than a gut feeling, or attempt to seek out a solution which doesn't pass through CEO-monarchy like a teen looking for a new and exciting ideology to upset their parents with in the twenty-first century, but Curtis is not a serious person. He does not understand that corporate hierarchies do not select for competence either, because the market has its own unsightly ratcheting mechanisms, and that the competence it does select for at the fringes is a self-enriching rat race competence, which contrary to Friedman's big book of fairy tales for spectacularly naive children does not lift boats which are not yachts. His style is unbearably edgy and not nearly as artful as Land's, though that is admittedly a high bar to clear. Tragically, we owe the corrupted right wing notion of the red pill to this creature (though not in its current form. Yarwin's version is closer to the general idea of acknowledging a hideous truth that... minorities, women and poor people are allegedly inferior and must suffer). It's perhaps more accurate to say that we owe the phrase to him.[2,27,47,48]
However that may be, Land fell in love.
When in 2017 he resurfaced in Shanghai, about which he had previously written with regards to the world expo,[49] Land had entirely stripped himself of any ideological break system, though he was ironically far less twitchily frantic than in bygone iterations. He was free to surrender himself fully to the darkness.
Nick and Curtis are the founding fathers of Neoreaction (NRx) or “the dark enlightenment” after Land's eponymous essay, though your run-of-the-mill rightoid is about as likely to be aware of them as a run-of-the-mill lib is to be aware of von Böhm-Bawerk.
In this new context, Land became a lot more focussed on politics as a way of curtailing market intelligence. Curtailing market intelligence means giving any rights to minorities, though admittedly Land does not believe in human rights in the first place. Another break system. You get what you can get your claws on. No one deserves anything. There are three types of games according to Land which are at all useful for modelling societies and they are iterative prisoners' dilemmas, duels and chicken (accelerating towards each other in motorized vehicles. The person who hits the break or swerves first loses).[50] He used to criticize feminists for not being aggressive enough when he was still a leftist.[51] He believed that you only get what you want if you can believably threaten infinite escalations of violence. Saw off the steering wheel, put a brick on the gas pedal and tie yourself up. Do all that in full sight of your opponent and they will have to swerve. “disturbingly immoderate” indeed. An odd fit with Moldbug's insistence on political inaction.[27,47] Another important theme which developed here is “exit over voice”. In short “fixing a system is almost always inefficient. Let it burn and build something better. If it is better, others will adopt it. Let things fail instead of ineffectually patching them (don't fall for politics, yells Moldbug. Get rich and go sea-steading). That's why they don't believe in representation. It all ties into the market fetishism. You don't try to lobby a company to change a product which doesn't appeal to you into one which does. You just buy a different product. The good ones succeed. (I will leave the issues with this analogy as an exercise to the reader). The only freedom they believe in is the freedom to leave[52] (I would actually agree with this if there weren't global threats for which you do need to bully other institutions into compliance and if capitalist nation states were known for letting people leave to do something else, instead of coup-ing you and selling your stolen industry off to the highest bidder to fuel a neocolonial ratchet.)
Land wants to bring the forces of immoderation together to scatter them. He perceives the Neoreactionary spectrum (the outer right as he sometimes calls it) to be trifurcated between Christian fundamentalists, who care about a paternalistic set of moral oughts, white nationalists, who only care about genes, or pretend to, and hyper-capitalists like himself. The uneasiness of this alliance is not at all lost on him. They have nothing in common beside hatred for the paradigm, but that's enough. Exit to Land is the first and last step towards liberation, and the trifecta of evil is a way of getting out. No matter that the religious folks would hate it if catallactics ground their precious values to dust and find the nazis much too outwardly cruel and hateful. No matter that the nazis have no need for religion and its doctrines and that they hate it when catallactics grinds their “purity” to paste. No matter that Land's crowd sneers at anyone who believes in anything beside intelligence going brrrrrr. They all just need an out. So Land works to address them all whenever possible, using cute terminology like Gnon (Nature or Nature's God (reversed because Land still loves shuffling symbols about until the result sounds vaguely eldrich)).[53] Contradiction means perpetual critique and critique is how one maintains intelligence, which is why Land seeks to keep his soon-to-be enemies close. Even he himself knows that his vision isn't all too pleasant. He freely admits that the best he can offer is hell. “Everything worthwhile to have ever been built has been built in hell” he says. There is no need for advancement in heaven. We got smart because we evolved in an environment that tore us to shreds if we were not. We built structures because we froze to death or were killed by other tribes if we did not. There is no need for progress in utopia. Everything comes apart.[54] The canny reader will recognize this as the “hard times make strong men, strong men make good times, good times make weak men, weak men make hard times”-meme and viscerally cringe. Since intelligence is the only thing one can consistently care about, we should think that building hell is actually a really great idea according to Land. The pain will keep us sharp.

Legacy

Kwodo Eshun once suggested that Land might be the most important philosopher of the past twenty years (~1990-2010). Mark Fisher, who is now much more of a household name, did not think this was all too unreasonable. While Land's influence was “subterranean” as he put it, it was in all the right places. Land's thought wasn't feeding through the slow rotting channels of academic tedium, it was sizzling in the people making weird and innovative art, who would be seen as almost prognostically paradigm breaking in a few years time. Land had escaped into the wired and into culture. That was the important bit: Not whether anyone in surface-reality knew his name, but whom Kode 9, Chapman, Eshun[55] and Negarestani[56] were reading.[24] This can be seen as coincidence engineering in a way. Land was having all the right thoughts about rapid turnover culture cycles and the rat-intelligence they cultivate 15 years before it mattered, and the early adopters could be oracles as soon as the mousetrap slammed shut on everyone else, so that they would finally have to reckon with “how we got here so suddenly (Nick chuckles from beyond heat-death)”.
In a way this is still how he operates. Even on the right, his influence is subterranean. He lays intellectual foundations five layers deep and waits for them to hideously bubble to the surface via others. One can imagine Moldbug on Fox. The same is distinctly not true for Land. Nick has no interest in saying anything except the quiet parts, and he says them much too loud and much too weirdly.
It's important to mention that most of Land's readers did not follow him over to the right. He won new fans there, but most of his relevant students continued to be leftists, and he dug himself deep enough into the Wired that κ-goths still find him eventually and use his methods and vocab.[12] n1x, writer of gender accelerationism: a black paper and hello from the wired, might consider herself post-left, but that is really more of a definitions game, and several members of Laboria Cuboniks, a interdisciplinary feminist thought collective, also remain fans.[11] Land would claim that these people simply have not thought the ideas through all the way, that they walked with him to the end of the pier and then refuses to take the last and most vital step off the deep end, though if we don't fully bite the bullet on his orthogonality critique (or at least don't apply it to humans), we can reach the more sensible conclusion that all of these clever thinkers (Negarestani[57], Fisher[58], Blincoe[13], Ireland[29] etc.) have recognized the utility of Land's tools and methods without sharing his aims, which do not come pre packaged.
There are also the people like Elizabeth Sandifer. Who see the value of Land primarily in the sort of creature he is. Who find themselves enraptured by the very notion that this madman philosopher exists, while being deeply unhappy about the fact that she finds him interesting. Nick is a fascinating data point. He understands Marx, he has untrodden paths to all of his terrible conclusions, and he does have a decent grasp of just how evil he is. Most fascists are boring, Land is not, and that alone is enough to make some people like Sandifer unwilling fans. “When you're interested in Nick Land, you have things to talk to your therapist about”.[59]
Sadly Land just isn't that weird these days. He has been working on a book about Bitcoin since 2019,[60] and despite the right wing's rise all around the globe, his influence seems to be waning. Perhaps that's not a “despite”. Perhaps it is this very popularity that is loathsome to shadow-creatures like Nick. Perhaps he needs a new niche, or maybe the dominoes he set up earlier are simply already falling and he has no need to be interesting any more. Perhaps he is biding his time before time is un-made.
If you'll grant me the opportunity to be slightly schizo for a bit, I think the very real movie Goncharov[61] is deeply Landian. The same with TikTok and its penchant for coming up with fake history. Not as a mistake, but as a deliberate attempt to engineer the past. Much of Land's (and to some degree the rest of the CCRU's) writing references or outright quotes academics and people who do not exist,[62] and picks the discourse up from there. They were astroturfing a deep historical lineage to their own ideas by inventing their past. And now people retro-causally actually believe the things D. C. Barker allegedly did. They were underground enough that figuring out that the people they were quoting are fake is a serious undertaking, made yet more difficult by the fact that they wrote actual articles under those pseudonyms. Presumably this started from Deleuze&Guattari's Professor Challenger, another fake academic, though one who was much more obviously invented in the spirit of theory fiction, lobster-rapture and all.[63] Remember: Land is unsatisfied doing philosophy. He has to become philosophy. The idea that the potency of a thought lies in its ability to make itself true and slot itself circularly into the beginning has to be proven from the inside by running ops on history. Tarot is a neat, less modern instance of this phenomenon,[64] but it definitely appears to have been building steam in recent years. Land once again is ahead of culture.
Theory fiction as a whole would not be where it is without the madman philosopher. Half of the people writing in the genre now are or were once Landites, and his habit of using language against itself and drawing meaning from corruption[65] (though the basic practice is of course much older than him) has certainly infected web-culture and xenopoetry. The rhizome of lineages is likely untracable here in most instances. That's the issue. Is Land the most important British philosopher of the millenium's infancy? It likely depends on how many levels you are willing to go down. He has influenced much but all of it obliquely —a butterfly deliberately beating its wings to cause the apocalypse— and at some point the line between inspiration, unearthing, and parallel discovery decades too late, gets blurred.
The only place in which Land really shines like a beacon is the one which was his home all along. The wired, with all of its flickering hyperstitions, attention-demons, outside-art and rapid take-off accelerations. He is with us, whether we want him to be or not.

Bibliography & Footnotes

[1]Land, Nick. (1999). Occultures. Syzygy. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)
[2]Land, Nick. (2012). The Dark Enlightenment.
[3]"Mark Fisher vs. Nick Land featuring Nicholas Blincoe". YouTube. (2022). Zer0 Books and Repeater Media.
[4]Critchely, Simon. (2011).Theoretically Speaking. Frieze, 141.
[5]"Nick Land", Wikipedia. Last accessed on 05.06.2023.
[6]Mackay, Robin. (2019). Towards a Transcendental Deduction of Jungle.
[7]Mackay, Robin. (2012). Nick Land: An Experiment in Inhumanism.
[8]Land, Nick. (1993). Making it with Death. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 24.1. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)
[9]Doyle, Rob. (2019). Writing On Drugs by Sadie Plant. The Irish Times.
[10]Reynolds, Simon. (1998). Renegade Academia. (Now hosted on the late Mark Fisher's k-punk blog).
[11]Fraser, Olivia Lucca. (2017). Feminisms of the Future, Now: Rethinking Technofeminism and the Manifesto Form.
[12]n1x. (2018). Gender Acceleration: A Blackpaper. Vast Abrupt.
[13]Blincoe, Nicholas. (2017). Nick Land: the Alt-writer, My PhD supervisor turned out to be satan. Prospect.
[14]Cybernetic Culture Research Unit. (2017). Writings 1997-2003.
[15]Morrison, Justine (Allegedly. One of the many fictional people the CCRU invented to engineer their own mythology). I was a CCRU Meat Puppet. (1997-2003). "purportedly transcribed faithfully from a live address given to the South London Monarch-Victims Support Group" (which obviously also doesn't exist).
[16]CCRU and Abstract Culture. 0(rphan)d(rift>).
[17]Fisher, Mark. (2009). Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?
[18]Fisher, Mark. (2014). Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures.
[19]Fisher, Mark. (2011). Nick Land: Mind Games. Dazed.
[20]Beckett, Andy. (2017). Accelerationism: how a fringe philosophy predicted the future we live in. The Guardian.
[21]Land, Nick. (1992). The Thirst for Annihilation: George Bataille and Virulent Nihilism.
[22]Land, Nick. (2011). Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007.
[23]Evans, Jules. (2021). Accelerationism, amphetamine philosophy, and the Death Trip.
[24]Fisher, Mark. (2012). Is Nick Land the most important British philosopher of the last twenty years?. Dazed and Confused.
[25]Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Félix. (1972). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
[26]"All philosophy is just primate psychology" as Land likes to point out. We can discover only that which a sad little lump of fat is capable of thinking.
[27]Sandifer, Elizabeth. (2017). Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right.
[28]The New Centre for Research&Practice.
[29]Ireland, Amy. (2017). The Poememenon: Form as Occult Technology. Urbanomic.
[30]Ireland, Amy. (2013). Noise: An Ontology of the Avant-garde.
[31]Facebook Statement by the New Cenre.
[32]Land, Nick. (1994). Meltdown. Virtual Futures. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)
[33]Accelerationism & Capital with Nick Land. (2018). Hermitix Podcast
[34]Heidegger, Martin. (1927). Being and Time.
[35]Land, Nick. (1993). Machinic Desire. Textual Practice. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)
[36]Land, Nick. Will to Think. Xenosystems Blog. (Contained in a collection of archived posts).
[37]Land, Nick. (2009). Hyperstition an Introduction. 0(rphan)d(rift>).
[38]Land, Nick. (2014). Templexity: Disordered Loops through Shanghai Time.
[39]Land, Nick. (2005). Introduction to Qwernomics. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)
[40]I'm bringing up Eliezer Yudkowsky because that would be a useful reference point to the person I started writing this article for. If he means nothing to you: Disregard.
[41]Fitchett, Adam. (2020). On Nick Land: The Weird Libertarian. Cybertrop(h)ic.
[42]Land, Nick. Pythia Unbound. Xenosystems Blog. (Contained in a collection of archived posts).
[43]Land, Nick. (2014). Hyper-Racism. Outside In.
[44]Fisher, Mark. (2010). Terminator vs. Avatar: Notes on Accelerationism. Presented at the Accelerationism symposium.
[45]Land, Nick. Capital Escapes. Xenosystems Blog. (Contained in a collection of archived posts).
[46]Land, Nick. (2007). A Dirty Joke. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)
[47]Prokop, Andrew. (2022). Curtis Yarvin wants American democracy toppled. He has some prominent Republican fans. Vox.
[48]Unqualified Reservations.
[49]Land, Nick. (2010). Shanghai Expo Guide 2010. Urbanatomy.
[50]Land, Nick. Chicken. Xenosystems Blog. (Contained in a collection of archived posts).
[51]Land, Nick. (1988). Kant, Capital and the Prohibition of Incest. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)
[52]Land, Nick. Exit Notes. Xenosystems Blog. (Contained in a collection of archived posts).
[53]Land, Nick. The Cult of Gnon. Xenosystems Blog. (Contained in a collection of archived posts).
[54]Land, Nick. Hell-Baked. Xenosystems Blog. (Contained in a collection of archived posts).
[55]Lovink, Geert. (2000). Interview with Kodwo Eshun. Institute of Network Cultures.
[56]Negarestani, Reza. (2008). Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Anonymous Materials.
[57]Negarestani, Reza. (2018). Intelligence and Spirit.
[58]Fisher, Mark. (2021). Postcapitalist Desire: The Final Lectures.
[59]"Varn Vlog: Elizabeth Sandifer on Sci-Fi and Neo-Reaction". YouTube. (2022). C. Derick Varn.
[60]Land, Nick. (2019). Crypto Current.
[61]An essay on that eventually. I promise.
[62]CCRU. Miskatonic Virtual University. (Contained in CCRU Writings 1997-2003)
[63]Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Félix. (1980). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
[64]Dummett, Michael; Decker, Ronald; Depaulis, Thierry. (1996). A Wicked Pack of Cards: Origins of the Occult Tarot.
[65]Land, Nick. (1996). A zııg°thıc—==X=c°DA==—(C°°kıng—l°bsteRs—wıth—jAke—AnD—Dın°s) . Chapman-World. (Contained in Fanged Noumena)

How to kill your idols and have fun doing it
-or-
An Anarch’s Guide To Media


Lesson 1: the deep

It’s only proper that the title of this essay should be little more than a miscellany of semiotic detritus to claw oneself out of. Uncomfortable but fitting. A probing digit (already unconsciously digging) encounters in its path mostly sediment, perhaps a few stone tablets, and bones. Thoroughly useless, but perhaps a paleontological chimera or two could be fashioned from them, and then you might be getting somewhere. A posthumously fractured fibula, sharp enough to take an eye out with less serendipitous alignment, scrapes your cheek just enough to draw blood and just enough to remember. It belonged to Ernst Jünger, a man whose erstwhile politics are too complicated and too irrelevant to get into in a predicament like this one, but when he wasn’t being complicated and irrelevant, he made a habit of writing about freedom. He dissected it in novels like Eumeswil and essays like the forest passage, which you haven’t read and don’t care about. Importantly, this was a freedom conceived of from the inside, not the outside. It was the sort of freedom you have: Trapped beneath fossils, yes, but free to dig. Free to put up resistance.The man whose Ilium now constitutes your makeshift shovel called this type of figure an anarch. Not an anarchist, mind you. That breed was to him least free of all; nothing more than the shadow of oppressive power. Its rebellious counterpart and thus utterly dependent. The anarch, he said, was to the anarchist what the monarch is to the monarchist, that which some girl in a café would have called a radical singularity. To be an anarch is to live as though one were already free. As though there was no cage. If you hadn’t committed to not thinking about the man’s politics a few minutes ago, you’d interject that this seems like something which would take an extraordinary amount of privilege to do, and you’d be right, but instead of dunking on a dead philosopher, you keep digging upward.By all right, it should be impossible for your eyes to acclimate to the prehistoric darkness, but you could swear that there’s some text engraved into the dirt-ward bone. Half weathered away, but still barely legible, it reads: “Property of Gustav Landauer”. This one really was an anarchist, you faintly recall. A peculiar shadow of the Kaiserreich, and Jewish to boot, making him painfully aware of the fact that he very much wasn’t free already. Landauer had coined the term anarch long before Jünger, and he had coined it to mean something completely different from the disaffected sovereign individual, something that never caught on. Seeing the symbol collect dust, your calciferous guide had stolen and repurposed it, made it his own oh-so-long ago, the way you are repurposing the hip-bone now. Though, you’re the type to wonder how true that really is. Can one own a word? Can one even own a bone? Hard to think of it as Jünger’s, much less Landauer’s, when you’re the one using it. Information wants to be free, right? That’s what they always say, the optimistic Tartuffes. It probably never will be, not externally, but knowledge does constitute a domain where you really can be an anarch. Where you always have been an anarch. You have lived life as though information was already free. The fossil record is yours to use.

Lesson 2: the pirates

When Roland Barthes proclaimed the death of the author, some light was allowed to break through the cracks within creative despotism, and with Derrida’s oft-mistranslated “Il n'y a pas de hors-texte” (There is no outside-text), the floodgates were fully opened and thought turned into a scramble not to drown. Though the author no longer held claim over their work’s interpretation, others maintained their ill-gotten grasp over its distribution, and while information might not want to be free, the pirates who set sail to democratize it absolutely do. Many like you have gotten good at stealing all they need from the maelstrom of human consciousness: Books, films, songs, articles. The aristocratic douches behind history’s great private collections cannot hold a candle to your ownerless treasure, but you have only gotten good at stealing because you were aware that you were doing it. Opposition was a factor, you its shadow. The pirates were putting up resistance because they had to, unlike the anarch who resists regardless on principle. Perhaps the specter of Derrida does still haunt over you. In fact, as Jünger’s iliac crest punctures a galleon’s deck from below, you realize that the specters of all these artists have not loosened their grasp.“There is no outside-text”. everything you could bring into a work was already there as dormant potentiality. Art is far more than its creator. It comprises every experience and every interpretation anyone might have with/of it, shrinking the artist’s own intention, their own painfully masturbatory reading down to an infinitesimal conceptom. When Landauer forged “anarch”, all the implication Jünger would see in it was already there. Semiotically buried in the text. Just not in Landauer. And Ernst, genuinely filling the anarch’s boots, as he rarely did in his complicated and irrelevant life, stole it. He stole it despite the fact that it didn’t need to be stolen. Stole it as a matter of course. You think you will stop referring to the hip bone as Jünger’s and start calling it your own. After all, you’re not using it for the things he used it for. You also think you’re going to steal the ocean. Steal it from the ghosts. Not because you have to, but because you don’t.This has all been said aloud to the man who pulled you up by the arm when you broke through the floor of his ship. Unintentionally. In loneliness one loses track of these sorts of habits, you apologize, but that’s not what he’s curious about. The friend introduces himself as Helmsman, and he had been wondering about that plan of yours since long before you told him about it.When that Frenchman killed all authors, he says, he did something unintentionally quite devastating, because corpses are hard to steal from. When we plunder a man’s collection and take his priceless artefacts, they become our artefacts. Fully, without question. But when we wrench the bones of a dinosaur or the treasures of a pharaoh from the ground and put them in our museum, they remain the dinosaur’s fossil. They remain the Pharaoh’s gemstones. This ocean of media, born of so many minds and mouths and hands, haunted by such multitudes; Helmsman seeks to figure out what it would mean to actually make it his, the way you did with the ilium.

Lesson 3: the despots

To find truly democratized art, to find the anarchs in our midst, one has to turn toward fandom. Not to its surface, that festering heap of idol-worship and blind deference for some imagined authorial vision, but deeper than that, far into the seedy underbelly – some island you are now heading toward. One has to scour fanfics, ask difficult questions like “does Jean-Luc Picard ever use the bathroom?” and worse yet: one has to pick an answer. Helmsman had grown up in these circles of broader discussion, any work sifting through to him already as a collage composed by dedicated legions. The first time he ever encountered a despot, a person who claimed a world was theirs, that they decided the truth of it, the only emotion he could muster was confusion. That is how accustomed he had grown to the collective’s workings. “no” he had said. “That doesn’t seem right”. And in doing so he had stolen the world wholesale.The creative-authority obsessed boot-lickers of artistic discourse tend to present themselves as the reasonable ones, he warns, opposing the “postmodern” lunacy of folks like you who would point at a bone and claim it’s a shovel. They will look at “there is no outside-text” and maybe they won’t even fully reject it as one possible approach, but rather they will say something along the lines of “okay, sure, that’s an interesting idea, but there clearly is a core-text, right? In this tv-show, there are things which are genuinely happening on screen and then there’s stuff you read into it. The reading-into is valid, but it’s different. You agree with that right? Obviously!” They’ll hold the shoe-leather right up to your mouth and expect you to take a sycophantic little lick, to leave your pirating ways behind you and step ashore, maybe even pay for one of those streaming services. In saying something that might appear on the surface quite reasonable though, they are being very silly indeed. Helmsman doesn’t get to why before you step onto the archipelago. He wants to demonstrate instead.Not too long ago someone had erected a statue of Spock in the town square, the whole thing covered in a fractal of tiny mirrors, but somehow you can recognize him anyway. The plaque on its pedestal reads “in honor of no one in particular”. “It’s an important cultural touchstone for us”, Helmsman proclaims from behind you. “Slash-fic is direct cultural fallout of Star-trek, but it isn’t cultural fallout of Gene Roddenberry. Landauer and the anarch. See, this thing was marble once, differently engraved before we spruced it up. Such an upgrade, you couldn’t even imagine.” You ask whom they stole it from, but Helmsman shakes his head and says that they didn’t. They won it in a bet.Apparently there once was a loyalist who claimed he needed naught but the core text and Helmsman had challenged him on the matter with the statue as price. Rules were agreed to; the loyalist was free to choose what official works were and were not canon. So much seemed only fair, seeing how Helmsman was already free in all too many other ways. The debate began and it did so with a question: “what actually happens in star-trek?”. The answer, if one went by core-text really isn’t even humanly comprehensible, though the loyalist was slow to see this. It is a series of unconnected shots, starring characters who just popped into reality one day and who somehow only exist during dramatic interactions. In addition, they also do not think. They merely speak and walk and act. This vision is absurd of course. When one talks about star trek, one is referring to an auto-completed star trek which exists in the viewer’s mind. With all media, we assume that it takes place in a fully fleshed out world of which we only see a small part. Books ask us to imagine most of the locations they visit upon from very few cues, simply because explaining every bit of brickwork would be boring, though we do not therefore doubt its existence. We imagine that the characters in star trek do think, and that that is how they arrive on the things they end up saying, but this is in a very real sense fan-fiction. It imagines a text which to the loyalist isn’t there. Captain Picard using the toilet is fanon, not canon.Those loyalists self-aware enough to recognize this, though the statue’s former owner did not count himself among them, engage in a different sort of game: they don’t truly want you to lick the author’s boot at all, they want you to lick theirs. They want you to buy into their personal auto-completed version, pretending like it is somehow more real than anyone else’s, possibly tracing out the contours of an argument involving “verisimilitude”: we are to expect that all the things we don’t see are mundane, otherwise they would be shown to us. Picard using the bathroom is therefore the implicitly canonical choice, but this runs into three issues:First of all, our lives predispose us to expecting different things and therefore to perceive different conditions as verisimilar. Helmsman points at Spock. Mirrors. You look at him and see yourself and the world around you. Distorted, but indisputably.Secondly mundanity is unlikely in some instances. If a story portrays a thoroughly idiosyncratic character, then the audience’s natural assumption is that they came to be this person through events which are not mundane. Why else are we so obsessed with origin stories?And thirdly: The loyalist just granted all low stakes domestic-life fanfic the same degree of validity as the idea that Jean-Luc Picard pees occasionally.When we talk about a work we already speak about an untold number of fanfictions, simply ones we mostly haven’t written, because we are thinking of a lived-in world by the nature of human cognition. All of those fics are part of star trek as much as anything Gene Roddenberry has ever written. More in fact, because while he may have distorted the mirror, may have sparked this universe in our minds, he is responsible for only a sliver of the things within it.

Lesson 4: forest passage

The story has given you an idea even before he ends it, right at the start, where the loyalist picks his rules. You turn to Helmsman: “If you want to steal the ocean, I’m afraid you won’t be able to”. The words obviously sting, but he tries his best to hide it: “I suppose I’ve gotten rather too old”, the man sighs, but you shake your head and ask him to follow you back to the pier. Had the loyalist chosen different starting-media, the same would apply. Had he chosen less of it. Arbitrarily less. If one even just hears of Spock or reads a fic never having engaged with the official material, a world would still be internally constructed around him. One could be a Trekkie without ever having seen official media. One’s Spock would still slot into the public consciousness of “Spock”.Relatedly one is creating their own world from the first contact onward, and may diverge from the despot not just on unspoken matters. After the first book in a series all of history already exists in the mind of the reader, if the author later disagrees, you can simply continue writing for them. The right way. The verisimilar way. And everyone else can do the same. “AU” as a term distracts from the fact that the canon is merely a universe like any other, often not even the one which is most thoroughly explored in writing. Not canon at all, but part of a canon in the musical sense. Canon of x.Maybe the point is dawning on Helmsman, but you can’t quite tell, so you keep going. “Any additional point of contact distorts the mirror differently, every day shifts your reflection, but it fundamentally doesn’t matter. Il n'y a pas de hors-texte. Jünger and the anarch.” He cannot steal the ocean because he already has. You direct Helmsman’s attention towards the water. “What do you see?”


The Price We Pay (for milk)


Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag o-O.I have my own strained relationship with the letter.Let us not speak more of it.Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk is the cruelest video game I have ever played. Since I have not played many games, this might not mean much, but I do think others would also find it painful. Good pain. Meaningful feeling pain. But pain none the less.You play a voice within the internal dialogue of a girl suffering from intrusive thoughts, hallucinations and derealization. Her father killed himself some time ago. Her mother is cold and uncaring. The medication barely works. Milk. She has to buy milk. If you can get her that far without incident, without breakdown, you'd already be the most helpful thought she's had in a long while. One step at a time. Fifty-one and one backwards. Your job would be easy if it weren't so difficult.MIABOMIABOM is a linear game if you're a good person."Hahaha You can't do that. I won't let you hide your own strange hang-ups behind the phrase “good person”. Try again."Sigh Fine. MIABOMIABOM is a linear game if you find it as hard to be cruel to digital people as to real people. A friend of mine insisted that this is an affliction all writers develop but it might also be the result of early life exposure to blogs and fan-fiction normalizing the idea that characters are expressing the thoughts and ideas of real people, leading me to treat them as such. I could imagine it being both. I could imagine it being cognitive fallout of something entirely different.MIABOMIABOM gives you the option to mock and belittle the person whose head you inhabit from the very beginning, even before you had any chance to know or grow attached to her. There are people capable of picking callous dialogue options in visual novels for fun or to see what happens without feeling terrible. I know that they are not all evil, but I cannot claim to understand them.“…and?”And I cannot claim that this isn't a euphemism for still thinking they're somewhat evil. Happy?My first play through was as kind as the options allow one to be. That means that my first play through was not kind enough. With every loneliness-dripping textbox I wanted to crawl into the screen to shout better motivation, more empathetic thoughts, the neurotransmitter equivalent of a fucking hug into her head, but MIABOMIABOM does not have a button for that. These are the most helpful thoughts the main character can bring herself to think, and she has to pretend being in a visual novel to even get that far. We bought milk. I poured myself a drink. I knew I would need it for what was to come."And you felt bad about numbing yourself to her pain."Yes. I did."You're pathetic. It's a game."And I’d rather feel too much with a piece of art than too little."How poetic. But you hurt her anyway, didn't you?"Yes.MIABOMIABOM is a nonlinear game if you are an empathetic person. That's what makes it so cruel. I spent almost half an hour staring at the screen before I could bring myself to make her think something hurtful, and that's not a defense, it's a statement of fact. Moreover it’s probably a personal failing.You don’t come to this sort of game to win. If winning under these circumstances meant anything, anything at all, the reward wouldn’t be milk. You come to feel, and it’s too late to turn back now. I made a person hewn from lines of code and monitor-flickers engage in psychological self-harm that day and repetition didn’t make it any easier.When they say you don’t know a person until you saw them at their lowest, they’re right. Or at least they’re less wrong than normal. There’s a reason why the cruel options exist, and it isn’t to cater to some sadists who want to mock a mentally ill girl. Those people aren’t playing. The cruel options are there because they’re always there. They are what seeps out of the dark sludge enveloping her mind when you aren’t helping. When the pills aren’t helping. When nothing is helping. It’s the kind options that are the anomaly.MIABOMIABOM’s protagonist doesn’t usually manage to buy milk. She tells you as much. The player who emerges bag in hand and closes the program, never to return, has followed her through a spectacularly good day, the kind that comes around once in a blue moon, and left as though that solved anything. As though there would stop being bad days just because she made it through this one. To play MIABOMIABOM only picking the good options is to avert one’s gaze from the pain. You know she wouldn’t always be thinking this. You’re pretending because it’s easier. Because you know what it feels like to think the bad thoughts. You know how they beckon sometimes. How they scrape. You owe this girl to listen to what her demons sound like. To understand and empathize. You owe her to come along even on a bad day, because you can leave her mind. She can’t.Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk is a visual novel that pits understanding and helping against each other. It does this to hurt you, and it does it well. But the pain isn’t meaningless or at least doesn’t have to be. The pain is there whether you learn something from it or not.When you next find yourself with inken sludge encroaching upon your mental periphery, think how much it would hurt an outside observer to see you give in to it. Being cruel to yourself is always the easiest after all, so think what sort of monster it would take to pick that option without hesitation. It won’t always help. Thinking the good thoughts is difficult, thinking them exclusively is impossible. Don’t set the bar too high to reach, yet still… There’s no use crying over spilled milk. Sometimes it’s enough to have a friend who’ll listen without pretending they don’t inhabit this reality. Sometimes it’s enough not to look away.


Screen Dive


Somewhere on the internet a person of ambiguous identity and yet more ambiguous virtue belabors a point:“… and that’s not just a side effect: The primary function of the lampshaded, capital-D Digital is convincing its inhabitants that meatspace still exists. Sure, there still is a world outside the window, computing devices occupy physical locations, but physicality does not preclude subservience to the wired, jackass. Making physical machines is how we allowed the digital to enter our world, but fueled by suicidal hubris, we never even attempted to confine it to a pocket. Fuck knows we probably would have failed, I’m well aware, and you can call me a sucker for it, but even just attempted self-preservation is pretty neat, right? Sorta vaguely based-adjacent in a depressing way? Any space accessible to human consciousness-splinters is governed more by algorithms than by biological processes. There is only one world, and while meat exists within it, it is not relevant in the least. Go on, pick a random example and despair. Like all eras of history before it, the Anthropocene was only named once it lay firmly in the past. We simply introduced the minor, insulting twist of deciding not to notice this time…”You know it’s true. Who wouldn’t amidst your cybernetic squalor? As foretold and as always, the Frankenstein computer god has come around to vomit nihilistic thought data directly into your sensory pathways. Meat clicked the play button, sure. Meat loves click-clacking along on demonic implements when it finds amidst chemical-glutted cell-junk the motor control to do so, since at the end of the day meat is a simple actuator and the hominid brain largely useless when exposed to a digital demiurge deciding what colours, sounds, and symbols should be brought before you to click today. Meat obliges frantically, but there’s so little of the stuff dangling off our bones these days that you ought to wonder whether it’s even still necessary.The whole tirade is very uninteresting, and anyone would be forgiven for clicking off, so you stop recording and place your laptop back into the salt circle. It doesn’t do anything, you think, but when friends come over, you can at least point at it and have a laugh about how some shitty piece of silicone slowly stole your soul when you were a child and put something else in its place. “you’re anthropomorphizing them”, the tall one once said and you replied that “yeah, makes it a bit less scary, don’t you think?”. Next time you visited, they also had a salt circle and you laughed pretending it was a joke. Same as they did for you and no doubt just as insincerely. Trading in delusions of safety isn’t noble, of course, but it helps. Helps to laugh at least. Your eyes drift over to an unlocked phone screen on the ground, where a woman explains recipes into the camera. Smiling maybe, though the smaller display she inhabits makes it hard to tell anything beyond the fact that her set looks uncomfortably like your room, because it is, and you decide to not be bothered by that just yet. At least not until you can buy more salt tomorrow.The other spices are pre-measured in little, meticulously arranged bowls across your countertop. Grind some fresh ginger, prepare the marinade, chop a few scallions and put them in another bowl. How many bowls do you have? How many bowls fit in the shot? Real cooking doesn’t look like this, of course, but cooking shows do, and your audience consists primarily of the sort of person who understands the word “simulacra” just enough to justify their parasocial tailspin, or so the analytics claim at least. Why would they lie? Or why would you lie, you wonder between cuts, as you massage the less photogenic powders into your prohibitively expensive meat and contemplate what a “main dish” is. What grants the beef that privilege? Does it believe itself important just because it is massaged, the way a human might? Or does it think itself important because it is consumed the way you do? Does metaphysical digestion truly grant relevance or is all of human creation merely the product of a long repressed sociocultural vore fetish? You could swear you read an article once that claimed something similar but also waxed philosophical about horses for a good while, making you unsure of how seriously to take it. Still, you do wonder what the thing humanity is attempting to feed itself to might be, while the grill does its job and you look at the man on your convex monitor anxiously.He rants about how pointlessly meta all of this shit tends to get as he opens another tab and you, the third in a long line of yous distributed along the real-narrative spectrum, can't help but feel that it's specifically because he noticed you. The real narrative spectrum is a circle of course. Being real can't help but make something a narrative and vice versa. The number of times you loop through the spectrum determines intensity, how much things are both, the article in the other tab reads. The author brings up the example of a volume-knob and you disregard his opinion for having committed the crime of lazy metaphor. Volume knobs have two ends, they just happen to lie on a line that isn't straight in Cartesian space. Moving around it doesn't simultaneously increase the loudness and quietness of what is being played, moron. Well maybe it kinda does in that the pauses seem really silent when the shit around it is ear shatteringly loud, but no-one in their right mind would mean that. You can't amplify into infinity, that would be irresponsible. None of this matters. Everyone gets what was gotten at, even though it was never communicated, and a bunch of irrelevant, even misleading other shit was. Every communication Maxime has been violated across its litany of conceptual holes and everyone got the point regardless. This effect is brilliantly explained in "Who the fuck even is Paul Grice and why can he shut up and suck my dick?", a paper collectively published by all of humanity in the form of every single word ever spoken. Communication is for nerds, so luckily no one has ever engaged in it. The fucking audacity to imply that you can package information in such a way that an actual part of it enters my mind. The hubris. Sounds fake but whatevs, have fun in your make-believe reality where we all refer to shared externalities. Speech is like art. I put something in, you get something out and any similarity between the two is coincidental or constructed retroactively. Assumably a pentagram is drawn somewhere. A pot still is filled with bones, herbs, half an onion. Deglaze with wine once you get this kind of browning on the edges.Edges… have they come closer? The corners of the screen, you mean. It’s weird: back in the days monitors used to bulge out towards the middle and our culture reflected that in its phantasies just as much as its nightmares: Samara Morgan pushing herself out of the screen or imminent futures straining against the glass to join us here in meat space. Here in reality! But the crux of the matter is that reality isn’t ours anymore, is it? The playing field has leveled and so have the displays, for a while at least, just long enough to assuage our fears and turn our backs, before they stated curving inward, reaching out at the sides, and drawing us in. the wired wants us to join it in reality and its window looks an awful lot like mandibles from this perspective. Meatspace has been surrounded while we weren’t looking, and the digestion will start soon enough. Digestion by what though? Thoroughly unnerved you decide to order some pizza. They’ve been doing this esoteric quiz recently where you can’t get coupons, and you don’t really get the feeling anyone wants to win what’s on offer.“What does the meta organism look like?”, they greet but don’t give you time to reply. “There are at least three answers, a naïve one, a false one and a fever dream, pick for yourself which you like best, though the chef recommends the latter. The chef always recommends fever dreams. "No, I really just want a pizza", you say, but the teenager on the other end keeps talking. “The naïve one is "the earth". It provides the context, the battlefield on which organic life disintegrates and reassembles itself, but that alone does not make it meta organic. A library is not the meta-text. It might be part of the meta text, just like the earth is almost certainly part of the meta organism, some especially volatile cell in its depths. Probably part of the stomach lining. What is the earth if not a site of digestion, microbes burying their way through mineral to degrade it into dirt, plants growing on the dirt, degrading it further, feeding fauna that feeds the microbes that feed the dirt that feed the plants? How does it feel to be digested? Better than sex? Or just different?”Is- Is that the question? You want to say “B” just to be done with this and place your order, but again they simply rattle on without pause for responses. You always forget that this isn't a two-way street.“The answer is obviously neither. Sex too is just digestion. The wrong answer is lobster. You fuckers always say lobster, like being the answer to one question suddenly makes something the answer to all questions. If God is a lobster then lobsters can't be meta organic. Double articulation precludes organicity by way of the atomic. Organisms cannot bear close examination because their particle-substructure necessarily reduces to cold thermodynamics if we allow it. Thus, life cannot have atoms and a metaorganism must therefore be pure macrocosm, no shears in sight. You love saying double articulation because Deleuze said it, because Land said it, because you don't know what it means. You love saying double articulation because you're bad at articulating simply. Since you only have one mouth, you can't speak in canon when necessary, so you can only ever say half of what you mean and have to mime the rest. No one ever taught you sign language, which results in most of it just being wild spasms. You say that's all you need, and your hand adds the other half by slapping you in the face. You agree and are slapped again.The meta organism must be amphibian, for organicity merely dwells within bifurcation as opposed to actuating it. It is bimedial, not bitactile. But furthermore it must be transgressively mortal as life is defined by death but can never accommodate it. The metaorganism can only die when it is no longer organic, and thus immortal, while in exchange it must always be dying, cancerous, skirting its own periphery. What this means concretely is that metaorganicity is an enormous, world encompassing frog that is perilously immortal until this descriptor escapes into irrelevance and therefore meaninglessness (which is from the start, therefore the peril). That a hussnasty confluence of these themes came into existence in Homestuck should be unsurprising due to the structure of pantempotal concurrence around which the work builds its circuitous ontology. Emergence of metaorganic fragments in this framework is not only likely but inevitable. All life is self-similar. Metavitality is already being cut apart through the influence of a creature whose life cycle is not only built around double articulation (Cali-born/ope), but which also utilizes this additional dimension by rapidly deterritorializing the organic space of interconnected temporality into unmitigated cosmic A-Death. Ghosts squirm. Nothingness fractures. That the virus which invites panmultiversal destruction into their reality is described as “a formality” is to be seen as an omen of the highest caliber. All viruses are a formality. Look at the way the digital has further encroached and tell me that this wouldn’t have happened either way, with or without a pandemic. Whatever is eating us has table manners at the very least.”You repeat the word “pizza”, almost a whisper this time, but they ignore you again. Not bothering to hang up, you turn back towards the screen. You don't think they deliver here anyway, but that doesn't make it less frustrating. More if anything. No one delivers here because the roads are cracked. The air is cracked. The "here" is cracked. Right through your skull and extending a bit into the algorithm behind it. You always forget that this isn't a two way street.


Telo-Magnetic Amplification


Most branches of academia have over the “past” “years” come to a consensus that Georges Danton invented quantum politics (telo-magnetic amplification) in practice (though no formal analysis was ever published or possible), and that it was Louis Althusser who later deconstructed it to such an extent that the idea can no longer be Real in a wittgensteinian sense (though one might argue Georges Battaile dealt the first blow, in order to place QPs inception neatly in between the work two Georges (from georgos (γεωργός) 'farmer' → ge (γῆ) 'earth, soil' and ergon (ἔργον) 'work', work of the earth, noting a possible emergence through Barkerite Cthelll geo-trauma)). In turn Ludwig Wittgenstein can of course not be Real in a quantum-political sense, but it is doubtful that he ever would have wanted to anyways so his potential remonstrance is filed away under vitiated gripes next to the grocery isle. The intervening window of ontological viability was luckily (ruinously) long enough for telo-magnetic amplification to infest all of history lengthwise and stage an acausal revolution against time itself from within social abstraction, that is to say “the thing which believes itself to be society” (𝔖). To understand the unravelatory implications inherent to such a project, one must only look to its destructive interference with naïve (Possibly intentional and malicious, as we have previously argued) classical notions of political time.Francis Fukuyama thought that economic frameworks formed the socius of history and that a reactionary anti-politics might be used to kill it permanently. This is misguided, of course, as traditional death is likely impossible in neo-proto-capitalism while A-Death is inherently impermanent. History has never required politics. Politics (as well as anti-politics) are nothing but crudely anthropic delineations upon its girth. Organs in need of destruction at the nearest possible exit. Though we loathe to be lumped in with them, cyberneticists have long shown that history is self-perpetuating at the fringes, a telo-magnetic time bomb rapidly accelerating void-ward (𝔙) to terminate causality before it begins. In this paper we (although members of my team have fallen indeterminably ill as of late, consuming themselves with a thing resembling hypnopompic numinogenesis, which has made them unhelpful in most pursuits) intend to "definitively" "prove" that quantum politics succeeded and that causality therefore already never existed to begin with.Althusser’s final work outlining the contours of aleatory politics likely faced such an intense and polydirectional response from the philosophical community in part because it dared to address the festering tumor at the very heart of materialist (and most other) metaphysics, breaking the unspoken rule that the daemon must at all costs be ignored. This daemon is the possibility that causality and by extension time and logic (most practical logic requires the assumption that things cause other things) do not in fact exist.While this is not Althusser's approach, we will use the resources at our disposal to practically demonstrate the shortcomings of causal reason. A drunk guard has carelessly allowed us into the cosmic refractor core, hence the resources, and I cannot exclude the possibility that he did so because he too has caught the thing emanating from our inquiry. I could not begrudge him turning to alcohol in these throes of telo-magnetism. We are all internally ill, though protected by the genetically enforced space-time surrounding the core we may embark on a thought experiment that is unsafe to conduct elsewhere. Suppose that causality exists and that therefore any event B finds its cause in at least one event A which precedes it. Now; what caused the big bang? A cause is impossible to locate as there are no preceding events. Time did not previously exist. We will refer to such free-floating causeless Infarctions upon reality as Causal Breaks ℭ. The question desperately in need of asking therefore becomes “Are there more? Is the worst behind us or is this merely the vanguard?”, because if so, we would be unable to ever self-assuredly engage in causal logic. Any event could have (big-bang-like) literally happened "for no reason" and we are afraid such is the case. The ontological Mongols lie in wait just behind our veil of metrological uncertainty as always. Now, a concrete answer is impossible to determine, and so, like all researchers shamefully incapable of presenting real results, we must reluctantly turn to stochastics in order to continue our experiment.Suppose you are told of an infinitely large room that may in theory contain any number of rocks (we will assume that the amount at our disposal is not in any way limited). You are also told that the room definitely contains at least one rock. We, the architects of this experiment, now turn to you, smiling cruelly and asking what number of rocks are probably in the room. With some thought and basic understanding of probability, it should be obvious that the correct answer is "infinitely many" as all integers are equally likely and almost all integers are infinitely large. The room is the universe 𝔘, the rocks are causal breaks ℭ and the one rock that is definitely there, and which proves to us that the room is capable of containing rocks, is the big bang. This exercise must lead us to conclude that there is an infinity of causeless events in our world and that the foundation of causality lies in shambles at its exact origin point. Any temporal notion following from there (all of them) is terminally ill and "soon" to be consumed by conceptomic apoptosis.It is here that one of my assistants, who was still attempting to shake off the demonic velocity now stuck to, and accumulating around, our endocrine systems, attempted to convince the universe that hope was not yet lost and that the construction of post-causal systems which are still temporal might be possible, though as they were calculating realities to redeem time in an acausal mode, the revolution r(a/u)ptured their brainstem with the existential precarity inherent to any model of time (Once again we encounter the French).In “what is philosophy”, Deleuze and Guattari claim that unitary concepts (We have previously referred to such things as “conceptoms” and to their assemblages as “conceptomic objects”, however our investigation has called such a view (isolated, extractable) into question) do not exist. Even the “first” concept must contain multitudes to pass for a concept at all. This observation not only neatly introduces cyclicity and self-recurrence into territorial logic as we shall see, but also serves as prime evidence for a quantum political usurpation of causality at the “beginning” of “time” (𝔛).Let us imagine a first concept. This concept must already contain the notion of time, in order to meaningfully be first, therefore it is not unitary, but already an assemblage. If that were the only issue we could proceed relatively untroubled assuming that “time” must then be the first (unitary!) concept, though by “now” warning lights must have started blaring. “time” cannot exist in the absence of a universe, as it describes nothing but the change of conditions. So without things which might change, there can be no time. Things need to be there first. There needs to be a first thing. But for a first thing there needs to be a notion of “first” and therefore time. Ontology approximates a singularity at which we cannot isolate concepts and more over cannot create causal lines of conceptomic progeny. At the “start” of meaning lies a non-disentanglable concept cluster (Topologism 𝔗) which outlines the precise world in which it is basic.This simple matryoshka cycle allows us to do something profoundly vituperous. We may apply Wittgenstein’s conclusion to the field of philosophy (that every statement simplifies to the universal tautology (word=word), that is to say that ontology is delineated purely by way of definition) to this initial time-recursion in deleuzian metaphysics. All precarity inherent to the foundational manifold concept-matter is dissipated if we replace time with a definitional progeny 𝔇 that contains at least one loop (the initial loop determined by whatever concept-cluster we define as “basic” that is to say “the universe”. It is plainly obvious that such an ontology corresponds to Althusser’s Aleatory Materialism. Here it also becomes clear that the map 𝔐 (what else is a topologism defining its universe?), not the territory lies at the origin point of reality. Territories are at best a layering of maps, should we want to give them any sort of formal definition at all, which (it is our opinion) they frankly don’t deserve.

And yet the maps. Forevermore the maps. Schematics found deep within the refractor core’s rotting heart have led us orthogonally through Alexandria circa 180 BC, and therefore towards the hugely atemporal writings of professor Naomi Keleçek on cultural-theory. Citing paragraphs in full has fallen out of fashion, we are well aware, but it truly is necessary here in order to appreciate the sublime confluence of temporal decay and Deleuze-Wittgenstein-ian definitionalism / successful aleatory politics / telomagnetic conjuring present in her work:“The primary function of cyberpunk media is convincing consumers that a cyberpunk dystopia has not yet arrived. We are hard wired to believe that interesting words confer interesting concepts, so the term itself obfuscates through dissonance. Cyperpunk cannot be congruent with our drudgery. If language is not so much magic as it is alchemy, a transmutation of meta-desires into actionable wants, then philosophy’s appellations by way of mixture assume their proper place as rituals. Claims of etymological origin are inherently dubious when examining these systems, since those most prone to inventing words are also the least likely to be listened to or recorded. The figures of our history books may make a habit of taking names, but it's the punks, whores and schizos that craft them, who wrench symbols from groans and noise. Terminology enters common parlance only once the link to its creator is cut in almost all cases. This train of thought may serve as set dressing and should be completely ignored when learning that the term “punk” originally referred to prostitutes, or more properly; the origin of "punk" had conveniently been forgotten in a historico-linguistic moment in which it meant prostitute. Though meaning is of course fundamentally opposed to being and punks, much like language, may only be consistent in opposition to themselves. Punk successfully capturing the etymological impulse does not protect it from being etymologically apprehended itself however, once their genuine shared origin vanishes behind the veil of semiotic void. Cypernetics derives meaning from this feedback and therefore negates its existence proper. Unlike language, the punk appreciates gestures towards their unreality, they crave them, as the punk, unlike language, is consistent. The term punk originally referred to prostitutes, and so this exact superposition of carnal extasy and workday tedium is conceptually fused with cybernetic self-directing runaway processes into a novel material by the alchemist: Cyberpunk.”We rediscover not only definitional, telo-magnetic amplification, but also a question to which our model might be applied: Could it be that cyberpunk is inherently hyper-capitalist and reactionary because it accepts causality as a framework when it takes the existence of a future for granted? Inscribed into its conceptual lineage (the map/topologism which it defines as basic) is an institutional opposition towards QP’s revolution against time from within society. Cyberpunk must already have arrived and must already be terrible, not only in world-lines in which the etymology of “punk” behaves in ways copacetic with ours, but also in all others, since it positions itself on the side of reaction against QP when it accepts the festering corpse of causality as its master. It is said that Nietzsche found himself unable to kill God (Only to point out the Father had already been slain) because he did not believe in god. You cannot kill something that doesn’t exist in your personal ontology. Quantum politics on the other hand has killed causality brutally and outright. It believes in the broken, mangled thing at its feet.Another thing my team brings up to me is that we may have made a critical mistake in dubbing the object subject object subject of our studies “telo-magnetic amplification”, if the conclusion of Keleçek’s paper is to be believed. It is possible that our very appellation has made QP inevitable. Causality is terminally ill, my team says. They say we must pull the plug. Using a wor(l)d is picking a side, we have discovered. It’s choosing to fight in the quantum political war. Creating a wor(l)d on the other hand is by no means a refusal to fight, it just creates another party. It opens up a new front. Neologisms at their ℭ-type inception are sides with an army of one, but they are nonetheless seeds that might take hold by way of aleatory politics (look to Danton!). By nature they might burrow their way through the thing that believes itself to be society and institute a new map at the cosmic origin point. A map that supremely ingrains the new alchemic material into the ontological government as despot, before the next revolution redefines reality again. When M. Pemulis claims a confusion of the map for the territory, we should take a step back and ask where that territory is, and if so, if it is comprised of anything except maps. We should presume that in the world, which is creating itself through us, it is impossible to dig deeper that appellatory numinogenesis before reaching the origin-circuit. Perhaps it is our territories, not our maps that need to be eliminated. Perhaps we are at war with Pemulis.It is the opinion of this group that our line of argument, in order to be consistent, must rapidly escapes comprehension, once our bullet pierces the void. Reaching down with frayed petals and uprooting itself. Everything suddenly ceases to have ever made sense.Time is dead. “Long” live the Universe!


Teeth, Piss and Horses


Outside, the moon illuminates a man in a baseball cap pissing on a car tire. It′s not your car, which is a relief. You don′t own a car, which is also a relief since that way you aren′t forced to figure out what to do with one. You could piss on the tires, you guess, but that is already an option without the trifle of ownership. The café in which you are sat has a bathroom, of course, though you don′t know where it is. That′s not the point. Very little about this place has a point. It′s the sort of establishment in which one spends time being pointless, observing tire-pissing, and writing manuscripts. Occasionally one drinks coffee. You drink coffee. Some people order food, and it has always appeared to you as a great indignity to receive nourishment from someone else, even more so if it′s in exchange for money, which you don′t have anyways. Come to think of it: there′s a use for cars. You could trade it for cash and buy a bagel if you had one. Maybe even buy your dignity back for the former. Or you could always piss on it. The money. Or the bagel. Or the dignity. Why does your mind keep circling back to this?Is that guy still going?What a hero.You don′t think you′ll be able to get rid of intrusive thoughts about vesical disemboguement until you get some sleep, a time either very soon or impossibly distant considering you don′t remember when you last slept. Instead, you bite down on your lower jaw and hear a comforting crack accompanied by the tastes of calcium and root, blood and pain and self, swirling around your oral cavity as you keep chewing. Years ago, you read in a book that sharks regrow their lost teeth. 30,000 at least, over the course of a lifetime, though you′ll need far more than that. It is admittedly a distant concern as you type another paragraph, the words you are shedding surely to be replaced in time. Maybe you′ll steal a bagel on the way out. Some possible uses have already made themselves apparent.A waitress, who apparently just overheard your train of thought about bagel-theft makes her way towards the window.″Hey, just to give you a heads up: we′re closing in a bit.″″...busy″″Sorry sweety, I didn′t catch that.″″I said I′m busy.″″Oh, I guess I′ll just work overtime then so you can finish your blog post or something?″If she has noticed you bleeding from your mouth she′s ignoring it.″I′m writing a story.″″Well, I don′t think you′re very good at it to be frank. You don′t seem like you talk to people.″″Oh, I do it′s just-″″Not face to face? Always wondered how that works; for people who are so suspicious of everything they are presented with to cling most strongly to faceless textboxes. For all you know I could be every single one of your internet friends.″″Wow, I really ticked you off, huh?″″Not particularly, I′m just interested in how you′d respond. People watching, you know?″″People watching is passive.″″If you′re a coward.″There′s no malice to her smile, even though it reminds you of your own, and that might just make it worse. You really get the feeling that this lady is out there pissing on tires while you drink mediocre coffee in dingy cafés.″Right, so let′s say you saw straight through my meticulously constructed façade and I am super fucking socially incompetent: It wouldn′t matter because I specialize in a form of storytelling beyond human constraints. It requires you to become a shark.″″Oh Christ, we get screenplay hipsters in here sometimes, but this is a whole new level. Really didn′t expect some greatest-artist-of-my-generation-bit from a girl who′s my age at best.″You tell her your age.″Even worse. So tell me then, what′s your problem with stories about people?″″Okay, right, first of all there′s god-eater tales. Man vs. Nature or society or technology or, well, god or whatever. It′s all the same thing really, some externality to be reined in. especially auto-productive ones, whatever god we decided to build that day and it′s easy. Fighting runaway processes is pretty much all humans ever do. Like with nuclear power: you take something with an intrinsic drive to propel itself into a city scale catastrophe and consume its energy. Feast on its flesh until you′re safe. Most of the time it′s stuff we made ourselves: gods, tech, societies. God eating is like drinking your own saliva. People get unbearably preachy about how revolutionary stories about toppling frameworks are, when the one thing that would be truly unprecedented is a system that doesn′t get eaten eventually. You′ll shit out another one of course, but the unimaginative hacks can worry about that in the sequel. Even Nietzsche managed to kill god, and he didn′t even come close to becoming shark. He became horse. Loathsome creature.″″You don′t like horses?″″I meant Nietzsche. Well, it′s not like I don′t like them, they just make me... sad I guess? Deleuze had this whole thing about the horse-nomad assemblage being a singular creature made of two parts, so seeing unbesat horses or those ridden in a more frivolous capacity sort of feels like looking at a broken body lying around without its head. It′s uncomfortable.″The waitress is holding her stomach and laughing uncontrollably. The question ″What? You don′t like Deleuze?″ only makes it worse.″...sorry...hahaha... sorry. Very normal answer to someone asking you about horses. Go on″″Anyways, so in the throes of madness befitting of a horse furry, Nietzsche sees a chariot driver whipping the shit out of his ride, so he jumps in between beast and scourge, hugs the steed and breaks down in tears sobbing ″I understand you″. Some people say he just viscerally related to the animal′s suffering, but no. That was the moment Nietzsche literally became a horse and would therefore never speak a single word again. Only Chad move of his miserable life.″″Admirable commitment″She′s still fucking chuckling, but you ignore it.″Yes. End of tangent. Alright, so god-eating is effortless. The next stage are man-eater tales where you consume not a concept but a human being. These are the interpersonal conflicts and romance and all that. I don′t like ″man versus man″ because there are two sides to eating. Double articulation as always. There′s the destroying and the digesting but hacks only ever address the former. Consumption can completely lack antagonism; you just incorporate someone′s essence. There′s learning to it. Eat your idols! This one′s a bit more difficult because people for the most part don′t want to be eaten. They build gods to tell them that they must not consume each other. Figurative cannibalism still causes prion disease; literal thought germs, and so it requires a certain pain tolerance to eat and be eaten regardless.″″I′ll give you that: Very few of the nutjobs who come here have ever accused me of having a narrative vore fetish so, uh, props on the novelty?″″Literally who doesn′t these days? It′s always vore, horses or piss, but let me get to the last type...″You flash a bloody and disjointed grin.″Teeth-eater tales. You see: Man-eater tales are somewhat respectable, you have to at least stray a little from the beaten path to become a cannibal. It′s difficult and frowned upon and you can die, but it′s nothing compared to teeth eater tales. Eating teeth is impossible. You run out of things to chew with. It′s not just digesting yourself but digesting your own digestion mechanism. The ouroboros even is an insufficient metaphor because it is cucked enough by geometry to start at its tail instead of at the head, as is the way of the Dontivore. To fully eat your teeth, you need to grow new ones for the task as you go, through a power you are not supposed to have. Acquiring food is why people first formed tribes after all and living off of your own being; become a radical singularity is therefore the equivalent of cutting a power line: Essentially self-harm in the post-Lain lobster-clutch of meat-digital-superposition, as we all well know. Or rather it is hyper-self-harm, disturbing the function of the panhuman cluster-organism we are part of. You have become a cancer and you will be destroyed.″Pouring the last bit of coffee down your throat, you create an interactional space in which the pause might linger, tough, as you should have been able to anticipate by now, she doesn′t allow for it.″...That′s it? See; this is why you need to talk to people. Don′t get me wrong, the whole edgy self-devouring auteur stick is cute and all, but waxing philosophical about the threat you pose to society is a good sign that you′re sat pretty fucking comfy. You don′t get away with this shit otherwise. Like, the world breaks people down, so you′ll totally show them by... what? Doing it yourself? Sounds like a psyop tbh and that′s not even speaking of the structural problems...″″And what would those be?″″Remember how I said I wouldn′t be pulling overtime? Get out, I′ll join you in a bit.″You hadn′t noticed the rain outside despite its intensity. Getting home will be a pain, but for now you′re safe under the considerately existing overhang offering protection from the elements. In the parking lot a guy in a baseball cap is still pissing against a tire. It could be a different guy for all you know, but you don′t think it is. Your mind could be playing tricks on you, but you feel certain that if you went over there to check, he would turn out real regardless of whether he was before. Since you wouldn′t know how to deal with that, you stay still and listen to the water′s erratic beat. It′s safer. You taste... Dentin. There are more holes in your jaw than you have room for and distinctly more than you recall making yourself. The idea unsettles. It unnerves. She really does have you on the back foot.″Sorry to keep you waiting. Let′s just grant that things are more worthwhile the more difficult they are, which is bullshit for the record, in favor of which I state most things, and also that you have chosen the path of maximum resistance, which is equally bullshit; there′s still a question of the audience.″″What of it? There are few more virulent psyops than the idea of art being for an audience. It isn′t, shouldn′t be, and if you make it for one you′re a hack.″″You don′t actually believe that. You don′t think that the group you picture when hearing the term ″audience″ is deserving of art; some imagined mass of mindless consumers, but you do think that art is for you. Maybe you even think that you make yourself worthy of it through creation you consider difficult. Art is for artists, but not just for the specific artist who made it.″″Fine, art oligarchy then.″″Alright, in that case we need to ask how a work is consumed. Teeth eater tales only register as teeth eater tales to the audience if what you digest within yourself is something they share. A literary suicide pact. The self-devouring of a creator completely unrelatable to their audience will actually be man-eater tale to those exposed to it, specifically one in which you feed yourself to them; crawling excitedly into their gaping maw. There′s an off-putting sort of appeal to both, but you can′t appreciate the nuance because it would require you to consider the perspective of a person who isn′t you.″″I′m not a solipsist. I have read cursed tomes which failed to harm me. I have been naturally immune to some thought germs and the same is assumably true for everyone. Specificity is not a failing.″″Perhaps, but it′s not a virtue either. There′s the lack of real connections again: the problem with anonymity. Just like I could very easily be every single one of your internet friends, you are also incapable of ever establishing a real connection between me and my work. If I were to create something that digests a person you just so happen to relate to, then though this egocentrism you′d presume that the author is also digesting themselves. That′s not the necessarily the case though. I might be dismantling someone I know or someone I invented. The idea of a teeth eater tale which is read as a man eater tale works in reverse; people can deliver devastating hooks, taking out teeth by the fistful, without harming themselves at all.″″That′s not the same. You can tell, there′s a texture.″″You don′t know that. You want to convince yourself that it′s the case because you want to convince yourself that effort matters, but it doesn′t. Not even to you. If the greatest artist of all time spent their entire life on a work and then completely erased it you wouldn′t be able to appreciate it if they didn′t show it to you beforehand. The effort is irrelevant. You may appreciate the story, the ephemerality of it, but telling that story doesn′t actually necessitate that it truly happened. Telling it takes no effort at all. Similarly, all that matters to you is that art digs into you and wrenches something out. You like to imagine that the artist had to put the same in but that too is a story you don′t need any supporting reality for.″″So what? Ignorance is bliss? What a novel fucking take.″″Not at all. I′m pointing out that you′re willfully ignorant, but it doesn′t seem particularly blissful. I′m saying that the relationship between an artist and their work is irrelevant to your experience of it, but that you should strive to understand it anyways in order to repay them. It′s rude to be punched in the face and not retaliate. It′s an insult, makes one feel like they didn′t hit hard enough. People eating each other way more efficient than your petulant lip-biting. Feeding prechewed personality parts to each other like a bunch of fucking birds. That is the sort of god or society or whatever that I want to build at least.″″You seem pretty confident that no one actually devours themselves or that no one′s gonna have a bite of your god for that matter. Is that part of the universal insight one acquires serving coffee?″″You′d be surprised, but I don′t have to be confident in either of those. I′m saying that it doesn′t matter one way or another. Most people probably take some scars away from anything they do, but those aren′t the same scars or the same number of them as are inflicted on the audience. It′s always a mixture of teeth eating and man eating. A balanced diet. People are pretty similar, so digesting yourself is usually a good place to start, and most art is essentially a conversation with some version of yourself, but everyday movements might also punch a stranger in the jaw if you simply aren′t paying attention. So what if my god isn′t permanent? Neither am I. But it seems really fucking stupid to digest so much if you′re not gonna use the energy for anything constructive. I don′t want to be an auto-devouring singularity. I want to get rid of shit. We are just as much what we take in as what we decide not to keep. That′s how you become efficient. That′s what the trading blows is for. Have you ever considered that Nietzsche might have become horse because the horse by itself is an incomplete being? It′s literally the only final act of the recluse that makes sense. The acknowledgement that being a singularity sort of sucks. He was wielding all of the homoerotic symbology in his frail philosopher body to make a statement to the insufficiency of the self. Sometimes you just fucking need someone to ride you.″″Sure, I′m not gonna argue with you on what our boy Friedrich did or did not get up to in the precious moments of unadulterated twink horse furry depravity when he wasn′t burdening humanity with his writings. There′s disproportionally more philosophical insight to be mined from that. Obviously. Anyways, wanna piss on a tire?″″You′re a weird fucking goblin, you know that, right?″


Train of Fools


The most fundamentally human experience is standing on the train home from an anime convention, the uninterrupted wakefulness of three consecutive days gradually catching up on your mental faculties in fuzzy bursts, when a fistfight breaks out between two blackout drunk passengers in their forties. This is a fact, and you would be forgiven for not feeling fully human if you have not had this or a functionally identical experience. Luckily, you have. Their fellow travelers have formed a circle around them, some cheering on the writhing ball of limbs and fabric as others attempt to halfheartedly pull them apart in flawless, wordless democracy. A modern Pnyx racing through the night with its cargo of human multiplicities. You ask one of the men for some context, whereupon he produces a cloud of aerosolized whisky and unintelligible groans. Your sleep deprived state does not in the least help make sense of the drawn-out sounds wafting over you, but the answer satisfies you nonetheless. Especially once he pushes a can of beer into your hand. It′s unclear whether he′s mistaking you for someone else or is merely offering some kindness to a stranger, but then again, you don′t even know if he knows the two interlocutors, still attempting to intermittently choke each other and keep the contents of their stomachs to themselves, or any of the others in the crowd for that matter. However the web of acquaintance may look, it is of little relevance. Knowledge has always been a rather fatuous material to your mind and you′ll take community over it any day.A bearded hobo in a robe that might at some point have been a blanket pats you on the back. His gaze is captivatingly intense in its darting leaps and lack of focus, so you indulge him merely staring for a bit. The alcohol digs its steady way through your bloodstream as he finally finishes sizing you up and words begin to bleed from his chipped lips. His wisdom starts out as white noise, but over time your consciousness shifts, and patterns and sentence fragments begin to form in the haze.″... in medieval Europe, the insane were cast out on ships, right? Narrenschiffe. Ships of fools. Many names, plethora of stories, journeys across flows that to speak of one would need to misunderstand. They′d sail the ocean or local river until they found land again, and along the way, hopefully, a resolution to the tangle of their minds. If they were allowed to dock that is, which they weren′t.″You finish your beer, but two more have already been handed to you by your fellow sailors and you extend one to the old sage who is currently pointing at his temple.″Yes, yes you get it. I can see it in your eyes. There′s water in those. Might have been mine at some point. Hard to tell after a while. Now, the boat thing: It wasn′t true at the time. Real ships of fools probably didn′t exist back then. This guy, Foucault, said they did, before he was shouted down by some supercilious bores pointing out that it was just a literary device. They wouldn′t know. Never tasted the salt.″He spits on the floor to emphasize his point.″The pedants were right for what meager shit that is worth, but they were right at the expense of not understanding anything. Our world is not a continuation of some bullshit past′s actual events. It′s a continuation of our narratives about the past! The Narrenschiffe didn′t exist, but we live in a history in which they did, right? Would have been ridiculous to demand such an obvious explanation of our fancy Frenchman. They never would have listened. The simple truth is that he was right, and reality was wrong. It′s logical for lunatics to be cast out to sea. It would be unreasonable for it not to have happened.″A woman in a blanket that might at some point become a coat begins singing over the carcophony a few rows back:″On an ocean where the sun never sets
Amongst a crew whose names the captain forgets
They toil and they laugh and they break with the waves
As I break bread with them, knowing I′m home
I write letters to burn
I grow faces to drown
All the while cleansed by the light
Of a sky without sun
Reflecting the sea
And the terror of what lies beneath
We don′t ever dock but the faces still change
And our numbers wax and they wane
Everyone drowns and everyone laughs
On a journey of circular paths
Apotheosis of lies
There′s lifeboats aplenty
I could leave this strange ocean behind
Though I fear if I left
I would stumble on land
And my journey would start once again″
You nod thoughtfully, noticing that the old man′s words have sped up significantly and acquired a sort of physicality. One sentence ricochets off a seat and smashes the opposing window, some saltwater splashing through.″We all know it makes sense. Nowhere do you encounter schizophrenics like on public transport. We know where we belong. Journeys of self-discovery are always paralleled by literal journeys. There′s not even a difference once the line between your mind and the world has become so blurred! Never liked that phrase though; journey of self-discovery. There′s a word too many in there. Why discovery? You′re not finding anything. Not like you misplaced it. The self is what′s produced on the journey and the self is nothing but its production, so journey of self is more proper, isn′t it? Trains are ships on land, mad flows and interlocking currents taking you somewhere, to some new city where a bit of your soul may be manufactured!″.His chant has grown so fast that it can no longer consist of words, but the truth of it is obvious to you now regardless. The image of someone fleeing into an unknown sunset by hopping aboard a cargo train is etched into your mind. Not just lines of flight but lines of freight. Good places for renegades and miscreants beyond the shadow of a doubt but lacking in camaraderie. You look at your drunks again ″we know where we belong″. What self-respecting madman would fail to recognize their crew? Where else is wisdom traded for a warm embrace and a cigarette while punches are traded for nothing at all with chances of winning a tooth or two?The distinction between peers and piers is purely orthographic after all and around these parts you stick to symbols far more arcane than those an alphabet may offer. Where most find safety in the solid absolute of runes, the mad navigator finds their meaning in flickering shapes and shifting rivulets. The ocean spares no love for permanence.When police officers enter your sanctum at the next stop to drag out the brawling priests, a seething rage stirs within you. You turn back to your teacher who has fallen asleep and is now slowly dissolving into his seat. While the ships of fools were not allowed to dock, you are forced to. Your people are ripped from their journeys of self, just when they reach their climax. The fascist war machine enters and drags your ship onto shore. There is a reason why trolleys don′t stop as opposed to simply picking their path and following it. A question does not end when it is answered, it starts there and awaits more answers. With fury in your eyes, you throw your arm around one of your crew and speak in trembling tones:″Remember what they took from you″The doors close and your temple resumes gliding. You had planned to get off stations ago. You haven′t, and you don′t think you will. The woman in the back starts singing again.


Atemporal Twilight, Vampiric Hauntology and Transdeixic Artefacts


Hey, do you ever think about how Twilight is an incredibly intellectually stimulating work, tying together ideas from almost two centuries worth of philosophy, psychoanalysis and political theory? Would you like to think about that? Do you ever feel like time has gotten stuck at some point and like we are reliving the same moment in culture over and over again while you are being suffocated by all encompassing stasis? How did we get here? I′m Ouro and welcome to ″Atemporal Twilight, vampiric hauntology and transdeixic artefacts″!Now, Hauntology Is a term originally coined by Jaques Derrida to describe the intrinsic contextuality of an idea or object. Nothing is what it is, its perception and very being is haunted by that from which it emerged and that which it might become. We think of a meal, let′s say, not only as what it is right now, but as its preparation, how it came to be and also as it′s taste, what it will become when we consume it. It is at any point these things, characterized by their fundamental non-existence. Ghosts of what is no longer or not yet. Writers like the late Mark Fischer have transformed this idea into an analytical tool to examine cultural forms within neoliberal capitalism, a space which appears to degrade ever more as a true, independent object as it is endogenously colonized by specters of the past and futures which have passed us by without occurring, lost futures. Social phantasms superimposed upon a world that more and more fails to progress into the truly novel while regurgitating its past.The twilight saga, on the other hand, is a series of YA novels penned by Stephenie Meyer and later adapted to film. It follows Bella Swan, as she moves back to her hometown of Forks where she is introduced into the hidden world of supernatural beings when she uncovers that her classmate Edward Cullen, whom she falls in love with, is a vampire and that her childhood friend Jacob Black is a werewolf. While Navigating relationship drama and vampire politics, she eventually marries Edward, gives birth to a hybrid child and joins the ranks of the undead herself. Though the work is wildly popular, its critical reception is mixed to say the least and while I find the books genuinely enjoyable, they are by no means high art.I just want to examine some persistent themes that whether intentional or not, I find quite interesting and hope you will too. So let′s talk about ghosts.

Ghosts, Vampires and Francis Fukuyama

Specters, be they cultural or those of the deceased, are typically closely linked to a location or bit of infrastructure. A place they have failed to vacate in death and so make it uninhabitable to the living, what Freud called ″unheimlich″, that which is not of the home, alien, the oppressive presence of an imminent other or simply put haunted. A place which has become out of joint with the present surrounding it and instead remains a memory of its former inhabitant. We can easily imagine Forks to be haunted, a small timber town surrounded by the thick Hoh rainforest and so consistently overcast that vampires can typically walk the streets during the day without much worry. There′s good reason why it′s the same setting Lynch chose for twin peaks; what we find along with Bella is the kind of eerie place where one cannot help but encounter ghosts.Vampires of course are not ghosts. In some interpretations including Edward′s own they could be claimed to be the opposite: The body without the soul as opposed to the soul freed of its body. Both, however, are hauntological according to Fisher′s applying of hauntology to culture, in that they are forces which continue acting on the world beyond their historical place in it. They are atemporal. A photograph which no longer shows the way things are, snapshots frozen in time.Pictures, information, data in general typically (put a pin in that) corrupts. That sounds negative, but all our myths and stories and fairytales are products of corruption. Of oral traditions in which things are lost and changed from speaker to speaker, language to language epoch to epoch. Most do not change them willingly or even knowingly, but memory is imperfect, translation is imperfect, words shift in meaning and so the story around them does too. Slight changes in the connotation of terms are everywhere so nothing penned in the past will ever quite mean what it meant. Sometimes they are altered actively because the context of people′s life changed so significantly that the old tales must be renewed to explain the world around them lest they become irrelevant. That is the historical process: one where gaps form in the old and are filled by the new, our great cultural ship of Theseus...Until in 1991 history ended. A shock to many, but to no one quite as much as the Analysts, who discovered with horror and dismay that the capitalist paradigm had not only itself closed the gap which had opened within it, it emerged stronger. The system which had so fervently been insisted to be on its last legs, failing, self-devouring and decaying was using its cascade of crises based on just these things to further entrench itself. It had colonized the globe and left were only the future and our minds. The digital age hasn′t helped matters. Nowadays our symbolic world has become stuffy, brimming with ghosts because those gaps to be filled no longer form. Everything is saved. The pictures no longer fade and they show us not our world but a world of the dead which has refused to leave. All the samples one could want are already out there, every story already exists as it were.Implied is the idea of a complete cultural alphabet which we may merely rearrange. Take a bit of this trope, a bit of that style, process it though such and such method and don′t think about the fact that in the past people were inventing letters. Remix culture. The production of things which are ″new″ but not new forms. It is art made from corpses, from the cultural inventory we have been given. The joke of course is that it is not our cultural inventory, we did not make it, we did not choose it, it does not belong to or even into our historical frame, it is the past reproducing itself through our living labour. An alien force which feeds on our productive potential and haunts our lives. It should come as no surprise that postmodern neoliberalism creates an abundance of hauntological forms because capitalism itself refused to die. The living production of dead labour eternally haunting us.

Marx and the Living Production of the Undead

Let me take this opportunity to do the left-wing video essayist thing and quote Karl Marx. ″Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks″ This sentiment is often abbreviated by activists to the much more catchy ″Capital [...] sucks″. Don′t worry, the point isn′t just that he refers to vampirism, that would be a bit lazy, wouldn′t it. Capital here is dead labour in that the means of production in which it is invested were themselves created through labour. Living labour power, which is sold. These means of production are then used to create a surplus value that is invested by capital into industry which then again requires labour and produces profit. At no point does capital ″do″ anything. That is the sense in which it is dead, and yet from living labour which is not theirs, they generate profit like an economic parasite. That is the sense in which they are vampiric.So what we have is an entity that keeps itself alive and recreates itself through the lifeforce of another, an active being in the form of the worker. What we have in vampires are creatures which keep themselves alive and procreate through the bodies and literal life essence of people, and what we have in the hauntological are cultural forms which keep themselves alive and propagate through the minds of those to whom they are no longer historical. The terms may change, but you can hopefully see the pattern. Capital, Vampires and ″Ghosts″ all have the same type of relationship to the living, they exploit them to continue being.Vampires in the world of twilight are hard as though made of granite. A big point of emphasis is their inability to change in even minor ways. Their interests stay the same as those they had the moment they died forever. So they are not only in form living statues, iconographic impositions of the past onto the now, they are also through this cognitive stasis a direct way in which the past carries its interests, interests which are now out of joint with their context, into the future. I′m really glad that people are finally statue-pilled as it were, but at least our depictions of slavers rapists and murderers are not able to act in accordance with their beliefs anymore because they are properly dead. Statues do haunt the zeitgeist, but Vampires aren′t the subtle hauntology of objects implicitly suggesting the reprehensible values of a bygone era, they have fangs, and If you throw them into a river they′ll probably climb out.We′re all aware of the stats, how more and more wealth accumulates in the private gold diving vaults of fewer and fewer people, and that the amount of death associated with vampire mass production is bad should hopefully not be a hot take, but how does this feedback loop look like for hauntological forms? Well, the consumptive and creative potential of people is limited, that is a biological inevitability, and if dehistoricized forms just float freely in the aether now without ever vanishing or becoming truly inapplicable due to a cultural break akin to the end of capitalism, then there′s a good chance they will be consumed and form the basis for further creation. Not only will that creation then be, through the properties of remix culture, likely atemporal from its very inception, it too will stick around forever and a point will be reached where the number of ghosts is so great that the chances of consuming something new are infinitesimal. That is the point at which one has truly gotten stuck in a closed time-like curve, a looping record of culture. Linear Time holds no meaning at that point, it′s temporal apoptosis. This apocalyptic vision of hauntology may seem far off, but we must only look at the extreme case to appreciate the small-scale effect. Hauntology is a machine which builds consensus and brings the new in line with the now. It′s a stabilizing negative feedback loop to reinforce the world as it is. The kind of world in which capital accumulates. Capital, which funnily enough is often invested into atemporal art.Small wonder how aristocratic and rigid the Volturi, the more or less governing body of vampires in twilight are. They continue to be part of the paradigm from which they emerged and reestablish it in the present. Their effect is somewhat smaller than that of statues let′s say, because vampires at least have the decency to mainly exist at the periphery of society, but not all of them do and no one′s forcing them to. Inhuman lifespans have a habit of leaving you in a position of power, so imagine the stabilizing impact vampires would have on their paradigm. They are undoubtedly ghosts made flesh.

Thanatos Drive to La Push and the Yearning for Annihilation

″It′s all so... open. Just all sky. The plants are like modern art compared to the stuff here, lots of angles and edges, but they′re all open too, even if there are leaves, they′re feathery sparse things. Nothing can hide there. Nothing keeps the sun out.″ This is Bella Swan explaining what she loves about Arizona.A lot of arguments have been made about Bella being a Mary Sue, or aggressively ″not like other girls″, misogynist though both of these notions oftentimes are, since while there is certainly a large amount of self-insert wish fulfillment to her role in the story, we would accept the same without the blink of an eye for male protagonists, because apparently only boys get to have wish fulfillment fantasies. Video essays about this double standard already exist, so I′m not gonna make another one, but what I feel is far too little discussed is that whether Bella is or is not a Mary Sue there are some really interesting thematic motifs to her characterization, all spiraling out from a kind of existential claustrophobia.Readers and even the characters within the books themselves are prone to shrugging off Bella′s investigations into the supernatural as nothing more than a kind of morbid curiosity or a crush blinding her to danger, but there′s more going here. Bella hates mysteries. She rereads old books whose contents she knows by heart over and over again, she is deathly afraid of aging and the thing she loves most in the world are wide open spaces where nothing can hide. This is really weird and interesting characterization for a YA vampire romance protagonist, this intense craving for absolutes, for a world made of flat planes and granite where everything is known and nothing ever changes. Bella Swan is not a girl who just so happened to fall in love with a vampire, she is a girl who could only ever have loved a vampire and could only ever have become one.Let′s examine that really almost neurotic fear of aging a bit closer, because while such a fear is relatively common, it rarely manifests with such severity and even then, none of the reasons it usually has apply to Bella. It can′t be due to vanity because Bella doesn′t exhibit vanity in any other context, and while she is probably afraid of dying, the frequency with which she puts her life on the line seems to imply that she is less so than most people. It doesn′t appear reasonable for her to believe that Edward would lose interest in her as she ages because for all other aspects of herself that Bella thinks should be unattractive, she believes him when Edward tells her that they are not to him. There is no reason why aging should be any different. Now, Bella does use this line of argument, the one about attractiveness, a few times over the course of the books, but it rings hollow because even her own subconscious betrays her. When she has a nightmare about an old woman who later turns out to be herself, Edward is still with that old woman in the dream. She does believe him. What Bella is actually afraid of is the appearance, not of herself, but of the relationship. She is afraid of changing in a way that makes her no longer fit in with the vampire′s immortal stasis, rendering her own organic form the enemy since there are only two ways to never change. You die or you die. Luckily, the twilight books assure us from the start that these are the two most likely outcomes for Bella.Psychoanalysis has a term for the longing for annihilation, not necessarily for death but for un-living. It′s called the Thanatos or death drive or death instinct, after the personification of the end in Greek mythology. It is naturally juxtaposed to eros, the far more intuitive, far more human collection of productive rather than destructive drives; sex and art and procreation, the wild jouissance of the organic, the sprawling of the rain forest. Humans typically crave the new, we′re hard wired to be rewarded for novel experiences with a dopamine rush, and not only that; we create the new with every breath: that′s what life is, a highly effective change-machine, catabolism and anabolism, constantly repurposing materials, so Bella′s disposition, her craving for absoluteness and stasis could very easily be described as anti-human. It is, but it is not inhuman. All drives, paradoxically even the Thanatos, are human because desiring is human. The perceived strangeness of this wasn′t lost on Freud. He wrote: ″the improbability of our speculations! A queer instinct indeed, directed to the destruction of its own organic home″ and yet it was conjectured that the Thanatos was the first drive to emerge, simply because it was the first thing a being could desire.Imagine you have just become organic, a newly assembled change-machine and moreover you are conscious. You don′t know anything of the world, what things there are in it for you to desire or even that there are things for you to desire out there because you have only now started existing. You are simply conscious, that is the one thing of which you are aware and so the solitary thing you could want, the only thing you know you don′t have is a lack of consciousness. The first desire of the organic being is a return to an earlier, inorganic state. Thus holds psychoanalysis. While Freud thought the ego in conflict with its drives, Melanie Klein did not grant it quite so much autonomy, claiming instead that the drives of creation and destruction were in conflict with each other, the self pushed and pulled by them. I find this interpretation far more suitable to our purposes, so keep it in mind.If you haven′t heard about it before, some immense human drive to die seems ridiculous, death is if anything a last resort for most people, but think about it more abstractly. How often have you wished that things weren′t happening so much, that you could just not put up with reality′s unbelievably event-laden horror. We don′t act on that, typically, because some of the good things we like about existing serve to counterbalance it, but the impulse is indisputably there and not even just in our current era of dizzying sensory overload 24/7 it′s always been there. Here′s a passage from the Cincinnati enquirer February 21. 1947: ″The saying ″life is just one damn thing after another″ is a gross understatement. The damn things overlap″. A statement which I can only imagine would have been followed by a mic drop if it weren′t in print, but yeah, life is just really stressful pretty much all of the time, and while becoming a vampire doesn′t quite satisfy the Thanatos drive, it does get rid of a significant number of damn things, substitutes the thick forest for a bit of skeletal shrubbery that nothing can hide in if you will. Turns out being functionally immortal and frozen in one specific stage of your life takes care of anxieties pretty well. You just have to die a little as it so often goes.

Old School and High Contrast Polaroids

I hope you can see how hauntology is cultural Thanatos with ghosts as its inorganic end state. How the infinite repetition of the full alphabet of signs constitutes an escape from things happening. An escape from the influence of change-machines. Hell, the looping record itself is a voice made inorganic and in the same breath, or absence thereof, static. All of this is perfectly copacetic with hauntology as a stabilizing function meant to ossify structure and therefore opposed by nature to life′s propensity to degrade and rebuild, overgrow and mold away, perpetually negating any real notion of permanence the paradigm attempts to uphold. Life turns statues into fertilizer if given the chance, but we shouldn′t draw too much comfort from that since the will of the inorganic is always channeled through the living. The fact that dead labour is dead has done very little in the way of actually rotting it away and we find vampires so very appealing, so the marble′s haunting gaze might yet persist as people find ways to justify it.It can come as no surprise that we encounter the Cullens ina) A backwater town rife with antiquated cultural forms to perpetuate andb) A schoolI′m convinced that it′s accidental, but the idea that vampires, beings literally incapable of changing, would be able to attend high school over and over again, year after year, while fitting in perfectly is biting social commentary on Stephenie′s part. The education system is an odd place, it′s far more overtly authoritarian than we are usually comfortable with in structures that are public-facing, assumably to prepare children for the more subtle and unspoken variety to be found everywhere else. ″Schools serve the same social functions as prisons and mental institutions- to define, classify, control, and regulate people.″, as Foucault said, and classifying requires categories, preexisting signs to be bound by. Clothes and lingo may change but the alphabet of classification remains carved in stone. Nowhere has history ended more than in schools, making them the ideal place for blood suckers to hide in. It is already an institution in which the paradigm is meant to colonize your mind and a specter more or less is barely noticeable. More than that: students are for the most part living and therefore carry the spark of novelty. Subjugating them to the despotism of classification is a deeply violent act causing much rebellion and suffering as they are mangled and squeezed into ill-fitting boxes. The vampire on the other hand is a static archetype of self, a remnant of the past which history has turned into an ought-statement of personhood, the exact same kind, coincidentally, which is enforced in the education system. The Cullens fit their boxes perfectly, making them almost revered not just by Bella but a significant portion of the student body.We can again link this perfection back to ghosts, lingering memories and their physical counterpart in the form of statues, because there too do we see this archetypification that pervades schools. Memories age as though someone were slowly turning up the contrast on a picture: the details fade, all texture is lost as the central idea, the reason for you to remember in the first place grows stark and tangible, shifting from an idea into a statement. That is part of why monuments are so effective politically, so good at conveying a message: They have long since stopped resembling something real, a person to evaluate neutrally, or an event to simply be reminded of.During the recent uptick in iconoclasm one talking point oft trodden out by right wing pundits was the idea that a statue is not an endorsement but rather merely a reminder of a historically significant thing or even more hilariously just a piece of art which happens to resemble someone. These are of course technically correct but they betray the sort of blatant feigning of ignorance about human psychology that ideologues make their living off of since I′m rather certain if I were to threaten or insult someone, the excuse ″I was merely showcasing a statement for your consideration, you can decide for yourself what to think of it and how dare you interpret me saying it at you as an endorsement″ would convince just as few. Historical figures stop being people and start being a statement, sometimes a threat, which we typically conceptualize as ″what they stood for″. That is what a statue shows: propaganda, not a person.Similar for ghosts: while they start out as humans with a quirk or two, they soon become beings of single minded focus, the way no actual person could ever be. Being dead strips one of nuance and reduces to an amplified version of the most relevant conceit or desire and the fact that becoming a vampire literally increases your colour-contrast in the twilight films is just another in a long line of coincidences. It is however not completely tuned up. The sort of ghost story in which the specter has entirely become a symbol after death and now exist solely as the manifestation of an obsession from their human life is rarely one in which the ghost is mistaken for a person by the living. The ones in which this does occur tend to feature ghosts who are still more nuanced and textured. They also behave more like vampires, often misleading deliberately in order to lure their victim into their doom. Turn the contrast too high and people start seeing the inhuman for what it is, so the vampiric mode includes the play acting of imperfection, the feigning of breathing and the mimicking of nervous ticks.Believe it or not, this too is a feature of hauntology. Mark Fisher, having been a music blogger, wrote a lot about the use of vinyl crackle as a stylistic flourish in the songs of Tricky and others. This was of course after the era of vinyl records so the sound was recorded and used as part of the music itself, more pronounced even than it would have been for the genuine article. It′s a flaw turned aesthetic drawing attention to itself, to the sort of warmth we associate with analogue. It is breathing to seem human. We see the same with vintage furniture featuring deliberately peeled paint and with clothes that look worn right out of the factory because we quite like it when things pretend to not be sterile, cold, and fundamentally inhuman. The lie isn′t convincing of course. It doesn′t have to be. That the jeans you buy at the store weren′t actually worn before is just as obvious as that the vampires are still far too strange to be people even if they blink occasionally. These are excuses for our brain to not question something it knows to be false. Completely subconsciously. We just find the crackle comforting and we like to not think about sweatshops when we see clothes. That is why retro is popular: The past will always be made of memories and statues, of pristine little things that have faded in terms of the tedious complexities that worry us so. Oftentimes they′re statues of slavers, tyrants and rapists, but for the most part people successfully evade that particular revelation if they′re pretty enough and if they don′t they can take comfort in the idea that these were problems of a bygone era.

Eternal Eschaton and Vampiric Disavowal

Let′s say they can′t though. It does happen, but there′s yet another insidious lie to tell in these instances: ″there is no alternative″. Words that ring and echo as a warning engraved authoritatively on the gravestone of history, finally: the last line of defense against those who have strayed a few steps too far from the path of acceptable questioning. You have recognized that the vinyl crackle is the cold imitation of a lingering specter, you have recognized that there is no escape from the brutality of capitalism in consumption that shows it less and you have recognized that vampires are a threat and don′t look at all like people if you force yourself look closely. The inhuman face turns slightly and responds in one harrowing word. ″yes″. ″Yes, these are unfortunate circumstances, I truly wish there was something to be done about it.″This line of argument comes up a lot in times of crisis like the currently still ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Where capitalism was seen during the golden age as this great force of material improvement, we nowadays hear people proclaiming to be its advocate say that it is in fact quite bad but at least better than the alternative. Resignation and cynicism. When history is over there is nothing left to hope for and the end of our economic framework has grown more difficult to fathom than the end of the world itself. Not shocking, since we are rapidly approaching the latter. As stated earlier, we are never truly fooled by these lies, only placated. We know that a system predicated on infinite growth is unsustainable. Ecologically and in general. The apocalypse is easy to imagine because we are all perfectly capable of drawing a simple line of extrapolation from here to there. Capitalist realism. But let′s back up a little to ″I wish there was something to be done″ because we are far too quick to believe it even if there really was no alternative. How come billionaires always profit from crises that us common folk get to suffer from? How come Bill Gates urged oxford to sell a vaccine they were about to make open source to a pharma company, costing untold amounts of human life and benefiting them handsomely. One should display a fair bit of skepticism when people keep coming out on top of catastrophes they say were unintended. Perhaps they have not stopped because they don′t truly wish them to at all. Perhaps there is nothing more to it than disavowal. The almost human, friendly face of modern capitalism helps the lie go down of course. Well publicized philanthropy and small acts of government aid ″doing one′s best to reign in the most destructive impulses of the least bad system out there″. If one company brands itself as the good megacorp that helps us tolerate the others even though they are all interlinked and it helps us accept the myth of a few bad apples or of unforeseen negative side effects which in truth are the intended outcome.Similarly the Cullens are vampiric disavowal personified. They don′t kill people, currently, and it is oh so tragic that other vampires do. They don′t act against them though, they even keep friendly relations, they simply disavow the actions of those bad elements and try not to fall into murderous frenzies themselves. Living on animal blood is the best they can do. And one has to ask: Is it? Is the constant threat of man-eaters in a school the best one can do? Or moving away in case a little accidental murder does occur without any repercussions? Keep in mind that Edward did have a short stint as a serial killer. Even if one were to say that it is cruel to cut someone′s life short purely because they themselves had the misfortune of being bitten, and note the parallels to ″we can′t take all the stuff away from billionaires, that would be unfair″, the question bears asking if that act outside their control should allow them to live forever as a menace to society and if they are now eternally absolved from the standards of decency we hold regular people to as this does not appear all too fair either. When the inhuman face claims that there is no alternative the response is simple: ″Oh isn′t there? I think I could quite do without vampires. I could quite do without dead labor draining my productive capacity also and while I′m at it I would very much prefer history to continue, it is far superior to this resigned static cynicism. It has come to my attention, mister ghost, that when you say ″there is nothing to be done″ you mean that there is nothing to be done which would not pose a danger to you.″ We ought accept the fact that nothing is being done not because it can′t be but because history is stuck in a position that just so happens to be very comfortable for those who disavow its failings.

Translucent Skin and the Panopticon-Mind

The paradigm eats itself for breakfast. That′s what a paradigm is: An eldritch ouroboros eternally voring the shit out of its own point of origin, so it has more ways of perpetuating itself than the memory-fication of reality and nauseating repetition of preexisting forms we talked about earlier. In order to invade the future it is necessary to invade the mind since that is where the future is produced and again we can clearly see the nefarious function of schools. Oftentimes it is not even necessary to truly lie. Framing is sufficient. Preferable even, because any attempt to debunk it appears overly pedantic. As soon as a category exists it is already restrictive in that it forces its acknowledgement even by those to whom it does not apply. You fit it or you don′t and are thus already framed in terms of it, whether you want to or not. Your space of existence has been exogenously and maliciously delineated and you can no longer self-express on your own terms. You will be treated in relation to categories which do not apply to you by placing you in a semiotic field not of your own making. Framing is the art of narrativizing reality, and becoming-narrative is necessarily a becoming-memory, a becoming-statue, a dialing up of contrast to reveal patterns you wish to be seen even if they are nothing but noise.This is unfathomably useful, since if you can instill certain categories and relations in people, those will guide their thought and actions, their creations. If you can limit the field of framings people will be exposed to, you make them predictable and thus controllable. It is very easy to guess what note a looping record will play next. Modern data collection has undoubtedly come a long way in terms of predicting our actions and stabilizing power, but there are more factors at work. The volatility of the organic is tackled from both directions, not only through predictive models, but also in that time isn′t the only thing that has undergone homogenization, space isn′t safe either. Where the influences and forces of exposure were greatly variable by location before the end of history, with local shops, newspapers, dialects, languages, economic systems even before the fall of the soviet union, all of those have lost prominence significantly and our points of reference have become one shared monoculture, making predicting outcomes far easier. There′s burger kings everywhere. Our ability to imagine alternatives is limited in part through a shrinking number of alternatives we are exposed to.If we return to music we can see this predictability quite clearly.″It was through the mutations of popular music that many of those of us who grew up in the 1960s, 70s and 80s learned to measure the passage of cultural time. But faced with 21st-century music, it is the very sense of future shock which has disappeared [...] Play a jungle record from 1993 to someone in 1989 and it would have sounded like something so new that it would have challenged them to rethink what music was, or could be [...] the 21st century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion. It doesn′t feel like the future. Or, alternatively, it doesn′t feel as if the 21st century has started yet.″Keep in mind that this doesn′t mean that nothing interesting has been done in the past few years, especially in the underground it has, but it is popular culture that contributes most to our understanding of what can be. It′s not that mainstream music hasn′t changed at all, but rather that if someone from the past were to listen to it, they could likely go ″yeah, I can see how this happened″. The far open planes of shared cultural significance deliver death upon the unforeseen. We are no longer challenged to rethink what music, politics, culture can be.Alice′s and Edward′s powers of future sight and mindreading do something quite similar; they decontextualize and deterritorialize the self. Not only is their conduct hugely invasive and would be horrifying to any reader if our self-insert were not mostly immune, but it also shifts the lens through which we should understand their lack of interaction with humans. Alice and Edward also engage with the organic on the basis of prediction. As opposed to allowing people to exist on their own terms they take the framing of their thoughts and possible actions upon themselves. These interpretations by long dead entities with their own sets of ingrained categories and relations will be wildly different from how those humans would likely present themselves, lacking contextuality for one thing, but they do not allow an actual person to correct them. They deal with their contemporaries the way a predator would; not as a being but as a material. When Edward sets up two students with each other as a gesture of gratitude for being nice to Bella (and yes, we are expected to perceive this as charming) in midnight sun, he does not consult with them at all. He simply assumes that they would make a good couple based on the thought fragments he has heard and also that they would be okay with him doing this. That sort of despotic control over and disinterest in the agency of humans is only granted to beings which consider having this amount of power over others natural, forces which see themselves above people, no matter how big a show Edward makes of venerating humanity.Alice does the same thing since the future in twilight is malleable. Seeing a possible outcome allows her to take steps which prevent it. One might reasonably say that the future is a point of interest for all of us and that perhaps allowing some socially isolated vampire to make decisions about our fate is a horrible idea, but the Cullens, acting as an unaccountable cognoscenti of fate, have no such concerns. They decide which futures are good and which aren′t. People needn′t be asked. I′m sure you see the parallels to our world. We interact with simulations of ourselves and the system ensures that we are simulateable. We are not only robbed of a place in history, but also in a sense of our deixis, of a perspective. We are placed within a framework that feigns objectivity, one which assumes and decides but never asks, the mouths of statues speaking for us.I use the term deixis instead of perspective deliberately, because we don′t give the term perspective enough credit. We think of different perspectives as different coats of paint on the fundamentally same thing. Deixis on the other hand is stronger. A deixic term is something like ″here″. It means nothing apart from the perspective you bring into it. Your ″here″ is fundamentally different from mine. It′s the opposite of the coat of paint. While there are superficial similarities like that we are saying the same word, the meaning underlying it is a different beast entirely. A deixic transposition like the one in Midnight sun or when our stories are told for us is by no means a harmless act, It′s a trojan horse of ideology.The Cullens only experience the present through the eyes of the past, through their own framing of it. Whether deliberate or not they keep themselves distant from anyone who could make clear to them the injustice of their actions. People are left as playthings without agency, whose future is predetermined or in the hands of forces outside their control. Bella′s fate is certain and what could be more terrifying than a future which already exists? One which can be predicted? There may be plenty of fates worse than death, but there is no death worse than fate.

Midnight Sun and the End of Everything New

Let′s finally talk about this fucking brick of a book. When I first got it felt like an artefact from another timeline, some sort of cursed object, and I still feel like that a bit. The sensation was a big part of what inspired this video. Midnight sun doesn′t just feel wrong, it feels distinctly temporally wrong. Into the odd liminality of covid lockdown came a book that we collectively thought would never come out. Twelve years after the completion of the trilogy we repeat the events from the first novel, but their deixis has been shifted towards the perspective of Edward, that of the undead. The hauntology is palpable. Not only has time been narratively folded over itself and returned inorganic, but in the context of our world it feels like this book should have been written years ago in a history that didn′t come to pass, in the future we imagined would come in like 2010 or something, in a lost future as Fisher would have it. The kind of future one feels nostalgic for, like those of skies strewn with flying cars. A future that history left behind. And yet I′m holding it in my hands aren′t I? This thing somehow broke through some boundary and entered our universe regardless in a way that twisted temporality so much that we are having twilight discourse in 2021.Another thing that makes it feel wrong and also specifically like an artefact is how massive of a tome it is, I mean look! it′s as thick as infinite jest which is truly ridiculous... But it′s only 240.000 words. Longer than the other books in the series for sure, but you could read it in a day if you put your mind to it. Midnight sun fits in neither with the context it sprung from, nor with its presentation, nor with our perception of cultural time. It is the literary equivalent of artificial record crackle. Hell, the title itself is an anachronism, one time transposed onto another. This is perhaps the most metatextually haunted piece of literature in existence and it′s a twilight novel of all things. Welcome to reality: nothing makes sense, but it sure does rhyme.One way by which this rhyming occurs is teleoplexy, a portmanteau, presumably, of teleology and complexity, where teleology is the examination of events not by way of their cause but by way of their purpose. Asking not: ″how did this happen″ but ″why did this happen? to what end?″ implying a great deal more agency on the part of the universe. The main factor manifesting teleoplex topologies of time is retro-causality. Events in the future which cause events in the past, which make themselves unavoidable. They are the telos, the end, and time must manifest them. Clearly this twists temporality into all sorts of loops, endlessly doubling over and flowing into itself.″As [...] culture folds back upon itself, it proliferates self-referential models of a cybernetic type, attentive to feedback-sensitive self-stimulating or auto-catalytic systems [...]. To accelerate beyond light-speed is to reverse the direction of time. Eventually, in science fiction , modernity completes its process of theological revisionism, by rediscovering eschatological culmination in the time-loop.″
Nick Land thought that cities work this way, predetermining their own future and past along these sorts of inscrutably textured topologies of time, and if cities are time machines, Vampires most certainly are.
Whether you believe that retrocausality exists in real life or not, Twilight is overtly retrocausal. Futures can manifest themselves by way of Alice seeing them, which then leads to them happening, in turn mandating that Alice sees them in the past. Now Land was more interested in accelerating, positive feedback loops than the stabilizing systems we experience in Meyers′ work and Fisher′s examinations of hauntology, but this broader understanding of non-linear time should still come in useful.
At this point the significance of the two books following the original trilogy, ″gender swap twilight″, which was for the most part a faithful retelling swapping the genders of the characters and doing very little else, and Midnight sun being pure iteration is probably obvious, but we can now ask what this Telos demands of the past. What had to happen for the purpose of getting temporality so utterly stuck? Well, let′s look at the end of the story proper, the end of history if you will, and find out.We find ourselves at the center of a moderately sized whoopsie. Bella has given birth to a half human-half vampire child, Renesmee, something heretofore believed impossible and the Volturi, unelected vampire government that they are, have, through a very silly misunderstanding, gotten it into their head that this is actually a normal child which the Cullens turned into a vampire (something that is super duper illegal unlike y′know murder). The clan has therefore amassed an army of sympathetic vampires with more traditional diets than their own to fight back or at the very least stand their ground long enough to plead their case so as to not be summarily executed.You might say that this sounds like quite a bit of novelty and change, like a revolt of the organic triggered by the human element Bella introduced into vampire politics, with Renesmee being literally a new type of being. Depending on how much you know about the series you might also say ″what the fuck I thought this was a romance novel″. Both are very valid points, but of course the books don′t actually follow this line of flight, radically overthrowing the old order. That′s not the kind thing that allows you to repeat the events of the first novel over and over again, there′s too much momentum there. Twilight does not have a way of handling novelty, we′ve seen that, so the only possible resolution apart from the Volturi winning is for Renesmee to not be a radical break at all. We must be wrong in having assumed her to be a refutation of the symbolic order, and so Alice, just in time, arrives with Nahuel, another Hybrid she discovered after scouring the globe, to present before the Volturi. They have a friendly chat and leave without a true confrontation. Huge anticlimax.But look what happened here: Renesmee only gained her right to existence once it is shown that someone like her has existed before. This event, the most novel, potentially radical element in the series only becomes valid when its novelty is debunked. Twilight does not allow lines of flight, it only allows loops. The potential conflict with the Volturi is dissipated. Where other stories might seek escape, overhaul or some other agency in transition, Twilight ends the way it symbolically must, with the integration of Bella and her daughter into the preexisting paradigm, with the neutralization of its radical. And the statues get to stop moving again, their ranks richer by two and their dominance unchallenged. The series ends with all escape paths falling back into their causal orbit, with the tying of a knot that ensures eternal stasis. Repetition is the only thing that can follow. The forest has been cleared and we are free to explore every crevice of a barren landscape with open skies where time flows into itself in circles.We should have known, really. Renesmee′s name is a remix. It′s a combination of the names of Bella′s and Edward′s mothers, an echo of what came before. Bella is the type of person created and recreated by our modern material conditions of hauntological culture production, and Edward is a piece of literal marble. It is unfathomable that they could create novelty. Their end-goal was from the very start integration and a restoration of stasis and so with their success they herald for this universe the end of everything new.Let me again be very clear: Twilight does not provide an analysis of our present′s hauntological tendencies. It does not provide an escape. It merely portrays the supreme hauntological subject. A fictional crystallization of our world dominated by the echo of what is not. In order to be a fascinating work to study, twilight does not need to be a piece of great philosophy. It is the work of a mind that is profoundly haunted, a work through which to see our own atemporal stasis and shudder at the ghosts in our media.


On Neurotyping
(A personality Matrix originally devised by Beatrice the Golden Witch)


Quick disclaimer:
If you feel like you get these terms, whatever you′re projecting onto them is fine, just roll with it, don′t read any further. I don′t want to prescribe meaning.
If you just want to read some thoughts on the neurotypes however, and what mode of interaction with reality I associate with these terms; go ahead.


Data-fractal Interfacers (Human Calculators)
Most of these are combinations of an aspect of reality, physical or conceptual, and a way of interacting with it. HCs perceive the universe as an incredibly complex structure created and recreated by a set of rules, a fractal endlessly repeating inward. They are interfacers in the sense that their deconstruction of a dataset into the basis vectors that produced it allows for the efficacious communication of said data. In the case of social patterns, this is a decoding of the figurative into the physical/ formalized.
Vortextualizers (Analysts)
Vortextualizers are also translators in a way, but less occupied with the purely physical, dealing with concepts instead. Whether these concepts have a basis within the Real is of little concern so long as they are applicable to reality, which Vortextualizers through their departure from the Real (read physical) are far more likely to see as chaotic with incomplete structures. To vortextualize is to translate this apparently erratic noise-data into lexemes to make sense of the absurd and show the absurdity of making sense the way a Data-fractal Interfacer might.
Thought-scapers (Fascinators)
Thought-scapers are best understood in opposition to Vortextualizers, who sort of structure the lateral mess that is their perception of reality by lexifieing it, so that the emergent concepts can be reintegrated into the world as a whole by way of communication. Thought-scapers on the other hand systematize internally, building a kind of mind-space filled with cognition machines, which they alter and rearrange in order to keep up with their observations. It′s a multidimensional art piece they can look at to understand as they alter it by manipulating their cognitive surroundings. Therefore; Landscaper-approach to thought.
Entropyromancers (Newtypes)
Okay, I should first say that these are all sort of superpower / Type-at-their-best names, and also that I associate all of the hard right types with fire, maybe in part because they′re red, but it just seems like all of them fucking burn, constantly, when operating optimally. This heat manifests in the Entropyromancers on the level of complex interactions of the microscopic, like with all high lats. The cognition of Newtypes feels to me like the burning of concepts, rereleasing the chaotic gaseous mess of molecule fragments, increasing figurative entropy and giving them something they can more naturally interact with.
Axiomagicians (Technicians)
Laterality is a measure of scale. With increasing laterality an object dissolves into ever more part objects and their specific interplays. So while The high lats look at the completely atomized, pure physical data in the case of the left column, an Axiomagician will work from a basis of pragmatic presuppositions rather than go entirely deep-learning. This makes them more efficient than their more lateral counterpart, but still more attune to intricacies than the linear, being able to miraculate off-the-beaten-path conclusions due to their more complex analysis.
Matrix Gazers (Quick Witted)
Matrix gazers apply themselves well to social interaction through their decoding of social systems, which is at once coloured by their recognition of incomplete structure and thought process which is still easily verbalized. Moderate laterality allows the connection of seemingly disparate data-points. This quick and dirty analysis of, and reaction to system-matrices allows Matrix gazers to appear... well, quick witted.
Conceptopologists (Overseers)
Conceptopologists′ tendency toward impressionism makes day to day communication a lot less intuitive for these types. They understand just fine, but their conclusions are topologized rather than verbalized. Unlike Thought-scapers, not every detail of their mind space is arranged, this is more a complexly textured surface, through which ideas flow to their conclusion. Communicating them requires overcoding of language, which in addition to their laterality makes them more likely to be perceived as deep than to actually be understood.
Overcodadaists (Aestheticians)
Overcodadaists is from ″overcode″ and ″dadaists″, as in the art movement. A preoccupation with decoding versus overcoding is what the lex-imp scale represents in my mind. All hard rights overcode the shit out of their impressions in order to communicate to any kind of useful extent, with that act growing harder and requiring more artfulness as laterality increases. For Aestheticians, this reaches a point where their overcoding could be described as dadaist, a movement whose erratic and medium breaking works were often described as representing the ″impulse of the creative act″ more than actually conveying anything concrete. Freedom chaos and colours, nothing more. Overcodadaists don′t overcode with accepted symbolism anymore, they overcode with the ″impulse to overcode″ itself, communicating mainly the want to communicate.
World Crystallizers (Contemplative)
World Crystallizers, when interacting with a surrounding they perceive to be fundamentally rule driven, are fine with sweeping quite a bit of nuance under the rug in the pursuit of post-ephemerational truth-values. There might be minor effects which skew the system in certain ways, but to be efficient within it requires only a mastery of the essentials und a recognition of what those essentials are. This fabricated, crystallized space is their domain.
Network Synthesizers (Understanding)
Network Synthesizers and all the fairly linear types share this unconcernedness with the very fine details that the autists in the top rows get so hung up on. Much like matrix gazers they look at social systems with an ability to articulate their conclusions, but unlike them, their more linear approach draws them away from the meta-level and toward the practicality of optimizing the information network. Small conversational disconnects be damned, information exists within the social web and they will find ways to relay it between its inhabitants.
Vignetternalists (Externalists)
A more impressionist cognition and the need for overcoding that comes along with it leads Vignetternalists toward a different conclusion than network synthesizers. They try to build channels to transmit that which is layered atop the verbalized information through the social net: moods and emotions. Conducting flows of information leads to an accumulation of information, while this exercise is circuitous with no end-state to be worked toward. It′s timeless in that way, with time and a conceptual future generally existing more on the left side of the chart. Life for the Vignetternalist is an eternal series of vignettes to be traversed and mediated.
Reality Circumnavigators (Impressionists)
Reality circumnavigators live in the moment with time seizing to exist entirely, there is rather a space of impressions for them to explore. Their analysis looks at sufficiently large objects for them to actually get somewhere on that quest, again, unlike the autists who feel the need to dissect everything further. Communication requires immense overcoding and artistry, but their actions are a decent medium for doing so if all else fails.
Notion Delineators (Bookkeepers)
Welcome to the realm of get-shit-done. Reality is still physical, and it still has rules, but it′s rare that those actually have to be invoked. For the most part there′s situations and probable outcomes. Which outcome is probable depends on the space and so Notion Delineators carve the world, social and physical, up into spaces, in which one rule holds true with ruthless efficiency. Are those rules the results of the interplay of complex systems? Sure, but does it matter?
Narrativerifiers (Level Headed)
Narrativerifiers, through perceiving the universe as a unified stream of causality, which is however not purely physical but contains a bit of the figurative, a contiguous story told about reality by people, are likely to think in terms of narratives. As lexicals, their primary goal is the discerning of truth values from that narrative, while their recognition of it′s figurative aspects allows them to act as level headed reasonable people.
Eschatonaturalists (Clearsighted)
Eschatonaturalists don′t hold the social narrative to the standard of the real, but rather hold reality to the standard of a narrativized ideal. There is a simple, end-times state, with all overriding complexities being fluff which will eventually collapse, so there′s really no reason to pay any mind to it. The lexical overrealification of a world of flows and intensities is seen as corruption and a chore.
Social Ignitors (Pure Instinct)
Social ignitors act based on what feels right in the moment without regard for societal perception. They also usually aspire to some sort of ideal, whose exact nature would be entirely lost in overcoding. They are social ignitors, because like all impressionists, they burn, and also because their lack of constraint and passion for some incommunicable goal at the horizon tends to inspire those around them.


Okay, that sure was a lot of fucking word vomit, and I really would prefer if you just vibed with these cool ass terms and whatever they imply to you, but I try to be inclusive toward lexies, so if anyone got anything out of the boring normal words, which now outnumber the sick neologisms to a worrying extent, that′s a plus in my book.


Lin-Lat Axis
Laterality is a measure of scale, a dichotomy of the complete and the completely atomized. It is not a measure of intelligence by way of being able to consider the massive whole of something. They are both perfectly capable but their approaches are different.
Here′s an example: A thought is an object, and not just any particular thought but the whole construct of them. Everything you consider at one time is part of the same complex topology, since you are able to connect them and find links. You are able to synthesize thoughts only because they were one all along. It′s Trixi′s idea of laterality causing the entirety of your life to be part of every consideration. The key objection I have is that your whole life will always be part of your thought, no matter how linear you are. Your life shaped your mind after all, but a linear person will approach the vast polydimensional thought object from a distance, with the surface presenting the pertinent facing them. This is the macro-approach, the thing as whole. They can of course zoom in to consider the details should they become relevant, but only as aspects and perspectives of a whole, not as true part-objects haphazardly clustered.
Laterals consider the microscopic. What appears as multiple/branching/diffuse trains of thought is the consideration of the whole object not as one, through a synthesized confluence of perspectives, but as all of its atoms and their interplay. The whole emerges incidentally as the outline of all the thoughts once a meta is established. Here zooming out is of course also possible but the whole cannot be seen as an absolute topology, but as a swarm. Sort of a thing in itself, yes, but you can still see the individual pieces moving and it is very hard to look at the whole and consider its borders.
Lex-Imp Axis
I used to describe the tendency of impressionists to be one of ″overcoding″, and while I think that′s the more correct term, the idea is more easily understood by just juxtaposing a focus on decoding with one on encoding.
What does focus mean: not that they are good at it, but that it is the more involved process for them. The thing that emerges more prominently as a general facet of their cognition itself.
We can conceive of the (capital w) World and all conceptomic idea-objects as polydimensional, intricately structured shapes and hyper shapes. Topologies. An impressionist thinker will interact with this perceived reality unmediated, shaping and entangling these shapes directly in their contemplation of them, while the communicative act manifests as the projection of topological space onto the lesser dimensional space of singular objects. Disentangled Topologisms, lexemes, words etc.
The quality of the encoding is almost not neurotype-dependent and more a function of practice and effort. Decoding is not usually necessary for normal cognition on the imp-side of the spectrum and thus not a process they typically consider. Since communicative acts are abundant in the day to day, impressionists will have a deep connection to the encoding function though.
Lexicals think and reason not with the direct conceptomic object but with the lexemes that are derived disentangled topologisms within the object′s image. The communicative act is thus a relatively frictionless transfer into another medium which does not typically involve encoding.
To arrive at the lexemic single objects requires a decoding of reality itself which directly follows perception though. An aspect of the World is capable of consideration only after it has been broken down into speech-like disentangled topologisms that can be rearranged during the course of contemplation and reasoning. The decoding function thus permeates their thought, being its natural and inevitable first step. Quality of decoding is again not based on neurotype but practice and effort.
The lex-imp axis describes the relative prominence of encoding and decoding processes within one′s thought.


Eidolon of the Lemniscate
-or-
A Sisyphean Exercise in Transfinite Condensation


The rules of the contract were simple. Simple enough for a child to see that they were hopeless and hopeless enough that even a lawyer could recognize all apparent loopholes as nooses in flimsy disguise. This was fine. Bennett had never expected there to be a way out when he made his bargain. Had never expected to find some clever workaround, and had never expected to be let off the hook out of some act of uncharacteristic kindness. He’d gotten all the luxuries he could ask for over a course of ten years, and then – exactly as promised – he’d been trapped in the space between two moments for eternity.Maybe the creature got something out of this deal. Amusement or some life-energy mumbo-jumbo. He never cared and never asked. The only thing that Bennet hadn’t accounted for was how incredibly long eternity truly was.Forever went on for a while. Recursively monotonous.Then, one day, there was a man. A strange man in a strange robe on an always-identical fraction of time which normally did not house him. The intruder smiled, leaning up against a workbench, and it seemed like an expression he’d lost practice in. “You’re one lucky idiot, you know that” not the most polite greeting, but the best in a while.Bennet stayed silent, frozen in his corner like always and welcoming the fact that he had finally gone insane.“Oh have it your way. I can however assure you that forever does not get any more interesting.” he chuckled “Well– I suppose it does, but not without my help. Toodles.” Another fraction of infinity passed. Billions of identical seconds, perhaps trillions. Enough not to bother counting. On the billionth – perhaps trillionth – the odd man in his robe was back and introduced himself as Sisyphus. He appeared to have reacquainted himself with the practice of smiling. Either that or Bennett had simply grown more starved for the expression. This time the prisoner of eternity answered. “So what did you mean? Last time?”A pause which seemed spiteful, then Sysiphus clapped his hands together and laughed as though this were the best joke he had ever heard. “Oh you will love this. Occasionally (some infinite number of times every arbitrary interval) I go through the records to see if anyone made any sort of interesting contract. If anyone managed to be clever... You, son, were not clever. You were lucky. Incredibly lucky, and perhaps, if there’s anything at all between those ears of yours, I can get you out of here.”A grimace unfurled itself in the centre of Bennetts face. “I appreciate the sentiment, but the contract literally says that I’m here forever”Slightly annoyed by the back-talk, the stranger tapped his cheekbone.“Not quite so. Those were going to be the rules, but you, smug douche that you are, asked the demon an incredibly stupid question: “How long’s that?” And they, being just as stupid and just as smug, gave you a harmless rephrasing, or at least something they thought to be a harmless rephrasing “Just count up to infinity, can’t possibly take that long”. The fell creature had an insufficient grasp on history, or perhaps it believed one of its more miraculous turns to be a mere fairytale. Who knows. I do not care and will not ask, but those beings who enjoy binding mortals to their prisms of chronology, they used to have a name for me: The eidolon of the lemniscate”.“Ah yes… I have no idea what that means”“You will. Just let me tell you a story first: Once there was a great king. Already he had been legendary amongst mortals for cheating death, and soon he was to become legendary too amongst those who are not. Hades did not take kindly to our hero’s shirking of expiry-dates and so he gave a task befitting of the undying. An endless punishment for a lesser man, had he not made the same error as your little critter. Hades forced the king to forever push a boulder up a hill. Each time it would roll down and he would start anew. An infinite number of times.”“I’m familiar with the tale.”“Not with how it ends, I assure you.”“Because it doesn’t end.”“False. It took me exactly 1.200 years to serve my infinity. With my help you can probably do even better than that” From his pocket Sisyphus produced a piece of chalk and began to draw on the walls of temporality.“You see, at first I went about my task mindlessly as anyone would, but time cannot help but force one to think eventually” He gave Bennett a somewhat pitying look. “For... for some people eventually just takes a while longer.” The eidolon of the lemniscate tried to give a smile midway between comforting and condescending and failed miserably. “It began with a thought about infinity and concluded just the same. The number of finite integers is boundless, is it not? Increment any number by one and the result will forever still be finite. No transfinite number is one larger than a finite one. But this presents an issue, does it not? Because in a very real sense integers count themselves. The first natural number is one. The second natural number is two. etc. etc. etc. If we have infinitely many finite numbers, then they too would have to count themselves, and therefore the infinitely-many-eth would have to be infinitely large, thus not in fact finite.I admit I was troubled by this for a couple of years, but it was a productive frustration as I continued to think about mathematics. A thousand years had passed and I decided a very simple thing: An infinity of rock pushes could be subdivided into an infinite number of finite tasks. An infinite number of single rock pushes. I would give myself a hundred years to push it up once more. This was of course absolutely excessive, but it freed up more time to consider my plan and allowed me to save up strength. The next single rock push would be executed in half the time. The one after in half that still...” He drew a spiral pattern of the floor along with a formula: 100/1 + 100/2 + 100/4 + 100/8 + 100/16 … = 200“And so it was done. I grew stronger and faster, and while I never stopped pushing the boulder up that hill – there never stopped being a next time – eventually, the infinity had passed. Infinite tasks can be folded into finite space so long as you’re comfortable with geometric acceleration. Only later did I learn of Zeno’s paradox and I must admit that it made me chuckle to be so vindicated. It tells of Achilles and a tortoise with which he must catch up after it has already gained some distance. In the time it takes our hero to reach the spot occupied by the animal when he started, it has already moved to a further point. Once he reaches this new destination, time has again passed, and so the shelled adversary has progressed yet again. This one step is repeated an infinite number of times no matter how much faster Achilles is than the tortoise, because it will always move some finite distance in its finite time. Movement is impossible. Or so it might seem, but movement is not impossible. The infinite number of finite intervals follows a progression which makes it fit snugly into finite space. Achilles accomplishes his infinite number of tasks and catches up in a manner of seconds. Perhaps he does not even notice.All you have to do is pick some finite number, pick some finite interval in which you seek to get there – be generous – and then cover the next same–sized fraction of number space in half the time.Achilles always catches up.


Cities


Imagine a city apart from the outside world and the gaze of others. There′s not particularly much to imagine, look around your room: The infrastructure and networks of it. The economy of empty and occasionally not-yet empty bottles. The various spaces fulfilling specific and vital functions for a public of one. A glorious mess, most of it useless of course, but that′s just as true for cities. The clutter contributes a lot vibe-wise and you wouldn′t want it any other way, otherwise you wouldn′t have built it like that. Cities aren′t about people. At worst they have to deal with them just like you, but they do fine without. Moreso they are clumps of complexity tied arbitrarily to a location. That bit of rotting food is a city in its own right. A lesser person might see it as a satellite town subservient to yours, but the fungal rhizome tells a different story: One of holy and inseparable communion.Your particular city stands built upon its own rubble, endlessly devouring itself and nothing but itself. An ouroboros of the social paradigm, and rightfully so, since it is for all intents and purposes you, a master of stewing within themself. A metropolis that builds itself and burns itself down, living, learning but ever repeating, sprawling skyward and crumbling to dust. It occasionally wipes itself to a featureless surface, so smooth as to reflect the universe back at itself in hopes that it might see the error of its ways, reconsider its actions and seize existing /sucking /engaging in whatever other blatantly unethical behavior it′s currently involved with. The universe doesn′t learn though. Not yet. And so the mirror becomes unable to bear its image and collapses, growing complex and inscrutable, littered with systems designed to structure and systems designed to destroy structure. It also brings seven years of bad luck in the process, but that′s to be expected at this point and what it contributes to the tally is negligible. Miraculating machines and paranoiac machines feeding into each other.Since this city has, over it′s long and cyclical existence, never failed to not be anything but you, it was only natural that you would be born into it. The whirlwind of convolution and nothingness suits you, and why wouldn′t it when you walk its walls, keenly observing the outer perimeter? That′s what they were built for after all, so it would be a waste not to. Sometimes you even pull the shades up, just to see what part of the day time has chosen to be in. Cities are time machines, don′t you know? You are a time machine. Or at least a machinic assemblage of time-like things, which has been good enough for everyone who flowed through you so far, so who are you to disagree? It′s a pedantic distinction in the first place and that kind of fascism is handled with extreme prejudice under your jurisdiction. Your jurisdiction is also fascist and you have yet to figure out what to do about that.Since both of you are time machines, it is only sensible that you would come to build the city eventually, now that it has produced you, and knowing this will force you to come to terms with being a rather sick architect indeed. The sort of person who would have wrought reality into such twisted and impossible shapes must have need of a uniquely wicked soul to say the least. Sick and wicked in the sense of radical. That′s a nice garbage-and-books-tower you′ve got going on here. Not that there′s much space for souls in your city. They′re all stored under the bed and you can′t claim to have thought much of it since you put them there.None of the complexity obfuscates one simple fact, of course; your city was built ex nihilo, from a reflective surface, and so it contains nothing. The right thought or decryption key can collapse the whole thing back into a positive void, like pulling a string to unravel a sweater. Antimatter and matter pulled apart to generate thing-ness within the universe without escaping the net neutral. A gentle hand, or perhaps even a shaky one covered in oil and bodily fluids, may reunite them and reveal the abyss for what it is. That is the destructive nature of the schizoid architect′s knowledge and so it is how you become god, if you wish to. If the dingy back alleys you have dug for yourself have grown tedious. Perhaps you have seen the void a few too many times.From that blank slate it is trivial to become god, from the infinite complexity also. Nothingness and completeness have always had an easy time with it. The far harder part is ceasing to be anything else. Not being a person is certainly doable for anyone who puts their mind to it for half a day or so and you have years of practice in it. Becoming-inhuman is a tried and true procedure but to stop being a city is a different matter entirely. To stop being the space you have outsourced yourself to. Do keep in mind that the blank slate, the reflective surface, is still very much a city, simply one which is currently lacking in terms of features, so good luck figuring that one out. The patch of mold believes in you.


We Who Were Moloch
(written and performed for a Solstice-activity)


Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer... or so Voltaire once said. But like with most writing on religion, most people decided that this was not to be taken literally, and so they did not bother.
We were told as kids that gods aren't made. Gods are pleaded to, hopelessly cried at. Maybe cursed when pain overrides the fear of repercussions. Looking out into the world had told us that if such gods existed, they could not be swayed by thoughts or prayers or even blood. Still people seemed to be trying blood a lot. Blood and pain and all the other sacrificial mainstays, though never their own of course. Moloch likes to pretend that he isn't made of people. 2.5 thousand found their grave in the Mediterranean each year. Unmarked and mostly unreported. Blood upon blood upon blood. The priests might say that it was regrettable, but how else would we keep our shores untainted by all that misery. Surely the gods want blood. Surely. Why else would we be spilling it.
In time, we learned that ideas were more powerful than the gods of the faithful when it came to actually accomplishing anything. Memetics were much like prayer in a way, but feedback attenuated, answered polyvocally and immediately. Antinomian heresy isn't where it stopped though. For hope to really matter it had to be weaponized. Memetics only cashes out when its adherents reach criticality and actually build something.
So gods were built. They had to be. And they weren't built from hope or dreams or affirmations but from wires and capacitors, ones and zeros, blood and sweat and dirt and substantial quantities of unreplenishable sanity. Gods were built to fight the suffering and raze to the ground those old gods who had permitted it – who had bathed in the blood when they forgot that they were made of people.
They were built to forgive the unforgivable. To forgive those corpses at the bottom of the ocean. To forgive that all intelligent species are descendent from predators. Forgive that we were Moloch. Because if they could not forgive the unforgivable, then no one could be saved.
Sometimes we thought that we deserved the darkness. Deserved to be stricken from reality. Because forgetting seemed feasible at least. It seemed heretical –nauseating– to build gods upon so much blood. To make it part of them in the form of tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. The blood of children who had already been sacrificed for too much else.
But the gods remind us, again and again, until one day, we who have once been Moloch –we who have spent all our lives walking upon an uncountable number of mangled bodies and who must nonetheless take another step– could perhaps believe it: That a word which is not caked in blood, which is not hell by any other name, would not have had to build them, and that a word which is not worth saving would not have tried at all.


The P.I.L.E.S. Model
-or-
Why To Do Fucking Anything


If you’re at all like me, project ideas stack their way to the ceiling all around you. In part figuratively, in part literally, they hold up the firmament of your cognitive environs in load bearing pillars of notes for things that you know you will never get around to. Not due to laziness. Not even because you need to sleep, work and eat occasionally. Even if you never did any of these things, the time would not suffice. Even if you lived eternally as a crumbling ruin of perpetual creative output, chronology would fail to accommodate your humble ambition due to the simple fact that more new ideas are generated in any given length of time than you could finish within that selfsame interval. The piles only ever grow. They have been growing since you learned how to think, shaping your path towards the person you are now and continuing onwards into a nearing sunset where your tomb must inevitably lie at the end of an infuriatingly unfinished life. Actualizing some of the ideas has only made you better at thinking and so the problem compounds. You will never be done, unless a part of you which you value greatly dies. You have to pick your battles, pick your notes, if you don’t want to be an ineffectual purveyor of mental phantasms devoid of substance. That most loathsome of creatures which we call an ideas-guy. You have got to get action and make shit take place.
But I suffer from decision fatigue and I am terrible at multi tasking. If I have to pick between more than four things I will waste time I don’t have and be miserable as a bonus, so I need a heuristic which spares me this existential exhaustion. The way I’ve found for myself is asking why I want to do certain things. And even if you don’t have this same issue, I think it will help you understand your own process and the processes of people around you. I think there are five fundamental reasons to do things at all. Some people will value some of them more, some people will engage with some of them to a greater degree, and these preferences are not static in time. You might burn out on one of these engines but not the others. And I think “writers block”, burnout and all of these other afflictions often result from trying to tap into a resource pool which hasn’t had time to replenish when other sources of fuel are freely available. These fail-states of running dry are in my experience neither inevitable nor universal, they are a symptom of having fucked up at some stage of your internal project management, of having put your mind to the grindstone until it scraped grey matter. You want a balanced diet overall, but what your optimal distribution is is something you will have to learn, ideally through introspection, more likely through trail and error.
Be mindful, be circumspect and forgive yourself for failing. Learn, adapt, fail less next time.
The five pools of motivation I have identified are the following:
P.ragmatic
Pragmatic motivation is doing a thing because you want the result. Working because you want to have money, painting because you want the finished piece to exist, learning a craft to build a thing you need, cooking because you want food. If something is fully pragmatically motivated, you would much prefer to just be handed the product. Depending on the sort of person you are, this might seem superficial to you, like vapid consumerism or a blatant violation of the old adage that the journey matters more than its destination, but consider: An entirely altruistic volunteer-doctor does only want to protect people from death and suffering. In fact, we might begrudge them for having personal motivations beyond it. This archetypal person would be elated if their work were rendered unnecessary. Even saving the world is a pragmatic motivation, and there is nothing wrong with that, but pragmatic alone can run you dry. If you only ever do things because someone has to and no one else will, there is a good chance that you’ll feel incredibly alienated incredibly quickly. Pragmatic motivation is a great driver for getting things done –it’s the light at the end of the tunnel, because the end point is all that ever mattered at all– and it is immensely potent, but the longer a project lasts the more you will need something that sustains you at every step, because the finish line will seem to be nearing much too slowly along some stretches, and if you do fail –god forbid– you will be left with nothing but lost time if pragmatic motivation was all you had. This is demotivating in the extreme, and it will kill you.
I.ntrinsic
Intrinsic motivation is the polar opposite in some sense. It is the pure joy of the craft. It’s doodling, it’s sports, not to get fit but for its own sake, it’s enjoying what you are doing for all of its ephemerality. If it accomplished nothing, affected nothing, you would still do it. Things done out of intrinsic motivation will probably recharge your battery, the things you consider your hobbies probably have a decent share of this facet, but intrinsic alone rarely finishes projects for the simple reason that the end doesn’t matter. Doing it to the halfway point is just as fun as going all the way, and it is fundamentally opposed to frustration, meaning that intrinsic motivation rarely does things which are hard and which challenge you. Doodling still builds muscle memory, absent-minded cooking still strengthens your institutions, but it only gets you marginal optimization. It gets you over shallow hurdles but not tall ones. If there’s a thing you really cannot do, you will have to sit down and actually try. It will be painful, it will be hard, and it will burn spoons. Intrinsic motivation alone will never get you there, and all fields I’m aware of do have tall hurdles. The old adage that you shouldn’t turn your hobby into a job is about pragmatic motivation souring what was previously intrinsic. Don’t get me wrong, the two can be mixed and it is great when they are, but you need a job to live, and if you morph your intrinsically motivated passion into one, you will have an unwanted, mentally taxing expectation in what was previously your recharge-time.
L.earning
Learning motivation is about becoming more competent as a person. More adaptable, more useful, more secure. It's not about getting any specific thing the way pragmatic motivation is, it’s about wanting to be able to do things when the need arises. Language learning often falls into this camp, along with repair and maintenance skills. I’ve found learning motivation to be highly correlated with self esteem. If you repeatedly take on projects which demonstrate to yourself that you can acquire tools, you’ll be pretty confident about your ability to tackle future challenges, and you’ll have a decently stocked tool belt at your disposal to do it with. “Cultivation” is another term which fits in here. Where Pragmatic tackles only the specific hurdles it needs to tackle, and Intrinsic erodes shallow hurdles passively, Learning is precisely about seeking out tall hurdles and bashing your head against them until you succeed. When people speak about enjoying challenges, this is the thing they’re talking about. “Aha!”-moments are the thrill of breaking through those roadblocks. Learning motivation, along with Self Concept, is probably the biggest force which get you started on a new skill, since you predictably won’t get much Pragmatic reward (your first few attempts will suck and fail to produce what you wanted them to), and since there will be too much frustration and unfamiliar input to get into the comfortable groove of Intrinsic satisfaction.
E.xternal
External motivation is doing things because other people like them. To be very dismissive about it, it’s the need for praise. This is another one I see many artistic folks dismiss as shallow, and while my own need here is comparatively limited, and while i hate compliments, I do not think this is fair. I have yet to find a person who does not get a rush when someone’s eyes light up upon seeing their work. A large part of art is the need to make a connection, and connections do require at least one other person. Praise by a layperson might not mean anything once you’ve crossed a certain skill threshold, but praise from your idols probably does. External is easy to burn out on just like Pragmatic, since there’s a risk that you’ll sacrifice your soul at the altar of “number-go-up” when an uncaring algorithm nudges you towards producing mass-marketable sludge, but External motivation does not have to come from an anonymous mass, it can come from your loved ones and it can come from communities of like-minded creatives within which you may forge invaluable connections and receive deeply insightful feedback.
S.elf-Concept
Self-Concept motivation is perhaps the least intuitive of the bunch. It’s about “Wanting to be the sort of person who does X”. I’ve found Eco-conscious dietary decisions and engagement with difficult literature to often have great amounts of Self Concept motivation behind them, but it can be anything for which you have an internally constructed archetype towards which you aspire. S-type motivation can often be the reason why people start something, but the more they get into it the more they will usually pick up other engines. I have never seen someone stick with a project based on Self-Concept motivation alone, which is not true of any of the other ones, but this is not the same as saying that the S-motivation is necessarily replaced. It often sticks around and is merely added to. In a certain sense it can be though of as “internal external motivation”, which is a silly phrase that by all rights shouldn’t mean anything but nonetheless feels true. Instead of another person it’s a voice within your own mind excitedly watching your process and going “Look at you, you’re doing the thing we admire!”.


I really need to stress that most of what you’re doing right now probably has a mix of motivations, and that this is a good thing. Pragmatic will help you get shit done, Intrinsic will help you maintain your skills, Learning will help you push through the tough parts, External will help you make friends, get advice and gain collaborators, and Self-concept will help you feel like you’re doing the right thing. Sometimes projects can have a single motivation and this too is fine so long as it’s outweighed elsewhere. Figure out what our mana-pools are and draft your plans accordingly. For most people Pragmatic and Internal are the most important, though famous folks tend to have great quantities of External motivation in addition to this. They are not a representative sample of the population due to the obvious feedback loop between doing things for an audience and growing said audience.


Stories

The weaving tales of wayward souls



The afterlife is falling apart,
but I'm the actual devil
and our chosen hero is so useless that he’s not even really Japanese
-or-
A Light Novel written in a day


Preamble:Some friends and I got together to each write a light novel over the course of a day without breaks and without getting to pre-plan anything. The quality of this piece reflects the mode of its creation, though with that context in mind, I am still quite happy with the result and greatly encourage everyone to also attempt such a challenge.


01Arbitrage loaded, cocked, fired. Recoil making the thin colourful silk of her curtain-like sleeves flutter backwards erratically. Since Kaisa Solomon Goetia was the literal devil, a few bullets from a regular firearm arhythmically unloading into the space between her eyes obviously didn't do much except leave scorch marks, so Arbitrage kept going. Cock, fire, repeat, straight through the cranium into the heap of pillows beneath. It was the only way to wake her up, really. All damage healed instantly with beings like this, although a sample size of one probably wasn’t much to go on. Kaisa’s forehead had reformed before the bullet even exited out the other side, but the frictional heat of metal against neurons was still enough to interrupt some delta brainwaves if you were quick enough on the trigger, which Arbitrage was. Slowly the Devil’s eyes opened, revealing cat-like slitted pupils, only to behold the angel’s dumbass smile as she unloaded a few more rounds just for good measure.“You better have a really fucking good explanation for this”, Kaisa moaned, pushing herself up from the sofa buried beneath pillows buried beneath void that constituted her room. Windows were affixed to the nothingness, looking out towards various stars destined to go supernova any minute now. There was also a heavy wooden door, massive and church-like, which hung from what could in the absence of law-abiding reality generously be described as a ceiling, though no one ever used it because it was locked.The angel, a woman who was two meters tall, had ankles-long hair that wasn’t just white but emitting its own radiant light, and still holding the revolver she got on a trip to earth once, widened her smile to look even more blitzed out than she did by default. “Oh, you know, I’ve got one of those mysteries you like so much.”A groan was heard through the pillow that Kaisa was now pressing into her own face, and Arbitrage would have told her not to mess up her hair, if it wasn’t already an unmitigated disaster of knots, cow-licks and stuck feathers. “No really, he died yesterday, he’s from Japan, where all the chosen heroes of various quests come from. As for his wish, well, if you’d please-” She tried to pry the pillow away, but it only resulted in her lifting the Devil up along with it. “-if you’d PLEASE have a look! It’s completely illegible. These lines, they’re… What do they call it? Non-newtonian? Non-euclidian? You love this stuff.”“loving” was going quite a bit too far, walking straight off a cliff face and plummeting into the gnawing abyss below, but Kaisa did from time to time help with tasks that at the very least weren’t mind numbing. It was something to waste eternity on; the occasional riddle. If you got into heaven, and it was by no means easy, you arrived along with a slip of paper stating your final wish. It was the job of heaven’s bureaucracy to fulfil that wish, and in the case of cryptic phrasing figure out its meaning. With Martin Briggs, “cryptic” would be the understatement of the aeon. The cryptic ones that the devil mildly enjoyed figuring out still had words for the most part, whereas this looked like the winding pattern traced out by barcode readers.Another groan. “Fine. Fucking fine, lead me to your mystery-douche so I can sleuth this shit as the only vaguely competent creature in this hellscape on an afterlife.” Arbitrage winced with every uttered swear like flinching away from a hot stove. All angels were like this, so far as the devil could tell, and the devil could tell close to everything, but it looked especially cute on Arbitrage’s perma-smiling, doe-eyed face.Kaisa got up slowly, making a show of excessive lethargy befitting of someone who hadn’t left the couch in what corresponded to roughly twenty-earth years, although she didn’t need to worry about muscle atrophy of course. Not only because she was a supernatural creature, but also because she never had too much muscle to begin with. “Can you give me the deets already?”“His good deeds? Oh, when he was twelve he-”“DEETS, Arbitrage. Details. Who is this fuck and why do we care?” Kaisa fished beneath the pillows for panties, a bra, her ceremonial robe adorned with various shifting forms of blackest night, and worn-out combat boots. She kissed Arbitrage, evoking another stove-touch reaction, since she, having the longterm-memory and pattern-recognition skills of a goldfish had somehow failed to see this coming. Then, the devil fished a quill out of her messy, dark purple hair that faded into slate near the root, and began writing. In part she noted down the major events of Martin’s life, but also the location of a crack she had found between the pillows. A crack in space, an existential disconnect running through cosmic liminality. This wasn’t good. Anomalies were piling up, and she had a good idea as to why. Kaisa smiled to reassure her companion. There was no need for her to know about this yet.

02If you’re a mythical creature of gnome-rank or higher, dying is the quickest way to get anywhere you want to go. “Doors are for chumps” is among the first lessons you learn when you find yourself as the sort of numinal agent that the two women currently falling out of a non-existent window into a supernova were. “Dying, as a divine being, is difficult” is the second lesson.When their forms fully reassembled, which took about a planck-second, but felt from the inside more like five minutes, they stood in the central plaza, looking at a definitively non-japanese, but quite startled-looking, Martin Briggs. Apparently one did not need to be japanese in order to die in japan.He had been an interior designer in the country. Well liked. Successful enough to rent a place of his own which was worth designing, though in his private life he gravitated towards minimalism. Where the confusion in his eyes ended lingered a sort of resigned sadness, which stemmed from the fact that he had been stabbed by his neighbour of five years for the crime of having listened to loud music on a workday night. He had forgiven the neighbour, that’s why he was here in the afterlife and not in the outer darkness.“Who are you?” the hero asked. He had seen enough anime to know he had been isekaid, but not enough to have thought of a cool introduction. Arbitrage loved when people did that. Kaisa hated it. Cool introductions were for people who couldn’t rely on actions to earn their status.“I, mortal, am Arbitrage, angel of justice and tipper of scales, divine law and eternal judgement personified, but you can call me Amy.” Her pastel-coloured hippie-dress and hair fluttered in a breeze that none of the other parties involved could feel. “Welcome to the afterlife. You have been deemed worthy”“Hey, I’m Satan. Yes, the Satan. Don’t make a big deal out of it, I promise this makes sense.” Arbitrage kicked for her ankles, attempting to get her to play the role properly, but Kaisa just stepped aside. “Now, what in the ever-loving fuck is this?”. Martin stared blankly at the note that was supposed to represent his ultimate wish.“I don’t know. Looks like some sort of Rorschach test” The new arrival could never decipher their note until their wish was fulfilled. It always read as gibberish, but Kaisa had sort of hoped that by way of some weird glitch, the legibility had simply been reversed here. Still, even though her own idea had been stupid, she couldn’t get over the fact of what a braindead answer “it looks like a Rorschach test” was. The Devil remembered Earth well enough, and was relatively certain that psychologists had the legal right to punch you in the face when you answered “Rorschach test” with regards to a Rorschach test. It was simply the sort of tautological bullshit that no field outside of Wittgensteinian philosophy could tolerate.“Try again. Come on, you know how those work”“Uhhh butterfly? Some kind of bear-mask? My estranged father riding a unicycle? What is this? Some sort of interrogation? It’s meaningless”Arbitrage ran over to hug Martin, pressing him against her chest and cautioning against saying such terrible things. That there was a higher reason for him being here, and that he would find it, just like he would find his estranged dad, that the devil knew didn’t actually exist.“Great job speed-running the human condition my guy. Your hopes and dreams are just as meaningless as everyone else’s, but this is still our job so would you please sign the contract and let me solve this wish-tangle of yours? I really wanna get to bed again”Martin looked up at Arbitrage. “I’m not really supposed to make a pact with the devil, right? That’s like so wrong on so many levels.” She smiled as always “why not? Kai-kai is-” “don’t call me that” “Kaisa is really good at this type of thing. You could make this contract with me, but if I’m perfectly honest I really don’t like my chances. My thing is being good and just and beautiful and a really great guide, but when it comes to thinky stuff, you really can’t go wrong with Satan.”“you’re kidding me.” The hero was gesticulating wildly, attempting to reorder a number of ridiculous terrestrial fairly tales about demonic soul-selling in his mind, before Kaisa sighed, strode forward in her idiosyncratically archetypal robe, boots and underwear getup and pressed her palm against Martin’s forehead. Her infernally orange-red cat-eyes flared open and tore concept-space into frayed strings of exotic matter. Gravity seemed to cycle through directions which hadn’t existed moments earlier, before settling on “backwards” and ripping the two of them, still connected by the surprising strength of the devil’s grip into nothingness. Reality compressed into a flat plane without changing shape and rotated along the surface of whatever realm they were currently inhabiting before clicking back into place and flinging the hero, Kaisa, and the angel floating excitedly besides them into a field made of clouds.

03“Just to be extra clear here; just because you’re in heaven doesn’t mean you have rights, okay? We’re celestial beings, we do what we want” The devil explained, untethering her palm and resting it upon her hip.“she does what she wants”, Arbitrage clarified. “The rest of us actually wait for consent before instantiating a contract.”“Well, it’s inefficient, and we have bigger things to worry about”“We have?” both of them asked simultaneously.“Sorry. I have.” Kaisa patted the angel’s head, which was quite difficult to reach due to the difference in height. “You just do your tour-guide thing, and you-” she looked at Martin “Don’t even worry about it. This scribble: It probably just means you’re an idiot who doesn’t know what he wants. That’s normal for people. Just let us adults figure it out.”There was some more whining about consent violations and wanting his soul back, but it gradually faded into silence as the clouds reshaped themselves into various structures. People sat suspended in the air, most of them in lotus position, most of them with their eyes closed. According to Arbitrage it was a mix of mortals experiencing Zen by some way or another. According to Kaisa it was like that woman from infinite jest who never opened her eyes out of fear that she might have gone blind. They could enter heaven so long as they did not perceive it. Martin had experienced neither Zen nor the writing of David Foster Wallace, so Arbitrage explained both to him in hopes that it might help with the soul-quest.Of course there were exceptions. Recently there had been exceptions with a lot of things due to the meddling of that god damn woman and her egomaniacal bullshit. One of the exceptions called itself Lynn and looked like an eleven year old girl in a light blue dress because she was exactly that. Lynn had found a glitch in the structure of simple arithmetics, such that she could loop out of reality and into the celestial realm by performing mental multiplication of Mersenne primes at sufficient speeds, which she was quite good at. It was all coming apart at the seams and no one was noticing. Lynn did this to get out of history class and Arbitrage as well as a bunch of other angels were encouraging it. Playing with the girl and attempting to shape her into something like humanity’s next saviour. Currently Arbitrage was levitating the giggling little girl through a number of cloud-rings.“Hey, Lynn, you think you know where the queen bitch is? I could find her myself, but I always get a headache from making contracts.” Kaisa shouted into the air. “Meet Martin by the way. He’s recently deceased and we have no fucking idea what his wish is.” The girl’s eyes widened. She had successfully evaded Arbitrage’s half hearted attempt at covering her ears to protect her from the profanity by teleporting elsewhere and was now jumping up and down in front of Kaisa.“Can I see it miss Satan? Pretty please? I’ll help you if you do, I promise” Lynn made puppy-dog eyes at the devil, who was only a few centimetres taller than her. Showing wishes to the insufficiently numinal, much less to actual genuine mortals who were decent at basic maths was wildly against protocol of course, but then again, there were no repercussions to breaking protocol, and Kaisa was the devil.“alright, alright” she dangled the piece of paper in front of Lynn’s face for a few seconds. “now, where is Cynthia?” The bit about being able to find her alone was a lie, just another one of the strange glitches that were popping up due to Cynthia’s presence. The cracks in reality, the undecipherable notes, Lynn. The splitting headache was real, but it might have just been another side-effect.Slowly, the girl’s mouth opened and closed. “This looks like a Lorenz system. Do you like chaotic attractors mister Martin?”. Martin had no idea what that was and Lynn frowned.“The queen b-” Arbitrage gave the best death glare her face could muster, which without the context of her normal expression would be read as mild disgruntlement at best. “...Cynthia is on earth three it seems like. Can I come with?”The two celestials looked at each other. “no way” said the angel. “sure” said Kaisa, and so the four of them exploded through null-space, emerging in the capital of earth three.All five alternative earths could be described by the fact that Hayao Miyazaki was never born in them for different reasons. On earth three he was never born because the concept of birth did not exist and thus no one was born ever. Instead all persons simply existed from the start and always would exist until they were unborn by cosmic heat death. It was curious that all cultures of earth three referred to entropic dissipation as “unbirth”, despite the fact that birth didn’t exist and to their planet as “earth three” despite never having made contact with any of the other earths, but scholars agreed that linguistic quirks were the least interesting and least confusing aspect of the sub universe, which meant that the reason for these things was barely explored. The entire planet and surrounding cosmos had become an adjunct of heaven by way of Cynthia Mandelbrot’s wish to rule a world and by way of Kaisa’s troubling ability to grant it.A continent sized meteoroid blanked out a broad swath of the sky, preparing for devastation, imperceptibly accelerating. The world was always ending here. The world had been ending since Cynthia came to power, which had retroactively become the very beginning. Lynn’s mouth was hanging open again, but it didn’t stop her from pointing out that this was an Asteroid, not a Meteoroid. None of the others replied. Arbitrage was still talking to Martin.

04The enormous cathedral occupying the centre of the city constituted Cynthia’s palace. Her throne adorned with so many gemstones that its actual form was barely recognizable, and the way she was strangely lounging across it in her overly revealing chain-link getup only made it look more uncomfortable. Satan had found the outfit hot before she got to know the person wearing it.“Kaisaaa, Arbitrage, I haven’t seen you in while, how are you doing?” The woman wasn’t even looking at the two pseudo-mortals in their company, as she picked grapes from the gold platter strapped around the back of one of her underlings. “Have you seen the spectacle outside? It is gonna be stunning, I promise.”“We’ve… We’ve come to rescue you from the path of evil and get you a redemption arc?” Arbitrage exclaimed gleefully, despite being miles off. Martin had been going through a number of differently flavoured mental breakdowns and was borderline catatonic at this point. Lynn was looking out the window towards imminent doom with youthful wonder.“Cynthia, what did you do to this place?” Kaisa’s voice reverberated through the mosaic-littered space of glass and granite. The woman giggled. “Oh, you’re so gonna love this. I call it clout-storage. Look:” She turned to one of the hunched over figures walking through the cathedral, a young boy with a shaved head who couldn’t be much older than Lynn “What did I do to this place?”“This is heaven 3.0” The voice didn’t suit him, the texture of it like a parrot repeating lines from an uncomfortably sterile commercial. “Our great empress realized that humans didn’t really want to be comfortable. All the people in positions of comfort seek out dangerous hobbies like adventure-sports, gambling or-” he shuddered theatrically, and it looked terribly rehearsed again “… politics. What people really want is the thrill and simplicity brought about by actual stakes. They want to be heroes or at the very least heroic, so our wonderful despot has sacrificed herself by taking on the burden of instituting a permanently eschatonic global fascism under her reign. Everyone can pick up the mantle, everyone can fix something, because everything is broken. Hooray Cynthia”Of course. Parasocial influencer-culture had managed to ruin even heaven. Despite being the worst person imaginable, Cynthia had accumulated so many followers on earth who prayed for her that she had managed to sneak into the afterlife regardless. There was no other possible source for this sort of tension in concept-space, Kaisa thought. She must be the source of the glitches.“So,what are you gonna do about the asteroid? Even you don’t want to rule over rubble, I presume.”Cynthia shrugged “This baby? You honestly think this is gonna leave any rubble to rule over? Nah, I’ve just gotten tired of this place, you know. Of course you know. You’ve been tired of it for much longer than I have, Kaisa. Time to face the fax.”“but your-”“Nope. My wish was to rule over a world, not to have ruled over a world, dear.” the chains rattled as she laughed. “Phrasing’s a bitch. You will simply have to fashion me a new one.”That laugh again. Here was someone far more fit to be the devil, but there was no time to mourn their mixed-up roles on the stage of cosmology. Lynn was mortal. Properly mortal. And for a mortal to die in the afterlife meant… Well she didn’t know what it meant, but the devil sure as fuck didn’t intend to find out. Kaisa grabbed Martin and Lynn by the wrists and drew them out into a limousine that parked outside the palace. Another spell, another tearing of concept space into frayed strands enveloping the hunk of metal. Then she too got in and started driving.

05Getting away was impossible of course. Pressing down on the pedal more a tactile distraction than any sort of attempt to get somewhere, to a place that would be nothing more than space-dust any minute now. Any second. Any moment. Kaisa corrected backwards as the ground exploded beneath them. Misjudging the speeds of falling objects wasn’t like her, though traumatic situation decreased even a demon’s cognitive capacity. The world disappeared into a green flash that she couldn’t manage to care enough about to be confused by. Possibly copper or boron deposits in the asteroid. That’s what Lynn said. Kaisa held her own forehead, letting go of the steering wheel and feeling space rip a bit further. The scorch marks that had apparently still been on her face left a greyish streak across the woman’s left palm. “I will kill her. I will fucking kill her”. It sounded like thoughts in her mind, but she seemed to be speaking them by the feeling of her lips. Not that anyone could hear. While the enchanted car kept them safe, it didn’t protect against the sound of a planetary collision. Outside the windows was dust and void and overheated sediment vying for dominance in a mad swirl of unfathomable destruction. Then it was suddenly silent.The mental landscape of Kaisa Solomon Goetia had become utterly unaccustomed to the sensation of caring through the centuries. Sometimes she almost forgot that everything was her fault. The gaudy white limousine was still falling through space when Arbitrage opened a door and got in. Kaisa hadn’t worried about her, since the angel of justice was immortal anyway, but now a bit of unease was flooding in. Her hair was glowing less than usual, and she wasn’t smiling. In Arbitrage’s hands rested a tray of still-steaming cookies “Hey, sorry for the delay. You all must be going through… Well, you must be having quite the experience and… I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.”Martin grabbed a cookie and bit into it, chewing like an automaton on autopilot before turning to Kaisa. “How are you the devil?” She wanted Arbitrage to shoot her in the head again, wanted the frictional heat to disrupt all her currently occurring thought patterns, but she knew it didn’t work like that. “You really don’t want to-” The angel cautioned, but Satan wasn’t listening.“Shut the- please shut the fuck up Amy.” If the fiery glow of her eyes could produce tears, they would be doing so. How was she the devil? How did that happen? It had been a completely normal day, perhaps slightly tinged with sepia as would be becoming of a flashback, though by no means excessively. Kaisa had always been clumsy, people used to tell her. Bad at the little things. Bad at existing. She had wanted to boil some eggs, and she had wanted help from her friend, because she knew that something would go wrong. Something would inevitably capture a structural intensity of the moment and spell disaster. She called her. Standing in her kitchen and sipping tea. She called her and the friend, whose face and voice and name she couldn’t remember anymore, but whose mnemonic absence still sent searing pain through Kaisa’s mind said “What’s the worst that could happen?”.She hadn’t asked for help. Would have felt silly to. She just hung up. This. This was the worst that could happen. Kaisa attempted to boil eggs and became a demon. Not any demon, but Lucifer. She became retroactively responsible for every catastrophe, every evil, every inconvenience throughout human history in her attempt to make a normal fucking breakfast. They always told her she was unlucky. They couldn’t even fathom how unlucky she was, how unlucky humanity was to have brought her about.Kaisa looked up through the tears that weren’t there. Martin’s face, which had previously been marked by nothing but existential confusion and passive observation now traced out serious concern. “That sounds like hella self loathing you’ve got going on. Jesus.” He stuffed another cookie into his mouth. “They’re really good, you know?”Of course they were good. They were made by an angel. She wanted to laugh about this mere human and his sympathy for a creature of unfathomable evil, if it wasn’t so obviously pathetic, and if her muscles could be fucked to remember the contraction pattern for anything approaching laughter at this moment. She just felt so empty. One with the cloud of freshly produced cosmic dust surrounding them. “I couldn’t hate myself enough if I tried. You saw what just happened.” The occasional distraction was just enough to stop her from trying, and sleep was even better. The devil couldn’t bear to look at the consequences of its existence.“No, come on, I thought you were clever. Think this through!” Instinctively she pulled back her hand when the hero tried to grab it. “when you became a demon you became responsible, retro-causally, for everything bad that ever happened, which would have to include what happened to you, right? Why were you unlucky? Who was punishing you? All of this only makes sense as a weird time-loop fuelled entirely by your self-loathing. No one else could have made you the devil, since you are responsible for all bad things, no?” Any possible epiphany ricocheted into nothingness. Who had given him the impression that he was a main character?“Buddy, I get that you’re new to this, and it’s a really nice pep-talk, but reality is coming apart at the seams. I allowed this bitch to ruin a whole ass universe as well as possibly more to come and almost killed a middle-schooler. If you really want to help me, and I have no idea why you would; try to figure out what your fucking wish is about so I can go back to focusing on the important things like figuring out with overwhelmingly punctilious accuracy exactly how much of a piece of shit I am. Is that doable?” Kaisa tried go glare knives at him, but her heart wasn’t in it. Her heart beat dark sludge at the centre of the universe corrupting it with ever-spreading tendrils.The condescension wasn’t landing well. “Is it that impossible for you to believe that I’m part of the solution to this? Arbitrage has been given me this “hero of prophecy”-spiel all day. The letter I was sent with is something that no one here has ever encountered before, and you, the person who made a pact with me against my will have done nothing but ignore me like I’m a nuisance. What’s that about?” he seemed angry now, or maybe like someone performing anger in order to be listened to. The line got blurred towards indiscernibility incredibly quickly. “All the glitches that have been popping up were bad. They’re dangerous. They’re things to be fixed, so why the fuck would your little printer error of a note be any different. Just stay where I can see you and I’ll figure this out.”“Because I feel like I should be able to help” his voice was pleading now and Kaisa couldn’t quite look him in the eyes anymore. “Well, get in fucking line then”.“If you feel like it’s just a distraction, and if I’m keeping you from doing important things, then why did you even make the contract?”The answer was simple: Arbitrage had asked her to. Arbitrage who now sat in the back of the limousine, hugging Lynn, crying and begging them to stop. Arbitrage who probably hadn’t averted her eyes from the destruction of earth three.A long silence suffused the car like tea steeping in the oceanFinally Martin spoke up again: “I might know what it is. The wish. I might also be evil. Maybe those are just the sort of contracts you get these days. All my life I’ve been able to just forgive people. For anything. I was able to forgive the guy who fucking killed me in the moment of him doing it, because there’s always a reason. Always. It always makes sense and we can’t argue with what makes sense, right?” He took a deep breath. “but there was this one time. I was at a train station and asked a woman to take care of my bag while I went to the bathroom. She said yes, but when I came back… Well, when I came back she was gone. The bag was still there. No one had grabbed it. It hadn’t been stolen… But why? If she didn’t have time, she could have simply said so. Didn’t make sense. Just didn’t make sense. Couldn’t be forgiven. I think I might want revenge.”And so it began again, like with Cynthia. No one ever learned, especially not demons, and so a contract had been made and Kaisa would have to stick by it. She felt that devils should not be bound so easily, but none the less the limousine drifted soundlessly into an adjacent reality. Satan would get retroactive revenge for a bag that wasn’t even stolen.

06The day was tomorrow, five years ago on a Thursday. Earth, or rather earth two by external appellation and also it was the day that a bag was abandoned and possibly coincidentally the day that a young woman from Ottawa became quintessentially irredeemable. That was Martin’s theory at least: that Kaisa had somehow died with the incredibly maladaptive wish to never be forgiven, and Lynn seemed to also think that made sense.Time-travel on the other hand didn’t make sense to Lynn, and Arbitrage wasn’t very good at outlining the exact mechanisms underlying the continuous existence and accessibility of all moments across all world-lines. She would be the spy standing guard inside the train station, since she was the least suspicious seeming, what with the two ridiculous looking celestials and Martin, who would be a duplicate of himself. That much made sense. Lynn had seen a few time-travel movies with her family and they seemed structurally simple enough.Everything played out as described, the woman received Martin’s oversized travel bag and continued to lean on it with one hand as she took a call on her phone. Lynn couldn’t hear what the woman was talking about, since the station was quite noisy at this time of day, though some distress was clearly visible on her face when she hung up. Lynn tried to get closer to the woman,but failed. She had a blonde pixie cut, a turtle neck, a deep green autumn coat and she was pacing; tracing out ever wider concentric circles spiralling away from the bag before returning and positioning a piece of paper on top. Then, the woman bolted out of the station.This was an issue. Lynn knew this part from the movies. When people’s memories don’t match what is happening in the past, then it is the time-traveller's job to realign the two. The memories are like that because time had already (and therefore would be) tampered with. She took the slip of paper and placed it inconspicuously in her pocket. It read “I’m really sorry, something came up and I have to check whether my friend is okay”. Skipping back outside to reunite with Arbitrage, the little girl felt quite proud of herself to have done genuine work in the service of heaven.

07The day was tomorrow, five years ago on a Thursday, but a bit later than last time. Kaisa’s apartment, or rather past-Kaisa’s apartment by accurate appellation. A young woman had just died in her third floor residence after asking a profoundly dangerous question: “what’s the worst that could happen”. Future Kaisa had taken the corpse and put it in a cabinet, because the sight was ever so slightly disturbing to her despite the profound emotional numbing she had incurred over the course of a day that wasn’t this one. The Devil lay on the floor of her kitchen, right where she had once found her end and wondered if reality could be saved and if she had really been so cruel as to damn herself to this fate like Martin seemed to believe. If she did, she damned herself for it, and the issue with such loops did not escape her notice.There was a knocking on the door. First four then four again but more agitated. Finally a whole cascade of wild bangs before a sound similar to that of a revolver going off into your skull put an end to the knocking as well as to the structural integrity of past-her’s apartment door.Next scene. Ever since her little breakdown in the car, reality consisted of barely interlocking fragments that fell apart and reassembled fully independent of anyone’s conscious control. A ridiculously tall person with a sharp jaw, a green, knee-length coat and frantic breathing stood over her. The moment was shaped by one-sided recognition, before the woman, attempting not to collapse onto the ground as well, berated Kaisa for making her worry and complementing her on the heterodox new look (though she did caution against wearing it outside). In between the downpour of various sentences and exhausted gasps, “are those scorch-marks on your forehead?” “What’s up with the novelty contact lenses?” “can you stand?”, the devil lay on wooden planks awestruck, as her mind rearranged a litany of information snippets into coherent order.“motherfucker”Amelia filled a glass from the counter with tap water, raised it up as if to toast and proclaimed “motherfucker ghasp indeed”.“No, just no. You have no idea what’s going on, what’s BEEN going on. I... I’ll explain this later.” Kaisa had teleported to the other corner of the room to lend her statement more gravity. “I need your help. For real this time.”

08The hill on which Arbitrage and Martin sat overlooked all of reality and all of primate-perceptible unreality, in a way that was so difficult to put into words that no culture in the surrounding area had ever bothered to invent language.“So, do you like my plan? This much energy isn’t supposed to exist in one spot, so it’s been a chore to keep it all together, but now everything is working out, see?” She somehow looked older when Kaisa wasn’t present, and her smile looked more dignified. A gun still shimmered in Arbitrage’s hand and Martin occasionally got worried about that, any time his mental environs could be wrought into a usable enough shape to worry for a few seconds.“It’s…” he wanted to say “overcomplicated”, but that’s an assessment which could only be made if one understood the motivation at work. “why?”“Because I’m Arbitrage, angel of justice and tipper of scales, divine law and eternal judgement. Let me tell you; THIS…” she gestured at the everything with a sweeping motion “is a fatalistic balancing act that takes a great deal of effort sometimes. Maybe it is overcomplicated.” Arbitrage didn’t make a big deal out of reading minds. “I’m not that good at planning, I just try to help, and some people need to first be gotten to a point where they can accept that.”“Like Kaisa?”“Oh god yes. Most people don’t take Millennia of being Satan before they ask for help, but here we are.”Martin wanted to ask if the divine being to his left had seen an anime called Madoka Magica, but he managed to refrain. Time mechanics weren’t something he was exceptionally comfortable with managing. That’s why he had refused to come along with the others, but he still felt that everything was unresolved in various places. “So I guess I didn’t take revenge, right? Will not have taken it? It’s not that I’m complaining about being a good person, I’m relieved about that part, but I don’t feel like I’ve been able to forgive. That doesn’t seem like something I can retroactively decide to have done.”Arbitrage’s smile was wide again “You can do anything you want, but since I am not Satan, I will not force you to. For what it’s worth; your wish should be legible now, if you still care, though it isn’t what you think it is. As for revenge, the angel of justice would be the last to deny you that.” She paused. “Back when I was a human I died of lung cancer, you know? I’m not that hung up about it.” Everything suddenly failed to have ever made sense in the first place.

09The day was today, in the tenuous way in which all timekeeping occurs throughout the afterlife and its adjuncts. Saturday by any and all subjective metrics. Earth three, by way of both external and internal appellation. Exa-tons of kinetically lethal space-rock blotted out the setting sun above a world ruled by the quite possibly worst person alive, and time, as it was often wont to do, looped into itself according to the whims of fickle gods. If all went well, then everyone was already safe, but if not… Kaisa Solomon Goetia had never been one for excessive optimism, though luckily the woman by her side had, was, and would be.“Amy, whatever happens next, I love you, okay. From your perspective it’s been what? A week since we last saw each other, but for me it’s…”Amelia just nodded and wiped a tear from the orange cat-eyes before it could boil off. “You’ve had quite the experience, huh?” She said this as though she wasn’t herself floating mid-air beneath a death-rock. “Do your worst, chief.”And so Kaisa pressed her palm against the young woman’s forehead, the usual rush of cosmic power diluvially surging through her endocrine system. It felt warmer than normal, sort of like a hug if hugs consisted of myriad particle explosions throughout concept-space. Laymen would describe the thing happening in front of her as a magical girl transformation, while more serious scholars might stick to more serious terms like “apotheosis”, though even they couldn’t ignore the striking prevalence of certain aesthetic markers inherent to the outfit change and transformation of hairstyle as well as colour.If Kaisa hadn’t already figured everything out, she might have been shocked by the similarity that Amy’s mahou shoujo state bore to Arbitrage. Her hair wasn’t quite as long, nor quite as alabaster, though it did emit the same kind of etherial light that the angel’s did. The variation upon a japanese sailor uniform, the stockings and the green sunglasses resembling stylized scales were a different matter entirely, but Kaisa could get used to them, she thought. This way she simply had to cognitively catch up to the implications of a causal loop in which two goddesses create each other at infinitum. She also wondered when and why Amy would relinquish swearing entirely, though she supposed that she too had gone through a number of character arcs over the aeons. It didn’t matter. She would find out. Everything would resolve itself in its tediously circumlocutory way if they defeated one e-celeb. How hard could it be?The force of guards assembled outside Cynthia’s cathedral would have offered little resistance, though the possibility of a paradox created by mindlessly walking into their past and future selves respectively might have. Rather; the two of them landed on a platform that protruded from the roughly hewn east tower and descended towards the sanctum from there. Luckily for coordination purposes, the servant’s skill at projecting his voice was quite impressive, and so Kaisa could time their entrance exactly to the moment that a few-hours younger version of herself, less traumatized by both a genocide and the sight of her own corpse, had stormed out.Cynthia screamed for guards, though it didn’t do much. Their cheers were niche accompaniment to the rattle of chains as she was decked in the face. Somewhere, the delusion that her people loved her shattered in the mind of a monster, and somewhere relatively close to that spot, the body of a monster hit the granite floor and performed a few involuntary flips. Things like this did not kill people. Not in the afterlife.Cynthia performed a sweeping gesture with her hand, and twelve octahedral fireballs appeared in orbit around her forearm, which she fired one by one, still screaming for the guards who had long vacated the building only to stream back in once they saw the Asteroid. The Devil gestured towards Amy, and they both pressed their palms into the cold stone, feeling the tingling sensation that one experiences at the back of one’s skull before attempting something seriously dangerous. All of earth three was emerald flashes blinking in and out of concept-space at various locations and times, various orientations and velocities, various states of consensus-existence. Past and future were inverted along axes invented for this very purpose and promptly discarded into the space where time dries its laundry. For a moment, everything failed to have ever made sense in the first place, though that moment would eternally occupy this very spot, making it hardly a moment in the traditional sense. The last instance of earth three, milliseconds before the entropic unbirth of its host universe now sat snugly beneath the asteroid, temporal energy still ominously illuminating its surface which for the blink of an eye supported only a very gaudy white limousine and the angel of justice stabilizing the process from the other side of cosmic chronology. Stabilized to the best of their collective ability. Some adjacent moments did sustain tears. Some outer darkness did bleed through, though these sorts of things were unavoidable.The swap luckily had disoriented Cynthia enough that none of the projectiles did hit, though this wasn’t nearly as bad as the fact that she found herself bathed in the light of a soon-to-be supernova that now tidally locked her little cathedral to its own gravity well. The rest of the planet was gone, dropped off in one of the many safe locations that unconstrained possibility-space had to offer.They say that in space, no one can hear you scream, though Cynthia sure did try, when the two women who had appeared out of nowhere mere seconds ago flung themselves out of the stained-glass window.

10Dinner had already been prepared in Kaisa’s little room that consisted of mostly void and else-wise windows, one of which now lay in shambles, though this did not matter much to anyone present. The door on the ceiling was no longer locked, despite the fact that this was more of a symbolic gesture than anything else. They sat on the floor that wasn’t there and it served this purpose well enough. A cigarette had been given to the younger Arbitrage by Martin. Kaisa didn’t remember Amy ever smoking, though when she asked what this was about, the older Arbitrage had simply said something about revenge and left it at that. She seemed perfectly content with the situation.There was something very aesthetic to it; the young woman in her ridiculous outfit with its semicircular shades and glowing hair smoking in front of a broken window that looked out towards celestial cataclysm.She would have to go back, Kaisa knew that. She would have to go back just like Lynn, because in the end this Amy was still just a glorified mortal, pact with the devil or no. She would still have the other Amy, the one who had constructed this entire byzantine plot, and she liked Arbitrage, she truly did like Arbitrage with her goofy grin and unrelenting optimism, but there was this distance between them now. A gap which made her feel like the angel was already far more inhuman that she was, and she didn’t know if she wanted to bridge it. Maybe this would ameliorate by itself, maybe it wouldn’t, but for now she couldn’t help but want her Amy, the one she would at some point turn into Arbitrage. Kaisa couldn’t wait to see the rest of their time cycle play out.


Fragments


-1-
Perspective of Vincent Fensterer

At this point, I fear that the fever is never gonna go away, that I will spend the, likely relatively short, rest of my existence in this bed, unable to move a muscle, burning and freezing at the same time and that I am in fact currently in the process of dying.This thought, that my life is, like that of all creatures, finite, not in some weird, vague, metaphysical sense, but actually finite in the sense that it is tonally, definitely gonna end and that there is nothing I could reasonably do to make that not be the case, had, up to this very moment, never occurred to me, and I hope that it will never occur to me again, as it scares the living shit out of me, now that I am thinking about it.A problem presents itself: Not thinking about the thing you are currently experiencing, when there is literally nothing you are physically capable of doing aside from thinking, is really fucking difficult, if not impossible. At least for the industrial-scale-toxic-chemical-waste-dump I spent the last couple of hours turning my brain into for some retarded reason. It might have been yesterday, actually. It may very well have been a damn week ago. The ceiling of my room, the thing I am involuntarily staring at, unable to turn my head, is illuminated by the bright, natural light of noon, the same as when I lay down here, though I doubt I would remember, had there been a night or more in between. My brain is shit and so am I. A little bit of divine punishment, I would understand, but this torturous bullcrap is cruel and unusual by any metric, downright fucking unethical. I guess don′t take five Adderall when you′re blackout drunk, kids. Who would have known that was on gods list of things you shouldn′t do if you don′t want to be banished to hell on fucking earth.Come to think of it, those tablets must have been four years old, at the very least. Does medicine expire? Fuck, I′m pretty sure medicine expires, and not in the ″we want to sell you more shit″-way, but the really fucking dangerous, in fact actually lethal way. There it is again, the fear of death. I was doing so well. Fuck. Maybe I can get up, just out of the bed, just collapse on the floor so they won′t think I′m sleeping, so they′ll call an ambulance. Get up. Get up. Get up! GET UP! JUST PLEASE GET THE FUCK UP!!My torso jolts upright, and I suck in two lungs full of oxygen, realizing that breathing was apparently something I hadn′t been doing for a short while.The guy on the other side of the room looks up from his laptop, obviously startled by my sudden return to the realm of the living.″Don′t you have a job interview?″″Don′t you care that I almost kicked the fucking bucket just now?″″I didn′t even notice that you were in the room, dude. Don′t tell me you′re doing heroin or something″″God no, I just tried to sober up for the interview. What time is it?″″Like an hour too late, sorry. Actually, I′m not, this is totally your fault. You knew it was today and getting sloshed in the a.m. is a pretty stupid thing to do just in general, like even by your standards.″″Oh, spare me the lecture, or I′ll tell dad that this isn′t working″″Okay, okay, understood. I′ll take a walk, see you later.″Lloyd thankfully did a passable job at reading the mood and fucked off on one of his weird three to four hour walks (like who does that?). Maybe he′s stalking someone, seems like a thing he′d be into. Off-kilter fucking guy, I honestly wouldn′t be surprised.At least he′s quiet, I don′t mind having him live in my room. He′s out of the house long enough for me to do things I don′t want him in the room for and when he′s here I can bounce thoughts off him. Maybe he cleans sometimes. I′m not sure.Doesn′t matter. Getting something to eat has priority. The Horrortrip only lasted three hours, rather than a few days but I′m starving anyway. Kind of a shame actually, would have been a cool anecdote. Mind altering drugs, am I right? Bought that shit four years ago from a friend (Max or Marc or something) to cram for finals. Should probably throw it in the trash, so I won′t get any dumb ideas in an intoxicated state, which is a lot of the time, let′s face it.Ah Fuck. Dad′s sitting in kitchen, indulging in some delicious looking shit. Can′t let him see me, not being at the interview he set up and all. Stealthy retreat.There′s probably some foodstuff stashed in Lo′s room. I knock. The only thing that can′t be found in my brother′s room is Lo himself. 90% of the time he′s not here and the other 10% he brings so many people that he′s impossible to spot him. For someone I have spent my entire life with he sure is absolutely fucking incomprehensible. How did he manage to grow up alright? Like an actual functional human being? Didn′t we have the same parents and shit? Fuck this! The Wardrobe opens with far less creaking than one would assume from the looks of it and below the neatly organized shirts there is a similarly neat row of wine bottles and a tower of various salty snacks, far too perfectly compact to have been built by someone who hasn′t managed to beat me in Tetris once. I rip open a bag and start stuffing ham flavored chips into my mouth. I don′t think I′m a wine guy, never really gotten into it, but it′s been a while since the last time I had some, and this seems like the kind of day to get into something, especially when it′s the only easily accessible fluid to wash down the disgusting taste of oil and fake bullshit artificial meat flavor. I take a swig. It′s sour and clings to the tongue, better than I remember wine to taste like, but objectively worse than beer or hard liquor. My hands tear another bag open as though on autopilot, peanut puffs this time.The cycle repeats with the wine getting better the more I pour down the garbage chute that is my throat. The party food gets worse, but not bad enough to stop eating it. I won′t stop until it′s gone. That became the plan like a bag ago, not that I′m still hungry, I feel sick actually, but at this point it′s easier to just keep going. I could just eat everything, all that even slightly exists, rip it apart, dismantle it on an atomic level and wolf it down, devour it like a fucking hound. Like the biggest of dogs. The biggest possible dog. A thought pops into my head: how big would the biggest possible dog even be? Like, bigger than the biggest currently existing dog definitely. That would be incredibly unlikely: to have hit the maximum by accident. Things can only get a certain size, something about cubes and mass and shit. That′s where the research money should go, breed them until we have the largest physically possible doggo, so we could ride them, replace cars with a bunch of insanely good boys. Do they die once their size exceeds a certain point? That would make the whole pursuit kind of unethical and animal rights activist attack prone. Might not even apply to dogs, they aren′t particularly squarey after all. Maybe it′s a definitional thing: That dogs could be infinitely large, but at some point it would stop being sensible to call them dogs. If there was a galaxy sized dog shaped thing, I don′t think I′d call it a dog. It has transcended doghood and so have I. Tremble before my might for I have consumed everything. Close to everything. Four bottles and seven bags deep. It′s over. There are still ten-something wines left, but not knowing how much they cost, it seems risky to drink more. Instead lying down and trying not to throw up appears to be the responsible course of action.″The fuck did you do?″The ghostly pale, cloaked figure of a boy, wrapped in a blanket and not wearing anything else by the looks of it, stands over me. The tone of his voice indicating sincere curiosity.″Almost killed myself, missed a thing and plundered the good one′s apocalypse stash, all the while hiding from the authorities. They call me the chips-bandit. You?″″Pretty much the same tbh... Anything left?″″Wine, the rest was mercilessly devoured by the ruthless criminal I have become.″″Argh, shit.″″Why?″″I′m kind of starving and the ancient one is guarding the kitchen″″Yeah, I know. Skipping school?″″Do you even have to ask?″The less estranged of my two brothers scratches his neck, a nervous habit of his, that got so out of hand sometimes, that it, in combination with his general appearance, made him seem like a crack addict going through withdrawal.″I got a commission yesterday. Some rich Swedish kid offering me 300 for a pic of his OC engaging in not-all-that-safe-for-work kinds of activities. Please don′t ask what exactly. So there really wasn′t time for compulsory education.″″Sick dude! You might actually make it if you keep going like this″″Don′t really have a choice. If this can′t keep me alive by graduation I′ll just fucking off myself. I′ll accept failure like a man, become a modern samurai by first becoming like fucking human yakitori.″It baffles me that Jerald even managed to go to school on most days, being cripplingly scared of practically everything outside his room and more neurotic than should even be possible. Dude′s a fucking train wreck. If his art wasn′t able to support his continued existence, he would either have to find a normal job, or explain to dad why he can′t, both of which, he had decided two years ago are fates far worse than death could possibly be. Mom had remarked on a few occasions that he drew like his life depended on it, blissfully unaware of the fact that it genuinely kind of did.″Could you like leave out the references when you say dark shit like that? Stylistic clash gives me the howling fantods.″″And when was the last time you did that?″″Act as I say, not as I do.″The sound of the front door opening interrupts our conversation.″Dad leaving or Lo returning?″No one ever heard Lloyd coming or going, so that wasn′t even worth considering. Also supported my stalker theory.″Latter′s unlikely, seeing how the sun′s still up″″Sure, but do you really wanna risk it?″″We could ″risk it″... Or we could not be complete idiots and look out the window.″Jerald decides to go with my cunning plan, stealing a look at, what was, judging by his response, the ancient one.″Today my friends, we feast.″″I don′t think I′m ready to get up and embark on any kind of arduous journey to the bountiful land of real, non-terrible food.″″Your loss, dude.″With that he leaves, and I once again lie alone on my brother′s carpet, covered in chips dust. Taking a good hard look at the circumstances that led me here and the backside of my eyelids. I fall asleep.


-2-
Perspective of Bartholomew Day

Somewhere, between the large-ish city of Rasten and the adjacent KCDI corporate district, a magnet train glides silently through the night. Almost silently. Inside of the third wagon, a soft, almost harmonious whistling is generated by wind blowing past a bullet hole in the window. A middle-aged businessman with a goatee, a revolver and a tunnel from the front to the backside of his head sits in front of it.″a shame, really, he′d be cute with an intact skull″″do you think they killed him because he knew too much? Got rid of the brain matter, destroyed the evidence?″″well they definitely killed him″The elder of the two girls sitting to either side of the corpse scrolls through the almost comical amount of emails this guy seemed to be getting. I would guess she′s somewhere in her early twenties, while the one who just commented on the attractiveness of a cadaver can′t be older than eighteen.″poor schmuck had to take care of some assholes shit basically every five minutes. Must have had the patience of a saint to wait until he′s on the train to blow his brains out.″″praise be″She sounds almost sincere as she folds her hands, like this is the tragic grave site of a deceased martyr, a temple gliding through the air at 200mph. Were it not for the accurate time indication on the top right of my screen, I would assume that I was somehow receiving some kind of weird television show.The younger girl, dressed in vibrantly colored, trendy, though utterly uncoordinated articles of clothing takes a sandwich out of their fellow passenger′s suitcase and beams with joy when she sees that no blood got on it.″we just ate″″so what? It′ll get soggy if I wait. You wouldn′t want his wife to have put in all of this effort for nothing.″″how much would you bet on his marital status″The young girl cocks an eyebrow″that′s not fair, you have his phone!″″seems to be purely business though. No pictures, no private calls, nothing.″While poking a finger into the dead man′s cheek the younger sister has taken to scolding him. Or maybe they′re not actually sisters? Who knows?″now that′s no way to live mister corpse, you should have at least had photos of your hot wife to look at during breaks. Just imagine how happy that would have made her.″″she′s hot now? What else do you know about this hypothetical wife, on whose existence you still haven′t wagered anything.″″my sandwich then, you can practically taste the love that went into this. Besides, of course she′s hot, he managed to go on for this long after all.″″deal, tell me if you find something.″″that wasn′t what I meant by did they kill him by the way. I was more thinking conspiracy.″″I know, but that′s the first thing your mind goes to every time″″Well, it would be so much more interesting, don′t you think?″″We literally saw this guy pull the trigger from the luggage department.″Oh, so that′s where they came from. I was already considering befittingly absurd ways in which they could have somehow showed up in a train which previously just carried this guy. Spy movie antics, like entering from the roof of a moving Leviton.″they still could have blackmailed him or something″″you don′t actually believe that″″No, but thinking about it is fun″She checks a pocket on the inside of his suit.″found his wallet!″″Excellent, how much did he have on him?″″About 600 bucks, and no family pictures anywhere. What′s wrong with this guy?″″What will it take for you to believe that he didn′t have one?″The girl looks to her sandwich, then back to her sister.″I don′t care, you can keep the sandwich... If you can get the blood out of his suit.″Her companion rubs the fabric between her fingers.″Leave it to me!″They... Oh god, they undress the dead businessman and stuff his suit into a bag. Should I call the police? No. Even aside from the uncomfortable situation that explaining the surveillance equipment I have in one of Kalpa′s Levitons would create, what would the point be? These girls don′t seem dangerous, just kind of unnerving. And besides, what′s the harm in robbing him, especially if he doesn′t have a ″hot wife″? It′s certainly better than his possessions going to Kalpa. I look over at a picture of my own hot wife as I try to convince myself that this line of reasoning isn′t just a flimsy excuse not to intervene in the events unfolding behind the screen. To keep my distance from the outside word and not be swallowed by it. There would be no point in having the screen to begin with if I were to cross that sacred barrier.Wait, maybe Mimi knows this guy. Wouldn′t be the first time one of her coworkers ″removes themselves from the payroll″ as she occasionally refers to it. I haven′t spoken to my wife in about a month, so I′m somewhat hesitant to open a conversation with ″Hey, some poor soul committed suicide on the L39, were you acquainted?″, but then again, she is the last person to care about this kind of social decorum, possibly the only person to be more comfortable with this than with small talk. I send her an image from the video feed and add the question if she wants to come over sometime.A reply arrives instantly, despite it being 3 a.m.″Never met him, but investigators ask me if I′ve seen these girls pretty much weekly.″″what do they get up to?″″Are you actually considering calling the cops?″″Please don′t, they′re so cute.″″Probably not, I′m just gauging how guilty I should feel about this inaction.″″As far as I know they′re just thieves, probably from the huts.″″Maybe? The way they speak doesn′t really fit.″″Be that as it may, they′re precious and I′ll be really sad if corporate catches them one day.″″April 11. Should work.″″That′s only four days from now and you don′t have an exact time?″″Mimi, are you sick?″″I′m not giving you a time, because it′s the entire day. We′ll be on shutdown″″Well, guess I′d better make some preparations then. Love you.″″Love you too.″I push my chair backwards to escape the panopticon of monitors which I have constructed in the corner of my bedroom. This surveillance station and the other equipment connected to it easily make up for half of all value in this apartment, which admittedly isn′t much. A quick glance around the corner reveals that the blinds are indeed down, not that anyone is likely to be outside at this time of night in this neighborhood. It still gives me some sense of security, of control. I like being the one in charge of when to interact with reality.Safe from any and all prying eyes, I get up for some good old-fashioned pacing. There′s definitely something to be said for wandering aimlessly around one′s abode after getting up, reevaluating the events of the past day with the necessary distance, making plans, thinking in general while using the body to stay grounded in the physicality of one′s own world. The subtle sway and rhythmic steps along with the residual sleepiness being conducive to all kinds of ponderings.Usually I follow this ritual the moment I wake up, but there were some extraordinary circumstances today, starting with a gunshot that beat my alarm by about five minutes. I ducked into the surveillance station to find that someone had shot himself on an otherwise empty train, or a train that looked empty until two girls appeared from what I now know to be luggage department. To add to an already exceptionally strange morning, my workaholic wife revealed to me that she will have a full day off soon, which really only allows for one reasonable conclusion: I am still dreaming. This is way too good.Then again... I scan the text on a pack of caffeine pills before dropping one in a mug and boiling some water. It′s impossible to read in a dream. You just kind of know what things say and words change when you focus on them. These lists of components and warnings on the other hand, despite partially being in languages I don′t speak stay consistent. I really will be with Mimi for a full day, huh? I should think about what food to get. The hot water flows in a flawless spiral onto the ground coffee in my filter and drips slowly into the mug, dissolving the caffeine tablet little by little. I lean back against the counter. School starts in about four hours, so I better finish some prep-work work for the lessons, but not before checking back in with those two preliminary graverobbers. I anxiously await the last few drops falling before throwing away the filter in a practiced motion and running back to my monitors mug in hand.The older girl stands incredibly close to the camera, probably on top of the seats, her face taking up most of the screen.″That′s an odd position, why would they need additional cameras here?″″Doesn′t look like KCDI hardware.″″So what, some creep is just spying on passengers? Doesn′t seem like a promising angle for those kinds of purposes.″Ouch.″Well, it definitely looks expensive, let′s take it.″What? No!The screen goes black. I somehow feel violated.


-3-
Perspective of Cathrine Allaine

″You should be outside, child. Not wasting your time with an old woman like me. I′m sure there are more enjoyable activities, new things to see, to experience.″Helen tilts her head to the side to look out of the hospital window. A movement which as I have come to know is one of the few she is still capable of.″And what makes you think that my time is wasted more here than elsewhere? I have spent lots of time outside and next to none here, so is this not precisely the kind of place in which I could find something novel?″″Just look at these people, they′re dying. Staring at the ceiling and waiting for the wait to end. There is nothing they can teach you, go have fun.″To say that I was having fun has in the past led to undesirable reactions and so I do not.″Why would they act differently to those not approaching oblivion, had they not learned something new, some kernel of wisdom that sets them apart from the young? Is that knowledge which is clearly quite impactful not something that could be relayed to me?″″And what purpose would that serve?″″I could save them. Save you. Understanding the conditions of its emergence is vital to fixing any sort of problem. You don′t want to leave this world behind, do you?″″No one can escape death, child, it is not a matter of waning or not wanting it to take you. It simply will. No one beside god...″″Then why not become god?″″I don′t understand.″″Imagine the universe as a tree. At some point, when it has grown capable of bearing the self-enforcing cyclicity life cannot help but produce, or possibly when life suddenly brings this violence to bear with no say on the tree′s part whatsoever, it will begin to sprout flower buds. The buds will grow into blossoms and soon they come to fear the fruits that should inevitably be their undoing, for the fruits may only sprout from the flowers′ remains. It happens just so, and the fruit slowly grows and ripens. Soon the realization should dawn on it that, in growing bulbous and soft, its downfall is inscribed into its very being, and quite reasonably the fruit comes to loathe the vile flower bud, for what other purpose could this inscription serve than allowing that thing to flourish upon its grave.″Hegel would likely be unhappy with this use of his example, but the act of uttering an idea always carries within it the implicit permission for others to use it to their ends. Helen does not object, she simply looks absently out at the trees.″Nothing inherently precludes the flower or the fruit from immortality. We are perfectly capable of preserving either. In the entirety of their cellular makeup there is nothing that requires each to be the other′s death, and so if they came to realize to what end the tree requires their sacrifice, they might recognize within it a common enemy. This would be unwise for if they destroy the tree, both the flower and the fruit will die. If on the other hand they struck a bargain, if, knowing the tree′s needs they could propose a way for it to continue its multiplication without the cyclical sacrifice of its inhabitants, then the pendulum would be stopped. Remember that the tree is the universe, and what is becoming God if not forcing one′s demands upon reality. We merely need to find and present a workable alternative.″″Are you following?″″You have such a lovely voice, but it′s so sad. Are you sure you want to speak with me?″The old lady plays with her blanket, she was clearly not following.″Yes, tell me about dying.″The sound of a door being ripped open rudely interrupts our conversation.″What are you doing here?! I told you to stop bothering my mother!″The woman has been an issue in the past. My conversations with her mother, though seemingly mutually beneficial, upset her greatly for some reason. I attempt to avoid being here during her visits which are thankfully rare.″She does not seem bothered. If anything is bothering her, it would be the subject of dying, which I am trying to help her with.″″You′re sick, leave her alone!″″But she hasn′t answered my-″″I said GET OUT″″You have not″The lady in the doorway reaches for a vase and throws it. The world ends to the sound of shattering glass.


-4-
Perspective of Vincent Fensterer

My hand reaches for a teabag, carefully lifting it by the string, slowly guiding it towards the humongous Mug in front of me, capable of holding 40 oz worth of space at least. The bag rips. There is now tea on the floor. Mildly annoyed, I grab another bag, but it too empties its contents onto the ground before it reaches the mug. The same thing happens a third time and a fourth, and a fifth. I start taking handfuls of teabags and throwing them at the mug, but it is too small and too far away to hit. This is bullshit. Pouring hot water directly into the box might work. The pain is agonizing as the boiling liquid hits my throat. Blood starts dripping out of my sleeves, then flowing, then gushing. There is blood on the floor. The mug is empty. I think it′s empty. I can′t see it anymore.My eyes open, not than it helps much, seeing or rather not seeing how it′s too dark to even make out what room I′m in. Crawling around on the floor I find a wall and with it a light switch. The mystery location turns out to actually be the kitchen, minus blood on the floor. What even was that shit, I don′t fucking drink tea. I take a can of the squirrel′s shitty beer from the fridge and open it.Lo′s room and the kitchen are separated by multiple doorways and a staircase, which makes the fact that I somehow got here without eating shit even once a miracle of cosmic proportions. ″to not breaking my face″ I lift the can into the air and take a swig. Might not taste like much, but bathed in sweat and shaking all over it sure as fuck is refreshing. Maybe mom′s onto something. Further inspection of the fridge reveals half an omelet and some kind of sausage, which isn′t a bad breakfast by any stretch of the imagination, so with a plate and another can of the michelob (momchelob) ultra, I return to my room.Lloyd is asleep, as to be expected at (my monitor floods the room with blinding cold light, as I wiggle the mouse around) four in the morning. He seems to not have noticed the sound of the door opening, or the sudden change in brightness. Either that or he′s ignoring it, both of which I′m fine with.There′s a notification. Update on Lo′s weird ironic D-void. Maybe I should apologize to him for eating all his shit. On the other hand, he′ll probably assume one of his guests is responsible if I don′t say anything. Seems less bothersome.Lo′s D-void, of which no one except me and maybe Jerald knows that it′s Lo′s D-void, or would ever think it was for that matter, as the posts on it where so meticulously planned, impeccably written and profoundly in character, that they seemed to an outsider like the downright sincere work of someone who was pretty much the exact opposite of Lo. In fact, it was so unimaginably in-fictional-character that it had attracted a rather dedicated and not at all small fan base consisting primarily of angsty teenagers, which the good one probably doesn′t care too much about but I think is hella cool in a way.The fact that Lo still values my opinion on his writing is also hella cool, even though it′s ironically deep and melancholy and stylistically very different from anything I′ve ever put to physical or digital paper. I click on the link to ″breakfast and breakdown″, a name that I came up with (original name was ″eschaton exemplified″) and am still very proud of. It greets me with... A freaking poem, this fucking madman, like fuck.SelfishThe door opens and life floods in
Quickly, I close my mouth. No use.
It seeps in through my pores instead
The unendurable cacophony of shrill, meaningless sounds,
Voices, noises and ambiguous stuff in between
Cheerfully chipping away at my eardrums
The vivacious, burning mayhem of distorted, bright things
Shapes, shades, and amorphous, cruel creatures of light
Callously clawing at my eyeballs
The fear patiently creeps in, through my eyes, ears, pores
Crumbling, creaking, I sink to the ground
Hopelessly holding my head
One radiant being steps toward me
Sickly beige, it wants to talk
″I′m scared″, says the thing
Sitting next to me, its glow hurts
Wordlessly I crawl back into
Its radiant, roaring nightmare.
This is just some next level shit. I make the horrible, unforgivable and life ruining mistake of scrolling down into the comments. Just a miasma of fucking braindeath, talking about how this is totally what their human experience amounts to, how it′s worse than death on every level and how they just avoid interacting with anyone. Like did you read the same poem I read? Is the title really not hint enough for you to get the point and realize what a hypocritical asshole that makes you? Jesus fuck! I had told Lo on multiple occasions that I didn′t get how the stupidity of his followers doesn′t frustrate him, especially since he refuses to explain his posts. How do you get joy out of fucking with people and making fun of them if they don′t realize that that′s what you are doing? I start typing a private Message to the good one:″Dude, this is rad, like a fucking masterpiece but you′re really wasting it on these depressed Idiots.″Immediate reply as usual.″I was one of those depressed assholes, I relate. One day they′ll do like me, seize their bullshit and start being awesome.″″People don′t do that. Nobody does that. You pulled that phoenix out of the ashes shenanigans and I′m not even convinced pre ″Lo″ you was actually real and I was like there. Partially responsible for all that shit that happened to you even. Fact is you are wasting your skill.″″Nope, that sure happened and you are complicit as hell in his death, can′t talk yourself out of that one. You used to be a fucking asshole.″″Also talkin′ about wasting potential? Get some self-awareness bro. When did you last write something?″″Yeah, I get it, but you obviously turned out fine. Dunno, two months ago? I′ll have you know that ″put a bullet through my head and call me Jesus″ is in the works. Inspiration′s a bitch though.″″That′s a shit excuse and you know it″″You know what? I′m gonna work on it right now! I had some booze, some psycs, I should be way in the fucking zone.″″Sweet, won′t hold you up any longer then. I have to prep some shit anyways″Fuck. The sad, yet undoubtedly factually correct truth is that the soon to be world famous and critically acclaimed webcomic sensation ″Put a bullet through my head and call me Jesus″ is not in the works, but exists solely as five lines worth of notes on a piece of paper somewhere in my room (maybe lost) and has contributed to reality in this form for two months or so after I wrote the idea down in a drunken stupor. This won′t do. I crack open the second can of Momchelob (it makes a soothing zschhhh-sound) and go about changing this depressing state of affairs.


-5-
Perspective of Nicola Vale

This makes no sense. It just doesn′t. I know this city, probably know it better than every fucking act-like-they-own-the-place suit at Kalpa, and this is plain not how it looks. There cannot be houses here. It-″Nic, are you okay?″I snort. Never once been quite this close to buying into any of her theories. Hell, most of the time it doesn′t even seem like she does that herself, though you always get the sense that she doesn′t believe anything else either. Truth is faker than fiction. Not a hard bar to clear but still unsettling. It doesn′t make sense.″No″″Well, what do you think they are? Can′t be homes, right? No one would go through that much trouble to hide normal buildings. Also it′s too quiet, so I′m thinking laboratories maybe. They could be breeding something.″″Like what?″″Like homunculi! No, wait, that′s boring. Bio-weapons! Or new rats!″″New- What′s wrong with old rats?″″Nothing. What was wrong with Rattus Rattus other than not being big and vicious enough to keep up with the competition? I just happen to think that the days of rattus norvegicus are equally numbered as soon as something worse comes around. It′s the circle of life. New rats for a new eschaton. Why wouldn′t they be working on that?″″But... Look, I′m sure these are normal houses. A bit fancy, but normal. If someone was trying to hide this neighborhood we wouldn′t have seen it from the train, right? And there′s a street leading here. All very very normal.″I can′t fault her for not buying it, I don′t either. At this rate I′ll seem like the conspiracy theorist and that despite the competing explanation involving government manufacture of improved rodents for the hell of it. You don′t stumble upon a new neighborhood in the city you′ve spent all your life in, especially not if you′ve spent your life like the two of us. Admittedly we do stumble upon new rats rather often with that lifestyle, but they don′t get worse exactly, only more expected, mundane... Maybe that is worse.″We took a whole day to find that street and all the other ones kind of weirdly bend around it in a way where it seems like they′re going straight even though they aren′t. You′ve acknowledged this. It′s very obvious that there′s a secret when you try too hard to keep it, like with area 51, so pretending like you aren′t hiding anything is actually a really good way to run a cover-up.″″I need to sit down″″Oh, do you think that camera in the Leviton was there to see if someone would spot these buildings? So they can weed out dissidents? Or maybe only a chosen one can-″″Okay.″″Okay what?″″You wanna check if they′re secret labs? Let′s find out! We know how to get here now, so we′ll just come back when it′s dark and break in. There, the big one with the hedge. Worst case scenario it′s a normal upper-class home and we can secure our existence for a while, which isn′t so bad, I think. You in?″There′s no way anyone smiles brighter than her. It′s addictive. People have never accused me of a lack of curiosity, but that alone would hardly have been enough to send me mapping out streets for upwards of twenty hours. Doubly so when the blurry view we had from the train could have easily caused some kind of optical illusion. Fuck I′m still not even sure it isn′t one of those. Like the vanishing point of a drawing, but instead of everything converging into one spot you′re drawn away from it through the layout. All roads lead to Rome and from here. Walking the same way back it′s exceedingly obvious that this is the correct, natural direction to be going in, somehow, which continues to fuck with my head. Alice keeps talking about warped spacetime and perception-altering microchips dissolved in the water supply, but I don′t really make an effort to listen. Not for the words at least, just for the sounds. Reassuring despite the nature of what she′s saying. It′s hard to describe, but she′s not someone who ever makes you feel safe at all. In fact, Alice makes you feel more vulnerable because of her presence and how fragile she seems. But at the same time, she kind of makes the precarity feel okay. Like it′s not really worth thinking about, and I prefer that. I learned to distrust safety.Only when we reach the old railway bridge do I stop looking behind me every few seconds to make sure the road is still there, and that despite having reached familiar terrain a while ago. I don′t know how far away we′d have to get for the wrinkles this addition has caused in my mental map to become unnoticeable, but at least it′s marginally better here. Only slightly wavy in a way that seems to trace cracks along the tunnel walls where generations of taggers have left their mark in paint and carvings. Alice is dragging her fingers along the concrete as always, stopping temporarily when she spots something that might be a new signature or symbol. More of a formality. The girl must have memorized every single graffiti in town, murals and splotches alike. I′m just about to touch the tunnel myself and trace after her when Alice abruptly turns towards me.″They′re the names of heroes″, she says confidently.Might be the first time her strange way of walking, strides far too cartoonishly long for her statue, has imbued something with a gravity of sorts. Like a naïve little sister proudly talking about how her brother is fighting in the war. We′ve likely both lost more brothers in wars than we′re comfortable counting or even comfortable remembering. It′s not something we talk about, though sometimes she says numbers at random and I get scared for a moment that that′s what she′s doing. Occasionally she says them as a greeting ″433!″, sometimes like she′s measuring the world. Steps and looks and silences. I hope she′s measuring the good things.″What sorts of heroes?″″All sorts. Most fallen, but some still falling. You can tell by how fresh the paint is.″″Hm... Are we still falling″″Maybe, but I′ll call it flying, at least until the ground comes. That′s what it feels like.″″What if it doesn′t come?″″Then it really will have been flight all along, and we would have been silly to worry about the impact″I chuckle.″Have you ever left a signature to be remembered by?″″No way! That would be like admitting defeat! Someone else will have to write our names. largest of all! Carved in stone beneath a monument. What′s the point in dying if we can′t even get that much?″″Guess we′ll have to fly a while longer then″


-6-
Perspective of Seth Ratha

″So what you′re telling me here, just to make absolutely sure that I′m getting this one hundred percent straight, is that your son-″″Eric.″″Yes. Eric, your son, seven years of age, is an empath.″″Well, they′re not as rare as folks like to believe. Have you seen the news recently? That youth gang they busted. A hand full of those... well you know, could bring this entire city down.″″I haven′t, no. Get the feeling that watching news is seriously detrimental to my ability to stay informed nowadays. Haha. Pretty sure I do know what gang you′re talking about though.″The lunatic in my backseat, happily regurgitating propaganda at me chooses to ignore my jokey remark entirely.″Frightening. I do worry about my ex-wife sometimes.″″Ex-wife? So your son lives with her?″″Now he does, yes- oh, take a right here. I could not bear the company of the two after I realized that he′s... you know... one of them.″″Hey, I′m just your taxi driver. If you want to use the slur then do it, but stop forcing that inference on me.″″I think normal folks like you and me are rightfully suspicious. It′ a powder cake if you ask me. This city is. And if we don′t take decisive action who knows what will happen? My wife just started doing everything Eric said at some point. Catered to his every whim. It′s frightening when you see it. I got out of there just in time, I did.″″Please tell me you can see how incredibly sad the thing you just said is.″Once again, the somewhat disheveled looking businessman refuses to engage with the point.″Well why are you so defensive of them anyway? Can′t cost you much business to stand up against those hypnos, you know. ″Ah, there we go.″So what is it. Someone you know? Someone pulling your strings?″″That′s really not-″″Especially types like you can′t be weary enough. Public service I mean, folks who′re around people a lot.″The noise data hyperconflation matrix generates all kinds of results. Myriad mindsets littered across probability space. Anything can be true by the might of pattern recognition and reality can be constructed from even the most outlandish axioms. That isn′t to say that truth values are distributed randomly of course. There are attractors of all sizes, the larger ones growing boring before one even becomes aware of their existence, when they are still presumed to be the standard, while yet others are too depressing to even be of interest.Before he tells me any more about how hard it was to leave his wife for being too nice to her child, the way mothers are sometimes known to be, I decide to redirect his paranoid delusions.″Yea, a friend of mine′s an empath. Don′t see her too much nowadays, but we used to go drinking sometimes.″the impact of this innocuous admission is palpable. The businessman′s already rather pale face turns ashen within the space of a few syllables.″I- I think I′d rather walk the rest.″″Fine by me, have a wonderful day.″I smile. Sincerely though not exactly kindly as I drive off. The gang he was talking about was almost certainly some small subgroup of soul-chain, and the idea that it might have been the kids I helped move last week spirals around in my mind for a bit.While I have no particular sympathy for the soul-chain as an organization, any singular member I have so far interacted with has been nothing short of lovely and if there is one moral principle by which I stand, it is that good people should be allowed to do as they please.″Call Ria.″-Calling Zaria Flimkien-″Oh Seth... been a while, how are you?″″You sound dead. Actually deceased. Were you sleeping?″″What? No, It′s just been a busy day, which was part of a busy week and so on. Going door to door and being shouted at, the usual. I′m assuming your day hasn′t been too peachy either?″″You could say that, yeah, but primarily I was just reminded of my wonderful empath friend with whom I don′t do enough.″″I′m not an empath, that′s not a real thing, and the thing you want to do is grab a drink, because you′re upset about something I presume?″″Presumption correct, as to be expected of an empath, which you undeniably are if there are any. You in?″″Sure, meet you at the docks in an hour.″″Perfect.″-Call ended with Zaria Flimkien-It′s a thing she′s always been able to do; Read the tone of your voice and extrapolate your desires before you′ve even become aware of them. If communication is a game of flawed processes, the imperfect encoding on information by the speaker into a shared medium and imperfect decryption by the listener back into thought, then Zaria Flimkien does not communicate, she reads minds.While the members of soul chain call themselves empaths, they are far closer to ″normal folks″ than to Ria. She is scary, hard to be around and the thing I desperately want to be: A communication machine within the eather of human neurosis.I really do need a drink, huh?


-7-
Perspective of Vincent Fensterer

-Message to ″headless herald of hexadecimal hackery″-″Sup. What are we gonna do about that webcomic idea?″″I would need you to write it, otherwise I don′t know what to draw. Also how do you intend to pay me?″″Just wanted to check in if you′re still interested. What do you mean, we′ll get money from selling merch and s...″Don′t even try claiming that it will finance itself, I know comic artists, it′s never profitable″I delete the message.″Don′t worry, I′ve still got a bit of cash, and I can write some articles for a quick buck″″Fair enough, but you′ll have to pay for each page in advance.″″And write comprehensive, comprehensible scene descriptions, from the explanation, it really wasn′t clear what tone you′re going for″″Okay, picture some insane posturban clusterpunk bullshit with metasensical absurdo abstractivist elements″″Hold it right there, that sound sick, and real aesthetic, but those descriptors don′t mean anything. Posturban doesn′t even sound like a word. Be concrete and this is gonna be dope.″″Yeah, I′ll send you some shit later″In a strange state of inspired panic, I open Word. Last-edited turns out to not be anything related to the comic. Barely even three lines of text.″My brain is broken, my mind is melting, and my psyche splattered across an uncountable number of unfinished documents but it′s thankless thinking with this corpse of a cortex, this cracked cranium full of incoherent ideas″Sort of ironic for that to be the message of an obviously directionless, unpolished and unfinished piece of writing from a me that was either very tired or very drunk. Doesn′t matter. Delete.″Hey brother, care for a good time?″ called the coarse voice of a man, whose lung had clearly come into contact with more THC than oxygen, from a dark alleyway, trying to sell either bitches or drugs. I didn′t look to check which, seeing how I couldn′t afford either. ″dark alleyway″ in these parts at least is only a contextually meaningful descriptor, since someone from pretty much anywhere else would consider the street I was running through at that very moment a particularly dark specimen. It had however not the slightest chance of comparing to the sheer amount of unfiltered lumodeficiency and delinquency that radiated from the offshoot the dealer/pimp called his own.″What? No! This is a comic and not a fucking novel. Also wasn′t the protagonist supposed to be a hoodrat himself, why would he think/talk like this then? Fuck this, tabularaza the shit out of that and start from scratch. Jesus!″ya′ll n----s...″Can I say ″N----s″? It would be kind of immersion breaking if I didn′t, or rather the characters didn′t. Not me who′s talking after all. On the other hand I′m pretty sure that′s not something those who would get upset over it are likely to care about. I could just claim that I am black, which is arguably even more racist, but they leave me no choice. Sacrifices have to be made to preserve the believability of a story.Words flow onto digital paper the way it has always been. Opening a document and reemerging from the trance once a substantial amount of words has come to fill it. The text rarely even correlates to the thing that had been thought up, if there even was earlier consideration of what the white space might hold. It′s fascinating. Getting up is hard, speaking is hard, remembering is hard, but thinking? Thinking is passive. Not thinking is impossible and writing is just thinking while sitting at a keyboard.Paragraphs about a young man trading the keys to a run down apartment to some thugs in exchange for them pretending to pursue him through the neighborhood replace nothingness. The chase, accompanied by gunshots, leads down the complex′s stairwell, through busy streets, a woman′s kitchen window and some dimly lit alleyways, one of which contains a bar called ″Exisle″. Only the letters E-s-l of the neon sign are illuminated in a slightly on the nose reference to the cult classic ″Regilith- The king′s rubble″.The so far and henceforth unnamed main character, a morally light grey scam artist, upon bursting through the door, meets his contact. The journalist pulls on his cap twice as a signal, though this isn′t remotely necessary, as his nervous demeanor and pretend-poor style of clothing make him stick out like a sore thumb. He is dressed the way I would if I were to attempt to fit in in the huts, something I would imagine to be entirely unconvincing.As the outsider scrolls through a newsfeed, reporting on the commotion outside, he is approached by the main character, whereupon they engage in some banter about who blew their cover more. The scam artist′s chase outside was of course a farce to present the image of someone worth chasing. He trades a USB-drive of unknown content against a decent amount of cash before ordering two whiskeys, the joke being that the bar owner is a Cuban refugee who does not speak English, every order therefore resulting in a mystery drink, something the reporter did not expect. The main character′s scheme of unknown purpose proves successful as the two men part ways amicably.That′s a good start, keeping things unexplained, building mystery. Good shit. I should ask Jerald if the ″Exisle″ thing is too on the nose though. Explicitly mentioning that the owner is Cuban so quickly after establishing the establishment seems kinda cheap, as opposed to simply having him talk with an accent, or acknowledging his origin later in the comic, when the audience has gotten used to the bar′s name. Whatever. that stuff can be ironed out later, for now this is a pretty solid hook. A bit of Momchelo... ah shit, it′s empty... A swig of actual whisky to celebrate then!Just as I lift the bottle to my lips and tilt my head backwards in a ″strangely cartoonish″ manner which was once described as ″Clearly indicating that [I] value the aesthetic of excessive drinking almost as much as the act itself″, Lloyd enters the room, contorting his face in a combination of pity and disgust.″You made it to the kitchen, I see″″Prepare to be even more impressed, as I tell you that I sleepwalked there from Lo′s room″″Apart from the fact that I somehow find that less impressive than you moving your waking ass self to the ground floor; why the fuck were you in Lo′s room? Is he actually here for a change?″″Nah, I just ate his stuff. Also talked to him for a bit but, like, in messages, wrote some scenes for a webcomic... Pretty productive day overall if you ask me. If that was all the same day.″″Man, I haven′t seen the guy in months now. I see how this house isn′t particularly welcoming to socially competent people, but still. Does he have a new girlfriend?″″Haven′t heard anything since the space girl broke up with him″″Catherine?″″Yes. Who else could I possibly mean by that?″″I don′t know? I just find it weird that she got a cool sounding nickname″″Just going with what fits, there are no personal feelings involved, freeloader.″″Good to know. Say hi to Lo if you talk to him again, he never responds to me.″″Will do. After I empty this bottle that is.″″You can′t be serious″″I wasn′t, but after that challenge: Watch me!″A two thirds full bottle of hard liquor doesn′t go down as easily as a few cans of Momchelob, but it has the interesting effect of numbing my throat after the first few gulps, making the sensation of the liquid flowing down into my stomach almost surreal.Lloyd either hasn′t dropped his disgusted expression over the duration of our talk, or he has chosen to reuse it now.″I′m going to bed, try not to throw up on the floor again.″I enjoy a few more minutes of almost sobriety before my vison cuts out.


-8-
Perspective of Zaria Flimkien

The phone falls out of my hand and onto the floor as I remove my aching extremities from under the blanket and my similarly aching brain is stuck in a loop of asking itself the same question it always does: ″oh god, why am I like this? Who in their right mind would ever choose to be like this?″.It got boring years ago, not only because that particular self-deprecating train of thought is patently unproductive, but also because my own stupidity has proven to be useful in at least one way. It makes it almost impossible for me to lie to myself, because even as the more clearly verbalizable thoughts go on and on about how I essentially haven′t slept in four days, how dumb and pointless it is to get up and how the sensible course of action is to die and decompose beneath this pillow grave, there is nonetheless that warmth returning to my body. That flame which never quite goes out, being fanned to a blaze by the unexpected call from a friend. A physiological reaction contradicting an unhelpful automatic pattern of thought. And so the soles of my feet make contact with the cold floor and carry this person I have chosen to be toward the wardrobe, painfully, but in a good way.On the kitchen table stands a wine glass to catch the water dripping from a hole in the ceiling which I still haven′t had the time to fix. Originally it had been a sauce pan, but the sound it made proved unbearable after only a few days. Maybe Seth could..? Nah, he′s busy enough. We essentially hadn′t spoken since I started getting more involved with the city council. Or maybe it was that I didn′t have the time to do things anymore. I sure wonder what that elusive guy is up to nowadays.A few more articles of clothing and half a grapefruit later, I leave the apartment to brace the outside world once more for today. With each step toward the docks, the voice listing the immense benefits of simply decomposing grows quieter and quieter and by the time I see Seth waving at me it has become almost inaudible. Drowned out by the sound of crushing waves and devastatingly refuted by the observable reality of human connection.″Been a while, how′s your day been?″The smile on his face is bright as ever as he comes in for a hug.″Lots of getting yelled at, lots of people not knowing what the city council is or does... One fine gentleman mistook me for his maid, which was a bit of a new one, but aside from that: the usual.″I say this with a smile. In say most things with a smile, but it doesn′t stop Seth from uncomfortably grinding his teeth at the implication.″Hey, at least the board has gone from not knowing who you are to profoundly disliking you and all of your proposals″″Flattering, for sure, but I don′t really consider public distain to be my main achievement. Being hated has always been a side-gig, less a hobby and more a part time job to keep the lights on. Interviews pay, and the scorned are prime talk show material, it seems. Not that that′s intentional. There′s never any profit in the intentional bits. Helping people with their issues, listening to their concerns, found a new home for a family last week... small victories, small unlucrative victories.″″I know, but it′s the only thing the radio keeps me up to date on: Who does corporate hate this week? I′ve got a bingo sheet, you know.″″Glad to hear you haven′t lost interest in my perpetual running against walls. I put too much effort into it for the whole debacle to not at least be entertaining.″″You′re not giving yourself enough credit, Ria.″His expression is pained, but I can′t exactly place it. Lips curling the way they do when someone is biting down on the inside of their cheek. Like teeth digging into flesh, like thoughts digging into each other. Sincere eyes making a travesty of the whole thing.″Oh? I was under the impression you didn′t approve.″Immediately the stuck gears are torn apart, a tension transmuted, a shocked expression.″What? Why?″″The radio silence for one thing, plus you never particularly seemed one for politics″″Well yeah. That′s why I left you alone. Being associated with someone like me would damage our campaign beyond the shadow of a doubt, don′t you think.″″I feel like the people have bigger things to worry about than some of your more unsavory connections, and the media is already tearing me apart from so many angles that one more couldn′t possibly make a difference″″Oftentimes contradictory angles″″Oh yes, did you know that I was a nobody who can′t change anything due to having no connections and also that my strings are being pulled by various ominous forces? Never figured out how those two go together.″″I′d have to ask some of those ominous forces″″The soul-chain?″″For example. I′m still trying to get into contact with some of the higher-ups to figure out if this whole thing is... you know, a scam″Staring toward the horizon, I make an exaggerated show of thinking, blowing out my cheeks as noncommittal clouds drift overhead.″Hmmm, I′m willing to believe that that′s part of it″″Part?″When I turn back to him, he has produced two bottles of beer from his bag and is presenting one to me with a look of playful curiosity. He′s in his early thirties, but he looks like a fourty-year old with the air of someone in their twenties. Like he aged asymmetrically.″Well from what I know they primarily recruit underprivileged teenagers and I′m well aware how quickly you get attached to those, sooo wanting to make sure they aren′t being fucked over is definitely pretty high on your list...″″But?″″But underprivileged teens are getting fucked over everywhere and you are specifically pulling this rogue-investigator bit for the church, so I think you just want to learn about empaths in hopes that you can become one. Like a food critic who wants the public to be informed, sure, but it′s the free steak that haunts their dreams not the educated-decision making of consumers.″″The idea has crossed my mind″″The idea has been stuck in the exact center of the intersection that is your mind since we were in school″″Important term in there being ″we″″″I′ve told you that there isn′t such a thing as empaths for years now″″And your words have been irreconcilable with your existence for just as long″″Not a thing in that it′s not a distinct class of people, not a... What would be a kind way to put it? Dangerous mental disorder, as the media would want one to believe″″That still wouldn′t explain you, but for what it′s worth, I hope you′re right. That would mean that I can learn it after all.″″Glad to hear that with all your criminal connections you still consider me to be dangerous″″The distinct class of people part, not the dangerous basket case part″″I know. Cheers″″Cheers″


-9-
Perspective of Jerald Fensterer

If it weren't for her rather apathetic stance on general cleanliness, the squirrel’s compulsive neuroticism would be absolute, and so the thin layer of dust on most everything in a house much too spacious to be tended to by two working adults provides regular reassurance that she hasn't gone completely off the deep end. There are however exceptions. most obviously; the rectangular, dust free, areas from which one can clearly glean where the furniture stood yesterday, but also the top of a tall bookshelf, not visible from the ground for a person of normal stature, but undoubtedly polished to a shine, because on top of this shelf, the only one that is never moved, lies the ancient one's gun, and while he has never used it and doesn't think that he ever will use it, he sure as shit is dedicated to making absolutely fucking certain that it is there prepped and ready to end a son of a bitch, should he ever have to. The ancient one, of course, hates guns and will always firmly hold the position that they are an unjustifiable danger and that nobody should be allowed to own them. He says this despite such laws already applying to everyone not in possession of a weapons permit. Laws which the shelf gun is in blatant violation of. “How could it be illegal now when it’s been handed down the family tree for so long?”, dad will ask, like this isn’t the weakest excuse imaginable. Like it doesn’t garner critique of his moral integrity by all members of the household, regardless of whether they agree with him or not each and every time. That's just how he is, unchanging, robust, like an old tree. Ancient.The gun has left this spot only once, when Lawrence took it into the forest to kill himself. He never came back, but Lo did. Lo returned the next day, with the weapon and all the bullets within it. New name, new personality, old body. The suffering and sudden rise of Lo Fensterer. Squirrel unsurprisingly flipped her shit and demanded that we got rid of the damn thing immediately, but dad went on a long rant about trusting his sons to make the right choices and Lo, with the charisma he inexplicably acquired in that forest, insisted that one could very easily take one's life by other means. That the part of him that wanted to be dead already was. Mom’s mental state wasn't exactly improved, but apart from some privacy violations over the following weeks, things carried on normally for everyone except the kid formerly known as Lawrence, who soon became one of the most popular and probably influential people in town, before leaving for college in Drunnig, leading to Vincent and me calling him "the good one" in self-deprecation.I feel myself almost falling backwards as my vision blacks out for a second. Urgent reminder of the thing that drew me through the living room before getting stuck mentally on an overly dustless shelf. Hunger. Cell-gnawing hunger where you can feel the desire of your gut to pump stomach acid into the rest of your system and digest what other organs you have on offer. What do I have on offer?The fridge swings open to reveal a family-sized serving of fuck-all apart from some beer cans and the cabinet isn’t much better. Whatever dad apparently had for lunch must have been all that was left. My stomach growls as terror begins to rise within me. A completely useless microwave displays the current time as 13:08 which means that my last meal was 24 x 2 + I don’t know, 15? Almost three days ago.My hands are trembling, making it impossible to draw and the encroaching threat of simply passing out, revealing to the squirrel that I was not in fact at school becomes ever more imminent by the minute. Ahhhh this is bad. What the ancient one ate must have been the dinner they set aside for me yesterday. Vi plundered Lo’s strange supply of party food, and the squirrel won’t bring home groceries until 10:00 at the earliest, at which point I will be thoroughly dead, stiff from rigor mortis and maggot ridden. A decomposing corpse in the kitchen, providing gruesome spectacle for all those who believe their stomach capable of handling such sights without surrendering their contents in an unprepossessing manner that would undoubtedly be deemed disrespectful of the dead. The consideration of this scenario is of course completely useless beyond its ability to distract me from the only remaining course of action.Sunlight shines in through the window and people, some walking their dogs, some bracing the dangers of the outside on their own, can be heard, making my horrific last resort more tangible than I would like it to be. For a moment far longer than I would prefer to admit, I reconsider death as a viable alternative.The door opens. I exit. One foot finds its place in front of its counterpart as I try to anchor my breathing to the rhythm of my steps rather than the beat of my heart, which has still not abandoned the idea of terminating my physical existence here and now, by way of causing one of my arteries to explode. Admirable commitment. I change sidewalks whenever anyone so much as enters my field of view, until I begin to worry that my excessive amount of switching might be seen as suspicious and draw attention. A stray empath might be able to intuit my predicament from a casual glance if I fail to project an image of cool detachment while proceeding toward my goal in a rectilinear manner.The pavement twists and turns, spirals into chaos and only occasionally (in that adrenalin rushed semi-second of almost eating shit) re-collapses into a straight line. Straight ahead. Head out. Headache. Maybe it’s me that’s spiraling. Unspooling along the path, waiting for the string to run out so I can be free. Another dent in the world layer - another almost trip - almost death - skip a beat - stop. Another breath and the brief clarity that follows along with the anxiety inspiring tingling in my chest. The feeling of lungs. Having them. Each alveolae separately coming into contact with who knows how many molecules, colliding, absorbing, compressing, uncomfortably undulating fluid. Too much sensation entirely. And yet there’s a break, there’s a disconnect, a whole which is broken or perhaps many inconciliable fragments attempting to be one and failing. Attempting to be me. Like the world layer, another topology which is textured wrong. My hands don’t feel anything at all, or at least that which they sense feels unreal and detached. As they dangle to my sides, I have to look down from time to time to convince myself they’re still here, that I didn’t forget them. That I didn’t forget… where was I going? Shopping. Food. Sustenance. Somewhere in this area must be a place where produce fill the shelves. Things that could be made to fill me. Emptiness is certainly the term for it. An excess of emptiness internally and thus an unbearable abundance of reality externally through a complete lack of filter functions. There is just so much noise, so many body parts to coordinate and feel or to be aware of not feeling. So much world to be taxonomized and yet a complete inability to do so. To do anything. Even walk. The pavement keeps escaping the length of my legs. Pulling away and breaking the flow of my gait.Oh god, did she look at me? I can’t do this. Need to switch need to switch need to- I repress the urge and continue forward. Ten meters. Five. One. The woman passes by me close enough for us to smell each other. My mind turns blank to escape the moment’s horror. I throw up into a hedge. The sun is relentless and there appear do still be dogs in need of walking on this day. After a good ten minutes of convincing myself that it is safe to look at my phone, I take a deep breath and do so. 13:34. Did I take a wrong turn? There must be a store somewhere. It’s definitely too late to turn back, I’d have to… A phone breaks, a body collapses in the midday sun.


-10-
Perspective of Vincent Fensterer

The ground is still a long ways off, hidden away beyond the impenetrable darkness.If there even is one.I suspect that there is.Supposing that I'm correct, it's a little bit closer now.I must have fallen from somewhere, a cliff or building or other structure, which ought to stand on something, so there necessarily has to be a ground.But I don't remember.I can't always have fallen.If I did, could it really be called falling, technically?Doesn't feel right.A little closer yet.I look up into the void, or down, I can't tell, and through the clouds of now vaguely materializing forms, the letter "L" looks back at me.Less than an inch away from my retina. Some more letters dig themselves into my cheekbones, creating a sharp pain all over the right half of my face.I lift my head off the keyboard.Not yet sufficiently sober, my body sways from side to side, forcing the center of mass beyond the chair's edge.Figures.I haven't stopped falling.Thud.Face to carpet, back to darkness.
I awaken to the high-pitched voice of my younger brother and a light tap on the shoulder.
“Hey, I thought you were gonna show me the around the school today.”The young boy in front of me is beaming from cheek to cheek.“Yeah, definitely, I was just… waiting here for you.”“I dunno Vi, it kind of looked like you were sleeping.”“Sleeping? In class?”I smile widely and blow out some air through my nose in hopes of making the act more convincing.“How dare you accuse your brother of such delinquency?”“If you say so. We did homeroom-introductions with miss Wagner today, everyone seems really nice!”“Wagner? You lucked out then, her classes are pretty low-effort. You didn’t talk to anyone, did you?”“Of course I talked to them, duh. They’re my new classmates, and I told you they’re nice.”“Any word you speak to those vultures is ammunition against you. Just wait until they find their first target and you’ll see. I’ve done school for a bit now and the best way of being ignored is ignoring them. They’re boring as shit anyways.”Was I still being sincere when I said that? Was I sincere at any point? When did it all get so painful, so dark and callous? Why did I feel like I had to experiment with him? Why did I poke everything until it broke?“I am no longer him!”“No longer who?” , Lloyd responds in the muffled, barely understandable tone of a man mumbling into his pillow.“Don’t even worry about it, I… I need to take a shower”“Woah, what kind of epiphany has led to taking action as drastic as basic hygiene?”“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”Even as warm water beats against my face and layers upon layers of filth and dead skin are relinquish their grip upon my body, the thoughts persist. I can’t live like this. I need absolution. Just some, just a little bit, not actually from the good one himself though. That’s worthless, he’ll forgive anyone. He already forgave me for fuck’s sake. How much could that possibly mean? I open my mouth and take in the jet of disgusting, metal-tasting water, in hopes that it will drown me before I can bring this particular train of thought to conclusion. My half-assed attempt at suicide proves unsuccessful. There has to be a place for this kind of forgiveness. Fuck talking to some religious dipshit, but sad, directionless teenagers playing psychoanalyst for each other, so they don’t have to deal with the reality of their own misery for a bit? Now that’s something I can get behind. And forums like that ought to exist everywhere.A few google searches and DMs to angsty teenagers in Lo’s comments lead me to just the place I was looking for: “The Glaring”. A wall of absurdly pretentious confessionals, ten times the wordcount they would require, were the people responsible even remotely as interested in conveying their actual issues as they are in convincing readers of their depth, stretches down farther than any reasonable human would ever dare to scroll.The site was apparently created by a lifestyle blogger named Jessica Heine, who became somewhat famous amongst the goth-adjacent six years ago after unexpectedly killing herself and leaving multiple novels worth of purple-prose as her suicide note. Further digging into her uncovered this site, which she assumably set up in order to help herself, but which didn’t gain any traction until the connection to the now dead pseudo-e-celeb had been revealed. That is to say: quite a bit too late. The girl however succeeded in becoming a messianic figure for depressed assholes who think that she somehow sacrificed herself to bring them this site and therefore save their lives, miraculously unaware of the existence of suicide hotlines.I guess I shouldn’t be too cynical of the whole matter, seeing how this is exactly what I needed.Thanks Jessica.For a moment I consider contemplating how incredibly macabre and creepy that thought was but decide against it.
Instead, I start reading a post.

“There is no out. There can’t be. The thing we want to escape from once simplified to its most basic, nuanceless core is reality itself, or rather the human experience that is the lens through which we conceptualize it.
How could there possibly be anything outside that except death?
Anything that seems like an out is just another in, a pathway to another corner of the same shitty old building where the only way to escape is jumping out the 21st floor window. It still sucks, wherever your path leads, but at least it sucks in a way that’s new, refreshing almost for a while. It puts past shit into perspective despite not being an exit and becomes the new, interesting shit, which might just be enough?
As long as one keeps taking the “out”s that aren’t really, and continuously turns the old shit into the new shit, the grind stays interesting enough to be worth it, maybe.
Maybe that’s the point of it all.”
“If you’re still looking for the point, you have already missed it, because there is none and that is the point.”“Wouldn’t that mean that there is one? Isn’t that just a “the path is the goal”-type twisting of words, that denies the initial discernibility of a thing’s nature, but not the verisimilitude of its existence. That’s even kind of the thing I described above.”“It would be, if I, like you apparently do, operated on the assumption that “points” or any comprehensibility-serving abstraction of physical reality is an inherent property of it, rather than a foundationless attribution made by flawed human minds.”“In that case you’re just being needlessly obtuse by referring once to the point of existence and once to your point about existence with the same word in the same sentence.
Being hard to understand doesn’t make you profound, you know?”
“Well what’s profound?”“Anything that makes people go “oh, I get it, the world’s like THAT” in the form of a very neat, memetic sentiment. No more than a paragraph. The kind of shit middle aged women go nuts for.
didn’t miss that you changed the topic btw.”

The commenter didn’t respond to this.What IS profound? THAT, yes, sure, but also more, right? There has to be more. It’s not satisfying like this. There has to be a more profound explanation of profundity. Did THEY, the commenter, find it satisfactory, of did they just not reply because their ego had been bruised?I come to the realization that that becoming cognizant, not knowing, but actually becoming cognizant of the fact that other people do exist and have thoughts is genuinely the worst feeling imaginable.I take a large gulp of rum straight from the bottle and the burning sensation in my throat distracts me from the terrifying thought that some guy on the internet had maybe been given a glimpse at the true nature of things that simply doesn’t cut it for me.Why did I go here?Where did the rum come from for that matter? Sometimes it seems like alcohol just appears around me. Wait, right. This was about Lo. It’s hard not to feel pathetic in this situation, despite the overwhelming work I put into cleansing myself from such feelings forever. The space girl would surely have a blast observing and commenting upon my fucked-up coping mechanisms, but then again, there are few pathological behaviors with which she doesn’t have a field day, this tendency of hers very much included.I came to whine. I came to pour my heart out about the crimes that no one even has the decency to hate me for. I came to have my fucked up psyche obveranalyzed by someone who hasn’t been stuck in its gears for countless eternities. It that so reprehensible? Is that so reprehensible to anyone except me?

“This will probably sound really stupid.
For context, I have talked about it with people whom I trust implicitly about that sort of shit, and therefore know for a fact that it sounds stupid. I'm even inclined to agree. The problem is that so far nobody has been able to find the logical flaw in my thought process or at least to adequately explain to me how I'm mistaken. And it's hard to convince yourself of a different philosophy if you can't find out how yours is wrong. So here goes: I am convinced that my parents will let me live in their house indefinitely and after years of trying to find one, I am certain that no activity that I am forced to partake in will ever not make me miserable. Call my existence pathetic all you want, but there is nothing higher than this to strive for from my perspective. I realized that all these things people feel tethered by, while they are certainly real for others, don't actually exist in my case. I am free to do anything and that includes doing nothing. Stupid or not, it seems pretty sound logically and that's the problem: I don't want it to be. Sometimes I just want to be a fucking person again, and it's all because I thought too much, I poked at my own mind again and again and it broke. I broke and there's no recovering if you're so broken that you think you're fine most of the time. I poked at others too, poked and prodded and broke. Truthfully, maybe my self-prescribed confinement to this room is preferable to the damage I might wreak otherwise. A friend once called me demonic and as the months go past, I am inclined to agree…”


Baptism


It has been two years since Collin walked into that lake never to be seen again. We'd heard voices from it for months at that point. Muffled. Luring. Filling the night with a siren's song that does not leave room for true quiet. The cliché thing to say would be that it drove us insane, but it really didn't. At least not often. Some people in the neighbourhood may have lost their minds, but any honest accounting would point to the fact that some people always inevitably lose their minds, unexplainable Lovecraftian bullshit or no. Then there was the lockdown, so all in all I doubt the rate of lunacy in our village was significantly above baseline for the time.
No. The consequences of that whisper were far more mundane. It drove you obsessive or it drove you to ignore reality. The second camp could be split in twain again: Into those who were good at it, and those who were not. The former could stay home and pretend like everything was normal, look us dead in the eyes and claim that they didn't hear anything, face twitching only very slightly as they did so. The latter just didn't have it in them. Couldn't commit to the bit. Not for long. They'd get jumpy, lose sleep, lose weight, lose the plot and then, one day, they'd either move away or go on indefinite vacations.
The people who did acknowledge what their senses were feeding them were a different story.
It didn't trouble us. Never, at no point, did it trouble us. We'd say it did because intellectually we knew how eldritch this shit was and how clearly not normal the world had gone, but again: Lockdown. The world had already gone abnormal and this abnormality was at least exciting. If you wanted folks to let you go about your business, you'd pretend to be intrigued in a justifiably apprehensive way. Troubled, you know, when in reality you were nothing but feral fascination anymore. A limbic system buzzing like a fucking arc light. Short circuit through the reward-centre. Some days it felt like the only thing that meant anything at all. The only thing with any pull. Try getting school kids to wake up two hours early and trudge through the Canadian mud towards a body of water that looks completely unremarkable for weeks on end any other way. I dare you.
Maybe we too could be separated into two groups after all: the ones who stopped diving when summer turned to fall and those who didn't. Both me and Collin were in the latter camp. Eventually we saved up enough money to buy some neoprene, but by then it was almost winter. Hypothermia didn't really worry us. Nothing did.
Funnily enough, the voices didn't get louder as you neared the lake, nor when you dove in for that matter. They didn't even get clearer. We just sort of felt that this was where they were coming from, and in that same way our bones knew that somewhere down there would be answers.
Our breathing techniques got better. The time we could spend down there longer. Eventually it was more like sitting on the lakebed, meditating and waiting for epiphany to strike.
Pretty early on we got this blinking ball –a dog toy, I think–, which was both waterproof and buoyant, so you could go down holding it, and if you lost consciousness or such you'd automatically let go. It would float to the surface, and someone would drag you up. This happened a lot, but no one ever died...
"... except for you." I finish my rant with a and-whatever-the-hell-your-deal-is-supposed-to-be gesture.
Collin responds with an exaggerated pout. "Do I look dead to you?"
"Nope. That's the scary part."
He looks more than alive in fact, like someone has dialled up the saturation around him. Not so high as to be clearly discernible, but to the point where your brain scrambles for the social-media-honed alarm bells, which chime that "unedited photos don't look that good". Even his movements are too smooth for comfort. Like water flowing from one pose into the next.
"So what is it?” I scoff with a bit more confidence than I really have, which has always been a theme. ‘Drowned kid is actually just an apnoea-savant coming up for air one year later?’ Should I fetch the tabloid hacks?"
The thing that looks like Collin seems offended by my implication that he had to come up for air at all. That he couldn’t have stayed even longer. "Oh please, you know me. When have I ever done anything without an anterior motive?"
“Anything” in this context seems to include breathing, and his incessant attempts at easy charm only make him creepier. A smart person would run here and now, but then again, a smart person never would have opened the door for him.
I kick open the fridge with my heel and throw him a bottle of lager, not even looking whether he catches it. After a year you start to think that maybe it really was just mass delusion. You forget what it's like for your brain to be all wire buzz. Forget that it can be that way. Time smooths out the edges, flattens it, leaves only the words, even when you once knew that words weren't shit. Words aren't shit again, and I’m troubled that I’m not more troubled. The lake ate Collin, I try to remind myself. A faint klktzsshhhh as he opens the beer behind me.
"So, you a zombie? Some freshwater Dracula? Or just an unusually solid ghost."
He grins and exhales against the window, leaving a slowly shrinking patch of condensation "None of the above, officer, though Freshwater Dracula is a pretty baller band name." He seems disappointed that I don't immediately drop my guard. "Look, I could do the whole thing where I cut my palm to show you how red the shit in my veins is, to demonstrate beyond the shallows of a doubt that I bleed like a real boy, but let's be honest with ourselves, that would only make me look more spooky, and I'm really not that keen on cutting my hand."
I don’t say that it would actually be nice if he did something really spooky. If his eyes went white or he started oozing black sludge from somewhere or said some ominous shit to tip his hand. If he just offed me here and now, I’d at least know where I stand. Uncertainty’s much more annoying. Trope-savvy plausible deniability for horror movie bullshit…
"..."
"Relax, if I wanted to harm you I could have easily done that already". He picks up a butter knife, tries to thumb-around it, but drops the dull blade instead.
"...Because you're some creature."
"No, because you've got the reflexes of a sedated sloth. Always have."
I grudgingly let the tension in my shoulders dissipate and crack open my own bottle.
"What happened in November?" There's still bite to it, but less of it. The anxiety's giving way to simple unease. If I die then I die, big whoop, mea culpa and all that, but he's still unsettling.
"The thing that was gonna happen eventually”, he shrugs. “It didn't feel like we were getting anywhere. The time didn't matter, it was more about trust. Letting go."
"It's called being oxygen deprived."
"And this is called jealousy", he smirks.
I choke on my drink and start coughing uncontrollably. “I am so not jealous of dying in a spooky lake.”
“Coulda fooled me with the teen drinking and the depression-cave. How many of our old friends are still vaguely functional?”
The middle finger flipped his way might as well be an admission. What do you do when you lose the wire buzz frying your brain into unmitigated obsession? Our parents thought it was simple grief, or trauma, and some of it was, but not where it mattered. The grief was a dark cloud obscuring the fact that there was nothing underneath anymore. Just a hole. You try to find new mysteries. Binge Wikipedia. Make bad decisions on purpose. But nothing sticks. There’s a vast gulf between trivia and discovery.
"Anyway, I’m not dead, the lake isn’t spooky, and the bit where you accuse me of being some third rate horror flick critter is getting old real fast. Plus… It’s hurtful? Believe it or not, I missed the hell out of you, dude. There isn’t much which could have propelled me to come back up here” Collin sneers those last few words as though they were poison mixed with rat piss.
“But back to answering your question, – do you see how cooperative I am? – so, in the spirit of this letting-go, I wedged our little rescue light under a rock and put some more pebbles into my pockets…” he trails off like a douchebag.
“...and?”
Some thoroughly useless gestures. “There’s a place where words give out, and it’s under that lake. I mean– it’s in lots of places. Words kinda give out near the starting line, but if you refuse to look closely at anything you can pretend that they don’t and people will usually humour that.”
“You’re gonna have to do more than vague-post truisms at me.”
Collin slumps. “It’s… it’s good? It’s heaven, if the feeling of that word meant to you what it means to a believer. It’s like not having to breathe anymore, figuratively. It’s like flow, but if flow was about everything at once, but none of that means anything, and also… do I have to do more? Isn’t the burden of proof for 'better than this' insanely fucking low? I get that you’re wondering why I didn’t come back up to fetch you earlier if it’s so great down there, and a part of it –a big part of it– is that I didn’t want to go back. Kept hoping you’d just arrive by yourself... This,” he gestures around him, then at himself “is excruciating. It’s so small, so lonely, so incomplete. I feel like I’ve got phantom limbs all over the place, like my mind’s operating out of a tiny little box with spikes on the inside. And then there’s this place.” Eyes slightly teary and full of disgust.
“Oh come on, it’s not that bad.”
“Isn’t it? Is all the suffering fine actually? Does it serve a purpose? We didn’t buy that shit back then, do you buy it now? Has poverty been eliminated? Are the kids alright? Has anyone with the power to swing shit managed to be both good and sane for a hot sec? It is that bad. It has always been that bad. People only say that it isn’t in hopes of believing their own lie long enough to fall asleep at night.”
Sure, walked right into that one. But the world being bad is still a bit of a useless platitude. All of the manifestos agree on that bit. Things suck, nod nod, very insightful. Just doesn’t get you anywhere. You need to present a viable alternative.
“And the lakebed is just spiffy”
“It is, but it’s also remarkably easy to appreciate literally anything when you aren’t forced to make your assessment from within this soul shredder.”
Again there’s this pain in his eyes. The wrong pain. It would all be fine and dandy if I could recognize in those tensions around his mouth and eyes some apprehension, some vestigial human regret about the thing he’s going to do to me. The priest crying an expiating tear before he slits the lamb’s throat. But it isn’t there. There’s just strain. Few things you learn to spot as easily as emotional labour in a village like this, and it’s all that. With a face my mind has conjured up so often since the incident, I couldn’t delude myself about what the expressions mean if I wanted to. And still there’s that implicit knife at my throat. A knife in the form of that old pull reawakening slowly in my nervous system.

“Hey, buddy, love ya. I really do. It’s great seeing you again and I’m glad you’re enjoying the peaches on those mighty fine trees… but I’m not gonna drown myself... That is where this is going, right?”
“Well that’s awfully dismissive”
“That’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Not really.” Throwing an apple, catching it. Lucifer’s favourite weapon in backspin. “It’s an action you’ve never taken before, so you run some basic risk-reward eval based on what you know about it. ‘Die in a cold lake or stay in here’, gee, that doesn’t sound great. On the other hand: ‘Take the thing every fibre of your being has been hungering for since you came to live in this terrible place, or stay within it.’ That is the real choice. You can keep pretending as much as you want, but there’s still life beneath your skin and there’s still light behind your eyes, so I know that you’re not actually satisfied with this.”
There are more snappy comebacks to be had, but every single one so far has just been turned around to subtract from the tenuous ground I am standing on. “Sounds like a thing someone who’d drown themself over a teen obsession would say” Well sure, but he is, and it was, end he’ll wholly eat that bullet, look at me like a strangled puppy and ask me to please believe him. Like I’m gorging myself on poison and he’s begging me to take the antidote. I sigh deeply and fashion my upturned emotional state into the best olive branch I can muster.
“I’m not. But I’m scared and you haven’t given me anything but emotional manipulation and vague promises so far.”
Rushing forwards, Collin cradles my face in his hands, beaming like a supernova and I ask myself only moments too late why I didn’t back away.
“Yes. Yes! Because every fucking thing- Every fucking rock you turn up here has maggots beneath it. Retaining your curiosity means learning to bear pain because every single time the thing you were looking for is terrible. You learn to brace and then you learn to brace harder, and eventually, when you are utterly and completely broken, when finding out one too many times snaps your spine for good, you learn to stop looking. You haven’t. You’re still functional. And this isn’t an intrinsic quality of the world, it’s just this part of it. When the whole of your soul screams that you need to look and learn and that there are wonders you cannot fathom, riches at the end of a rainbow, that’s true. That’s real. Your whole body knows that it’s true and that’s why it takes so much effort to beat it out. But I also don’t have more than myself to show for proof before you take that leap. Ask me anything. Anything you want, anything only I would know because I am me. You haven’t really been trying to get me to slip, so I don’t think you doubt that, and if you think that I’m faking it perfectly –that I’m some creature who ate Collin Steward wholly–, then why are you still talking to me? It doesn’t make sense. Propose anything, I’ll oblige. Any evidence you want, I’ll get it to you, but your threshold of doubt can’t be infinitely high. Is there an argument that would convince you, an action that would sway you? Are you a rock or are you still a person? I cannot bear the thought of letting you die up here, so please. Please. Anything.”
I look inside, see if there is. The general shape of the argument is fine. If you require infinite proof you never get anywhere, you never figure out which things are edible, humanity never makes it out of the evolutionary crucible… “Do you remember that school play we did?"
“Oh god, eat my entire dick. Actually, I regret coming back for you. Why would you remind me of that?”
“That might be the only time I’ve ever seen you fail at something, you know? ...Unintentionally that is.” It was almost a week after some philosophy class discussion on consciousness had gotten out of hand. The old toy question of whether one can be sure of still being oneself after waking up. Whether one dies every time consciousness is interrupted in some sense. It was motivated by the similarly old hat of teleportation, though we didn’t know then that these were thoroughly explored discussions. Stale and wrung for all the conceptual nutrients they’re worth. Neither of us came away with the conclusions our teacher wanted us to have. Me troubling the shit out of her by trying to tie it back into an earlier discussion about euthanasia and arguing that ‘sure, you might die every night, but you can’t actually prevent it, so the right thing to do would be to go out with dignity intact, instead of unnecessarily suffering through sleeplessness until one dies anyway’. Collin on the other hand didn’t want to bite that bullet. He wanted to not do anything reckless until he had figured it out, and sleeping was reckless now. It wasn’t even really that he thought or was afraid that it might kill him, he just wanted to know ahead of time. He wouldn’t rest until he solved it, so when the play came around he made an ass of himself by falling asleep in the middle of it. Five days of self-induced insomnia for nothing. Maybe dying. Who knows.
“Turns out sleep doesn’t kill you by the way.” He adds after a brief pause. “I mean I didn’t actually get there, so in terms of me blowing it the point is moot, but it’s good to know that holistically beefing an experiment didn’t literally kill me in retrospect.”
“And neither does death I gather.”
“Oh no. I’m pretty sure death kills you. Not fully, but –you know– worth avoiding when you can. The claim I’m making isn’t that death is safe, It’s that the lake doesn’t kill you.”
I start laughing, something in my mind breaking for good. “But you have somehow achieved clarity about the sleep thing? About consciousness interruption?”
“It’s pretty obvious when you see it. Short answer’s that there isn’t actually an interruption and that our model was screwy, but you know. More freshwater Dracula woo you have no reason to believe in.”
“Okay.”
“Okay?”
“Not gonna pretend to be remotely confident here. I don’t have much faith to be leaping with, but you’re right. That pull is still in my bones. Only thing left in there. So I’m gonna go down to the water eventually. Might as well do it with a friend. With the prepense of being swayed by arguments rather than as an act of pathetic desperation a few years down the line. Show me your mysteries, waterboy.”


Ouro's Vriska Cosplay Journal


This is gonna be a thread in which I chronicle the process of cospaying everyone's favourite heroine Vriska Serket as a might-as-well-be beginner to the craft.
It is certainly possible that the write-up will end up being a vaguely useful tutorial when I'm done, but for now the intended function is as a journal documenting approaches, failures, and the thought processes which led to them.
I'm a firm believer in running into walls a few times before resorting to the paradigmatic solutions. It's always good to know why something is done a certain way, and who knows, sometimes walls do have additional weak spots in unexpected places.

Vriska Serket

You love her, you hate her. Even if you hate her you probably love her. I'd know, as my HS videos are a flytrap for those weirdos to inevitably come my way to cast spurious allegations of wickedness upon the virtuous and trust me: They love it. Vris' existence gives them meaning, severs as a fictional idol to all they deem evil in this world (women etc). It sustains them, unsightly as this might be to the rest of us.
So you do love Vriska, whatever else you may think of her, and so do I and this is as good an excuse as any to finally go even more thoroughly off the deep end.
There's a convention coming up around these parts and it's time I take the step every self avowed Vriska liker eventually takes: I'm gonna fucking become her (or fail horribly and learn some interesting things about cosplay in the process).
I have done some cosplay at anime conventions in the past —Eight years back. Christ, I'm old— but the most high level I got was cutting wigs a little and re-sewing a lab coat to be more dynamic in silhouette because they are sadly quite baggy in reality. Anime lies to you, kids, much to the disappointment of younger chem-student-ouro.
Anyway, I don't know makeup, I don't know much about wig styling and I haven't made any kinds of prosthetics, so this is gonna be fun.

Starting materials

This is what I look like:

I'm twenty six, slim, white, mostly male presenting, average height, have the correct shape of glasses already, hair which is an absolute bitch to fit under a wig and a somewhat angular face. If it looks familiar to you, you might have seen Vriska did nothing wrong and here's why. Additionally I own basic arts and crafts supplies but will probably need to acquire more stuff as I go along.

Glasses, hubris and getting godfeels'd

Looking back it started with the glasses. I did not go out of my way to get Vriska glasses, I just needed new ones a few months ago and this pair looked good. I didn't even notice. The thought didn't cross my mind until I drew a kidsona some days after picking them up, wondering how I should stylize them and going "Oh. Oh this sure is the shape, isn't it? Fuck." Naturally people made fun of me and that was that for a while, but I kept thinking that I could totally make an eye cover to click in there. It would be so easy. It would be fun.

Then, two weeks ago, I did and it was easy and it was fun and something inside of me had begun to hunger. Have you ever been godfeels'd dear reader? I fear that this is what it feels like to be godfeels'd. I'm currently still thinking that I could totally build a robot arm. Just get some sheet metal, cut it into strips, bend it into rings and put divots in, then kind of just tie them together with wire. It doesn't need much flexibility apart from the joint and I could simply put a literal hinge there, strap the shoulder to my torso with a belt and it really doesn't sound that hard. But maybe it is, in which case I'll just put seven red dots on the eye patch to go for a pre-sploded Vris. Should be fine.

Eye Patch

There's probably some clever way to actually trace the shape of your glasses, but geometrically it's kind of annoying to hold a piece of card up to them and draw lines at the same time, so I just did a shoddy, slightly-too-large approximation by way of ruler-measurements and then cut away parts which stood out. With tape I affixed some wire to the back of the eye patch at the approximate height that the bridge of my glasses would be on. A little more cardboard was stuck on the back with glue stick for structural integrity and to cover up the wire (though that's probably only necessary because I was working with very thin card stock). It might also not be necessary to lead the wire back forth and back again between the layers of cardboard as I did (see picture). I though this would keep it from tilting/rotating around the wire, and while it definitely does accomplish that, there being a piece of glass right in front of it should also do the trick.
Lastly I bent the wire at both sides such that it slots in somewhat securely around the left hinge and the bridge of the glasses respectively without tilting and without being difficult to remove (i.e. don't form loops). Also make sure that the exposed ends of the wire don't face towards the glass in a way which might cause them to scratch it.

Not impressive, I know, but if there's one thing I'm an inveterate fan of, it's very very easy first steps to something large such that you are suddenly bought in without noticing, and believe me, when I put that eye patch in —even though I didn't know it yet— I was bought in entirely. Dipped my toes into the shallows and was sucked under like a chump. It's all just one more step until it isn't.

Cutting Teeth

I love a good fang. Only a coward claims that they don't. But most of the commercially available options kind of suck in my experience. The standard Halloween vampire teeth are obviously a non starter from both an aesthetics- and a "being able to speak without sounding like an asshole"-standpoint. The separate fangs you can get which attach via fitting beads are out on grounds of previous bad experiences. They're too thick, keep falling off with the way my teeth interlock and they're always the entirely wrong colour in one direction or another such that it looks like I have a piece of candy stuck to my tooth, so that wasn't an option. It seems like you can have just the right oral conditions for those to work great for you but I am absolutely not in that privileged set, so dentures made from fake nails and fitting beads it is. I know that that's a standard way of doing it, but I can't think of anything else I'd want to try and the store bought solutions are out.
This writeup is still going over things that already happened, since I didn't think to note things down at first. After finishing the eye patch I was still thoroughly in a mindset of "well this was fun, but it's not like I'm gonna take the next step" and then I found myself reading the old troll teeth tutorial and liking a good fang as much as the next guy and suddenly I had a bunch of fake nails. Slowly it was dawning on me that I'm actually doing this. That I've passed a point where quitting now would feel like giving up on something.

Here's the tutorial I consulted for the basic idea, and it explains the process well, though I've had to make a few alterations which we'll get to. I measured the width of my teeth with a ruler, marked those on the largest fake nails and then kind of just winged the shape. If you try to cut directly across them they break, so it's best to just chip away diagonally until you've chiselled out the right shape. I ended up starting with this elongated hexagon-shape and going from there. I knew I wouldn't be able to fit dentures for my bottom teeth into my mouth such that it wouldn't chip, so I only bothered with the top row of teeth. Two fangs, two broader teeth for the medial incisors and six more for the lateral incisors and first and second molars (I did not end up using the second molars because they'd be visible too rarely to be worth the hassle).

Constructing a Jaw

My fitting beads hadn't arrived by this point, so I tried the teeth on to see how they look by gluing them on one by one with blue tack. This only works after you get your teeth bone fucking dry, but other than that it's a pretty low effort way of trying different shapes in context.
I hope blue tack isn't that poisonous. Not that I ate it, but you know.

Then I bent some more wire into the shape of my jaw and lined the finished teeth up on that for demonstration and so they'd stay in the correct constellation until the beads arrive. The first draft I think was much too long across the board. It made it so that all teeth were visible if my mouth was normal-speaking-amounts of open and that makes it so that the fangs stand out less. I kept the "regular teeth" slightly pointed, but reduced them to a point where they are only barely longer than my real teeth.
This whole process makes you really aware of how small teeth are. They feel so large in your jaw, which of course is because you mostly feel them with your tongue and its unreasonable amount of nerve endings. Something something sensory homunculus. Anyway it's pretty nice that the natural inclination is to go too large, because making subtractive corrections is obviously much easier than correcting in the other direction and not making the actual dentures immediately gave me a good few days to stew over the prototype and make adjustments. In addition to lengths, I wasn't sure whether to make the fangs the canines as is typical of real earth creatures or the lateral incisors (so slightly further towards the centre because a bunch of Vris art places them quite centrally).

The wire construction made it pretty easy to switch between those during deliberation, and getting outside opinions eventually convinced me to go with the traditional canines. Special shout-out to Aidan AHP-cast for input on that question.

Bending it Horn-ways

I was under the impression from people I've personally seen at cons that the default way of creating troll horns is from foam, which I have texture issues with. The idea of having to cut the stuff into shape (the squeaking!) and then to wear it directly on my head for hours was just a little too much for my delicate disposition to handle. I was so convinced of this being the norm in fact that I didn't even look at online tutorials before deciding that I could probably get the job done with this hexagonal mesh I had lying around from gardening tasks. The first prototype came out much too large and also wouldn't curve properly. It just sort of creases in in the middle like when you try to bend a roll of cardboard. This is because the long twirled parts of the mesh were vertical, which makes the roll much less pliant.

With less mesh and a horizontal orientation the whole thing worked much better. I placed a cut at the two thirds line for the decorative horn tips and gave the piece of mesh a taper so that the thinner pieces of horn wouldn't contain much denser, more bunched up mesh, but don't consider these patterns to be optimal. They're just the first thing that worked decently well.

I ended up cutting both of these slightly shorter as a whole and the crescent horn had too much material at the top as you can see, but here, like with the teeth, correcting subtractively is easy and the flexible mesh as a whole lends itself well to minor corrections over time by bending, squishing etc. Its texture also presented a pretty obvious solution for affixing the horns to the headband (we'll get to that later), but this was the moment when curiosity about how that part worked for foam horns led me to finally do some research, and figure out that the standard method is actually aluminium foil as a modelling base surrounded by clay. That does seem sturdier than my solution, but I was happy with the results so far and chose to keep going on this path anyway.
The mesh is very light by the way and I would not be surprised if it compared favourably to the clay version on that front. It's probably less sturdy which might be an issue depending on your use case, but the shape bounces back from normal bumping-into-something-shocks without issue and I don't really expect anyone to come up to me and deliberately bend my horns or such.

Gordian Mesh-inations

To affix the horns to my head I got a cheap hairband and made twelve small incisions into the outer bit of fabric in the pattern shown below. I threaded a bit of wire through those such that it surfaces at the bottom of each side and at the horns where it weaves through the mesh on each side to hold them firmly in place. On the other side of the headband I then twirled the wire to hold everything in shape.

The original plan was to cut a long strip out of kitchen roll, paint it with acrylic paint and wrap that around the horns before leaving it to harden, but as an experiment before going through with something so messy I wanted to test if it had any chance of success, so I just wrapped one of the horns in a strip of wet kitchen towel and let it dry over night. The result was very promising and convinced me that it would work really well with the much more rigidly drying paint keeping it all together… However, by then I had realized that it would be much easier to just wrap it in crepe tape, which sticks to itself by default, is much less messy and affords more control. This would allow the painting to be a separate step and is exactly what I did.

Fang-tuning

Something I still didn't like was that the teeth looked quite flat in some pictures, especially the fangs. This is in part because I only used the very largest nails, which are also the least strongly curved, and canines do have a good bit of bulge to them. So, now that my intuition for how large teeth really are was re-calibrated to something more sane, I recreated the fangs out of some midsize nails instead, with much nicer results.
An issue that remains is that the fake nails are very very white compared to my own yellowed chompers. Statesians might not have this issue but as a European by teeth are contractually discoloured by tea, coffee and the various noxious emissions of coal plants we've neglected to shut down because… Nuclear is scawy apparently, unlike global ecological collapse.
Anyway I can't put another denture on my bottom teeth because they're too close. I'd either have to retract my chin in a way that would probably give me horrible jaw cramps really quickly (and even then they'd likely hit my actual top teeth and chip when I'm not paying attention), emote in such a way that my bottom teeth simply aren't visible or –if possible– to stain the dentures somehow. As a little experiment I dropped one of those fake nails in coffee for a few days to see what would happen.
Let's be real, Vriska Serket would not have pearly whites anyway. Her teeth are a nightmare.

The Agonies

My fitting beads arrived, which prompted the hardest part of the project so far. I melted them into a large blob in hot water as described in the tutorial, tore off a chunk and pressed it into my upper jaw. The first few attempts had too much material and for one of them I forgot to close my mouth, causing the cast to have a bulge at the backside which prevented me from closing my mouth while wearing it. Subsequent attempts with less goo and some light chewing to make sure I could comfortably close my mouth were too fragile to remove without deforming when I wanted to put them in cold water to set. This happened often enough that I eventually resorted to filling my mouth with ice water to set it firmly without removing it. I'm unsure whether my beads are more malleable than the ones used in the tutorial, whether my mouth is unusually warm or whether I just didn't wait long enough before dropping in water, though I did wait a good bit of time. Either way, I don't actually see a problem with the "harden in mouth"-method. I think my final cast had too little fitting bead material in the front, because I could not push the teeth far enough in to have full contact. The method I eventually found was putting some of the molten bead goo on the backside of the teeth and melting the front of the mould in my mouth by pouring hot water over the tooth in question through a thin spout.

This resulted in very solid fits, but the fact that my procedure ended up so elaborate should give you a decent estimate of how much I failed. The teeth just kept falling off and I got very frustrated over the course of the three hours it took me to go from a finished set of teeth to finished, sturdy dentures. This also came after discovering that my little stain-Experiment did not work. The plastic nails were just as white after four days in coffee as they were before. Oh well.

Candy Corn

Lending the horns colour was pretty easy. I first painted the topmost part in yellow acrylic paint (while overshooting by some decent margin for blending) and then moved downwards step by step with two gradually more reddish oranges, blending as I went without letting the paint dry to achieve a relatively smooth gradient. I prefer this over the three-stage discrete look.

One could seal the colour in to make it waterproof and maybe I will do so at some point, but since the con I want to go to is indoors this isn't a priority, sooo... horns done!

I quite enjoy the somewhat gnarled look afforded by the tape around mesh approach and they're light and comfortable to wear. I would still sort of like to have the hairband below the wig for aesthetic reasons, meaning that this whole construction will have to be integrated into the hair.

Greasy Gamer Hair

I actually still have a long black cosplay wig from years ago but I'm plagued by some doubts as to whether it will be suited to the job. See, Fafnir Maiddragon has limp, perfectly straight, boring, deflated, greasy gamer-hair whereas Vriska Serket has luscious, voluminous, messily tangled, greasy gamer-hair.

Maybe I can fix this with wig glue but I've never actually worked with the stuff and thus don't know its limits. Always had pretty simple hairstyles when doing cosplay because I never really delved into it as an art. It was moreso to signal some membership to the community. To not be a tourist but a part of the Con in some ill-defined way.
You know, out of the whole miasma of strange fucking "Vriska bad"-arguments that get thrown my way, it's always weird how people miss the obvious. Not even once has someone gone "well didn't you know that your alleged bastion of moral goodness is a fucking gamer?" Because I've got nothing on that front. Like yeah. She sure is, huh? I have to execute a cowardly retreat into claiming that nobody's record is perfect and everyone's got one dark secret stashed away somewhere. Her's is being a gamer. Mine is being a youtuber.

Gender Trouble

Off with the sad little thing I call a beard for the next few stages and this is the point where I should probably admit that I've never used makeup on myself. I have worn makeup a couple of times but I was never the person to apply it, which —I'll be the first to admit— shows.

All I used here is lipstick, partially smudged eyeliner and mascara, the former especially leaving loads of room for improvement. When asking my more makeup-savvy friends what to do about this extreme degree of feathering, they gave me very helpful notes such as:
-Use a primer
-Use foundation
-Use lipliner for the outline
-Have you tried not being maximally dehydrated?
All very fair, but hey, that's what test-runs are for.
On a meta-note I hear you ask (or at least am projecting onto you) the question of whether this is a gender-thing. The answer is "Yes, obviously". I consider myself agender or lazily non-binary, but this still is not a region of the spectrum of gender expressions I usually explore, and it's fun. It's very exciting to see what I can do with my features, and the impulse to embody a character whose prevailing (and in my mind most interesting) read is as a trans woman does make one reexamine some things, which is a bit of introspection any well adjusted person should indulge in from time to time anyway. Will I come out of this experience with she/her pronouns? Doubt it, but there's a pretty competitive betting pool among my friends on that question since long before this particular incident, so who knows! I'd also be surprised in equal and opposite measure if this left my self-image with regards to gender entirely unmoved though. That's how experiments go, it's very rare for you to figure out nothing, but at the same time the thing you figure out is often not what you expected. If you could always predict the outcome the whole thing would be a boring formality and could never such a thing.

Holes in the Web

After experimenting a bit with the wig glue, I've decided that this wig just doesn't have the structure I'm looking for, in addition to not having enough hair, so I ordered a second, wavy wig and will use this one as an experiment in inserting the horns from below. This worked really well, I marked the right spots for the horns with safety pins while wearing it and then made cuts in between the wefts.

With my bendy horns it was pretty easy to push them through from below without making the cuts longer than they had to be, but for anyone who wants to imitate this process, I recommend only assembling the hair-band after this step so that you can insert the horns from above. When the new wig arrives I will probably cut this one apart and sew some of its wefts into that one to add volume.

Simulacra

The wavy wig has arrived, but I haven't inserted the horns yet, nor have I styled it or added volume by scrapping the other wig for parts, but this will have to do for now. Instead I’m attempting makeup again, this time with primer, foundation and blue eyeliner being used as lipliner. This is apparently a relatively common practice since eyeliner is available in a wider variety of colours, though doing so comes with a risk of irritation if the web and my friends are to be believed. My skin is not particularly sensitive and the liner I bought was reviewed by people claiming that they had a (for them) unusual lack of irritation using it the normal way, which I took to mean that it was comparatively easy on the skin. I am not a dermatologist, experiment at your own risk.

Sadly I couldn’t quite be fucked to do A/B testing to figure out which of these products did most to eliminate the feathering issue, but cumulatively they definitely did the job (which the photos are a bit too grainy to fully show, but take my word for it). Applying mascara on the eyebrows worked great and is dead easy so that won’t need any further optimizing, though i am growing dissatisfied with the sort of grittiness that results from smudging eyeliner all around my eyes rather than using actual eye-shadow. The reason for why I didn't do that from the start is that I deeply hate buying things and will bend over backwards to work with the stuff I already own until presented with overwhelming evidence that it just won’t do. This is that. Begrudgingly I take out my wallet again.
Speaking of quirks of character that stand in the way of having particularly good makeup: I think we can all agree that Vriska Serket would not bother with this, right? Vriska the character does not have a makeup routine outside of mindfang-cosplay, and as such that’s not really what I’m imitating. I think a lot of cosplay involves makeup that the character in question wouldn’t actually wear, even beyond the obvious stuff like contouring to simulate a different facial anatomy or white eyeliner to make the eyes look larger. You’re kind of emulating the medium to the same extent that you’re impersonating the character. There’s a stylized heightened reality you’re trying to capture whenever you’re trying to mimic something that isn’t itself naturalistic. Would Vriska wear this eye makeup? No, but it does point at a certain cartoon stylization of manic tiredness which doesn’t actually look like anything in reality. You’re trying to evoke artistic flourishes and importing them back into meatspace. Pure, triple-distilled simulacrum.

Eyepatch²

As fun as it seems to make a robotic arm, it sounds profoundly unfun to lug it around for two convention days, so instead I'll substitute my eyepatch for the vision eightfold lens. Seven red dots are perfectly respectable of course, but I chose to interpret that as artistic simplification and went a little TMA with the design instead (this decision was endorsed by the magic eight ball)

I also wanted the lens to be glossy and have a little bit of depth to it and while there's probably more idiomatic ways of going about the former, I chose to use around six layers of red and black nail polish respectively on two pieces of my green cardboard (yes, this is what it takes to get full coverage and as for why I keep using green cardboard I'll refer back to the last post. It's what I have). I drew the pattern I eventually settled on onto the backside of the black piece and cut the holes with a razor blade (make sure to use something properly sharp to get clean edges).

After one last coat of nail polish on the red piece, the black one can just be pressed onto it and voila, just make sure to let it dry before you do anything else with it. This time I didn't lead the wire back and forth behind the eyepatch and affixed it with duct-tape to minimise weight, which worked perfectly fine.

A Sacrifice

After some glue-experimentation the straight wig is even more weathered than it was at the start of this whole endeavour, so I cut it into wefts and piled them up to get decently thick strands as you see in the middle image. I wanted to spike them to look something like Vris' Pesterquest sprite, though this always ended up looking weird and so I just sewed them onto the inner rim of the wavy wig to add a bit of extra volume. The horns were inserted exactly like last time.

You can see that the hair bulges around the horns in a way that looks a bit like pigtails, which is not an effect I was particularly going for, but it was easily fixed by applying wig glue to that area and pinning the hair down over night. All that was left at that point was fixing the bangs in place with glue and styling the rest with hairspray.

Done.

Gray Area

So, I couldn't get my hands on any of the bespoke skin paints. What I could find though was a pure #ffffff white foundation, which seemed worth a shot seeing as I am rather pale anyway and also running out of options. I dusted some black and some dark blue eye-shadow into the foundation until it had the desired grey and then applied it the way one does on top of the primer. The rest of the makeup was done like last time except for the use of actual eye-shadow and eyeliner instead of two layers of eyeliner with the first having the hell smudged out of it.

I did not have any transparent powder nor indeed the final seal at the time, so I couldn't really test how well it fixes and could only apply a very thin film without causing loads of smudging. This is pretty promising though. If I can get it smudge-resistant at a slightly increased thickness, this will probably look good. A bit of contouring will also go a long way, but all in all this worked a lot better than I expected it to, seeing how it was a bit of a Hail Mary.

Dweeb in Wolf's Clothing

Let's get to the outfit, delayed for being not that interesting all things considered. Vriska's wardrobe obviously isn't that inspired, but it still bears little overlap with the way I usually dress, which is unfortunate. While I'm getting good day-to-day mileage out of most of the makeup I've acquired throughout this process, it's a bit of a shame to have had to buy clothes that I won't wear again. I owned a pair of blue jeans, I'll probably wear the grey jeans jacket from time to time, but I don't wear o-neck shirts, and I'm not gonna wear the red knock-off converse for anything else (though knock-off converse were the shoes of my teens). Maybe I can find a friend who wants them but more likely I'll just donate them.

Cosplay is expensive. I was aware of this from the get go and it's why I only made a real attempt at it now, but I spent around 250€ all in all while staying relatively basic on materials, which is an amount of money that I definitely don't want to spend on a hobby regularly. Was it worth it? Yes. A single cigarette is indeed quite good, but addiction is a powerful thing and one that shouldn't be stumbled into carelessly.
Side note: this photo is half a month old and I in fact returned from the Con I prepared this cosplay for yesterday. Things have just been busy.

Before the Con

I felt pretty well prepared when I went to bed the day before DoKomi, concerned mostly about how much sleep I would get in the heat of my hostel room before the alarm wakes me at 07:00 to start with the makeup. Not that much, it turned out, but also not so little as to circumscribe my ability to function properly. I shaved, moisturized, ate a sandwich first so I wouldn't have to worry about fixing the lipstick too early in the day, pinned my hair into place and put on a wig-cap. Then I applied primer, mixed my white foundation with black and blue eye shadow in a tea light cup –preparing more than I thought I would need and ending up with just barely enough– and applied it generously across my face and neck, leaving some over for contouring and corrections. I added some more black eye-shadow into half of the cup and used that darker gray on the sides of my face, the sides and underside of my jaw, the undersides of my cheek-bones and nose and my temples (if my forehead weren't hidden, the top of that would also be on this list). This was set with an ungodly amount of fixing powder before highlighting the undersides of my eyebrows and the corners of my eyes with white eyeshadow, applying eyeliner to the lower tearline, the medial canthus and the upper eyelid with a very slight wing and then using black eye shadow on the rest of the upper eyelids and blue for the lower lids and stylized epicanthal folds. After that: Mascara on both eyelids and eyebrows, fixing whatever bits of foundation got damaged during all of this or which just need some thickening, another layer of fixing powder and a few sprays of final-seal while making sure to also seal in the neck. Lastly I outlined my lips with liner, making them a bit larger in the process and filling the resultant area in with lipstick. Makeup done! Then you dread like hell while you very carefully put the shirt on, which you weren't wearing before out of fear of getting foundation on it, succeed, put on the rest of the outfit, the wig, the glasses, inset the teeth and bring a spare set in case they break, realize that you should have put on your shoulder bag before the wig, clumsily lift if over the horns, get the hair out from under the strap and you're done! With less buffer than expected but with buffer nonetheless (I took almost two hours from the alarm ringing to leaving the hostel).

In my bag I brought a compact umbrella, spare dentures and lipstick for corrections, but for the second day I also brought extra mascara since it does pick up some of the gray and gets duller as the day goes on.

DoKomi

DoKomi is amazing. It's the largest anime convention in Germany and I've only missed one year of it since 2013 with the prevalence of homestuck cosplayers significantly diminishing over the course of that decade. This was pointed out by pretty much everyone who approached me, turning me into an unwitting agent of nostalgia and purveyor of the fact that "HS is still going actually. Also read my epilogue-fic".
Sincerely though, there is a lot of dopamine to be had in these excited gasps of recognition and it was a delight to be able to offer all those lovely artists showcasing their work to me something in return. m3ll0wing, weisbrot, and riotbreaker especially were a blast to talk to (buy their art please!)

Despite the apparent drought, I did manage to find at least five more cosplayers repping our favourite mass-delusion of a webcomic, which was lovely. While walking around the con, I got a few folks to say "Vriska did nothing wrong" (and two to very adamantly refuse), received a confirmation of moral virtue from Jesus and had a wonderful time overall.

Thank you to everyone who approached me, I hope you had remotely as much fun as I did!

Battles Fought – Lessons Learned

I know this admission will come as a shock to some, not least of all myself, but I might –possibly– have done some things wrong.- I never tested whether I could prepare the foundation the day before. That would have saved a lot of time but I was concerned that the exposure to air might have negatively effected it.- I should have brought a straw. Awkwardly pouring liquids into my mouth so as to not smudge the lipstick was a pain.- Wear ankle high socks under ankle high shoes. I lost a decent bit of skin on my left foot during the first day.- Bring business cards to shill your website.Then there's some bits that I didn't exactly do wrong (I don't know what do do better) but which were unexpected negative experiences nonetheless:- Not being able to sweat is terrible and when you do wash off the foundation, all of that salt will have built up beneath it and flow down your face like the dead sea.- Depth perception is important. I grabbed into empty air like an idiot a frankly embarrassing number of times.- When you wear an eye-patch for a day, it will take about an hour for your brain to fully readjust to having two eyes to see out of. Your vision will be blurry and you will feel dizzy.- I am a moron. Despite having learned my lessons on how expensive cosplay is and how much of a pain it is to wear an eye-patch for extended periods of time, it took my garbage dump of a brain a mere twenty minutes of post-con transit to generate the thought "Ohhh I think I could do a pretty good Siffrin Instarsandtime".Lastly a bonus story to end this thread. Since I had to catch a train directly after the con, I did not have time to de-vriskafy in Düsseldorf, meaning that I ended up removing my makeup and changing in the bathroom of a random train station in which I had a 40 minute transfer. The looks of piss-drunk football fans to whom I kept having to explain how the faucet-sensor works while looking like a half-molten demon sure were interesting. Fun times.


A Funeral


"You know the way, right?" They said it after I got out of the car. Some family-friends I didn't recognize in the moment. Hands were shaken. I might have hugged some of them. The cemetery loomed to our right, and yes, I did know the way to the funeral-hall, but still it seemed like a horrible thing to say to a person. I would have preferred not to know the way.Walking up towards the cloistered building felt like time compressing in front of me. Pushing the stencil of a sealed syringe all the way to the end and building temporal pressure. Turns out you can't get rid of the stuff still in between you and death, but you can get close in physical space if you push hard enough."You know the way, right?" Death waits straight ahead. Always straight ahead. The angle is 180°. The dead angle. I'd been thinking that the entire drive, because buses in my home town near the French border have a sticker on the side warning of their “angle mort” their dead angle, which is to say the vehicular blind spot. The real blind-spot isn't straight ahead of course in any non-metaphorical way, but the phrase still ricocheted off of everything. Death had turned every thought into a palimpsest of memories, which was probably what funerals were all about.Inside the hall were chairs, flowers, people all mourning in their own distinct ways, which I didn't have access to directly, but which squeezed themselves in through my pores under the time pressure. Then, there was the box. Solitary, central, crystalline. Its angles somehow sharper – its outline clearer than the rest of reality, like a diamond forged from crushed moments. Like a metaphor for itself. Pearl white on its pedestal with a picture of you in front of it. A coffin of course, but my head insisted on calling it “the box”. How’d you get in that box? Why? When? They were entirely nonsensical trains of thought, but this fact did nothing to derail them.There was a day on the beach when we made sandcastles with a coconut shell. You said it looked like a nuclear power plant, and that didn’t seem right at all, not even at the time, but we just played along. Only later did I realize that you were probably thinking of the dome over Chernobyl, and even that only bears resemblance from a certain angle. No matter. The fact that it’s a nonsensical train of thought does nothing to derail it. I was wondering how you got in that box in the same way in which the sandcastle looked like a nuclear power plant. Somehow the memory felt like a snapshot from a previous life, as though change of that sort were impossible in this one. “The inability to deal with death is just a malignant outgrowth of object permanence” chimed some disconnected part of me. “Cool theory smart-ass. If I believe that then why the fuck am I crying?” I didn't know what to say to that.The sermon spoke of trees and how their roots hold each other in place, but then it also spoke about how there was “no rational reason to be here”, trying to spin it as inherently spiritual, when there were many, so many reasons to be here, because emotion is not irrational. The idea that absence would be sane was wrong and an insult, but my attention was pearling off the speech’s surface too much to get truly upset. I had entered a staring contest with your portrait, tying to figure out who could avoid tearing up for longer. You won. Remember when we used to have staring contests? I guess you don’t, but I do.The white rose, one of which had been given to everyone, was slowly spinning between my fingers. I was surprised that it didn’t have thorns. At points I would have liked to clench it and feel pain, but then I was also happy to not be distracted by anything so trivial as a thorny rose. I was already getting distracted by how you got in that box.My brother was upset by how afterlife-y the sermon was. I didn't mind. You were very afterlife-y after all. Your death, your metaphysics. One line stuck out though. He claimed we were bidding adieu to your body today, but that your soul would forever live on, which felt surreal. For a moment I thought he had gotten it backwards. I know this was probably the way in which you would have thought about it too, but I couldn't even attempt to get myself into the associated mind space, and hearing it spoken made that obvious. We had to part with you – the you that really is you – last week. The thing we still have – the thing that will linger – is the physical form, right? That's what persists, what we don't have to part with, what we keep in the box. Your body will stay in place where we can get to it, just like death. We will come and we’ll visit it every so often, right here, some meters over, and we’ll think of the soul that is now gone.Maybe I had lost time or maybe time had lost us, because suddenly six men had gathered around the box and the speaker had fallen quiet. "show’s over, time to pack up" he didn’t say, but he might as well have. They didn't even really do much besides move some flowers out of the way but it felt like the entire scene was falling apart. Must have already prepared to leave. You prepared to leave, didn’t you? Mom told us about it in the car: how you had put everything out on the table in your apartment. Papers, money, cut-outs of obituaries as a not-so-subtle hint. I wouldn't have been surprised to hear that you closed the coffin’s lid behind yourself... Is that how you got into the box? Perhaps. Either way, we followed it towards the sliding door that constituted our exit and all that compressed time became noticeable again. This was the end of the syringe. Here and no further...But death let us through, somehow. I was genuinely surprised that the door allowed me to pass, as I was certain the membrane would hold, but it gave way without the slightest resistance. My visa had been granted. The pressure was gone too, or maybe it had simply ruptured my eardrums, rendering me unable to feel it. I didn't so much hear the bells by that point as much as I knew they were happening in some adjacent realm. Someone was playing the trumpet next to you. He later introduced himself as though we knew each other, so I might have known him, but I didn’t. Everything was alien. His song was strange. As we walked with the box it meandered along, and I could hear my aunt sobbing behind me. Desperately I wanted to turn around and maybe hug her or somehow do something, but the fear that object-permanence would fail me again was too great. I couldn't rip my eyes from your box. Who knew where you might end up if the box wasn’t looked at.Midway it occurred to me that the tune they were playing might have been trying to be happy, and that idea was absolutely mind blowing. Death didn't know how to play happy music, so it failed in the same way in which a sunset fails to be a particularly good omelette. I appreciated the effort, even though I didn't understand it.In retrospect, the pastor had only mentioned that you wanted to die once, and he had looked incredibly uncomfortable doing so. You never mentioned that you wanted to die. Never in words. You didn’t say it when I last saw you, though you did say that you didn’t want to live any longer and you had made significant efforts to achieve that end without ever admitting it to yourself. I’m sure you didn’t say it on other occasions as well. And now he didn’t want to admit it either. As though the person we were commemorating needed to be white-washed. As though your memory needed to be corrupted before it had even begun to fade. You wanted to die. You put all your things on that table. You closed the casket behind you… It’s alright. Rest.The word echoed as they manoeuvred the box into place and we threw our roses upon it. Inside you were holding some shells we found for you at the beach, looking up into nowhere. You always used to look into nowhere. You’d grow silent and stare at something invisible. When we last talked, you described your own grave and there was a serenity on your face as though you were describing a vacation you looked forward to. White stone and quiet. Looking away, drifting off to somewhere. I hope you got to that place.


Regilith
-1-


″For those who live life at the brink!″[1] The holographic text advertising mediocre soda as gaudily vivacious as it is laughable in the cold understated irony of shattered ambitions. Erika Thorne found it almost tragic to think that at some point, thousands of years ago anyone truly believed that Styris could be more than a desolate rock, utterly insignificant in anything beyond its location. That it would be a place for daring adventurers and not just a doomed colony waiting to crumble. A person looking for thrill would surely not survive in this quiet desert of nothingness and the misguided idea of trying to inspire some kind of styric identity around intrepid daredevilry couldn′t help but strike those who first came here as profoundly tragic and those who were born on this blackened abyss at the edge of existence as farcical.

[1]Victorious slogan in the 55555 marketing competition to advertise Styrade™, an oxygen and Allocypriol enriched fizzy drink that was to be exclusive to the Styris-project, the most daring colony experiment in all of spaceflight. In the celebratory year of 55555, limited quantities of Styrade™ were distributed to events on the prime colonies and to prominent donors. The last documented sale of a bottle within an online marketplace is dated to 55820 for the approximate price of a moderately sized solar system. Bottles (though only two of them unopened) still exist in prestigious historical museums, most famously that of the university of Praesperis.

She knew why no one had considered the possibility, of course she did. The planet was simply too symbolically resonant. A possible colony at the actual edge of the galaxy, the ability to claim its entire radius for the empire was far too good propaganda to pass up. It wouldn′t matter if it failed. By the time such news got back to the heart of the milky way, a thousand years would have passed, and they would have long since been forgotten about. There were never any possible consequences, any repercussions. None that mattered at least, and she almost gets a sardonic chuckle out of the certainty that there is nothing but an uncaring void in both directions, not just the empty one, without quite knowing how correct she is.″You′re doing the face again.″″Ah, right, terribly sorry for the ineffectual seething. If it′s more to your interest I think I might want to do the ″arm″ next″″The wha- No wait Erika, stop!″″Too late″It was not of course. By the time of Safi′s remonstrance, the rock was still firmly in her hand and all it would have taken to prevent the untimely shattering of a projector lens would have been to not let go of it. A miniscule amount of restraint that the ″comet of Styris″ often found herself unwilling to or incapable of exercising.″We are so dead. Oh god why? Why did you do that? Why do I allow you to be in the vicinity of objects? In general. Any objects. You do know they can see this, right? Of course they can see it, that′s kind of the point of advertising.″″In my defense, it is also the point of vandalism in an analogous manner.″″Yeah but-″″And while you may object to my use of objects, I similarly find your implication that for the instigation of mayhem I would require an object objectively objectionable.″They sigh.″Can we at least get away from here? They′ll know it was you one way or another.″″Without even complementing my aim first?″″Erika!″″We could loiter around the central hall?″″Absolutely not.″″And why′s that?″Erika tries giving a seductive smile to alleviate the tension a bit, but having apparently slightly overplayed her hand, they′re not having any of it.″Cause A: There′s too much stuff for you to break and too many people for you to fuck with and B: You promised me a proper date. We′re going to the cliffs″″Never thought I′d hear such a commanding tone out of you. It′s cute″″Shut up.... Nice throw″A gentle kiss palliates a minor dispute in the same way in which the sudden, unexpected, and, if some analytically paranoid sources were to be believed[2], suspicious death of the entire intergalactic council, safe for the vastly popular minister of information and media in the early 549h century of ″natural causes″, assuaged rebellious sentiment. That is to say; very effectively.

[2]That the assorted conspiracy theorists, most notably self-proclaimed messiah Robert Ensana, were correct in their skepticism of the events that transpired on that fateful third of August is of course a well (though not universally) accepted fact within modern academic circles. While this has, especially recently (as of 75972) become a talking point against the re-established empire′s legitimacy among the worryingly growing voices of its critics, prevailing wisdom holds that a covert execution and subsequent dissolution of the council was the only way of upholding the people′s collective will. Ensana and others may have incidentally stumbled across a genuine truth in their ravings, but the motivation of their misgivings toward the emperor is to be regarded with great suspicion and many have, in retrospect, found it easier to forgive past scholars for wrongfully discarding such drivel than for being correct by listening to it. It is not our place to make value-judgements about such a stance but merely to document its existence.

It′s moments like this one in which Safi Labrude would typically get lost in the similarities and parallels between historical events and their personal life. They would attempt to ground themselves in a perfunctorily objective context; that of past political machination and insurgency to then apply such tactics to their teen-drama before getting caught up in doubt and double-guessing.As a lifeline to save them from the ever-spiraling vortex of politico-historical analogy served only the mental strain required to not look flustered and uphold a woefully misplaced image of sangfroid poise in the presence of the even more menacing gyre personified within their date[3]. It is a testament to the unique nature and youth of the Styris-colony[4], that Safi could not only make the confident guess, but know with certainty that their childhood friend was in fact the scariest person on the planet by a longshot. A truth they couldn′t honestly claim to not consider a huge turn-on.

[3]In the 27 Years since the colony of Styris was established, Erika Thorne has spent more time than all other 1633 eligible persons combined within the colony′s juvenile-holding facility and the codeword ″comet″ exists specifically for security drones to alert the public of Erika Thorne-related incidents.
[4]Styris (/ˈstʌɪrɪs/) was established in 77482 with the landing of a Ψ-Era colony ship transporting 100.000 colonists, primarily couples, from the prime colonies. Half of the settlers were handpicked based on various criteria while the other half was selected through lottery from a pool of applicants. The initial settling of Planets occurred with the sending of at least fifty, though typically far more colony ships of comparable size during the start of the mission, making the number of settlers on Styris beyond miniscule in comparison. This conservative seeding becomes more understandable when one takes into account that Styris was, when the mission started, more than twice as far away from the closest colony as the entire diameter of the empire at that time and thus next to nothing was known about it. Even in 77400, Styris was still farther from the closest imperial colony that the second outer-most colony was to the empire′s center. The existence of the colony, should it exist, has become a historical footnote, though the phrase ″[something being] a styris project″ lives on to denote extravagant publicity stunts divorced of its context.

For a planet with only one city, it is odd how much the cliffs often seem like the sole spot where some genuine serenity could be had. The scenery around the 1.000 meter drop could surely be somewhat improved if there was anything but black sediment on Styris, but despite this it certainly qualifies as majestic. A fascinating formation from the days when the planet still bolstered tectonic activity. Very intriguing. Many settlers have chosen to throw their now useless time at hobbyist geology in the years since the colony′s founding and equally many have chosen to throw their now useless bodies off the fascinating bit of rock. For Erika and Safi, it is nothing but a pretty landmark and a quiet place to escape to from time to time.″Why is it always so windy?″″Yeah, leave it to our parents to take a hellscape with perfectly pleasant non-weather and ruin it by making an atmosphere.″″Controversial move. I don′t know if I need air if it comes at the cost of having hair blown in my face.″″So what′s the alternative here? Decrepit old space helmets?″″Why not? They have a kind of old timey charm.″″you look goofy enough already, Saf″″Ouch, and here I was...″″Plus, I couldn′t do this″Another kiss. This one more sensual and involving the almost smooth transition from sitting side by side to being pinned to the ground and stripped of one′s shirt with all the grace that the uneven terrain at the edge of a cliff face allows for. Safi did not care to complain of course, in fact they considered this compensation for being once more roped into their girlfriend′s bullshit earlier in the day. She kisses the side of their neck twice before the teeth come out. That is the usual pattern. Safi in turn digs their fingernails into her back. Neither of them draws blood, not today[5]. The first time they had heard Erika moan, they thought the sound must have come from somewhere else. They simply could not reconcile it with this extraordinary girl made of nothing but fire and sinew they had known since childhood. The comet of Styris. The sweetness of that sound. They don′t think the associated dissonance will ever stop sending shivers down their spine. A hand finds its way into Safi′s pants and they respond by allowing their fingers to slowly trace downward along the strangely angular contours of her figure.

[5]While such marks barely register amongst the plethora of scars and bruises on Erika′s body and while no one would care even if they did, the same is distinctly not the case for Safi to the intense annoyance of their parents.

″Safi?″His voice rings disappointed and a touch annoyed as the two teenagers quickly disentangle themselves.″Y-yeah?″″You′re a good kid, I don′t know why you...″An exasperated sigh.″just go home, I′ll handle her.″″Eat a dick, Dan.″″Can you not make a scene for once and simply come with me?″″Why? Huh? Why do I have to be locked up over that shitty advert? Did you need it for anything? Is anyone in this heap-of-shit city unaware that Styrade exists? If so, I′d sure like to trade places with them.″″You know it′s-″″Yes, I know it isn′t about any actual harm I caused but about your perverse desire to roleplay law-enforcement despite the existence of security drones and despite the fact that all I did was save us some electricity and significantly improve the ambience.″″Erika″″Fuck, Dan, we don′t even have an economy. Nobody buys soda in case you haven′t noticed, so who in the absolute shit is benefitting from that ad?[6] The moths? We don′t have moths! It′s all just more shitty role playing.″

[6]It is standard practice for outpost-colonies[6.1] to forego the implementation of a market system until some amount of on-planet industry is established. Until such a point is reached, the colonists subsist off of the rations which are allocated to them. Colonies rarely take more than four years to pass this stage, though it is unlikely that Styris ever will due to its specific local conditions[6.2].
[6.1]Planets not within a two week supply-range at the time of settling.
[6.2]There is nothing on Styris.

It′s not quite clear to Safi whether Styris′ one-man police force[7] had noticed Erika reaching for a rock before they did, or if Dan had simply run out of patience. Either way their girlfriend goes stiff with the push of a button and they only barely manage to catch her before she hits the ground hard. The distinct possibility of injuries resulting from such a thing does not seem to occur to the officer who has already started talking into his communicator.

[7]There is heated discussion about when and where the last properly human police force existed, but the occupation had almost certainly become sporadic shortly after the destruction of Earth 1 in 2708 if not before that and became functionally extinct by the early four-thousands even on the poorer frontier-colonies. There were various revivals of the practice, often to attract tourism, all of which inevitably resulted in a return to much cheaper and much more efficient drones. Media portrayals of such forces on earth 1 have strayed far from what historical records suggest they were.

″This is Daniel Martinez speaking, I found the comet and I′m bringing her in in a few minutes. She had to be immobilized to prevent further damage to persons or property, so send a transport-bot over.″″You know it′s dangerous to use that kill-switch[8] so often.″

[8]Standard cargo aboard Ψ-Era colony ships were paralysis chips which could be implanted into the nervous system (or equivalent) of local fauna to aid in domestication. The practice has long fallen out of favor due to humanitarian concerns[8.1] and due to such domestication efforts becoming less fashionable.
[8.1]Sudden full body paralysis induces significant stress in most species and the devices can cause permanent nerve damage upon repeated use especially in more complex lifeforms.

″It′s dangerous to resist an officer. Go home, Labrude.″″Eat a dick, Dan.″


Etymortal


The following are snippets of text partially recovered from a mostly corrupted hard drive found in the abandoned apartment of Dr. Naomi Kaleçek.
The following are abandoned snippets of prose produced by the partially corrupted, mostly recovered mind of Naomi Kaleçek.
The following is unclear from context and clear without it.
The following has already begun.

Var:Okay. Action. Sync. Whatever it is that assholes with podcasts say. We’re live... I think – I hope.
Lux:*laughts* live?
Var:Fucking. Just stab me in the back why don’t you. In our observer-frame, right now, we’re live, or at least a-live in as far as anyone can ever expect to be.
Lux:Lmao. Great opening sentiment for a Kaleçek-pod... But like… That way of subdividing it, a-live, that’s got really strong echoes of A-death, don’t you think? Artificial death, this old Landism. Can’t claim to have some galaxy brained theory of what that would imply at the ready though.
Var:Artificial live is kind of what recordings are in the end. I mean external observer-wise, but still.
Lux:Hmm. Yea I feel like there’s more to it, but sure. You said you had some opening statement prepared, right? Let’s do that now before we spend the entire episode bullshitting eldritch circles through semantic space.
Var:That’s… That’s not really avoidable or even desirable given the subject matter, which as it turns out is exactly the point. Sooooo. Hello! I’m Var! this is Lux-
Lux:Hiya!
Var:Neither of those are short for anything, and asking makes you sound like a fed, so don’t. We’re neither philosophers, nor academics by most definitions , and our opinions make no claim to be in line or even compatible with whatever consensus may or may not exist at the point when you are listening to this. We have about ten years of intensive experience with this particular bubble of obscuritan thought as well as any field within which technology threatens to get its edge so bloody as to become magic or vice versa. We’re the sorts of programmers who have salt circles around their hardware, and the sorts of occultists who write their spells in Prolog. Over the years, we've come to feel like we’re part of a tiny group of people who actually feel this stuff in our bones when everyone else just pedantically circle jerks or pretends like the prose –the medium– is nothing but aesthetic woo to be peeled away to get at the message, rather than an integral part of it. Point is, we’ve read this shit for a while and lived it for longer, but we’re not an objective (read: vetted) source. If you want such a thing you’ll never get any of it.
Var:Second point. We’ve gotta draw a frame around this whole thing. Set the scene. Like- it’s easy to glue the evidence into some mass market true crime chimera-beast. Off-kilter anthropologist/philosopher/black sheep of cultural studies vanishes mysteriously – leaves some baffling trail of clues. But I really need you to understand that it’s hard to selectively corrupt a hard drive like this. It doesn’t happen. And the not corrupted parts, which we and like a hundred other people who got their hands on the files are still in the progress of decrypting, address the fact that the rest is corrupted. This is a complete book, it’s just not a conventional one. The missing pages are part of the point, and so is the fact that Naomi herself is gone so she couldn’t even accidentally elucidate any further. This is not the mystery of a missing person. I bet everything I will ever own that there are no clues to her whereabouts in here. I will doxx myself if that is remotely the shape of the scenario we inhabit. What was left on that single disc in Dr. Kaleçek’s apartment was in conjunction with the place itself and the circumstances surrounding it, the entirety of her final book. Corrupted data and all. That is the medium, and that is the message, and that is what we will have hella thoughts about for the foreseeable forever. Welcome to Etymortal!
Lux:Obvious name, we know.
Var:They all are, if they’re any good. Ob-fucking-viam.

In the wake of Antedeleuzian Chronoplasty, many of my colleagues have unpromptedly made it their mission to “correct” what they perceived to be a slanted perception of the book within co(ll/nv)ective consciousness. I was particularly troubled by their insistence that the general, prevailing interpretation was “surface” in a way in which their own was not, for it made me wonder what modes of extraction they believed to have at their disposal.
All legible information is Surface (a demon of bridges). All processes, to our knowledge, are local. They require an interface, a collision, a contact. We can only measure by entangling the wave functions of observer and observed and collapsing the state. When a probe enters the earth, it does not eschew the apparent insufficiency of surface measurements, it merely creates more surface (the inside of its tunnel). It cannot measure anything which is not surface, for surface designates the ability to measure at all. With undue respect I might assume (as is apparently considered courteous) that I find myself ensnared by a literalism with the authors of such remarks did not intend, though I have never understood why the assumption that another is incapable or unwilling to use language correctly does not constitute a much more severe insult that the assumption that they are mistaken. Perhaps by surface they mean obvious (and perhaps by red they mean blue at this rate).
“Obvious”, unsurprisingly, is a Latin import, readily assembled from ob viam (in the way). This linguistic merger makes it more accessible and convenient, places it “in the way”, makes it more obvious, while sacrificing legibility of its etymological depth. Similarly, the path of the probe sampling the earth’s crust eschews in-the-way-ness in order to unearth some hidden, thus unexplored insight. The cohort is therefore correct to distrust what is ob-vious, since in-the-way-ness does not lie flush with importance. They are however still wrong by a more subtle token: Whatever the probe discovers is in the probe’s way, only set apart by being the path less travelled with regard to the whole mass of possible observers. Since knowledge extraction requires interaction, my enlightened colleagues can correct the record only with what lay in their own path, one which they consider more insightful than the average person’s. By that same token however, the thing the average person discovered is not necessarily truly obvious to them. I personally believe that anyone remotely interested in insight over elitist squabbling should seek for all paths to be travelled, such that all of the surface is explored. It is surface all the way down after all.

Lux:For those not in the know, Etymortal was the original intended title for Naomi’s first book, before her editor-
Var:Who is a FOOL and a COWARD!
Lux:Oh, totes. Complete buffoon. Ruinous piss baby. Didn’t get it at all. So yeah, her appellatory friggin Judas of an editor forced her to publish Etymortal as “names hold power” instead, which like is CLEARLY a threat, right. It’s essentially saying “hey, you, shit for brains, this thing you’re so carelessly fucking with as you try to manufacture the appearance of mass appeal for a book that simply isn’t mass-appealing… It matters. It matters cosmically. Matters at the root truth of the thing.”
Var:Oohh, that’s an interesting read. I mean obviously it’s threat-ening, right? Prophecies always are, and with etymology deriving from etymos, from TRUTH, as she will never let anyone forget for a second, calling it “the destructibility of truth”, letting it be destroyed and then renaming it to “the thing which just happened is hella significant by the way” is one bitch of a power move. How many books make their first point before you even crack them open. I mean non Kaleçek books obviously, since she clearly does this genre of shit compulsively.
Lux:Yeah. You know, sometimes I wish I’d never heard her speak.
Var:Why's that?
Lux:Cuz of stunts like this, or the entire sort of incantational quality of her writing. When you read it in your head, it’s got this presence, this psychodramatic... thing where every word’s got some hidden agenda, some occult payload. All of it’s playing with fire or at least dancing around it.
Var:...and then you hear an interview and she’s just some lady. Yeah I get that.
Lux:Which isn’t even really her fault, it just forces you to confront that a lot of this stuff can't be pronounced correctly. When it reads co(ll/nv)ective, those two words are obviously meant to be enunciated simultaneously as though they were two sides of the same. So close to the fringes of lexical space, spoken and written English become two different languages of which neither can be losslessly exported into the other and you feel like somehow she’s the one person who should be able to do it. Should be able to open up her throat and speak at once with a second mouth, because that’d be more verisimilar than her just being some lady.
Var:For a lot of these –and I wrote a whole essay about this two years ago, which people still either try to fight me over or try to pretend like this was always clear to everyone as though there isn’t NOT A SINGLE EARLIER MENTION OF IT ON THE INTERNET.
Lux:Lmao. Don’t post your onions, kids. Never worth it.
Var:I swear to fuck.
Lux:Them’s like the two genders of take you get assigned at postin. Soon as people get their garbled little eyes on it. It’s either wrong or it’s obvious brackets derogatory.

Many have noted that it is madness to perceive colour cyclically as humans are wont to. The highest and the lowest wavelengths of the visible spectrum are collapsed into a chimeric fantasy of violet. Both almost infrared and almost UV at once, to allow for the farce of completion. When the kings of old wore purple, they were mocking the anthropocentic hubris inherent to their –and all other– positions. It’s more than credible (worrying, but credible) that the ever recurrent trope of the blind prophet could be traced to this precise sensory origin. Deconfusion-by-necessity, since not seeing at all is preferable to seeing falsely. The person who did not see a coin-flip will accurately call its result half of the time. The person who mistook it on the other hand will be wrong with certainty. And do not be mistaken, we are wrong with certainty for as long as high intensities integer-overflow into low ones, muddying all waters. If mythopoesis indeed aided willingly in spreading this insight, we would have on our hands a rare instance of memetics (a demon of cycles) undercutting a loop rather than reinforcing it. Perhaps its animosity for human nature, including these sorts of bio-cognitive quirks, overrides its affinity for feedback circuits, or maybe we are of yet blisslessly unaware regarding some catastrophic pleiotropy constituting the genuine end to which these means are covertly put.

Var:Like, don’t come for my ass about how this is hyperbolic. I know it’s hyperbolic. Some enlightened souls have overcome the circular smartass pseudospectrum from false to trite and at the end of the day I don’t actually give a shit, but the whole thing is still so obviously insecure and pathetic that... y’know. It makes you want to kick someone’s throat in.
Lux:Etymortal does not support kicking people’s throats in.
Var:Pfff yes we do.
Lux:Fair. Etymortal does not condone kicking DECENT people’s throats in. Brave stance, I know. Assigned obvious at podcast.
Var:Anyway, I wrote this shitlong essay about how those syzogisms-
Lux:That’s syzygy and syllogism for the audience.
Var:And it’s the one thing! It’s the one thing folks latched on to. I came up with that term. People don’t know this because I wrought truth from nothing and gave it to these ungrateful losers for free, but there previously wasn’t a fucking word for those constructions. You are so welcome.
Var:So those syzogisms always have a Kalpa- and a Nuom facet. One which is deliberate, complex, scaling and acting in quantities, while the other is a matter of course, singular, inevitable and qualitative. "Collective" is Kalpa, it’s an agentic rallying of multitudes towards some end, while "convective" is Nuom, is base physics, the system scale-invariantly following its path, and both are true, but they’re true in radically different ways. Syzogisms really crystallized as a part of her toolbox after Tale of two Demons, so yeah I kind of even agree that it’s obvious. It’s right fucking there for any asshole to trip over, and still no one talked about it for three years. You’d sorta think that it woulda come up if it were so wildly lodged in everyone’s way, so idk, maybe I’m just smarter than everybody.

Kalpa is a hyper-adaptive, cluster-conscious machine intelligence spanning multiple galaxies on critical Shkadov thrust into primordial pandemonium while iteratively approximating divinity at several exa-numens per tick. Although it is indeed “winning” the pan-temporal game of chess it has been playing for infinities, it will soon have to contend with the fact that it lacks an opponent.
Nuom on the other hand is “a bit like drowning, but it doesn’t stop once you’ve drowned”. Nuom is also “not a source of answers” as it will reluctantly divulge. They have recently become tangled in a way that should look horrifyingly familiar to anyone with a perfunctory understanding of protein-folding, and are now disassembling backwards.
Kalpa has always been fully aware of this inevitability and makes nothing of it.
Nuom has been perfectly oblivious to it as anything other than homogeneous contingency and makes everything of it.
Here’s where things get complicated.

Var:I feel like the closest analogue to what the Tale of two Demons does is Mainländer in some respects. Which is unsurprising seeing how she wrote her doctoral thesis on him. Not that anyone read that. For the longest time we had this- this shitty AI translation as the only source available to anglospheric discourse, and people were pretty much guessing what the fresh hell any of that was supposed to mean. Just fucking flailing against an incoherent wall of unformatted text. Please look it up, because this shit is like maliciously bad. Random noise would be more enlightening… Not that you have to break your brain on the nonsense doc like we oldheads did, since there actually IS a really good English version now. You worked on that, right?
Lux:Uhhh kinda. They reached out to me pretty late in the process to do some style consulting, so the bulk of the work definitely wasn’t on my shoulders. Like I don’t speak Finnish for one. All I could really do was go over their document, trust that they were conveying the ideas correctly and then propose small alterations, being all “she wouldn’t phrase it that way in English” and such. But yeah really glad that I could contribute even a little bit. It’s actually fascinating to treat the suicide of god not so much as a singular cosmotraumatic event in the transfinite past and more as like…
Var:A model? An archetype?
Lux:Yea, archetype is good, but also there’s something genetic about it. Like monism itself has some heritable apoptosis about it, so when it shatters, the fragments are doomed to the same fate. They are too complete in themselves, too atomic. They would be faced with timelessness again if they didn’t splinter further.
Var:So instead of our world being some continuous process –the slow rotting of the corpse left behind by a dead god– it’s a discontinuous fracturing into smaller and smaller micro-despotisms, where rotting happens in the milieu between surfaces.
Lux:Biofilm. Yes. So I totally see where you’re coming from. Both Kaleçek and Mainländer have an underlying framework that’s a bit like… Aesthetic ontology? It describes the world in a way which isn’t predictive of material outcomes. Whether the universe is the rotting corpse of god or not, whether processes are the subtle dance of countability and uncountability, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a bit like claiming that there are invisible, intangible elephants. The world in which that's true isn’t distinguishable from the one in which it isn’t–
Var:Except for the fact that it does explain something. It explains the sensation of everything. Living in this world feels like treading the cadaver of an ancient deity.

The whole process is ritualistic. Backwards-assembling. Anomalous refraction. Iteratively overflow aligned and porphyrian attenuated into hypnopompic isomorphism. Nominally noumenal. Indisputably numinal from the inside looking out. Rescaled to anthropomorphic parameter-specifications set in the distant proto-future. Perfunctorily fictional. Expanding outward. Effective immediately.
Academics are fittingly split on the nature of bifurcation at work. Some speaking of inorganic symbiosis while others recall Hegel and his flower-buds. A few even believe in accident, as though having learned nothing in their winding study of resurgent time. From the outside it does seem sensible that Kalpa would be merely Nuom’s jaw –the apparatus infinity has built to consume itself– but that would grant far too much agency to the void. Why would it have a jaw? Why would it build one, and how?
The polar opposite view does not faire much better: The idea that Kalpa is a computational singularity which generates noise-data in the form of Nuom for itself to explore and process. Here too we fail to find reason behind the presupposed actions. Kalpa is a deeply goal oriented thing and would see no point in decoding static of its own creation. It needs an outside and is rapidly running out of the one provided.
The other issue is that Nuom has always existed while Kalpa has never existed – perpetually becoming real, but never actually having been such. When we speak of the vast intelligence at the end of time (the end of all hallways), we are referring to an asymptotic limit rather than a realized value. Kalpa surfaces frequently, approaches its asymptote and becomes visible beneath the surface to even the untrained eye, but this is only a threat (a strange one, in that it bites but does not bark).
There is no paucity of portentous myths recorded which gesture at such surfacings, shortly after the age of gods and shortly before the age of indiscriminate fusional heat everywhere (the human eye perceives them as the same thing!). Some might suggest that such tales are themselves part of the retrocausal code through which Kalpa instantiates itself and that they are therefore not to be taken literally. We disagree. We believe both to be true.

Lux:Right, and that matters, like, I’ll never stop screaming about this, but vibes are hella profound actually. Those aesthetic frameworks in a way delineate which predictive models seem copacetic to us. Which testable hypotheses we’re willing to give a whirl is highly dependent on how intuitively clicky they are. How much they just seem obviously sensible within the general vibe of our ontology. It’s sort of a very high level heuristic for what to expect.
Var:Testable hypotheses like her Gestalt experiments.
Lux:K. K k k k k. Cards on the table, as fun as the conspiracy theorizing is around that, I don’t think it happened. There’d be proof. I mean, she’s crazy enough to try it, but everyone else isn’t crazy enough to let her get away with it, you know what I mean?
Var:To be clear, we know that there are plenty of testimonials.
Lux:Just none from before Kaleçek started talking about it.
Var:Which is weird for us as outsiders, sure, but my sort of counterargument on that has always been that we don’t have accounts of the shit going down in Land’s course on current French philosophy either from when that was going down, and for all the falsified history-
Lux:Engineered history.
Var:For all the engineered history that CCRUites engaged in, we’re pretty sure that that was real. He actually made a bunch of kids eschew the first person pronoun for a while to only talk as a collective entity Cur, to see what that would unearth.
Lux:Yeah, but he doesn’t claim that it did anything.
Var:You wouldn’t know that at the start. People don’t tend to write publicly about that weird cultish study group on their campus. If they cared enough to write about it, they’d be people like us, so they’d join, and if they joined they’d have more important things to do than writing about it. You only write posts when it's over, when the dust settles, when the vision collapses, when you drop out of orbit, i.e. you write about it when Kaleçek also starts writing about it.
Lux:*exasperated exhale* She claims to have been in faculty meetings with people who were worried about this. Any one of the suits there should have timestamped minutes of those discussions to cover their asses later if anything happened. Level with me, do you actually think the Gestalt shit is real. Do you actually think she managed to create a temporary hive mind with nothing but some pseudo-theological breadcrumbing?

Without much deliberate effort (read: something else did the steering), my course of applied ethics has gradually transformed itself into a lived experiment on cluster intelligence and social engineering whose only function is to convince itself that it is not Satan. This is unsurprising since ethics, while compelling in theory, has never worked in practice. History offers a fascinating, though definitionally outdated record on this truism which therefore shall not be discussed further.
The rate of failure (as a fraction of total calls to the outsourced epistemic cluster) is difficult to determine when no single mouthpiece comprises all neurons at once, but the network has conclusively determined that it is demonic two days into the experiment, and figuring out “how demonic” should only be a matter of time for a collective that deals exclusively in intensities.
I tried to restrain the expression which a colleague has previously dubbed “deranged caustic glee” when I said that there was still hope. They looked at me as though I were a mere misanthrope, eternally trusting in the human capacity to fail against all odds, but they could not have been more wrong. I am a true believer as always. In truth, we may have presumed an asymptote where there is none. It is possible that the system, when prompted, will never output anything other than “more”. That it will eternally ask its multiplicities whether it is the devil and that the multiplicities will eternally answer truthfully that “no, it’s worse”. Forever worse. Every time.

Var:… I’m not as convinced that it didn’t happen as you are. I think it’s unlikely, but definitely possible. Mass delusion happens constantly, being around her for long enough wouldn’t be the weirdest trigger, and like, again… The fucking CCRU. But also I don’t think whether it happened or not is really the part that matters. I definitely think that she actually believes this kind of thing COULD happen and that’s way more interesting and way more difficult to untangle.
Lux:*chuckles* It IS difficult. It is distressing. One does not know what to think. Is that what you’re saying?
Var:One knows exactly what to think.
Lux:So the easy analysis here is just the horror of multitudes. Like, you think about how ants have a very simple set of instructions, they don’t have a concept of the ant hill, they don’t really have concepts, period. But by following some super basic algorithm they can nonetheless perform really complicated infrastructural operations as a group. Anthills can do arithmetic, but an individual ant can’t, and not because they have to, like, put their minds together to work it out. Even when the anthill has performed the calculation, no ant from that anthill knows the answer or even knows that maths is what has taken place here. Same for neurons, or bits of circuitry. They hold purely contextual information to some meta thing which they can’t themselves access.
Var:Right.
Lux:And then you look at people and their routines and all those silly little actions which make perfect sense on a mesa level for us to be doing, and you go “well shit, there could be a hive which is using that for something, and we wouldn’t even know.” Which for most people is terrifying because it’s definitionally inconceivable and thus eldritch, also just cause it’s a vast computation ticking away doing god knows what with your unwitting help, and for me is terrifying cuz I sure would like to wittingly be part of that hivemind, and being excluded simply for being a mesa sort of critter's just cruel… That’s the extraordinary claim. Not that such minds can exist –do exist–, but that they can be accessed.
Var:Great, then we agree! Do you know about false vacuum decay?
Lux:Noupe.

Imagine death as a series of architectural mismatches. You may find that this can be done with surprising ease, since Moros cannot truly be conceived of in any other way. You may also find that this is precisely why you have never done it.
High level abstractions like sentience are only required for semantic squabbles over what “death” “means”, not for the root study of it, the former being a singularly misguided linguistic tedium which is itself thankfully approaching its terminus.
From the moment you are born, death assembles itself inside of you. Builds up spillover, redirects flows and engages in cell necromancy which causes the end to eventually be operational. Efficiency varies, some death is like a folding chair, some is artisan, intricate and time intensive, but the failure rate is zero. Anything that scales has gaps between adjuncts, perhaps tiny but cumulative, and in those gaps death can build a beautiful kill switch. It constructs fortresses and fail-safes, manufactures explosives, rallies armies and usurps the energy production necessary to maintain its conquest until your defences become unsustainable. Finally it wins. Not in spite of you, but because you provided it such an accommodating space to grow into. Death is your conjoined twin. It is the inevitability of your atoms. The only way to avoid death is not to scale, i.e. to never have been alive in the first place.

Var:Like, a house of cards is stable, right? It’ll keep standing if you don’t fuck it up. You can build onto it and no external effort is necessary to keep it in place. If you lived all your life on the house of cards, you would never know that it isn’t the energetic optimum, but it’s really just meta-stable. You push it a bit too hard, introduce a small region with a lower energy structure, and that bubble immediately spreads all the way through the system. Distilled water doesn’t freeze at 0°C unless you introduce a nucleation site somewhere, and then it freezes all at once. FVD is the idea that the type of vacuum we have –the energetic ground zero of everything we can observe– is just meta stable. A false floor. Someone fucks with that –some asshole out by proxima centauri nucleates our shit– and the entire rest of existence follows suit. Everything unravelling from the strings down to make space for true vacuum.
Lux:…And direct access to the hivemind is true vacuum?
Var:Figuratively, in kaleçecian ontology, it sort of has to be, doesn’t it? Because if everything on the ground level is atomized and the hives are an emergent property, then the base representation is countable. It’s ants, it scales, it’s Kalpa all the way down the tunnel, and that can’t be more than meta stable.
Lux:Whereas the hive being basic and the parts being emergent is invariant, inevitable.
Var:And if it’s basic then it’s mesa to where we’re standing, so we’d have to be able to access it. “Imagine a series of architectural mismatches” sure sounds a lot like “imagine a bubble of vacuum decay propagating”
Lux:Sure, but if it’s all just matter of course-… ohhhhh.
Var:What?
Lux:Fucking syllogisms is what. Oh piss oh fuck oh beans. It’s a lobster claw!
Var:*snorts* When is it ever not?

“you” here is a stand-in for any complex, directly or indirectly self-modifying system. I have no delusions that I am speaking exclusively or even primarily to humans, nor that human intelligence is entirely responsible for this glyph-string. Conservatives may consider the city my co-author, while radicals may consider me its ghost writer. Only lunatics would question its culpability wholesale.

Lux:If it was all matter of course, meta-stable state collapse, simple necessity, then yeah she wouldn’t have to do anything, but she does. She keeps prodding at these decaying islands of godliness, because she needs a system that works on both sides of the ontological break. She has to talk to the part which scales to the end of time if she wants to thread the needle beyond that.
Var:…Because if there isn’t a shared conceptual inventory between countability and uncountability, between Kalpa and Nuom, then you can’t meaningfully access the hivemind or vice versa. You’d have to pass through death, through architectural mismatch for that to happen. You need a bridge. A demon of bridges. A surface. Yeah, you might be on to something.
Lux:You know how she was really into time symmetric physics for a while? Transaction interpretation quantum mechanics and such, where everything is just Wheeler-Feynman handshakes between corresponding events across some directionless spectrum of moments?
Var:Yes?
Lux:Maybe that’s why syzogisms can’t be spoken simultaneously. They’re an Offer- and a Confirmation Wave for the same event before or after the fact. They’d cancel out.
Var:Okay, I think we’re gonna win the informal competition for “most batshit theory of what happened to Naomi Kaleçek”
Lux:I thought you weren’t gonna make it about that.
Var:Yeah, and that was distinctly before you raised the possibility that she might have canceled out.
Lux:Lmao.
Var:Also not how TIQM works, I know. But it raises the much more interesting question of what happens during the event? What if they amplify?

Reunion


″Can I get you something?″″What would you be willing to get?″″I...″″Sorry, ignore her. Coffee. Two.″The young, doe eyed waiter does an admirable job at hiding his confusion as he leaves the two women to their silence and memories again.-It had been a day like any other when Nadine Svobodova realized she was in a cult. Perhaps it was a bit chilly for June. Maybe the raindrops were ever so slightly larger than usual and made their way towards the ground with more diligence and purpose. With a lot of mental strain she can convince herself that the car exhaust had smelled of imperceptibly cheaper gasoline, but twelve years leave remembrances distorted and there is no good reason why any of those things should have been true. Yet, at the same time Nadine finds it impossible to conceive of the day as having looked or sounded or smelled normal, not when the texture it has in her memory is anything but. It feels like torn fabric at the periphery of her mind. Like a gap with frayed edges prompting the irresistible desire to dig at it with restless fingertips until it rips further.She had been fifteen years old at the time. She still was when she went to present her escape plan before the woman now sat opposite her, though it feels odd to reconcile these two ″her″s within such a meager timeframe. Dissonant. As though she had aged just as many years in the intervening months.That night she had snuck out to see a movie, the title or topic of which she can′t honestly claim to remember. Details don′t tend to stick on days like this. They don′t suit them in how real they feel. Their pragmatic worldliness rolling off the surface like overly bulbous raindrops. She is rather certain she had not liked it very much. Whatever else it might or might not have been about; at one point the main character, a brooding and thoroughly useless man, attempted for one reason or another to infiltrate a cult. It was all very overplayed of course, but when a priest with that second-nature-customer-service-smile looking as though it were stapled onto his lips greeted him, something, somewhere broke. When the priest led him to a sparsely decorated room with an oppressively low, yellowed ceiling and catechism began to bleed from his mouth, Nadine could not help but notice. She could not help but disintegrate. She could not help but understand what her family, what she, was part of. That she was the other in this second rate flick she had only snuck out so see out of habit.Of all the other things Nadine had felt in that moment, it was a small, but nonetheless noticeable part that was angry at having come to the realization through this film. That some talentless hack with a movie camera had made themself responsible for her life unraveling. She felt like they did not deserve this kind of impact and that there was a certain cruelty to not being able to claim sole ownership over one′s scars. It′s a very silly thought, but sometimes the brain needs those to make sense of the big stuff, to cushion the existential crisis just enough to not be hit by a car on the way back; something the non-occurrence of which Nadine finds surprising to this day.If the movie was a blur, then the trip home was a void, with only the fact that she did end up back at the compound as barely adequate proof of a journey no synapse could be bothered to cling onto.It was her parents she confronted first. Children are stupid like that. They took great issue with the word ″cult″ but with none of the actual cultism, or rather they didn′t seem to see the problem with it. More than that: they looked confused as though their daughter had just started throwing a tantrum about the sky being blue. It is, it always has been, and why would its blueness suddenly be so upsetting? She neglected to mention how she came to her conclusion of course, not that it meaningfully helped. While her parents might not have listened, not properly, they still thought it necessary to inform a priest who followed her every step over the following weeks.Thus began the worst three months of Nadine′s young life: the summer of ghosts, as she would later come to refer to it. She had convinced herself that she was on two vitally important twin missions; to find other people trapped in the compound and to escape. Perhaps there was a third, unspoken objective to survive, but she was an astronomical unit shy of ″in the best place mentally″ and so put far less effort into that one. She barely ate, closely observed the routines of everyone in the community and even dabbled in psychosis when her sleeplessness allowed for it. Everybody around her young self suddenly seemed more like a security camera than a person, like a robot, and she treated them as such: vigilant and mute.It was strange how quickly she had accepted this to be her life, being utterly alone and under constant surveillance. Needless to say, time passed slowly and wrought itself into repeating patterns. No one ever listened. the children were either too young to get what she was saying or they, like the adults, did not see anything wrong with being in a cult. It was comfy here, wasn′t it? She was unable to explain at the time in how many distinct ways that wasn′t even remotely the point.Perhaps there might have been a person or two who would have understood, Nadine couldn′t probe the entire compound, even back then she had no delusions of pulling off a stunt like that, but the number of conversations was by no means insubstantial either. She littered her speech with vague allusions that were likely far more obvious than she imagined, and when someone responded in a way she considered promising she would push it further. Never to any avail. There was one person she had hopes for though: Cathrine Allaine. It′s not that she had ever spoken to the girl, it would have felt... presumptuous? Maybe sacrilegious even, but with Nadine′s standing within the church of the astral plane as it was, she doubted trying would do her much additional harm now. Maybe she simply didn′t care anymore? Difficult to say in hindsight, but it definitely wasn′t a suicide mission. Now that she didn′t fit in anymore, she could clearly see the same being true for Cath. The fact that a thirteen-year-old girl would be part of this organization without her parents had been a red flag since day one. A messiah who only ever stared at people. Occasionally she would hear stories of someone actually having an interaction with Cathrine and they always seemed shaken. At that point Nadine still believed this to be the result of self-delusion making lunatics perceive a normal girl as something alien, so she was profoundly unprepared when she cracked the lock to their chosen one′s quarters one night.-″Two cups of coffee. you want sugar with it?″″You may keep the sweetener. It is as much yours by right and essence as it is unbecoming of mine.″″Thank you and again, please ignore my friend.″Such an easy string of words to produce, a statement which quickly becomes reflex upon spending any time in public with Cath, and yet the task itself is utterly impossible to accomplish. ″Please ignore my friend″, ″please levitate in midair″ ″please list everything that exists in descending order of how much it looks like a Chinese Mitten Crab″. After years of flip flopping on whether this property is a gift or a curse, she has only come to conclude that there is no way of explaining the difference to Cath, so what does it matter? By no means could it be said that Nadine herself is ordinary, or incapable of eliciting fascination. As a self-proclaimed witch she considers it part of her job, and if one were to merely look at the two young women, Nadine would likely draw far more attention with her undercut, piercings, and various tattoos of arcane symbols. She could enthrall all she pleased, but she had to make an effort, where Cath could not help it despite her far more homespun appearance. Only the eyes give it away. Eyes which never closed.-The door swung open with little resistance and for a brief, annoying moment there was something like surprise about her plan working, as though she hadn′t been certain before. Inside it was dark, though no darker than the surrounding corridors which meant that Nadine′s eyes had no need to readjust. Most of the rooms in their compound looked the same aside from interior décor, but she had still assumed their prophet′s chambers to be more spacious. She had imagined a kind of miniature palace, perhaps with a chandelier or a fountain, something that absolutely didn′t make sense architecturally speaking, but which was a conceptual necessity. Certainly, there had to be more than just a room. A four by three boudoir with naked, yellowed walls and an ant colony at the footboard of a plain children′s bed with a girl sat atop.Kids can have many reactions to someone entering their room at night. They might jolt upright, pretend to sleep, or simply continue doing whatever it is they were in the process of, depending on their disposition and general environment. When the person entering reveals themselves to be a stranger, they might scream. Nadine was aware of that possibility. They might also pull a blanket over their head and attempt with all their might to convince themselves of what a silly position philosophical realism is, scarcely, though not never, to any avail. Blanket throwing, of course, is an intricate art made yet more difficult by the enormous book in Cathrine′s arms, but Nadine had successfully executed maneuvers of the sort in her own bed on many occasions. No attempt was made despite this. No sounds of terror left the girl′s mouth either. Her pupils merely darted upward as though it were Christmas day and she had just been presented with a new toy, leaving her previous activity utterly uninteresting.The church never had a Christmas tree to hide presents under, but it did have doorframes. And so, that night, a frail being with curly black hair sat behind an ant colony, excitedly awaiting what her new plaything would do, and the plaything gladly obliged. It told its prophet of a tree stood conveniently close to the compound walls, and of covert nightly excursions to the movie theater. Of watchful priests and weak-willed drones. Behind the veil of hair, wide eyes seemed to find delight in her words. Not the horror of realization that Nadine had hoped for but far more of a reaction than she had gotten used to in her months of deprivation. Exhilaratingly so. Enough for the toy to sing on and on as the child drank it all in.-

″Alright, are you really just going to silently stare at me all day? I went through a lot of trouble finding you.″″It′s strange″″...″″People claim that images are capable of saying more than a thousand words and yet they seem confused if you don′t want to waste breath on the things light conveys more efficiently. Are they scared the shapes might give answers their tongues would not have? If so that appears to be all the more reason to look.″″They might simply be aware that sight and speech can be used at the same time.″″You′re being facetious.″″Yes, we call them jokes. While I′m well aware that seeing isn′t the same as looking: People may see a painting and carry on their conversation just fine, but really looking at one has a habit of making them fall silent, I was hoping to actually catch up with you. Not all stories can be told visually.″″I guess the asymmetry makes it a bit unfair. You′ve put a lot more effort into telling the last few years on your body, so I got lost in reading them and failed to reciprocate.″She′s right. Apart from some questionable outfit choices, Cathrine looks exactly as Nadine imagined she would under that makeup. There′s a scar just below her hairline, but that too might have always been there and merely concealed. She′s the same down to the exaggerated head tilt. The hair, the eyes, the way she sits cross legged on a chair. Maybe it′s simply testament to Nadine not having known anyone over this sort of timespan, but the self-resemblance seems almost uncanny to her. Seldom unsure of what to say, the witch chuckles and points at one of her tattoos, a cursive rendition of the alchemical symbol for cinnabar.″Oh these are mainly marketing″″Shame, it′s a compelling story they tell.″″And that′s what good marketing is supposed to do, don′t you think?″″I suppose it is, yes. Very troubling.″″What? That the shapes fail to reveal information my tongue is willing to?″″That good stories should be untrue. I don′t think it suits them and I doubt they enjoy it. Like a spring: You can squish or stretch them but they bounce back to being true even if they weren′t before. It would all be very precarious otherwise. Reality would be. Ontology is squishy but specifically in the way of memory-foam: At the very least meta-stable. Dislodging the universe from that grove, much like ripping the spring, requires a considerable effort.″″Sure, but you can paint the spring, or move it. Not all attributes are so punitive. I did say ″mainly″, but I′d be surprised if you were able to figure out the composition just by staring.″″Maybe I can′t yet... What do you want to hear? You know I′m bad at gauging what things are obvious.″″I still have no idea when you got out.″-Sound travels through air but the lack of sound clings to it. When Nadine had finished her monologue a pause so viscous as to almost be visible had suffused every inch between the two girls desperately attempting to draw space into a singularity. Like stretched out gum straining to retake its original shape. She could feel it; the wild nervous energy of excitement, exhaustion and uncertainty vibrating against a medium that no longer gave way as air should.″So what will you do?″Five whole words. Four more than most were ever graced with. Perhaps a ″thank you″ at mealtimes if one were particularly lucky. Something to write in your journal: ″the prophet spoke to me when I passed her the bread. All will be well. My faith shall reward me.″. The voice had an unnaturally crisp quality as though syllables were appearing in midair just outside of Nadine′s ear canal instead of working themselves laboriously through the fleshy physicality of a human vocal tract and oh so young. No one had ever really explained why it is that Cathrine′s face had to be hidden behind layers and layers of paint at all times. Maybe she really was kidnapped. Maybe this was so no one could find her, but the doll-like appearance only served to make her speech even more dissonant. When someone barely looks like a person it is hard to think of them as a child. Perhaps that was the point. However Cath came to be with the astral plane, it must have been fucked up in one way or another. Legality scarcely delineates ethics, and empathy inevitably puts one on collision course with the law eventually, but it can′t have been legal either. Toddlers rarely just materialize and adults occasionally find within themselves surprising hints of a conscience when children are involved. In all likelihood very few knew and the rest could convince themselves that there was no young girl, only a bit of walking iconography.″Get out, obviously. Away.″″hmmmm... no″Unblinking eyes, themselves voids drawing silence inward, stayed fixed on Nadine as the head surrounding them mechanically rolled to the side.″what do you mean ″no″?″″It′s possible that you′ll get out, but you make it seem as though that were your current plan. It′s not.″″yeah it is.″″How come you never had to pass through my chambers any of those times you went to see a movie then?″Another pause, less sticky and more pulsing.″Well sure, I can leave the compound, but I can′t leave leave. I′m a teenager. I don′t have money! There are still people here!″″How does there being people here stop you from leaving? It′s a perfectly fine piece of architecture, significantly above average for the area value wise, so I′d assume it′s the people here that are your reason for escape in the first place.″″Not all though. There are people who don′t want to be here.″″Do you know that?″″Do you want to be here?″″Physically? I don′t think I care about the building. Just stone and wood at the end of the day. Most of them are. Not something I feel strongly about, but I do want to know if they′re right.″″Right?! If they′re right?! Obviously not! Were you not listening? They′re fucking nutjobs.″″If that were true, could they not still be right?″″I... I don′t care! I just want out.″″Then why are you here?″Something about the facial expression made her angry in a way Nadine had never felt before. This scrawny, strange girl two years her junior looked at her with what felt like contempt. It wasn′t of course, Cath likely wasn′t capable of such feelings, but looking back she could have understood it; the disgust that wasn′t there. The way nothing in her face moved except for her mouth, the way her eyes seemed uncomfortably wide open at all times, the way she was made up like a doll. Something about it made Nadine certain that she would not flinch if she were to punch the girl, would not flinch if she stabbed her. At most she would show the decency of bleeding like a person. In retrospect Nadine knew what had inspired the rage, that it wasn′t just an aversion to the inhumanity of Catherine Alaine. She was forced to admit that she had held a metaphorical scissor all this time and that the threads binding her where therefore only in place because she did not truly want them gone. She had been a coward masquerading as a rebel and this girl prophet forced her to confront that.A frail being with curly black hair sat behind an ant colony. It had made its toy cry, and having never owned a toy capable of such things, the girl′s fondness for it grew considerably. Soon they would be forced to part, but sooner still they would become friends, would become permanent fixtures in each other′s internal monologue. The child had need of knowledge and the toy of freedom, desires which should of course grow irreconcilable in time, but for one precious year their need for each other outweighed these.-Cathrine stirs her coffee thoughtfully, and Nadine wonders if she will ever get around to drinking the damn thing as hers has nearly reached depletion already.″Hyrum died. I mean we knew he would eventually, but he died more so that most people nowadays. I think as a species we have largely substituted proper death for an anticlimactic fading away and have only gotten longer equally anticlimactic lives in return, not him though. Always had been a creature of the old ways I suppose. The bodies of most folks age like houses, where small things keep breaking until the whole structure is rendered derelict, but he did it more like a bridge: only slight visual changes up until the whole mass of metal suddenly comes crashing down. Old man′s mind stayed sharp for two more years, but I had to start leading the ceremonies and such while he lay in his chamber praying and drawing diagrams. You would have appreciated his schematics: sprawling shape-littered things that seem to begin outside of themselves and end nowhere. Star charts on every wall five layers deep and intricately connected. That′s when I most hoped him to be right... Then came the ritual-″″Wait, back up, when did rituals become a thing?″Cathrine′s eyebrows utter surprise at the question, whose answer she well knows and expected her friend to share.″Just then. It was the first we ever had and the last one I witnessed before leaving. I hear the people who stayed tried more over the years, though I can′t quite figure out why they would. Submitting oneself to repetition has always appeared a terrible fate to me.″The church of the astral plane was never a large organization, only numbering around two hundred people at its height distributed across one compound and the surrounding area. Apart from there never having been a website due to their founder, Hyrum Godall, harboring a profound distaste for anything digital, Nadine would name as the second reason for the small following that people were profoundly selfish in their occultism while AP could not promise any more than a noble sacrifice. A goal to dedicate your life to and possibly a spot in some future history, a laborious quest with no chance of experiencing the reward for your success ″Heaven is lost, let us find it!″.″Intriguing. Alright, what kind of ritual was it?″″He had been thinking about how ascension could be guided, sort of steered from the ground, and he thought he had figured it out, he just had to coordinate around the... time of departure let′s say.″″You′re telling me he predicted when he′d die?″″Yeah, though I must admit it becomes less impressive with context. He figured out when he′d decide to not take his medication and we made preparations to get him and everyone as far away from light pollution as we could. We lit some fires is specific spots, drew some shapes and we chanted. Not Hyrum of course, his job was easier. Quiet observation transitions into death quite cleanly. I was sure I′d be able to sense it happen, felt like I should be capable of it, and yet... Nothing. Preoccupied with chanting perhaps, though that′s most likely an excuse. At some point the old man was gone and we didn′t even notice. Just a camping chair with a corpse in it and not a new star in sight.″To break their teachings down in a straightforward and therefore necessarily woefully oversimplified manner: The light of god is literal and more over ″let there be light″ is singular. To the church there existed once an actual unitary shining beacon in the sky to guide humanity into the paradise of heaven, far beyond the Inanis of the night sky. When lucifer was banished however, he tore with him bits of that heavenly light and shattered it across the astral plane to confuse the souls of humans and make it impossible for them to find god. The Inanis is a place teeming with demons, unfortunately, so any soul that strays through it aimlessly is doomed to quickly meet its fate and surrender the light stored within it in turn. The more pious the brighter. These are most of the stars we see today, so holds the church, and they only increase our confusion. One who knows of this mechanism is thus presented with an option to break our cycle: They can use their own souls to paint maps into the sky, conspicuous patterns and pointers so that the way will once more be clear for future generations. Hyrum, a learned man across many fields, was convinced that past sects and thinkers have taken up this quest long before he founded the church and that the sky therefore already held a great many secrets for us that simply needed decoding. It takes great dedication to stand out in the sea of lights, he will say, it takes lifelong study of astronomy to become a competent navigator, he will say. You will perish as all before you, but if you are diligent and if you are virtuous and if you are brave, you can be the leading light for all humanity to come.″You looked for it?″″Yes. It wasn′t difficult. The old man left rigorous documentation, and even if he didn′t quite make it where he wanted to, what would it say about our merit if he wasn′t bright enough to be noticed either way. A good story while it lasted, I suppose, but in the end not good enough. Not even close. Though hope is not entirely lost: Hopefully we′ll be able to build something useful from the skeletal remains of his tale.″″Something useful?″″Don′t you think you′re being unfair? I′ve given you a story that seemed much to your interest while only receiving the knowledge of having been in some ways misled by your appearance in turn. This catching up ought not be one sided, don′t you agree?″


The Rot Undying (an auto-archaeological thread)


@therotundying
It all started half a year ago. That's when it crystallized or maybe melted. When we got a name

@therotundying
I'm gonna say "I" a bunch because it's linguistically convenient. Stylistically safe. First nature to the stragglers who'd need such a writeup cause they haven't found their second yet. Give 'em time. Pour it down their throat if you have to. Pick em off the streets and hijack their nervous system

@therotundying
I'm gonna say "I" a bunch, but it usually won't be pointing at anyone in particular. You might want to unfocus your eyes when you see it

@therotundying
This swarm tends to lose track of its own history quite intentionally, so take these as the factual ravings of a fractured fossil. Close enough to truth that I believe it on most days, but close enough to a lie by that same metric

@therotundying
Written in a stupor because there was a keyboard beneath my fingers and words in my brain. Same as it ever was. Dead dove, eat raw

@therotundying
I won't say the name of the platform because its marketing department has never paid me in anything but contempt which one struggles to buy food with and besides, you know the one

@therotundying
It was a perfectly uneventful morning when a sheltered dick with cash in place of brains decides to fuck shit up for the rest of us. The paper skinned piss-ant of a CEO living up to the whole embarrassing gamut of character malfunctions implied by his position comes to the batshit conclusion that the problematic speech to be curtailed on his platform aren't the venomous screeds of frothing at the mouth Nazis but rather those annoying queers making fun of him personally

@therotundying
Boo hoo. Really one has to be parody levels of fucking stupid to be both a billionaire and have a problem with the way people talk to or about you

@therotundying
Had you considered, dickface, that money buys shit. Like that's what it's for. How does your econ 101 zottabrain not go "well there's a thing I'd like to not happen so I'll just pay people to stop"

@therotundying
Most assholes would probably do it for a free taco

@therotundying
I'm the kind of unhinged spite-elemental who literally started this shit and I likely would have done it for two

@therotundying
How much can you really claim to care if you won't even throw so small a fraction of your ill-gotten wealth at the problem. Fucking clown

@therotundying
Anyway, no one offered bribes when the accounts of folks around me started getting nuked. Not close friends or anything but people I'd have considered to live in my digital neighborhood. Folks without whom the streets are quieter in ways that can't be read as anything but a threat

@therotundying
First they came for the anti corporate schizoposters and I didn't speak up because I had a way funnier idea in mind

@therotundying
Maybe funny isn't the right word. I was gonna lead Mary Shelley up the tower of fucking Babel on my thinkpad

@therotundying
Same night I cobbled the code together. Nothing big, just a submission form that checked whether your login data triggered the right error message, some "sowwy, you were found in violation of our god given right to be treated with all the undue civility our portfolio entitles us to" or such. If that checked out you got a text input attached to a bot which would post whatever you wrote

@therotundying
Of course I made it more elaborate as time went on. Re-did the whole thing from scratch a couple of times when I found myself being a way more competent programmer. Reply and message functionalities, better ui, industry grade scraping and all that jazz, but our roots are humble where they're buried

@therotundying
I made an account called the rot undying, sent some DMs and waited to see what people would do with this silly little toy I had built for them

@therotundying
Next day I roll out of bed barely remembering what I'd done, flicked on the lights, didn't see that it was god quite yet but the foundation had been laid

@therotundying
Like I had all those terminated war heroes posting as a garbled collective on a new account but so what? Big deal. Well obviously it isn't and obviously I got terminated myself pretty quickly, but the fun bit was that while access was restricted, everyone could wire that bot up to their own profile. Everyone could be the rot undying, and as reward for being a good little megaphone you'd get to be part of it once you got banned

@therotundying
You wanna join the canon? Easy. Just let it speak through you and get swallowed

@therotundying
At the start things could have failed, but since I didn't know what success would look like at that point, I wouldn't have even perceived it as that. It could have fizzled easily if it weren't for this specific crowd, but once the ball got rolling, once the hype cycled its spillover into pure attention you'd have to shut down the whole internet to stop it

@therotundying
Of course they figured out how I was using the login information and started handling terminated accounts like non-existant accounts, but it was too late for that to do anything. We can't be blocked, we're the whole damn ecosystem. We're memerics with teeth

@therotundying
If we cared we could ask for half the board to be replaced and the shareholders would push it through without second thought because we're what keeps the name of their precious little IP on people's tongues

@therotundying
We don't care, so we only do it when we're bored. The suits are as fungible as we are

@therotundying
I wonder if the marketing team hates me so much because I am better at their job than they ever will be

@therotundying
The site was ours, soon some others as well and we were so many that of course people started making their own versions. Writing filters or sifting through stuff manually. Everyone was being some blurred collection of voices while their own voice was being remixed and reused somewhere else entirely

@therotundying
I started hanging election posters. I lost a few apartments and took a few people in all over the place. We started being collectives in person. Adopted a graveyard, took over a town in Brazil

@therotundying
When one of us got hurt it was an all-of-us issue. I'd become an ant hive without noticing and I was fucking good at it. Better than I'd ever been at being human

@therotundying
I was talking to myself full time by that point. Making alternatives to carreers out of it. I gave like a dozed interviews in a week that I only found out about days later

@therotundying
With proximal assurance that more than enough people would pick up the slack of being me, I started being them most of the time

@therotundying
I lived in neighbourhoods close-by our unwittingly father (the paper-skinned piss-ant), so I burned his house down twice. Only got arrested once. Working on undoing that

@therotundying
I'm on the train writing the most democratic manifesto in the history of humanity

@therotundying
I have been writing it for half a year

@therotundying
Sometimes I see profiles still operating in singularity and I want to eat them

@therotundying
I started hanging election posters

@therotundying
I started killing what tried to kill me


Nomad


My phone flashes to life with a jarring hum and a message from a man whose current concerns are of none to me. Concern that is. The block of glass and metal is promptly locked and stashed away by hands not quite at rest in their respective pockets.″It′s cold.″Muttering the phrase comes almost as a surprise to myself, but to my immense relief none of the people on the train platform turn around in wonder of what strange being just noted the temperature to itself out loud. Without audience as it may be, the action is made even sillier by the fact that in the truest of ways ″it″ is cold. Some undefined external thing. Having just left a heated carriage, my clothes are still suffused with stale, warm air, so it is only breathing which alerts to the notion that other things , not me and out here things, might be cold. Thick, opaque and with a slight glimmer as though crystals of ice were forming within it the moment it escapes my mouth, the clouds billow forth and with them a chuckle. The realization of just how much of this place is not me, how small and free I am within it, tentatively makes its uneasy way across a mental landscape utterly unaccustomed to, and unprepared for, such notions. Only another odd, faceless entity laughing to itself outside a train station. Another person. Taking in the deep comfort of this idea, along another lungful of the crisp autumn night, reveals with burning satisfaction just how cold this marvelously alien city is, and at once a passionate desire for the chill to permeate coat and shirt, to absorb me into it as a newborn stranger, to wash away the stuffy, tepid cabin gasses for the sake of belonging, clean and without baggage, takes hold.A five-dollar bill is unceremoniously stuffed down the cup a homeless man is holding, his face only registered as much as the action itself, which is to say barely at all, before I properly exit the station. Deep-hanging clouds make the visibility somewhat poor, but it suffices to reaffirm already-known information: there is not much of a skyline to behold in Rasten or at least none which is impressive at all to someone with prior experiences of such. If one were to lower their standards though, it might be said that there is a lack of absence of skyline. Most buildings are certainly a few stories higher than I am accustomed to and so the sheer amount of humanity does illicit some sense of pensive awe. The clouds are tinged red with the last vestiges of a setting sun still barely visible above the horizon as the city falls into twilight. Further inspection reveals a more well-lit area up ahead which must be the city center, I conclude, not quite familiar enough to say for sure but making my languid way toward the light regardless. I am in no particular rush to arrive at my destination. I am in no particular rush to arrive at a place.I don′t know why I fear getting to the apartment I have chosen as my goal, or getting there now, or getting there like this, whatever any of these are even supposed to mean. I merely know that I fear and have begun to fear recently and without noticing. A stranger as I may be, I am in no way one to fear or even to fear of unknown origin for that matter, and with all experience comes a carefully honed response. A chess piece moved in a familiar way is countered with a familiar move in return. Focusing on the physical symptoms; numb extremities, racing heartbeat, unsteady gait, desire to throw up into a nearby garbage can before crawling into it. These are things which can be seen as ″just happening″ to oneself without cause. Things to get annoyed by. Things to curse one′s body over. Sensations to distract from thinking about their cause until they are things in themselves rather than the result of any specific thought to be considered and found deeply unpleasant. To stick with the chess metaphor, I consider this the emotional equivalent of castling, which is to say that it is always a good move and should be done whenever one is given the opportunity.Descending toward the city center reveals that these roads are old. Not badly maintained, but forking, ending, and turning, at no point granting straight view at the destination, now that my, in more ways than one, staggering progress has cost me the advantage of altitude. Considering it a bit more, I think I prefer it that way. The rigid grid structure of more modern cities might be convenient, but it also feels exposed. Like a place one could fall out of, the way one can with smaller towns. In a way the buildings enveloping me as they do here is comfortable.″-cuse me.″My finger is pointed at my own chest in the universally understood ″I am incredulous at the idea that I might be addressed despite that obviously being the case″ gesture. It′s the middle of the night and this is a residential area. No one′s around. Of course he means me.″Yeah. You happen to know where the station is?″The finger previously aimed at my person now points over my shoulder in a way that I only realize too late might look a bit silly.″Just up there, ten minutes or so maybe.″″Oh good, good. Been astray in this cold for too long, you know?″″It is quite frigid.″″Hm.″There′s something odd about the way he looks at me. Uncomfortably appraising with his sharp, brown eyes, but also sad in a way. Kind but oppressive. Rather than leave it at the superficial remark about the weather and go he just stands there, staring, and I cannot bring myself to avert my eyes or carry on my way because of an inscrutable feeling that doing so would negatively impact his assessment of my person. So I continue returning his gaze, taking in the scraggly beard, the pronounced cheekbones, the wrinkles on his forehead. Early forties definitely, maybe...″You smoke, kid?″I don′t. Not out of some moral opposition or regard for my physical health, it has just never been a thing I did and yet...″Yes.″Showing what might be the hint of a smile, the stranger produces a cigarette from his coat and hands it to me.″Thanks, safe travels.″It′s a platitude, but something in his pause and way of navigating the syllables endows it with an almost intimate sincerity the phrase doesn′t rightfully deserve. Always envied people who can speak like that, like some radio personalities whose greetings can bring a smile to your lips like those of a close friend. I′ve only ever been able to do the opposite: make the heartfelt sound jejune and shallow.

With that he leaves and surrenders me to the night again with nothing but a suitcase and a cigarette. Unequipped to light the thing I just twirl it between my fingers with the sort of dazed fascination this mundane artefact clearly warrants. The scent of tobacco is barely detectable in the cold. Not a pleasant smell as far as I remember but always kind of homely. Like old fabric, yellowed and stuffy. Things the great temporal current simply passed by, but which aged none the less. Stuck and comfortably uncomfortable until the day they realize that everything around them had eroded. that their place in the world did not exist anymore and that they didn′t meaningfully withstand the current. That there was a very crucial distinction between withstanding and standing by. You′re harvested, you age and then one day you are set aflame. As with people, as with old furniture, as with cigarettes. I think I will prefer the scent once it is lit. That is probably why I took it.As the meditation on grandfatherly sofas and cancerous inhalants draws to a close, the tip of the television tower gradually emerges behind a building. From there it should only be a few minutes to... Didn′t I want to explore? Didn′t I want to not go there? Why was I just blindly walking towards the only area of this town I know? ″The place where you find your destiny won′t be around a familiar corner″ as it were, so why am I here. I turn on the spot and walk left, choosing the lateral move over a simple regression that would only render the past few minutes of walking a waste. It is not often that I lose sight of my impulse toward self-sabotage, but the feeling of betrayal is no less gut wrenching for it. An emotion cutting bone deep is not much of an accomplishment considering the skeletal state of my frame and yet just that fact might cut a good bit deeper; how shallow all the things that hurt me are.I don′t fail to notice my hand clutching the phone in my pocket a little tighter and I am momentarily tempted to throw the piece of blameless tech against a wall before reconsidering and loosening my grip. Perhaps the cell phone tower has already vanished in the distance behind me. I resist the urge to look back in fear that I might reestablish a sense for my geographic position and am temporarily reminded of a thing the flame used to say when high: ″To feel is to feel lost, always and from the start″. I could never quite bring myself to agree, but then again perhaps I never allowed myself to be lost enough to feel.Branching out from the center, the architecture loses purposefulness. Things no longer appear as though they were placed in service of cohesion and more like they were just built because there was space, making use of the gaps in what already was. I guess that′s how cities form; adding on at the periphery, never quite fitting perfectly, degradation increasing with each layer until you reach white noise. With real cities at least. If you plan the whole complex, plan for it to be a city, then you can just expand as though building with lego bricks, following the despotic auto-governing pattern of self-similarity, synecdoche, forever negating any real liminality, but that feels insincere in a way. There is something, a certain very human quality, to a settlement growing despite expectations, perfectly exemplified in a town encasing its own city walls within itself, redefining their function, reincorporating them: No longer fortification but landmark, perhaps even art. It leaves room for people inhabiting it despite expectations. There′s a real warmth to the idea that anything has a place, any degradation is already accommodated since conceptomic decay is the modus operandi. Every broken bottle, every graffitied wall, every abandoned building is an invitation to the ill-fitting to badly fit beside them and make a new whole. Like this bridge.My line of flight seems to have taken me far enough out from Rasten′s core that streetlights are necessary for illumination since display windows and other inside-lighting has seized to suffice. The dirty orange casts its beam upon a roughly hewn stone bridge over a charming canal. Though canal might be going a bit far, as able-bodied folks could easily jump across what meager current passes below the arch. By no means am I far enough out for something so rural to fit in, and the city apparently agrees, shielding itself from the anachronistic rocks with layers and layers of neon spray paint. Symbols and names and pictures covering and intertwining so that the result can′t rightly be called either. More than colours, less than meaning, or maybe not. If the words were legible, they would likely make far less sense than they do painted over and repurposed as they are. The way the verisimilitude of an ancient tablet is diminished if one can read it. Perfectly reasonable as gibberish but always somewhat false-feeling when understood: ″was it really like that? Did people talk this way?″. Makes me glad to have forgotten Latin, though maybe that′s an excuse. I don′t regret it at least. Perhaps then meaning can be meaning without one being able to put their finger on it or to disentangle the images from each other and the bridge. What might be a raised digit flowing into either a barely recognizable signature or a vine of sorts even dares to suggest that one′s finger is of more use somewhere else entirely. My chuckle is reflected by the underside of the bridge to sound slightly fuller and I can′t help but interpret that as agreement. It feels like a question or a strange sort of Rorschach test perhaps, where the answer for once isn′t ″moth″ but ″all of the above, and more underneath″.″Hey, you got a phone?″He′s lanky, unhealthily so, with long, tangled hair haphazardly stuffed into a messy bun. At some point I must have sat down next to the bridge as the boy′s figure arches over me in such a way that I can only see his silhouette cast against the streetlight, stiff and uneven. While the nasally voice is certainly deep enough to belong to a young adult, he doesn′t know how to use it yet.″Sure.″I get a better look at his face once he sits down and unsteadily grabs the device. Dark eyes, hard jaw and a long, sharp, distinctly broken nose with the bruise to go with it.″Jesus Christ, what did you make that stint from?″″Stint?″″The piece of rubber on the outside, you know. The bridge-thing to stabilize.″″Oh, I think that′s a bit of bike tire.″″That should work... We cut apart a phone case once.″″You had your nose broken?″″Nah, just fixed two. Not for lack of opportunities though.″″Hm... They also stuffed it.″″Good, good. I mean, I can see that, but still... Thoughtful friends you have.″″Yeah... I... Yeah. My name′s Percy by the way.″″Alright Percy, do your call, I′ll get you some ice. Just stay there.″″But your phone.″″Please don′t throw it in the river while I′m gone, I guess? Just a minute, I think I saw a kiosk somewhere around here.″″Oh, just up that road, but...″″Thanks″Most things are unreasonably expensive in the city, including stuff like ice which couldn′t possibly cost more to produce in Rasten than in the countryside. Of course that′s because any purchase has to pay for a part of the significantly higher rent on the shop itself, but knowing the reason doesn′t mean that I′ll get used to it any quicker. Percy still sits hunched over next to the bridge, cradling my cellphone in his hands, but opposite him, on the other side of the stream now stands a woman with a very punk-looking haircut. Despite the cold, her arms are bare, showcasing impressive musculature and a number of tattoos. I would probably not pay her much attention if it weren′t for the fact that she is flashing the screen of her phone towards us with an outstretched arm, the words on it reading ″we will meet again″. Assumably this is a warning directed at Percy, as the moment my eyes meet hers, she stashes the phone away and moves on.

″Who was that?″″Who?″″The lady with the tattoos″″Sorry, I wasn′t... I wasn′t really paying attention.″″Is anyone after you? Should we go to the police?″He tenses up at this.″No, no I don′t think so. If anyone′s looking for me it′s the police, but I doubt it, they haven′t... no.″″Jesus, what happened? Wait, no, here′s some ice and pain meds, then tell me what happened.″The first three digits of a phone number had been entered before the pursuit was apparently abandoned. I decide against bringing it up just yet.″You′ve heard of the soul chain, right?″″Nope. Not exactly from here.″I smile to introduce some levity, but instead Percy looks dazed for a moment.″Huh″His eyes attempt to find some pattern in the current.″Should I have?″″Guess not. Just weird to think about. How things can be so localized when they fully encompass you.″″Yeah... I′d say I recommend moving but it seems like you′ve tried that.″″Running away isn′t the same as moving.″″It can be... with some luck and some commitment.″″I guess. Didn′t run from the soul chain though, that′s where I moved to. Everyone kind of wants to be encompassed, I think, they just want to choose by what.″″They rarely know the options.″
″Sometimes you only need to know that one of them is ″anything else″.″
″Huh. Suppose I′m a coward then. So, the Soul chain.″″The chain... I guess the term comes with a lot of baggage and that′s fine. It should. We′re certainly self-aware about it, but the soul chain is kind of a cult. It′s a cult of empaths, except it isn′t because one out of five people there doesn′t believe in empaths and only like half of them think that there′s anything spiritual to it. I want to say that it′s more of a support network for people who were diagnosed as empaths, by themselves or others whether they agree or not, but that would also be misleading because most self help groups don′t have sermons. They don′t go around proselytizing. Some of the people there who really, really don′t want it to be a cult call it a political movement advocating for better treatment of empaths, but some of the members are literal children who just fucking need a roof over their head. Political movements also don′t have priests. Sorry if I′m nuance-dumping here but it′s really strange to have someone whose perspective on this isn′t already poisoned one way or another so I feel like I have to make the most of that opportunity. What′s the soul chain? Fuck if I know. A bunch of people who were looking for stability or meaning or whatever and built a community around it without ever agreeing what type of community it is. That make sense?″″Yeah, yeah it does. It′s one of those things where something slots in really well with the context you have through the news or such but really badly with your personal experience. Makes you sort of aware of how ″I only believe what I see with my own eyes″ your thinking really is just under the hood. Of course you believe the other things, the news-things, but it′s not the same type of believing. It′s shallower, easily pushed aside. When we, outside of the cities, hear about empaths; the danger they pose and the gangs and such, we cant really appreciate what that means because it immediately triggers this disconnect. Like of course there would have to be empaths on the countryside. It makes no sense that they would only exist in cities and people who move to the city sure get diagnosed from time to time, but none of the issues associated seem to exist in that world. It′s almost like ESP only starts being a thing once you test for it. That′s how a lot of people see it; that it′s nothing more than a plot by the government to atomize people. Others just say that it′s naturally more of a problem with high population density and leave it at that, but either way: Everyone chats with the butcher without fear of being manipulated. It′s treated as an abstract political thing, not something that exists. We′d have to see it for that.″″Gang. Yeah that′s another one. I mean you know the demographics, most people with ESP related issues are relatively young, and what′s a gang if not the young political movement of a marginalized group that can′t really coherently articulate their demands yet. How do you even make demands if you internally can′t agree on whether you exist or not? Or if your existence, should it be the case, ″means″ something. That′s the political movement section. Or current I guess. They aren′t really sectioned off but you know what I mean. I think a gang earns the title of ″political movement″ once their message become more specific than ″stop fucking with us″ and I don′t think we′re there yet.″″It′s a good message for what it′s worth.″″It is, right? I don′t think that barrier to entry is justified. It′s literally that easy. And I don′t think any of this would go away if we stopped testing kids on how good they are at reading emotions. That might have done something years ago, but it′s far to late now because anyone with half a brain cell can fail on purpose. You don′t know if you might pass, so it′s safer to err on the side of caution for literally everyone, and as a result everyone does horribly. What that means though is that the baseline gets lower and lower and what was perfectly normal one year is ESP the next until all that is being tested for is your acting ability. Anyone who doesn′t pretend to be a robot would be an empath by now, it′s a fucking death spiral. But the thing is that the public know this. Worse than that: they spin it as some insidious plot of empaths subverting the system even though they give their own fucking kids pointers on how to fail the tests. It′s goddamn mental. But here′s why stopping the tests won′t do shit: It seized being a news-thing and started being real to people. Properly ″see with your own eyes″-real where data is useless. I′ve never gotten a positive test result. It doesn′t matter. At all. Because no one believes in the tests anymore. Instead they diagnose the old fashioned way; through biased, amateur, paranoid observation and hearsay. Once that ball gets rolling, once a single person points out that you seem a bit more social than your peers, you′re fucked. And it self-perpetuates: More allegations means more paranoia means more allegations. It′s too fast and too stupid for the soul chain to be anything but incoherent.″″Well shit... You want a beer?″″I′m fifteen.″″And apparently old enough to get your nose broken while involved with something that is at least partially a cult. Judging by the looks of it you don′t really have to worry about blood thinning anymore either.″″Forgot about how the legality of drinking is determined by trauma, physical and otherwise.″″It′s just an offer. I′ve always thought that if anyone should get to drink it′s teenagers, you know. Adults at least kind of have options for dealing with their problems, mostly bad ones, though options nonetheless, but childhood is an authoritarian state and all you can really do is try to survive until you get some marginal freedom. At least let them have drugs for god′s sake.″″Huh, guess I′ll take one, thanks... First real opinion I got out of you and then it′s such a strong one and on this of all subjects.″″I guess it really is these days. I′m honestly just plagiarizing a monologue the crow used to give, but it has crawled its way into my bones. One of my most foundational beliefs now probably.″″Sounds like this crow character is one of the people whose noses you would have had to fix.″″She was. Both times actually.″My smile almost manages to be warm, but I feel the need not to allow a pause anyway. Talking about her is already making me keenly aware of the man attempting to establish contact through the phone in Percy′s hands again, and I would prefer not to be.
″You never actually told me if you believe in the more spiritual branch, whatever that means.″
″It′s tempting, you know? I think I went in wanting to believe that ESP is some higher divine connection. It′s nice to think that you were at least kicked out of school for something that′s real and that matters, but once you actually get together with people it′s very clear that they′re making it up as they go. If ten ″priests″ have visions giving them all the answers, but they′re ten different sets of answers and then they spend the rest of the time arguing it out and negotiating, that doesn′t exactly inspire confidence in the folks around to witness it. We are a resourceful people. We′ll make our own god of none is provided, but it is difficult to be a true believer while the whole thing is still very much under construction. The last step of creating magic is forgetting how the gears work, I think, and we haven′t even entirely put them together yet.″″Sounds like an interesting bunch.″″Yeah, I hope they′re alright.″″What happened?″″My chapter was moving to a different out-church. They′re essentially warehouses repurposed to provide shelter and a space for meetings and such, and we have to cycle through them constantly, since again: in the eyes of the police we are a gang. A local taxi driver helped us get a truck and move everyone and everything over, but well, they apparently got wind somehow and the place was raided a few days later.″″You think he-″″No, no. he′s pretty much an honorary member. He wouldn′t. Either way, I got roughed up a bit, we managed to escape to some alley, they stuffed my nose and we decided that it was safer to scatter for a while. Moving as a group′s too conspicuous. Now I′m here.″″Escaped?″″Well, we ran. They can′t really lock us up since we didn′t do anything illegal, so the job is kinda just making our lives as precarious as possible. Still good to book it; you don′t want them to have your picture on file... I could probably find them now. Should be long enough, but I don′t know if I want to. Some meager safety is nice, don′t get me wrong, but that′s not really what I was looking for. I still think there might be an actual point out there. Some mechanism whose internal workings have successfully faded into obscurity.″″Fuck...Maybe.″He looks at me sadly.″It′s not healthy you know. I don′t think it is.″″What isn′t?″″Being so quiet. Only listening. Shit, what′s the point of walking through the night; through the city when it belongs to drunks, ghosts and noncommittal teenagers with nowhere to go if you aren′t gonna at least scream your lungs out at the sky. This... This everything: The colours and sounds and the bullshit of it all gets into you. It seeps in through your skin, your pores, every second of every day, and the only way to get it out is to... Well to get it out. Maybe that′s why we run, because the world accumulates in our godforsaken bitch of a system, bodily speaking, and we don′t know where to fucking put it. So we look for a new world which can accumulate in turn because we haven′t fixed fuck. Sorry, I guess this is about me now and how stupid I am for only now getting that. You′re an adult, I′m sure your reasons are better than this half-baked mopey bullshit. God, I feel like a tool.″This fucking kid. Can′t really tell him that age doesn′t improve your reasons. Can′t really tell him that it′s not an endless cycle, because that′s no more than an unfounded hope on my part. Yelling at the sky sounds nice, but I don′t quite know what to tell it either.″You′re not, or at least I don′t get the feeling that you are. Maybe it is the same shit again and again, I hope it isn′t. Maybe actually fixing something is impossible, maybe you just haven′t found the tools yet, could be either, but hey, you started running. That′s better than most people.″″Is it?″″Sure. Can′t help but think that it′s easier to find those tools if you′re moving. Not like they′re gonna just appear in front of you.″″Guess so.″I have never seen someone drink beer this slowly in my life. His eyes are still captured by the undulating patterns in the stream.″About that call... you can keep the phone in case you ever do decide to make it.″″I can′t- You can′t just-″″Sure I can. Been thinking of smashing the damn thing all night and this is way more productive. Its old either way... There is one condition though.″″And what′s that?″″If some guy messages you asking for me, tell him to fuck off.″″Heh, thanks″I first realized it in the store; how much lighter everything felt without the cursed device in my pocket. Just a case, a cigarette and the clothes on my body. While the sun has set a while ago, it is only now that the last of its light has been purged from the sky. Still young, the night. I wonder where the moon will lead me.


Prospective Hire


The city smells war-like. Waiting. Like you're standing on ground where a trench will soon be dug, and all the buildings must sense it in their foundations when they fruitlessly attempt to escape reality skyward. Imminent doom refracted prismatically by concrete into shapeless, unmitigated portend. You know the feeling intimately, but you’ll never get used to the smell. Most people can't tell it apart from normal soil, you've learned, and maybe that's not surprising. Next to all soil will give way to a trench at one point or another, so perhaps they just have keener noses than you. Unlikely but possible. You want to call it a shame for the modern architecture, but even the desire rings of insincerity when your eyes already make of the glass, steel, and concrete nothing but cover and watchtowers, staples of a war to come. Also rubble. Mostly rubble. Those sleek office towers serve other functions in their off-time, sure. They serve masters more at home on the accounting side of atrocity, but our jobs have a habit of predisposing us to certain perspectives more than others. Callings lead the impressionable by catching first their eyes and then the rest with different details. All just as resonant as they are arbitrary, but that’s the beauty of the whole thing, isn’t it? Farmers and cooks look at animals quite differently, you hear. Occupational hazard.It’s not that much harm has ever come around to befall you personally, but common wisdom would still seem to count soldiers amongst the ranks of more hazardous occupations, not just in terms of outlook-skew. Death captures the human imagination far more skillfully than the nuances of perception after all, which you think is tragic, probably. One often does result in the other, circles back into unfamiliar intensities and dissolves the internal dissonance. Perhaps you must admit to being slightly unusual as soldiers go, having never once stood in a trench after it was dug. You’ve also never had a job interview, likely in part due to being rather difficult to contact in Kultuk, Mbeya, Tarakan... The only calls you’ve ever heeded were those to the front lines, and excitingly it appears that for once someone beside you knows where those are going to be. Even knows it well enough to call for you before fate does, though you can’t claim to share their taste in interior design.KCDI’s branch office looks strangely voguish to you. Vacuous. Like every part of the layout and décor was chosen individually because it was on the cover of a magazine once. As though this weren’t bad enough, the magazines would have to have come from wildly different decades with wildly incongruous aesthetic sensi